Alcatraz: 104 “Cal Sweeney” Review
“Cal Sweeney” (Season 1, Episode 4)
WARNING – FULL SPOILERS
This week, Soto and Madsen were tasked with tracking down a bank robber who, oddly enough, doesn’t rob banks. Cal Sweeney (Eric Johnson, Smallville) was a well-groomed conman who, instead of fleeing with bags full of cash, chose to steal the contents of safety deposit boxes. However, like most of the former inmates of Alcatraz, Sweeney had his trademark quirk – he visited the owners of his stolen loot to find out the story behind each item’s importance. This episode was very good overall, there were some very entertaining flashbacks, further pieces of character development and once again another half dozen question were raised.
Seeing Soto and Madsen sharing some early morning Chinese food was great, it gave them some downtime to share in each others lifestyles and divulged a bit more background on Soto and how he became the world’s smartest comic-book store owner. It was short lived however as they were forced to investigate Sweeney’s crime scene. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the guy who was just doing his rounds, getting killed by that pressurised cattle gun was a horrible way to go. Top marks for a killing weapon though, a lot more creative than your average TV villain. Although, I guess Sweeney had managed to rent a copy of No Country For Old Men since re-appearing in 2012 because that weapon was also the favoured choice of Javier Bardem’s character, Anton Chigurh.
The 1960s Sweeney had an interesting story regarding his laundry room ‘business’, an empty box and his protégée Harlan (Steven Grayhm). The flashbacks added a lot to the character in the present day in both a contrasting and connecting way. In the past he doesn’t seem to have the killing edge like his Sawyer-like self does in the present. What happened to change this? We learnt from Soto that he used to steal and move on to the next heist, why then did he spend time talking to the victims about their sentimental possessions this time? It would have been nice to get some reasoning for this within the episode; the character to me feels a little unclear and incomplete.
E.B. Tiller is fast becoming a wicked character, his game of hardball with Sweeney didn’t pay off too well but he sure showed that he isn’t to be messed with, he wasn’t joking when he gave the speech about shaving against the grain. Harlan played the newcomer turned mastermind very well which made for a nice twist at the end, what happened to him is anyone’s guess but all we know is he “met a friend” and that his future was about to “get brighter” according to Warden James. No doubt we’ll be seeing an episode centred on him in the later weeks of the season – that is unless the contents of that cell got him killed.
What let this episode down was once again the fact that it’s too easy for Madsen to figure out what’s going on. Yes, she’s smarter than your average cop that’s why she’s such a young detective, but the way she just takes a few glances at the monitors, thinks for a second, then ta-da! she’s figured it out, is just too easy. The trouble here is that there’s so much to cram into 45mins of an episode including the flashbacks, the criminal, the crime and the resolution means that something has to give. At the moment the only way the show can think to keep the story moving along at pace is for Madsen to figure the crime out faster than Sherlock.
It was exciting to see what would happen when Sweeney got himself surrounded by the police. With all of these criminals returning to re-enact their crimes there was always going to be a point where the Alcatraz team would cross paths with regular cops. I’m glad it’s not taken long. Seeing Madsen break Sweeney out of the bank was fantastic, if their intention is to get to the 63’s before the regular Five-0 then it’s going to add a lot more excitement to the plot.
One of the explanations for the Alcatraz scenario is that the inmates are clones of the 63’s. The scene at the table where Dr Banerjee mentions about ‘replacing memories’ supports this idea greatly. Maybe the only way to ‘cure’ the inmates was to clone them, swap out the old tarnished memories for new ones and then release them back into society. On the other hand though, Hauser mentioned to his team of scientists that some of the inmates had “jumped” – was this a reference to time travel?
The importance of the keys is still unapparent, not even Hauser himself knows what they’re for, finding out that they have been laser cut gave a little bit more mystery to them – how many are there? Who else has one? Some of you may have noticed that the safety deposit box number was 1869 – does this have any significance? Also, the inmate’s posters are starting to be collected on the board but underneath Kit Nelson’s image there was neither a ‘captured’ or ‘killed’ comment, so does that mean he’s back from the dead? We now know as well that the event in Soto’s childhood that caused him trauma included him being behind the wheel.
All in all, this was another good episode of Alcatraz that keeps it building up the mystery and suspense. This episode had a charming villain Sweeney that provided a lot of entertainment; the 60’s flashbacks are developing well and adding a lot to the present day story. The biggest obstacle to the show at the moment is the time it has to resolve a situation. Hopefully in the future there will be one or two cases that are drawn out over the course of two or three episodes, giving the story time to develop before it’s concluded.
Scene of the Episode: The Dinner Table – A great scene with some key insights into the ’63 characters, Dr Banerjee was on top form holding her own against some ignorant questions as well. Sweeney’s attempt to interrogate Deputy Warden Tiller backfired severely thanks to rather sturdy fountain pen – boring gift, interesting weapon.
Reviewed by Rich Jepson, cult TV enthusiast and author of 24: Terrorism Through Television.