Last week’s two-episode series premiere felt like it was strongly influenced by J.J. Abrams’ other great Fox show, Fringe, but this week’s episode “Kit Nelson” felt strongly like a trip back to the island of Lost in terms of style and tone. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the episode was written by Jennifer Johnson, who co-wrote two of Lost’s best first season episodes, shot by frequent Lost director Jack Bender. Maybe it was the sweeping score by Michael Giacchino, or just the use of flashbacks, underground hatches in the woods or a stand-out performance by Jorge Garcia. But “Kit Nelson” felt like it took a page out of the best parts of Lost without creating problems that many viewers had throughout the show’s entire run.
Kit Nelson is a child murderer whose brother died when he was 11 of scarlet fever…or did he? Nelson grows up killing 11-year-olds, kidnapping them on Friday then having their bodies show up on Sunday, with a chrysanthemum left behind for the grieving mother. With Nelson back in present day, he once again kidnaps a child, leaving Rebecca Madsen and Doc Soto to try and seek him out.
With Madsen and Soto, we see the relationship that these two have in terms of the cases. Because Madsen is a police officer, she is used to handling murders, kidnappings, robberies, and the like, whereas Soto is an Alcatraz encyclopedia who can tell a story through bars of soap and cigarettes left behind by the criminals 50 years prior. The episode shows both of them contemplating leaving this job behind, yet by the end of the show, it’s obvious that if either of these two weren’t working on the case, the child would easily be arriving on Sunday with a flower.
We find out in the episode that Nelson did in fact kill his brother, since he was not the favorite of his mother. He continued to murder and reenact that day in an effort to feel the utter joy he felt when he murdered his brother. Soto remembers that Nelson likes cherry pie and investigates diners in the area, eventually running into Nelson and the boy. After losing him once, Soto and Madsen track him down to an old bomb shelter, which the boy has recently escaped from, and when Nelson catches up with him after a chase, Nelson receives a gunshot to the head from Soto and Madsen’s boss, Emerson Hauser. As the episode draws to a close, we are told that Soto was also kidnapped at a young age. We also see that Hauser has brought the body of Nelson to the newly created Alcatraz and it’s handed over to a seemingly lighthearted doctor.
Which brings me to the point of the carefully handled mysteries. The show knows that it has to keep some mysteries to itself right now as opposed to hiding all the answers and frustrating viewers like Lost or giving all the answers away and losing all viewers, as was the case with Heroes. Why did Hauser still need the body, how did Dr. Banerjee come to present day from the 1960s, and who is sending these criminals to modern day are all interesting questions the show has set up within the first three episodes. But we also receive answers to questions like who the man behind the sheet in the first episode is, as it is revealed to be Tommy Madsen, relative of Rebecca, inmate of Alcatraz and currently escaped in modern day. One question I’m certainly intrigued by is how are these criminals so comfortable decade-hopping? They each seem to have money, aren’t too shocked with their new surroundings and understand modern day conveniences such as the cell phone. Maybe I’m the only one, but I hope we do get a concrete answer on this odd occurrence.
As a fan of Lost, I always enjoyed the work of Jorge Garcia in his mostly supporting role, but I wondered how he would handle being one of the leads in his own show. In this episode, my worries were wiped away. Garcia gives a great performance that plays to his strengths, but doesn’t trap him into being simply Hurley-like. While many have praised Garcia, myself included, for being the more lighthearted element to a somewhat dark show, in “Kit Nelson”, we get to see that there is a darkness hidden deep in the character of Soto and that Garcia is brilliant at pulling off this duel nature.
“Kit Nelson” handles its subjects with great care, slowly giving us answers and character depth without beating it over the heads of the viewers. Alcatraz is doing what it needs to do: giving us interesting criminals week to week while fleshing out its main cast and also leaving a bit of mystery in the mix. It seems like Abrams and his creating team are learning from past mistakes and current successes to create something entirely new, refreshing and exciting, which is always welcome in television.