Alrighty Alcatraz fans, it was make or break time this week to see if the new series would be worth sticking around for the rest of the season. After a month of my griping and with the secret hope the show would burst through its tired formula and into intriguing territory, did last night’s episode succeed in changing my mind?
Find out after the jump. (Please note this recap contains SPOILERS)
Well, it should come as no surprise that the answer is – no. But I will admit that even though Alcatraz hasn’t quite done it for me, the series is getting better week by week. This week our returning ’63 was not an inmate – but a guard! There was plenty of potential to change things up a bit – which I’m happy to report, the episode did take advantage of.
There were more connections between past and present day throughout this episode, namely, we learn that Rebecca’s (Sarah Jones) sort of uncle, Ray (Robert Forster) is actually her REAL uncle. Shocking isn’t it? But what this means is that Ray is blood-related to “man behind the curtain” and most wanted ’63, Tommy Madsen (David Hoflin). This likely will have much bigger ramifications for Rebecca going forward. Even though we’ve known from the pilot that she was Madsen’s granddaughter, it’s revealed that she may be in more danger, as evidenced in the closing scene standoff between old Ray and returned Tommy. We also learn that Hauser (Sam Neill) isn’t just stringing Rebecca along for kicks. He actually needs her. She’s some sort of emotional bargaining chip to catch the illustrious Tommy. Rebecca also isn’t the first Madsen that Hauser asked to help get his hands on Tommy. Nope, Ray got that honour 14 years ago, which explains why his eyes stayed in their sockets when he first saw returning guard Cal Hastings (Jim Parrack) in 2012 without having aged a day.
Additionally we get a tiny glimpse into the ominous group that took the ’63s in the first place – aptly named “THEM” or “THEY” (depending on the grammar). Cue foreboding music. Cal is in the future because “THEY” told him to find Tommy. He kidnaps old Ray to do this, and while waiting in a desolate apartment for Tommy’s return, they share a somewhat telling exchange:
RAY: Where have you been?
CAL: I haven’t been anywhere. I took my little one down to the dock and kissed her goodbye. And at night, I was in the north tower, and the fog took all the stars away. In the morning I was in the infirmary. THEY* told us there’d been an accident, our families were dead…THEY* told us we were sick- contaminated and that we couldn’t leave. And then, it wasn’t 1963 no more.
* - my emphasis
Hastings also makes the suggestion that taking “all that blood” in the infirmary has something to do with why the ’63s went time travelling. This would explain why Tommy Madsen is known as the man behind the curtain – he was giving blood either by choice, or being forced.
So yes, a lot of revelations came out this episode, but the underlying problem: there’s absolutely no investment. I’m not the least bit curious to see how any of this pans out because there’s still that long hallway of mug shots of the disappeared ’63s that we have to get through (which we are shown every episode as a reminder- you’re in it for the long haul viewers!) And based on next week’s teaser – we’re going right back to the inmate formula. Sigh.
Cal was repeatedly identified as a “good man” and likely would be a good candidate to break through the clutches of the ominous “THEM” that essentially took 50 years of his life away. But unfortunately, he’s got a killer case of amnesia and I just don’t have the patience to wait around until it wears off.
Despite some of the advancements in storytelling in this week’s episode, the spoon-feeding was still quite prevalent throughout. I’ve never seen more instances of characters spewing out painfully obvious observations just make sure that we got it. (Many coming from Captain Obvious – Hauser) Honestly, I’m surprised there wasn’t a knowing wink tacked on after each. Some choice examples:
HAUSER: Someone put him up to it.
REBECCA: Some one-
SOTO: Like who?
HAUSER: Whoever took the ’63s…
SOTO: What do you think they sent them back here to do?
HAUSER: That’s what we have to figure out.
Some other observations:
- I want to give a major shout-out to the props team and set designers. No one does authentically decrepit and old as well as these guys.
- Kudos to the episodes’ directors, especially when it comes to seeing the ’63s stroke an aged object lovingly. It may seem trite, but almost every time I’ve seen this (yes, in practically every episode) there is an earnest sadness conveyed in these shots.
- I was wrong last week – the Alcatraz staff apparently DOES live on The Rock with their families.
- Looks like Alcatraz has been trading notes with Ringer. There was a horrendous green screen scene with Soto (Jorge Garcia) and Rebecca in a car. But hey! At least it looked like we were back in 1963 with a nod to rear-projection! (The irony…)
- Hauser is able to call forth his geek squad on his own personal bat phone. I kid you not.
So that’s it folks. What did you think? Was there enough development this week to keep you going? Personally, I’m dumping the dead weight and moving onto some (hopefully) more interesting things. Check out my recap of The River tomorrow – perhaps it’ll be everything that Alcatraz was not?