With a two part, two hour episode, Fox ended the first season of its new thriller, Alcatraz. While I found the show to be quite entertaining, I also found that the first season and the finale left something to be desired. The show operates on a very interesting premise. The world believes that in 1963, the prison on Alcatraz was shut down due to financial reasons. What actually happened was much more supernatural. In 1963, every person on the Rock just disappeared, and now they are coming back. The show has a great premise and set0up but has some trouble delivering their “shocking” moments and giving the audience answers to the myriad of questions they had cultivated.
One thing I very much appreciated about Alcatraz was the way the show was structured. Each episode had its own episode long plotline that focused on the return of one of the 1963 inmates. Generally, each inmate was contained or killed during the episode, thus ending the plotline and the threat. Normally, I don’t like this setup for shows where each episode is one and done, never really creating a continuing plotline. What Alcatraz does a great job of I s creating episodes that stand alone but also have enough in them that build on one of the many growing, season long plotlines. A lot of this success is due to the show’s use of flashbacks. Jumping from present day to when the inmates were in jail allowed the show to build on multiple plotlines at once. The prisoner’s past allowed us to understand their actions in the present thus building on the episode plotline. Watching the inmates interact with each other and the Warden in the past also provides insight into the season long mysteries that take place on Alcatraz.
The show follows Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) as she is pulled into the search for the returning inmates. Partnered with Alcatraz expert Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia), Rebecca joins a team led by Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) dedicated to finding the inmates as well as to understand why they disappeared in the first place. As the inmates return and the past and present unfold for the audience, a number of mysteries beyond the bizarre disappearances arise. The first inmate Rebecca encounters is actually her grandfather who we learn is in the midst of an elaborate plot to find a number of keys that opens a door deep in the heart of Alcatraz. Not only is Tommy Madsen (David Hoflin) orchestrating crime and gathering inmates from the past, he was also very important in the past. Edwin James (Jonny Coyne), the illustrious Warden of the Rock, has some fascination with Tommy’s blood and spends years draining the precious liquid from an otherwise perfectly healthy man. The blood most likely has something to do with a compound found in some of the returning inmates’ blood that seems to have healing properties. Confused yet? I hope not because I forgot to mention that Houser worked at Alcatraz in 1963 and was dating a young doctor who also worked there. Not on the island during the disappearance, Hauser has spent 50 years searching for psychiatrist Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra) who hadn’t aged a day. If that’s not enough mystery for you, there is much more to uncover in the show, I just wanted to give a crash course of the most pressing mysteries the show has to offer.
The show’s season finale, though thrilling and entertaining, raised more questions than it answered. After spending a season cultivating some fairly in-depth mysteries, the series finale seemed to promise at least some answers. Some mysteries should have remained but some answer are required to keep the most curious of viewers happy or at the very least some progress needs to be shown. Rather than answering questions, the finale only heightened the mysteries and made them more cryptic. Hauser managed to obtain the three keys required to open the Warden’s door and finds an ancient, technological laboratory of sorts. Instead of giving us any insight as to why the inmates disappeared or what the laboratory was for, we are just told that the inmates are returning all over the United States. Tommy lets us know that he seems to be working for the Warden, though we don’t know if he’s returned yet or not. Rebecca and Tommy finally meet and have a cryptic conversation that reveals almost nothing and ends with Rebecca being stabbed. The season ends with Rebeccas’s death at the hospital. Though it is a great cliffhanger ending, there is a fairly predictable fix. Not only does blood with healing properties exist and it was something to do with Tommy’s blood, who is Rebecca’s direct relative.
Alcatraz is a very promising show with a great structure and some great mysteries. I had some issues with the show but in the grand scheme of things, they were all small things that will not ruin the show. I give Alcatraz a 7 out of 10 and will look forward to the season 2 premier to see if my prediction about Rebecca’s fate is fulfilled.