Thursday, March 1, 2012

Alcatraz: Episode 8: Clarence Montgomery

So Clarence Montgomery, the first POC inmate we’ve seen. And we begin with him at a swanky auction then joyriding with a beautiful woman in a golf buggy. Ok, whatever he’s guilty of, pardon him now because he’s already declared several kinds of awesome.

Except the awesome is interrupted by some odd flashes and then Clarence carrying her body with its throat cut – and him wondering who did it.

In the past we flash back to a racially segregated Alcatraz and Clarence tasting food for Warden James. And we learn that Clarence is a chef with an expert palette and that, despite segregation, Warden James wants him to cook for everyone.  Something he’s apparently very good at – judging by Warden James’ excellent line “put the seamstress on alert, my waistline’s in jeopardy”

Except, of course, the white inmates won’t eat the meal Clarence has prepared and quickly a fight breaks out – and Clarence is beaten.

Clarence has an interview with Dr. Sangupta where she talks about him working as a chef in an all white country club and his girlfriend (the owner’s daughter) having her throat cut, but Clarence is very clear that its his race that resulted in him being arrested. But later he gets a far worse experience with Dr. Beauregard with electroshock therapy apparently intended to make him admit to being guilty.

Except it seems to have the opposite effect, making the innocent man more stab happy. Well done Dr. Beauregard. Or, rather, this was intentional on the part of Dr. Beauregard and Warden James

In the modern world, Dr. Soto is doing his detective thing – and connects the dead woman with Clarence. Just as we see Clarence seeking refuge with a friend, Emmet Little, who was in Alcatraz with him – but someone who hadn’t leaped through time. Clarence also appears to have been an innocent man in Alcatraz, which is definitely a new one.

At the murder scene we gather the Scooby gang to do some investigating. But no witness can identify Clarence as the murderer and the pathologist examining the bodies is certain that past and present victims were not killed by the same person – different methods despite the same body position. But the killer must have copied Clarence’s alleged ancient crimes and know a lot about them. They get to meet up with Emmet Little and are told that Clarence was innocent of his past crime – but through the medicine Clarence is taking, the pathologist identifies one of Clarence’s hairs left on the modern victim’s body.

And then another fancy party, he meets another woman and another golf course and – alas - another body. Innocent back in 1958 (and acknowledged by Rebecca as such), it looks like Clarence may be guilty now, posing as a cook to enter catered events. This allows them to track him – but not to catch him with his reckless escape skills.

They do track him through his prescriptions to Emmet Little who is feeling… somewhat unco-operative.  But Emmerson talks Clarence into admitting he killed the women to Emmet. But begs him to help him not go back to prison – but he can’t stop killing (presumably because of what Dr. Beauregard did) and Emmet kills him, to spare him being taken back to Alcatraz.

At very least they do exonerate Clarence eventually (not that it does much so many years after the fact).

I have to say that the character of Warden James is one of the best acted or best written I’ve seen. I don’t know exactly why but he has first class creepy status all the time being soft spoken and pretty polite. The Deputy Warden is a much less pleasant person overtly, but not even a tenth as scary.

And we definitely get more of a hunt of the medical experiments that Warden James and Dr. Beauregard (and Dr. Sangupta?) were performing back in Alcatraz. The plot thickens.

Ok there was a lot of racial discourse here, from the implications of Clarence being in charge of all the cooking in Alcatraz – and what that meant being discussed with the other black inmates. Emmet Little and the injury he took from the police while fighting for Civil rights. The conversation between Clarence and Dr. Sangupta, and Clarence being wrongfully convicted in the first place – which is a nice twist considering the perpetual portrayal of Black men as criminals. There’s a lot here and there were many ways this could have been truly awful but I think many of them were avoided.

But sadly the only black inmate of Alcatraz we’ve seen has now been killed. And this show has a poor streak now for surviving black men.

Sadly there are still no GBLT characters in San Francisco.

I do like that Dr. Soto discussed some of the abuses in the prison system, the experiments on prisoners in the 1950s. Not just in this fictional Alcatraz, but in actual prisons. Dr. Soto and the pathologist, Nikki, continue their awkward flirting. I’d actually like to see this relationship develop, but also for Dr. Soto to be a little less stereotypically socially awkward.