A few months ago I discovered "Alphas," a SyFy show that's rather like a cross between X-men and Heroes. The first few episodes are not that memorable: a rag tag bunch of people with superhuman abilities working together to foil various plots and investigate odd phenomena. Then I watched "Rosetta."* The team flushes out a terrorist cell and discovers that they had a captive, a silent autistic girl named Anna who can translate any language. ( Spoilers for episode 1x04 )
I loved it!
"Alphas" takes the disadvantages of Alpha abilities as seriously as the special ability aspect. For example, Rachel's senses are incredibly developed, which makes her a gifted investigator. But it also means that she can't bear to be touched and is perpetually disgusted by the skin flakes, microbes, etc she can see all around her. Bill can make himself incredibly strong and fast for short bursts of time, but his muscles bear the burden, leading to early heart problems. The theme continued in this week's episode, "Gods and Monsters."* ( Spoilers for episode 2x07 )
This episode also ramped up the conflict between Dr.Lee Rosen, the leader of the government team of Alphas, and Stanton Parish, the immortal leader of the terrorist Alphas. When we first meet Lee, he seems like a cliched absent-minded professor. Although he himself doesn't have an Alpha ability, he has dedicated his life to studying and counselling those who do. He seems slightly manipulative but also often out of his depth, and as a viewer I thought of him with mingled affection and contempt. As the series continues, Lee is repeatedly forced to compromise between the militant stance of the government and his sense that Alphas deserve the same civil rights (like the right to due process) as non-powered humans. He is not always successful; several Alphas end up in the government's holding facilities for having powers too usable as weapons, despite their innocence. So it's hard to whole-heartedly cheer for the governmental Alpha team. But then Lee and the rest of the team lead a raid on an Alpha terrorist cell, and the experience leads many of them to a crisis of conscience. Lee goes from pencil-pushing quibbler to completely uncompromising, and he fights for his vision in a way so sneaky, underhanded, and manipulative that I applauded. He's finally becoming able to forsee and point out some of Parish's manuevers, which are always 8 steps ahead of everyone else, and I love watching it.
I prefer my Professor X/Magneto relationship to have affection and friendship mixed with their staunch disagreement. And sadly, there is no love lost between the "Alphas" correlates. But what they lack in emotional complexity, the "Alphas" characters make up for in schemes. So many wonderful schemes!
*I think there might be a contract tv sf writers have to sign in regards to episode titles. Every single series must have a "Rosetta", etc. Surprisingly, there hasn't been a "Tabula Rasa" episode yet, but I know it's just a matter of time.