First Impressions


Aired on: FOX

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            A couple of months ago, a friend approached me about this weird new television series coming to FOX about Alcatraz prison.  I had never heard about this series, so I kept an eye out for any promos and when I finally did catch one, I found the concept intriguing.  I couldnít wait to check out the two-hour series premiere of Alcatraz that aired on Monday, January 16, 2012 at 8pm EST.

            In 1963, the official report of the closure of Alcatraz had the prison closing due to funding and deplorable conditions.  All the inmates were shipped off to different prisons and the guards retired or went on to other jobs.  But what if that official report wasnít exactly true?  What if someone decided to cover up the fact that everyone at Alcatraz had mysteriously disappeared?  Where did they go?

            Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) has been having a rough time of it.  She is an excellent homicide detective.  However, she has been riding solo ever since she witnessed her partner get murdered by a perp they had been chasing over rooftops.  On the very day her supervisor asks her to take on a new partner, Detective Madsen is assigned a very interesting murder case.  It would seem that someone had it in for former Deputy Warden of Alcatraz and later Federal Agent Elijah Bailey Tiller (Jason Butler Harner) and that someoneís prints lead to a former Alcatraz prisoner Jack Sylvane (Jeffrey Pierce) who died quite a few years ago.  Or did he?

            Federal Agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) kicks Madsen off the case, citing that Tiller was a Federal Agent and therefore the murder is his agencyís responsibility.  But when his credentials donít check out, Madsen continues her investigation with the help of Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia), author, comic book writer and authority on all things Alcatraz.  They eventually track down Sylvane and capture him.  It is then that they really learn what happened at Alcatraz, but that brings up even more questions.  If everyone, guards and prisoners alike, disappeared without a trace in 1963, how and why has Jack Sylvane returned?  He doesnít seem to remember.  Even more shocking is the fact that the man who killed Madsenís partner is actually her grandfather (David Hoflin), a former Alcatraz inmate who disappeared with Sylvane.

            The special two-hour event was actually a two episode event.  In the second episode Madsen is now working for Agent Emerson Hauser and his underground Alcatraz operation to hunt down all of the former inmates.  Madsen and Diego, now partners in this operation, are reluctant to trust Hauser, who hasnít been exactly forthcoming with all of the information regarding the bizarre disappearance of 1963.  In this episode, the two, with the help of Lucy Banergee (Parminder Nagra), agent and psychoanalyst, must track down serial killer Ernest Cobb (Joe Egender) before he murders again. 

            All I can say is WOW!  Not since the first episodes of Lost have I found myself so committed to uncovering the mystery behind a television show.  Long after the two episodes had completed, I found myself hypothesizing as to how the people in Alcatraz disappeared, why only inmates seem to be returning, why Sylvane seemed to be following orders from someone he canít remember, why the doctor seems so much older than her years and more.  And thatís just from two episodes.  Alcatrazís creator J.J. Abrams is the master of suspense and mystery.  Just look how long he kept everyone guessing about Lost.  Okay, I had the mystery figured out in the first few episodes of that series, but it was fun to watch it all unfold, until things started getting to big with too many characters and too many intertwining destinies.  But thatís the beauty of Alcatraz.  With Lost, you were annoyed at the introduction of all these new characters simply appearing out of nowhere.  In Alcatraz, so many people disappeared, there are endless possibilities as to who will return when and how their stories might relate to the other prisoners who had already returned.

            And Iím sure we will receive hints each week as to who or what was behind the disappearances and how Hauser knew that they would return (if the promos for next week are any indication, we should get an answer about that next week).  So long as the creators donít drag this thing into the incoherent mess that Lost eventually became, I think Alcatraz can be entertaining for quite a few years.  I, for one, canít wait to find out what happens next and so I will be seated in front of the television next Monday at 9pm EST to watch the next episode of Alcatraz on FOX.


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