Alcatraz Review: To Catch a Thief

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I know I've already mentioned one of my biggest fears about Alcatraz and its potential use of random bad guys merely for the sake of fueling that larger mystery of why they've returned.

And don't get me wrong, I'm just as eager to know that enigma as much as the next viewer, but "Cal Sweeney" lacked a certain tenacity or suspense when it came to the past or the present, before simply throwing in a clever cliffhanger that was there to keep you coming back for more.

But if that's the case, then really, tuning in to the last five minutes was about all you needed this week.

Sure, there was an interesting comment from Dr. Lucy Banerjee, known as Dr. Gupta in the past, about rewiring inmates and erasing their memories. The concept at least is a potential tie in to the particular returnee inmates and their reasons for running around, killing people and capturing keys for an unnamed boss for an unnamed reason.

Alcatraz Trio

But when it came to the storytelling and any real form of character development, the plot felt like a compilation of already used stories while not providing any real significant connection to the past flashbacks or improving on our three main heroes of the present.

It truly felt like everything that took place was there to serve the purpose of those final moments of finding the key, illustrating that Emerson Hauser has no idea what they are for, and that Alcatraz holds a well locked mysterious room.

I wish that Eric Johnson, who played Cal Sweeney, had gotten more to do other than be moving scenery. He exuded a certain charm and charisma and I've enjoyed Johnson on other shows like Smallville, but there was just no method to his character's madness. It was smile one moment, seduce a teller, kill random people, and then oh, yeah, the last job you do before you get captured is the one where you get the key.

I mean, huh? Why rob those other banks? Why kill those random people when his M.O. never called for it? Why use a weapon from No Country for Old Men? At least he had a better haircut during his crime spree.

And moving from one bank to the next lacked in any real payoff aside from the key. Even the use of the Inside Man switcheroo of pretending to be a SWAT team member lacked in originality.

To top it off, Cal was so quickly caught and "problem solved" by merely crashing the car. I was left speechless. It was really that easy? Oh, wait, it's because the hour of the episode was almost up.

It just didn't make any sense from a storytelling point and, realistically, Cal Sweeney could have been any bad guy you wanted because his story didn't add anything to the larger plot. Even the flashbacks didn't do much except reveal that his family died in a fire and he was outsmarted by another inmate.

Why does that matter? And maybe questions like that might be answered down the line, but I can't really foresee that happening.

I still find Diego Soto to be the most entertaining character, with his comic book background and freshness to the world of "on the scene" crime. Or maybe I just really like Jorge Garcia in the role. Either way, best line of the night included Emerson questioning Diego's driving skills. Great eye roll by Sam Neil.

But even something like that couldn't save the fact that the main characters were just moving pieces towards those final five minutes.

It's disappointing because I like the show, I liked the possibility of the bad guy introduced this week and I'm still fascinated by the larger story, but the series can't survive on cliffhangers alone. There has to be some sort of depth involved for a good portion of the hour.

TI know it's early and I still have hope for Alcatraz. There's plenty of strong potential and material just waiting to be tapped and I hope it is, resulting in intrigue and mystery, compelling stories and compelling characters. Without that, the show could very well disappear like its vanishing inmates.

Cal Sweeney Review

Editor Rating: 2.1 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.1 / 5.0 (84 Votes)

Sean McKenna was a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. He retired in May of 2017. Follow him on Twitter.

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Alcatraz Season 1 Episode 4 Quotes

Rebecca: So, how do we get in that bank?
Diego: Wait? You agreed without a plan?

You can't care about anyone or anything. As soon as they see a soft spot they grab you by the soft hair.