With last week’s episode of Alcatraz, “Guy Hastings,” the show took a turn from the formulaic nature the show has taken of adding a new villain, catching him, then having a few minutes at the end of the show’s basic mythology. With this week, “Paxton Petty,” the show returns to that formula, and is lacking because of it.
Petty’s way of terrorizing the modern day is by using bombs, specifically landmines, to blow up random citizens. We learn that Hauser worked on the original case that put Petty in Alcatraz and that they were able to find three bombs he hid, but a fourth one he planted was never found. Petty set traps in Korea in the past that blew up many innocent citizens and is bitter that he is not considered an American hero. Petty also isn’t that hard to find, as he has left clues to his bombs locations in song lyrics. Hauser quickly finds Petty, but in the process of coming after him, steps on a landmine, making him stuck in place so he doesn’t blow up. Madsen and Soto capture Petty at another bomb location and are lead to Hauser. Hauser is able to remove himself from the bomb, but not without blowing up one of Madsen’s friends, a bomb diffuser named Matt Tanner.
A quick aside, I wonder how much time has passed from the pilot to now. I only wonder this because if we are to believe that a new criminal arrives every week, which means in the period of about a month a sniper has shot innocent people in several locations, a child has been kidnapped, a bank robbery/standoff has occurred and a crazed man has laid landmines across the city. Even in a large city like San Francisco, that seems like way too much crime popping up in a short period to be a coincidence.
But anyway, in the past not much history is given about Petty. We learn that Warden James has a more torturous way of getting results from criminals, while Dr. Banerjee is more elaborate and clinical in her approach. Tommy Madsen tries to get Dr. Banerjee to get him answers as to why Dr. Beauregard has been taking so much blood from him, to which Beauregard basically tells Banerjee to mind her own business. The last few episodes have hinted at the blood connection to strongly that at this point, it’ll be surprising if it doesn’t in some way explain how the people from Alcatraz are making it to modern day.
In the end, we see that Hauser and Banerjee had a past together in the ‘60s and in present day with Hauser unsure if Banerjee will be able to make it out of her coma, he steals her from the hospital, takes her to Beauregard and tells him to fix her.
Much like Lost used Jorge Garcia as an audience substitute, asking questions everyone is wondering, Alcatraz is starting to use him for the same purpose. He openly asks how these prisoners are showing up with newer materials and supposed help and how these men must have a “Lex Luthor,” someone behind the action calling the shots.
One of my biggest problems with procedural shows is when the show decides to tell the audience details, instead of showing them and trusting that the audience can put 2 and 2 together. I personally found Hauser’s attempts to find the bomb locations poorly handled. It basically equated to Sam Neill staring at a computer and song lyrics, talking to himself. It can be frustrating when a character has the need to explain details that the audience can clearly figure out just by paying attention. A show like this needs to trust its audience instead of running the details into the ground. But to be pro-Hauser for a minute, I do appreciate how the show is deciding to show Hauser in a weaker state than what he was originally seeming like he was going to be.
Watching “Paxton Petty,” the formula seems too noticeable already. It felt too close to “Ernest Cobb,” but without the depth of character. Petty is probably one of the weakest characters so far, with barely any look into the history of this character. I feel this episode in particular could have benefited from showing the character’s life prior to Alcatraz, maybe tricking the audience into thinking they were in present day, when really we are watching Petty in Korea, or something along those lines.
It feels like Alcatraz is always on the precipice of doing something great, but is just sort of tiptoeing around it. Maybe this is Alcatraz trying to build its fan base before really getting into the crazy mythology of the show, much like Lost did, but “Paxton Petty” is too fine with sticking to its basic formula without trying anything all too shocking that may alienate viewers.