Eric Johnson, who played Whitney on Smallville, pops up as this week’s time-jumping inmate, Cal Sweeney, on an episode of Alcatraz that works to offer more insight into the show’s overarching mystery, by posing plenty more questions.
As is the norm, we begin in the present to see the escaped criminal enacting his signature crime, and Sweeney doesn’t appear to have missed a beat. Sweeney takes a page from two monsters of modern media by drugging a smitten bank teller with a syringe full of tranquilizer a la Dexter, and then he makes like Anton Chigurh by puncturing an unlucky bank employee’s skull with a captive bolt pistol.
Needless to say, the murder and theft are enough that Sweeney ends up on Madsen and Soto’s radar – interrupting a moment where the two unlikely partners bond over Soto’s failed Gotham City-inspired crime prevention theory and a breakfast of steamed buns. There’s not much time for character development and backstory, however, as the larger question of Sweeney’s target, quickly takes precedence.
The episode spends more time in 1960’s Alcatraz than the other episodes so far, and certainly more than last week’s ‘Kit Nelson,’ which seemed more interested in forcing an exploration of Soto than the mystery of Alcatraz. Here, however, there is a general sense of mystery in what Sweeney is seeking and why he’s so desperate to obtain it.
Deputy Warden E.B. Tiller (Jason Butler Harner) reveals himself to be an even more opportunistic villain than before, by demanding a cut of Sweeney’s lucrative smuggling business, which he runs through the prison’s laundry facility. The interchange between Tiller and Sweeney is the driving force of the episode, acting as a kind of red herring for Sweeney’s past and present obsession – which, as it turns out, is a red herring for the audience, as the wild goose chase Madsen, Soto and Hauser embark on to bring Sweeney to justice, ultimately leads to the revelation that the thief had been manipulated into stealing something of value by an unnamed individual in the present – suggesting the individual(s) responsible for his being there in the first place.
Thankfully, a few hints regarding the larger Alcatraz mystery are sprinkled throughout; as we get to see 1960’s Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra), A.K.A. Dr. Lucille Sengupta, talk to Dr. Beauregaurd (Leon Rippy) about her work with memories and how they may be manipulated. While there is little further discussion on the topic, it’s clear this was intended to be a small element of the circumstances regarding the time jumping prisoners and guards.
Additionally, Warden James (Jonny Coyne), who appears to have a vested (if not disturbing) interest in Tiller, also shows us a hint at his involvement in the ever-growing mystery when he takes Sweeney’s young, opportunistic protégée (who had out grifted Sweeney to take over his smuggling business) to meet something or someone sinister hidden away in the bowels of Alcatraz.
Though the episode as a whole was light on the character side of things, ‘Cal Sweeney’ did provide a glimpse at just what Hauser (Sam Neill) has been chasing (besides the inmates) with those keys, which give the audience something more tangible to look forward to. And, of course, a key must unlock something, so at least there is now a goal larger than simply capturing the bad guy of the week.
Next time, True Blood‘s Jim Parrack (Hoyt Fortenberry) guest stars as the first guard to return from the past in ‘Guy Hastings.’
Alcatraz airs Monday night @9pm on FOX.
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