It's a world shared with "Warehouse 13" and "Eureka," but don't expect super-tech or steampunk artifacts.
Instead, there exist people with extraordinary abilities that no one calls mutants.
The premiere scientist studying these people, Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn), calls them "Alphas." The American government has a task force to deal with Alphas headed by tactical enforcer Nathan Clay (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) and a facility called "Binghamton" where Alphas are studied and stored if they are "bad."
Rosen heads a more collegial group, our protagonist Alphas, officially part of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service of the Department of Defense. Their DoD liaison is Kathy Sullivan (Valerie Cruz) who gives every appearance of being a well-meaning sort, unlike her autocratic and hostile predecessor, the late and unlamented Don Wilson (Callum Keith Rennie).
The first member of our team is a high-functioning autistic, Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), who perceives wireless signals directly. He also is good with computers, although that is not a power, per se. As a result of his autism, he has minimal social skills and requires routine and order to his schedule. Also, he lives with his mother, Sandra (Jane Moffatt), who is unaware of the crime fighting.
The second member, Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada), has hyper-sensitive senses but can only use one at a time. As one might expect from someone who can literally see every particle of dirt around her, Rachel is a bit OCD in regards to cleanliness. Similarly, it is difficult for her to socialize more than casually as people often don't stand up to that level of inspection.
In the past, Rachel translated Farsi for the National Security Agency.
The third member, Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell), has limited mind control. She "pushes" people to do her bidding, although the effect is fairly temporary if she does not reinforce her commands. A key part of the delivery is visual, so special sunglasses can be used defend against her power. Also, Gary is immune.
Nina almost never pays for anything, preferring to use her powers to force gifts and favors from her victims. When her powers first manifested themselves, she accidentally forced her then boyfriend to jump off a building. Although hedonistic with criminal tendencies, Nina nevertheless believes the best in people and wants to do the right thing (when the matter is unrelated to her personal comfort).
All three of the core team require Lee to help them with their issues and to properly integrate with society at large. Lee is a psychiatrist and neurologist. Lee also is a child of the '60s with certain flower child dietary quirks as well as a free-love attitude that a judgmental modern type might label "himbo." Despite this caring and karmic face, Lee is also a manipulative Machiavellian political SOB.
To the powers that be, Lee says what they want to hear in order to smooth his own way. Others he will ruthlessly manipulate for his own convenience or "for their own good." He blackmailed Cameron into joining the team. He used his daughter's, Danielle Sophia Rosen (Kathleen Munroe), nascent Alpha powers to trap his increasingly estranged wife.
Danielle (Dani) can share her emotions by touch, they call it "empathic contagion." Lee was selfish and closed off in his personal life. He treated Dani like an experimental subject. It is therefore not all that surprising that Dani consorts with the enemy. More on that later.
The fourth member of the group, Bill Harken (Malik Yoba), can super charge his strength and speed at will with a burst of adrenaline. He cannot, however, sustain this state for long as it's punishing on the cardiopulmonary systems. Bill is a former FBI agent, suspended due to an incident involving rage and a coworker. He is ambivalent about his power, his undisciplined team, and whether he truly needs Lee's specialized assistance or if a self-help book is sufficient for his issues.
As the series starts, we are introduced to Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie), a hyperkinetic who has been mind-controlled into an assassin. His powers give him superhuman coordination, precision and athleticism when he is in the zone. Conversely he can work himself into a state where he is all thumbs. Cameron is a former Marine sniper and a failed baseball player with a history of alcoholism and substance abuse. Cameron has a young son but is in the process of separation and divorce from his wife who has custody.
As we are introduced to Alphas, we have yet to encounter one that does not outwardly appear to be a baseline normal human. No one with gills, extra fingers or really big ears. Even the deviation from the norm that can be found in Down's syndrome or cleft palate cases are not seen.
The birth defect idea is actually quite relevant because it was thought that a drug, Renestrin -- meant to prevent birth defects -- also will prevent the birth of new Alphas. Alpha powers are generally mental, perceptual or physical phenomena that they usually explain as biochemical with extra hand waving. The general expectation is that an Alpha power may sound good, but there is always a drawback or downside.
Of course, there are more Alphas than our team. Our team has been in the business of finding and cataloging other Alphas, that is, unless the Alpha in question is dangerous, which they are then sent to Binghamton. The especially dangerous are sent to a place known as Building 7.
There are alphas who know about this government-sanctioned activity and want nothing to do with it. These Alphas who are aware, in hiding and actively working toward protecting themselves and their fellow Alphas are the "terrorist" group "Red Flag."
A woman named Anna Levy (Liane Balaban), who seems to have severe autism is a Red Flag Alpha with the ability to understand any language. While she cannot physically speak, she has built a system that allows her to communicate with computers. That communication, combined with her Alpha ability, gives her control over computers anywhere she cares to apply herself. In a particularly fun scene, she calls down a wireless denial of service attack on Gary.
That said, she and Gary become close friends despite being in enemy camps. Anna is, in fact, one of the leaders of Red Flag. She is a moderate so it's bad news for everyone, as well as shattering for Gary, when she is killed in a poorly directed government raid.
Moderate Anna out of the way, that leaves only extremist Stanton Parish (John Pyper-Ferguson) to guide Red Flag. Stanton is, of course, a Magneto-type figure. He believes that alphas are the next stage of human evolution and destined to rule. He wrote and published a manifesto describing these philosophies. Baseline humans, as well as soft-hearted Alphas, are lesser and disposable.
When the team tracks Stanton's history, they discover that he was a scientist in the CIA sponsored illegal human experimentation MK-Ultra Project (note that the MK-Ultra Project is not fictitious). They track him back to Civil War era with photos that show an unchanging face. Since all other known Alphas appear to be less than 40 years old, with the vast majority appearing to be less than 30, he may be the first. Note that actor Brent Spiner is 63, but his character's age is never addressed.
Stanton is described as having absolute control over his body. Minimally this allows him to not age. Lee suspects that he does not sleep either. It is likely he will demonstrate a variety of Alpha powers when the plot requires it, including strength.
Dani Rosen is an agent of Red Flag and one of Stanton's inner circle. It is perhaps because of this relationship that Stanton contacts Lee to offer him an alliance. To assist Lee in his Alpha research and give him a voice in Red Flag and the destiny of human-Alpha relations.
Lee, unaware of Dani's involvement, turns Stanton down. Spurred in part by this encounter, as well as the recent disastrous government raid on Red Flag; Lee, using Gary's control over signals, temporarily takes over all broadcast media and discloses the existence of Alphas to the world at the end of Season 1.
The serious, dramatic, vaguely dystopian tone of Alphas make it odd that Syfy has decided to link it into the lighter and more whimsical universes of "Warehouse 13" and "Eureka," signaled by the crossover guest appearance of CDC agent Dr. Calder (Lindsay Wagner) from "Warehouse 13." Eureka is now cancelled so the issue will never arise there. Will there ever be an Alpha with an artifact? Probably not.
"Alphas" airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on Syfy.
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