QotGTS: Alphas

When it comes to griping about cancelled TV shows, everyone likes to bitch about FOX. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that Syfy has prematurely axed almost every show I’ve ever watched on that network. For instance?


Alphas was by no means a perfect show, but it was entertaining and had a lot of potential, until it was unceremoniously cancelled after the second season finale. This was particularly annoying because the second season finale ended on a pretty huge cliffhanger, and we’ll never find out all kinds of things, like what happened to almost the entire main cast.


1. If you’ve never watched Alphas . . . well, it’s basically the X-Men, but with less flashy powers, more downsides to those powers, less capes or costumes, and considerably less Hugh Jackman. I can see how that might not sound like a winner, but the show actually does have a lot going for it, namely Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn) . . .

rosen 2

. . . and Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright).


Strathairn and Cartwright are easily the best in the entire cast and not only do they routinely elevate the material, they also have some of the trickiest roles to work with. Depending on the season, Rosen either plays the moral center/group therapist or the semi-manipulative bastard who’s using his relationship with the Alphas to get what he needs. Going between those two extremes can’t be the easiest balance to rock, but Strathairn manages it gracefully, without making his character seem inconsistent.

Cartwright, on the other hand, has the challenge of playing an autistic young man with superpowers, which I shouldn’t have to tell you could have gone so bad SO FAST. And with another performance, it might have, but he’s excellent in the role, funny without being, “Ha ha ha, let’s poke fun at autism!”

The whole cast is actually pretty good, especially in the second season, with the possible exception of Azita Ghanizada who plays Rachel. I say possible because I think Rachel is also a hard character to play . . . but I’m not sure Ghanizada’s whiny, one-note performance did the show any favors.

2. As I’ve mentioned, Alphas had issues. Rachel was one such issue. Stanton Parish, the main antagonist, was another. (Actually, John Pyper-Ferguson is probably more miscast than Ghanizada. He doesn’t have the charisma necessary for the role at all.) And it definitely got off to a slow start. I couldn’t blame viewers for not continuing with it after the first couple of episodes.

But it did get much, much better by even the end of the first season with surprising plot developments (the leader of Red Flag, Nina’s terribly dark backstory), good guest stars (Brent Spiner, Summer Glau, Sean Astin, Liane Balaban, Rebecca Mader, etc) and interesting dynamics between characters (Gary and Anna were the best! Also, Gary and Bill, and Bill and Kat.) It also accomplished something I wish more TV shows managed . . . it moved forward.

TV shows need to progress from season to season. It’s not just about chronology — it’s about big things happening so that the story advances in some significant way. I am tired of watching shows shuffle side to side like crabs, repeating the same shit over and over. Characters should evolve. Decisions should be acted up on. Consequences should arise. Worlds should change. And yes, there is some danger of a show moving too far too fast — like Heroes, for example, cause WOW. No show screwed up quite like Heroes did in that regard.

But I value plot advancement in a TV show, and on that, Alphas definitely delivered. The conclusion of the first season completely informed the overarching plot of the second season, and if the show hadn’t been cancelled, I’m sure the second season finale would have equally informed the arc of the third season.

3. I almost forgot: Kat (Erin Way) is one of the best second season additions to a cast in, well, ever.


She injected a lot of humor and spunkiness into the proceedings. I liked her a lot, and I hope to see the actress in more things.


I didn’t grieve over Alphas the way I’ve wept about other shows in the past, but I was pretty bummed regardless because this show was interesting, continually improving, and — despite a few bumps in the road — deserved another season.


Ryan Cartwright




Cliffhangers suck.

4 thoughts on “QotGTS: Alphas

  1. Thankyousoverymuchfornotingoneofmyfavoriteshowsdemise…I totally agree about Cartwright (who is another brit/aussie with a strong natural accent…do “They” think we are to stupid to understand the King English or do they figure there are no North American actors who can…act?) and Straithaim were great in their parts but I also liked Azita Ghanizada(but I am not as sophisticated as some reviewers)…and of course I am a big FANof Summer Glau even if she is the kiss of death for any show…reallllly…I think it is a communist plot!!!…have a great W/E…love, Papa


    • I keep hoping Summer Glau will appear in a show that will make it. She was in The Cape too, which I watched for a little while, but I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. Although I loved Keith David and all the circus stuff. Circuses that train you in how to become a superhero are, clearly, the best kind of circuses. 🙂

  2. I’m basing this on having seen only the pilot (so far) but although I liked it, part of the problem that kept it from being great is that they couldn’t make up their mind about the powers. They had some, like the guy with enhanced (but not exactly super) strength, and the dude with the enhanced…well, the sniper guy, that were believable. They might conceivably exist. But then there were others that were a bit ridiculous, like the one who could see all of the electromagnetic spectrum (which I’d have thought would have made it hard to see anything, but never mind, doesn’t matter), or the chick with the mind control powers, or the one with super senses… Did they want to go the route of the X-Men, or something more believable? They didn’t want to choose.

    • That didn’t bother me so much, although I did become annoyed with the inconsistency of a power’s downside. I thought that was a neat idea for the show, and they kind of disregard it whenever it suits them. Especially when it comes to Rachel.

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