A few days back when I previewed this weeks episode of Alcatraz I went on a rant about all the deficiencies of this show. I suggested that at times it was repetitive, convoluted, didn’t represent certain characters well enough and had a lack of mystery despite the creators best efforts. In a rather strange twist in the tale it would seem that this weeks episodes of Alcatraz, entitled ‘Paxton Petty’, solves almost all of those deficiencies.
In many ways his episode is a Hauser-centric episode in fashion similar to Lost. Just like Lost this episode is dark, very dark indeed, the casualty rate was very high.
The episode starts with the antagonist Paxton Petty planting mines in a San Francisco park, later on the first casualty occurs as a man loses his leg to the mine and dies. Several other people are also wounded when they step on similar mines. When Detective Madsen and Doc Soto arrive at the scene they discus along with Hauser that it may be Paxton Petty. Quickly Hauser shows a deep interest in the case. While Rebecca checks out the scene Soto unveils a picture of Petty on his iPad, Rebecca has seen this man just minutes before in the park and quickly relocates him. During the chase Petty rolls a live landmine at her and in the confusion of the subsequent explosion manages to escape.
Hauser meanwhile visits Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra) in the hospital, she is still in a coma and according to the doctor is not expected to recover.
While investigating the leads discovered during the bombing Madsen and Soto run into two friends of Madsen. One is the coroner Nikki (played by Jeananne Goossen) and a colleague who works with the bomb squad. Soto quickly develops a crush on Nikki so my best bet is we will see her again.
Small fragments of a medal finally leads Madsen to conclude that Petty has been digging up old dead military colleagues at a cemetery where he used to work.
All these scenes are interspersed with scenes from 1963 during which we see Hauser for the first time meet Banerjee (or Sangupta as she the was called), we see how he develops a crush on her and how Banerjee tortures Petty to get the location of his last series of bombs he planted. Hauser meanwhile searches through his old files and finds new leads as to where Petty might have gone this day.
Madsen and Soto meanwhile find Petty’s stash of landmines in an old crypt at the military cemetery along with a dead guard. In the crypt Madsen finds rubber tiling which suggests to her that Petty might now be targeting a school playground. After getting a rather cryptic lead from Hauser, just the word ‘Windward’, this leads her to the Windward elementary school where she and her bomb squad friend fail to find the bomb. Instead they decide to stake the place out and wait for Petty to show up.
Hauser meanwhile has found Petty on a beach, while trying to arrest him he steps on a landmine and thus Petty is allowed to escape to plant his bomb on the schoolyard. There Madsen arrests Petty who in return taunts her by saying that Hauser is probably already dead. Madsen locks him up in Alcatraz and through careful reverse psychology as applied by Soto more is revealed about the back story of Paxton Petty. We end up knowing that like all the other criminals on Alcatraz he was there for a reason.
Finally Madsen finds the beach where Hauser is still standing on the mine. After a tense moment the bomb squad manages to get Hauser off but then the mine still blows up and kills Madsen’s friend. Subsequently we see Hauser use less subtle tactics on Petty when asking for the location of the last bomb. He kneecaps him and even suggest the bomb went off 20 years ago. Petty finally caves in and tells him its on a hiking trail.
Hauser next visits Banerjee in the hospital and tells her he solved the case, he then unplugs her from the heart rate monitor and brings her to see Dr Beauregard. He tells him to fix her up just like she would do.
The return of Banerjee as the hot doctor Sangupta was a real treat in this episode, her aggressive feminist attitude works well in the early sixties and her rapport with Hauser gives the relationship more meaning in the present. Also the introduction of new characters such as Nikki and Madsen’s bombsquad friend gives this series more depth even though the latter gets killed by the end the episode. The sheer darkness of this series is sometimes shocking, people get killed very quickly and that for a time gives something else to think about than the larger mystery surrounding Alcatraz. For the first time we see Soto interact with people around Madsen and his suggestion that the criminals that are returning get help from a facilitator sets his character again firmly on the ground.
In short, this episode has definitely rekindled my interest in Alcatraz, where earlier episodes had ups and downs this episode doesn’t have any downs and that is managed by the considerable back story that is told separate of the main case.
Score; 9 / 10.