The new J.J. Abrams show premiered this week. It’s called Alcatraz and the idea this time is that instead of closing its doors like the public was told, every inmate being held there just vanished. Now, the mysterious former prison guard there and current FBI agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neil) has recruited SFPD homicide detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and Alcatraz historian Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto (Jorge Garcia) to track the prisoners down as they have started to reappear in the modern day without aging a day. It’s a pretty interesting set up that lends itsself well to both the case-a-week procedural type show as well as the kind of overarching mystery and drama that fans of Abrams’ other shows have come to expect and (sometimes) love.
To be clear, though, this is about as much of a J.J. Abrams show as Lost was, meaning not a lot. As fans of that other series know, that ship was driven by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof after being launched by Abrams. Similarly, the good ship Alcatraz was created by Elizabeth Sarnoff who wrote and produced on Lost and Deadwood, Steven Lilien who wrote on Boomtown and Kyle XY and Brian Wynbrandt who also wrote on Kyle XY. But the comparisons to other Abrams shows is pretty strong, considering the mysterious premise and Garcia in a lead role.
Of course, like a lot of people I didn’t know any of that going into the series. I just knew it was a mysterious new show with Abrams attached and I was interested. We missed the first episode that played at 8:00PM on Monday, but was able to catch the second episode which is the series’ actual timeslot (thank goodness because I’m not about to stop watching How I Met Your Mother). Even having missed the first episode, I was still able to get the gist–it helps that a voiceover in the beginning pretty much lays everything out for you. I’d like to go back and see exactly how Hauser brought Rebecca and Doc into the fold, but I’d imagine it’s because she was trying to hunt down a killer who wound up being a time-displaced Alcatraz inmate and he was drafted because of his area of expertise. That part isn’t complex, which is good because, as the series bounced between the 60s and the present day, you don’t need a lot of additional baggage this early on to figure out what’s going on.
And there is a lot going on. Hauser knows a lot more than he’s letting on and Rebecca knows that, but can’t get much more information out of him for the time being. The inmate who the captured in the first episode has some kind of key that has yet to be identified. Heck, one of the people who we see in the modern day shows up in the past looking exactly the same age!
Like I said, I’m glad they put this one on at 9:00PM on Mondays because that was one of our few weekday slots that didn’t already feature shows we look forward to every week and I think Alcatraz can make that list. Even since Lost ended, I’ve been looking for another hour long drama with lots of action and mystery to keep me engaged and I hope this is it. As it is, I’m intrigued and appreciate some of the teases and reveals they’ve shown us already with only two episodes in. I am curious to see how they handle this series. Fox can be iffy at best when it comes to letting series’ like this play long enough to grab viewers. I hope they do and that the writers have a solid plan for getting the information to the viewers efficiently. I mean, I like the concept, but I don’t want to see 299 episodes of inmates getting captured to find out what happens.