Alphas Review, Season 2, Episode 11, “If Memory Serves”
Written by Terri Hughes Burton & Ron Milbauer
Directed by Allen Kroeker
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on SyFy
Ever since its premiere, Alphas has hinted at a darker side of Rosen that isn’t just concerned with helping Alphas. A serious anger lurks beneath his calm demeanor that’s been moving closer to the surface with each move by Stanton Parish. To fight such a dangerous foe, Rosen has set aside his ethical qualms and crossed into very murky territory. Parish’s murder of his daughter Dani was just the last straw that has brought out the worst in Rosen. Something snapped inside that makes him a scary individual. He promises trouble without raising his voice and is ready to strike against anyone who challenges him. A lesser show would soften the edges and make sure it’s clear that Rosen is bluffing. This is not the case here, where David Strathairn sells the idea that he’s capable of anything.
“If Memory Serves” begins with a montage of Rosen’s team working with the Feds to capture anyone connected to Parish. Nina pushes each detainee for information, and they finally get a promising lead. Cameron and Kat investigate a cabin owned by Parish that houses a valuable asset. Sean Astin plays Mitchell, who houses memories of a guy who’s been alive for more than 200 years. Does Parish need him to avoid going senile? This is an intriguing question that isn’t answered fully but hinted at in this episode. Mitchell is protected by “the caretaker”, a Terminator-like brute who drinks excessive amounts of milk to keep his bones malleable and strong. This apparently unstoppable foe will put himself through crazy amounts of pain to keep Mitchell safe and away from Parish’s enemies. After leaping onto their car from crazy heights, he apparently dies after being thrown violently from that vehicle. In this world of super humans, it isn’t a surprise when he recovers and prepares to retrieve his charge.
Mitchell’s power is interesting because it’s a positive ability that could be used for good. The pile of memories has turned his brain into a mishmash of past moments, however. He’s laid-back and gentle but has trouble interacting apart from his skill. When Rosen examines Mitchell, he discovers that Parish actually regrets killing Dani. This revelation is unexpected and would soften many men, but Rosen’s chilling response shows his commitment to defeating Parish. Instead of taking solace in his enemy’s remorse, he plans to use it as a weakness against him. Unlike Kat, who feels awful after killing the caretaker, Rosen has no qualms about doing what’s necessary. In a sense, he’s become nearly as bad as Parish and seems destined to eclipse him if he fails to escape the downward spiral.
A different challenge comes from the return of Senator Burton (Lauren Holly), who barely survived after being pushed for information by Nina. She’s looking for answers and doesn’t realize at first that Rosen was involved. Although she may have shady dealings with Parish, Burton’s concerns are totally justified here. Nina is right to want to rectify the situation and explain why they used her. Rosen doesn’t share these qualms. When Burton discovers the truth and confronts him, he shows that even blackmail isn’t beneath him. It’s a surprising, unsettling scene that shows the main difference since Dani’s death. While he would have questioned the ethics of that ploy at one point, there’s a single-minded determination in Rosen that could lead them to disaster in the near future.
Looking at the others, Gary faces a different challenge when his mom is seriously injured in a car accident. He braves the hospital and decides to move back home, but her condition is not good. This plot again shows the warm bond that Bill has developed with Gary. He treats him like a younger brother, and this softer side to the big guy is always refreshing. Another interesting connection is the relationship between Kat and Cameron that builds during this episode. She isn’t an easy companion for a road trip with the sullen guy, but he understands her a lot better. Even more distressing than any of Rosen’s acts is Kat’s discovery that the woman in her memory isn’t her mom. Mitchell reveals to her that it’s actually just a lady from a commercial, and it’s a shattering moment. This revelation shatters her hope and makes the loss of her memories even more difficult.
Kat’s presence has been missed in the past few episodes while she went through field training. Erin Way brings an interesting dynamic to the team and shows how Kat masks her sadness with energy and wit. Her offer to Cameron to help him lose his memories comes from a positive place, but her mindset changes dramatically after the horrifying revelation. She’s become one of the standout characters, which is saying a lot in a group without a true weak spot. Rachel doesn’t have much to do this week, but her quick conversation with Bill about her new “balance” is played just right. The success of even a throwaway moment shows why Alphas is a step above most genre shows. While the battle against Parish is the main plot, the writers take the time to include character beats that go beyond the ongoing arc. It’s fun to spend time with these characters, and that connection raises the show well above its basic story.