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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Five Reasons to Be Pissed Off at the Alcatraz Finale

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Will Sam Neill and company return for season two?
  • Will Sam Neill and company return for season two?

Within the first five minutes of the two-hour Alcatraz finale, I wished I could fast-forward to the end and find a bullet-pointed list enumerating all of the secrets the show has kept from me until now. So for everyone else who has stuck with Sam Neill and company for this long -- which, considering subpar ratings, might not be that many of you -- here's the super-official list of Alcatraz secrets revealed.

Ha! Gotcha. In reality, last night's back-to-back episodes felt more like getting cut off mid-sentence than any sort of satisfying conclusion, or maybe like playing Monopoly for three months straight and waiting to land on Boardwalk but repeatedly getting stuck on Mediterranean Avenue and hauling in only a few bucks at a time. Here are five reasons to be kind of pissed off about that.

1. Tommy Madsen is boring.

This is the first episode where Madsen has been center stage and not just a flash running down an alley or a figure making threats in a doorway. He is supposed to be a pivotal character, one of the keys to unlocking this mystery, but he just comes across as the kind of guy whose online dating profile might say he enjoys "movies, sports, beer, and hanging out with friends." Snore.

And that's too bad, because the story is sorely missing solid, fleshed-out characters -- particularly in the old-timey inmate department -- but Madsen is not going to fill that void. As we now know, his blood is infused with colloidal silver, which prevents disease, injury, and aging, and Warden Sociopath is behind it all. He wants to give Madsen super powers and then, uh, go visit Madsen's family in the suburbs, apparently.

But when that doesn't go over so well -- his young son doesn't remember him after a three-year absence -- Madsen reacts with the equivalent of a shrug and agrees to do the warden's bidding. I repeat: Snore.

2. Loose ends are still flying about.

Throughout this season, a number of seemingly important plot points were never explained, which is annoying to someone who has spent the past three months trying to make sense of this crap.

For example, what's up with Warden Sociopath's lady friends, aka the giant stack of gold bars hidden in the prison's bowels, and where did they go? Why is there no record of Dr. Sengupta working with the inmates, and why is she a modern-day target of the inmates' murderous wrath when they return? Why is Sam Neill hell bent on returning the prisoners to The Rock as opposed to, say, just killing them? Because we all know he's no humanitarian. Cliffhangers are one thing, but a lot of this just felt sloppy.

3. Seriously, what's up with the love story all of a sudden?

As much as I wanted to get angry at the belated relationship development between Neill and Sengupta, it actually kind of won me over. In some dishy girl talk with Pixie Cop Madsen (not really, but I would have loved that), Sengupta confesses that the hard part of being thrust into modern life is not missing the old records or phones, but rather who you'd listen to the records with or who you'd wait to receive a phone call from. She also realizes that Neill is no longer the man she fell in love with: "Something is missing," she says. These revelations create an interesting subplot that deserves exploration and makes me wish Sengupta hadn't spent more than half the season in a flipping coma.

4. Pixie Cop Madsen dies.

Yeah, sorry to break it to you that way. Her grandfather Tommy stabs her in the side, and she bleeds out in the street. Hell of a way to go for ol' Pixie Cop. If the show comes back for a second season, I hope they infuse her with colloidal silver, resurrect her from the dead, and let her duke it out in the streets with her grandfather, Terminator-style.

5. The secret underground cell: Seriously, that's it?

Two old-timey inmates, Jack Sylvane and Cal Sweeney, were sent to the present to retrieve the keys to this hidden, underground chamber beneath the island's lighthouse, and in the finale Neill finally discovers the chamber's whereabouts and retrieves the third key from the inmate called Ghost.

Neill and Sengupta enter the cell to discover a bunch of old-timey technology covered with moldering sheets of plastic, as well as a map of the United States marked with little red lights pinpointing the projected return locations of all the vanished inmates. This shit is going national!

They also discover a cackling mad scientist (yes, really) lying on the floor, who was apparently the warden's go-to man behind the scenes. The late introduction of this character will be especially annoying if low ratings prevent a second season.

And despite my many frustrations with the show, a second season doesn't seem like a completely lost cause, mainly because secrets are no fun, but also because, if done with care and character development, there are many plot lines that could be great fun to explore.

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Angela Lutz

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