The heroes of Alphas

Syfy doesn’t seem to have been taking its own mission very seriously lately. Their science fiction entertainment has been lacking a bit, with the Monday episodic line-up being the only exceptional part of the network’s programming.

The shining jewel of this lineup is surely Alphas, which has the potential to replace Warehouse 13 as their best show.

In its first 6 episodes, the show’s writers have proven they are willing to take difficult steps to develop the characters and mythology in interesting ways.

Each member of the team has their own thing going, and while some of them fall into care-worn memes, they all boast carefully crafted personas and each of the heroes is compelling in his or her own way.

I’m particularly enjoying the development of Gary. This member of the team has the ability to detect and interpret airwaves; serving the team in a technical role. His skills are something truly extraordinary, but they are tempered by his autism.

Gary is a high-functioning autistic – 23 on the CAR scale according to the show, but that seems too low, and much of the humor in the show comes from this character. His inability to be professional or serious, no matter the situation, makes him a great releaser of tension for the audience, if not for the characters themselves. He treats their missions as a sort of game, and frequently makes situations very awkward.

One of the best moments came in the most recent episode, Bill and Gary’s Excellent Adventure, in which Gary and the team’s strong-man, Bill, take on a solo case. When interrogating a contact Gary blurts out that they never arrest people, though sometimes people get sent off to “the compound” – one of the shows sub-plots – that is, if they don’t die, which they often do. Bill was trying to get him to stop before he said something foolish, but the contact was sufficiently frightened by Gary’s frank manner.

In the next scene Gary realizes that it’s not possible for him to eat a burrito. “It’s all mashed together!” The two characters play off of one another perfectly, and create one of the best character dynamics in the show – much more interesting than the relationship developing between the adroit and the mind-controller.

Gary wants to be like Bill who is the most experienced member of the team in regards to actual crime fighting, as he is a former FBI agent, and Bill seems to be the most tolerant of Gary’s quirks, often simply ignoring them or smiling and nodding while other characters berate him or roll their eyes.

The character is surely a great challenge for actor Ryan Cartwright – whom you might remember as the ‘intern who got killed’ from Bones, but he plays the part well, and even deftly manages the American accent alongside the autistic awkwardness.

Alphas airs Monday evenings on Syfy. Tonight’s new episode guest stars Summer Glau, so it’s not to be missed, even if just for her.