Alcatraz – S01E04 – “Cal Sweeney”
One would think robbing banks would be harder in 2012 than in the 1950s but former inmate Cal Sweeney is having no trouble divesting deposit box owners of their valuables. Leaving a trail of bodies, a heist turns south and Cal takes hostages. Hauser and Madsen can’t afford to let locals take Cal in so the SFPD Detective must help Cal escape before she can even think of brining him in. A step down from last week’s episode “Cal Sweeney” nevertheless brings a solid performance.
Score: 3 of 5
The reason last week’s “Kit Nelson” was a step above is that its Prisoner of the Week (PotW) was an engaging character. The same could have held true this week as having a 1950s bank robber brings up ideas of a charming, charismatic, folk-hero type. Cal should have been the kind of villain that you want to win and this would have made a great dichotomy from Kit’s character who you wanted to die.
To put it bluntly, Cal Sweeney (Eric Johnson) is not a charming character, not in the least. He’s supposed to be, as hinted at with his work wooing the bank tellers, but there is nothing there that really shows it. Instead we’re treated to a back story which makes him out to be a cold and bullish man who gets his rear end handed to him in what is supposed to be a defining character moment which is about as cliché as they get. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for Cal, I guess, but why should we? Other than a sad childhood we’re given no reason, no redeeming qualities, or charm to work with.
Seriously, the writers could have gone with more flare, a White Collar-esqe con man, or a John Dillinger wannabe who works his magic around Alcatraz. Maybe they thought this would be the obvious solution and tried to go with something different? Maybe if they had played it differently it could have worked but at the moment I think it would have been more authentic and fun to go the Dillinger route. This would give them a chance to change up the tone and get the audience just a little off balance (in that good way of course).
But amongst Cal’s dreary tale we do get several wonderful pieces of backdrop:
- Hauser was a delight when he pulled rank on the local police, more of this please.
- Also, his interaction with Soto in the car was simply perfect, we’ll take several helpings of that too. In fact, the whole scene made me forget that the prison break was straight out of… every other prison break I’ve seen in the last five years.
- The dinner for Tiller’s birthday showed some rather interesting traits in the Warden and Deputy Warden’s relationship, not to mention Tiller’s sister. Could she still be alive? Could she have been on the island still when everyone disappeared?
- The seatbelt reference was clever and finally we get a mention of how this world is so different from 1963, how do these guys cope so well with the changes?
- And we have another key… which I guess the prisoners were sent to get but they are doing a lousy job of doing so unless the whole point was to get the keys back on the island?
A poor choice of characterization for the PotW, but overall there is enough meat on the bones of this episode to keep the island afloat.