Around the same time that Syfy cancelled Caprica and Stargate Universe, the network greenlit a new show — Alphas, about a team of superpowered people who solve special cases. We read a ton of pages from the pilot script. Spoilers...
Edited to add: I forgot to include the usual disclaimers for this sort of thing. What we read were casting pages, given to casting agencies. They appear to have come from the pilot script, but there's a slight chance they weren't. We didn't read the entire script, just large chunks. The pilot may have been rewritten before, or during, filming.
The pilot script to Alphas is written by Zak Penn (Incredible Hulk) and Michael Karnow, and it was directed by Jack Bender, formerly the main director/producer on Lost. We got hold of a slew of pages from the script ages ago, when it was sent out to casting agencies. At the time, it was just one of a number of shows that Syfy was considering, including another superpowered show, the comedy Three Inches. But now that it's officially Syfy's newest show, it's worth taking a peek behind the curtain. So here goes — and last warning, there be spoilers here.
So yeah, the show is about a team of "Alphas," or people with superior mental powers, who work for the government. We got hold of a bunch of pages from the pilot script.
The team's leader is Bill Harken (Malik Yoba), who is frustrated at having to lead a team of people who have no tactical training and can't carry sidearms. He says things like, "Goddamn amateur hour here," and "You got us out there playing dress-up. We're not trained for this."
He works a lot with Nina (Laura Mennell, pictured above), who has powers of super-persuasion — she can "induce" people to do anything — and they hooked up after some work party. He suspects that Nina used her superpowers to "induce" him to have sex with her and cheat on his wife, Connie. But Nina insists he was just drunk. Nina lives rent-free in a nice Soho penthouse and people give her whatever she wants. When we first meet her, she's got a model-looking guy in her bed, who's not sure how he got there. She's flirty and sarcastic, and it's hinted that she was a bad guy whom Rosen gave a second chance to, years ago, and she's carrying some heavy guilt around.
The third member of the team is Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), who's a pretty stereotypical aspergers/autism case. He's incredibly fussy and speaks in fast overly precise sentences, plus at one point he blurts out to a total stranger that he works for a top-secret team of superpowered people. He is fussy about his food and will only eat the food his mom makes for him, and he tends to lecture people about not touching his food. There are a lot of food-related freak-outs. Gary seems to have weird flashes of "knowing stuff," and at one point we see through his eyes and it's like a super-Google Maps view, with 3-D rendering software built in. Another time, he seems to see electromagnetic waves, and has a major freak-out because he recognizes a dangerous signal being sent.
The fourth member of the team is Rachel Myer, a lab tech who seems to have super smell powers.
The team answers to Leigh Rosen (David Strathairn), a psychiatrist who has an unfortunate habit of speaking in therapist-speak and is also a manipulative bastard who can get people to do whatever he wants. Rosen is secretly working on a screenplay for a television show about superpowered people called — wait for it — Alphas. And Rosen, in turn, answers to Don Wilson (Callum Keith Rennie) at the Pentagon, who's kind of a ruthless jerk.
There's a cute moment in the pilot where Rosen is talking to Harken about Harken's reservations about this team, and Harken keeps telling Rosen to stop doing "the shrink voice" or he'll hang up. Rosen asks what it is about this particular case that's bothering Harken — and he hangs up on Rosen. Also, towards the end of the episode, there's this bit of therapist-on-spy dialogue between Rosen and his boss Wilson:
WILSON: Gotta admit, your people did good work out there.
ROSEN: Don, was that a compliment? This is a real breakthrough for you.
WILSON: Joke about it, Rosen, but this could have been a disaster
WILSON: You are a surreptitious bastard, you know that?
ROSEN: Why do you feel that way about me?
WILSON: Don't start on me with that "questioning a question" thing. You know what I mean. You are a surreptitious bastard.
The team-members aren't supposed to use their superpowers unless it's an emergency. Bad super-powered people are sent some place called "The Farm." There's also some secret organization called Red Flag that agitates for "Alpha rights" and opposes the government.
In the pilot, they investigate a guy named Christian Hicks, who has been having blackouts and disappearing from his job at a grocery store — and Nina the mind-controller thinks he's really hot. Hicks is estranged from his ex-wife and kid, and watches them from a distance in the park at one point. Hicks appears to have been assassinating people, so the team takes him into custody even though it's against federal law for them to be pulling in the main suspect in a murder case.
Turns out Hicks is a former military sharpshooter who uses his superpowers to help him shoot more accurately. And some shadowy figure named the Ghost has been controlling Hicks' mind with drugs, and triggering him to kill people by phoning him up and playing Bach to him. In the end, the gang figures out that Hicks was only mind-controlled to kill people, along with some other shooters. Wilson wants to take Hicks away, while Nina wants Rosen to save him. In the end, Rosen recruits Hicks to join the Alphas team, warning Hicks that nobody will believe that Hicks was mind-controlled to kill a federal witness. Rosen blackmails Hicks into joining the team.
All in all, judging from the pages we read, it's a cute pilot and would make a fun show — it's not earth-shattering stuff, but could easily be an entertaining to Syfy's lineup. Pilots are often a bit clunky in comparison to ongoing series, so a certain amount of overly broad-brush characterization is to be expected here. I like the idea of a psychotherapist running a black ops group, and I think the character of Nina the slutty mind-controller could become the show's stand-out. So all in all, we'll be watching this.