This week’s episode of Alcatraz, “Johnny McKee” doesn’t start off with a bang like the rest have. We start with Dr. Banerjee still in a coma and Dr. Beauregard suggesting that Hauser read her a story. Not the typical bombs exploding-sniper attacking beginning we are used to seeing. But from there, “Johnny McKee” becomes Alcatraz’s most tightly woven and interesting episode so far.
We meet Johnny McKee working at a club serving drinks when a rude customer shakes him off as a weirdo after having quoted some Jules Verne and demands he just make the drinks. Unfortunately for him, McKee is an expert with chemicals and serves him and all his buddies a deadly concoction as he watches them all drink to their deaths. After a video goes viral of the club, Soto, Madsen and Hauser go on the search for McKee and his next potential poisoning victim.
As it turns out McKee killed with chemicals, attacking over 70 people and even killing most of his high school class at his 15-year reunion, mostly football players.
McKee goes on to work as a towel boy, where after he has a demanding patron throw a wet towel at him and ask him for a fresh one, it isn’t long until McKee poisons the pool water, leaving it full of old dead white guys. Among McKee’s belongings, Soto and Madsen find a picture of a girl severely burned named Ginny. To get more information on McKee, they go talk to the prisoner who was in the cell next to him: Jack Sylvane. After stating that he has no idea how he got to the present either, Sylvane talks about how McKee would use the plants from the gardens on Alcatraz to make poisons to kill bugs he caught in what he called his “killing jar.” McKee also shared with Sylvane how he once had a girl named Ginny whom he spent a magical evening with, yet he doesn’t know what happened to her. Sylvane also brings up some key questions that will surely leave Madsen questioning Hauser, such as who is Dr. Beauregard and where is Sylvane being held in the present?
In the 1960s, we see that McKee was told by Mikey Cullen, a person McKee considers a bully, to kill the jail’s librarian, who has been selling shivs. McKee dips a shiv purchased from the librarian in some of his cell-made poison and plans on stabbing him during movie night at the jail. When the movie finishes up, the librarian walks away unharmed, yet Cullen is left dead in his seat.
When Madsen, Hauser and Soto find McKee’s current base of operations, an abandoned school building, they put together that McKee’s next target seems to be the subway, a killing jar for people. The three make it to the subway just in time to capture McKee. We then flash to the past to see Dr. Banerjee questioning McKee about his past, since their first visit at the beginning of the episode wasn’t very fruitful. Banerjee questions McKee about Ginny. When he is unresponsive, Banerjee reminds him of the dark past, how Ginny got him onto the roof, got him naked and then the lights turned on revealing the entire football team ready to throw firecrackers at him—one of which hits him in the genitals, injuring him, and leaving McKee to seek revenge on bullies. By the end, we see Hauser has taken Dr. Beauregard’s advice and sits down to read Banerjee one of her favorite stories, Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
What makes “Johnny McKee” a stand-out episode is how the writers have finally combined past criminal, modern-day problems and the show’s overriding mythology into an episode that makes all these usually separate parts work together. The idea of using past criminals to help with newer crimes is one that will hopefully stay consistent, and the ideas of dreams throughout the episode lead me to wonder if there isn’t something deeper there. We learn that Banerjee is dreaming in her coma, that McKee used to dream of Ginny’s face and also that current-day Sylvane no longer dreams. This seems like too much coincidence to not mean anything down the line.
Hopefully with “Johnny McKee,” the writers of Alcatraz have finally figured out how to make all of their puzzle pieces connect into a quite interesting story for further episodes.