As we reach the last few episodes of Alcatraz for its premiere season, I must say I like the direction the show has been heading. It is not a show that goes for too much change from week to week, but it does a fine job of deepening the world it’s building and the ideas the show is clearly trying to reinforce through the weekly criminals the protagonists are hunting down.
This week in “Clarence Montgomery” the perp in question is actually innocent of the crime that locked him up in Alcatraz. His girlfriend Ellen, a white woman, was found dead on a golf course with her throat slit. She and Clarence, who is black, were going to run away together, but instead Montgomery ended up going to prison for her murder. Now Montgomery is running around San Francisco killing white women with a knife and leaving them in the same position he found Ellen in on golf courses. While Montgomery was innocent in the past, he is guilty in the present, but without explanation why.
In the past, we see that Montgomery was quite a talented cook, so much so that Warden James decided to make him head cook. Deputy Warden Tiller believes this will be a bad idea since the segregated prison does have a problem with race. But James is optimistic about the arrangement and allows Montgomery to go ahead. When the first meal comes around though, Tiller turns out to be right, as the cafeteria bursts into a riot and the white prisoners end up beating down Montgomery.
One of the aspects of Alcatraz I think could get quite interesting is the difference between James and Tiller. James believes that men can be rehabilitated and can begin their lives anew while Tiller thinks that a man’s inherent being is what he must remain to be. It seems like this conflict could be something very substantial if the show gets a chance at future seasons.
After the riot, Montgomery is taken to an area where Dr. Beauregard drugs him and forces him to watch a video flashing horrific imagery and the word “GUILTY” over and over again while administering shock treatments. Following this, Montgomery is changed, and he has flashes that make him kill. The first time we see this is at his new job in the laundry room where he kills William Gent, the fast-talking prisoner that once frustrated Ernest Cobb to no end.
It turns out this affliction has led him to kill the two women on the golf courses. While back in the present, Montgomery has been staying with his old Alcatraz friend Emmitt Little, who tries to keep Soto and Madsen away by shooting at them through his door with a shotgun. After Hauser gets around to talking to Montgomery, he begs his friend to not let them take him back, after which Little shoots Montgomery.
One aside that may have been overlooked in “Clarence Montgomery” is that Montgomery has Wilson’s disease, which means that he has too much copper in his blood. Montgomery also mentioned that he too had had blood taken out of him. This marks another prisoner, after Tommy Madsen, who had silver in his blood, that has taken part in giving blood for the sake of Alcatraz. By season’s end, I think, or at least hope, we’ll know what all this blood mess is about.
“Clarence Montgomery” also doesn’t really have much going on for Hauser, Madsen or Soto, except that Soto finally gets a date with Madsen’s morgue-working friend Nikki. The show has been building to this development for a while, but the slightly humorous way it was handled overlooks the expectance of it all.
“Clarence Montgomery” gives Alcatraz the right kind of depth we need. It’s always an added plus when the show has different characters interacting with other inmates, and this episode does a fine job of showing us more details on what life in Alcatraz was like for these inmates. Just enough added depth makes “Clarence Montgomery” a further exploration of the world these characters inhabit rather than becoming more of the same.