Alcatraz Review: "Garrett Stillman," "Tommy Madsen" (Episodes 1.12 & 1.13)
When it comes to J.J. Abrams-produced shows such as Alias, Fringe and Lost, their first seasons and finales seem to have much in common. The first seasons become a basic prologue to what the show will become, while the first season finale usually answers some of the questions that have been asked thus far but also raises many more new questions. Take for example, Lost’s first season finale, in which the show had set up the idea of a mysterious hatch and in the finale, the hatch was opened, only leaving the viewers with more questions. The two-hour finale of Alcatraz kind of leaves the audience like the cast of Lost at the end of its first season: looking down at the answers to their questions, yet wondering where exactly that leads them.
When we last saw Dr. Lucy Banerjee, she had just awoken from a coma she had spent several episodes in. At the beginning of “Garrett Stillman,” we see that she’s pretty much recovered, ready to get back to catching the ‘63s. Soto and Madsen confront her about being a ’63 and she mentions that it doesn’t take long to adjust to the fact that record players are no longer prominent, yet not having the people she used to listen to records with is the hardest part. It may have been a bit cheesy, but it was a fine example of what it must be like for these criminals.
We meet Stillman as he’s involved in an armored truck robbery. We quickly see that Stillman isn’t after money but rather the armored trucks themselves. Stillman is a criminal who thinks several steps ahead and knows how to get what he wants in the endgame. He proves this back in Alcatraz as Warden James tasks him to set up a sort of heist to change the parole board’s paperwork to allow Harlan Simmons, another inmate, to be freed. Even though it looks like Stillman has failed, it turns out his plan has worked flawlessly, allowing Simmons to leave The Rock. In the present, we find out that Simmons became a billionaire recluse and that he runs Broadway Mutual, whom Stillman has been taking armored trucks from. His present-day heist leaves him with a key for only a few minutes, when in the comfort of his own home, he is shot by a character known as Ghost, who takes the key. Hauser, Soto and Madsen find him shot, but Tommy Madsen arrives to the house, since he is the handler of Stillman, yet quickly leaves to not be discovered by the team.
This leads into the final hour “Tommy Madsen.” Madsen clearly wants what Ghost has stolen: the key. Ghost is actually a former inmate named Joe Limerick, who after a botched Alcatraz escape attempt, was claimed dead by the team at the prison. Tommy kidnaps a woman who works at the hospital that Limerick is staying at to hide and finds the key holder. Not too long after, Limerick jumps out of the building to keep Tommy from the key and dies. Immediately after his leap, Soto, Madsen and Hauser appear, search the body, and find the third key. This leads to Rebecca chasing after her grandfather Tommy, a confrontation which ends in Tommy asking Rebecca to try to figure out what really happened to her parents before he stabs her and runs.
Throughout the episode we find out that Stillman and Madsen were working together to get something back from Simmons. In addition, Rebecca’s partner, who Tommy shot in the pilot episode, seems to have been on the take from Simmons’ bank.
In the past we see the results of the blood testing on Tommy, revealing he has been given a blood transfusion with nickel-infused blood. This new change has left Tommy feeling more powerful and apparently able to heal faster. Thanks to the help of a new doctor, Matt Craven, Warden James has been able to conduct these experiments, which he calls the fountain of youth.
With Soto at the hospital waiting to hear what happens to Rebecca, Lucy and Hauser return to the underground bunker to see what the third key leads to. As they open the door, they find a map with different buttons scattered all across the United States, each one with a number of a different inmate. According to the map, the Warden and Craven were able to track the prisoners, and they are all over the place. Lucy and Hauser also find Craven on the ground, asking what year it is. When he’s told it is 2012, he just maniacally laughs. As the episode ends, we see Rebecca in the operating room as she flatlines.
“Tommy Madsen” greatly sets up Alcatraz’s second season, if the show gets that far. We’re introduced to plenty of characters that will certainly be more important down the road, such as Simmons and Craven, and the idea of a nationwide search is pretty exciting, since I still maintain that someone would have figured out something by now, with all these odd crimes being centered in San Francisco. Also while Rebecca is supposedly “dead,” I hardly believe that the show would kill off its star. Almost certainly the team will revive her using some of this “magic blood.” But what an amazing twist that would be if she did actually die. The team would surely fracture after this and maybe even get Ray into the action more. It seems like a long shot, but one can hope for such a dramatic change.
“Tommy Madsen” does pretty much what you could expect Bad Robot would do. They answer the questions about the mysterious blood and underground passage, but these answers only ask more questions. The show does need to continue asking questions if Alcatraz is picked up for a second season, but if it isn’t, the show is going to end on a pretty unsatisfying note. With the ratings dipping week by week, the show’s return seems very uncertain.
But Alcatraz has certainly grown in its first season. The procedural aspects have added up to something so much more, by creating a corral of criminals that are still integral to the plot. By the last few episodes, we really see how things are going to work together from here on out, and it’s pretty exciting. Alcatraz finally found its voice; it’ll just be a shame if the show ends on an episode that would work as such an unsatisfactory finale.