Alcatraz: 108 “The Ames Bros” Review
The Ames Bros (Series 1 | Episode 9)
Before I even start talking about this episode I want to ask one question that only came to me very early on at the start– why are they based on the island when all of the 63s are returning to the streets of San Francisco? How much time must they waste getting the boat back and forth to the mainland, especially when their supercomputer picks out a criminal on YouTube?
Anyway, I’d been looking forward to an episode that didn’t follow the same formula as the majority of Alcatraz episodes – killer returns, Madsen & co track him down, intercut the killer’s actions with flashbacks and then boom he’s either arrested or killed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been enjoying the show so far and there have been some quality episodes, I’m just glad this episode decided to mix it up before it became too stale. The only downside to the story layout being self-contained within the prison was that the execution wasn’t as good as it should have been.
This alongside the fact that there was not one, not two but three 63’s (including Donovan) returning should have made this the episode of the season. Instead, what we got was an intertwining game of cat and mouse, which felt rushed and underdeveloped. In the states this episode was shown as the first part of a double bill with Ep10 “Sonny Burnett”. Personally, I think it would have been far better to see this story play out over two editions of the show allowing for more drama and tension to grow, giving us some time to digest who these brother’s really are.
The lack of time given to each character’s back-story is what lets this show down, trying to introduce a baddie, cram in a bunch of flashbacks in to explain their past and then bringing in Hauser’s team to hunt them down is just too much to visualize in just 45mins. This would’ve been the perfect opportunity to take some time and develop three characters over the course of an hour and a half.
If you think about it, we learnt so little of Donovan and Herman that it might as well have just been called Pinky Ames instead of The Ames Bros. What we did find out about him was great, the keys in the kitchen, the hunt for the gold, the interactions with the Warden – all good stuff. Herman was a bit of a git. That’s all I could remember about him anyway. Likewise with Donovan, there could have been more to his story and why he was helping out the siblings.
All that said there were some good moments to this somewhat frustrating installment of JJ Abrams new drama. Firstly, the keys and their significance, only the Warden knows what they open and it’s not the golden cellar. Although, having gold on the island seems a little bit cheesy you can believe it given the gold rush in California and the civil war explanation that was talked about. A couple of questions that came to my mind with the discovery of all this were – why is the Warden still on the island when he has a room full of gold? Why not take it and run? Is he using some element from it to put in the inmates’ blood? I’m not the best at chemistry so if any of you are down with science, or just a huge fan of Breaking Bad, then maybe you can comment on this review with some formulas. On a side note, the best line of the episode has to be “you two owe me a spoon”, I don’t know about you but I found this hilarious.
Another strong element of this episode was Hauser. He’s a machine; even a bullet can’t stop this you-wouldn’t-believe-it 65 year old. Even though this guy qualifies for a free bus pass, I can still buy the fact that he can carry on after taking one in the side, why? Because it’s Sam Neill, he survived a T-Rex (three times!) – he can survive a bullet.
Also, Ray now has access to the Warden’s inner circle and he’s on the hunt to find out what’s going in the blood. This could be the key to figuring out what’s caused all of this to happen so it’ll be interesting to see how he gets on in later episodes.
All in all, this was a good idea for a unique episode that frustratingly wasn’t used to it’s full potential. Nevertheless, it still had its moments and keeps the show’s tempo high.
Scene of the Episode | Heads Up Pinky – A great kill from Madsen using an orthodox weapon. The close up shot from above made this look even more gruesome adding a lot of action to the episode.
Reviewed by Rich Jepson, cult TV enthusiast and author of 24: Terrorism Through Television.