Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: Alcatraz "Kit Nelson"

Non Spoiler Review:
Kit Nelson is a child killer with a weird modus operandi. Diego and Rebecca get on the case. The crime brings up some bad memories for Diego, who has his own secret past. More mysteries are raised at the neo-Alcatraz facility.

It's interesting how straightforward the first three plots have been. The show has taken no pains to create an elaborate case for Rebecca and Diego to break. The two of them do, however, seem to make vast intuitive leaps to solve it. So I'm on the fence right now as far as these episodic elements go.

The whole think wasn't bad, if not terribly gripping. Diego gets some further development to explain why he's so freaky around the crime scenes, but Rebecca and Hauser remain pretty flat. There's a trend developing that the last five minutes of the prisoner drop off bring the surprise of the week, and this time is no exception. 

Spoilers Now!
Diego is monitoring the police bands for clues to new Alcatraz appearances when he hears about a missing child, Dillon. That would be due to the childkiller, Kit Nelson, who is currently residing in the present. He had it rough in Alcatraz, even among the hardened felons, who beat him up a lot because of his particular choice of crimes. He also used to leave a chrysanthemum behind as a token.

Diego finds Hauser and Rebecca with a still comatose Lucy, and tells them he's pretty sure it's Kit Nelson who's back. He and Rebecca get on the case and talk to the frantic mother. The missing boy has a brother, and recognizes Kit's picture as someone who brought candy and was in their bedroom the previous night.

Nelson has taken Dillon fishing, which is going fine until he wants him to go into the water and hold Nelson under for as long as he can. When Diego and Rebecca manage to track him down, they're gone, because now Kit and the boy are at the movies.

Diego and Rebecca check back with the mom about Dillon's hobbies and favorite places. Hauser abruptly cancels the amber alert given Nelson always returns to the scene of the crime and he doesn't want it surrounded by a police presence. Diego, who has been acting uncomfortable and weirder than he usually does, balks and seems to take it personally, so goes off to investigate some hunches himself, and finds Nelson at a diner with Dillon. He alerts Rebecca.

Nelson eventually leaves with Kit, so Diego confronts him as Rebecca arrives, leading to a stand off that Nelson wins and takes off with the kid. Diego makes some grand intuitive leaps after they find expensive cigarettes in Nelson's effects within the always bountiful Alcatraz room full of clues. Nelson worked for a company that made bomb shelters, which means he has perfect hiding places for his crimes.

In the flashback, the prison doctor tended to Kit's wounds, but he doesn't give him any sympathy either. While in the infirmary, Kit talks with Madsen (Rebecca's grandfather), who's there giving lots of blood. The warden has decided to segregate him from the prisoners. But he's also received a letter from his father, who wants to visit. Nelson doesn't want to talk to him, but the warden insists.

The visit doesn't go well. His father advises him his mother is dead, and brings him a dead chrysanthemum. She knew that Nelson had killed his brother when they were children, but wasn't prepared to lose both of her boys, so protected him and told everyone a lie about him dying of fever. His father now wants to hear him confess, but Nelson repeats that scarlet fever killed his brother.

The warden also wants him to confess to killing his brother, so he throws Nelson into a tiny dark cell. Nelson at last admits to murdering him and left the chrysanthemum given it was his mother and brother's favorite flower. The experience was so profound he kept trying to repeat it. The warden leaves him in the cell. 

Nelson and Dillon are in a bomb shelter, but Dillon manages to make a run for it. Rebecca, Diego AND Hauser all converge on the area at that moment, too, and Hauser kills him. Later, a frustrated Hauser outs Diego about being traumatized as a child (something that keeps the victim frozen at that age all their life), and because of that he's spent his entire life becoming an expert on Alcatraz. But Hauser needs an adult, not a child. After, Diego attempts to explain what happened to Rebecca but she lets him off the hook and tells him she doesn't need to hear it.

Diego pays Dillon a visit and gives him some comics. Diego admits to being taken just like him, but he was able to get away, too. And that ability to get away is kind of like a super-power.

Hauser brings Nelson's body back to neo-Alcatraz, to the original doctor (!) who we saw in the flashback to 1960. He puts on a record and gets to work.

The Verdict:
I'm ambivalent about this one. While Diego is growing more interesting, Hauser seems to be overly playing surly shadowing government operative. I hope Diego's mystery abduction pays off. If it's some lame thing I'll be pretty disappointed. For now he's the most interesting character, though.

The weekly criminal plotline really lacks tension for me. They're all rounded up pretty easily with Diego's amazing powers of deduction and the strings of coincidences that manage to bring everyone together at the appropriate moments. Maybe this won't be the regular weekly pattern once the main plotlines start to get moving, but the felons need to present a serious sense of threat because Hauser is able to dispatch them without a lot of effort.

I'm not getting the point of the personal storylines of the criminals in the flashbacks, aside from tying it in to what's going on with the experiments. Are the writers trying to say something in particular about what drives each of these criminals? So far, these particular brands of sociopath are nothing that we haven't seen on any other crime show before. Aside from depicting the warden as a bit of a sadist, I'm not really getting anything out of these vignettes.

There's also a big question of how these criminals are adapting to life 40 years later. They seem to be taking it all in stride (especially Cobb from last week). I, for one, would be f.r.e.a.k.i.n.g. if I woke up decades in the future, but everyone here is fully functional and able to move around in our modern society. Maybe that's all part of the mystery.

Once again, the final five minutes are what makes the episode. Did the doctor disappear with the other Alcatraz denizens or did he make a separate trip? He appears to be a man out of time, rather than someone who just doesn't age. And it looks like all the prisoners are necessary for whatever grand plan they're engaged in, whether dead or alive.

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