Alphas is fun, but originality isn’t its strong suit. The premise of this week’s episode was almost a carbon copy of Fringe’s “The Plateau.” More thoughts on this episode after the jump.

Given that thousands upon thousands of episodes of television are produced every year, it’s inevitable that you’ll be able to find two of them that are similar, if not one that is an outright rip-off of the other. This week’s baddie had the ability to see cause and effect, which he could use to coordinate elaborate, The-Incredible-Machine-esque stunts. It’s a pretty interesting power, no doubt, and it wasn’t until halfway through the episode that I realized I’d seen it before in an episode of Fringe. Using that same ability in this episode of Alphas verged on plagiarism.

But you know what? Originality is overrated. Alphas and Fringe are different enough that I didn’t feel as if I was just watching Alphas’ version of “The Plateau.” If something is enjoyable enough, I’m not worried about how novel it is. Besides, there was a lot of other stuff going on in this episode. This episode’s baddie was an Alpha that Dr. Rosen had sent away to a special facility in Binghamton because of misbehaviour. We got a interesting look at his story through flashbacks and a few present-day interactions between him and Dr. Rosen. Those scenes weren’t exceedingly well-done, but they did tie the case to the show’s mythology, and it’s nice to have confirmation that any lines in the pilot about Dr. Rosen’s team fighting for the “wrong side” weren’t just dropped in there for dramatic effect. I’m intrigued about what could be going on at Binghamton and whether it could threaten Dr. Rosen’s team. We also found out that Nina, like this week’s baddie, had once been an Alpha who misbehaved, and I hope that we get a better look at her past in the coming episodes.

But even with a few lines devoted to Nina’s past, “Cause & Effect” put most of the team in the background and focused squarely on Dr. Rosen. It was a nice showcase for David Strathairn, who continues to rise above the material that he’s been given, but it was too early in the series to put out an episode that focused on a single character. Strathairn is clearly the show’s lead, but a couple more episodes that emphasized the team dynamic would have been nice before putting out an episode like this. Nonetheless, it’s nice to see that the team’s effectiveness isn’t constantly being called into question, and they’re believable enough as a team that the show needn’t remind the audience about how well they work together.

Speaking of the team and its members, I’m happy that Gary and Bill have been toned down a bit, and I’m not just saying that because of their reduced screen time in this episode. Sure, Gary still has some form of autism, and Bill still has anger issues, but they also seemed like functional, if slightly quirky, human beings in this episode. Another improvement from the pilot was this episode’s pacing. The pilot was way too long and moved too slowly. This episode had a shorter running time and moved faster, but it still dragged in parts. I hope that the directors’ plan isn’t just to pad out future episodes with more shots of Dr. Rosen staring pensively into space.

Unfortunately, in at least one way, “Cause & Effect” showed some signs of regression from the pilot. Last week’s episode wouldn’t have won anybody any Emmys for writing, but the dialogue was at least decent. This week, it was much more ham-fisted, to the point where I rolled my eyes several times, especially in the scene where the agent shot the baddie. I have quite a high tolerance for cheesiness – in fact, I often embrace it – but the characters’ dialogue needs to be more believable and less clichéd.

Overall, though, Alphas remains enjoyable, if completely undemanding, summer fare. It looks nice,1 and it’s well-shot; the gas explosions in particular looked really cool. This show has surprisingly high production values for a cable programme. No, Alphas probably isn’t awards-worthy. But it’s mindless fun, and I’m not going to ask for more than that.


1 If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to make a completely shallow request to the people who work on this show: stop slathering so much makeup on Azita Ghanizada’s face. There’s no reason to put that much crap on a face that pretty. Thank you.

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