‘Alphas’ Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Published 4 years ago by , Updated July 14th, 2011 at 6:44 pm,

alphas premiere syfy malik yoba Alphas Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Superheroes have had a hard time of it since NBC’s Heroes said goodbye last year. The Cape and No Ordinary Family came and went with disappointing results, and Wonder Woman barely got off the ground before crashing down again. Syfy hopes to reverse the trend on cable with Alphas, their sole scripted addition for the summer. Can the latest take on televised superheroes break the mold?

Alphas starts off fast and hard, giving viewers little introduction as an unknown Manhattan man is directed by unseen voices. The man follows instructions, revealing a sniper rifle and a rooftop vantage point. At the insistence of his invisible instigator, he fires.

At this point we meet our protagonists proper. Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn, The Bourne Ultimatum) is a psychiatrist who works for the FBI. He manages and supervises at team of ‘Alphas,’ humans with extraordinary mental and physical abilities. These abilities lend themselves towards certain skill sets – and hobble their users at the same time. Dossier-style graphics pop up, just in case the audience’s powers of inference aren’t up to the task.

Malik Yoba (New York Undercover) plays Bill, husband, former soldier and the A-team’s heavy. He’s able to stimulate his body’s production of adrenaline at will, giving him incredible strength and resistance to pain. Unfortunately, he’s easily worn out – his body can’t keep the adrenaline high going for more than a few minutes.

alphas premiere syfy hicks Warren Christie Alphas Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Laura Mennel (who knows a thing or two about heroes from her role in Watchmen) is Nina, who’s basically a walking Jedi mind trick. She’s able to influence the decisions of almost anyone, easily lying or manipulating them – a trait that she makes good use of as a general grifter and confidence woman.

The team’s resident nerd is Gary, played by Ryan Cartwright (Mad Men). Gary can see and interact with all electromagnetic frequencies (in a fashion best described as “invisible iPad syndrome”). His technomancy makes him a perfect hacker and electronic surveillance operative, but the constant stimulation has left him with something like high-functioning autism – he’s basically incapable of having a normal conversation.

Anita Ghanizhada is Rachel, the team’s investigator. Her synesthasia allows her to heighten a single sense at the expense of others; for example, she can heighten her sight to Superman acuity, but will be temporarily deaf.

alphas premiere syfy rosen hicks nina bill Alphas Series Premiere Review & Discussion

The team answers to G-man Agent Wilson (Callum Kieth Rennie of The Killing), who has assigned them to investigate the murder of a federal witness. The feds believe that the perpetrators are a group of criminal Alphas with unknown intentions – who, as it turns out, have brainwashed the maga-athlete and marksman from the intro, Hicks (Warren Christie).

I wanted to like the Alphas premiere, I really did. After the unfulfilled potential of Heroes and the goofy mess of The Cape, I was looking forward to a more down-to-Earth look at superpowered humans. While Alphas certainly has its own feel and a fair share of potential, the overwhelming feeling after the premiere is one of disappointment.

The story presented in the pilot is unambitious – this tale could have been told from the perspective of the CSI:NY team with minimal tweaking. While it’s likely that the producers stuck to grounded ideas that could fit in a limited budget, it’d be better to see big ideas that are a little much for the effects (like Eureka) than a story that’s purposefully held back.

alphas premiere syfy gary Ryan Cartwright Alphas Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Even with a low bar set for suspension of disbelief, the actors seem hard pressed to look interested. Unfortunately, they all seem as bored with the source material as the audience, as if they’re just waiting for the story to wrap up so they can go home. Maybe that’s what was intended – they do seem like normal people in a situation that’s only slightly extraordinary. But while that makes for an interesting deconstruction, it doesn’t make for an engaging ninety minutes of TV.

The characters themselves have some redeeming quirks. Nina, Gary and Dr. Rosen (if only for his shrink-isms) are easily the most interesting figures, and mysterious bad boy Hicks will obviously be growing a lot in the episodes to come. The rest just seem to be filling spots in the lineup – as if a strong man, tracker and spook were jobs the FBI needed filled and just picked off of Craigslist. The team hangs out in a cozy office that looks like SHIELD had some major budget cutbacks.

