Creators: Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt
Producer: J.J. Abrams
Genre: Drama / Science Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 cells
Let me first say that I am a big fan of J.J. Abrams. I had a lot of fun with Alias, Fringe and LOST, and I loved Cloverfield, Star Trek, and Super 8. Imagine my excitement when I heard that the man was producing another television show to soak up another free hour of my life every week. Yes, the pilot of Alcatraz premiered this past week, and I was watching. What follows is a quick summary of the episode and main characters, and my thoughts on it.
In Alcatraz, three unlikely allies team up to investigate a series of murders committed by people who shouldn't even be alive. In the 1960's, 302 prisoners were said to have been transferred from the island prison. We quickly learn, however, that these inmates in fact simply vanished out of thin air. Fast-forward to present day: these same criminals are showing up in San Francisco with a debt to settle. What is even more strange, however, is that they haven't aged one day.
Sarah Jones), a San Francisco Police Officer, as she gets called in to investigate a murder. We learn (through a convenient LOST-esque flashback) that she witnessed her partner's death at the hands of an as-yet unidentified criminal, and we assume that she wants to be the best cop ever to make up for not being able to save him. She is quickly shoo'd off the scene by Emerson Hauser (Sam Neil), a tight-lipped know-it-all federal agent.
Leaving the scene with nothing but a stray fingerprint to guide her, Rebecca discovers that the evidence points to one Jack Sylvane, a man who was imprisoned on Alcatraz four decades prior. She meets up with Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia), a Double PhD/Alcatraz Book Author/Comic Book Salesman (no, I'm not making this up) to investigate The Rock further. Through a series of unfortunate events, Madsen, Hauser, and Soto (a.k.a. "Doc") decide to work together to find and incarcerate (again) Sylvane.
(end of ridiculous exposition)
As you can see, a ton happened in the Pilot. Questions were answered and new questions were raised. But how does it stack up to Abrams' other shows, and is it even worth watching?
First of all, Alcatraz employs liberal use of the flashback, something that payed off big for LOST. Between each commercial break, we are treated to the present-day exploits of our three heroes as they try to catch the villain as well as a look into what this villain's life was like while imprisoned on the rock. These flashbacks to the criminal's past gives you a lot of insight on the character and renders him more memorable than those goofy bad guys you see at the end of Scooby Doo (or CSI). It reminds me of Criminal Minds, and the extra effort is appreciated.
Another thing that makes Alcatraz stand out from the pack is that there is obviously something supernatural going on here. People don't just disappear for 40 years and then pop back up again to commit crimes and run 40K's. Through a combination of flashbacks and present-day character development, I am sure this story arc will add a lot more energy to the "catch one bad guy a week" formula. The question is this: How bogged down will the series get because of it? (Spoiler: Only time will tell.)
Finally, the show is visually beautiful. The past and present time periods are immediately recognizable. Past-Alcatraz is dark and gloomy, while the prison that Hauser puts the criminals in during the present (which looks structurally similar to the interior of Alcatraz) is bright and sterile. Even Soto's comic book shop has a bit of a charm to it.
Though eerily reminiscent of Abrams' past projects, Alcatraz seems to be a perfect mix between cop drama and supernatural thriller. Time will tell how popular the series is, but I plan on watching regularly.
4 out of 5 cells!
I hope that you enjoyed this review, and if you are watching the show as well, I would love to know what you think! I don't plan on writing a review for every episode, but I may do an end-of-season and beginning-of-season summary when applicable.