Misleading previews and two episodes? When will the madness cease?
**Spoilers ahead. But not too detailed - there were two episodes this week.**
After Alcatraz was interrupted for a week by NASCAR, it returned in all its glory with a double episode! I wouldn't have realised it started early if I hadn't been watching New Girl on Hulu today, so I was prepared and allowed myself four smuggled bottles of precious Yuengling leftover from a Christmas break trip to Ohio. Spoiler alert: I'm a lightweight, and I'm writing this review on beers three and four.
Also here's the *spoiler alert for Alcatraz*. And because no one wants to read a novella of both episodes, I'll be summing up a lot of stuff and glossing over details, so if for some bizarre reason you actually fill yourself in on the events of Alcatraz via these recaps, you'll probably have to actually watch these when they're on Hulu a week from now.
This two-part event is not an exciting adventure that spans both episodes, like I hoped; rather it is comprised of two separate and distinct storylines, which have totally misleading previews. I thought we were going to get some more deets on the Madsen family and what Tommy's relevance is. I suppose we did, but it seemed shoehorned and definitely not the focus of either episode's plot.
The first of these episodes, "The Ames Bros." (yes, that's the title, abbreviation and all) is about Pinky and The Brain Herman Ames, who orchestrated a plot to escape The Rock. Or so we think! See it turns out that, along with their secret collaborator (some guard guy whose name I can't remember or find online), they were actually looking for gold! Yes, gold! There's a legend from the Civil War era concerning hidden gold in Alcatraz, and the Ames brothers are determined to find it. In the 60's they steal spoons, soap and Warden James's keys to the mysterious door (reference "Cal Sweeny"?) and make copies, which was actually pretty industrious and awesome. They never get the chance to break in, though, which explains why they return to Alcatraz in the present.
Their 2012 selves, meanwhile, are wreaking havoc on the secret cell in present-day Alcatraz. Pinky murders one of Hauser's data mining nerds then manages to take Soto hostage. He throws him into one of the solitary cells, which can't be very comfortable when you're sporting Hurley's bulk. I spent most of this time being indignant because Hurley is our comic relief, and he's adorable, and if they kill him off I will officially quit trying to tolerate this show. But Madsen and Hauser save him, don't you worry. And there's plenty of death and violence along the way. I think the writers may have had some sort of incentive to add as much gore as possible to the most recent episodes.
In all honesty, I was pretty content with the first episode. Maybe it was because the beer was flowing and I was just happy to be drinking Yuengling, which is such a rare treat here (no one in Chicago knows what it is), or maybe it was because I started imagining that all the loose inmates were velociraptors and that it's Dr. Alan Grant's job to reign them all back to the park (aka Alcatraz 2.0) or shoot them dead.
Despite my beer-induced dreams, "The Ames Bros." was good- we learn that James actually got to the gold first back in the 60's, so the present-day folks will never find it. Also Rebecca finally killed someone (she dropped a cage on Pinky's head, which was violent and gruesome and radical) and Hauser got shot instead of doing the shooting. Actually I was kind of upset with that last part, especially because he shot himself up with a needle. I do not like needles.
Anyway, we solved the mystery of the Big Scary Door and its keys without something drastically over the top (John Locke wasn't inside typing 4 8 15 16 23 42 into a computer) while retaining something mysterious. Questions remain: What did James do with the gold? Where the hell is James now? What cell phone service actually works out on The Rock in the middle of a thunderstorm? But there was admittedly a satisfying balance between revealing the truth and opening more questions, which was always lacking on Lost, and so I choose to be content.
Meanwhile "Sonny Burnett", per the previews, was supposedly about James Madsen and his connection to the inmates and his importance. But really the episode was about Sonny Burnett, kidnapper extraordinaire. In the past, Sonny abducted a 14-year-old girl for three months and ransomed money from her family. When he was eventually caught he used that money to buy himself some protection from the inmates of Alcatraz, seeing as he wasn't a particularly tough nugget himself. Well, as it turns out, all women are gold-digging bitches, and she went ahead and got that money back from him, so he didn't actually have any to pay for his protection with. Consequently he gets super fit in his cell, a lá Uncle Iroh (Airbender reference anyone?), and beating the shit out of one of the inmates; I guess proving that he's a predator, not prey, which is the theme of that episode. I know this because everyone says it approximately one million times. Alcatraz's lack of subtlety continues to frustrate me.
In the present, Sonny kidnaps David Pierce, who we learn is the husband of his previous kidnapee. I kept picturing David Hyde-Pierce, which was awesome because Frasier. Madsen pries into her backstory during their interview, irritating Hauser because he thinks she'll ruin the investigation by making uncooperative.
Hauser, Madsen and Soto all pursue Sonny (as is their M.O. in this series) thinking that he's after money as usual (which is his M.O. as far as we know). But, as the flashbacks showed us, he's more ruthless now than ever before; he actually ends up sending them David's head in a bag. It's very Se7en really, which is impressive as he can't have seen that movie unless someone showed it to him right when he respawned or something. But they realise that Sonny isn't doing this for money- he's doing it because in some deranged psychotic way he loved his jailbait captive, and now he's seeking revenge per her perceived betrayal (how dare she marry and have a normal life! I was the one!). Alcatraz might have paedophilic vibes but they won't come out and say "He raped a 14-year-old." Yet they'll show me some dude's head in a bag. Double standards.
Sonny gets all Kill Bill: Vol II on his old victim, burying her in a handmade pine box in a field. Since she's not Beatrix Kiddo, she doesn't manage to punch her way out. But of course, our heroes on Team Alcatraz catch up to Sonny and save the day. The San Francisco police department is reluctant to forfeit him to Hauser; but fortunately Sam Neill demands respect, so they give Sonny up and dig out the woman, who looks surprisingly fresh and well put-together for someone who was just buried alive for several hours.
Interwoven in this episode is the only relevant piece of information for advancing the series' story arc, which is that Tommy Madsen's blood contains magical properties that allow regeneration (I was too drunk to give a crap about the science, which is saying something) So yeah, obviously Tommy Madsen is somehow the key to the whole "respawning" thing. Also, we kind of get the impression that Tommy is stalking Rebecca, which is creepy, and that he's still in touch with Ray, which we already knew. What I'm saying here is that the previews were deliberately misleading. But Hauser is clearly contemplating a scheme to save Lucy with Madsen's blood, so we have some added motivation for why he's so determined to find Rebecca's grandfather.
This episode was less satisfying than the first one of the evening, mostly because I feel like everything that happened with Sonny came from something else (hence all my references to other shows/movies) and because they spent so little time talking about the importance of Madsen, even though the previews made it seem like the main focus. The writers hammer us bluntly with whatever the episodic theme is (mostly via Warden James's excruciatingly pompous monologues), but spend almost no time on important arc developments. Why? Why do you do that to me, writers?
Next week's preview gives us another black person! Yay diversity! He was wrongfully accused, but it seems that he's come forward in time to commit the crimes he was imprisoned for. I'm running out of my precious beer, so I might be wine drunk next time. Be prepared.
Written or Contributed by: Dr. Improbable