There seem to have been a lot of movies and TV shows in recent years that try to depict more "realistic" superhero stories. You know, less spandex and magical powers, more "regular" people.
The latest example is "Alphas," a TV series that focuses on otherwise ordinary people with strange evolutionary quirks like supersenses, influencing minds and "seeing" electronic signals. It's one of those series that is solid and fun, but it feels like it hasn't fully grown into itself just yet -- but the last episode does imply that big things are coming.
The CIA is stumped when a key witness is shot... in an empty room with no windows. The case is handed over to Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn), a scientist who has a special team of "Alphas" -- and they soon determine that the shooter is also an Alpha, Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie), who is being controlled by someone else.
Among the problems the team encounters are: a kid with rage pheromones, a bunch of mystery deaths at a high school, a kidnapped heiress who can only be found with Gary's abilities, a woman who can MacGuyver almost any device from scraps, a cult leader who is slowly destroying his followers, a shape-shifter, and an invisible menace who is stalking a prisoner.
But the biggest problem comes not from Alphas, but from regular humans. A terrorist cell known as Red Flag reveals that our dear government is trying to surreptitiously stamp out or imprison all Alphas, and the tenuous relationship between Dr. Rosen's group and the government becomes more fragile with time. If they can't stop it, war will be the next step.
"Alphas Season 1" follows the basic X-Men formula -- an idealistic father-figure/mentor who oversees the young superpowered people, in a world that fears and hates them blah blah blah. It doesn't stray too far from that formula, but it does seem to be trying to have more "realistic" abilities (flight or fight, for example) instead of assigning magical superpowers.
Most of the first season is made up of standalone episodes -- each one has a solid mix of comedy (Gary trying to divide his burrito), acrobatic action scenes, and some intriguing moral questions about terrorism and interference in evolution. But the series doesn't REALLY take off until the last episode of the season, which is not only intense and heartbreaking, but it radically changes the way the Alphas live in this world. That episode is what boots this season from "okay" to "good."
It has a pretty solid cast too -- David Strathairn does a particular good job as a kindly man who genuinely wants normal humans and Alphas to live in peace, but whose idealism is slowly dwindling. Azita Ghanizada is great as a girl who is incapable of having a normal life because of her abilities, and is hurt by her family's view of her. Laura Mennell, Christie and Malik Yoba are pretty good as well.
And Ryan Cartwright is EXCELLENT as high-functioning autistic kid Gary. Not only does he do an excellent job depiction autism, but he shows us Gary's determination to make his own choices and have his own friends (including a Red Flag girl).
"Alphas Season 1" is merely good most of the time, but it really, really blossoms when it focuses on Red Flag and the impending Alpha/human war. Here's waiting for season two