Alcatraz: questions that need answering

Like many, I was intrigued by the premiere of Alcatraz a few weeks back. However, something I immediately noticed during the second hour of the premiere event was that the episodes would only be good as storyline involving the criminals that Det. Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones), Diego "Doc" Soto (Jorge Garcia), and Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) chase during each episode.


In the pilot, we are introduced to the mystery surrounding the inmates from Alcatraz and we meet our first time traveling criminal, Jack Sylvane, a World War II veteran who robs a grocery store and ends up in federal prison because the grocery store sold stamps. He is ultimately sent to Alcatraz for killing a fellow inmate in self-defense. When he reappears in present day he kills the guard who planted a screwdriver in his cell on visitors' day and sent him to solitary confinement (which made him miss a visit with his wife). I was involved in the episode because all of Jack's actions seemed predetermined. It was obvious that he was working for someone even though he couldn't say who.

Since then we have been introduced to Ernest Cobb, Kitt Nelson, and Cal Sweeney and I must say that my interest in each of their stories has dwindled each week. From what I saw of the previews I was hoping that this week's episode, revolving around bank robber Cal Sweeney, was going to be a nail biter but it turned out to be a dud in my opinion.

I can't help but feel that the writing is not suspenseful enough and the formula is getting old fast. A crime happens and immediately Rebecca, Doc, and Emerson are two steps ahead of the time traveling criminal to stop him at his game. And I must say that the flashback method of telling stories is getting over-used. We have gotten bits and pieces of information from the flashbacks but I just don't feel like it's enough to be fully invested in the show. The biggest shocker thus far has been the fact that Emerson's partner in searching for the criminals Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra), who is currently in a coma after being shot by Ernest Cobb, is actually a time-traveler as well. So, does she know the story of what's going on? And does Emerson know her full background? Maybe this Monday's episode will help move the plot along a bit since it's surrounding one of the guards as opposed to the criminals.

I do have a few questions that I am hoping will be answered. It has been emphasized that the Alcatraz criminals are returning and committing similar crimes to those that sent them to prison in the first place, but, that wasn't the case with the first prisoner captured in present day, Jack Sylvane. When he returned he went and killed someone, while he did kill back in the day it wasn't truly his crime. His initial crime was theft. What makes him different? Also, Rebecca's uncle was a guard at Alcatraz how much of the mystery disappearance does he know about?

More questions than answers, and it's beginning to feel like another beloved JJ Abrams show: Lost. Hopefully Jorge Garcia hasn't found himself stuck on another island that will never provide the answers we are all looking for.

By Frances Seda

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On: Friday, February 3, 2012
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

I'm much in agreement Frances, though I think that the flashbacks have been one of the stronger pieces of Alcatraz thus far. 

Another thing that bothers me (a little) that I've not seen anyone mention: shouldn't we be seeing more people who work for and with Hauser? Beyond the creepy silent guards at the "secret" Alcatraz prison, it feels like a three-person operation (with one of them moonlighting as a comic book artist)... which doesn't do much to create a sense of realism. 

Reading your piece, I'm reminded of a show that did a great job of bringing in a "monster of the week" while developing characters and the underlying mythology: Reaper. 

On: Friday, February 3, 2012
Frances Seda said:

Good point Eric, although I believe in this past week's episode we did get a glimpse of some of the other people working for Hauser. It was at the end of the episode when he takes a key to some people sitting in a room and has them analyze it. But, like you said there is still a complete lack of realism the way things are going. I'm telling you it's another Lost situation... LOL!


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