Now that the characters and premise have been established and Red Flag seems like a credible threat, Alphas is on steadier footing. This week’s episode, “Rosetta,” was the best one yet, and it demonstrated what I think the series will look like on a week-to-week basis.

There’s a now infamous episode of The Simpsons where Homer is tricked into joining a power plant design competition for kids. His entry is merely a replica of the power plant where he works but with added details like a “racing stripe” and “fins for wind resistance.” Much to the chagrin of his archrival, Frank Grimes, Homer ends up winning the competition.

Okay, I swear I didn’t tell that story just to show off my encyclopedic Simpsons knowledge (which is admittedly missing a lot of entries from the more recent seasons, but that’s besides the point). Alphas is somewhat like Homer’s power plant design; it doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s more or less your average procedural, but with superpowers. Rachel and Gary are the lab techs, Bill and Hicks (not to be confused with this guy) are the muscle, Nina is the interrogator, and Rosen is the team leader. Aside from Rosen, of course, they just use their abilities to help them with their jobs, which looks really cool, but serves little purpose other than looking really cool. In truth, with its mixture of action and crime-solving, this show is basically Hawaii Five-0 with superpowers.

I’m totally fine with that. It’s a formula that works. It’s not terribly ambitious, but it accomplishes whatever it sets out to do, which is to provide viewers with compelling weekly cases while still keeping them interested in some ongoing mythology. Alphas doesn’t feel the need to advance that mythology in every episode, but the show at least pays passing respect to it. In that way, it resembles Fringe in its early days – just replace “Red Flag” with “The Pattern.”

What I liked about this episode was that it provided a showcase for one of the characters, Gary, without losing sight of the fact that Dr. Rosen’s Alphas are a team. It’s all too easy to turn one of the characters into the “star” for an episode, but Alphas wisely focused on Gary while still integrating him into the team’s efforts. Even when he rebelled against Nina because he wanted to spend more time with Anna, he continued to help the team by translating Anna’s messages.

Speaking of Anna, she made a good villain. Maybe I’m the most gullible person alive, but I was actually quite shocked when it was revealed that she was not only working for Red Flag, but also holding a position of leadership within the group. Plus, her power, a superhuman ability to process and understand language, was something I’d never seen before. Here’s where the show’s use of superpowers allows it to distinguish itself from regular procedurals. One could imagine an Anna-like savant being the villain of the week on a run-of-the-mill crime show, but Ryan’s ability to translate her language and her ability to flood Ryan’s brain with electronic images acted an extra “cool” factor to the proceedings.

Another aspect in which Alphas differs from standard procedurals is that it doesn’t feel the need to tie everything up artificially at the end of each episode. It can get surprisingly dark at times, without falling into the trap of wallowing in that darkness. Milos and his accomplice were essentially suicide bombers, for instance. The team didn’t succeed in stopping them in time, and the bombers blew up the fuel truck, albeit without causing casualties. This was an astute storytelling decision. It allowed the show to flirt with darkness without drowning in it. The Anna story also remains unresolved, as the team was unable to catch her, which I hope means that they’ll be encountering her again later in the season.

If this is the kind of show that Alphas is going to be on a week-to-week basis – a nifty case, a showcase for one of the Alphas, and at least a nominal tie to the show’s mythology – then I’m in for the long haul. Sure, it’s formulaic, but as someone who appreciates and enjoys procedurals, it’s enough to hold my interest. It’s entirely possible that I’m overpraising the show because it’s a SyFy show, which by default makes it at best disposable and at worst utter crap, but I can’t deny that Alphas has a good cast and hints of an intriguing mythology. Let’s just hope that those hints turn into something more substantial in the coming weeks.

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