Air Date: Monday, July 11 at 10 p.m. EST
Slice of SciFi Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0
On the surface, Syfy’s new summer series Alphas feels an awful lot like a clone of NBC’s Heroes. Ordinary people with extraordinary abilities are brought together to fight evil. But dig a bit deeper and you’ll see that, well, the show really is a lot like Heroes, only this time instead of fighting against a mysterious governmental agency, our elite team is a special branch of the Department of Defense.
Led by Dr. Lee Rosen, the series starts out with four of the five member team in place. There’s Bill Harken, a man who can channel extraordinary strength, Gary Bell who is autistic and can see electromagnetic signals all around him, Nina Theroux, who can bend the will of those around her and Rachel Prizard, a woman who can isolate one of her five senses and trace clues back to their original source. In the pilot, we meet Cameron Hicks, a new potential member of the team who has hyperkinetic abilities.
For the first installment, the team is called into investigate a locked-room murder mystery with a twist. The victim was being interviewed by the police when a bullet suddenly struck and killed him. At first it appears Hicks is the long assassin, but the team’s investigation uncovers something greater is going on—not only with the murder mystery but also for the entire series as a whole.
Wisely, the pilot starts with most of the team already established and quickly introduces viewers to the characters and universe through Hicks. We’re spared a lot of heavy-lifting in terms of exposition, which would be well and good if the pilot actually focused on making the characters interesting as people and not as “oh look, there’s the girl who can bend the will of other people.” Perhaps future installments will delve more into who these people are.
The biggest problem with the pilot is the sense that we’ve seen all of this before. Rosen feels like a thinly veiled new version of Professor X from the X-Men comics and movies and beyond Gary’s power to see electromagnetic signals around him, nothing feels new, different or interesting from the power standpoint. Again, future episodes could delve more into the powers, their uses and limitations as the series goes along.
Also, Alphas’ attempt to introduced a long-term arc feels a bit heavy-handed.
That’s not to say the show is entirely terrible. It has flashes of potential throughout and hopefully the series will pick up on these and expand them in future installments. As a pilot, Alphas has a lot of heavy lifting to do. The problem is that the heavy-lifting isn’t done in the most interesting or compelling way. The characters, potential stories and universe have a lot of potential and the pilot did leave me interested enough to give the series a pass on my DVR to check back in on the first three or four episodes.