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Review: Alphas 1x1

Posted on July 15, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Alphas on SyFy

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, SyFy. Available on

Been missing Heroes? Want something that's almost identical but a bit more average - doesn't quite hit Heroes' heights but doesn't hit its depths?

Then have I the show for you. It's about a group of different people from different backgrounds who have extraordinary abilities. They all come together to help solve crimes and fight a greater evil. They're not very interesting people, but they have some cool super powers and the plotting is actually pretty clever.

I'm sure it'll do… averagely. Here's a trailer.

Alphas is an action-packed thriller from writers Zak Penn (The Avengers, X-Men: The Last Stand) and Michael Karnow. In the series, five ordinary people are brought together to form one extraordinary team of Alphas -- people with the unique power to stretch the capabilities of the human mind giving them superhuman physical and mental abilities.

Operating within the Defense Criminal Investigation Service of the U.S. Department of Defense and led by preeminent neurologist and psychiatrist Dr. Lee Rosen (Emmy Award-winner and Academy Award-nominee David Strathairn), an expert in Alpha phenomena, the team investigates cases that point to others with Alpha abilities. As they work against the clock to solve this new brand of crime, they must prevent their own personality differences and disparate backgrounds from interfering with their ultimate mission to catch the enemy.

In addition to Academy Award nominee David Strathairn (Temple Grandin, Good Night, and Good Luck), the ensemble cast stars Malik Yoba (New York Undercover, Why Did I Get Married?), Warren Christie (October Road), Laura Mennell (Watchmen), Ryan Cartwright (Mad Men, Bones) and Azita Ghanizada (Castle).

Is it any good?
It's not bad. Alphas tries hard to base itself in the real world, trying to give people plausible superpowers and make the 'Alphas' who have them seem real. It fails pretty badly on that score, but it does at least manage to avoid anything too ridiculous as a result - beyond an OCD supervillain who always dresses in white.

So - without at all venturing into stereotypes, oh, no, no, no, no , no - we have a big black guy who's really strong because he has a lot of adrenaline, a hot woman who can influence people with her voice like a hypnotist, an autistic teenager who can see and decypher electromagnetic signals (except for Nokia phones), the non-descript Middle Eastern woman with the overbearing family who can heighten her senses by shutting down some of her other senses, and (normally I'd say spoiler alert but it's in the trailer and the wallpaper) an awesome white guy who can control his body perfectly so that he's a perfect marksman, acrobat, baseball pitcher and so on. Each of their powers has a flaw, but c'est la vie.

They've all been brought together by brainy psychologist David Strathairn, who spends a lot of his time in speedos or doing MRIs on people's heads. He thinks all these 'Alphas' (don't say mutants or Marvel will sue us) are great but the omnipresent Callum Keith Rennie is the scowling government man with the pay cheque and so everyone has to investigate unusual crimes for him or HE'LL DO BAD THINGS. YES HE WILL.

Except it turns out there's another organisation of Alphas and they've got some plans of their own.

So far, so X-Men vs Brotherhood of Mutants - oh, and this is by the guy who wrote X-Men: The Last Stand, too. Big mental treks going on here.

All the same, when it's not trying its very hardest to give everyone personalities and failing horribly, Alphas is actually a decent enough, small-scale, lowish budget ensemble show. The plot does take some unexpected turns. The powers are quite well handled. David Strathairn is excellent, as is Rennie, although everyone else is a bit limp and flaccid.

But for a summer show on SyFy, it's actually quite good fun, quite enjoyable, and it certainly beats SyFy's usual recycled whimsy (cf Eureka and Warehouse 13). Worth trying, even if it's not going to wow the world in quite the way Heroes did.

Related entries

  • July 26, 2011: Third-episode verdict: Alphas
    A review of the first three episodes of SyFy's Alphas
  • January 20, 2015: Review: 12 Monkeys 1x1-1x2 (US/UK: Syfy)
    A review of the first two episodes of Syfy's 12 Monkeys
  • December 11, 2015: Preview: The Expanse 1x1 (US: Syfy)
    A preview of the first episode of Syfy's The Expanse
  • September 20, 2016: Review: Kevin Can Wait 1x1 (US: CBS)
    A review of the first episode of CBS's Kevin Can Wait
  • October 21, 2016: Review: Eyewitness 1x1 (US: USA)
    A review of the first episode of USA's Eyewitness

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