Those looking for a glitzy action show will feel somewhat cheated, as the effects and stunts are underwhelming. While shots of Gary’s technical manipulation and the subtle effect of Nina’s mind control are believable, the super-athletic feats of Bill and Hicks just come off as poor stunts from a slightly over-the-top action movie. The clunky fights will have you pining for the days of Peter and Sylar in all their overpowered glory. I’m inclined to give Syfy a pass on the low-budget feel, but the same people have been able to do more with less.

alphas premiere syfy rosen bill rachel Alphas Series Premiere Review & Discussion

All that said, there is reason to be hopeful. The superpowered team seems to work well enough as a low-key X-Men, and it’s clear that weekly puzzles and mysteries will call upon each of their superhuman and persona strengths. But Alphas needs a lot more work before it’s worthy of a slot in your weekly lineup.

First and foremost: these characters need to seem like they care about their jobs and their assignments. It’s hard to give a hoot about the supervillain of the week when the actors seem not only unintimidated, but uninterested. Second, the stories need to get bigger: the Fringe and Warehouse 13 teams take down more interesting bad guys without the benefit of powers. Lastly, the show just needs more flavor – right now, it’s just another NYC whodunnit with a bag of neohuman tricks for spice.

While I’ll be keeping an eye on Alphas to see how much it improves post-pilot (and to be fair, many shows do quite a lot of that) the first impression isn’t good one. Without a lot of help in the story and acting department, Alphas will be the next superhero show to bite the proverbial dust.


Alphas airs Monday nights at 10PM on Syfy.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @MichaelCrider

TAGS: Alphas
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  1. Best pilot I’ve seen of it’s kind since Heroes, it blew away both No Ordinary Family and The Cape with just it’s first episode, thought it was fun and engaging, excited about seeing where it goes from here.

  2. thought it was ok but, its on syfy so will be cancelled soon just like SGU although that was a good tv show!

  3. Thought the pilot was pretty good and look forward to seeing more of Warren Cristie.

  4. Disagree with the review, agree with the comments – I really enjoyed it. In TV world today you can’t have it both ways – if they immediately set up a big story arc people get fed up too quickly with unresolved plot questions. I think they started off well. I hope SyFy allows the show to develop and evolve. 8 out of 10.

  5. Odd lately when it comes to TV every time I get on Screen Rant it seems they are giving a poor review to one show or another while every other site out there is giving a good one. So far Alphas and the return of Burn Notice have been trashed here while many/most other sites are giving them very positive reviews.

    • I’ll give you a hint: we tend to judge the shows that we already love (or have high expectations for) harshly. People were up in arms after I reviewed the Castle season finale, but very few realized that I gave it such a bad rating because I really enjoy the series, and it was a major shift in tone that completely failed to work within the context of the rest of the season.

      I was hoping that Alphas would learn from the smattering of superhero shows we’ve had in the last few years, and give audiences the big ideas and likeable characters of Heroes without the melancholy or convoluted stories of later seasons. Instead it’s a low-key investigation story that could almost be told without any powers or scifi elements, and the characters are bland and one-dimensional.

      There’s still time to turn in around – lots of shows make major changes after the pilot – but I’m not holding out a lot of hope.

  6. Who said the acting was serviceable? David Straitharn is the the only actor on the show and he can’t carry the whole show on his shoulders. The Indian chick is awful – no matter what power she’s using she just has a blank look on her face. FAIL.

  7. 3/10

    Great work, give the black guy the power of strength, the swallow woman the power to manipulate people as she likes and, oh hey, a nerd character with a nerd power. Havne’t seen that for a while.
    A minority thrown in for good measure and some white guy who looks like every video game lead character.

    Only thing I liked that the powers had some kind of drawback.

    Going to rewatch Heroes Season 1.

  8. Can’t stand how much people make a big deal over the black guy having the power of super strength, as like that’s a stereotype that we see all the time when they are used in genre stories. So Morpheus from The Matrix and Mace Windu from Star Wars both were just super strong black guys that were offensive for not being given other characteristics in any way in their roles huh?

    It’s like if they have roles of being wise, smart mentors, people get offended over them having to be the characters others in the story look to for guidance and leadership. If they have roles of being super strong of super fast, people get offended over them not being very smart or wise characters.

  9. You left off the part where the autistic nerd can’t seem to see the Nokia electromagnetic spectrum. :-)

    I thought the pilot was OK at best. I plan to continue to DVR it but I would like them to up the ante a bit. Being more like CSI would be a welcomed change.

