Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Alphas: “Catch And Release”

Image for article titled Alphas: “Catch And Release”

Last week, I complained some about Alphas’ guest casting, so let’s do some credit where credit’s due stuff and point out that Summer Glau was pretty awesome as Skylar, a sort of one-woman Radio Shack who could put together insanely wacky gadgets out of shit she just found laying around. (My favorite moment? When she sells a guy some machine that will let him sleep 10 minutes a night but make it feel like he’s slept eight hours. I would very much like this machine, Skylar.) She escapes at the end, of course, off into the great American wilderness or whatever, but I’d certainly be pleased if, in season two, Alphas decided it needed a new character or two and brought her back to hang out with the team. If there’s one thing this show could use that it doesn’t have, it’s the gadget girl, the one who makes the cool shit the team uses out in the field. And even though that role can be terribly implemented, I think the folks at Alphas just might have that with Skylar.

The other thing I liked best about “Catch And Release” was that ending: Throughout, the government liaisons that make the lives of the DCIS team difficult have been saying that Skylar’s in contact with someone she might be selling her secrets to. At first, everybody’s afraid it might be another country, that she might be selling off her thoughts to the Chinese or something. But as time goes on, the team realizes that, no, she’s in contact with another Alpha. And that means she could be planning something terrible and must be stopped. She’s already escalated her typical mischief to the point where people are getting hurt (though she does try to warn the guys in the teaser away from her latest booby trap), and there’s an alternate team on her tail. So who’s she in league with? Who’s this mysterious Alpha she keeps talking to?

Well, it turns out it’s her daughter, Zoe, who’s something of a pint-sized math whiz, using her own Alpha abilities to come up with crazy equations in ways that clearly indicate her potential hasn’t even been slightly tapped just yet. In retrospect, I should have seen this coming. The Gary part of the story has so much to do with his relationship with his own mother, and we also get some scenes of Bill at home. So we were clearly being set up for some sort of family-oriented twist. But I just didn’t even guess that Skylar would be in touch with her own kid. I try to watch all of these episodes twice before writing them up, and in this one, I took particular pleasure the second time in watching how the episode simultaneously set me up to not experience any surprise the second Zoe was revealed and also deftly kept all of its cards hidden. When Skylar drives away at the end with Zoe singing her latest equations, it’s something that the show has too rarely been: sweet.

It’s also a nice new chunk of mythology. An Alpha has given birth to another Alpha, and Rosen seems thrilled at the prospect of this. (How much do you want to bet that the government won’t be, once news that Alphas can give birth to Alphas makes its way up the food chain?) But there were plenty of intriguing hints of where the mythology could go in here: There may be a way to track all of the Alphas, and when Skylar gives Rosen a machine that would, with modification, do just that, he almost immediately breaks it. (I’m sure some will say he doesn’t, since it’s in a closed bag, but I can’t believe the show wouldn’t play fair with us on that.) He doesn’t want that power, and he probably fears what others would do with it. At the same time, though, he has to know that someone somewhere would love that little device. And also, I have to imagine that the team that was tracking down Skylar will come back again. The U.S. government can’t be the only force that’s interested in Alphas, and we’ve gotten enough hints this season that others are as well that I can’t imagine this not playing into the season’s endgame somehow.

But here’s another thing: If it doesn’t, if there’s no real mythology, is that really a bad thing? I’m sort of expecting there to be one, since the show keeps making references to Binghamton and you can see where the show would build upon pre-existing templates to create one if it really wanted to. But the character relationships are growing so solidly and the show is sketching out its world so nicely that I think I’d almost be OK if there wasn’t a larger mythology. Yes, I’d prefer that there was, because I like that kind of show, but I also do sort of think the show might have shown its hand a little more obviously by this point. Again, it’s not a deal breaker for me, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit nonetheless.

We’ve talked about how many of the episodes have been about creating situations where the team members feel like they belong to the team most forcefully, so the show can then go about picking apart that unity in future seasons. It’s a smart way to structure what’s going on, and in this episode, the focus is shifted to Nina, who finds herself somewhat wondering if what Skylar says about Rosen just being a pawn of a larger agency is really true, and Gary, who is kept home by his mother after what he told her about his wacky adventures with DCIS. Gary, of course, doesn’t need to be told twice that he belongs with the team, and he spends most of the episode trying to figure out ways to escape and help them, finally tracking down Nina and Skylar when the former is in her moment of greatest need. But the Nina story is a little more complicated, and it involves, to some degree, how a woman who can turn anybody against themselves would, naturally enough, not wholly trust anybody she met. Rosen seems to answer her trust issues well enough in that last scene by breaking the device, but it’s easy to see just why she’d be the one to turn paranoid the most quickly.


So another rock-solid outing for Alphas, complete with a very good guest star (actually a couple of very good guest stars, as I also liked Valerie Cruz quite a bit) and some fun genre plotting that led to an unexpected twist. At some point, I’m going to have to get over how surprised I am that I like this show as much as I do, but, hell, I’ll say it again: I’m surprised I like this show as much as I do. Every Monday, it hits the spot, consistently and completely.

Stray observations:

  • Have I said anything about the opening credits? I don’t believe I have. Well, I like them very much, particularly the footage of people doing things they shouldn’t be able to do.
  • Once again, this was a very funny episode, particularly for some of the exchanges with Gary. I like how the team gets a little annoyed by him and how he can be an asshole sometimes. That’s not something every show would do.
  • I just realized the great writing team of David Weddle and Bradley Thompson is involved in this show. I’ve very much enjoyed their work in the past, which might explain one of the elements making this show work so well. (And the reason it feels like—and let’s not jinx this—the Battlestar Galactica of the TV superhero genre.)
  • "I don't have $812…" "Gary…" "And 90 cents."
  • "You don't tell your mom classified stuff."