Bruce Miller, a show runner for Eureka, became a fan of another of Syfy Channel’s original series, Alphas, last year. As many fans do, he had ideas about what would happen next with no thought that he’d ever put them into action.
But then Eureka was canceled and the network made a change at Alphas, and Miller was hired to be the new show runner for Alphas.
“Then, I had to seriously think of what I wanted to happen. And I have to be more careful of what I wish to happen because now I’m playing with live ammo,” Miller said in a phone interview last Friday. “What I love about this show is that you can explore any kind of story through an Alpha ability, such as teenage isolation, and the ability to command other people to do whatever you say…these are all things that happen in real life and we can do them in an Alpha-style way.”
Miller’s interest in getting deeper into all the characters in Alphas has been evident all season but never more so than in tonight’s episode, “Falling,” airing at 8 p.m. EST on the Syfy Channel. Miller said this episode is his favorite of the season. The overriding theme is betrayal with Lee Rosen (David Strathairn) struggling to decide what to do with the knowledge that his daughter has been working with his enemy.
I received a chance to view the episode early and Miller is right, this episode is the most intense so far this season.
“I give the network credit, we told them we’re doing a whole episode about deciding and they went with it,” he said.
Besides the main storyline, there are two others subplots in “Falling,” that reflect the theme of the episode, betrayal, as Cameron Hicks struggles to bond with his estranged son, Tyler, with the help of Danielle, and Kat struggles with her feelings for someone from her forgotten past. The episode is also heavy on fathers and their children, as we even see government agent Clay and his young son.
Warren Christie, who plays Cameron, said in a conference call, that it was an unusual episode for him.
“It was the first time, I think, in any of the episode in two seasons that I’ve had no stunts and I wasn’t shooting any guns but it was incredibly rewarding, I mean, to do those things. I think it’s always been an important part of who Hicks is, you know, the relationship with his son and how it’s been a bit fractured.”
Miller said he’s interested in the complicated gray areas, especially in the conflict between Rosen and his rival for the vision of Alphas in the future, Stanton Parish (John Pyper-Ferguson).
I remarked that it’s a very Professor Xavier/Magneto kind of thematic struggle, with the question of what ends can be used to further what goals. Miller said he knows people often compare Alphas to the X-Men but he’s more familiar with science fiction rather than comics. What he’s interested in are the themes of obsession and control and what is the true difference, if any, between Rosen and Parish.
That’s reflected in Rosen’s desire to help Nina cope with her ability to “push” people into following ordered yet at the same time, he uses her ability to dig for information on Parish and his agenda. Miller said that Strathairn and Laura Menell, who plays Nina, have great chemistry together and it was telling for their characters that it’s Nina that Rosen choses to confide in and ask for help in “Falling.”
Miller said the character emphasis started even before any of the episodes were written. To prepare for the upcoming season, he held a four-day retreat with the show’s writers and that included show co-creator Zak Penn. “We spent an entire day going over all the characters and, from there, you get the heart of the show.”
The most controversial moment of the season, in “When Push Comes to Shove,” came when Nina and Rachel, played by Azita Ghanizada, shared a kiss. I noted on the Alphas forum on the Syfy Channel website, some people have referred to it as a rape or claimed it was written as a lesbian kiss to draw ratings.
Miller said that moment came out of character, that Nina wanted to drive away the people who cared about her the most because she felt she wasn’t worthy of them, and picked the worst thing she could do, which was “pushing” Rachel into kissing her. He called it a “severe violation” because Nina knew it would the one thing that would drive Rachel away emotionally but said it was hard to apply the “rape” to what happened, despite an earlier statement in the episode that Rachel, whose ability is extremely hightened senses, can climax sexually through a kiss. Miller said there isn’t really a word for what Rachel feels because it’s in the realm of science fiction but he agreed it nearly severed the friendship between the two women and that it’s not repaired fully even by the end of this season.
Christie agreed the characters are the heart of the show. “I think that at the end of the day when you strip that all away, we’ve got some beautifully flawed characters that, you know, abilities aside, people can relate to and I think that that’s the key at the end of the day. And they’re struggling, you know, but they’re all – again, they’re working very hard to push forward and be the best people they are. And I think that that struggle is, at the end of the day, what we all want to watch.”
I asked what was next for the show. Miller said the remaining five episodes go at at breakneck pace to the final showdown between Rosen and Parish. He hasn’t yet heard on a third season for the show but he’s “extremely hopeful.”
For those wanting to catch up, full episodes of Alphas are available for online viewing at the Syfy Channel website.