The talented sci-fi-favorite Summer Glau (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Firefly) guest-starred in “Catch and Release” as Skyler Adams, an alpha formerly under the care of Dr. Rosen. With the power of being able to take apart machines and invent new creations, Skylar is an important commodity for the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense who converge on her and her bioelectric computer processor. The NSA wants to use it with predator drones while the DOD wants to use it to locate other alphas. Her suspicious activity leads Agents Sullivan and Cley to think that she may be dealing with terrorist groups or Red Flag.
Skyler’s return on the radar reopens wounds with Rosen and Nina. She turned down Rosen’s offer to be a part of the alpha team but trusted Nina to come to her for help. She challenged Nina on whether or not she could still think or act for herself or if she and Rosen were what she expected–government puppets.
Skyler: He’s part of the system and so are you.
When an ethical dilemma comes up, Nina puts Rosen’s policies to the test and hopes that Rosen and the team will follow her because it appears that Cley and his goons will take Skyler to Binghamton.
Rosen: It’s not her choice, it’s not ours either.
Nina: Skyler’s right, we do exactly what they tell us to do, we’re flunkies.
And thus Rosen is stuck with another difficult decision and the reasoning behind their work. Are they glorified tools of the government? Can they work within the confines of their command? Or can they be another independent agency all on their own? Wouldn’t that put them outside the protection and support of the government though?
When the alpha team is confronted with the mysterious “Z” figure who Skyler’s been in constant contact with, Dr. Rosen and the team must make hard decisions that will affect their relationship with Agent Cley and the Department of Defense. Will they allow Skyler and Z to become Binghamton lab rats or will they create their own protocol and create a divide between them and their superiors?
Skyler, like Marcus Ayers in “Cause & Effect” helped bridge the established history to the present day without the need of flashbacks or long-winded exposition. It feels like the inception of Rosen and the alpha operative (DCIS) and that time period is equally intriguing as the present team. While Glau can’t seem to escape being cast into science fiction characters who are either gifted with abilities or have an affinity with machines, her enjoyment in these roles comes through the performance; she was a natural fit in the show. Most importantly, Skyler’s story brought out past, present and future parental relationships, including Rosen’s past with her and his care of the alpha team and their personal lives.
Bill and his wife have a heart to heart about having children. She wants them, he does not, but not because he’s strongly against kids. It’s clear that she does not know about his alpha power. Bill on the other hand is fearful of passing his genes onto a child. It’s a vulnerable look into the almighty Bill and a natural reaction whenever one has a medical condition. Even though this treaded familiar themes in classic X-Men comics, it’s compelling here as Bill is not only a career man; he’s wants to be a family man too. Talking with Cameron about his kid (who he understands thus far not to have alpha powers yet) and seeing Skyler and running from the DOD and the NSA actually inspires him to take the next step in ordering a book about fatherhood. That was unexpected turn and a seed that we could grow in future seasons, hopefully if Alphas gets that far.
Another exploration of parent and child is between Gary and his overprotective mother Sandra (Jane Moffat). This was a pivotal episode for Gary who stood up for himself and his work, escaping from home to be with his co-workers. He put his foot down and tells his mother that he does not want to be taken care of constantly in his life; he wants to be treated like a real, mature adult.
Sandra: I’m not going to let them endanger you.
Gary: I’m a secret agent now mom, and I’m happy.
Having autism obviously creates a level of constant concern and care between the parent and child, but since the episode, “Rosetta” Gary has felt empowered by his alpha ability, is slowly being accepted as an equal for the DOD and DCIS, especially since autism is treated as sign of alpha-empowerment and not a debilitating disability. Alphas’s treatment of Gary is one of the many reasons to tune into the show; it’s progressive, positive, and an original portrayal. For Sandra, she may have a much harder time letting go of Gary and allow him to take care of himself.
• One thing that I really like about Alphas is that when an episode is done, it continues on after the credits roll. Gary obviously told his mother about some of the work that he’s done, and the situations that he’s done. We didn’t see them arguing about it but it’s obviously the foundation for their scenes in this episode. It adds to the serial nature of the show and
• Rosen is not comfortable with inter-office romances and doesn’t want Cameron and Nina going beyond flirting–too late–but you could tell Nina is not going to heed his warning. We saw her rebel in this episode and Cameron is one the things that’s keeping her attention at work. She definitely wants to take a piece of work home with her though.
• I’m beginning to think it’s hard to talk to Rosen long before he begins his psychobabble and treat the other person as another case study. In a candid conversation with Agent Sullivan, they have a discussion about traveling where Sullivan tells him how being an army brat allowed her to travel to Pakistan, Philippines, Bolivia among other places. Rosen said he likes to travel too because it gives him lessons in thinking outside the box. Surprised by her response, Rosen realizes the agents at DOD are not one-dimensional. Is Agent Sullivan someone he can trust?
Rosen: Clearly I put you in the wrong box
• Skyler’s modified contact lenses’ ability to block Nina’s alpha showed another defense against her mind control. Nina’s increased screen time was a welcomed change, especially with Skyler. She’s still feeling her way with Rachel, but with Skyler, we could see Nina opening up more.
• Who else is waiting to see all the gadgets in Gary’s new phone? As Skyler hinted, the phone has a way to patch directly to her. Hopefully this means Zak Penn and Michael Karnow are planning future episodes with Glau. Z would complicate the show greatly as a regular concern but I won’t hide my feelings that Glau would be a terrific addition as a cast regular. Plus Skyler and Gary would make for some interesting combination of alpha powers.
• How much do we read into Agent Cley’s snap at Dr. Rosen? “Misjudged another patient doc. You gotta work on that.” Is this a real character flaw in Rosen, or Cley’s way of getting under Rosen’s skin?
• The most astonishing alpha ability continues to be the mini-van as a getaway and assault vehicle. Waiting for the van to go airborne a la Dukes of Hazzard.
• In Alphas-related news, catch actress Azita Ghanizada (Rachel) in Los Angeles at The Nerdist Theater on August 30 with Matt Selman, executive producer/writer of The Simpsons. Tickets are $8 and doors open at 7:30PM. Details and admission can be found here.
“Catch and Release” is an all-around exciting chapter with the exception of the story being light on Rachel, but Alphas has a way of balancing that out in subsequent stories. Catch new episodes of Alphas on Syfy Monday nights at 10/9C.