Alphas Ep. 2.9, “The Devil Will Drag You Under”: Thrilling, heart-wrenching episode is the best of the season
Alphas Review, Season 2, Episode 9, “The Devil Will Drag You Under”
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Matt Hastings
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on SyFy
In the old-school world of genre television, most shows tended to find their way near the end of the first season. Even sci-fi classics like Stargate SG-1 and Farscape had inconsistent opening years and really took off near the end of that 22-episode run. Today, many series operate with shorter groups of episodes that usually land around 13. They are better planned up front, but growing pains can still appear at the outset. Alphas’ opening year had only 10 episodes, but it did a solid job building the characters and creating their world. The second season has expanded the scope and improved on the solid foundation. It’s now reached that point where the character building is ready to pay off in the best way possible. The conflict between Dr. Rosen and Stanton Parish has slowly escalated and consistently raised the stakes. Their battle reaches a new stage this week, and the result is the best episode of the season.
This story is unconventional for the series because it moves at a rapid pace. There’s no “Alpha of the Week” to distract from the main events. This is arguably the most plot-heavy episode of the entire run, but there are still plenty of strong character moments. After last week’s emotional finale with Rosen and Dani, she agrees to work undercover to take down Parish. The other team members don’t take this well, especially her boyfriend Cameron. It’s apparently the last straw that pushes him to switch sides. Two weeks later, Bill and Nina are tracking Parish’s goons and his main henchman Cornell Scipio (Elias Toufexis). They catch him in the act of robbing some nasty electronic grenades, but are foiled by their old ally Cameron. Is he really working for the enemy? The answer to this question is surprisingly clever.
An intriguing new character this week is Agnes, played with a quiet menace by Battlestar Galactica’s Kandyse McClure (Dualla). She’s able to rip open a person’s mind with just a touch, and the experience is extremely painful. The downside for her is that she can’t turn off this power. It’s an extreme version of Rachel’s extra sensitivity and similar to Rogue’s difficulties in the X-Men. Parish wisely uses her to locate moles inside his organization. Agnes’ session with Cameron is a remarkable scene and reveals just how much he cares for Dani. While it solidifies his place in their organization, there’s still something strange about the limits of his memories. The truth is revealed later, and it’s a brilliant tactic from Rosen. Having Nina push Cameron towards a singular goal is an inspired way to bypass Parish’s safeguards. Agnes is more interesting because of her lukewarm feelings towards their plans. When Cameron rescues Danni from her encounter, Agnes’ sympathy for them is a surprising factor. After digging inside his mind, she’s no longer an impassive observer to his plight.
This week also reveals more about Parish’s ultimate plans to decimate the human population for a brave new world. While he cites access to resources as his reasoning, it’s clear that Parish is a madman. The grenades have the ability to create huge explosions when combined with electricity, and his immediate plans are to kill scores of people in New York City. While his previous acts were set-ups for future acts, this is a direct threat that must be stopped. Along with the faster pace, this episode includes great action, particularly Cameron’s high-flying stunts to stop the truck carrying the bomb. Rosen’s team is fighting directly with Scipio’s group, and it’s a superb payoff to the previous build-up. Warren Christie hasn’t always been the most interesting lead actor, but he takes charge this week and owns this episode. Watching him struggle to fight off the push from Kimi (Sarah Slywchuk) to shoot himself is a tense and effective moment in a story filled with them. It’s a “race against the clock” episode that feels natural and within the show’s framework. These big moments feel earned because of the diligent legwork from the first 18 episodes.
“The Devil Will Drag You Under” ends with a brutal gut punch to the characters and the audience. Dani seems more optimistic and alive than ever as she works with Cameron to stop Parish. Both now realize how strong their love is, and the future looks bright for the couple. This makes her stunning death even more difficult to take. While Gary unknowingly celebrates their victory over Parish, the others stand around their fallen comrade. Watching Nina push Dani not to die is heart-wrenching and shows that even the most powerful Alpha can only do so much. The sad sight of Rosen and Cameron as she drifts away says everything about where this story is headed. It’s no longer simply about stopping Parish from achieving his deadly plans; this time it’s personal. In a strange way, it’s a sign of respect for Dani for him to take her out. Parish considered her a mindless follower, and she’s grown up to challenge his authority. Of course, the downside is that it makes her expendable.
From a writer’s perspective, it makes perfect sense to kill Dani. This conflict needs greater emotional weight, and it’s accomplished without removing any of the main cast. Kathleen Munroe has done excellent work in making Dani an important character and worth caring about when she’s gone. Killing a different supporting character like Clay or Bennett wouldn’t have the same impact. Removing a person that has strong bonds with two main characters is just the right move. With four episodes remaining, Alphas is primed for even greater success in the upcoming weeks.