After the surprisingly intriguing pilot episode, does the second episode of Syfy’s new superhero series ‘Alphas’ hold up? For the most part, yes.
I say “for the most part” because it’s obvious that the second episode was filmed a considerable amount of time after the pilot and with a lower budget. Although the production values are still perfectly adequate, the episode looks just a little less slick and glossy. Not considerably so, but enough to be noticeable. David Strathairn has shaved his beard and his hair doesn’t quite match (it’s a little darker and shaggier), and one of the primary settings has been completely moved to a new location.
That last part, at least, is explained away in the script. We’re told that Dr. Rosen’s team had to find new offices as a result of the events of the last episode. As such, they’re moving into a new building in Queens, which no one is happy about. Still, I feel like had the production been able to shoot in the original set, this part of the plot wouldn’t have been necessary.
Anyway, in ‘Cause & Effect’, a prisoner from a “rehabilitation center” for Alphas in Binghamton, NY manages to escape by setting off an elaborate Rube Goldberg-ian chain of events that results in a car accident, his guards being incapacitated, and his handcuffs being broken. His name is Marcus, and he has a hyper-charged brain that can calculate statistics and variables to accurately predict the outcome of any action, down to the tiniest detail. If this premise sounds familiar, that’s probably because an episode of ‘Fringe’ did basically the same thing this past season.
Rosen and Marcus have history together. Rosen had worked with and studied Marcus in a previous incarnation of his current program, but ultimately decided that the man was beyond his ability to help. It was Rosen who sent him off to Binghamton. Learning that fact serves as a reminder to the other Alphas that Rosen has the authority to do the same to any of them as well.
But Marcus isn’t out for revenge. He leaves a series of clues for Rosen to find so that they can meet up, and he can deliver a warning that bad things are going down in Binghamton. And he doesn’t just mean too much group therapy. He implies that the Department of Defense has been experimenting on Alphas and preparing them for something, which ties in with what Ghost said to Cameron in the last episode. Rosen had no idea.
Marcus says that the Alphas are an “out-of-context problem” for the human race – a major history-changing development that no one could have anticipated because it falls so far outside the context of what people know about their world that they are literally unable to conceive of it happening, until it does. (This is no doubt a reference to the “Outside Context Problem” first coined and described in the sci-fi novel ‘Excession’.)
Marcus winds up killing a couple of people, including one of his doctors, before being cornered by D.O.D. agents and taken out. Or that’s how he wants it to appear, anyway. When his body is never found, it’s pretty clear that he actually engineered the whole thing and was able to get away. I’m sure we’ll see him again at some point. In the meantime, Rosen has a lot of worrying to do.
All things considered, this is a pretty good episode. I’m still with the show.