Alcatraz is without a doubt one of the finest productions brought o the small screen in 2012. For those who believe that this series is simply a “cop show”, such people are missing the entire “Single Effect” and the deeper human meaning in each episode of this outstanding series.
As the series keeps getting better each week building the mystery of the back story to the Alcatraz story arc, we have witnessed a group stirring up impatient fans who want to know the series secrets “now” rather than savor the slow “simmer” of the feast unfolding before their very eyes.
Before a special analysis, we include “The Ames Brothers / Sonny Burnett” promotional trailer courtesy of FOX Broadcasting.
Alcatraz Ratings Analysis:
A certain group portrays itself as an expert on the fate of television programming, enticing fans with sensational headlines to stop watching certain programs, claiming they will be canceled suggesting viewers watch other programs that these so called experts claim “will be saved”. Have you ever paid attention to whose “saved” programs are being advertised on their web site? Keep reading. Answers about these so-called experts will be revealed shortly.
Starting with a series high in the USA of 9.98 million Alcatraz viewers, the “Johnny McKee” episode garnered a healthy 5.98 million viewers with a 1.8 rating in the critical 18 to 49 year old market segment. This segment of fans, for any series, are the persons whom do most of the purchasing of product advertised during any given series (cars, cell phones, computers, restaurants and etcetera).
During our verification of the ratings, the self proclaimed so-called television experts “TV By The Numbers” (TVBTN) were once again observed throwing hand grenades after pouring gasoline on the fine work by Warner Brothers with regard to the Alcatraz series as broadcast on FOX Networks.
Attempting to set the show ablaze with their incorrect assessments, they threw a few more grenades this week stating “This Rock won’t be getting a suite at “The Fairmont”, [It will be] Canceled”. For those who do not know, since TVBTN did not explain what they meant, “The Fairmont” is a famous five star hotel located in San Francisco.
Why should anyone believe these charlatans? If their staff cannot even construct a complete sentence of English, then how can their predictions about whether programs will be renewed or not ever be trusted?
These people have been wrong so many times you would think they would learn to do even a modicum of real analysis of television revenue sources (which are varied among television networks; meaning that raw numbers do not often determine a shows renewal or not).
We suggest that you do not forget the mistakes TVBTN have made over the years about series that would be “canceled” in their first, second, third, or even fourth year. To that point let me share only a few of many dozens of examples of how incorrect “TV By The Numbers” has been and why you should not drink the TV By The Numbers ‘Kool-Aid’.
Are you listening TVBTN? We hope so. Thank you.
The episode opens with Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) and Dr. Milton Beauregard (Leon Rippy) at the secret underground hospital. Hauser and Beauregard are observed with Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra) who remains unconscious after being made comatose by Alcatraz sniper Ernest Cobb.
A bit of a prank flavored with the truth is played on the unsuspecting Emerson Hauser by Milton Beauregard. Milton says that reading to Lucy may help her regain consciousness. Beauregard appears to hand Hauser “The Carpetbaggers” by Harold Robbins, referring to the fictional novel as a “classic piece” of literature.
Things may not be as they seem at this juncture. Later in the episode Dr. Beauregard will refer to the novel as “pulp”. This is not to denigrate Mr. Robbins fine work since the term “pulp” refers to the low quality of the paper used, not the fact that tens of millions enjoy these novels general entertainment value. It must be noted that Mr. Robbins is a legend in the genre of fictional writing. We will return to this enjoyable epiphany by Dr. Beauregard at the end of our analysis.
We see this all the time on social media such as Twitter and Facebook when misguided people attack or bait others, drawing incorrect conclusions based on their own misperceptions of reality often skewed by inner frustration and low self esteem.
In Alcatraz, the antagonist, one Johnny McKee (Adam Rothenberg) is the next inmate whisked to 2012 from 1963. McKee was serving a sentence in Alcatraz for killing dozens of his football team classmates at a class reunion by poisoning them with ZYKLON A which is closely related to ZYKLON B used by the Nazi’s in World War Two to murder millions of innocent people.
