Tag Archives: Alcatraz

Alcatraz – S01E06 – “Paxton Petty”

FOX's Alcatraz

Alcatraz – S01E06 – “Paxton Petty”

This latest episode of Alcatraz opens with a horrific scene of a busy park turning into a war zone. Paxton Petty was a jilted military veteran who played out his grievances via planting mines in public locations. Now he’s back and ready to finish what he started while the audience and our heroes continues to learn more about what happened back in the 1960s. Again, another solid episode that is as interesting as it is annoying.

Score: 3 of 5


Alcatraz – S01E06 – “Paxton Petty”

A scene that was must less dramatic/climatic than it should have been.

I’m still trying to figure out what it is that makes this show so dull when it has every right to be awesome. I think it has to do mostly with the actress who plays Rebecca and the style in which it is shot. She’s not a plank, just kind of walks around with a drooped “I’m a quarter from pissed off” look on her face. The show itself is dark and rainy with too many long shots. Normally I hate the hand-cam shaky stuff but Alcatraz needs more cutting, more sense of movement, and a lot more sun, this is freaking San Francisco people, it looks like Vancouver…

Back to “Paxton Petty”, the episode starts out with a bunch of mines going off at the same time in a park. Whoever wrote this scene knows nothing of land mines. The park has been busy for hours until someone just happens to step on one which causes a panic and all the others get set off in the rush to get away from the scene? No. One of those should have been stepped on and gone off way earlier in the day and while a few more might get tripped in the panic, the park wouldn’t be full enough to set them all off. Hey, my dad was a Marine, I think about these things.

Don’t get me started on the Silver Star stuff.

Putting all that aside, it was interesting to see the relationship between Hauser and Banerjee started all the way back in 1960. It definitely puts everything that has been happening since in a different context. Hauser’s character development is more consistent with the “Kit Nelson” episode and this whole sub plot makes things a lot more interesting.

We’ve also been given a closer look at Banerjee’s work style and I’m actually impressed that they didn’t give her a ‘modern slate’, like she’s ahead of the times, as some of these time-travel-flashback shows tend to do. She’s modern for what was modern at the time. And Soto didn’t know about Banerjee’s work on Alcatraz? That makes the first few episodes make more sense since he didn’t immediately recognize her or her name. Why was she kept secret? Could it be because of what I mentioned in my overview of a female psychologist not likely to be found on Alcatraz?

Also, is that a love interest for Soto that I spy? Interesting.

Alcatraz – S01E06 – “Paxton Petty”

Someone should have told him he was wearing a "Red Shirt".

Unfortunately these enticing bits of development don’t distract from the fact that there are two major problems with this episode. For one, the doctor does know about the blood, or at least enough to know to keep his mouth shut, so, again, what has he told Hauser? What has he kept secret? The Doctor has to know something! This possible plot hole is getting more and more annoying.

Secondly, why did the bomb tech try to dismantle the mine? Why didn’t he just send a robot in to blow it up? Seriously? They had enough time to get all the way into cover, he could have backed off as well and been far enough away had it gone off before they could send the robot in. His death was a waste and only an excuse for Hauser to shoot Paxton, though I’m sure the audience figured Hauser already had enough of one without the guy dying.

I was so tempted to give this episode higher marks but that was just too much.

Alcatraz continues to suffer in the ratings, again dropping from the previous episode. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll ever find all the answers because the show won’t last long enough to give them to us.

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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Television


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Alcatraz – S01E05 – “Guy Hastings”

FOX's Alcatraz

Alcatraz – S01E05 – “Guy Hastings”

Alcatraz releases its first guard, Guy Hastings, a good man who believes he’s lost everything. Like the others he’s after a key, only this time it’s a key our heroes would never expect. A long-arc driving episode that gives us plenty to think about but is otherwise dull.

Score: 3 of 5


This was an episode of firsts so you would think it should be more interesting than the last two, right? Yeah, not so much.


Alcatraz – S01E05 – “Guy Hastings”

Guy Hastings and Ray Archer in 1960

We get our first guard but instead of having the episode center around him, he’s got almost nothing to do with the plot except be a side/supporting character who in any other show might not even be given a first name. Instead, “Guy Hastings” is all about Tommy Madsen, who turns out to be brothers with Ray Archer, Rebecca’s pseudo-uncle though apparently he’s her real uncle. This isn’t quite as Earth-shattering as I expect the writers hoped it would be. Oh, and apparently Ray knew about Madsen’s return but out of brotherly love won’t help Hauser or anyone else find him, so long as he leaves Rebecca alone?

It’s all a bit convoluted and that can work to great effect, but it’s not here. Despite the want for the show to be mysterious and such, it’s all too neat and tidy, not in the “something is wrong here” trope, but literally in the way it’s presented. The story isn’t so much cliché but reasonable. It’s like the writers were shooting for the stars and settled for the Chrysler building.

“Guy Hastings” is also a large info dump for the overall plot and while that can be appreciative, it can also be disappointing. It’s too soon. I know they don’t want to lose people by taking too long but at the same time you won’t want to move too fast.

