Syfy’s Alphas, conflict and characterization

The show focuses on a group of mutants (who are known as alphas in this universe) that work for the government in dealing with dangers posed by other alphas. Here’s the 2012 Comic  Con reel, with some spoilers for the first season’s plot (as it was made to promote the second season):

When I first started watching the series, I liked it well enough. It was another mutant show, but a well done one, with interesting characters. And then it started taking bigger risks, changing the game at the end of the first season, and from that point I had to keep watching. Also, Summer Glau guest starred, which was awesome.

I genuinely like most of the characters on this one, as it’s got a pretty diverse cast. Overall, I’d definitely say the characters are less quirky than other Syfy series like Eureka and Warehouse 13, though granted, I’ve only seen two episodes of Warehouse thus far. I’d say on Alphas, Rachel, an endearing but nervous character who’s often irritated due to her super senses powers, is the most quirky. And of course, this show has Gary, an autistic character who’s pretty endearing and quirky in his own right. Here’s an article dealing with the research for the portrayal of autism on the show.

I’d say the most fun part of the show is seeing the main cast play off each other.

Additionally, the conflict between the team and their employers steadily grows, and while the people they legitimately go up also do something wrong, it becomes increasingly obvious that both extremes are questionable. Therefore the group is also dealing with moral questions. And one team member especially has some serious moral issues to work through, given the type of powers she has and how she’s used them in the past (and present). The things she does are treated as being wrong, though personally I sometimes think there’s still a bit of under-reacting. But then, the show does tends to err on the side of sympathy, in general. Maybe because the team leader’s a psychologist?

Now that the second season’s playing, we can see how things play out now that the show has nominally gone back to the status quo. But nothing is ever quite the same, hard feelings linger, and going back to before is hard if not impossible. I can already see some of those dynamics in place in the first few episodes of season two. Here’s hoping we’ll get to see things fall apart in the later part of the season. I believe we will, if the previous season is any indication.

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2 Responses to Syfy’s Alphas, conflict and characterization

  1. Psycho Gecko says:

    Bah, Syfy…it abandoned me long ago.

    You know, they really seem to enjoy having lots of supers when they have a super show. I don’t just mean villain of the week either. Heroes, No Ordinary Family, Alphas, as well as one or two others I can’t recall at the moment, seem to focus on how these supers as other characters interact. Smallville seems like an exception there, and later seasons brought in other heroes like Green Arrow. It just generally seems rare to find it focusing on only one supers struggle.

    The little phrase that pops up during that video also illustrates something for me. The powers make them super, their decisions make them human. As in, one is physical ability, the other is general mindset or attitude. But do they have many times where a person will try to be super, not by lifting a bus or something, but by sacrificing and trying to be some upstanding beacon of good? Someone that is an icon to inspire others?

    I wouldn’t say Batman qualifies either as he is mostly trying to inspire fear in his enemies. I don’t know where the quote is from but I believe one by Batman to Superman that shows the difference is “I fight against criminals. You fight for Earth.”

    I’m certainly not against the idea of showing supers both good and bad as human, but it’s also pretty cool when you get to see them surpass that and become a real super person in more than just ability. Didn’t see all of Smallville though, so don’t know if it really went that way in that show.

    Despite all that, some of my favorite supervillains are the Flash’s Rogues, who certainly don’t follow that. They are powerful villains in somewhat ridiculous outfits who still manage to get away from the Fastest Man on Earth on a regular basis. You’d probably laugh at them right up until the moment Captain Cold froze you to absolute zero, Trickster blew you up, Heat Wave burnt you to a crisp, Weather Wizard zapped you with lightning, Mirror Master turned you into a mirror, or Captain Boomerang took your head off with a razor-tipped, acid-spewing boomerang. They just use that power to steal money and settle the occasional personal score. They don’t care about something like taking over the world.

    And one of them banged the 4th Flash’s mom.

    • Marie Erving says:

      I haven’t seen Smallville or Heroes, so I can’t comment there. I think it was because I wasn’t watching TV when they were on. I have no idea if the premise of either would have appealed to me, even if I was.

      The ‘icon to inspire others’ comment sounds like what I know of Superman. But I think in general, we’re seeing stuff get darker rather than lighter in tone. For example, Alphas does something that’s closer to the opposite of what you’re asking for. The heroes aren’t always right or on the right side, so their mistakes come back to bite them. And sometimes it’s not entirely clear what the right course of action is at all.

      The beacon to inspire hope doesn’t seem to be the trend right now. Though there is Captain America. I’m sure there’s more; maybe TV Tropes has something on it. If you mean superheroes without actual powers, I’m sure they exist. Somewhere.

      I’m assuming that a lot of superhero stories (or for that matter, urban fantasy stories) deal with the powered characters instead of the non-powered ones because it’s easier? Or because they think it will appeal better to their audience? I don’t know.

      As for Syfy, I’ve seen a bunch of B stuff on it before, but it seems to be doing not that badly right now, actually. It’s got Warehouse 13 and Being Human. Then there was Battlestar Galactica, before. And it’s airing Merlin from the UK, and it used to air Doctor Who.

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