Alcatraz: Watch Your Step (in the Right Direction)

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Alcatraz S01E06: "Paxton Petty"

You may have noticed that this Alcatraz write-up is a bit later than usual. It's not one-hundred percent because I'm lazy. Ninety-five, maybe. But the real reason is that, in addition to this sweet-ass Valentine's feature I curated taking up more of my time this week, I've decided to demote Alcatraz to second squad, and promote Being Human to first string. Why? Well, because Alcatraz just isn't that great. Of course, that's my opinion, and yours may differ.

With that paperwork out of the way, let's head back to THE ROCK. This week our returned Alcatraz inmate was REALLY dangerous. I love how the promos promised the return of "one of Alcatraz's most dangerous inmates!" As if there's another option. But when you think about it, this show is supposed to cover what, more than 300 inmates? I guess "one of Alcatraz's most dangerous inmates" sounds a lot better than "the 278th most dangerous inmate from Alcatraz." Though for once, I would love to see a white-collar crook return to cause mayhem in present-day San Francisco with some incredibly volatile tax evasion.

The basis for "Paxton Petty" was that a mad bomber returned to San Francisco to plant landmines all over the city. It was your basic terrorist plot with a wry criminal getting roughed up while a hard-nosed cop screamed, "WHERE IS THE DAMN BOMB?" We've seen this story done a bazillion and two times, but it was an effective storytelling device because you can have the perp in custody and he can still have the upper hand. It's fertile ground for psychological warfare between frustrated detectives and attention-starved nutjobs, and we got something like that in this episode.

"Paxton Petty" actually continued Alcatraz's gradual progress away from utter failure. It's almost as if the writers read my piece from last week, 5 Things Alcatraz Needs to Do To Keep Me Watching, and addressed several of the issues I complained about. First, Rebecca wasn't just a dog playing fetch, which was problem number uno. If you ask me, this was the most badge she's flashed since the series began. Ditto for Hauser, who pulled a Person of Interest's John Reese by shooting the bad guy in the leg just because he was pissed off. Now, that I like. It sort of addressed my second request, which was for Alcatraz to make its central characters more interesting. And hey! We got a look at Lucy in present day, which was a follow-up on a closing reveal/cliffhanger (item number three). I even had "WHAT THE FUDGE IS UP WITH LUCY AND WHY ISN'T ANYONE CONCERNED ABOUT HER BEING IN A COMA?" in my notes. Anyway, back to what I said before, Rebecca did some decent police work for a change, so that covered item number four. And wouldn't you know it, Alcatraz let its hair down a bit this week and actually gave us some insight on the overall story as well—number five.

On top of all that, Paxton Petty himself thankfully asked a ton of questions about how the heck he got to 2012, something that returned prisoners in previous episodes haven't done. Finally, someone did that! That's step one. Step two will be someone answering that question. So congratulations, Alcatraz, you've improved over the last two weeks.

But you're still kind of boring. Paxton Petty (rhymes with Bouncing Betty, a popular type of landmine) went on a landmining rampage, but it's not really clear why. He bombed some kids in Korea and didn't get "recognized" for it, so he started terrorizing innocent Americans? The criminals on Alcatraz are such twats that it really ruins the thrill of hunting for them. And since finding these creeps is the majority of the show, Alcatraz still feels like we're sifting through the sandbox, looking for toys amidst handfuls of cat turds. Until these criminals can actually be tied to the major story in a satisfactory way instead of being pawns, the show will always be like it is now. It's too black-and-white... which is fine for a cop show, but I expected Alcatraz to be more than a cop show. How did I get stuck reviewing a cop show? So mad at myself.

The big loser here is the San Francisco tourism board. Shootings in the streets? A sniper killing people randomly? Bank robberies and hostage situations? Child kidnappers? And now some lunatic planting landmines in public parks and playgrounds? That's a travel agent's nightmare.

Notes:

– That was Mehcad Brooks, who played the character Eggs on True Blood, getting blown up at the end there. Looks like Paxton Petty likes his eggs... scrambled. YEEEEAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

– Oh my god PLEASE stop with all the comic-book crap. We get it, he works at a comic-book store and likes superheroes.

Alcatraz seems to be trying to implant some personality into Rebecca, but if anyone who I hadn't seen yet said to me, "You switch to decaf yet?" I'd probably just keep on walking.

– "I just pictured him in a transparent suit." —Soto. Okay, plus one to you, Jorge Garcia.

– Can someone confirm or deny that rolling a landmine at someone after pressing the detonation switch works? Because I call bullshit.

– WHOA! Lucy and Hauser were more than friends in the old days? That would be interesting if I cared about either one of them.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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