In storytelling there is nothing inherently wrong with a derivative premise. Shows such as Supernatural and Stargate Atlantis prove as much. Alphas might have, too, after its promising first season. Yet, Season 2 provides equally persuasive evidence that when you go where others have gone before, you must have something new to say.
Throughout its debut season Alphas benefited from snappy dialogue and crisply choreographed action. Beneath the gloss, though, was a reliance on procedural thrills inherited from The X-Files and a conceit involving enhanced humans that had been worn thin by Heroes and The 4400.
Nonetheless, Season 2 had room to grow. In the first season’s finale society was forced to acknowledge the existence of humans with abilities such as immortality, enhanced senses and super strength. From there the series could easily have segued into speculation on how real technological advances in human potential might exaggerate divisions between haves and have-nots.
Instead it essentially voids Season 1’s game-changing climax and reverts to the same clichéd freak-of-the-week formula that its predecessor got away with. Worse still, it dumbs down the issues to a mundane conflict between ‘us and them’ in which the latter seem almost unambiguously evil because of their selfish agenda.
The good guys don’t fare much better. There’s a touching backstory for Nina (Laura Mennell) and a heart wrenching arc involving two of the other main characters. Yet, there’s little indication that anyone has a life outside the office. The time devoted to character development is further limited by the unnecessary introduction of 20-something whizz-kid, Kat (Erin Way) whose contrived integration is out of sync with the show’s edgy realism.
The upshot of all this is a failure to expand Alphas’ mythology beyond the conventions of its subgenre. With that comes the dubious honour of being up there with Star Trek on the list of series that faltered because we’d seen it all before.