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I like TV. Probably more than any human should.

TV Diary | Alcatraz: “Guy Hastings”

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TV Diary | Alcatraz – Episode 1.05 – “Guy Hastings” – Original Airdate: 2/6/12

Episode Grade: A-

Now this… THIS is what I’d hoped Alcatraz was going to be all along. Following up its season-best episode in “Cal Sweeney,” Alcatraz managed to not only match the quality of its last installment but top it in the process. “Guy Hastings” advanced the mythology of the show in a compelling and fascinating way while managing to make its “inmate of the week” [1] story just as attention-grabbing. All along, we’ve been operating under the assumption that the only people who disappeared during the mysterious 1963 incident were inmates. However, “Guy Hastings” introduced the audience to the fact that it wasn’t just prisoners who mysteriously vanished – there were prison guards among the missing and Guy Hastings (Jim Parrack, True Blood), a training officer on The Rock, was one of them. That the episode focused on a former prison guard also gave the show occasion to bring back Robert Forster’s Ray Archer for the first time since the pilot [2] due to his status as a former guard himself and, sure enough, one of Hastings’ first moves is to track down his former protégé because he’s… wait for it… also looking for Tommy Madsen AKA Rebecca’s grandfather [3]. And just like that… BOOM. Mythology advanced. But the advancement didn’t stop there because in the process of the episode we would later learn that Ray got his job at the prison against the wishes of Tommy, which would lead to Tommy attacking his friend in full view of the other prisoners. After being advised by Hastings [4] that weakness will be exploited by the other inmates, Ray returns in kind by delivering a beating of his own to Tommy as a means of trying to regain respect, only to then later visit Tommy in the infirmary and tell him that he’s not going to let Tommy rot in Alcatraz alone because they’re… wait for it… actually brothers. That’s an incredible swerve that I admit that I did not see coming yet one that makes perfect sense. Of course Ray would take in Rebecca because she’s actually blood. Of course he would do what he could to try to help Tommy because they’re brothers. But Alcatraz went a step further by introducing a conflict between Ray and Tommy that seems to have taken place sometime between the flashback and present-day [5] because Ray IS aware that Tommy has returned and, in the episode’s final scene, there’s a confrontation between the two men that has Ray ominously warn Tommy, “Every moment you’re near puts her in harm’s way and if I see you again, I’ll kill you.” I’m really eager to see where this storyline is headed, probably more so than I’ve been about any of the show’s previous four episodes. I also really enjoyed getting a look at the mystery through the eyes of a former guard. While it’s difficult to feel sympathy for all of the inmates who were affected by the disappearance [6], seeing a straight-arrow such as Hastings be essentially ripped away from his family and then thrust into a different world while struggling to come to grips with what had happened to him helped to further illustrate the scope of the 1963 incident and the unintended effects it may have had. Watching Hastings wistfully looking at old family photos in what was once his home but has now long since been abandoned packs an emotional punch, as does his later declaration to Ray that the guards were told on the day of the disappearance that some kind of accident had claimed the lives of their families and that the guards themselves had been contaminated and were forbidden from leaving the prison. Hasting also confirms to Ray at one point that he’s searching for Tommy on orders from someone – “It’s what they told me.” – showing that, once again, Tommy Madsen is a lynchpin in whatever conspiracy is related to the disappearance. Without question, “Guy Hastings” was the best hour that Alcatraz has done yet. If there are more like this on the way, Alcatraz might really be onto something.

[1] Though, in this case, we actually weren’t dealing with an inmate.
[2] Seriously, guys… you had Robert Forster as a part of your cast and then had him sit on the sidelines for three straight episodes? What the hell?
[3] Who, in a seeming retrofit, we learned was Ray’s best friend, thus Ray’s decision to take her in and raise her himself. At least, that’s what we thought for a little while…
[4] And, as a possible impetus for Hastings seeking Ray out in the present-day, he goes to bat for him with Tiller after Tommy attacks Ray and saves his job in the process.
[5] We also learn that Tommy was initially imprisoned for the charge of killing his wife. When Rebecca asks Ray if he thinks that Tommy actually committed the murder Ray replies, “I didn’t. But then I did.”
[6] There was a good deal of sympathy engendered by Jack Sylvain and Cal Sweeney, to be sure.

Miscellany:
*”I’m not the first Madsen you asked to be on this task force, am I?” With those words comes confirmation that Ray is farther in on the conspiracy than we’d previously anticipated and that Hauser wants to find Tommy Madsen as badly as whoever’s running the conspiracy/disappearance does.
*Seeing an inherently good man like Hastings brutally beat a security officer who comes to investigate his presence in his old home and then take Ray hostage via force certainly lends credence to the theory that whatever’s bringing the 63s back is making them more violent. It’s one thing for a criminal like Cal Sweeney to come back and begin killing people but when a Boy Scout like Hastings starts handing out beatdowns, you have to wonder.
*Due to Hastings’ status as a former guard, we see Hauser take special interest in the case and go out into the field with Rebecca and Soto right off the bat instead of in the late stages of the game as we’ve seen in previous episodes.
*Hauser’s Nerd Council, first introduced in “Cal Sweeney,” isn’t just investigating the keys – Hauser mentions something about a spike in seismic activity on the day that Hastings returned, so it would appear that they’re all in on the entire conspiracy.
*”You know your dad who you thought was dead for 50 years? Well.. He’s kinda… back.”
*”You shouldn’t have come here.”
*”Where have I been? I haven’t been anywhere.”
*”You’re a casualty in this. You don’t deserve what happened to you.”
*”My grandfather is more important to you than I ever imagined, which means you need me much more than I need you.”
*Episode embedded below via Hulu, as usual.

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Written by jeremylikestv

February 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm

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