Alcatraz, "Tommy Madsen": season finale

Quick Take: Alcatraz, "Tommy Madsen": season finale
"Me, without you and your science... all my best intentions carry no water." - Warden James

Alcatraz Finale

Review: Alcatraz, "Tommy Madsen"
(S0113) In grade school we're taught that the simplest storytelling formula is made up of three parts: beginning, middle, and end. Then we move onto Freytag's triangle and we frame the climax with a rising action and denouement. Only the most masterful of storytellers are able to mask this structure, or even invert it entirely through non-linear storytelling. Though I consider J.J. Abrams to be one of these masters when he's at his best, the finale of Alcatraz left me entirely nonplussed.

The cold start with Rebecca lying on the ground bleeding from her abdomen was certainly trite, but it works to set the tone and direction of the anticipated episode featuring "Tommy Madsen." Rebecca's grandfather has been the subject of one of the show's driving mysteries, even though his regular appearances in the flashbacks of other inmates were typically spent in the hospital ward, where Warden James had him sent to have his blood taken.

When Hauser discovered that the recovered inmates had all tested positive for the occult healing agent, colloidal silver, it was clear what was happening to Tommy Madsen and his blood in 1960. Yet the writers insisted on twiddling their thumbs for a good three episodes - if not more - while they introduced expendable inmates to prolong this revelation, as well as others. Warden James couldn't have been more obviously sinister as the show's true villain, yet we're still refused the chance to see that he is, indeed, alive and well in 2012.

Among the other obvious details that were withheld only to be spoon-fed to us in the finale, is the existence of a top-secret branch of the military that knows about the reappearance of the Sixty-Threes but doesn't seem to give a crap. The man Hauser visits – being the only man beneath the President's pay-grade, we're told – has the authority to give him orders, but not to get him an appearance with Harland Simmons, the billionaire ex-con with mysterious connections to the reappearance of his former fellow felons.

The episode's climax – and by my estimation, the climax of the entire over-arching story in Season One – is the opening of Warden James' hidden room. What Hauser and Lucy discover behind the triple-locked door is not the Warden's stash of gold, but something, and someone, more invaluable. In what can only be described as a control room, the Alca-task force discovers a map of the country scattered with the apparent location markers of other inmates; collapsed beneath it is the freaky physician who assisted the Warden in the prisoners' blood transfusions.

Instead of stopping there, as the doctor cackles us into a tingle-inducing cliffhanger, the writers slide in one more scene to the finale's already-full deck. Having been taken to the hospital, Rebecca succumbs to the stab wound inflicted by her grandfather. Yup, she dies. But I have a hard time believing that Detective Madsen is actually dead. Not only is this a show with apparent time-travel and magical healing silver, but the show was postponed for six months to rewrite her character (among other things).

Despite getting absolutely no character resolution, I will accept Rebecca's demise on one condition: her uncle, Ray Archer (Robert Forster) finally gets the kick he needs to join the team and out-badass Sam Neill's Emerson Hauser as a series regular. Regardless of what happens, I'll tune in to Season Two (should there be one) to provide my armchair support of the stellar starring cast, hoping at the same time that they'll be supported by a more deliberate and better paced storyline.

By Mark D Curran

About the author

Mark is a freelance writer, student of English and Philosophy, and still has too much time on his hands. If you have any of your own, check out the blog and follow him on Twitter!

http://twitter.com/#!/MarkDCurran

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