Review: Alcatraz 1×02 Ernest Cobb

January 21, 2012

** This episode review may contain possible spoilers** If you would like to see a review of Alcatraz 1×01 please click here.

I guess the majority of surprises were packed into the first episode of FOX Network‘s Alcatraz, making this following episode (airing back to back with the pilot) seem mediocre and dull in comparison. The only saving grace are the plot twists which are not only relegated to the last portion of the show, unlike the pilot.  If you would like to read my commentary for Alcatraz episode 1, or learn about the basic storyline of the series, click here.

It becomes evident in episode 2 that Alcatraz Island is henceforth referred to as the Rock. This name may have been used since the pilot (though I can’t say I was paying that much attention if so) but became more noticeable and normal in the present episode. Does this have a historical basis, I wonder? Because if it was made up just for primetime television, the Rock is a pretty lame name to give Alcatraz. The original name is so much more alluring and happening… Also, since everyone has been calling Diego (Garcia) by the nickname Doc since midway into the pilot, even Hauser (Neill), I guess I’m going to have to switch it up too…..just to follow the crowd 😀 (I prefer calling him Soto, so I continue to do so in my Quotes section)

Favorite Quotes:

Unknown: Hey we got a new fish boys!
Unknown: Welcome to the big house!
[Indistinct chatter from the rest of the prisoners]

Cobb: I want[ed] a transfer, not murder
Warden: 10 years on the Rock, you’d be the first to come willingly. What made our little island your favorite destination?
Cobb: A private cell…My own private cell

Hauser: [smirking] How’s the new partner working out…

Madsen: Alcatraz. Another killer back from the Rock, we got two days to catch him

Hauser: You wanted children…go babysit
Lucy: You know Emerson…they’re not so bad

Soto: I’m afraid I’m not going to be good at it
Madsen: Well too late, you already are

Thoughts:

In this episode, we are shown a Madsen (Jones) that enacts the role of older sis and guardian to the excitable yet scared Doc (pictured). Either way, Madsen coaches him and gives him advice on how to handle crime scenes – all the time with Hauser being skeptical about his use to the investigation (and organization). Describing himself as a civilian authority working for a secret task force, Doc is no expert at the secret thing, and is more than appreciative of Madsen’s support while he settles in. It’s nice to see that not everyone can suddenly be put into a covert operation and immediately, without training, keep their jobs and roles under wraps from the ‘general public’!

We also learn that Madsen needs to recreate things, whether it is acting out the shootings (pictured) or getting into the headspace of inmate Ernest Cobb (Egender) by being in his cell with his things. This aspect of her character was absent in the pilot episode. I hope she continues as I’d like to keep track of her recreations if possible, especially as it is technique used by many of televisions cop crime fighters (just look at Criminal Minds).

Patterns are important to Madsen, as she does not believe in coincidence or randomness. Therefore, she goes out of her way to understand the order of prisoner Ernest Cobb’s behavior. It seems the TV show will take the approach that randomness cannot exist in homicides or any type of violence. I won’t fault Alcatraz too much for following this very simplistic idea, as long as continuity remains in her thought process and doesn’t vacillate through the varying episodes. Someone should still notify the writers of the show that interesting cases can still be solved even if the characters make random moves. Thus, it’s unsurprisingly that Madsen, with the help of Doc and Lucy’s computer skills, is able to find what links and determines Cobb’s victim pool. [FUN FACT: how come all TV shows never show how characters like Lucy or Doc have the mad skills to operate these humongous multi-screens (pictured) that seem to show exactly the information wanted (with parameters of course) without training? I thought people had computer technicians for these things…so how can a PhD Diego Soto and the task force lab assistant Lucy Banerjee (Nagra) have these expertise? I guess lab assistant also stands for computer geek but that doesn’t explain how she learnt her trade…]

Reflections:

It annoys me when a crime procedural, because that’s what I am going to categorize Alcatraz as, doesn’t follow protocol. Its Doc and Madsen’s first case and they’re picking up shell casings from the crime scene without gloves! Arg… I know it’s a small mistake, but it irks me! And to top it off, a ballistics report is ready only 2 hours after they contaminated retrieved it. That too, without any explanations! Unbelievable…

Also, this episode gives more insight into the lives of the prisoners. They seem to have a level of camaraderie, not just in the present day – 2012 – but also back in the 1960s. The flashbacks seems to show them as a real family, with the silent, annoying, talkative, and empathetic prisoners all under one roof. It’s clearly not an ordinary family, but it makes the inmate characterizations more realistic and human(e). Although the lack of evidence in this ‘most dangerous jail’ of strictness and power control by the authority over those brought here makes this particular aspect of the show seem lightweight. They know each other by name, you don’t see too much violence from the guards to the inmates, and it’s reminiscent of a parent-child relationship. This is clear during the look that passes between Jack Sylvane (the inmate from the first episode played by Jeffrey Pierce) and Ernest Cobb in the new cell block, where they secretly acknowledge each other as if they are both part of the same operation – which may well be true. I’m hoping more depth to their relationship with the next few episodes. There is ample opportunity to do so because the show follows a wonderful formula where the prisoners’ flashbacks converge and overlap – piecing together more of a common story web that gradually gives us a fuller picture (reminding me of why I enjoyed Lost so much).

I’m happy I mentioned Lucy’s lack of a role in the pilot because I was presently surprised by the leaps and bounds of character development (at least for the audience) for Lucy in this episode. If you missed my earlier spiel about Lucy, read about it here. For that matter, it wouldn’t have surprised me if the episode was titled ‘Lucy’ and not ‘Ernest Cobb’. Lucy is in charge of questioning Jack Sylvane. Not only does Lucy seem to be at the center, or at least the periphery of the time-space continuum taking place in the show, she also seems to have a relationship with the inmates from the 1960s that Hauser may or may not know about. Now the question remains, are Lucy Banerjee and Lucille Sen Gupta the same person or different people? While this episode was not explicit about Cobb’s appointed task that I suppose all released prisoners get upon entering 2012, an important plot twist happens between Cobb and Lucy (while babysitting our lead duo) that will need some deliberation [Note: I can’t give all the spoilers away!] And if there wasn’t enough Lucy-centered stuff going on already, she also seems to have a romance going with Hauser! Their eye contact, his smile, her sweet words, the comment about her wanting kids, and of course the warm hand-pat (pictured) all points to them being very close – not much like a lead investigator and his assistant – but who knows. Now this is a romance I didn’t think was possible, otherwise I would have mentioned it in my first commentary, but it’s definitely wanted. I love blooming relationships in TV shows whenever they are offered! Lovers or not, the concern and regard for Lucy that Hauser holds is very endearing, stark clear when Hauser ruthlessly injures Cobb even after he’s been caught by Madsen.

Finally, a little note on Alcatraz’s comedy. I originally thought Doc had all the funny lines in this show, but this episode was brimming with Hauser’s dry humor and facial expressions (i.e. glares and scowls). Nice to see that the job of comic relief will be relegated to two characters, not just one, for the series! Or at least, so I can hope…

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