Stars: David Strathairn, Malik Yoba, Warren Christie, Azita Ghanizada, Ryan Cartwright, Laura Mennell, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Valerie Cruz, Will McCormack
Writer: Julie Siege, series created by Zak Penn & Michael Karnow
Director: Constantine Makris
Network: Syfy, Mondays @ 10 PM (note: pilot episode is 90 minutes)
Airdate: July 18, 2011
ALPHAS is only on its second episode, “Cause and Effect,” but it shows nerves of steel in presenting us – and its characters – with the kind of moral gray zone that was last seen with regularity in these parts on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.
A heavily chained Alpha, Marcus Ayers (Will McCormack), is being transported somewhere in an ambulance. Marcus creates a Rube Goldberg-style accident that frees him from his shackles and crashes the ambulance, killing several people. Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn) is summoned to the scene by government contact Nathan Cley (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali).
Rosen finds a symbolic message for him at the scene. Seven years ago, as we see in flashback, Marcus was Rosen’s patient, but Marcus’ ability to construct very complicated accidents from seemingly innocuous tools, coupled with his extreme paranoia, worried Rosen to the point that he had Marcus consigned to the special government facility for problem Alphas in Binghamton, NY. Now Marcus is targeting people he feels are a danger to him. Dr. Singh, who was supervising Marcus at Binghamton, tells Rosen that he was planning to try to cut Marcus’ Alpha abilities out of his brain – proving that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
Rosen is ordered to bring Marcus in and use his team to do it. This doesn’t sit at all well with Nina (Laura Mennell), who can see what the precedent of locking up Alphas with troubling abilities may lead for her personally. Rosen is horrified both by Marcus’ actions and what has been done to Marcus – all of which he set in motion by having Marcus taken off his hands in the first place. Marcus manages to cause a chain reaction that kills Singh and then kidnaps Rosen. Marcus doesn’t want to kill Rosen – he wants Rosen to understand that the government has big, unsavory plans for the Alphas, which will in turn force the Alphas to fight for their lives against normal humans. The only hope that master chess player Marcus sees for the situation is the variable that Rosen presents – Rosen’s optimism may save everyone yet. When Cley and his team show up, Marcus proves his point by dropping his knife – and sure enough, Cley’s people shoot him dead. Rosen argues that no one should view the Alphas as “us or them – it should be us and them,” but it’s not clear that he’s convincing those in power.
“Cause and Effect” would get points even if it was otherwise a mundane sci-fi procedural simply for the way Marcus’ attacks work – this is a little hour of FINAL DESTINATION-esque set-ups, where we just watch in amazement how a flipped coin can set off a cascade of disaster.
However, what elevates this episode to heights of dramatic power is its willingness to show Rosen as highly fallible. Presented with the moral quandary of Marcus (back when he’s only hurting people but not killing them), Rosen uses his position to avoid responsibility, and compounds this by studiously not looking into exactly what is going on at the government facility for Alphas. When Marcus escapes and fatalities ensue, Rosen knows it’s largely on his own shoulders, but the teleplay by Julie Siege makes it clear that there was never an obvious “right” solution.
Even better is that this dilemma is not given to one of the characters played by target-demo-age actors (all of whom do fine work here), but rather to the brilliant Strathairn, who finds every possible ounce of internal conflict, reaction and nuance, bringing it out in his performance without hitting any of the myriad notes with undue force.
“Cause and Effect” is what many of us watch science-fiction hoping to see: imaginative spins but on painful real-world choices and some brain-teasing visuals to keep things lively. Two episodes in, ALPHAS has established itself as must-see sci-fi TV.
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Click on Link: AX’s review of Alphas – Season 1 premiere
Click on Link: AX’s review of WAREHOUSE 13 – Season 3 premiere – “The New Guy”
Click on Link: AX’s review of EUREKA – Season 4 premiere – “Liftoff”
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Review: ALPHAS – Season 1 premiere