Alcatraz premiered a couple nights ago and exceeded my expectations. The show begins with two police officers in 1963 going to Alcatraz for a prisoner exchange, but everyone has disappeared. One of those officers is Emerson Hauser. Fast forward to the present, Hauser (played by Sam Neill) is an off the grid FBI agent. His initial partner is Lucy, played by Parminder Nagra of ER and Bend it like Beckham fame, although it appears as though she has her own secret past. In the first episode they recruit our two protagonists, Rebecca Madsen, (Sarah Jones, a smoking hot blonde from season turns in Big Love and Sons of Anarchy) whose partner was just killed chasing after a criminal, and Alcatraz expert Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia of Lost fame).
In a nut shell, the show follows Madsen and Soto as they chase down fugitives who have time traveled from 1963 Alcatraz. Here’s what we know. A higher evil is bringing these inmates into the future without them knowing it. In 1963 they appeared to be doing blood testing on a number of inmates. Upon arriving in the future the inmate is giving a target to kill. Hauser is willing to be pretty morally ambiguous. Once the inmates are caught they are stored in a futuristic looking prison built just like, you guessed it, Alcatraz. Lucy appears to be originally from 1963 Alcatraz, we don’t know who knows this meaning she will probably be the face of the antagonists on a daily basis…. if she recovers from that coma she’s in from episode 2 when a inmate in the future shot her.
It appears as though half of the show will be a CSI, Law and Order type where they are hunting down their inmate. The other half of the show gives us a little background into the inmate in 1963. The first episode it gives us some sympathy for the inmate, the second, it didn’t really do anything other then eat time.
The present day plot has good pacing and I am thrilled Sarah Jones is the lead, I really loved her in Sons of Anarchy. She hasn’t needed to do too much acting wise, but has been good thus far. Garcia plays Hurley. I don’t mind it, but I liked that character in Lost. I can see where this could get on other peoples nerves though. Sam Neill has been a stereotypical morally ambiguous FBI agent, condescending to people he views as inferior, overly mean to prisoners, but also genuinely distraught when his partner is shot.
The seasonal plot appears to come from Madsen’s grandfather and also her “Uncle” Ray. Ray is played by Robert Forster and is Madsen’s guardian and was a guard at Alcatraz. We don’t know if he was working in 1963, but he has certainly aged and not time traveled to the present. In the pilot he appears to know more then he is letting on about the whole situation. Madsen’s grandfather is the fugitive who she and her partner were chasing in the pilot when her partner fell to his death. Madsen found out it was her time travelling grandfather at the end of the pilot when she saw his picture with all the other inmates pictures (she originally thought that he was a guard with Uncle Ray)
My one main negative of the first two episodes, especially if I hadn’t DVR’d them, is the past story in the second episode was slow and seemingly didn’t add anything except the reveal that Lucy was Lucy in 1963 at the end. I can foresee this becoming a problem. While the current day plot is good, I’m not sure if it can fill more then 2/3’rds of the shows run time while maintaining its quality. Why should we care about these one off characters? Which episode of Lost did you like most, the Nikki and Paulo one, or any other one? My point exactly.
That being said, the show has easily bought itself a place in my dvr for the next few weeks. My loyal readers can expect a mid season update.