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Hello my fellow Alcatraz fans,

I hope that you enjoyed this double dose of danger as much as I did. We were treated to not one, but two episodes this week (no thanks to NASCAR) pre-empting last week’s episode.20th Century Fox banner - Click to learn more about Alcatraz at FOX Broadcasting!

First before we start let’s take a sneak peek of next week’s startling episode. We get a glimpse at what happens when a man is wrongly imprisoned and what happens to make him a killer.

The Ames Brothers:

Alcatraz S1x09 - The secret briefcaseOkay…here we go. The thing I liked most about the Ames Brothers episode is how it had shades of a suspense/horror movie to it. It definitely dabbled in more ways than one in that genre. From the dark and stormy night on The Rock to the way it shot, in low light with shadows casting themselves eerily on the walls of the prison.

Bravo to Stephen McNutt, who proved that he is the master of the dark and creepy. He managed to keep that element of suspense throughout by the lighting, or lack thereof, in this case dur to a storm knocking out power on Alcatraz S1x09 - Before power failureAlcatraz.

The episode begins with Pinky Ames (Graham Shiels) on a tour of Alcatraz like any tourist seeking out the most famous prison in the world. He enters a cell (which I assume used to be his) and Pinky’s reaction is visceral, well done by Graham as you can see it in his eyes. The memory of what it must have been like is definitely felt in his reaction to the tour guide yelling ‘Rack’em”

Alcatraz S1x09-Pinky in cell

The mess hall scene where Pinky is sitting with his brother Herman (Travis Aaron Wade), Pinky seems more like the brawn instead of the brains of the duo. He is a man of little words, but more muscle than required. Herman is the one that is more violent, a hot head, short tempered…yet once they come back to the present, the opposite is true.

Alcatraz S1x09-Herman in mess hall

The spoon comment in that scene made me snicker, I could not help but think of one of my favorite quotes from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and the comment The Sheriff of Nottingham (played by the always brilliant Alan Rickman) made about cutting out someone’s heart with a spoon because it is duller so it will hurt more.

When we learn that the Ames brothers are indeed twins, it made me think about how one twin always seems to be more dominant than the other. How Pinky earned his nickname and the fact that as appropriate as it may be, it is also a feminine name. That nickname is usually associated with women and not a man of his size.

One of my favorite character actors is in this episode Frank Whaley who brings his Donovan character to life so perfectly. He always seems to have this golly-gee way about him, but yet still have a mystery to him that at any moment he can turn on you.

Alcatraz S1x09-Donovan

Alcatraz S1x09 - Rebecca arrives one stormy nightThe umbrella comment made by Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) is the one thing that I whole-heartedly disagree with. As a native born and raised in this amazing city, I am used to the fact that an umbrella is a necessary accessory to my everyday life. That is one of the things that makes this city so unique…wait five minutes and the weather will change.

I love that Jorge Garcia is the comic relief to a certain extent in this show, he has great one liners and that is ever present in the nicknames he gives Hauser’s men behind the door. It reminded me of Goodfellas when Ray Liotta gets introduced to other mobsters like Tommy Two Times or Jimmy No-Nose, the mystery of who these guys are and what they do.Alcatraz S1x09 - Diego reacts to lightnng flash

The comment that Rebecca makes about the one thing this place needs is creepy lighting is great because that is all that there is in that episode. It gives the feel of the suspense/horror movie. It gives it that creepy element of what lurks in the shadows, what’s behind the door.

I loved the device that one of Hauser’s men used in the cell room. It reminded me of a device that might have been used on Fringe perhaps. Something that Walter Bishop (John Noble) would have used to calibrate something coming from somewhere. I do not know if the writers meant that as homage to Fringe, but if it is…well done.

Alcatraz S1x09-Briefcase device

Jorge does a wonderful job at conveying the fear of isolation when he is put into the solitary confinement cell by the brothers. That is palpable, you can see it in his eyes and in the way he moves or does not move his body. I do not blame him for that feeling I would be feeling the same thing.

Alcatraz S1x09-Soto caught

Alcatraz S1x09 - Warden James and his minionsThe scene with Diego Soto and the Ames brothers is great because he tries to help them in a way. It is a good thing that he is an expert, because that knowledge comes in handy when trying to figure out what their goal is.

I love his reaction to the fact that they are after the mythical gold that has been talked about as legend for so long. He becomes this child in search of a buried treasure and the map in his hands is the key.Alcatraz S1x09 - Warden James speech in prison church

The scene with Warden James (Jonny Coyne) discussing the difference between religion and spirituality is brilliant. He is one of the reasons I love this show so much. He has a way about him that can be charismatic, but with a cruel intention behind it. The opposite is true in the case of the Ames Brothers…they are seeking the reward not the answers as Pinky points out.

