Alcatraz: 107 “Johnny McKee” Review
“Johnny McKee” (Season 1 | Episode 7)
So Hauser speaks Chinese eh?…didn’t see that one coming. This guy has more secrets than J. Edgar Hoover and Vic Mackey combined.
In what was another solid edition of Alcatraz, Sam Neill once again brought Emerson Hauser to life with great skill and technique. As well as the usual sinister charisma, Hauser showed some real glimpses of affection for Lucy. The opening and closing scenes of this episode displayed both sides to this brilliant character and although they were quite subtle, they gave us an insight into how deeply Hauser cares for Dr Banerjee.
It was mostly business as usual for Soto and Madsen, this time the inmate in question was the philosophical chemist, Johnny McKee, I really enjoyed this villain, his killing methods were more creative than your standard serial killer and it gave the episode a lot more individuality. McKee felt like the outcome of a gene-splice experiment involving The Bride from Kill Bill, Stephen King’s Carrie and Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory – merciless, malicious and methodical.
The flashbacks, and more importantly McKee’s interactions with Banerjee, brought a lot to the character. The reasoning behind his actions made his mental state a lot more understandable, but still didn’t justify the ways in which he poisoned his victims. Saying that though, it was pleasing to see him bluff the prison yard kingpin, Cullen, stabbing him in the neck with the poisoned shank, a nice move that was defiantly acceptable.
His nightshade cocktail in the club went down well, watching those annoying guys sip that death juice let us know early on that McKee wasn’t afraid to watch his victims suffer – next time I’d stick with the Long Island Ice Tea boys. The pool kill was a lot more astute, although it wasn’t really fair that the all those swimmers shared the same fate as some ignorant guy demanding a fresh towel. As for the subway attack, having the train full of San Francisco Warriors’ fans linked well with the back-story about the football team’s prank on McKee in high school.
One of the best elements of this episode was the use of technology. McKee’s confusion at YouTube on a smart phone was great. There’s not been much notion of how confused these inmates must be in a world 50 years more advanced than their own, so I’m glad they finally referenced this. Hauser’s super-computer on the other hand was something else entirely. Soto’s used it for what most of us would – playing video games, but this was nothing compared to Hauser’s extermination of the freaky deaths video from the web.
Dr Banerjee’s methods where brought into McKee’s story and it seems that she may be the key to all of what’s happened on the island. As a result of her extensive ‘therapies’’ her subjects are wiped of their ability to dream, this could be evidence to support the clone theory – a defect in their programming/brainwashing could be there lack of a subconscious platform. Either that or the result of some sort radiation exposure from whatever the gas was that Guy Hastings mentioned a couple of episodes back.
What once again let this episode down was Madsen’s ridiculously quick and easy search for McKee’s location. In the lab it was basically, “what’s next and where is he going to use it?” and then conveniently the answer was written right in front of her, “The future is now” – here’s the location. I’ve criticised this tactic a few times before and it’s constantly the biggest snag in this exciting new series. If ‘the future is now’ was such a significant statement to McKee, why didn’t he just go there first, instead of moving from job to job, killing random people?
Besides this, it was once again a consistent and well-executed chapter of Alcatraz. The series is now past the halfway point and has solidified a reliable approach to each episode. What’s great about this show, compared to say that of LOST, is that we’re constantly getting answers to questions before more are asked, giving us plenty to talk about from week to week. If the rest of the season maintains this technique then it’s definitely going to keep us entertained all the way to the finale.
Scene of the Episode | Madsen Interviewing Sylvane – a detailed scene accompanied by some well-written flashbacks. Madsen drew out some key bits of information and the mention of a “hole beneath the hole” could play into a lot of theories about how this all happened. Hauser was once again fantastic in trying to keep a lid on things, diverting Madsen’s questioning and deflecting any responses with ease.
Reviewed by Rich Jepson, cult TV enthusiast and author of 24: Terrorism Through Television.