Why did Johnny kill them? They had pulled a practical joke prank on him with the girl (Ginny) he was sweet on. For their prank, 42 of them ultimate received an untimely reward, death by cyanide administered by sprinkler system much like the Nazi’s who executed millions of people with whom they disagreed with, made into scapegoats as cover for their nefariously foul agenda of hate and death filled body politic.
Even his own sweetheart, Ginny Winters, the young girl he had a crush on, was “rewarded” for participating in the prank. Her gift was acid splashed on her face disfiguring her for life. In fact, Johnny was so obsessed with her he did have regrets for what he did (to her) with dreams of her once beautiful face. Johnny kept a picture of her with the disfigured face in his cell in Alcatraz as a reminder of what he had done to “Ginny”.
We first observe Johnny in 2012 working as a bartender in a night club in San Francisco. Like most haters, he appears normal at first glance. We learn our first clue about Johnny McKee when a patron comes up to the bar demanding proper beverage service like many people in bars. He simply wants to get his friend drunk during his bachelor party so he can get him laid later.
You know the type in real life; Always looking for an excuse to “get even” and put themselves at the “top of the totem pole” usually at the expense of others.
Johnny McKee is just such a person. After trying to share some words of wisdom with the Asian bar patron; “We can brave humans law, but we cannot resist natural ones”, McKee is rebuffed. The words of noted author Jules Verne mean nothing to the patron , referring to McKee “as a loser”.
Within seconds of consumption the man who ordered the drink is dead from quick acting poison. So too is the bridegroom and his friends all of whom did nothing to deserve being murdered.
However, as we often observe in real life, when someone like evil sick minded Johnny McKee wants revenge they do not care what happens to innocent bystanders. McKee neatly folds up his barman’s apron departing the scene of the crime with a look of perverted satisfaction plastered across his evil face.
We join Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia) playing video games in the “Bat Cave” while monitoring various other Internet videos and data feeds.
Diego, well known for being a geek, is a video game “Grand Master” talking into his head set (to his opponent) about a “four gate rush” in “World of Warcraft” being child’s play. Suddenly Diego’s attention is drawn to the subject of his deep knowledge, that of the missing Alcatraz prisoners from 1963, so video game over for now!
As we now know, this unique knowledge is the primary reason that Emerson Hauser selected him to be Rebecca Madsen’s (Sarah Jones) partner on his secret team. Sure enough a facial recognition software scan confirms Diego’s worst fears, it IS Johnny McKee, master poison mixologist! Diego alerts Rebecca, waking her up before they both head to the scene of the crime.
As we learn a bit later, Johnny McKee, like all the Alcatraz inmates from 1963, is unfamiliar with the Internet offering instant information. This impediment throughout the series has afforded Hauser, Madsen and Soto a distinct advantage. Madsen and Soto investigate the crimes scene at the bar and quickly conclude that McKee is up to his old tricks seeking retribution if anyone gets in his way.
As we have tweeted many times, the “slammer” sounds taking us back to 1960’s is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the series. This marks a clear line of temporal demarcation between the “now” and the “then” that has plagued other series fans who lose track of what is where when.
We segue to Alcatraz prison exercise yard where McKee is playing with his “killing jar”. We meet fictional kingpin Mike Cullen portrayed by science fiction screen legend and renowned character actor Gary Chalk (Stargate SG-1, Eureka, Supernatural, The Killing) who orders McKee to kill another inmate, the prison librarian, whom is making “shivs” or knife like weapons against his wishes.
McKee is reticent, asking what he, Mike Cullen will do if he (McKee) does not follow his orders. Cullen is blunt indicating that McKee will be the victim rather than the librarian. It is here that we learn during this encounter, and the following sequence that McKee takes orders from no one.
