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So Alcatraz, much like every other show based on a currently non-functioning American prison, is over. Though if the dramatic ending says anything (beyond the writers secretly tapping into my innermost desires), it’s that FOX still may bring it back in mid-season replacement style. For Rebecca Madsen is dead! One assumes immediately after the time of death, Hauser and Dr. Beauregard would miraculously arrive, heaping colloidal silver into her body in hopes of reviving her. Or, more in tune with this show, that one doctor would say, “No wait, she is breathing after all. My bad, folks.” But still, for three glorious televised seconds, I got exactly what I wanted, sadistic though it may sound.
Because what viewers did not get were fully-formed answers to the mysteries dragged out all season. A frigging double-episode finale and we still aren’t sure what made the prisoners time travel, only that Soto refers to it as a “jump,” as does the weirdo science guy in Hauser’s “cave behind the Bat Cave.” That comic reference, the only one in the past handful of episodes, is telling of how much the writers understood about these main characters from the beginning. They didn’t. They still don’t, really. (Chet and the comic shop became non-existent.) But what do we know? Is Warden James still alive? Why was Tommy Madsen chosen? What happened to Rebecca’s parents? Are Lucy and Hauser still getting it on? Picture me shrugging to all this.
Stillman (Greg Ellis) steals armored trucks, and of course, it’s not just armored trucks he’s after, as the myriad chess references drill home. Back in 1960, the Warden utilized these pervasive talents, tasking him with secretly reversing a parole board review of Harlan Simmons, who’d previously conned his way into the laundry contraband operation. After Tiller makes damned sure Simmons’ parole is rejected, the Warden offers Stillman a large cut of the contraband op to forge approval papers and slip them into the briefcase of a board member.
After rounding up a small crew who make a successful forgery, Stillman makes himself known at a lunch the Warden is throwing for the board. Tiller asks questions, and one of Stillman’s crew quickly turns rat. The Warden, thinking Stillman failed, angrily sends him to solitary. But wait, Stillman banked on Tiller’s suspicions and never actually switched the paper, leaving that for Tiller to do on his own. I guess nobody reads the papers they switch around. Thus, Simmons got his parole accepted after all, and the Warden gives him a phone number to someone on the outside to use when the time comes.
It turns out Simmons, who now owns a company that has made him a bajillionaire, has been shipping a package from location to location, month after month. It’s this package that present-day Stillman is hired to locate, and it contains the third key needed to open the Warden’s door beneath the lighthouse on Alcatraz. Who hired him? Who’s this ringleader? Tommy Madsen. No shit, right? Why he’s so intent on getting this one key instead of going after Hauser for the other two, I have no idea. In any case, Stillman is cunning in his thievery, taking only guard uniforms while letting cash go up in flames, and using a Dark Knight multi-armored car system to try and fool Rebecca and Hauser into following them. (I can make my own Batman references.) But Soto, who refuses to ever stay in the car, finds a hotwired SUV and throws his GPS-enabled phone into it before Stillman gets inside.
Stillman takes it to Madsen’s hideout and breaks the box open, discovering the key inside. Enter Joe “Ghost” Limerick, who shoots Stillman dead and takes the key. When the Good Guys arrive and find his body, as well as apple peels that Lucy previously mentioned as a sign of Tommy’s patience, Soto once again strays from the car and scares away the returning Tommy, who immediately flees the scene.
When we’re told a character is as complicated as a chess game, it’s then easy to second guess his every move and predict all the twists. What wasn’t easy to predict is the show’s emotional core lying within a woman who spent most of the season in a coma. Perhaps it’s because of this lack of proper screen time, but Lucy lords over each scene she’s in. She’s strong enough to immediately return to the duties at hand, ignoring the unknown risks of colloidal silver side effects. Now that her past is known, she’s able to share some insights with Soto and Rebecca about Tommy and the young Hauser.
She humors the older Hauser’s domineering care for her, despite not quite returning the same amount of love, as he is a different person than the one she knew. Especially poignant, though silly sounding, is her assessment that the future may have updated record players, but what she truly misses are the people she used to listen to music with. Sort of a callback to her and Hauser’s jazz club date. It’s one of the only times any character in this show comes off as sympathetic, and you doubt she ever wanted any of this to happen. What should have been a more affecting interview with Cobb, her shooter, still ends chillingly enough when he tells her that no matter where she is, she will always be a target. But why?
The episode’s super-brief beginning shows Rebecca stabbed and bleeding in the street. Cut to 36 hours earlier. (I can only imagine this was done to fool audiences into thinking this was the worst thing that would happen to her in the episode. It worked for me, eventually.) Two more interesting things happen immediately. We find out Rebecca’s partner who died in the pilot was being paid off by Simmons’ company, giving Tommy motive for killing him. And Joe the Ghost, after stealing the key, checks himself into a psychiatric hospital, spilling his guts about being a time-traveling inmate from 1963 Alcatraz. He’s called Ghost because during one of his jailbreaks, he had some drowning trouble and was declared dead. Enough to get a death certificate and everything.
