I shouldn’t be disappointed. When ‘Alphas’ premiered, the show clearly set itself up to take on a case-of-the-week procedural structure. It’s ‘The X-Files’ for superhumans. Nonetheless, the last couple of really fantastic, mythology-building episodes set a high bar that I’m afraid this week’s episode, as perfectly decent as it may be, has a lot of trouble living up to.
If the title ‘Never Let Me Go’ is meant to be an homage to the book or movie of the same name, I don’t see much of a connection. This plot this week sends the Alpha team to a small town in Pennsylvania to investigate a mysterious outbreak that turns victims into a shambling zombie-like state before they die. The townsfolk are terrified. They fear poisons, radiation, bio-weapons, or what-have-you. A CDC researcher (original ‘Bionic Woman’ star Lindsay Wagner) is stumped.
Dr. Rosen draws a connection to the one recent death in town that doesn’t seem to be related. A teenage boy drove his car into a pole. At the scene, Cameron notices a lack of skid marks on the road. The most likely trajectory for the car suggests that this was a suicide.
Indeed, the boy had been bullied in school to the point that he took his own life. His mother is an Alpha with the power to manipulate deep emotional bonds between other people and herself. She can essentially force them to love her, and her love is so powerful that it becomes physically addictive. When she withholds the love, the other person’s body goes into immediate withdrawal and deteriorates to the point of death. She has been using this ability to punish those who bullied her son as well as those who did nothing to stop it.
This is kind of an interesting concept that I don’t recall being done before on shows of this type (‘X-Files’, ‘Fringe’, ‘Supernatural’, etc.). What I like about the episode is that it puts an emphasis on Rachel, the girl with super-senses. Up to now, her Alpha power has seemed like something of a gimmick, and she is generally the least essential member of the team. But here, Rachel is instrumental to solving this case. The episode gives her character a lot of much-needed development.
There’s also a running gag where the team members have been issued badges for their cover in the DCIS, but most of them have trouble remembering what that acronym stands for. (It’s the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, which is apparently a real thing.) Gary goes a little power-mad waving the badge around and gets himself into trouble with the locals, which becomes a fun subplot. (Did you realize that actor Ryan Cartwright previously played Vincent Nigel-Murray on ‘Bones’?)
Lindsay Wagner’s appearance amounts to little more than a cameo, and she’s given next to nothing to do. It’s unclear whether she’s being set up to have a recurring role, or if this was a one-shot.
The episode is well-made, but it lacks the sort of jaw-dropping intensity and suspense that the last two episodes provided. I suppose that it was unrealistic to expect the series to keep up that level of excitement. It’s also a completely standalone plot without any tie-in to the season’s story arc.