Well, I certainly hope I built up a little bit of good will by finally getting Sam Neill on the phone for Random Roles last week, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to blow whatever I earned with this week’s review. Maybe it’s not quite what you’d call a perfect storm of unfortunate timing, but to be recovering from a nasty bout of stomach flu just as I’m handed two back-to-back episodes of Alcatraz—thanks for nothing, Daytona 500!—isn’t exactly what I’d call the perfect formula for solid concentration. As such, I’m the first to admit that these aren’t going to be the most in-depth reflections on tonight’s episodes…which might actually not be the worst thing in the world, given that I’m generally prone to writing a bit much, anyway. Still, I was struggling to even take notes this week, let alone stay awake. Rough stuff, that stomach flu. Really knocks you for a loop.
First up, we had the Ames Brothers. Pinky and Herman are twins, if most decidedly of the fraternal variety: Herman’s a little loudmouth, while Pinky’s a big guy with a big temper. Their big claim to fame, at least according to the history books, is their attempted escape from the prison, but what isn’t known to most is their concerted effort to find the gold hidden in the depths of Alcatraz, a plan enacted with the assistance of one of the guards: Officer Donovan, played effectively by Frank Whaley. I don’t know if this truly qualifies as a bottle episode, what with all of the flashbacks (not to mention the last scene with Donovan, which takes place in New Alcatraz, or whatever you want to call it), but it’s certainly the first time that virtually the entire proceedings have taken place on Alcatraz itself, both in the past and in the present.
As ever, Jonny Coyne’s work as Warden James is a great deal of fun, particularly this week, both with his contributions to the church service and his gleeful exclamation while standing over the gold. Pinky also proved at times to be better written than I was expecting, offering subtleties of character that belied his general Hulk-smash attitude throughout the majority of the episode. I also enjoyed Hauser’s refusal to stop going after Pinky and Donovan even after he’d been shot. When Madsen asks him if he’s up for it, he all but growls in pain as he replied, “No problem.” That’s right: Hauser’s a bad-ass.
All told, though, “The Ames Brothers” felt like one of the weaker entries of the series, possibly because of its semi-bottle nature. It had its moments, particularly with the elaborate nature of the plan devised by Donovan and the brothers, including the keys, but it just didn’t pop like some of the other episodes…like, say, “Sonny Burnett.”
With each passing episode, I’m growing increasingly tired of the crime of the week, as I’d much rather the series continued to delve further into the mystery that intrigued me in the first place, namely the ‘63s and how they came to make their transition into the present. Still, if nothing else “Sonny Burnett” provided a crime that wasn’t just by the numbers, instilling the kidnapping scheme with extra depth by revealing what led him to go after the family of his original victim. Also, if Warden James had his chance to shine in “The Ames Brothers,” then this installment gave Deputy Warden Tiller a few moments in the spotlight.
For the most part, though, it was the present-day material that made the episode so strong. It’s increasingly clear that either they don’t know what they want to do with Robert Forster’s character or they do know but are just biding their time ‘til they get the chance to do it. Either way, just having Robert Forster in an episode never fails to up the level of class. For my moments, the best moments came courtesy of Hauser and Doc Beauregard, with the latter revealing the unique properties of the blood of the ‘63s, specifically the appearance of colloidal silver in their veins. Given Hauser’s order to Beauregard at the end of the episode, it seems reasonable to hope that we’ll see more of Lucy next week, which is good, as she was woefully absent from both of this week’s episodes.
Oh, and the best line of either episode this week? Soto’s reaction to Hauser’s orders to bring Burnett back alive: “He does realize he's the only one who shoots them, right?”
Sorry for such a scattershot wrap-up. I promise to be back to normal next week.