Entertainment Magazine

Review #3299: Alcatraz 1.6: “Paxton Petty”

Posted on the 17 February 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Story by Jennifer Johnson
Teleplay by Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt, and Robert Hull
Directed by Paul Edwards

The show is starting to remind me of “Fringe” and its struggles in their first season on the air. The procedural elements in the present day bog down what happens in the 1960′s past. A lot of what held down “Fringe” in its early days was the tendency for those procedural elements to mimic “The X-Files”, thus ignoring the building of its own mythology. “Alcatraz” is slowly working its way through the complicated mythology it has set up right now, and that slow burn approach can work for the show or hinder it. It’s just too early to judge on the whole picture. It will telegraph certain parts (like the ultimate end to the bombs) and then intrigue with other parts, pieces of the puzzle that had seemed all but forgotten in the prior episodes (what happened with Dr. Sengupta). This haphazard approach had better not become the norm.

Review #3299: Alcatraz 1.6: “Paxton Petty”

In the present time, Paxton Petty returns to set off specialized mines he placed in the San Francisco metropolitan area. One would argue that he shouldn’t stick to such a rigid pattern since such information needed to catch him is still in Hauser’s possession, but that may speak to the fact that the 63′s have no idea how they’ve time-traveled or who is controlling them. Also, it’s revealed that Hauser has a personal stake in this particular case, yet it is Detective Madsen who catches the first glimpse of Petty in 50 years and gives chase before Petty almost kills her with a mine. It would seem that Detective Madsen’s chase was an expedited method of introducing Tanner, Madsen’s bomb squad friend who won’t survive through this episode.

The writers practically telegraph that in his dialog and demeanor around Madsen. Petty is able to get away with planting all of the mines, even trapping Hauser in one of them, until the team finds them all and disables most of them (one of them predictably kills Tanner right as he thought he disabled it). Dr. Soto uses his time with Petty to find out exactly what happened when he time-traveled from 1963 to the present. Once again, the show doesn’t give anything really concrete beyond Petty falling asleep and then realizing he was in the present day. It’s sloppy storytelling, but it may give Soto license to find out what’s going on by himself instead of relying on the returnees, all of whom are probably not going to clarify much on that front.

Back in the Alcatraz of the past, Petty isn’t really the crux of the story. He’s in the prison for killing all those people (his motive being that the government robbed him by not acknowledging his military bravery, which strikes me as really weak), yet the warden and doctors are concerned about the one mine that didn’t go off. The warden’s favored method of extracting information by brutalizing the prisoners doesn’t work so it’s left to the more psychological methods of Dr. Sengupta. She has been something of a complete mystery since her appearance on the show, but this episode does a relatively good job of giving her some depth. Part of her mystery lies in the fact that her present day self has been lying in a coma since being shot by Ernest Cobb.

Her Sengupta persona is rather multi-faceted. She immediately connects with Hauser upon meeting him on Alcatraz and that cements what little has been shown of the relationship in the present day. The show should continue to develop this as the season goes on. Her easygoing demeanor and beauty belies a seemingly cold and calculating person underneath. I got the sense that if she’s willing to engage with some of the country’s most dangerous criminals, she’s not one who easily gets rattled. In fact, it seems that Dr. Beauregard goes from warning her about the dangers of her profession in the past to almost fearing her in the present time. What could she have done in the past to make him change his mind about her like that?

I guess I have to accept that the vagaries with how the 63′s returned to the present time. It’s revealed here that not every one of them wake up on Alcatraz Island. Petty woke up in a mausoleum where he could steal the Silver Stars to put in his mines. That perhaps suggests some kind of calculated plan by the powers that be to place the 63′s in spots where they would be most effective at carrying out whatever they need to do. It’s likely that we won’t see many concrete answers until we approach the near end of the season so it’s much of a waiting game on that front. That’s the norm for JJ Abrams’ series, it seems.

Grade: 7/10

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