After the bleach-drinking antics of the pilot, Alphas seems to be settling into its Alpha-of-the-week groove. This week's episode — "Cause and Effect" — introduced Marcus Ayers, a former patient of Dr. Rosen's whose power to assess and control probabilities has warped him into a sociopath.
After a spartan introduction to the team in its pilot, Alphas served up an episode focusing on David Strathairn's character at the expense of everyone else. Sure, we learned through brief snippets of dialogue that verbal hypnotist Nina once disastrously used her mind control on her boyfriend and Rachel's parents are matrimony-crazed.
But the rest of the cast took five this episode, only to banter at the beginning and bandy about their superpowers during the climax. I'm not sure that was the smartest thing to do considering that the main Alphas' personalities still begin and end with one-word summaries (Bill = jock, Gary = autistic, Hicks = handsome). But hey, Strathairn's wacky doctor (who we learn is quite the lothario) was the best part of the pilot, so we'll roll with it.
"Cause and Effect" kicks off with Marcus escaping from the custody of a shadowy government agency. The scenes of Marcus assessing probabilities and killing his captors like an evil Rube Goldberg were snazzy, but it seemed weird that the show would immediately introduce a character whose powers mirrored Hicks' hyper-aiming.
Also, these gee-whiz sequences seemed to give Marcus borderline omniscience, which seems a step away from the "scientifically plausible superpowers" limitation Alphas is saddled with.
Anyway, we learn that Marcus was one of Rosen's original patients who was shipped off to a mysterious mental hospital after he tried to incinerate his party-hard roommates in a gas fire. After escaping the G-Men's custody, he seeks out Rosen to warn him about the inevitable "Alpha versus scared human" conflict (that must be catalyzed by Bogdan the human magnet).
All in all, this episode felt like the melange of more recognizable properties — it had the creeping genetic war of X-Men, the weekly freak vibe of The X-Files, and the procedural lethargy of any number of cop shows. Hopefully the next few episodes will allow Alphas to get its bearing and not evolve into The X-Men Files: SVU.
PS: Villains on superhero television shows need to place an indefinite moratorium on all chess metaphors after The Cape loaded that dead horse into a rocket and fired it into the sun.