TV Talk: ALCATRAZ 1.03 “Kit Nelson”

So, another episode of ALCATRAZ happened. 

Last week, Fox introduced us to the world of Alcatraz with a two-episode block, "Pilot" and "Ernest Cobb." You can read Devin's take on the episodes here, and mine here

So, another episode of Alcatraz happened! "Kit Nelson" is our newest time-traveling, murderous Alcatraz inmate who pops up out of nowhere to kill some shit. We are very strenuously led to believe that Doc Hurley is in any way a serviceable and necessary member of the team this week. This fervent campaign to demonstrate Doc's indispensability begins as he's dicking around in his comics shop, shading a comic book that appears to star Haircut as the heroine (BORING!), and being told by his employee that he's got the coolest life ever thanks to his hot partner, secret task force and arbitrary comics...stuff. He then hears on a police scanner that a kid's been kidnapped, with a white chrysanthemum left in his bed. He wigs out, grabs a folder from his unlocked filing cabinet (maybe he should move his files regarding the top secret supernatural murder spree to the high-security lair beneath Alcatraz, what do you think?), and urgently contacts Haircut and crotchety old Sam Neill. He also cracks me up by offering this disclaimer before telling them a new inmate's on the loose: "I know it's Saturday and all..."

So the utterly essential Doc Hurley realized the chrysanthemum-leaving kidnapper is one titular Kit Nelson, a serial child murderer from back in the day. This guy's MO is to kidnap kids on Friday, make them do a bunch of fun stuff with him and then return them dead to their parents on Sunday night. They have forty-eight hours (!) to catch him before the kid dies. There is so much menacing of children on this show already. I don't really mind that part.

What remains is a spectacularly standard version of the ticking clock procedural episode, interspersed with some flashbacks to Kit Nelson being threatened by the warden of Alcatraz, whom I assume will show up in future episodes. Also, there was a prison doctor who hated Kit Nelson, because everyone hates him because he's a kid-killer, and the prison doctor is also in present day now. Remember, we learned last week that Lucy, crotchety old Sam Neill's hot British partner/ladyfriend/current coma patient is also from the past. Crotchety old Sam Neill is working with Lucy and the Alcatraz doctor, so he clearly knows more than he's saying. Is crotchety old Sam Neill pulling the strings? Who is pulling his strings? 

More importantly, why do Haircut and Doc Hurley show so little interest in the overarching mystery of these inmates? Every week they solve the mystery at hand, collar the criminal and go back to whatever they do in the meantime (Doc: drawing purty pictures of Haircut; Haircut: who the hell knows), without taking much time to say to crotchety old Sam Neill, "HOLD THE HELL ON. What is going on with these inmates? Why are they re-appearing the same age as they were in 1963 but with cell phones? Who is employing them? Who is employing us? What's our level of clearance? Does the President know about this? What is going on?!" Their lack of curiosity about this preposterous business is unnerving.

I think it's partially unnerving because I'm curious, and that's a good thing. I still don't think Alcatraz is anywhere near as good as I'd hoped it would be, and I am actively bored by the procedural criminal routine (the next few episodes are titled "Johnny McKee," "Cal Sweeney" and "Guy Hastings," and while it's a really safe bet that this show won't make it past 302 episodes, I still believe they're cornering themselves with this format). However, I am curious about the mythology. I find it somewhat compelling. I want to know about Grandpa Haircut; I want to start to understand the supernatural element behind  this premise; I want to know how the government is involved. Also, I feel like they're teasing me with the lack of Robert Forster. "He's in this show, sure. Watch it! You may catch a glimpse of him every three episodes!" It's tantalizing. 

Crotchety old Sam Neill and Haircut have a very revealing argument after Doc Hurley loses his cool over the missing kid. Crotchety old Sam Neill: "He's not cut out for this job." Haircut: "He's a comic book writer!" She just makes his argument for him, but in a way where she thinks she's disagreeing with him. Exactly. He is a comic book writer. Why do you have him solving time-traveling murder cases?! But, because Doc Hurley's done so much reading on each inmate, Haircut makes the case that he's vital. She shows a bunch of Kit Nelson's old junk to crotchety old Sam Neill and says, "To you and me it means nothing. To Doc, it's a life story, and that's why we need him." Okay show, WE GET IT. Keep him. It's fine. We like him!

So eventually, crotchety old Sam Neill becomes convinced that Doc Hurley is an essential part of the team after Hurley sort of solves the case in this totally bizarre fashion. He finds Kit Nelson's brand of cigarettes, an expensive brand which leads him to investigating how Nelson made money, which leads him to an old paycheck of Nelson's, which leads him to the discovery that Nelson used to build bomb shelters, which leads him and Haircut to locating the nearest bomb shelter, et voila, the mystery, she is solved! Like WHAT? That is the most wayward, erratic mystery solving I have ever seen on a detective show. But it works, and crotchety old Sam Neill says that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, and Doc Hurley has spent twice that studying Alcatraz, and so they need him. I can get behind that, mostly because this show needs him, if only because he's pretty much the only character with any personality whatsoever--other than that magical, elusive Robert Forster.

We also learn that Doc Hurley was abducted and abused as a child, and that's why he became so invested in the fate of the kidnapping victim. We don't know precisely what happened, only that he must have a "pretty good origin story" himself; this, according to Haircut, who continues to be really sweet to him. I hope he doesn't fall in love with her the way he totally would in real life, because that will be uncomfortable. Unless she loves him back! That could be okay.

Other stuff!

Haircut drives a car that I feel is supposed to be strongly reminiscent of Dean Winchester's majestic Impala. You can sort of see it in this pic.

You, ma'am, are no Dean Winchester!

Aaand here's the dumbest part of the episode. Kit Nelson takes this kid swimming, and then to play miniature golf, and then to eat cherry pie. And then in a flashback, his father is (understandably) berating him for killing his younger brother. He harasses Kit for not being a normal kid like his brother, who loved "swimming in lakes, miniature golf, cherry pie." In that order. So Kit's MO is to make kids do the fun stuff his younger brother used to do, and to do it in the same order that their father listed to Kit, and then kill the kids. WHAT?

But seriously, they'd better write some better villains for this show, because I do not care about the Alcatraz inmates, and if they insist on naming each episode after a new one, I'd like to care.  Devin said last week that the show needs a writing overhaul stat, and it turns out that after filming the first few episodes, the old showrunner left. So there's still hope! I'm not giving up quite yet. Mostly because I'm enjoying writing these posts. 

Hit me up in the comments: do you think a new showrunner will change things? Am I the only one irritated by the naming of each episode after a new inmate? How much do you miss Robert Forster? That cherry pie looked tasty, didn't it?

If you must, you can watch "Kit Nelson" here

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