TV Diary | Alcatraz: “Kit Nelson”
TV Diary | Alcatraz – Episode 1.03 – “Kit Nelson” – Original Airdate: 1/23/12
Episode Grade: C+
“Kit Nelson” was not really the way that I’d hoped Alcatraz would come out in its second week, even as I understood its approach. The first couple of episodes of a season – particularly that of a debut season – usually see a show repeating itself, and its pilot in particular, as a way of reinforcing what the show is while at the same time creating an inviting environment for newcomers who may be seeing the show for the first time. So, I get that Alcatraz used the same formula for “Kit Nelson” that it did for its second episode, “Ernest Cobb,” but it didn’t make it any less frustrating. I have the sense that there’s a really weird and interesting show in here struggling to get out but it’s weighted down by the generic procedural aspect that’s in the show’s DNA thus far. Like in “Ernest Cobb,” Madsen and Soto track down a baddie but this time instead of a crazed sniper it’s a crazed child-kidnapper. That amps the stakes more than a little  even as it was doubtful that Alcatraz is the kind of show that’s gonna kill a kid, especially in its third episode. In a nutshell, Nelson killed his own brother back in the day as a child and then, as a response, began kidnapping and killing other kids as a way of working out his issues. Not particularly healthy, that. Ultimately, this episode – much like “Ernest Cobb” – felt waaaay too Criminal Minds-ish for my tastes. If this is something that becomes a regular occurrence, I’m going to have to reevaluate whether Alcatraz is something worth sticking with but for now the strange threads that pop up at various points in each episode are what’s keeping me around and there were a couple in “Kit Nelson” that caught my attention. First, Nelson is the first of the three Alcatraz escapees that we’ve seen who hasn’t survived . What does that do to the dynamic of the show, seeing as Hauser has incarcerated both Cobb and Jack Sylvain in a mysterious high-tech prison in the middle of the woods? Even more intriguing – is Nelson actually going to be dead? The final moments of “Kit Nelson” introduced Leon Rippy  as Dr. Beauregard, the mysterious medical examiner at Hauser’s new facility and, after delivering Nelson’s lifeless body to the doctor, Hauser mentions something about possibly needing Beauregard’s services for a friend – presumably Parminder Nagra’s Dr. Bannerjee who is still near-death in the hospital following her shooting in “Ernest Cobb.” Sooo… are we re-animating corpses here? Something even more strange, perhaps? Either way, it’s these little hints of weirdness that make Alcatraz worth sticking with for the time being. Given the fact that the show’s been a breakout hit for Fox the past two weeks, they’re probably loathe to change the formula too much but less generic torture-porn procedural and more weird sci-fi is definitely the direction the show needs to be heading. Time will tell if that’s what happens.
 And allows a bit of backstory into Soto, as he confesses to the victim towards the episode’s conclusion that something similar happened to him when he was an adolescent. Nice to get a little insight into Soto, even if it came in a somewhat lackluster episode like this.
 After being shot dead by Hauser when Madsen’s unable to pull the trigger.
 Tom Nuttall! Deadwood represent, yo.
*Through three episodes, Sam Neill isn’t being given much to do other than act like a hardass each time he’s on screen. Here he cancels the amber alert on the abducted child because he doesn’t want the photo of Nelson to be widely distributed due to his status as a 63. He also seems willing to boot Soto from the team until Madsen goes to bat for him, and later psychoanalyzes Soto by telling him that the incident from Soto’s past has caused a state of arrested development and that the only reason he’s keeping him around is because his expertise on the subject of Alcatraz. I said in my initial review that Neill is somewhat handicapped by Hauser’s role as the keeper of the secrets but Neill’s been a decent actor for much of his career. Maybe give him some more to do already.
*On the subject of giving people more to do… no Robert Forster again? What the hell, Alcatraz?
*Another one of those interesting threads that’s I’ve been talking about comes when we see Nelson at Alcatraz in flashback talking to a figure behind a curtain in the infirmary. For the second time, said figure cuts deeply into the psyche of the inmate who’s the focus of the episode. As I said, this is the second time that type of scene has played out in Alcatraz’s three episodes and, here, the man behind the curtain is revealed to be Madsen’s grandfather. That’s clearly something that’s going to be important going forward and is a nice nod to continuity.
*Admittedly, I didn’t like too much about the “Kit Nelson” plot, but the fact that he killed his victims within 48 hours of abduction provided a nice time crunch for our heroes to solve the case.
*On the other hand, the actress playing the mother of the kidnapped kid? Maybe act a little more broken up about YOUR KID BEING KIDNAPPED BY A PYSCHOPATH. Jesus… it’s like someone told her that her blender had been stolen – not her oldest child.
*I’ve generally liked Sarah Jones’ work in the past (Big Love, Sons Of Anarchy, Justified), but her line readings here are kind of odd and dispassionate. Am I the only one noticing this?
*Is Madsen always going to apprehend these guys in the rain? Something to think about.
*The first five minutes of this episode… I swear to God if you hadn’t told me that it was Alcatraz I would have sworn it was an episode of Fringe. Here’s hoping that Alcatraz ends up following a similar path as that show, at least from a content standpoint since Fringe has never drawn the numbers that Alcatraz has in its three outings.
*Doc’s attempts to stall Nelson after he happens upon him in the diner are great. “Hey… what are you guys up to?”
*”If he had tried my cherry pie, he wouldn’t be so unhappy.” I may have heard this line differently than intended.
*Episode embedded below via Hulu, as usual.