Thursday, July 26, 2012

CSI Meets X-Men

By Dan Hagen
I missed the first season of the science fiction series “Alphas,” but I’m making up for lost time. It’s “CSI Meets X-Men,” intelligently produced.
David Strathairn as Dr. Lee Rosen in "Alphas"
The great David Strathairn (a dead-on Murrow in “Good Luck and Good Luck”) plays an all-too-human psychiatrist who tries to shield his superhuman patients from both the Guantanamo-giddy U.S. government and a mutant terrorist organization.
I particularly like the autistic Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), an initially annoying character whose charm sneaks up on you.
As in the X-Men films, the various “Alpha” abilities — super strength, hyper senses, unerring accuracy, electromagnetic perception, etc. — set up plots that effectively function as an elaborate chess game of what player counters what other player. Especially suspenseful was the episode in which the Alphas play cat and mouse with a sonar-powered physician (Brent Spiner) and the invisible assassin who is pursuing him.
But all the players are pawns in the hands of government forces, and the unsettling atmosphere brings suspense to the proceedings. The show’s dramatic plot twists are both logical and surprising. The series also makes a considerable effort to use contemporary neuroscience to explain the characters' enhanced abilities. And the show is pervaded by an unease over the ever-increasing paranoid transgressions by the American national security state. That's a feeling we share with these fictional characters.
Muted melodrama, diffident, uncostumed super heroics, talented actors — they provide the veneer of realism necessary to sell a fantasy TV series. It’s better than “Heroes.”

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