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Edward Norton and Why Laura Mennell is the 'Alphas' MVP

August 24th, 2012 11:30am EDT | Brittany Frederick By: Brittany Frederick favorite Add to My News
Alphas has been a pleasant surprise for me, a great show on a network that's become sadly more known for wrestling and ridiculously titled B-movies than quality science fiction. I named it one of my 10 Great Shows You're Not Watching back in July, because it's the right balance of amazing and realistic, a show about superpowered people who aren't superheroes.

Alphas

The entire cast is great to watch, but it's Laura Mennell who was the highlight of season one, and now in season two she's outright stolen the show. When we rejoined her character, Nina Theroux, at the beginning of season two, Nina was losing the plot. She was mentally manipulating (or "pushing," as the show calls it) people for her own gain again, and had to be coaxed back onto the right track by team leader Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn, who coincidentally has a cameo in The Bourne Legacy).

Her return didn't last long. Finding out that her ex-lover and teammate Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie) had hooked up with Dr. Rosen's daughter threw Nina, and she left the team again, this time determined not to come back. The episode "When Push Comes To Shove" showed us a ruthless Nina, reunited with her first boyfriend Tommy, and without remorse for a number of questionable actions. Everyone initially blamed Tommy, until they (and we) realized Nina had "pushed" him too, separating him from the wife and child that he had been perfectly happy with. She was the real villain of the piece.

Nina was always an intriguing character as she allowed us to explore thorny issues of consent and coercion every time she "pushed" someone. Yet watching her turn to the proverbial "dark side" and be confronted with the end results of that choice has been some of her best material to date, as it's also exposed some of her deepest vulnerabilities. Essentially, by turning the character inside out, the writers broke her down for us, too. I'm looking forward to seeing how she builds herself back up again.

The juicy material has also been great for Mennell, who's been wonderful as she's played everything from arrogance to guilt and fear. While Nina's crossed those lines, it's to Mennell's credit that we haven't lost our compassion for her. If anything, she's only made us more sympathic toward her, because we can identify with her now more than ever. What person doesn't want to be loved? How many of us come from homes that were imperfect? We've only deepened our understanding of Nina over season two.

I'm particularly pleased to write these words, because it's always a great thing when good people get the credit they deserve. I've had the chance to interview Laura twice now (here's our season two interview), and she's such a joy to spend time with - sweet, funny and thoughtful. She's not like Nina at all, which makes how much she's been able to bring to Nina even more remarkable. I hope more people discover her and get to see how talented she is.

Alphas moved time slots last week, and continues its season Mondays at 8 PM ET/PT on SyFy.

Until next week...

For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my Starpulse writer page and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).

(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.

Photo Credits: Universal; SyFy


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