Alcatraz (2012)
“Pilot” Written by Elizabeth Sarnoff & Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt; directed by Danny Cannon.
“Ernest Cobb” Written by Alison Balian; directed by Jack Bender.

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Sarah Jones plays Rebecca Madsen, a San Francisco police detective whose partner is killed when he falls off a roof while chasing a suspect, an almost shot for shot recreation of the opening of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo. While waiting to be reassigned a new partner, Madsen gets involved in a murder investigation that leads her to the abandoned prison island of Alcatraz.

She seeks out the assistance of an expert on Alcatraz, Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia), who also happens to own a comic book store. What they uncover seems impossible: the murderer’s fingerprint is from an Alcatraz inmate who supposedly died many years ago.

A mysterious federal agent named Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) detains the two investigators in a high-tech lair far below the rusting prison monument and grudgingly reveals that the inmate is somehow still alive. Long story short, all of the inmates and guards disappeared from the prison in 1963, just before the prison was scheduled to be decommissioned, and now they are slowly reappearing, one by one, to wreak havoc.

Madsen and Soto join Hauser’s task force, and the hunt for the men out of time begins. It is clear that Hauser, who had been a rookie guard at the time of the inmates’ disappearance, knows much more about what’s going on than he is telling Madsen and Soto. This is even more evident with Hauser’s assistant Lucy (Parminder Nagra) in a startling revelation at the end of “Ernest Cobb.”

Alcatraz was created by many of the same folks who gave us Lost, and in many ways this is Lost on a different island. It looks like each episode will be the prisoner recapture of the week, with plenty of mythology and mystery thrown in to keep the audience guessing. I suspect that the show would last about 5 minutes if Hauser just relaxed and let everyone in on the big secret, but perhaps even he doesn’t know as much as I assume.

The acting  and chemistry between the characters is fun to watch. Garcia, in particular, looks like he will bring the same comic sensibilities to Alcatraz that he brought to Lost.

With a bit of science fiction, a bit of mystery, and a bit of police procedural, Alcatraz kept me engaged. I am looking forward to continuing with this new Fox series.


One response to “Alcatraz

  1. Leslie Cook

    I agree. Alcatraz actually kept my attention for the entire 2 hours. Yes, it all seems implausible, and of course I have tons of questions (like how do they get on and off of the island so quickly? speedboat? underground tunnel?), but hopefully the acting and writing continue to hold up in the future. Of course with Sam Neil and Jorge Garcia, how can you miss.

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