Alcatraz: 110 “Clarence Montgomery” Review
Note: This episode was originally scheduled to premiere on February 27, 2012 in the US, however it was rescheduled due to the weather delay of the 2012 Daytona 500.
“Clarence Montgomery” (Season 1 | Episode 10)
WARNING – FULL SPOILERS
The focus of this week’s story was Clarence Montgomery (Mahershala Ali – Alphas, The 4400), a prisoner of Alcatraz who’s crime was murdering his girlfriend and then laying her oddly-placed body on the green of a golf course – only that’s not what happened (see what I did there?). This was quite a sad story in many ways, Montgomery was innocent of his crime and as if that wasn’t bad enough, he was sent to the most violent, and deeply prejudiced, place in America.
Hauser, Soto and Madsen were all on form in this episode and each contributed to the story well. The most insightful scenes were the flashbacks to 1960, where we learned a lot more about Tiller, found out about the warden’s ‘bloody’ secret and gained a clearer understanding of Dr Banerjee’s research on Alcatraz.
What I liked most about the flashbacks though was how they represented racism on the rock – it didn’t sugar coat it or play it down and that’s the key to making all of this believable. Alcatraz was a breeding ground for bigotry, hate and discrimination, and if the representation of these inmates is anything less than this then the show won’t be authentic. I’m not saying that this should be the main focus every week, just that it’s important to remind viewers that Alcatraz was the Guantanamo Bay of it’s era.
To the plot then, a young African American is wrongly sent to prison for the murder of his girlfriend only to be subjected to a bunch of Clockwork Orange visual screenings that, ironically, turn him into a killer. Montgomery felt a lot like John Coffee, the lead character from The Green Mile, a kind hearted man that had good intentions in life but succumbed to terrible acts of violence. Unlike Coffee, Montgomery was a chick-magnet and within minutes of entering a party he had a pretty brunette chatting him up.
Soto mentioned at the very end of the episode about some of the weird experiments that were performed in prisons in the 1950s, why he’s never mentioned this before is odd given the sudden re-appearance of Alcatraz inmates. This it appears is going to be part of the explanation behind what’s happening, along with the electro-shock therapy, which results in the inability to dream.
The biggest piece of the puzzle so far is blood. Beaureguard questioned warden James about what he puts in the inmate’s blood after he takes it out. James didn’t give anything away but you can bet that most likely something radioactive. This could even be a sample of something from the Earth’s crust, last week Sylvane mentioned that there was a ‘hole underneath the hole’, maybe this is where the source of radioactivity is – this would then tie in with what Hauser and his room full of geeks talked about when they mentioned seismic activity.
Montgomery had Wilson’s disease, as a result of which he was on penicillin and vitamin B6, it may be possible that a combination of this and the fact that he wasn’t a killer could have caused him to react in the way he did. Dr Banerjee said that her experiment “works in one direction” so it’s possible she was trying to cure a man she thought to be a criminal, but instead caused the opposite affect and created one.
Whatever the case may be there are definitely solid pieces of information that the show’s given us that are starting to link nicely. This is what LOST took so long in doing and in the end this is where it’s downfall came – too many threads of storyline and no way to intertwine them.
Clarence was also pretty nimble and in what was a great chase through the restaurant and into the street, he made an amazing dive under a moving truck that really brought the action to life.
As for Soto, he was once again brilliant in this episode and is still the one character that the audience can really connect with. And it seems we aren’t the only one connecting with him as he’s gone and got himself a date with Nikki. Well, saying that, Nikki did most of the work and Soto quite awkwardly accepted – it is a leap year after all. Hopefully we’ll see how this comic-book trivia filled date plays out next week, what’s going to be interesting to see is how long it will be before Soto lets it slip about what cases he and Madsen are really working on.
Hauser met with the chief of police in one of the closing scenes, there was talk of someone ‘running for office’, so how far does this situation run up the ladder? The Mayor’s office? The Governor’s?…or even the President’s? How this will be brought into the story will be fairly exciting, I feel that as the series heads towards the end of the first season it could be something to look at later on down the line.
Scene of the Episode | Bye Bye Clarence – this was a touching moment between two old friends that ended quite sudden and unexpectedly. Ali was at his best in this moment and really defined the tragic reality of this unfortunate character.
Reviewed by Rich Jepson, cult TV enthusiast and author of 24: Terrorism Through Television.