ALCATRAZ 1.4: “Cal Sweeney”

Hmmm, it’s only episode four and ALCATRAZ has already gone to the ol’ cop-inside-the-hostage-crisis story. That’s pretty fast to resort to one of the clichés of the genre. On the plus side, the bungled bank robbery didn’t take up much of the story, and I actually thought the motive for the crimes showed some imagination.

The 63 of the week was bank robber Cal Sweeney (Eric Johnson), whose M.O. was to steal only from safe-deposit boxes, leaving the cash in the safe untouched. Unfortunately, he also killed a few people along the way, attracting the attention of Madsen (Sarah Jones) and Soto (Jorge Garcia). The 1960 flashback showed a little more about the way Deputy Warden E.B. Tiller (Jason Butler Harner) exploited the Alcatraz black market, which was operated by Sweeney. Also, we got to see that Chief Warden Edwin James (Jonny Coyne) had nothing but contempt for Tiller.

It was madness for Sweeney to carry on the final robbery once the alarm had been sounded, unless the recovery of that key from the safe-deposit box was a mission he was sent on by the mysterious person/force responsible for the time-jump. Unless I’ve missed something, we haven’t seen any references to the tasks assigned to the 63 since the first episode. Interesting that Sweeney said he wasn’t allowed to look at what was in the bag he recovered. Whoever is manipulating the 63 is keeping them in the dark as much as possible. It seems Sweeney messed up the mission by indulging in his old fetish, just as Ernest Cobb and Kit Nelson did, and attracting too much attention. Now Hauser (Sam Neill) has another key to add to the one taken from Sylvane in the first episode.

At least Sweeney’s motivation for his unusual crimes was different and interesting. It took me a moment to realize that he was looking for other people’s keepsakes and then quizzing them about what made the objects special. I guess it comforted him to know that other people invested a lot of emotion in inanimate objects. So what if Sweeney’s special keepsake was an empty tin box? The box is just a thing, in the same way that an emerald necklace is just a thing. Does a keepsake need to be intrinsically valuable in order to have sentimental value? No, it does not. A keepsake is valuable because of the emotions attached to it, not a monetary price.

Speaking of emotional value, I enjoyed learning that the comic book store is Soto’s true passion; he just got his PhD to appease his parents. At least he turned his expertise into a little money by writing the Alcatraz book. (I would imagine it’s a big seller in San Francisco.) Garcia continues to make Soto a delightful character. He’s still squeamish around dead bodies, but at least he’s not puking. And his expression when the florist offered him a 20 percent discount was priceless.

So, what’s the deal with the triple-locked subterranean room at Alcatraz? The warden is working with whoever/whatever is on the other side of that imposing steel door. Does James do the bidding of the mystery entity, or is James simply willing to grant a request, such as the meeting with Harlan (Steven Grayhm). Does the mystery room in 1960 have anything to do with the mass vanishing in 1963?

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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