Episode Reviews

Pilot-Ernest Cobb

JJ Abrams attempts to revisit the mystery thriller with the new series Alcatraz staring Sarah Jones (Huff, Big Love) and Jorge Garcia (Lost).

Alcatraz follows the young detective Rebecca Madsen (Jones) and her reluctant partner Dr. Diego Soto (Garcia) as they chase down the mysterious lost inmates of Alcatraz island, all of whom disappeared in 1963. The main premise of the show is that these inmates, thought dead to all of society, have been returning to our present day and committing the same type of grievous crimes that got them incarcerated decades ago.

Abrams uses this premise to provide the audience with their main draw to the series, why are these people coming back and what is the end game. There is obviously some type of mastermind at work, but we have yet to see who it is or the final plan. The show itself will likely be filled with many different side characters as it seems after capture, all the returning inmates seem to have motives and agendas of their own. The main charge of these inmates is Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park), the creator of a new Alcatraz prison and main interested party in the lost inmates. In typical Abrams fashion, we don’t really know what side Hauser is on, or what his agenda is, but I guess that is Abrams’ plan as it is.

To me, the whole show reminding me of an odd mix of Lost with Fringe with a sprinkling of Castle. Like Lost we have a mysterious over plot where our lead characters do not understand the reasoning or madness behind it, with a character dynamic similar to Fringe with a grief stricken workaholic detective morning the loss of her partner only to be partnered up with a civilian. And like Castle we see a cop-drama with a detective/civilian pairing where the civilian uses his expertise in literature (or in this case the subject matter of Alcatraz) to propel cases forward.

The fact that Soto is the subject matter expert almost trivializes the crime aspect of the show itself, as unlike Castle there is no discovery period. Soto more or less identifies the culprit immediately and the chase begins to find the inmate.

Also, in typical Abrams fashion, the end of the second episode tonight provides a bit of a hook as we see that the timelines are not as clear as we once though from the shows introduction. Abrams has had a lot of productions though the pipe these last two seasons, and it’s hard to say how well Alcatraz will fare (compared to the disastrous Undercovers for example).

Abrams does love his mythology in his shows (Fringe, Alias, Lost) and that is arguably where his strengths lie. He is a master at creating a world filled with mystery and intrigue where seemingly innocuous things all tie together somehow (a feature lacking in the failed Undercovers) and the initial feeling of Alcatraz reminds me of his previous shows. The problem is, as it stands, the show feels far too episodic with an “inmate of the week” feel that could bog down the series as a whole, infuriating the audience with only a mere morsel of plot advancement per week. It’s the same issue that plagues all of his shows as well as you wonder if Abrams gets lost in his own story as he tries to balance a cohesive narrative with a variable length series run.

Other Observations

  • Numbers! 302 inmates, inmate 2024, door code 6323, and a few others I missed but are surely available on some wiki.
  • Sone inmates seem to have missions, and some are just random chaos. How do they get their missions and they all seem to acclimate to the future easily.
  • A restricted inmate file is Googable? Wow.
  • “I’m more partial to packman, but that’s because I like to eat.” “(I’m) Dr. Diego Soto, will you marry me?” – Hugo not shy this time
  • “Aren’t you kinda young to be a detective? I bet you have a cool origin story.”

By Kien Tran

Based in Dallas, Texas, Kien Tran is an avid television enthusiast. After spending hundreds of hours wasting away on a couch, he decided to actually do something creative with his hobby and created this very blog.

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