Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Countdown Day 9: A Slight Diversion

Due to working both jobs on Monday, I wasn't able to squeeze in a horror movie, and Amber was in bed before I got home, so no chance for a Tales From The Crypt episode, either. What I did, to keep it at least tangentially supernatural, was catch up on a few episodes of the SyFy channel's original show Alphas. Alphas doesn't really count, but at the very least one o the episodes I watched had the structure of a ghost story, and was at times fairly creepy.

Alphas is on it's second season at the moment(I should note that I'm a few episodes behind; I catch up here and there on DVR), and I've been watching it from the first episode. It was pretty much a pleasant diversion in it's first season, and it's been steadily improving over the course of it's second. The obvious comparison for Alphas would be Heroes, as both shows deal with the real-world ramifications of super-powered individuals, but the comparison is inapt in a couple of ways. First off, the superpowers in Alphas all make a logical sense. In Heroes, the powers were basically magic, no matter what the show liked to say about genetic mutations. In Alphas, all of the powers are basically heightened functions already present in the brain. The powers are still over-the-top sci-fi conceits, but they're still consistently grounded in the real world. One character just has really good hand-eye coordination, another has extremely acute senses(she can see almost to the microscopic level), and another can control the amount of adrenaline pumped through his heart to become briefly very strong. Some of the other abilities become a bit more unrealistic, but they're generally along those lines.

Another small detail that enhances the show; we don't have to see the normal 'getting the team together' sequence that usually starts these types of shows. The group is already a fully functional team by the time the show starts, and they have interpersonal conflicts that should ring true to anyone who's worked in a group. Every episode there are at least a couple moments where team-members sit around the office and talk about everyday workplace shit, like who ate whose food out of the fridge, or how to get a good parking spot at a crime scene.

Alphas has, in it's second season, become more serialized than it's first, with a continuing threat and a villain that's always lurking at the edges, but it still allows each episode to work on it's own terms. This sounds like a small thing, but it's hard to get that balance between case-of-the-week and mythology shows. Each episode is both self contained(the story begins and ends, and wouldn't be too confusing to a newcomer), but also advances personal conflicts and the over-arching storyline. The show hasn't quite become classic, must-watch television, but it's certainly one of the better shows on the air now. If the show improves at the rate it has been, and it's ratings don't kill it this season, it soon will be.

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