McKee, when younger had a healthy fascination with the works of famed author Jules Verne which he shared with his sweetheart, who turned on him. This kicked off McKee’s obsession, warping his memories of Jules Verne into the themes of his crimes.
Needing a new place of employment, McKee seeks out a fitness club of what appears to be wealthy patrons. Prior to being hired McKee sees the video of the deaths at the club and becomes a bit concerned his act has been publicized so quickly. Once hired it does not take long for another innocent human being to run afoul with McKee, calling him “towel boy” in a condescending manner.
So get this straight people the next time you call somebody “towel boy” (or “towel girl” for that matter), be careful or you could become an unwitting victim of the likes of a Johnny McKee!
McKee places some of his favorite poison in the swimming pool filtration system quickly killing all the swimmers. The cinematography by the film crew excels at this point with an underwater visage looking up at McKee from the perspective of the dead swimmers.
Bravo Alcatraz team for an excellent camera angle!
Perhaps this reviewer should also remind everyone that we should all learn to be a bit more sympathetic with the people providing us with goods and services? Why? You simply never know who may be the next Johnny McKee waiting to get even with YOU and ME!
I was hoping that Gary Chalk (as Mike Cullen) would not become an Alcatraz “Red Shirt” because he is such a fine actor and very believable in all of his roles. Unfortunately, no such luck for Gary Chalk.
Nevertheless, now armed and after trading a girlie magazine with the “shiv” dealing librarian, McKee seeks to solve his problem.
McKee uses the prepared poison tipped “shiv” stabbing Mike Cullen with it during the weekly entertainment movie featuring 1950’s “Melon Girl” Mamie Van Doren starring in “Born Reckless” (1958). The viewers now know there is one less inmate that will make the journey back to 2012 from 1963.
In this scene before Cullen is eliminated, murdered by McKee (which actually occurs in the last 20 minutes of the episode), Jonny Coyne as Warden Edwin James delivers a powerful bit of real life philosophy to the inmates about western films and their often portrayed theme; that of “good triumphing over evil”, James accurately identifies that such a theme does not apply to “these decrepit masses” of Alcatraz. Coyne is a superb actor, outstanding in his portrayal of the Alcatraz Warden in the 1960’s.
We can clearly see that these criminals inside Alcatraz, and other sick people we may have encountered in real life have no concern for the pain they bring others in their lust for seeking retribution.
As my grandfather taught me when I was a young man “Everyone is (mentally) sick, some are just sicker than others”. This was Warden James message artfully delivered by Jonny Coyne about people that are “Born Reckless”.
About a third of the way through McKee’s killing spree, we were delighted to learn via Soto and Madsen’s investigative talents that Jack Sylvane (Jeffrey Pierce) was in the adjoining cell next to McKee. Hauser reluctantly agrees to let Madsen see Sylvane to gain insight into what “drives” Johnny McKee. It is as this point that we learn of the Jules Verne obsession and the girlfriend named Ginny which figure prominently into the insane nature of McKee’s lust for revenge and hatred.
There is additional insight into Emerson Hauser as well that this reviewer is convinced will feature heavily in later episodes of Alcatraz. Specifically, Jack Sylvane accuses Hauser of something about “giving him to Beauregard again”.
In the beginning of the series we know that Beauregard played a key role in the 1960’s at Alcatraz as well as in 2012. Just what it means is a “red herring” left dangling for the viewers to theorize about. I have several theories we will cover before season one ends.
This sequence clearly illustrates the distrust that Sylvane has for Hauser who states “he will get nothing” for cooperating. Rebecca Madsen is a bit more in tune with what to do to obtain cooperation from prisoners offering Sylvane a picture of his deceased wife.
The “trade” works and Sylvane is forthcoming about Johnny McKee’s past, the girlfriend, his revenge and a “The Future is Now” quote from Jules Verne. These are the most important clues viewers need to pay attention to. Clue one is “the hole under the hole” reference by Jack Sylvane obviously a hint at however they all got back to 2012. The second is the “secret code” to McKee’s OCD actions.