Alcatraz – S01E05 – “Guy Hastings”

Rebbeca talks to Ray about her dad.

Here is what we learned:

  • Madsen is the key to all this and Hauser knows it. Madsen has gone rogue from the people who took the 63 and they aren’t happy. Now we have the kidnappers and Madsen’s end-games to wonder about.
  • The blood is definitely they key. However, how could the doctor not know what’s going on? I don’t think we’ve seen him physically taking the blood himself but he has been around while it’s being done, surely he’d ask what the deal is? Seeing as he’s returned and working with Hauser who is none the wiser I guess he didn’t. Unless Hauser is hiding some vital information from Rebecca?
  • The guards who were taken were lied to. Which brings up the question, how did the kidnappers manage to snag the blood from the guards, doctor (again, why didn’t he catch on to something going down?), etc, without them getting curious? How would they know who would be on the island at the time of disappearance or did they just take everyone’s to make sure they had some for whoever was there?
  • The guards were talked to so there was some lag time between disappearance till them being put ‘in stasis’. I say stasis because the evidence at hand leans more towards that explanation of what happened. Makes sense from what the guard says.
  • The people in the other room that Hauser visited aren’t a one off. Looks like the writers thought the same thing, how could there only be two people working on this case?
  • Hauser has a soft spot for the guards which isn’t surprising, but again, his characterization is all over the place.

Still, overall it’s a solid episode it just don’t have any real punch. Everything that feels like it should be gasp-worthy just falls flat. Like the previous episode, the show has every right to be perfectly awesome but settles for perfectly adequate. The show only posted a 2.3, down from 2.8 the previous week and 3.0 the week before (visit for ratings information). It’s a steady decline and I’m not too surprised. They really need to step up their game on the next episode, or the fact that this doesn’t seem like an FX-heavy show might be the only thing that helps it limp into a second season.

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Posted by on February 8, 2012 in Television


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Alcatraz – S01E04 – “Cal Sweeney”

FOX's Alcatraz

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


Alcatraz – S01E04 – “Cal Sweeney”

Madsen and Soto look into Cal Sweeney's life.

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).

Alcatraz – S01E04 – “Cal Sweeney”

"You know what else they didn't have in 1963?"

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.

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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Television


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Alcatraz – S01E03 – “Kit Nelson”

FOX's Alcatraz

Alcatraz – S01E03 – “Kit Nelson”

There is a pecking order in prisons and at the bottom of the rung is the child molester and child killer. Kit Nelson (Michael Eklund) is a child killer and he’s back. If he follows pattern then Madsen and Soto have 48 hours to find him and save the life of the child he’s kidnapped. “Kit Nelson” is a much more concrete episode than the first two, a tad preachy in the middle, but definitely finding that sweet spot between cop drama and supernatural thriller. We may not be any closer to discovering the secret of Alcatraz but the ride has gotten way more interesting.

Score: 3 ½ of 5


Alcatraz – S01E03 – “Kit Nelson”

Soto tracks down Kit Nelson.

A touchy subject in film and television is the unfortunate reality of the child molester and child killer, the lowest of the low. Kit Nelson, the latest Alcatraz escapee, is one of these and he’s struck again… and apparently a cord in Dr. Soto. Garcia is given plenty to work with as his character figures out Kit is responsible and then sets out to find him, with or without Madsen’s help. Kit, for his part, is downright creepy, hitting all the right (or wrong?) notes.

What really makes this episode better than the last two is that the Alcatraz story takes a bit of a back seat. Sure, you have the flashbacks but that in itself is not unique. This could be any other procedural cop drama with a cop and civilian going after a bad guy. Hell, it could be an episode of Cold Case or Criminal Minds… but it’s not… it’s much more and it’s going to sit back and let that sink in a bit.

Among the chilling chase is a side story still trying to play Hauser as both sympathetic and a grade A a-hole. Still unsure what they are doing with his character and the episode dipped into the melodramatic towards the middle when he got into an argument with Madsen but quickly dug itself back out of that hole. I have a feeling a flashback of Hauser’s character post-disappearance is coming soon and hopefully this will clear things up for us.

Alcatraz – S01E03 – “Kit Nelson”

Kit Nelson (Eklund) holds his victim hostage.

I won’t go through the details of the plot but Soto does end up going it on his own and finding Kit and the missing kid but he’s not exactly the kind of person to take on a psychopathic killer. He is able to impart some hope into the kid to ‘stay strong’ and the boy does manage a pretty smart escape attempt. Of course the plot dictated that he get caught and a standoff occur in which Hauser pulls a Mal and shoots Kit in the head as he’s holding the kid hostage… omg… that was an almost perfectly replicated scene from Firefly “Serenity”.

I don’t know what to think of that…

Okay, mind blown, but let’s move on to the important facts we discovered from the episode. The blood is apparently not a red herring, the warden has kids (will these guys become plot points?), the doctor returned same as the psychologist, and apparently something happened to Soto in the past which made for a very non sequitur moment. What can I say, the clinical description of ‘arrested development’ was not the first thing that came to mind.

