This week’s episode of SyFy’s Alphas is called “Catch and Release.” An Alpha named Skylar (Summer Glau, Serenity, Dollhouse, The Cape, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) is hunted down. She is a past acquaintance of Nina’s (Laura Mennell), so naturally, Nina feels the need to help her. This is fine with Dr. Rosen (David Strathaim). But Skylar doesn’t want the team’s help, calling them puppets of the corrupt government. She is soon proven correct as Agent Sullivan (Valerie Cruz, Off the Map, True Blood) demands they keep Skylar in custody, at the behest of Cley (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Treme, The 4400).
Summer Glau is a perfect fit for Alphas for the simple reason that Alphas is a science fiction show, and it seems that no modern sci-fit hit is complete without at least a visit from Glau. This is not a bad thing, as Glau is terrific, and Alphas explores yet another new character for her, rather than retreading the same ground. Skylar is highly intelligent and one step ahead of her pursuers, but she also has a solid reason to run, and to not cooperate with the team. That is, she has a child, whom the government will not hesitate to take away and experiment on if they learn of her existence. So Skylar can be forgiven for being less than cooperative with her rescuers.
It’s hard to figure out exactly where Alphas is going. When the series begins, Dr. Rosen’s group just seeks to help humans with abnormal abilities. Then they are co-opted by the government, and each week it seems they bend more to the will of their bosses. “Catch and Release” is the perfect pause button for Dr. Rosen to remind him where he has been, and what path he is now on. Both Nina (pictured below) and Rosen realize they have to use their own judgment, rather than just let the man with the money dictate their actions. How much longer can status quo be maintained if the Alphas team begins working against the people with the purse strings? From a storytelling standpoint, hopefully not long.
Sullivan, who is still a new character, and not in every episode, is clearly in a very difficult position. Cley and the government have their desires, and Rosen and company have theirs. But Sullivan is the liaison, and tasked with keeping both groups happy. She does the best that she can. Sullivan definitely has a bond with Rosen, and while chiding him for letting Skylar escape, and leaving things out of his report, doesn’t exactly fully support Cley either. When the chips are down, it is possible Sullivan will side with Rosen. But it is also possible she will not. Her motivations are just too murky at this point to know for sure. Which makes her interesting.
A great subplot of “Catch and Release” focuses on my personal favorite character, Gary (Ryan Cartwright, Bones, Mad Men). Gary tells his mother, Sandra (Jane Moffat, Queer as Folk), about the classified and dangerous nature of his work. As a guy with autism, who needs lots of help, Gary can be forgiven for leaking state secrets to his mother. But Sandra’s reaction is to pull Gary off the team, something Gary refuses to let happen. It’s an interesting balance of needy and independent that Cartwright walks with his genius character, and he nails the subtleties brilliantly. Gary ends up staying with the Alphas, of course, but he also gets to remind viewers that people with physical and mental challenges are still people, with their own wants and needs.
Another wonderful character is Bill (Malik Yoba), who is forming quite a partnership with Gary. Sort of a really, really odd couple, it is a true joy to watch them together. Bill considers having children in “Catch and Release” with wife Jeannie (Rachael Crawford, Show Me Yours, Traders). Jeannie isn’t privy to all of Bill’s secrets, and so is understandably upset when he shows hesitance with something they both agreed long ago that they want. But Bill’s position is also sympathetic, worried about what kind of offspring an Alpha might produce. In the end, seeing Skylar’s precious daughter, who has incredible abilities beyond anything Bill imagines, sways him towards the idea. It’s a sweet moment for a man who isn’t the focus of many sweet moments.
Alphas also stars Azita Ghanizada and Warren Christie. Catch it Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on SyFy. You especially won’t want to miss next week’s episode, which features Raising Hope and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles star Garret Dillahunt!