Everything McKee is doing following his blueprint from Jules Verne’s novels. Before figuring it all out about the subway beneath the bay “The Future Is Now” where the final sequence plays out, there is a reference to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.
BART is referred to as the “San Francisco Transit Authority” or SFTA because as Alcatraz co-creator Steven Lilien stated on Twitter, there were “clearance issues” using the name BART (click here for official site).
McKee is visited in 1960 by Lucy Sangupta (Parminder Nagra) and Warden James (Jonny Coyne). Two sequences fill out the story of McKee’s hatred and what drove him to poison his classmates. He had been setup by his classmates and had an explosive device go off near his testicles leaving him half castrated. Lucy figures it all out so that we the viewing audience can gain understanding into the warping of the human mind. Such warping often affects many so-called “normal people” we all interact with on a daily basis.
Hauser, Madsen, and Soto track down a secret lab where McKee has been cooking up Phosgene, a poison gas leaving a trace odor of fresh cut grass. McKee plans to use the poison gas on the subway under the San Francisco bay to kill a bunch of innocent people as an additional chapter in his own “book” following the pattern set in Jules Verne’s novels.
Fortunately, Hauser, Madsen and Soto put all the clues together and apprehend Johnny McKee before he kills again. This is another nice sequence when we are led to believe that McKee will be electrically barbequed on the “third rail” that powers the subway. This is not to be and McKee will be taken to Hauser’s duplicate cell block of Alcatraz likely to be placed next to Jack Sylvane perhaps to appear again in the future.
In a final flashback to 1960, Lucy wants to know how he managed to kill Mike Cullen in a room filled with 40 inmates. In this flashback we learn, via a meeting alluded to earlier between McKee, Warden James and Lucy Sangupta (Banerjee), McKee’s hatred is about “bullies”, whom like Mike Cullen is delineated, and eliminated by Johnny as “pay back”.
McKee, after his date with Virginia (Ginny) Winters, was setup and lured to the top of the gymnasium roof where his balls were blown off by her male friends, the school bullies in McKee’s mind from the football team. This is what set it all in motion ending in Johnny McKee’s apprehension once again in 2012.
When his manhood was physically taken, McKee’s sanity departed and he began using the various Jules Verne story arcs in his favorite novels to get even with anyone, everyone and all of humanity over and over again for the perceived injustice heaped upon him (much like Verne’s “Captain Nemo” in “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”).
This bit of knowledge is known to to Warden James, Lucy, and we the viewers. However these facts about what motivated McKee are not known to Hauser, Madsen and Soto because Lucy is still unconscious from being shot by the sniper Ernest Cobb in an earlier episode.
All this will certainly come into play as we observe the very last scene, a tender moment with Emerson Hauser, Dr. Milton Beauregard and an unconscious Lucy that occurs subsequent to an encounter between Jack Sylvane and Hauser.
Sylvane returns the picture of his wife demanding to know what is going to happen to the Alcatraz survivors. He no longer wants to see pictures of people dead over the past 50 years and hopes it is all a nightmare.
Hauser says that “nothing has changed”, when Sylvane interrupts and corrects him that he has changed, informing Hauser that “I don’t dream” as he turns his back on Hauser. This revelation will more than likely become important as the mystery of Alcatraz unfolds.
Dr. Milton Beauregard has his prank with Emerson as he picks up the book to read to Lucy. The book is not the classic pulp fiction novel “The Carpetbaggers” (Beauregard had used a dust cover earlier), but is instead “The Metamorphoses of Ovid” from the Greek language meaning “transformations”.
As Hauser begins to read passages, we all know that “transformations” are what must happen to Lucy so as to enlighten us all about what key knowledge she is in possession of that will reveal the secrets of Alcatraz!
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