Alcatraz S1x09-Warden James preaching

Alcatraz S1x09 - Rebecca Madsen on alertI think that Sarah Jones does a great job in this episode. She brings her A game to this episode, she holds her own very well against hardened criminals (which Hauser makes a comment about in the next episode). She may be petite but packs a punch, reminds me of another blonde, kick ass cop on another J.J. Abrams show.

When Madsen is walking through the cell block in the dark and with the storm raging outside, it again reminds me of a suspense thriller. I do not know how she did not get freaked out, I would have. Alcatraz S1x09 - Rebecca Madsen finds Donovan

I mean here you are in the most notorious jail in the world, with the most hardened criminals coming back to life and you are essentially alone? No thank you!

When Madsen meets Donovan (Frank Whaley) I think she has an inkling that something is amiss with this guy. That he just happened to be left behind? Being the good detective that she is her gut is screaming at her, but she also needs to focus on finding Soto.

Alcatraz S1x09-Meeting Ranger Donovan

Once the Ames Brothers are confronted with Madsen and all heck breaks loose, the tension builds and the slopiness of the brothers is met with Herman getting shot and dying. This is what sets Pinky off, it is what drives him further and further into finding the gold, seeking the reward as he so aptly put it. Revenge is the foremost thought in his mind. He wants to make someone pay for the death of his brother.

Alcatraz S1x09-Herman dead

The thing I found interesting is that where else but a prison would you hide bricks of gold. It is the perfect place, surrounded by guards and in the middle of the bay on solid rock. I wonder if that myth were actually true, and if so how would they have gotten the bricks off the island without anyone noticing?

It is great to see David Hoflin (Tommy Madsen) again. The mystery of why he is still in the infirmary and why they are constantly drawing his blood has yet to be solved.

Alcatraz S1x09-Tommy Madsen

Alcatraz S1x09 - Pinky in the cell block during lightning strikeThe scene with Pinky limping through the cell block with the lightning striking and him chanting reminds me again of the zombie movies of old. Especially since Pinky is such a big man and does not move as easily. His characters fate sealed the moment he steps back into the fold.

It is not a surprise that there is no gold in the end when Donovan finally reaches his destination. I did not think there wouldAlcatraz S1x09-Bricks of gold be. The scene with Donovan strapped to the chair is so cool. He is now getting a taste of his own medicine, what it is like to be locked up and restrained.

The ending scene with Warden James greeting the bricks of gold affectionately is brilliant as only Jonny Coyne can play it. Great episode all around, well done with the suspense and the feel of isolation. I enjoyed this episode immensely, so far my favorite one.

Alcatraz S1x09 - Warden James finds the gold

Sonny Burnett:

Now…onto the Sonny Burnett episode, this one is probably the most violent to date. I had a hard time watching it because of the violence. It was a true testament to how well they did, if I was squeamish about it.

I like that Ray Archer (Robert Forster) asked Hauser (Sam Neill) to take Rebecca off his task force. The scolding Ray gets from Hauser is perfect, he tells him how he is glad that he turned him down and that Rebecca was his better choice. Great job by both men two great actors in a short scene that says volumes. I have love Forster for years, he is always been such a great character actor.

Alcatraz S1x10-Ray's bar

The scene with Tommy Madsen sitting and watching Rebecca sleeping is creepy but cool. I find it interesting that even though she has never met her grandfather she doesn’t seem to have any kind of empathy or kinship with him. He is her family, but yet does not feel anything but hatred for him and what he has caused in her life.

Alcatraz S1x10- Tommy watching Rebecca

This episode was not only violent but disturbing at times. Here is a man (Theo Rossi) who started out one thing and ended up another. He wasn’t a violent man at first, but prison made him that way. You see his transformation throughout this episode, how he started and how he ended.

Theo Rossi did a fantastic job at bringing that diabolical killer to life. He did a wonderfully creepy job of making your skin crawl, of running and hiding the moment he was in sight. He was brilliant at tapping into that side of himself that was not human but pure evil.

Alcatraz S1x10-Theo Rossi & a gun

I like that Tiller (Jason Butler Harner) says to Burnett “time to enter the jungle” which is exactly where he is. The survival of the fittest, kill or be killed, predator vs. prey. There is no escape from the jungle.

The first time we really see what kind of person Burnett was is when he is asking Hicks for protection in prison. If he were a violent man and could hold his own, he would not be asking him at all, he would be feared and not have any problems adjusting. Alas that is not the case here, he does need it because despite the fact that he is a criminal he was not a murderer or killer, just a kidnapper.

