Last night's episode of Alphas was ostensibly all about memory, but the most memorable part of it was when Lee Rosen and his protegee Kat both showed some major ruthlessness. And the knife got twisted, a lot. This is what we like about Syfy's answer to the X-Men.
So in "If Memory Serves," a number of memory-related storylines get mashed together, more or less. Hicks and Kat go to Stanton Parish's secret farmhouse and find an Alpha named Mitchell (Sean Astin) who can store and replay other people's memories, although it makes him keep doing impressions of other people he's met. And Mitchell's "downside" is that he can't tell what memories are his and what are someone else's. Meanwhile, the Senator that Nina pushed hard enough to cause brain damage is back, and looking for answers about the event that she can't properly remember. And finally, Gary's mom has a stroke and winds up in the hospital, where she has a bigger stroke. That last one isn't necessarily related to memory, although it could turn out to be, I guess.
But like I said, the lovely ruthlessness on display in this episode is what stands out. In particular, you gotta love the way Kat deals with the single-minded killing machine called the Caretaker, who's chasing after her and Hicks. He can recover from any broken bones, even a broken neck — but Kat figures out that he needs to drink a lot of milk while his bones are recovering. Not only that, but he grows super heavy because his bones become super dense at the time. She she drives into him with a Mack truck while driving him to the bottom of a lake, where he sinks to the bottom. Science rules.
The biggest twist of the knife, though, comes when Kat gets to the bottom of that memory fragment she's been wrestling with all season, of a woman in a blue dress who might be her mother. With the help of Mitchell, Kat discovers that her "mother" is actually a woman in a detergent commercial she saw when she was younger. The only memory Kat has of her childhood is a really cheesy informercial — that's pretty darn bleak, right there.
Meanwhile, the show raced forward with the theme of "Lee Rosen is a manipulative motherfucker," which can never really be overdone. I love the fact that Lee Rosen has spent all this time teaching Nina to be more responsible and humane — but then the moment those qualities are inconvenient, when she's caused major brain damage to a U.S. Senator, he's like "screw responsibility." The bit in the elevator when Rosen basically blackmails Senator Burton and then says, "You are right, my team is dangerous. And so am I" — actually quite effective and nasty.
Meanwhile, Rosen gets his own twist of the knife when he eavesdrops on a memory of Stanton Parish grieving for the death of Rosen's daughter Dani — something Stanton now believes was a mistake. Realizing that Stanton actually does have real feelings and isn't just a manipulative sociopath, Lee's first thought is how to exploit that "weakness." Which he does by shoving Mitchell, the only other person Parish cares about, into the notorious Building 7 — and burning down the farmhouse that Parish built with his father, the only place he feels at home.
This wasn't a perfect episode — Sean Astin's innocent savant man/boy character felt like a cliche I'd seen too many times, and there were perhaps too many storylines being juggled, with pieces also being moved into position for the finale with Parish's Alpha-supercharging stimulators coming back into the picture. But there were enough satisfying moments of nastiness to make it more than worthwhile.