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Alcatraz Recap: Ames Brothers and Sonny Burnett (Season 1, Episodes 8 and 9)

Posted By Brett Harrison Davinger On March 6, 2012 @ 2:56 am In Movies & TV,Television | No Comments

The reason behind last week’s hiatus.

Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

Due to last week’s NASCAR event, Alcatraz (and House) skipped episodes. If anything important happened in the original episode 8 (entitled Clarence Montgomery), it apparently didn’t affect anything in Episodes 9 and 10.

This is going to sound hypocritical, but as a reviewer, I miss Terra Nova. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to look back on the dinosaur-show-without-dinosaurs with rose-colored glasses. I’m not going to pretend that Jim Shannon was an interesting character. Or that the effects were all that better than a SyFy original movie. Or that Zoe did not inspire a passionate hatred. But when recapping Terra Nova, I had something new to write about every week. Sure, it was mostly negative (and I still maintain with good reason), but at least the show faltered in new ways with each passing episode.

Looking back, Terra Nova was a significantly more interesting show because of that. We got to see a series try to figure out what it was. Even if it failed at practically everything it attempted, watching a show work out its kinks actually turned into kind of a journey, and one more entertaining than anything that appeared on screen. Alcatraz, on the other hand, barely seems to try at all. It’s a bland procedural involving bland time traveling criminals being chased by bland heroes. Put another way, I guess I’d rather see someone try to combine baking powder and vinegar than see a potato power a light bulb for the 10,000th time.

Coincidentally enough, while writing this, I discovered that FOX indeed canceled Terra Nova [1]. Sorry for the jinx.

Can’t say that I’ll mourn its passing.

And that brings us to tonight’s two-part Alcatraz event featuring the Ames Brothers and Sonny Burnett.

But before we get to their stupid plots, I’ve come to the conclusion, especially now that we’re past the halfway point of the season, that a major problem with this show is that it’s hard to know where genuine complaints end and “it’s a mystery! You don’t want to know the solution in the first chapter!” begins. But there’s a huge difference between knowing who “kidnapped” the Alcatrazians, and wanting to know how they are so comfortable with our technology when Johnny McKee [2] seemed confused by smart phones and the Internet two weeks ago. There’s a difference between learning what the prisoners’ blood is being used for, and figuring out the hours of the IT Department. Or their relationship with Madsen and Soto. Or why the Alcomputer doesn’t register new bodies suddenly appearing in Alcatraz by reading heat signatures, energy fluctuations, or some other form of technobabble. Or why the government didn’t simply close Alcatraz and say it’s under renovation or something when people starting reappearing.

These questions don’t relate to the major mysteries of the show, but their answers would go a long way towards establishing the universe Alcatraz inhabits. And considering that all three members of Team Alcatraz seem more like procedural pawns than actual characters, the least the show can do is attempt to provide us with a world with rules and nuances to live in for an hour. Time traveling criminals is only a gimmick, and a gimmick alone cannot keep a show alive.

So let’s get to this week’s POTWs.

That is Frank Whaley from Pulp Fiction and Swimming with Sharks as former officer Donovan.

CR: FOX

The Ames Brothers were violent criminals who allegedly tried to escape Alcatraz… only that story was a lie. They didn’t want to escape, they wanted the Alcatraz gold. That’s right. There’s a legend of Alcatraz gold. At some point, Soto actually says “The gold!?! It’s not a myth!” It made me think of Bart To The Future, The Simpsons episode set in the future where Lisa becomes President and Homer digs up the White House lawn to find Lincoln’s gold. Legends of lost gold are inherently ridiculous when you get out of the old west, as proven in the National Treasure comedy franchise.

The majority of the episode revolves around the Ames Brothers and their cohort Donovan, a corrupt guard from back when who worked with the Ames Brothers but became an Alcatraz ranger upon his return to Earth, chasing Team Alcatraz around the island brandishing guns with infinite ammo. Eventually, the gang stops them and even the ever useless Madsen crushes one of their heads with scaffolding.

