Review – Alcatraz Pilot

Fox debuted this new series on Monday January 16, 2012. It’s a mid-season replacement for another one of Fox’s new Drama Terranova which ended it’s first season back in December. The show focuses on the disappearance of inmates and guards from Alcatraz back in 1963. It proposes the idea that the prisoners were not transferred to other facilities when the prison closed, but that the prison was closed due to the unexplained disappearance of everyone on the island. Now in the present the prisoners are reappearing, looking the same after nearly 50 years. They aren’t trying to integrate back into society though, they are still criminals and a small group of federal agents is set the task of recapturing them.

So that’s the basic idea of the show. Now to get a little more detailed. If you have yet to watch the first episode please proceed with caution. This is officially a Spoiler Alert

Like a lot of people I was a big fan of Lost it’s hard to come up with a show with so many unanswered questions and keep it interesting. J.J. Abrhams seems to have a gift for this. If he doesn’t make it himself he at least puts himself behind it. That’s how Fox has been promoting it too, as a new series from the creators of Lost and/or J.J. Abrhams. You know that is a great way to draw in an audience to a show. It can completely backfire though. Fans of lost are going to look for a group of people they can love and hate all at the same time. They want mysteries with answers, and even more mysteries without them. Lucky for us it’s looking like Alcatraz might be able to fill those roles.

The episode starts with a voice over by Sam Neil explaining what I talked about in the first paragraph then cuts to a tour taking place on the island. A man is found sleeping in a cell and he gets told to leave. We quickly find out he is one of the criminals who was imprisoned on the island back in the 1960’s. This is where the show does something that so far I’m liking. It shows you flashbacks to the prisoners life back while they were in Alcatraz. Both prisoners shown in the first two episode’s flashbacks take place in 1960, I think this is gonna be a factor for the mass disappearance in 1963. After learning virtually nothing of why this man is alive and well and still looking the same we’re shown our leading lady Rebecca Madsen played by Sarah Jones, who played a neo-nazi’s equally racist daughter in the second season of Son’s of Anarchy.

Rebecca is first seen chasing a criminal with her partner across some roof tops. The chase doesn’t last long as the criminal causes her partner to fall and die. This leads us to a meeting with Rebecca and her boss. We learn it’s actually several weeks later, which places those events prior to the man waking up in the jail. She’s told she needs a partner, Rebecca doesn’t want one though. She agrees to choose one soon and goes out on a call. It’s a murder of the old deputy warden back in the 60’s. See where this is going? Well before Rebecca can do much she’s forced off the scene by FBI agent Emerson Hauser, played by Sam Neil or better known as Dr. Alan Grant in the first and third Jurassic Park. Rebecca isn’t one to take being thrown off a case nicely and ends up walking out with a broken picture that she runs prints on and finds out that our murderer was an inmate from Alcatraz back in the 1960’s who is suppose to be dead. His name is Jack Sylvane and we know him as the man who woke up at the begining of the episode.

This turn of events leads us to what I deem and the real start of the show. Rebecca needs an expert on Alcatraz so she tracks down a Doctor who happened to write a book on the prison. Enter Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto played by Jorge Garcia or for any fan of Lost Hurley. Diego has a PhD in Criminal Justice and History and runs a comic book store, he is what seems to be an expert on Alcatraz, knowing guards and inmates by name off the top of his head. Over the next bit of the show we meet Rebecca’s “Uncle” Ray who was a guard at the prison back in the 60’s. Then Diego and Rebecca head to the island and quickly get gassed and wake up in what Diego refers to as the “Batcave” under the prison. Here we official meet Emerson Hauser and his assistant Lucy Banerjee portrayed by Parminder Nagra, who was Dr. Neela Rasgotra for 6 years on ER. Together they have been working to bring the criminals back in and find out what happened to them.

I don’t want to give away to much more but I will say that Jorge Garcia makes the show. I loved him on Lost and he was great in an episode of How I Met Your Mother from season 6. His character is the one you want to watch he’s important to the plot and provides comic relief in the form a quick witted one liners based around observations of what’s happening. The rest of the cast did a great job as well. Sarah Jones seems like she could really be a strong female cop, but she’s also a pretty blonde so she’ll hit multiple demographics. Anyone who remembers Sam Neil as Dr. Alan Grant knows he can play a cranky old man great and that seem to be his role here. He’s mean, appears to be somewhat ruthless to be honest and only cares about finding these prisoners and getting to the bottom of what really happened. Oh did I mention that he was one of the 2 guards back in 1963 who found the prison empty after everyone vanished? Yea he’s got some real character quirks but it’s what the show needs. And lastly we have Parminder Nagra who isn’t really used much in the first episode. She’s introduced and pops up from time to time but otherwise the show really focuses on Garcia and Jones’ characters. Previews lead me to believe she is going to have some major mysteries of her own coming up very, very soon.

The main cast of Alcatraz

The main cast of Fox’s Alcatraz

All in all I’m going to keep watching Alcatraz. It’s got the right people behind it and a great cast with an even better concept. My only concern is that it turns into a “criminal” of the week show where each week we get a new convict who the characters have to track down and capture. That wouldn’t make this a bad show, but I think it has a lot more to offer then that. Especially after we get further into the story and they can delve deeper into what’s going on and who’s pulling the strings.

Now go watch the show, and find out how the episode ends!

talks a bunch on PodQuest each week. He's also been known to write about stuff from time to time.

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