With "The Unusual Suspects," Alphas went back to the basics with a metronomic execution. The series dipped into the potential that was very palpable from the early episodes, and by handling all its characters with care, delivered the episode fans knew it could.
In the pilot episode, we were vividly introduced to each member of Dr. Rosen's team. We discovered how wildly different their Alpha abilities as well as their personalities were, but because of pilot-episode requirements, we did not delve too much into any one character. At least, not enough for personal idiosyncrasies to affect our overall perception and distract us from the story being told. The result was an episode that quickly brushed on some personal issues, showcased all the abilities, and after outlining the perceived villains (Red Flag), left the viewer wanting more.
Episodes following the pilot all departed from the above approach. When they were very good, which they occasionally were, it was always because a story centered on a fan-favorite or allowed a favorite to stand out. "The Unusual Suspects" went back to the basics because it delivered a team-centric episode with what we have learned about the main actors in the overall story serving the well-structured plot instead of hampering it. And all of that was delivered at exactly the right pace.
The coordinated abductions were well executed and did not skip any member of the team. Bill's and Cameron's were obviously going to be the most spectacular, but it was important to show an all-inclusive operation. And when it came to the seclusion and the interrogations, the writers did something smart: they did not turn Clay into a character easy to dislike, but actually took the opportunity to give us more information about him, making it harder for the viewer to simply reject his rationale for acting the way he did. They even got his methods indirectly validated by the FBI member of the team.
Everything that happened in Binghamton was well done, down to the reaction of Eric Latreaux when he recognized Rachel. Clay's "If the two of you are done, I am trying to conduct an investigation" was playful enough to show that although he was prepared to be ruthless — and was in a way enjoying a sort of revenge — he wasn't out to get them. Except for Dr. Rosen's, the interviews were all well crafted: each of them was a little window into the mind of the Alpha and shed some light on Clay's knowledge of them, with Eric's comments enhancing everything for the viewer. Because of the way the interviews had been conducted, Clay's attitude on the roof made sense — which is to the credit of the writers.
The story definitely succeeded in convincing us very early on that one of the Alphas could have leaked the information, so when they found themselves alone after the brilliantly executed evasion, we were equally eager to know. This is when Dr. Rosen's attitude changed so dramatically and so quickly that it was easy to spot there was something wrong with him. David Strathairn as usual didn't disappoint. The final showdown at our heroes' offices allowed Ryan Cartwright to stop portraying Gary for a while, showing a completely different character and a very convincing villain. A character wildly different from the endearing Gary unable to lie about being able to lie...
The storyline brought about the fight between Bill and Cameron very smoothly and used it to display how they could neutralize each other in a somewhat convincing way, but it failed in the final peacemaking scene. For some reason, that kumbaya moment failed. It could be because of the manly approach of using a discussion on sports, or just because of something in Bill's attitude that is not very conducive to peacemaking.
"The Unusual Suspects" was Alphas at its best and reached levels the show can do more than flirt with. The compelling characters, Alphas' particular brand of superpowers, and even the more toned-down and realistic (as opposed to X-Men's) overarching story involving genetics should allow the series to get to these levels more often.