The cold open for the first episode of a show like Alphas needs to be good – you don’t want auds switching off after a minute – and it was. A supermarket shelf-stacker gets a text which has a time and venue on it, and suddenly he’s been triggered into action – everyone he speaks to, and everywhere he looks, has the same message: time to kill. He gets to a rooftop, finds a conveniently-concealed gun, aims, and pulls the trigger.
We soon find out that this shot killed a federal witness in police custody, in what Dr Lee Rosen (David Strathairn, coasting) describes as a classic locked-room killing. Except it sodding well isn’t – the point of impact leads back to an air vent which has been dented by a bullet, something which shouldn’t be beyond the ability of a trainee CSI to discover.
Dr Rosen, though, has something much better than that: he’s in charge of a select team of unusual individuals with modest superpowers, known as Alphas. Our Lidl Heroes are Bill, who becomes super-strong if the circumstances are right, seems to be kind of in charge in the field, and is something of a bell-end; Nina, who can sometimes get people to follow her orders, and is clearly supposed to be rather foxy; Gary, who is receptive to the entire electromagnetic spectrum and can conjure a whole Minority Report dealie into being in his mind, and not incidentally has autism; and Rachel, who has synaesthesia, which manifests itself mostly in really good hearing. Rosen, in turn, seems to be under the protection of Don, a bureau man played by Callum Keith Rennie, so grievously under-used in AMC’s remake of The Killing.
Anyway, a bit of the usual cross-referencing of names on various computer databases later, the killer is identified as Cameron Hicks who, it turns out, was an unwilling assassin and has powers of his own. Hicks is captured and Don, whose FBI duties evidently include exposition, occasionally throws a bone or two in Rosen’s direction, from which we can deduce that Hicks was under the control of someone nicknamed The Ghost, who works with Red Flag, who are clearly going to be the bad Alphas.
Hicks is used as bait to draw The Ghost out, although The Ghost is also using an unwitting Hicks as bait to draw the Alphas out, and it’s all going to end badly for either The Ghost or the Alphas. Then, once it all ends badly for someone, Hicks is basically told he can either become one of Rosen’s Merry Men or go to jail for shooting a witness. So presumably he’s now on the team, and as we already know that Nina likes the look of him we might get to find out what Rosen’s policy is regarding office romances. Although presumably Nina could just do her persuasive thing?
Alphas, I’m afraid, didn’t quite do it for me. I felt as if I’d seen most of it before, which needn’t be a problem in itself if the source material is used with imagination; it all felt a little tired to me, though, as if motions were being gone through. I’m not sure I’ll watch again.