Alcatraz

Alcatraz: "Clarence Montgomery" (Season 1, Episode 10)

Okay. So I sat down this evening with the specific intent of not watching tonight’s episode with dread, not using the term “sludge pump,” and trying to honestly give this series a chance.

My reward, you may ask? A charming little vignette where I got to watch a genuinely innocent black inmate brutalized by prison management and his peers, then subjected to a sick Clockwork Orange experiment by Doctor Beauregard (yes, Hauser’s present day buddy) that turns him into an actual killer. But on the plus side, Diego Soto got a date with the cute coroner. So there’s that.

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Alcatraz: "The Ames Brothers & Sonny Burnett" (Season 1, Episodes 8 and 9)

Two episodes back-to-back this week. It’s kind of hard to take, and I suppose I could blame the Daytona 500 for preempting it last week, but that’s hardly fair. This sick, boring excuse for a show earns its nauseating qualities the old fashioned way—it doesn’t give a ****.

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Alcatraz: "The Worst Thing I've Seen This Year" (Season 1, Episode 7)

Just kidding. The title is “Johnny McKee.” It’s still really bad, though.

There’s lazy, and then there’s hackwork, and then there’s bad, and then there’s just giggle works bad. It’s rare, however, to see them all in one episode, an intricate tapestry of the dull and the absurd. So I guess that’s an achievement.

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Alcatraz: "Paxton Petty" (Season 1, Episode 6)

Another round with the show that has more mysteries than you can shake a stick at, but nary a solution in sight. If you read last week’s review, you know the show finally took a step up. This week? A slight step back. We’ve returned to the criminal of the week motif, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the worst examples of that pattern.

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Alcatraz: "Guy Hastings" (Season 1, Episode 5)

So here’s the deal—this episode did not leave me cynical about the worth of human existence. It’s ridiculous and improbable, yes. But it didn’t fill me with disgust. They finally broke their pattern, and the results were downright tolerable. We learned more this episode than we’ve learned in all the previous four combined.

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Alcatraz: "Cal Sweeney" (Season 1, Episode 4)

So much like our criminals of the week, Alcatraz now has an established MO. We start with a criminal perpetrating his particular criminal shtick in lurid detail. Then we go to the credits. Then we proceed with a most unholy trinity of crisscross story structure: (1) criminal goes about his spree, (2) Madsen and Soto track him, and (3) we see criminal’s flashback story at Alcatraz. Spice with obligatory sadism and end with the arrest, followed by a final minute hinting at some deep mystery. The narrative spine, such as it is, seems to be the general grumpiness of Sam Neil.

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EPISODE REVIEW: Alcatraz (Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2)

J.J. Abrams fans, I’m sorry—forget Lost. The invincible hordes of the crime procedural continue their advance across genre and time alike, building toward that glorious day when the entire Fall schedule will be a Maoist paradise of CSI conformity. And you will bloody well like it you reactionary literatis since there won’t be anything else to watch. [We just won’t televise any of Ron Moore’s desperate attempts at a procedural, because even soulless network hacks are still pissed about the last season of Battlestar Galactica.]

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