Last night's Alphas season finale was pretty decent, for the most part. Rosen's blood-thirsty rampage culminates in an all-out quest for vengeance, and meanwhile the rest of the team struggles to save the city in the nick of time. But that ending? Not so sure about that — it fell prey to one of the more annoying cliches from science fiction.
I'm referring, of course, to the thing where the good guy says they can't kill the bad guy, because if they do, "We'll be as bad as he is." Or words to that effect. Dr. Rosen, in fact, didn't quite utter those exact words — it was more like, "what does that make us?" (Umm... the guys who stopped an immortal terrorist who was bound to keep trying to kill thousands of people for the rest of time?)
It would be one thing if Dr. Rosen were Batman, and he had a code against killing or something — but I'm pretty sure he's killed in the past, or at least tolerated killing by members of his crew. And Stanton Parish has shown, over and over again, that he's almost impossible to keep locked up — they actually had him locked up earlier this season, and that lasted about 15 minutes. Plus the man has dozens of secret followers, all over the place, who will keep working to free him if he's locked up. So it makes total sense to put him in the ground, as ghost Danielle urges.
There's also the fact that Rosen was on a really fascinating trajectory towards becoming more and more ruthless — becoming more and more Parish's counterpart, in terms of manipulating people and doing whatever it took to achieve his goals. And this episode squanders a fair bit of that development, both by having Rosen falter at the last minute and by first having him turn into a delusional gunshot-wound victim, wandering around talking to his imaginary daughter for most of the episode. We were denied the final confrontation between the two masterminds, both of them scheming, tricking people and twisting words around to try and get the upper hand.
To be fair, though, it was sort of a kick in the head to see Rosen falling apart, losing his mind and unable to muster much more of riposte than "Shut up" to all of Parish's cleverness.
And I did like the bit, towards the end, when Rosen is listening to both Parish and Ghost Danielle — Parish is telling Rosen that he should lead the Alphas after Parish has completed his "mass murder" plan, and Ghost Danielle is telling Rosen that he should kill Parish. And Rosen has some kind of blood-loss-induced moment of clarity, and says, "I'm not going to do that." You're not sure which thing he's referring to — and it almost doesn't matter. Rosen goes on to say that they should have found a better way — he and Parish both — and that they should have tried harder. That's a nice moment.
Still, he should have killed Parish, and saying Parish will have to live forever with the pain of Danielle's death feels a bit trite — a hundred years from now, Parish will probably be over Danielle, and he'll still be just as young as he is now.
Meanwhile, the best scenes in the episode pretty much belonged to Gary, who's been a bit sidelined lately. Gary's in the hospital looking after his mom, who's still recovering from her stroke. And after Gary helps Dr. Rosen look for Stanton Parish, Rosen asks Gary to stay away from him and not to tell anyone where he's gone, because Rosen is going to his death. Alone. But Gary's mom tells him to go save Dr. Rosen, in a genuinely touching scene. And then Gary tells Rosen that he's helped all of the team, and now it's Gary's turn to help Rosen. I never stop being amazed by how much Gary's become my favorite character, given how much of a one-note stereotype he could have been.
Oh, and Kat is annoyed that she was "hung out to dry" last week, but she gets over it. John is similarly annoyed at Rachel, but also gets over it and tells Rachel he loves her. And Skyler gets to be snarky about how she saved the day but doesn't get all the credit.
More importantly, Bill and Kat do a Fastball Special! The whole episode was pretty much worth it just for that.
So in the end, Parish's photostim device goes off — but only in Grand Central Station. And even though the one Alpha who was hit by a blast from a device earlier in the episode seemed to wake up pretty quickly, none of our guys show any signs of recovering. The only person unaffected is Gary, who wanders around the station, stepping over bodies, until he gets to Dr. Rosen and the gang.
So who lives and who dies? Obviously, if Alphas doesn't get a third season, then nobody survives, by default. It's hard to imagine how Dr. Rosen could have survived that — unless he's got a latent Alpha ability we never suspected, which could be incredibly cheesy. The rest of the team could all be fine apart from supercharged abilities, though — assuming the devices worked as they were supposed to.
Rosen's journey this season was pretty fascinating — from being the guy who told the world about Alphas, to being a pariah who only wants to kill Stanton Parish and is willing to screw over his own people to do it. The notion that he was being groomed for Alpha leadership by Parish puts a weird spin on that journey, that I'm not entirely sure I buy. In any case, the two season finales put together mean that Alphas are now publicly known, and linked to a hard-to-cover-up major terrorist attack. So if the show does get a third season, we could be seeing a very different set-up.