‘ALPHAS’ REVIEW: Season One, Episode Five

Malik Yoba and Azita Ghanizada in "Alphas" on the Syfy Network — Photo courtesy of Ken Woroner / Syfy

Review of “Never Let Me Go” (01:05)

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SPOILER ALERT!

Alphas, the new super-human series from the Syfy Network, continues its impressive track record with episode five, “Never Let Me Go.”

We open with a scene right out of a John Hughes film. Two teenage lovebirds are kissing on the bleachers of the high school football field. Just when things are starting to get hot and heavy, one of their teachers stumbles upon the encounter. The man is in an unbelievable amount of pain and his face looks burned, as if he were more of a zombie than a human.

Call in the Alphas.

The team of government investigators with enhanced abilities is starting to become more and more official with each episode, and this frightens the team leader, Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn). He’s worried about the safety of his crew and doesn’t see why they need new badges identifying them as officers of the DCIS (a made-up government organization).

Much like how episode four centered on Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), “Never Let Me Go” focuses on Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada). We discover that she has moved out of her parents’ house and has a new boyfriend. But the independence upsets her: She’s still unable to turn off her Alpha ability, and her parents resent her choice to move out and grow up.

Rosen decides to tap Rachel for an upcoming trip to a small town in Pennsylvania where there have been several mysterious deaths, one of which is the teacher from the opening sequence.

When Rosen and Rachel arrive, they find officials with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) investigating the bodies of the victims, all of whom suffered brain problems. Doctor Vanessa Calder (Lindsay Wagner) tells Rosen she’s just finishing up her investigation, which resulted in few answers.

After asking the local sheriff a few questions, Rachel and Rosen find out that there were actually four deaths in the small town. Three had to do with this strange outbreak, while the fourth was a local high school student who drove his car into a telephone pole. Finding the student’s death suspicious, Rosen orders an autopsy and visits the boy’s mother, Jessica.

Throughout their conversation we learn that Rosen is a father himself (a new revelation that may add some subtext to Strathairn’s character). The victim, a boy named Chris, was picked on at school and served as the football team’s equipment manager, because he couldn’t cut it as a player. Jessica is obviously a grieving mother, someone who resents how difficult her son’s life was at school.

When Rachel and Rosen convince Jessica to allow them to exhume her son’s body, all hell begins to break loose. The sheriff becomes a victim of the apparent outbreak, and he turns into this mysterious zombified state (even puking blood on Rachel). Medical tests on the sheriff show high levels of a stress hormone known as Cortisol.

Realizing the situation is getting out of hand, Rosen calls in the rest of the team.

Bill Harken (Malik Yoba), Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie) and Gary are tasked with investigating the local high school. Gary even gets into a fight with a jock, who the Alphas later discover is also a victim of the outbreak.

Rosen, ever the pragmatist and out-of-the-box thinker, figures out that the victims are all in withdrawal. They are addicted to touch, and not just any touch, but the touch of Jessica.

The Alphas realize this development a little too late, because Rachel is with Jessica and apparently already hooked on her hormones. As Jessica escapes, Rosen reaches the quickly fading Rachel just in time. To bring her back from her withdrawal symptoms, he administers some Cortisol and sweetly tells her that she’s like a daughter to him.

The episode ends with Jessica’s arrest and her sending off to the still-nebulous Binghamton facility.

“Never Let Me Go” has some problems, but, for the most part, it works as a nice focus on the character of Rachel.

There are a few unexplained oddities that occur. Why are the Alphas called into this case in the first place? How exactly did Jessica spread her influence over all the victims?

The episode also highlights a problem with the main cast of the show: Malik Yoba’s Bill Harken is simply not working as a character. Every episode he seems too bull-headed and mean. There needs to be an episode that involves a little back story on this character; he is in need of some explanation.

The Binghamton development is still a welcome one. It would be great to see this facility and what happens to the Alphas once they arrive (it sounds like Arkham Asylum from Batman).

On the positive front: Jessica’s Alpha power is highly original. It’s nice to see a super-human with a subtle skill, something that doesn’t deal with force or strength. Rosen is also becoming an enormously engaging character. It’s obvious that he treats the team members like they were his own children, which leads one to ask, what about Rosen’s own children? There seems to be something in his background worthy of explanation.

We’ll keep watching. We’ll keep reporting.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
  • Alphas

  • Syfy, Mondays at 10 p.m.

  • Created by Zak Penn and Michael Karnow

  • Starring David Strathairn, Ryan Cartwright, Warren Christie, Azita Ghanizada, Laura Mennell, Malik Yoba and Jane Moffat

  • Rating: ★★★☆

  • Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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