Welcome back Alphas fans!
“When push comes to shove” is a phrase that has not been around in the English language for a long time. There are several guesses as to its origin. Some believe it originated in rugby, wherein two forwards from opposing teams ‘push off’ against each other when the rules are broken.
Others note that the phrase has been referenced in works dating as far back to the 1930s, although rugby is a little older than that.
The meaning of the phrase, however, has not changed. In short, once all of the easy avenues have been exhausted, drastic action must be taken to solve a problem. It often may mean a rougher plan than was intended, or changing one’s perspective outlook. But at the core, it just means something must be done.
Such is the case of this week’s Alphas on Syfy. When faced with the realization that Nina Theroux, (Laura Mennell), is behind many robberies within the city, Doctor Lee Rosen, (David Strathairn). and his team of Alphas have to overcome some personal difficulties to stop her.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
The episode has two lines of storytelling. One of them follows the present line, as Rosen and the Alphas track down Nina, and Nina leads them on a merry chase with her boyfriend Tommy, (Morgan Kelly) at her side.
No one is safe from her pushing, including Rosen, Rachel Pirzad, (Azita Ghanizada, in a scene that is sure to be talked about for weeks), or Cameron Hicks, (Warren Christie, whose hair is beginning to grow on me).
The second story line follows a past younger Nina (Katie Douglas) building her relationship with teenage Tommy (Rian Michelsen). Nina’s parents are fighting, clearly on the brink of a nasty divorce, and Nina pushes her father to remain with them. It is unclear whether she knows she can make people do what she wants by now or not, but it does not seem like a ‘first time experience’ for her.
Chances are she has been doing this for a while and simply not knowing what it was. Regardless, Tommy is amazed until he finally becomes old enough to figure out that Nina’s ability is dangerous. When he tries to get her to turn herself in, she threatens to push him.
He leaves her. Nina goes home in tears to find that her pushing ability has worn off on her father – and he has stabbed himself.
Nina has been scarred by this, and it has in fact been referenced several times throughout the series, hinting that she may have killed someone with her ability. Though Rosen continues to urge her that it is not her fault, Nina clearly does not believe him, and by the end of the episode we are left wondering if she will ever forgive herself.
Regardless, Nina spent much of the episode on the run, seemingly with a cooperating Tommy (we later learn she has been pushing both him and herself), and manipulating the Alphas wherever she saw fit to escape.
Also in the present, we follow Kat, (Erin Way), as Rosen begins his treatment of her. At first cocky and sure of herself, Kat eventually begins to buckle as Rosen impresses the importance of memory to her. He talks her into talking into a phone to record memories for herself, and by the end of the episode he has convinced her to try and listen to music as a way to associate and potentially retain memory.
Human beings like having a sense of purpose. As one famous villain in a 2012 blockbuster movie put it, “In the end, you will always kneel.” Of course, he was talking about being subservient, but the connection is the same: we need something in our lives to continue living, be it a king to serve, a battle to win, or a person to love.
In the case of this week’s Alphas on Syfy, the purpose identified was addiction. Two of our Alphas – one quite obviously, the other rather subtly – both saw the consequences and the path out of their own personal addictions. From the looks of it, both of them are also trying to change. Such is the power of Doctor Rosen. Are we certain he is not an Alpha?
Kat, on the surface may not seem like she is suffering from addiction. But addiction can show up in many different forms, including the symptoms she does manifest: resignation. Of course, what choice has she had? She has been living her life six weeks at a time for possibly her entire life. As someone who deeply fears Alzheimer’s and holds memories to be one of the most precious things humans have, I cannot imagine what she must go through – and indeed, perhaps she no longer can handle it either.
Kat comes across as this bold, outspoken, brave little hothead who views life with permanent optimism and energy. Way does a spectacular job of portraying this, bringing her to life with a sparkle in her eye and a smirk on her face that makes Kat pop out of the screen and right into our hearts – I daresay from her first appearance last week!
But after a few sessions with Doctor Rosen and a few one on one chats with Bill Harken, (Malik Yoba), it becomes clear that Kat simply has accepted her life the way it is. Her addiction is simple: acquire as many new skills as possible in her allotted time, and overdose herself on life – since it ends every month for her. She lives her life on a constant fast track, holding everyone at a distance, and waiting, inevitably, for the reset button.
Doctor Rosen has two methods for helping her – music and recordings. These are both brilliant suggestions. Recording her own voice and memories may not be enough to counter her Alpha ability, but it will convince her that she had a life in the past, and she has the ability to keep making one. In short – it helps her hold on to herself as she lives one life with a long-standing future instead of many lives with none at all.
