By John Keegan
Of all the standard tropes in genre storytelling, the "fight club" plot device is among the most reviled. It has many variants, from a straight-up boxing match to a bloody MMA free-for-all. In nearly every case, the situation is contained to a single episode, so there is rarely enough time to give the pounding a realistic context. It takes a long-form approach and a well-rendered world, like seen in "Spartacus", to make it work.
For that reason, I was prepared to dislike this episode. In some respects, I still did. But the fact that this seems to be more than just an episodic foray into cliché earns some benefit of the doubt. Bill may have gone into the situation to investigate the death of an Alpha, but his decision to go back is an interesting character development. With his health close to the breaking point, this could actually provide Bill with a way to express his ability more naturally.
It was also a mechanism for bringing in some new characters. John appears to represent Team Rosen's connection to the government now, but it also presents Rachel with a possible love interest. Since the limitations of her ability need to be addressed, maybe this will be the driver for her to find some way to control it.
The "fight club" was also a means of bringing in Kat, a feisty little blonde that is apparently taking up the narrative space that Nina was inhabiting (though I doubt Nina is gone for good). I like the character, since she has a completely different set of issues than the rest of the bunch, and her ability could be rather useful.
As with Bill and Rachel, the writers continue to explore the downside of being an Alpha. Gary's recent traumas, piled on top of all the issues that already existed, have affected him deeply. At the same time, even as we see his mother continue to try to give Gary the structure and order he demands, Gary wants to be more independent. It's a great bit of character study.
Stanton Parrish is far from sidelined, however, as he uses Rosen's interest in him to further his own plans. I have no idea why Parrish would want Rosen to know about his origins, or how Rosen might factor into his agenda, but Rosen should be worried that Parrish is so damn confident. Something big is coming, and it's going to be ugly.
As much as I appreciate the fact that the "fight club" was incorporated into the episode and the season arc in such a way that it is less a trope and more a means to an end, I still think that the over-familiarity of the plot element hurt the episode. Also, there was a disjointed feel to the episode, as if the many moving parts didn't quite mesh. All of this knocks the episode down a bit as a result.John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision.