TV review: Alphas

From the July 19, 2012 edition

When I watched the “Alphas” pilot last summer, I wasn’t particularly impressed, but I felt the premise was decent: a group of superheroes (called Alphas) fighting super-villains. As the show’s first season progressed, I wasn’t blown away by its steady improvement — more pleased the show became something more than just superheroes doing supernatural stuff.

The general foundation of “Alphas” — the federal government (secretly) employs a ragtag group of Alphas led by Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn) to solve various crimes committed by other, bad Alphas — is a fine way to move plot forward, but the character stuff is what brings you into the series.

In a nice twist on the superhero genre, the basis for Alphas’ abilities simply involves advanced brain structure — more believable than radioactive spider bites, gamma rays, etc. — also allowed the series to create real-life characters. “Alphas” excelled as a character-driven drama. Viewers became invested in the human elements of the superhuman Alpha team.

The entire Alpha team is mostly well-written and well-acted, but Gary (Ryan Cartwright) — an autistic guy who can read electromagnetic wavelengths and hack into phones, computers and TV broadcasts — is especially interesting. His relationship with everyone, especially Bill (Malik Yoba), is fun, sad and uplifting.

The second-season premiere builds off last season’s cliffhanger — Dr. Rosen and Gary broadcast the existence of Alphas to the public — with an entertaining story. You could jump in even if you missed the first season, but you’d miss getting to know these weird, flawed and well-rounded super-characters.