We don’t find out why none of this was reversed though, which is confusing to me. Then we get to see Matt Craven pop in as the Warden’s blood-taking half-mad scientist. It’s kind of a non-issue to watch him put the colloidal blood back into Tommy, though it does add worry to Tommy’s normal smug face, which was nice.
And it’s here, in Tommy’s Trek for the Key, that Alcatraz dips back into its bag of moronic tricks. In order to get into the hospital to go after Ghost, Tommy breaks into the house of Dr. Georgia Bradley. She isn’t there, so he holds her husband temporarily hostage until she gets home. The Bradleys’ young daughter is able to escape the house and get the cops onto Tommy’s trail. This, despite the fact that she only saw the back of his head, and is somehow in shock and has to be tricked (involving a picture of a cat with missing eyes) in order to give her home address.
After a gunfight with the husband, Tommy succeeds in getting Georgia out of the house and to the psychiatric hospital, where he uses her for retina scans to get into Ghost’s room. Ghost finds them and after a brief chase and standoff, he leaps through a window and too his death on the concrete below, just as Rebecca and Hauser show up. Rebecca sees Tommy and chases him through the hospital into the garage, where he takes off in a sexy looking sports car that doesn’t trigger the alarm until he actually opens the door. I know what you’re thinking; why the fuck didn’t Rebecca need retina scans to get anywhere? Your guess is as good as mine.
The pseudo-emotional crux of Tommy’s history involves his son, Rebecca’s father. Tommy murdered the mother in front of him, spraying him in the face with blood. The warden, post-blood transfusion, grants him a visit to the foster home, but the little boy is too afraid to speak and runs inside. This leads Tommy to draw up adoption papers in Ray Archer’s name, as well as papers for Archer’s termination from Alcatraz.
This somewhat informs our final few minutes. That is, the minutes after a bizarrely displaced, but still exciting and well-orchestrated, car chase after Rebecca’s timely commandeering of a citizen’s vehicle, despite the fact that there were a ton of police cars nearby. So yes, after all the airborne car chasing is complete, and Tommy has flipped his car more times than Two-Face’s coin (forced, but still appropriate), Rebecca holds him at gunpoint, choosing to talk in close proximity instead of cuffing him and taking him away. When Tommy teases her with the “real” story behind her parents’ death, he grabs her gun and shanks her in the side, getting away in the process. But not in the car he drove, because it needlessly blew up after he flipped it. Couldn’t resist, could you Alcatraz?
In the meantime, Hauser gets Lucy a passport to get her out of the country and somewhere safe. He also is shot down when he tries getting a face-to-face meeting with Simmons, who’s been a recluse since the 1970s. These things end up going nowhere. Soto uses his noggin to figure out that Ghost probably hid the key inside the stitching in his pants, and he’s correct. (I wish he’d have swallowed it, as that would have been a fun search in the coroner’s office.)
Soto avoids giving Hauser the key just yet, even as Hauser pulls a gun on him in the middle of the street without anyone else reacting. (This also happens after Dr. Bradley’s daughter runs up to her from a police car, just a few feet away from Ghost’s bloodied and crushed up face. Because that happens.) Soto waits to give Hauser the key in the hospital as Rebecca is being worked on, refusing to join him in unlocking the Warden’s door.
The moment of truth eventually arrives. Hauser and Lucy unlock the door and walk inside. It’s dark, so they turn a light on. In front of a map of the United States are two covered up control panels that resemble something out of Dr. Strangelove. As the map starts to light up in places, we realize these are all markers for the returned prisoners, who have been tracked by the silver in their bloodstream. (How they track the ones without the silver isn’t mentioned, of course.)
The mildly disturbing but ultimately reasonable revelation here is that San Francisco isn’t the only place they’ve returned to, though it has the most occurrences. They’re all over the country! And just before we get to that sweet, sweet ending where Rebecca dies, Hauser and Lucy find Matt Craven (I don’t know his character name) on the ground elsewhere in the room. I’m assuming he’d just “jumped’ to the future himself, because he asks what year it is. When told it’s 2012, he cackles like a wacko. Then Rebecca dies.
The only other bit of pertinent information is that Matt Craven had been tracking Tommy since 1953, which may have had something to do with Korea. Otherwise, we’re given no other information here. So this whole time, the Warden was hiding a room that wouldn’t even become relevant for another fifty years? I mean, they did tests with Tommy and were successful in tracking his movements due to the silver. But I was seriously expecting something badass to be in this room. And I was seriously disappointed.
Thanks for sticking with me, those who have, and please don’t take offense that I hope we never meet each other again under these circumstances. I’m not walking away from Alcatraz with the negativity I expected at mid-season, but I’m not as pleased as I thought I’d be before I watched the pilot, either. I wonder how many shows like this it will take for people to stop thinking J.J. Abrams is some kind of a creative god. It only took one for me. Thanks again, readers. Enjoy the rest of your day with Cinema Blend.