The Many Types of Ghosts, on Alphas

There are two different types of ghost stories — ones in which ghosts are just scary apparitions that want to make you watch brain-melting videotapes or whatever. And ones in which ghosts represent loss, both from the death of loved ones and from other sources. Last night's Alphas sort of dabbled in the "scary haunted house" mode of ghost storytelling, but was at its best when we delved more into the spectre of loss and being separated from loved ones.


Spoilers ahead...

The most memorable part of the episode was probably Gary dealing with the death of Anna last season — leaving aside the fact that Anna is randomly having a funeral service months after her death, the funeral scene was both screamingly funny and really moving. (See clip above.) I loved Gary saying that Anna was a rebel, and not peaceful at all. Later in the episode, Gary actually starts seeing the ghost of Anna, who can talk now that she's dead — and uniquely among all the ghosts in this episode, Anna doesn't scream for Gary to save her or try to destroy Gary somehow. Instead, she just talks to him, and winds up urging him to banish her for the sake of his team-mates.

Gary's dilemma — whether to keep seeing the ghost of Anna, or help Dr. Rosen to wake up the comatose teenager who's causing all the ghostly hallucinations — could have been kind of a cheap source of tension. (Usually, on television, when someone faces a choice that's that straightforward between a right option and a wrong option, it just feels like the show is straining to create a suspenseful climax.) But here, it felt more honest — partly because you can believe Gary would struggle with that choice, and partly because it's within the larger context of Gary struggling to find a way to keep Anna alive in his memory, and honor her.

In the end, Gary apparently decides to keep tweeting as her, in support of the mutant revolution she helped to lead — which probably won't lead to any conflicts with his teammates at all.

The other "ghost stories" in the episode were mostly pretty well done — with the exception of Bill fighting himself, which I just didn't get at all. (Why is Bill fighting himself, exactly? Because he's the fighty guy, and so he sees the ghost of his past fights? Because he has to fight against his urge to fight, with his fists? I don't get it.) Hicks sees a "ghost" who's not actually dead — his son, whom he's not being allowed to see because he was such a terrible father in the past. Rachel sees Nina, drowning in the pool, who then pulls Rachel in and tries to drown her. (A metaphor for how Rachel tried to save Nina and got hurt, last week.) The Alpha of the week sees his dead sister.

One neat thing in the episode was that when Dr. Rosen turns up at the hospital, it's not clear for about five minutes whether he's really there or just another weird hallucination. The episode makes no effort to call attention to this — it's just something alert viewers will wonder about. Nicely done.


Oh, and the ghosty hallucinations turn out to have a nice pseudoscientific explanation, which Gary figures out using his nifty souped-up phone: It's all due to infrasound, generated by that comatose patient. It's a nice touch that everything has a real, not especially hand-wavy, explanation.

And then in the episode's "B" plot, the penitent Nina gets guilt-tripped into helping Dr. Rosen interrogate a senator who helped Stanton Parrish with something in exchange for contributions. The senator's memory has been wiped, or she's just forgotten somehow, so Nina has to learn to "pull" memories out of the senator, leading to the revelation that Stanton Parrish has been putting these weird brain stimulator devices into hospitals around the country, to scan or influence comatose patients. (And once again, Dr. Rosen is sort of a manipulative dick, who keeps saying stuff to Nina like, "If this is too much for you, just tell me," and then following it up with statements about how vital this all is, so Nina doesn't even have an opening to say no.)


In the course of figuring out how to use her powers to "pull" memories out of people, Nina experiments on Kat — who has a fleeting glimpse of her mother, which is such a powerful experience that it causes Nina's hand to bleed. (At least I think it's Kat's mother. It's a woman who was there for Kat's 16th birthday.) This is sort of another type of "ghost" — a mysterious figure in Kat's lost memories, whom she becomes obsessed with recovering the image of. She teaches herself drawing skills using her instant-learning power, and winds up sketching an image of the woman in the blue dress. But who is she?

All in all, a pretty solid episode. More or less. Except for Bill vs. Bill, which was just... what was that?




Anna's family wouldn't have put up a stone until after the Kaddish period