January 17th, 2012
09:44 AM ET
Editor's note: Do not read any further if you didn't watch Monday night's episodes of "Alcatraz."
Thinking back to the first episode of "Fringe," I remember being interested but not overly impressed, especially considering that co-creator J.J. Abrams had given us "Alias" and "Lost," which were two of the best pilots of the past decade or so.
"Fringe" has since gone on to be one of the best series on television.
So, that's how I approached Monday night's two-episode premiere of "Alcatraz." Executive produced by Abrams (who recently spoke to CNN about "course correcting" the show prior to its premiere), it stars a former "Lost" cast member and has a concept that immediately hooks you, not unlike "Person of Interest."
That concept – the return of hundreds of prisoners from the infamous Alcatraz prison, not having aged a day, but as dangerous as ever – certainly sounds like a show that could work long-term.
But the first episode didn't grab me right away, with the exception of a few scenes. Detective Rebecca Madsen, who was taking on the case, was not terribly interesting (but then again, neither was Olivia Dunham at first). On the other hand, Sam Neill's Emerson Hauser – who seems to know everything about what is going on here (but, of course, won't tell) – has the potential to be another Benjamin Linus or Richard Alpert-esque character.
In a scenario similar to "Castle," Rebecca brings on Dr. Diego Soto ("Lost's" Jorge Garcia), an expert in all things Alcatraz, to work on the case (which, there being hundreds of inmates, and this being a TV series, soon becomes a long-term project).
The second episode had Rebecca in more of a take-charge role – investigating a second escaped inmate, a sniper – and "Doc" Soto turning out to be a bit more of a tentative character than Garcia's Hurley. (On the other hand, Neill's Hauser didn't have nearly enough screen time).
Then in the very last flashback of the episode (what appears to be a regular feature of the show), Hauser's assistant Lucy shows up in the past looking exactly the same. It's a classic Abrams "Wait, what just happened?" moment, and was a great example of the show's potential.
It would seem that every episode will feature a different inmate being sought out by Rebecca and "Doc" (though some might work in pairs, or larger groups), with some tiny hints as to what is really going on here. Obviously, there is some form of time travel involved. The more important question is, "Why?"
It was a good pair of episodes overall, even if it was not quite on par with what we've come to expect from Abrams.
My main worry is that audiences won't give this show time to develop, but I plan (and hope) to see the entire first season to see what happens. Abrams' track record (the end of "Fringe's" first season, anyone?) is reason enough.
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