What Is This “Alphas” Thing?
I recently got access to Netflix and decided to give the whole “recommendations” thing a shot. All my shows (no joke, every single one) is on hiatus right now and it’s either try something new or watch the same favorites over and over and over again. No offense to those that marathon their favorite shows – hell, I do it too – but sometimes you’re in the mood for something new. The vast majority of the shows it recommended were things I’d already seen, but one show popped up that I’d only vaguely heard of before. Alphas.
Now what’s this about?
I just finished the first season and so far it seems like X-men and Heroes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it runs the risk of becoming cliche and boring. Indeed, a lot of the plot points can be directly lifted from X-men, including an antagonistic terrorist group who feels that those with powers are superior than everyday folk and that “normal” people should eventually be eradicated. And I’m treading lightly on the spoilers here, but one of the alphas is later revealed to be essentially ageless, and has been for at least a couple centuries. Looking at old pictures of the character and slowly connecting the dots definitely fell into the “cliche” category.
But before you think that this review is entirely negative, let me assure you that there are quite a few good things on this show that have pulled me in. The idea of people developing random abilities as some sort of evolutionary step isn’t the most original concept in the world, but it leads to some interesting potential for characters. With each different power comes it’s own list of problems and each unique character will deal with those problems in their own special way. Granted, some characters are more interesting than others, but those that have hooked my attention are very stand out and worthy of your attention too.
So far the character that has hooked me the most is Gary, the autistic Alpha who can see electromagnetic waves and decipher data as it transfers through the air. The study of neuroatypical characters isn’t exactly my specialty, but his place among the protagonists definitely feels like a positive portrayal to this semi-educated viewer. They don’t treat him as stupid. He’s absolutely not. He’s a genius, in fact. He just has a different way of communicating and relating with the world around him, but amongst a group of Alphas that isn’t something that would really throw them. They’re an incredibly understanding group of people since they all have atypical traits as well. They simply accept him as one of their own. In other words, he’s treated like a person… which he is.
Of all the characters Gary also has the most character growth throughout the first season. During the course of a single episode he goes from having his mother run up and down the stairs to get him a glass of water that’s the perfect temperature to deciding that if the temperature isn’t right he’d go and get it for himself. A much larger plot is his relationship with another neuroatypical character named Anna, who is working for the opposing side. Like Gary, she communicates with the world a little bit differently and her alpha ability is expressed best through the use of technology. Without spoiling people who have not watched the show, his friendship with her is the crux of his overarching plot during the first season, which culminates in a heartbreakingly sad outburst from him in the finale. It was really tragic and I may have teared up a bit.
So basically, Gary is full of win and I was glad to see him on the show. But what of the other characters?
Nobody has hooked me quite like Gary has, but Rachel comes in a close second. Rachel has the ability to heighten her senses, which makes close relationships with others pretty difficult. Her father-daughter relationship with Doctor Rosen (the human leader of the alpha group) is also quite heartwarming. Her own family seems to reject her abilities at first, finding them uncomfortable to be around and simply not understanding why she hasn’t yet found a husband (kissing is awkward for her, okay?), but Doctor Rosen understands her and accepts her. It tugs at the heartstrings, really. We also get more glimpses of her family life than we do most of the other characters, which makes her feel much more well rounded and realistic. We do see snippets of the other characters’ families, but I feel like hers has a much more powerful presence than the rest.
So now I’ve made it to the end of season one and it was sort of a cliff hanger. Should I continue? Well, I probably will no matter what you say because it’s only two seasons long, but (without spoiling me) what am I in for? Was it cancelled after season two because it was just so bad? Was its cancellation unjust? Am I in for a painful cliffhanger with no hope for a resolution? What have I done. Dear God, what have I done…
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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