Musing Review: Alcatraz Season Premier (S1, Ep1 Ep2)
I write this tonight as the third episode is about to air on Fox so I’m a little bit late but I’m very much behind this show. Yes, I know I’m doing it again. I’m getting caught up in a new series premiere on a network (Fox) that isn’t known for keeping new shows on the air. I should have learned by now but I really liked Terra Nova. Enough about me, onto my take on Alcatraz.
It’s a very interesting concept from the mind of J.J. Abrams (who in my mind doesn’t do too much wrong). He executive produces the show about the famous prison Alcatraz (“the rock”) and 302 notorious prisoners and guards that have started appearing 50 years after vanishing without a clue. I was skeptical of this concept before I watched but after I watched it was just crazy enough to work because they at least made it a little more complex.
One night all in 1963 all of the prisoners and guards disappeared without a trace. Two guards discovered the people were missing and this caused the government to cover up the disappearances. The public thinks thats the prison closed from disrepair and that all the prisoners were transferred out. They kept the rouse up and most of the people “died” throughout the years. Hold that thought.
Now almost 50 years later the people who vanished have started showing up again. As many of the vanished were prisoners they came back performing crimes. Does anybody think this sounds like The 4400? (Though there’s no indication they have special powers). As we saw in the premiere some of their crimes were part of their original M.O. or crimes of passion (revenge) but some of them were for a reason. Who’s pulling their strings? Why have they come back? Hmmm… I think this could be a great storyline to explore.
The show follows three main characters. First is the broken San Francisco Police Department detective, Rebecca Madsen (played by Sarah Jones), who is having a hard time getting over the death of her partner. The second is the hardass FBI agent, Emerson Hauser (played by Sam Neill), who was one of the guards that found out everyone was missing in 1963 and has seemingly spent his life trying to recatch these criminals. The third is the wise, nerd, sage-like expert on Alactraz, Diego Soto (played by Jorge Garcia) who is there to provide all the necessary background on the guards and prisoners. So far Hauser is the most intriguing. He’s dealing with 50 years worth of issues and seems to have a dark side with somewhat good intentions. He came off downright creepy in a couple scenes. Sarah and Diego are now partners as she’s assigned to the FBI (how convenient). He’s playing this sort of comic relief and serves to ground us back reality when the hardened cop/agent go off the record.
The narrative is told in a flashback method (a la the earlier seasons of lost) and it serves to weave the backstory of Alcatraz with the current day hunt. The visuals are good and the prison looks authentic. The music is a little too much like lost for me. I mean it works, but it sounds too much like it. I didn’t look at the audio credits but I bet they read similar to that other J.J. Abrams show.
I think the format of the show will work. The first two episodes followed a “baddie of the week” format in which they chased down two different inmates. From the preview I read about tonight it’s going to continue to follow that pattern. The trio has to catch all of these criminals without letting the public know. How could they explain that these “dead” criminals have come back to perform more crimes? Of course they dropped in nuggets of information about a season long story line (I’ll get to that in a minute). This format will help the casual viewer stay on top of the show which may ultimately lead to higher ratings. The more serious viewer can spend every episode trying to figure out the longer term plot.
So there were two nuggets already dropped that I think can be interesting story lines. Apparently the guy who murdered Sarah’s partner was an inmate. Not only was he an inmate but he is Sarah’s grandfather. On top of that Sarah was always taught that her grandfather was a guard, not an inmate. There’s so much there that’s ripe for exploring. The second nugget is that once they recapture the prisoners they bring them back to some creepy recreation of Alcatraz that is out in what I’m guessing to be the woods outside of San Francisco. I bet they’ll use that in order to question inmates from earlier episodes. Are people go to escape from there? What’s really going on there? There’s always the backstory of Alcatraz that could make for some great TV too.
I thought it was a great start. I wish the series premiere was one contiguous two hour block versus two distinct episodes but I’ll take what I can get. I hope it goes on for a whole season so we can explore all of the threads that have been laid out. I’m hoping J.J. as EP delivers for us once again (with hopefully more answers). What did you think?
Watch Alcatraz Monday nights at 9:00PM ET on Fox. Catch up on Fox.com or Hulu.Tags: Alcatraz, fox