California Literary Review

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

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February 14th, 2012 at 6:06 am

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Sarah Jones and James Pizzinato in Alcatraz’s Paxton Petty

Sarah Jones and James Pizzinato in Alcatraz’s Paxton Petty

After last week’s pretty good episode, tonight, Alcatraz returns to…complacent mediocrity is the best term that comes to mind. Alcatraz isn’t a bad show, but more like one that still feels insecure about itself. At times, I cannot tell whether its true being is the mysteries or the procedural, and it’s using the false identity to reel viewers in.

The POTW for this week’s episode is Paxton Petty, a former Marine turned mad bomber, or rather a mad mine-r. Due to his penchant for setting up mines around the city that use Silver Stars as shrapnel (it links back to the show’s stupid theories behind criminal psychology) and rolling a live mine towards Madsen to escape from her, Petty seems the most supervillain-esque of the bad guys so far. Oddly enough, he’s also the dullest of the POTWs, and actor James Pizzinato imbues him with a surprising lack of energy. Being restrained is one thing, but it’s a whole other creature when you’re forgettable in a scene with only two people.

Also included in his M.O. is writing a song that includes one word per lyric that says where the bombs are hidden. He stole it from a trick he learned during the Korean War in which Korean troops would sing “lullabies” that hinted at the location of their mines. I can understand this technique when you’re in the middle of a war and must warn others about the devices, but it seems a waste when you’re planting eight bombs across 50 years for everyone but yourself. Even if you’ve forgotten which beach you placed the mine at, simply don’t go to any beach until it explodes.

It’s the show’s way of playing up its beloved These Guys Are Super Dangerous Super Criminals concept, but none of the guys we have met seems smart or calculating enough to warrant the lofty title the show has given them. Sure they do bad things, but, despite the skills required to pull off their crimes, they seem more like brutish thugs talented in a single area than criminal masterminds. Additionally, their bizarre compulsion to commit crimes further hurts their more-interesting-in-the-past characters by making them into robots condemned to repeat the same actions repeatedly. While I presume that whoever captured them is “forcing” them to recommit their crimes for whatever reason, it’s hard to buy into that theory when none of the POTWs appear conflicted or confused over their actions…or anything really. Maybe they are robots.

Mehcad Brooks as Matt Tanner in Alcatraz’s Paxton Petty

Matt Danner: Created Only To Die

Eventually, Hauser finds Petty, steps on a land mine and must wait on it for a few hours so he does not release the plunger. Eventually, Madsen and Soto deduce his location, call in the bomb squad, and bomb expert Matt Tanner is killed by its detonation. Tanner, by the way, is Madsen’s friend whom we have never seen or heard of before tonight, but she knows all of his routines and backstory. Tonight, we also meet the attractive coroner lady who wears a Golden Age Sandman t-shirt while at work and awkwardly flirts with Soto. I wondered if she was trying to pull off a Michelle Forbes from Homicide: Life on the Street vibe. Nevertheless, I figured at least one of them would die tonight, and I put money (not literally) on her. That was a dumb move considering how the first time we meet Tanner, Madsen’s talking to him about barreling through his nine lives. He might as well have mentioned his upcoming retirement, pregnant wife, and the boat he just bought to sail around the world.

Outside of the POTW, the focus is on 1960s Lucille/2012 Lucy, who is still in a present day coma. We receive some of the origins of the relationship between the prison shrink and the young, nervous, heavily crushing Hauser. We also see that while Lucille is sickened by guards torturing prisoners for information, she’s also not above performing subterfuge, drugging, and electroconvulsive treatments to obtain data. In modern day, a doctor asks Hauser about a Do Not Resuscitate order for Lucy, so he responds by kidnapping her and taking her to Alcatraz II, where Beauregard continues his experiments. Since that’s how the episode ends, we’re probably going to have to wait many weeks for this plot to return. Hopefully sooner than later since the banter between Beauregard and Lucille in the past makes it the most fun relationship on the show.

Leon Rippy as Beauregard and Jonathan Coyne as Warden Edwin James in Alcatraz’s Paxton Petty

Beauregard and the Warden

Additional Thoughts:

• Like most episodes, we begin with Hauser, Soto, and Madsen arriving at a crime scene. And, like most episodes, after talking it through, they come to the conclusion that it’s an Alcatrazian. Do they arrive at every crime scene in San Francisco to argue over whether it’s an Alcatrazian? They don’t seem to realize which prisoner it is (or even if it is a prisoner) until they arrive and talk over the information, despite each criminal having an increasingly specific MO.
• We learn that Petty has no idea where he’s been over the past 50 years. All he knows is that a week and a half ago, he woke up in a tomb.
• Soto finally gets a chance to talk to a real live Alcatrazian after dedicating a portion of his career to studying The Rock, and he talks to him as lamely as he does everyone else. I understand his disappointment with everything in his book being wrong, but he shouldn’t have just been normal around Petty. Either engage him in painstakingly detailed conversation or be excessively shy.
• I don’t know why I keep harping on this, but something rubs me the wrong way about this show’s relationship to comic books. Tonight, Soto mentions Captain America and Sandman, and every time he references comics, it sounds forced to me. I don’t know if it’s Garcia or if the writers don’t really know a lot about the genre, but the way they discuss the topic always seems unnatural to me.
• Madsen annoyed me tonight when she yelled at Hauser for asking her to cross-reference locations using the word Windward since he wouldn’t tell her why. I never thought she was a great cop, but I’m bugged with the way she treats Hauser. Yes, he has secrets, but he’s also your boss.
• Hauser shoots Petty in the knee at the end, but no cop responds to a shot being fired despite the actual SFPD being feet away.
• No Team Alcatraz: IT Unit tonight.

  • lelmed

    i think somthing wrong in this episode. madsen should have shot him as he was about to roll the live mine to her.

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