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

Alphas: “Falling”

Illustration for article titled Alphas: “Falling”

Every week, Alphas throws a bunch of balls in the air, and almost every week, it finds a way to catch them all. It may not always be elegant in the attempt, and it may let a couple of them wobble there at the end, but it almost always gets the job done. This sounds like one of those things that all TV shows should just do instinctively, but it’s actually very hard to do. In only 42 minutes of storytelling time, it can be tough to tell more than one story, much less three or four, yet many, many shows try to do it all the same, because it’s expected of them. There are series that introduce storylines, only to sideline them for the bulk of the episode or, worse, forget about them entirely. Alphas never really does that. It can lead to episodes that feel chaotic and convoluted, but in many cases, it leads to episodes like this.

This is not to say that “Falling” was a perfect episode. It had its issues, and it worked too hard to make Dylan, Dani, and Tyler the things that Kat, Dr. Rosen, and Cameron, respectively, were unable to effectively deal with because they were too close to them. This led to some heartwarming family time in the Cameron storyline, but in the other two, the show got impressively dark. (Another thing I’m fascinated by is how this show can start out with wacky fun times, like those kids taking a drug that let them jump off a building and crash into the cars below without a scratch, all as a pop-punk soundtrack ground away, then gradually get darker and darker as the episode goes on. There aren’t really any other series doing this right now. It’s either all fun or all dark.) Rosen finally realized that having his daughter arrested was his duty, even if his initial impulse was to give her a fake passport and tell her to run. Kat came to realize what a bad guy Dylan was, even if he was a connection to the mystery of her past. Plus, the shot of the girl Dylan was using to make his Alpha drugs, half-naked and passed out in a tub, was the sort of legitimately chilling moment the series has just been dropping into its margins this season, as if to say, “Yeah, if there were superheroes, people would probably be doing shit like this.”

I’ve made no secret of my affection for Kat in her other appearances this season, and she gets to take the lead in one of the two major storylines in this episode. It was inevitable, of course, that she would run into someone from a past she couldn’t remember, and all of the show’s work in depicting her work to recall her past built to this episode, in which she kept making excuses for Dylan. He was clearly a scumbag—he was a drug dealer, for God’s sake—but he was a tie to a world she once knew, a world in which the two were once apparently in love (or at least quite fond of each other). She turned on her teammates when the time came to bring Dylan in, giving him an early warning, until she found that girl in the tub. (Creepily, the girl seemed to be in love with Dylan, too.) It was the bottom falling out, Kat reminding herself of something she once knew and realizing what a dick this guy was.

Her capture of Dylan was thrilling, too. After he smashes her to make his escape, she races up to the roof, where Gary’s waiting. She takes the pill that will make her briefly invincible (to Gary’s consternation), then times it just right to land atop Dylan’s escaping vehicle. She bashes in the window, pulling him out onto the street, telling him he doesn’t get to touch her again. It’s a thrilling, empowering moment, and I was pleased with how the sweetly goofy Erin Way gave it some real teeth. Kat’s had it with people exploiting her and taking advantage of her, be they Dylan or the fight club members. What’s interesting is that she’s fallen in with a group that the show is increasingly trying to argue are just as interested in exploiting and taking advantage of Alpha abilities. The series is much less certain of the purity of Dr. Rosen’s methods this season, and it’s been to its betterment.

To that end, Dr. Rosen’s storyline, the other of the episode’s two major ones, involves him trying to come to terms with the fact that Dani was the one to betray him. Just as Dylan is someone who makes Kat a wee bit irrational, Dani makes Dr. Rosen consider abandoning much of what he believes to let bygones be bygones and send her off into the world somewhere else, rather than having her rot in prison. The episode makes a smart call in having this storyline get back-burnered for much of its running time, in favor of having Dani hang out with Cameron and his son. The moment when she transfers Tyler’s feelings about Cameron berating him while playing baseball to Cameron, then transfers Cameron’s feelings about his son to Tyler paints her as remarkably sympathetic. It also transitions the theme of those in our lives we’ll behave irrationally for in a rather nice way. Cameron’s unable to relate to his son, but he’d do anything for him. It comments on the situation between Dani and Rosen without doing so directly. It’s a smart bit of writing.

But, of course, Rosen must take his daughter in. He can’t send her off with the passport because that’s not the guy he is. He’s the guy who does the right thing when the chips are down, and here, the right thing is making sure Dani is taken into custody. Somehow, the show manages to get two big heartbreaking moments—right next to each other!—out of this storyline. The first is when Dani is actually taken in, when Jon asks her to put her hands on her head and lie down and she stares at her father speechlessly. It’s a hell of a way to end the act, but it’s followed up by a scene that’s just Rosen and Dani talking, alone in a room. The whole thing hinges on David Strathairn and Kathleen Munroe playing everything to the hilt, and it works. Obviously, Strathairn is going to hit this out of the park, but I was also impressed with how Munroe plays this as a moment of quiet devastation. Just as Kat realized who Dylan truly was, Dani’s discovered who her father really is. And it doesn’t matter if the audience knows his motives are largely pure. For her, the bottom has just fallen out.


Stray observations:

  • Teenagers jumping off of tall buildings and surviving the fall is a fairly cliché way to depict “superpowers,” especially since Claire on Heroes did it, but “Falling” found an intriguing way to shoot these sequences, as found footage that pops up online.
  • I was worried the “pill that gives those who take it Alphas abilities” would turn out to be a bigger deal, given how thoroughly the ability to give people powers was botched by Heroes. But I think the episode successfully isolated this storyline in such a way that it didn’t overpower anything around it.
  • Dr. Lee Rosen, worst everything in the world: Okay, you can’t really fault him for the situation with Dani. He was pretty much going to be a bad dad no matter what he chose there.
  • Oh, right. Jon and Rachel are growing closer, and she’s not sure she’s going to be able to handle it. Nina assures her she will be able to handle it. Riveting!
  • Kat’s going to go through the FBI agent training program as offered by Quantico. Hicks estimates it will take her about two weeks. Nifty.