Since her Alpha ability responds to auditory and visual stimuli (looking at a picture, watching a video), it is possible she is even able to learn how to overcome herself – though at this stage of the game that is a stretch, and probably best theorized later. Kat has plenty of fun bouncing around the office, but as Rodney McKay (David Hewlett) of Stargate Atlantis found out, talking to a computer screen for hours on end does begin to have some cathartic side effects.
It Is a scientific curiosity, talking out problems. Something about hearing our voices in the air changes our perspective on issues we have. Perhaps it is because saying it makes it ‘real’, or perhaps we listen to the WAY we say something. In our heads, we often sound neutral when taking a stand or an opinion, but out loud we unconsciously inflect an emotion into the words – and BOOM! Suddenly the world isn’t green, it is sea green.
Speaking of hearing, we can segue now into the second form of therapy Doctor Rosen put Kat through – music. Even though the albums Rosen chose were his own personal ones, the fact that he associates music with memory made a massive impression on her, as we can see when she starts listening. She almost seems to recognize the songs, and come to a quiet realization (nearly breaking down in tears) as she follows the patterns of melody and lyrics. A friend of mine once asked the question: “Why does music affect us so much more than simple words?” I spent hours trying to come up with an answer – and several months later, I still do not have it. The most I can say is this:
Music is primal. It is a heartbeat that has existed in this world before animals themselves did so. Music is an auditory form of motion, and motion is a natural part of life. Waves, the rustle of leaves in trees, jet streams, migrations, rainfall and evaporation, even Ol’ Faithful himself all make rhythmic sound and motion that is simply the world being alive. The reason music speaks to us on a deeper level is not spiritual (in my opinion, though I am sure some will disagree), but natural. We are creatures of motion, of heartbeat and digestion and reproduction. We live in cycles. We respond to rhythm and beat. So when music plays, we are naturally drawn to it, and the rhythm and beat of our brains and minds takes on a different perspective as it soaks in. Thus, we remember more, associate more, and feel more. Music is in our genetic makeup – and in our souls.
It comes as no surprise to me that Kat responded when listening to Rosen’s albums. Whether or not my theory presented above holds any water, I can only hope that she begins to use music in the manner Rosen presented to her. Association is deeply powerful, and it will help her greatly in overcoming her addiction and restoring her hope for life.
The second Alpha to face addiction this week was Nina Theroux, in a story arc I highly suspected we would address someday. Nina’s past has been always held in a shroud of mystery, as enigmatic and potentially thrilling as Nina herself. Doctor Rosen summed it up brilliantly: “Nina tends to….embellish….her history.”
With her ability, she could say anything she wanted and it would be believed, regardless. But as the layers are peeled away, we see a hard-hearted young woman desperate only to keep her fracturing life together. She finds solace in Tommy, a young man who finds her attractive and intriguing, and is at first amazed by her ability – then later afraid of it.
Most of the episode is spent with him, after she walked away from Doctor Rosen two weeks ago. Nina has always been a powerfully independent spirit, and her forced separation from Rosen between seasons one and two traumatized her. Unsure of where to turn, she returned to her pushing lifestyle, using her ability to get anything she wanted.
She even managed to find Tommy, who leaves his family for her because he ‘always loved her. Adrift, Nina grabbed every superficial solace she could, and when Rosen returned she could not go back to him. This was not because she did not want to, but because she no longer trusted him to be there. Her ability, however, she could trust – and she developed an addiction to both that trust and the rewards it gave her.
Nina’s power is an obsession for her as much as an addiction. The superiority it grants her allows her to bend anyone to her will – even close friends, as Rachel, Cameron, and Rosen all find out. She seems almost to be trying to help Rachel open up a little bit, but in reality she is just doing it for kicks, for the thrill of manipulation. Of course, the game gets a little more serious when we realize she has pushed Tommy’s entire family in order to have him be with her.
This is perhaps one of the biggest clues we have that Nina is not necessarily a bad Alpha, just an out of control one. If she was being purely selfish, she would only have pushed Tommy to come with her. But instead, she pushed both Tommy’s wife and son to believe they were better off without him, trying to save them from any pain she was causing them.
We also see, in perhaps what was the most chilling moment of the episode, that Nina has begun to push HERSELF to believe this is the way she wants it to be. She has fallen so far that she has taken to addicting herself. We realize then that Nina has a conscience, and in the end that is what drives her over the edge – literally.
Cameron still clearly has some feelings for Nina, as he sits by her bedside nonstop, a silent and watchful presence. And Gary Bell, (Ryan Cartwright), has taken to living in the office quite well, though he is very displeased with his broken alarm clock.
It caused me some great surprise when Bill and Kat both seemed all right with his screaming that early in the morning – I would have thought they would push Rosen to help him. But perhaps that is a story line to be explored later on in the season – along with the budding romance between Rachel and John, (Steve Byers)!
Included below are some fun Alphas video clips courtesy of Syfy including next weeks “Gaslight”. Enjoy!
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