a + b + c = I'm smarter than the average bear! (Liane Hentscher/FOX)
OpinionReviewsTelevision & Film

ALCATRAZ Just Doesn’t Have Chemistry


Season 1, episode 7: “Johnny McKee”

Another ho-hum procedural featuring these guys. (Liane Hentscher/FOX)

You’re losing me, guys. This episode has more sloppy cop procedural, a whole mess of nobody thinking, and only a minor hint at the big mystery that’s supposed to dwell at the core of this show.

This week’s 63 is Johnny McKee, a Jules Verne fan and chemistry whiz who spent most of his time figuring out ways to poison bullies.  He went to Alcatraz because his final body count was somewhere around seventy, and while in the joint he gets recruited by Cullen the Schoolyard Bully to poison another prisoner who’s trying to gain market share in the shiv business.

Creepy McCreepster creeping in the tunnel. (Liane Hentscher/FOX)

McKee spends most of this episode being faux-creepy. I never quite bought the creepy factor, even though his scenes were accompanied by the appropriately creepy music. It’s almost like the show put up a big neon sign that says “Believe this guy is creepy!” Only it’s a sad creepy. And it’s such a cliche to see the nerd being bullied by the bigger guys who think they can be bullies because they’re bigger but they’ll get theirs in the end, yessireebob.

Soto has his nice – but few – geeky moments; playing a MMPORPG on the Batcomputer, having a little moment with Nicki the medical examiner, who has stripped off scrubs to reveal a geek shirtevery time we see her, and figuring out some massively complex formula on a blackboard – in the dark – in about six seconds, then using his iPhone (obligatory product placement) to look stuff up … so twenty seconds ago.

a + b + c = I’m smarter than the average bear! (Liane Hentscher/FOX)

In the end, we get more of the same from week to week. Bad guy pops up and makes bad things happen. Hauser growls. Madsen looks around like she just got slapped in the face by an invisible midget, and Soto tries not to lose his lunch while having Jimmy Neutron brain blasts.

And let’s not even start on the subway train gassing. No, wait. Yes, let’s. First, why gas a train full of people when his M.O. has always been to attack bullies? How long does the gas take to take effect? How do Madsen and Hauser get from the Batcave to the train tunnel quickly enough to – wait – search around for an ax (instead of shooting out the windows?) and busting people out? (Don’t tell me. It’s the same physics they used in JJTrek…)

It was good to see the use of previous 63s to advance the plot, somewhat. In this case, it’s Jack Sylvane, who lets slip probably the most interesting tidbit of the whole episode when he tells Hauser that since jumping forward in time, he no longer dreams. Aside from that, and giving Madsen a little more about the hole under the hole, this is pretty much a forgettable episode.

I wonder if some fan negativity is while we’ll soon see more than one 63 show up at once in an upcoming episode. How long will the writers do the same episode over and over again before figuring out we’re onto them? io9 has a formula that works pretty well to break down every single episode the same way. The fans are starting to get really cynical over this show, Bad Robot people. There are even some rumblings of how this show compares to “Terra Nova” in the amount of underdeveloped characters and cliche-driven plodding plots.

Time to really step up.

[Official Show Site on FOX]   [Previous recap: “Paxton Petty”]


Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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