Alcatraz: 111 “Webb Porter” Review
Webb Porter (Season 1 | Episode 11)
WARNING – FULL SPOILERS
“So we’re chasing a 63’ and we don’t know who he is? That’s a first”, couldn’t have said it better myself, Madsen.
This week’s Alcatraz again tried to change things up a bit but sadly it still feels like de-ja-vu with a different villain. All that changed tonight was that this time the team didn’t know who they were chasing, until a bit later on…when the killer left his full name on the back of a violin. It’s a pity he didn’t leave his address and contact number as well to make things even less challenging for Madsen and co.
Rami Malek (24, The Pacific) as the tormented and peculiar Webb Porter was the main focal point of this mostly entertaining episode. It feels more and more as this weeks pass that the show is conscious of it’s tried and tested formula, The Ames Bros was a decent attempt at breaking it and yet as good as this episode was from a narrative point of view it was still a bit of a missed opportunity for doing things differently.
So let’s talk about the only real changing aspect of the series – the prisoner. Porter was another unique killer with his own particular style of murder, based on his own experiences as a child at the hands of his mother. I liked the mix of music in this episode; it gave Porter a signature style and made him a more appealing antagonist than one in your average episode. Although, there’s no wonder Lucy has been so busy back in 1960, it seems every single killer has some trait or quirk that sets him apart from the average con, is there no good old fashioned criminals like in Porridge? I guess it wouldn’t be that interesting if there were, but surely not every criminal is so disturbed and charismatically evil.
The relationship that developed between Lucy and Porter in 1960 I felt to be the better part of the episode. You could see a lot of empathy from Lucy as she mothered Webb, nurturing him into a very talented musician. Warden James and Tiller were again present which is always good to see, as they’re both strong characters with a lot to offer. This was a really good episode for Parminder Nagra as she got a significant opportunity to perform as Dr Banerjee. Now that she’s awake it looks like the remaining episodes of the first season will focus on her greatly, especially with the development that Madsen and Soto know that she’s one of the 63’s.
In many ways I think Alcatraz could have worked just as a simple adaptation of prison life on the island, without all the gloss and pretty flashbacks. The characters and story are a lot deeper and more meaningful than what we’re getting from the present day. Madsen and Soto are good characters but I still feel even at this stage that we aren’t getting that much more from Madsen. It was good that we saw her taking time out with Nikki and talking about things on a more personal level, however, it still feels like we aren’t getting anythinh more about from this ice-cold detective. Soto on the other hand maintains to be the most relatable element to the audience in the show, with his straight talking and constant questioning of Hauser. The leader of the group is still the most interesting to watch and the more we discover about him the better. His line to Madsen, “you were off talking to more boring people” was without doubt one of his best quotes to date.
In terms of direction, editing and transitions this has been the finest episode so far. Jack Bender is the reason many episodes of LOST worked so well in telling their individual stories, he’s done the same here and really perfected his style. The sequences where Porter is on stage imagining playing to a packed house and when the music solo played over him wrestling the second victim into the bathroom, were both brilliant. Even the part where the fridge was unplugged and the ringing in Porter’s ears returned was genius, it gave us a clear understanding of why this man was suffering.
Capturing Porter at the end had the usual traits of excitement with nothing too groundbreaking, I’m glad he didn’t end up redecorating the stage in his coma-curing blood; hopefully we’ll see more of him in other episodes.
With only two episodes left I can honestly say I am starting to worry about this show. It’s still not been given a second season yet and I can understand why, even CSI follows a less structured pattern. I’m happy at least this episode tried to shake things up a bit but I just hope that there’s enough excitement in the penultimate and final episodes to earn another shot in 2013. If that happens, and with both J.J Abrams and Sam Neill’s prescne on this series it should, then hopefully the writers will take onboard the feedback from fans and try and revamp this tired A to B style. Having a small number of prisoners running wild over the course of an entire season and letting their individual characters build up in both the 60s and the present day would be a much better approach, that way the audience can actually care what happens to them when they get killed or captured.
Interestingly enough the final episode is called “Tommy Madsen”, no clues yet as to how this episode will pan out but I get the feeling that Madsen’s grandfather will be involved.
Scene of the Episode | Let the right song in – It was a struggle to pick out one defining moment in this week’s episode. The opening interaction between Lucy and Porter in 1960 was a brilliant way to establish this character and their relationship in the flashbacks was in many ways the more appealing of the two storylines.
Reviewed by Rich Jepson, cult TV enthusiast and author of 24: Terrorism Through Television.