    • Does anyone use anything made by Nokia anymore Kahless?

      • I never used Nokia, so I’m not sure. I’m sure Kahless thinks anything made by humans is garbage.

        You should all be hauled away AS garbage, petaQ!!



    • A CSI show about people with superpowers? No thanks. CSI is crap as it is. Rather have some EPIC story arcs, bit more action, people with better powers and you might have something here.

  10. No Ordinary Family was better than Alphas.

    • So far, I agree.

  11. For me superheroes without costumes are just not superheroes. I know people say it doesn’t make sense or it’s unrealistic but its part of the package.

    I want codenames and costumes and powerful powers and supervillains trying to take over the world.

    I don’t want average people in streetclothes fighting guys in business suits or street thugs and the like with minor unimpressive powers.

    • I don’t think this show wants to be a comic-book style “superhero” show so the use of costumes and code names wouldn’t fit. And the use of people with extraordinary powers doesn’t always translate into the traditional realm of comic book concepts. And as recent comic based projects have shown the whole spandex and cape idea looks better in 2D and drawn then it does in real life more often then not.

      It’s the summer and it’s not like SyFy has anything else to air you want more Ghost Hunters shows so I think the show has some room and time to grow. The one thing anyone who follows this type of show can agree on though is that strong antagonists are needed. One of the main things that turned me off about Heroes (aside from the Heroes not really doing much heroic stuff) was the main villain just seemed like a creep who should have been taken out way quicker then it took.

    • Than go watch terrible shows like The Cape and leave the good ones to us. I’m glad it’s not horribly cheesy or unrealistic.

  12. It was simple but enjoyable. I tuned in mainly because I respect David Strathairn’s work. This felt more Canadian than American, which is not a bad thing – I just think the two countries have a different approach to storytelling and the display of violence. If I were to make comparisons, I’d call this Heroes-meets-Alias. Malik Yoba stood out as the strongest actor of the ensemble, but perhaps that’s me. (No pun, given his character’s ‘ability’.) Warren Christie struck me as a cross between Matthew Fox and Chris O’Donnell, too.

  13. Michael. My own opinion. In order for a show to get off the ground it has to air an episode. Wonder Woman was taken out while it was waiting on the runway to take off. Just saying.

    • I watched the pilot and I was dreading seeing the guy from Bones and Mad Men . As it turned out I was delighted to see that he had dropped his irritating English accent for American and was entirley watchable.

      This series needs a decent story arc. Without it it will struggle.

  14. I was not thrilled with the Alphas TV show, quite mediocre and boring. I thought the characters did not blend well and they were annoying. The tv show Heroes was superior in imagination and writing. I would rather see the new tv show Three Inches, there cast are a good match. I also would like for the three Inches show to be the originally planned 1 hour show. I read it would be reduced to a 1/2 hour show, which is a big mistake. Haven’t heard when the Three Inches tv show will be viewed. Maybe they should bring Joss Whedon back to write tv shows. There’s a guy talented guy who has imagination and originality.

  15. Brilliant.

  16. The show is brilliant. It’s about time we got a superhero bunch on tv without anything supernatural and fantastic. By the way, what is the theme song at the start of the last episode called?

  17. The show some times is annoying when bringing in new patients (alphas). Like in the “anger management” episode they should have introduced him to the other alphas and their abilities, it seriously need some more thought put in to how they transition each scene. But I’m glad that homeland security guy died. =]

  18. Where do Heroes go when they grow up? well I don’t know but it certainly isn’t Alphs. I have watched this how from the beginning with the anticipation of greatness. I didn’t get greatness and i’m still waiting for something worthwhile to justify my watching it to happen. The premise of having special abilities as in heroes or ordinary family , has always been dear to me and can be so much fun when done right , unfotunately the format chosen is destined for doom. I am bored to tears waiting for someone to dare to use their ability. too little too late . this show needs an overhaul. it needs a characters that have more likeability and more commonality than an ability it needs a clear antagonist even if its just to fight evil characters need to be more likeable and need to use their powers and if a leader is necessary it cant be someone who does nothing but analyze and talk i like scyfy action not therapy. Clearly much needs to be done good luck

    • Agreed. It’s a snooze fest.