Alcatraz S1x10-Burnett asking Hicks for protection

The comment that Rebecca says about Hauser being only human and Soto’s retort is very funny. Again, I like how Garcia can lighten the mood or provide the comic relief in the scene.

When Rebecca and Doc are talking to Helen Campbell (Wendy Crewson) about what happened to her husband and she mentions that the same thing happened to her, it doesn’t surprise me at all. There is method in the madness Burnett, how he has a purpose and is determined no matter what to carry it out.

I also found it interesting that Hauser had Doc Beauregard (Leon Rippy) test Tommy’s blood only to find traces of colloidal silver. That reminds me of the myth behind silver and what it does to vampires and werewolves. It also makes me think that maybe Tommy is ‘different’ in some way, but the same, much like the shape shifters in Fringe. They may look and sound like normal human beings, but they are most certainly not.

Alcatraz S1x10- Doc Beauregard

When Helen describes the first time she met Sonny, it reminds me of Bonnie & Clyde and how they met and what the crimes that they committed. That she was young and had no choice at the time but do what he asked. There is a difference between the two, but there are similarities as well.

The shot of San Francisco is gorgeous. I am very proud that they use non-traditional shots of my beloved city.

Alcatraz S1x10-San Francisco

The scenes in the prison are the ones where you see the transformation of Burnett, how he went from kidnapper to killer. How his environment ultimately ended up shaping him and who he became. He had a choice either accept his environment and live with it or rail against it and be miserable. He chose (not on his own) to live with it.

The statement the Warden makes about natural selection and kill or be killed is what ends up happening to him. The jungle is what keeps him alive, he chose to become the predator not the prey, no coddling ‘there is no such thing as doing time’, Tiller tells him.

Alcatraz S1x10-Kill or be Killed

The scene in Berkeley Downs with the horses reminds me of The Godfather, only in reverse. Instead of the horse’s head in the bed it is the human head in the stables. I do not know if that was intentional, but nice homage, well done! Jones is visibly shaken walking away from the stables after seeing the head…it shook her to her core.

Alcatraz S1x10-Don't Look in the bag

The violence in this episode feels real, feels like it jumps off the screen. When Burnett is in Helen’s house and he is tormenting her you feel just as terrified as she is. The way it was shot in very close was great because it gave that sense of invasion, that sense of uneasiness and violation of space. Well done by Rossi and how visceral he made me feel.

This episode is almost a lesson in karma, about what happens when a decision that you made years ago comes back to haunt you. What she did is now costing her years later.

The scene of Burnett working out in his cell means his mind is made up. He has become predator not prey and from that moment on he crossed the line and never looked back. The scene in the prison yard is brutal, but necessary to show the change in him, to show what he turned into.

Alcatraz S1x10-Burnett's transformation

Now comes the scene that just made me cringe in every way shape and form. The scene with Danielle Campbell (Jessie Fraser) in the box is one of my worst nightmares. She was brilliant in conveying the fear and utter terror of being buried alive. Although she was not helping her situation by screaming loudly, her air is limited and it made it worse.

Alcatraz S1x10-Buried Alive

The last part of the episode is a culmination of what happened in his journey. It showed the transformation (which is used a few times in this episode) of what he became, the monster that was unleashed once pushed to the brink of sanity. When Sonny disfigured Hicks in the yard he did send a message to everyone, he did make it worse. He wanted him to live and know that for the rest of his life he paid the price.

Alcatraz S1x10 Burnett's revenge

James and Tiller have always had this weird connection to each other, they have this weird little one-up game with each other. In the end though, James has the last word…literally, perfection. The warning he gives Tiller is as deadly as they come, cross him and feel the wrath, you mess with the bull you get the horns.

Great episodes all around this week, glad that they showed both together it was perfect harmony. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed the episodes as much as I did.

See you next week!

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Until next time,

Regards,

Lori

1 Comment

  • WR_Systems says:

    Hey Lori,

    Another superb analysis. Thank you.

    I too enjoyed the dark cinematography of “The Ames Brothers” as well as the ‘other’ secrets of Alcatraz, the Civil War Gold and Emerson Hausers ‘electronic briefcase’. Certainly wonder what’s up with those!

    Sonny Burnett did remind me of “The Godfather” and “Bonnie & Clyde”. The series hints at the secrets especially the scenes with Donovan and Emerson Hauser abort the keys in “The Ames Brothers”!

    Thanks again.

    Best Regards,

    Kenn

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