I wish that the worst I could say about “Never Let Me Go” is that it shares its name with a Kazuo Ishiguro novel that I hate. Unfortunately, it was the first episode of Alphas that didn’t really work for me. More thoughts about it after the jump.

It seems as if Alphas has decided that it’s going to get us to know each member of the team, one by one, so that by midway through the season, we’ll have a good sense of everyone’s character arc. It’s formulaic, but aside from that, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that approach. What worked about last week’s episode, which centred on Gary, was that it made him the lynchpin in solving the case, without losing sight of the team dynamic.

This week’s episode, which centred around Rachel, used more or less the same template, down to the villain being someone whom the Alphas initially trusted. I’m always a little leery of supernatural powers or occurrences that are based on “feelings,” and in this case my fears were confirmed. Chris’s mother’s power was too hokey, even for this show, and I had to roll my eyes at the scene where Dr. Rosen brought Rachel back from the brink of death by telling her how much he cared about her. That scene might have worked slightly better, though, if Rachel hadn’t spent a large part of the episode being overly weepy. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded Rachel needing her life saved if she had been useful in solving the case, but she really didn’t help all that much, and because this episode centred around her, it was glaringly obvious how little she had contributed to solving the mystery. That, plus Nina once again playing a nearly insignificant role, is starting to make me believe that this show just doesn’t know how to write for female characters. And that’s saying something, coming from me, because I hate discussing gender issues on television, and furthermore, I usually complain about the portrayal of men on television, especially in commercials. But that’s an entirely different issue, which I won’t elaborate on here. Suffice it to say that Rachel (and to a certain extent, Nina) ironically got the short end of the stick in the episode that was supposed to focus on her!

Moreover, this episode seemed uncertain about exactly how much it wanted to concentrate on Rachel. The first fifteen minutes or so of the episode completed jettisoned the team dynamic and played like a buddy cop flick featuring Rosen and Rachel (not to be confused with Ross and Rachel *shudders*), but after that, all the Alphas arrived in the small Pennsylvania town, and Rachel almost disappeared into the background. This gave the show a chance to highlight Bill and Hicks, who are quickly becoming one of my favourite crime-fighting duos – Hicks muttering “Small town” when he found the door to the Elker household unlocked cracked me up – but the episode also featured Gary at his worst and most irritating. His behaviour at the school didn’t garner any laughs, nor did the running joke about how he wanted to wear the football players’ jackets.

Essentially, I had the same problem with this episode that I had with the show two weeks ago. Alphas is clearly devoted to character development, which I applaud. But the manner in which the show goes about it ranges from wonderfully subtle and clever to painfully ham-fisted, often within the span of the same episode. It was interesting to see, for instance, that Rachel has intimacy issues because of her abilities, and it felt like a very real, very appropriate drawback for someone like her to have. On the other hand, when Rachel was making a speech about how she wished that she had a mother like Mrs. Elker, I wanted to yell at my television for spelling out what I could have deduced for myself.

Overall, “Never Let Me Go” wasn’t awful. But it was ham-handed to the point of ruining the illusion that I was experiencing a story as opposed to watching a TV show, and it was disappointing because it failed to use the opportunity to highlight Rachel’s character in a meaningful way. I really do want to like this show, but more episodes like this will quickly turn me from a supporter into a detractor.

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