Syfy’s Alphas is that rare thing: a show that hits the ground running. From the first scene, it has a confidence most series take at least two seasons to develop. That it does so is especially surprising considering that the underlying concept is hardly inspiring.
Alphas are ordinary people with extraordinary abilities that wouldn’t be out of place in The 4400 or Heroes. Five of these gifted individuals, under the care of affable father-figure Doctor Lee Rosen (David Strathairn), are roped in by the US government to track down other Alphas that have gone rogue.
Co-creator Zak Penn and Star Trek veterans Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Ira Steven Behr help to give this familiar concept a fresh spin with smart scripts and a CSI-esque vibe. The conventional procedural elements and slick action are backed up by dialogue that creates convincing friction between the characters and relies on natural sarcasm instead of wisecracks.
Even in a series that fits together so well, though, the ensemble cast has room to improve. On the plus side, Ryan Cartwright stands out as Gary, an autistic Alpha who can ‘see’ electromagnetic signals. His ability stretches credibility but he pulls of the requisite gestures and traits with a conviction that makes him the most sympathetic of the bunch.
Less interesting is tough guy Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie), possessing hand-to-eye co-ordination that makes Ronnie O’Sullivan look like Mr Magoo. He is fine as an action man, but his back story is obvious and he is predictably moody. Nina (Laura Mennell), the seductive member of the team, is equally under-served. She uses her persuasive stare and sultry looks to good effect, yet neither of these qualities carry much dramatic weight, and she is often surplus to requirements.
These are minor flaws, however, and provide space for Alphas to grow. That it has this is reassuring, because as Heroes found out, when a show like this starts out with everything in its favour, the only way is down.