I obtained access to early first season Alphas episodes, so the series will traverse episodes 3-6 before resuming with episode 9. I also watched the second episode, but found few details to dissect for a character review, as the plot built on the establishment of the pilot episode.
As the title would suggest, stress is a dominating theme in this episode, with members of the Alphas team all concerned about their personal struggles interfering with a team chemistry in its infant stages.
For autistic Alpha Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), his stress is caused by a constant humming noise generated by a microwave tower. When your special ability is reading virtually every known electromagnetic frequency, a disruption in that area can grow very frustrating for a man accustomed to a routine of scanning without significant changes.
Bell’s blunt communication and lack of understanding social environments lead him to ask FBI agent and fellow Alpha Bill Harken (Malik Yoba) to shoot the tower, then for his gun when Harken refuses. Bell then asks for a grenade before giving up on Harkin, retorting that he does not possess one.
Bell traverses to the office of Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell) and asks her to use her power of hyper induction to mentally “push” Harken to destroy the tower, but she rebuffs with the favor’s compromise of morals.
As the team investigates a dangerous Alpha whose abililty releases pheremones that rapidly increase stress and anger to uncontrollable levels among most humans, the persistent humming distracts Bell to the point where he has to leave the investigation site of a deadly subway riot and assist the team from home via mobile link.
Bell’s adherence to routine surfaces again when Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn) calls him past his bedtime, but complies when asked to aid the search.
Bell and the rest of the team are later subjected to a more severe schedule interruption when they apprehend the Alpha responsible for the riots. He releases pheremones to escape headquarters as Alpha members and defense agents engage in a brutal altercation. The most intense scene in this episode draws a parallel with the inability for real autistic people to control their emotions, creating an outburst bearing similarities to the fighting in the episode.
After the rogue Alpha is captured (and Bell creates a tense scenario with what Dr. Rosen calls “his way” of showing respect), Bell expresses his disappointment in the final scene since no one helped solve his problem, until Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie) offers and succeeds by using his ability of hyperkinesthesis.
The episode begins a dynamic between Bell and Harken, mirroring real-life awkward moments when communication between autistic and non-autistic people take place. Neither party understands the other, as the public sometimes is unable to grasp an autistic person’s unwavering attention on a very specific element.
Harken interprets Bell’s behavior as not wanting to work, even though viewers clearly see Bell willing to interrupt his daily schedule to utilize his ability. Dr. Rosen bridges the processing gap between the two in the same manner as psychologists or special education workers do for the actual autistic population.
While such reaction continues to saturate communities still learning about the disability, Hicks’ assistance at the end of the episode suggests to the audience that not all things bugging autistic people are unique to their group. While other people sometimes bypass their distractions, the effect is often temporary until a solution is reached. Periodically, that comes through an ally’s help, a message with an area vast beyond any “club.”