Nevertheless, here’s what bothered me the entire episode. If greed is their passion, why not wait for the storm to pass, leave Alcatraz, and sell their story? I’m sure they could hire a damned good lawyer after revealing themselves to the world. But no, they have to go around beating up random people because they’re criminals. They can’t help themselves. It’s how Alcatraz works. And we’ve seen that people aren’t brainwashed into being brutal robots while off-Earth, otherwise Lucy, Beauregard, Guy Hastings [3], and Donovan would have all returned as senseless killing machines.

Long story short, The Ameses and Donovan never get the gold. But the gold exists, and that’s apparently what’s in the room that those crazy keys from the first couple of episodes opened. Or I can be confusing doors because darkly lit, underground rooms tend to be hard to differentiate.

Juice from Sons of Anarchy as kidnapping Sonny Burnett.

CR: FOX

Moving on to Sonny Burnett, who is played by Theo Rossi, better known as Juice from Sons of Anarchy. He’s a kidnapper seeking revenge against a woman whom he played Badlands with in the past because she stole his last ransom before he was arrested. Despite never learning how much time he spent back on Earth (though he was still wearing his prison uniform at the start of the episode), Sonny goes after her family with ridiculous specificity. He even corners her husband’s car in the middle of a highway in the middle of the night as he was coming back from a business deal. He ends up killing the husband and burying her daughter alive; the daughter is saved.

When you’re dealing with empty plots like Alcatraz offers, you focus on the details. And my biggest issue with this installment came from a Soto line. Coroner Nikki (who looks like Michelle Monaghan and acts like Michelle Forbes) says that Sonny needs to be arrested or shot, and Soto responds, “I’m with Nikki on this, this may be one guy who doesn’t deserve a cell.” You’ve dealt with a guy who kidnaps, tortures, and murders children; a sniper who shoots at crowds; and a mad bomber who desecrates soldiers graves. Sonny actually has a particular family in mind to go after, and he’s only killed two guys. I’m not saying this doesn’t makes him a bad person, but…comparatively, not that evil.

On the actual plot movement front… Hauser begins interrogating Donovan about Tommy Madsen. Lucy is still in a coma and does not appear in any flashback sequences. Some prisoners came back with colloidal silver in their blood, which gives them a Wolverine-esque healing factor. Lucy has a rare blood type so Beauregard can’t perform a transfusion with any of the current inmates. Although Sonny has the same blood type, he lacks the colloidal silver. Hauser sets up surveillance on Ray after questioning him and realizing that he had met Tommy Madsen. Tommy Madsen watches Rebecca sleep.

Additional Thoughts:

• I still can’t believe that there’s a hidden gold storyline.

• Why didn’t Donovan try to sell his story? Why did Donovan stay on the island? Why didn’t Hauser recognize Donovan? Why didn’t the Alcomputer facially recognize him?

• Glad we finally got a scene between Neill/Forster. Unfortunately, it was short and Forster didn’t have much screentime.

• Soto says at the end of the second episode that all three of them will have to live with what they’ve done while on Team Alcatraz. That’s the type of thing you say when you have done something that alters your moral compass forever. While that might apply to Hauser, I don’t think Madsen or Soto earned that line.

• At several points, Hauser explains the importance of keeping Sonny alive, though he keeps hidden the fact that it has to do with his magical blood. Yet in an earlier episode, he brought a corpse to Beauregard and told him to continue his work.

• Those cops found the buried coffin pretty quickly, didn’t they? Unless there was a sudden time jump and I missed it.

• I figured out why I like Beauregard, he has a similar intonation to Bones from Star Trek.


Article printed from California Literary Review: http://calitreview.com

URL to article: http://calitreview.com/24420/alcatraz-recap-ames-brothers-and-sonny-burnett-season-1-episodes-8-and-9/

URLs in this post:

[1] Terra Nova: http://www.deadline.com/2012/03/fox-cancels-drama-terra-nova-series-being-shopped-to-other-networks

[2] Johnny McKee: http://calitreview.com/24047

[3] Guy Hastings: http://calitreview.com/23682