‘Alcatraz’ 1.13 Recap: “A Devil Is Always Needed”

So here we are, at what may likely be the end of the line for ‘Alcatraz’. Does the season’s final episode resolve all, or at least some of the show’s major mysteries? Or does it, like so many other “bubble” series, leave us with a frustrating cliffhanger in a desperate bid for renewal? Just by asking that question, have I not also already answered it?

The last episode is titled ‘Tommy Madsen’, after Rebecca’s grandfather. However, another convict also plays a significant role in the plot. That’s Joseph Limerick, the man who shot Garrett Stillman and stole the warden’s key, which in turn Stillman had stolen from billionaire Harlan Simmons. How Simmons got the key from the warden in the first place isn’t addressed.

Limerick is also known as “Ghost,” because he officially died during an escape attempt in the ’60s. Really, the warden fished him out of the ocean and falsified a death report. In the present day, Limerick checks himself into a mental hospital to hide out for a while. During the admissions process, he tells the hospital staff his true story, which is more than sufficient to make him look like a lunatic.

Mystery Answered: In flashbacks, we find out why the warden and Dr. Beauregard had been taking so much of Tommy’s blood. The warden pulls Tommy out of his cell and has him strapped to a table, where a new creepy doctor (played by character actor Matt Craven) gives him a blood transfusion. I don’t believe the doctor is ever named in the episode, but some searching online suggests that he’s called “Mr. K.” Tommy says that he can taste metal, and then later feels incredibly strong and rejuvenated. It would seem that Mr. K had been experimenting with the blood and infusing it with the colloidal silver compound. The warden brings Tommy to a hotel room in the city, and tells him that they have big plans. Tommy will be his “advance man.” This, then, should serve as confirmation that the warden has been behind the vanishing and returning prisoners. I don’t think this is too much of a surprise.

Back in the present day, Tommy enacts a convoluted plot to kidnap a doctor from the mental hospital in order to get in and get to Limerick, who babbles something about needing protection from Harlan Simmons and then leaps through a window to his death. Doc retrieves the warden’s key from Limerick’s body.

Rebecca spots Tommy and chases after him in what must be one of the most ridiculously blatant product placement action scenes in the history of television. First, Tommy hijacks a Ford Mustang, then Rebecca commandeers another Ford Mustang off the street (not her own Ford Mustang, mind you, but another one) to chase him in a really low-rent and blandly-staged recreation of that famous scene from ‘Bullitt’. Then Doc hops in Rebecca’s Ford Mustang to trail after them. In other words, basically every car in San Francisco is a Ford Mustang. It’s absurd.

Tommy rolls his car and Rebecca tries to arrest him. After suggesting that her original partner (the one Tommy killed) had been spying on her, and mentioning something about how Harlan broke a promise to the warden (which I guess is as much explanation as to how he got the warden’s key as we’ll receive), Tommy gets the jump on Rebecca and stabs her. Doc finds her bleeding in the street and calls an ambulance.

Hauser secretly meets with some military guy, who is said to report directly to the President. This seems to imply the Hauser somehow works for the military. His friend/commanding officer/whatever asks, “Does this mean the warden is back?” It would not appear so, at least not in this episode.

Lucy learns that the silver that had been transfused into her body has fused with her organs and can’t be removed. It also acts as some sort of homing beacon. Hauser wants to get her on a plane to Costa Rica, but Lucy won’t run.

Eventually, Hauser and Lucy use the warden’s key to open the locked door beneath the lighthouse. Beyond it is… an empty room. Well, mostly empty. They find some old computer terminals and a map of the United States with markers indicating return points for the inmates – and they’re all over the country, not just in San Francisco. Hauser hears a noise and rushes around a corner to find a just-waking-up Mr. K on the floor. He seems disoriented and asks what year it is, then laughs when Hauser tells him.

Wrapping it up, Rebecca is rushed to the hospital, where she dies. Yes, apparently, the show just killed its lead character.

And that’s it. The end. Bam.

This episode is frustrating on a number of levels. Even if we’re really meant to take this as a season finale and not a series finale, it’s still a fairly lackluster cliffhanger. I would assume that some plot twist in a second season would have Rebecca miraculously recovering, or would have her revived from the dead by Hauser and Beauregard (or by the warden?). But if there isn’t a second season, we have to read the episode as given, and Rebecca is just dead.

Was the part about Hauser finding Mr. K supposed to be some great mind-fuck? It’s not, really.

Fine, we learned that the warden was responsible for the disappearance of the prisoners, but we still don’t know how or why. What’s he doing this for? What’s his plan or end goal? Where is he now? Why is Lucy a target? Why was Rebecca’s partner spying on her? Why is Dr. Beauregard now working for Hauser? What was the warden’s deal with Harlan Simmons, and how did Simmons betray him?

We don’t even get the faintest hint of answers to these questions. And if Fox cancels the show, we never will.

At the time of this writing, Fox hasn’t yet officially announced the fate of ‘Alcatraz’, but it doesn’t look good. With such a limp finale, I’m left really unsatisfied.


  1. I have actually enjoyed this series and I would hate it if they just killed it without any explanation of what the hell was going on. They actually started to come out with answers in this last episode and now I really want to know what the Warden and that scientist are up to.

  2. Bryan

    I’m with Tim … I think the show has a great premise and started to really come together near the end. I’m hoping that Fox finds a way to bring it back. If Fox does cancel it, there’s always the chance someplace else (SyFy?? Netflix??) could pick it up. I know there’s always more CGI than one might think, but I’m guessing this isn’t a super-expensive show to produce, so I’ll hold out hope that it’ll come back.

  3. Really loved the last few episodes and I’m disappointed that it will likely be canceled now. I think they did a good job of balancing progress with the secrets, adding new ones and keeping some open.

    I would rather them not answer everything with the risk of being canceled, than answer everything and risk getting renewed. That would be truly awful.

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