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Cult Recap

'Alcatraz': 'Paxton Petty' recap

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Alcatraz S01E06: 'Paxton Petty'

© Fox / Liane Hentscher

Season 1, episode 6

This Week... When our unlikely trio tracks former inmate Paxton Petty (James Pizzinato), a sick land mine bomber who has returned only to place bombs throughout populated areas of San Francisco, methods of the past are applied to the present.

Welcome to Alcatraz... The frequent comic book references made by Doc Soto (Jorge Garcia) on Alcatraz are rather telling - the show is essentially a live-action comic strip, with 2D characters, functional dialogue and villains with special skills.

This week, we're even treated to a character with an absurd, alliterative name. Following in the footsteps of Peter Parker and Bruce Banner is 'crook of the week' Paxton Petty...

Petty's penchant for land mines makes for an explosive opening to the episode - literally - and the idea of a mentally scarred soldier utilising the tools of his trade for nefarious means is a good one.

But Petty's motivations are never satisfactorily explained. He's not recognised by his country for killing Korean youth soldiers - an act he saw as heroic - so begins targeting US citizens? As motives go, it's fairly thin.

Alcatraz S01E06: 'Paxton Petty'

© Fox / Liane Hentscher



What's even more frustrating is the implication that "something" happened to Petty during wartime to motivate his attacks. It's briefly referenced but never fully explained since, unlike the villains of previous weeks, his life before the island prison is not explored in flashback.

James Pizzinato also feels miscast - Petty consistently comes across as smug, rather than menacing. The episode's central arc does at least come to a reasonably interesting conclusion...

Petty is captured relatively early on, with the episode's final 15 minutes being devoted to Hauser and his unfortunate encounter with a land-mine. Killing Madsen's friend, bomb technician Tanner - a likeable Mehcad Brooks - is a bold choice and avoids the simplicity of a cookie-cutter happy ending.

Speaking of Hauser, we learn more about Sam Neill's gruff, enigmatic agent this week, as he breaks away from Madsen and Soto to pursue a past vendetta against Petty. Neill is as hilariously brusque as ever - in the final scenes, his slightly ruffled hair is the only sign that he's been stood on a land mine for hours on end...

Alcatraz S01E06: 'Paxton Petty'

© Fox / Liane Hentscher



"My legs hurt," he barks, before shooting Petty in the thigh. We're back to that comic book feel again - abusing criminals is apparently fine if it makes you look like a bad-ass.

But pleasingly, we get more glimpses at Hauser's past at Alcatraz - it's confirmed that he knew Lucy Banerjee / Sengupta back in the '60s and may even have become romantically involved with her...

Lucy, too, benefits from some new insight. While Parminder Nagra's mysterious medic remains comatose in the present day, she's surprisingly callous in the period flashback sequences, interrogating Petty for information on his mines. It's also established by Doc Soto that there's no data relating to a female doctors at Alcatraz - why is there no record of Lucy?

That's not the only query raised this week - the speed with which Alcatraz is resolving and posing questions in its season arc is one of the best things about the show. We know that Hauser is aware of Lucy and Bureaguard's past, but how exactly does he expect the prison doc to "fix" his one-time love?

Alcatraz S01E06: 'Paxton Petty'

© Fox / Liane Hentscher



Tommy Madsen (David Hoflin) gets relatively short shrift this week, but again an intriguing piece of information comes to light - he doesn't know why he's being subjected to a string of bizarre blood tests. An interesting development.

But overall, 'Paxton Petty' is one of this show's weaker episodes - an uninspiring villain and one too many absurd moments (Petty bowling the land mine at Madsen!) leave the viewer feeling dissatisfied.

And has anyone else noticed that this series is establishing a rather unfortunate formula? Each criminal strikes at multiple targets - the first attack notifying our heroes of his presence and subsequent incidents leading to his capture. Surely not every crook follows the same pattern?

Alcatraz is still good fun, but if it's going to stick to such a rigid formula, then the writers and casting directors need to ensure that the villain of the week is sufficiently interesting to hold our attention. And on that level, 'Paxton Petty' regretfully fails.

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