Alphas Review, Season 2, Episode 12, “Need to Know”
Written by Michael Karnow & Adam Levy
Directed by Nick Copus
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on SyFy
In times of war or impending terrorism, a predominant question asks how far authorities should go to stop an impending attack. Does the line for ethical behavior change when the clock is ticking? This conflict was a normal issue on 24, where Jack Bauer faced down nuclear attacks and other imminent threats every week. There were usually a few episodes during each season where he interrogated an enemy and did just about anything to gather intelligence. He even tortured his own brother to battle a looming menace. A similar dilemma takes center stage in this week’s penultimate episode of Alphas. Rosen’s actions have grown more unhinged since Stanton Parish killed his daughter, and they reach a new milestone this time. He seems willing to inflict serious pain and maybe even kill Cornell Scipio (Elias Toufexis) if that’s necessary to take down his enemy.
The challenge with “Need to Know” is showing Rosen and much of his team crossing the line without dramatically changing their personalities. Even before Dani was killed, the gradual changes in Rosen towards a darker approach were evident. This is the just the next stage in his evolution towards becoming more similar to Parish than he’d like to be. Of course, Rosen isn’t planning to decimate a large portion of the human population. Within a few days, Parish’s ultimate goal to reshape this world is set to happen. This creates a sense of urgency in everyone to uncover his plans and stop them. Rosen and Cameron are more interested in personal revenge, however. They’re willing to give up Mitchell (Sean Astin) and endanger Kat and Bill to capture Scipio. Rosen sets up a transfer knowing an attack will come to trap Parish’s henchman. It’s a brilliant move if he’s willing to accept the blowback that occurs. The question is what it will take to gather information that actually helps their cause.
Much of this episode takes place in a deserted building where Rosen, Cameron, Nina, and Rachel interrogate Scipio and try to uncover Parish’s master plan. This isn’t a simple case where he’ll give up the info under the threat of pain. Nina violently pushes him and receives very little because there’s a vault inside his brain. Trying so hard to extract the material wipes her out and accomplishes little. Rosen keeps raising the bar and eventually sets up Scipio to burn himself alive. This brutal sequence shows his unflinching quest for vengeance that’s blinded him to anything else. Cameron is right with him, but it’s too much for Rachel to stomach. The torture storyline is very familiar, but it remains engaging because the actors sell it. Her decision makes sense, especially after she starts smelling Scipio’s burning flesh. Elias Toufexis does a good job as Scipio and reveals more layers than being a one-note hood. This guy understands what he is, but he’s gone too far to pull back into the light.
The other major subplot involves the return of Skylar (Summer Glau!), who’s been trapped by Parish with her daughter. They’re stuck in a dream world and are unknowingly helping to bring about his master plan. Skylar’s plight is creepily effective because it’s underplayed and just puts them in a simple room. It’s clear that something is off, but it takes some clever detective work from Gary to figure out she’s in trouble. Glau does an excellent job and brings a lot of heart to Skylar while she tries futilely to escape. After she’s rescued, the ultimate revelation about Parish’s plans trumps all other concerns. When Bill discovers what Rosen and Cameron are doing to Scipio, there isn’t time to even worry about it. The no-nonsense approach is refreshing and deviates from the expected rift within the team. They all have to stay focused on the primary task at hand and worry about what’s occurred later. This contrasts sharply with Kat’s emotional reaction about the betrayal by her friends. The worst part (as Rosen notes) is that she won’t retain this memory and could fall prey to a similar ploy in the future.
This conclusion moves so quickly and shows just how high the stakes have risen in this conflict. Rosen arrives at Parish’s facility where survivors will gather after the blast. He’s basically decided to go on a suicide mission to take down his enemy. His careless choice shows just how blind he is to anything else beyond his single goal. He strolls right into danger and ends up getting shot in the process. It’s a nasty wound to the stomach that may take him out for the final battle next week. Just prior to this moment, there’s a pretty comical scene when he ends up just a short distance from Parish. Rosen bumbles into the situation and can’t do anything to stop him, and it’s clear who’s in charge at this point. Alphas has set itself up for an exciting season finale, though it’s unclear if everything can be resolved within an hour. Given the show’s modest ratings, there’s a good chance next week may represent the ultimate end. Regardless, there’s great potential for an excellent finish to a very strong season.