Overall a great improvement from the first two episodes so let’s hope this is a trend and not a one-off.

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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Television


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Alcatraz – Overview – Pilot

FOX's Alcatraz

This overview encompasses both the first and second episode as they aired together as a two-hour pilot.

>Some Spoilers<

Ever since LOST went off the air, several shows have been attempting to recapture the magic of the show (which was completely lost, pun intended, when the show gave us one of the worst series finales ever, a conversation for another day). Just about every one of these shows have failed miserably, usually not making it to a second season.  But FOX is banking on Alcatraz being the exception due to the fact that it comes from LOST (sorta, kinda) creator J.J. Abrams and even includes a LOST cast member and a few LOST Easter eggs.

FOX is really pushing the LOST connection but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) you simply don’t remake magic like that, it just happens. So, does Alcatraz at least have what it takes to make a decent show? At the moment… I’d say maybe. It has potential but at the same time a lot of hurdles to leap. Let’s start, as always, with the cast.

FOX's Alcatraz

Soto (Garcia), Madsen (Jones), and Hauser (Neill)

Sarah Jones who plays the main character, SFPD Detective Rebecca Madsen, needs to call up Emily Rose of Haven and ask for some tips on how to play a strong female detective character without looking like she’s constantly pissed off or going to punch someone. As for her character, in LOST fashion she has an extremely deus ex machima connection to the overall story and if this was anything other than a LOST style show then I’d find it more than a bit annoying. Otherwise, she’s a thin character, not carrying more than the usual traits for a detective.

The great Sam Neill plays it snaky as Emerson Hauser, the FBI agent who is trying to figure out what is going on. Normally I love Neill but this character is a bit slimy and cruel hearted, and I think he plays it a little too well. Hell, even his suits don’t seem to fit well giving him an even more disjointed presence. But he’s also already been given the sympathetic treatment so I’m not sure where this character stands. It’s interesting at least, and that’s always a plus.

LOST alum Jose Garcia rounds out the top three as Dr. Diego Soto, Alcatraz specialist and comic book freak. Jose is an underrated actor and I’m glad to see him getting a lead, I just which they could give him a few better lines. At the moment he’s a bit of a token/cliché character and I hope to see more character development soon.

As with LOST we have a flashback based story telling format. This bugs me because doing an over-arching story like LOST did does not have to be flashback based, just look at Babylon 5.  Trying to recapture LOST does not mean ‘remake the whole thing except replace one island for another’. That sound you here is the thud of my head hitting a desk.

But let’s be honest, not everyone watched LOST, so they are trying to capture a new audience as well as retain some of the LOST demographic. This is one reason they aired the first two episodes together, in order to better explain to the new viewers what is going on, what the concept is, and it ends the show on a better cliffhanger to keep people interested. We all know that LOST was all about the cliffhanger.

Alcatraz - S01E02 - "Ernest Cobb"

Hauser (Neill) is searching for the latest escapee.

But does it have a decent plot? Well, it seems back in 1963, when Alcatraz closed and the last of the inmates were to be sent off the island, they all just went up and disappeared. Literally, every last inmate, guard, and civilian. The government, not knowing what to do, covered the whole thing up, creating paper trails and everything. Even in 1963, post internet age, this is a bit hard to swallow. After all, there was more than inmates and guards on the island as the show willfully acknowledges. While some of the inmates wouldn’t be missed, the guards would, and someone would have figured it out. But hey, this is TV, we’ll roll with it.

Then, inexplicably, the prisoners and at least one psychologist have been returning. (Speaking of which, the likelihood of a female, Indian, psychologist on Alcatraz in 1960… pretty much nil. It’s simply how it was back then but maybe this will come up and not be a case of political correctness.) It’s not clear if they were sent forward, put in status, or dragged forward, but someone is doing it and giving the inmates tasks to complete amongst the usual stuff like taking revenge or following compulsions.  Something was going at Alcatraz and it involved taking lots and lots of the prisoner’s blood (unless that was a red herring).

Alcatraz - S01E01 - "Pilot"

Soto and Madsen sneak into Alcatraz's off-limits areas.

In present time, apparently the government task force to deal with an event as huge as this is Sam Neill and a psychologist. Why is only one FBI agent involved? Why is there not a representative from every government agency? And no way they are hiding this from the NSA and CIA. It simply makes no sense, unless this is a plot point but I’m not sure how. Disappearing/reappearing inmates is a major freaking security risk, everyone is going to want a piece of this.

Through coincidence (and trope), Rebecca Madsen gets involved in a related case and is able to find the answers to track down the wayward prisoner of the week. This is enough to get her onto the squad along with Dr. Soto as her trusty side-kick. Again, the lack of sense is compounding.

But then LOST didn’t make a lot of sense either at the beginning, I mean, polar bear, seriously? I’m willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt, but at the moment it only pulls a solid 3 instead of lower in that it has at least peaked my curiosity… for now.

Score: 3 of 5


Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Television


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