Advance Reviews

ALCATRAZ: “Pilot” Advance Review

Dark and foreboding corridors. A strange mystery that no one can seem to figure out. A sweeping theme by musical genius Michael Giacchino. And a voice that simply tells us, “Welcome to Alcatraz.”

In every sense, Alcatraz may be garnering comparisons to LOST, but rest assured – J.J. Abrams has not tried to re-create the magic of his game-changing television show. In fact, one only has to watch the first opening sequence to realize that what has been created is something just as epic and intense, but on an entirely different scale.

Helmed by Abrams and LOST vets Elizabeth Sarnoff, Jack Bender and Bryan Burk, the new series is a mysterious ride chock-full of clever twists and smart writing. The premise is based on 302 Alcatraz prisoners who vanished without a trace in March of 1963. In the present day, these prisoners are mysteriously turning up and not only have they not aged since their time behind bars; they’re leaving noticeable crimes in their wake. A special government task force has taken on the responsibility of tracking down these inmates while attempting to solve the mystery behind why they’re reappearing in the first place.

Sarnoff, Steve Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt introduce us to Alcatraz by presenting a world full of intrigue and mystery, accompanied by chilling shots of the real prison in San Francisco. The show delivers beyond its location merits, however – the Pilot is an engaging ride designed to both set up important plot points and pique your interest about the soon-to-be-unraveled mythology. And while the twists and turns create an engaging hour, it’s the cast that truly brings the show to another level, drawing you in and keeping you interested. Sarah Jones’ Rebecca Madsen may be your typical detective marred by emotional scars, but by displaying a crucial balance of hard maturity and distinct humanity, Jones shows us that there’s more to her character than meets the eye. As nerdy and innocent Alcatraz expert Diego “Doc” Soto, Jorge Garcia settles into his first post LOST role with both ease and believability, his performance layered with moments of the trademark deadpan humor that Garcia is able deliver so effortlessly. The two play off each other with noticeable charm, exhibiting a palpable amount of chemistry that sets a strong tone for the inevitable development of their relationship.

Veteran Sam Neill creates an intriguing Emerson Hauser, one half of the task force behind solving the Alcatraz mysteries. Neill gives us a complicated character whom one suspects has more than just a government agenda on his mind, while Parminder Nagra’s Doctor Lucy Banerjee is a strong complement with her calm demeanor and sharp wit. A talented supporting cast rounds out the series regulars with the introductions of both Robert Forster and Jason Butler Harner, who leave us wanting to learn more about the histories and motivations of their characters.

It’s already been established that Alcatraz isn’t LOST. What it IS, however, is the series will undoubtedly become Tuesday morning water cooler conversation as both TV gurus and casual fans attempt to theorize, analyze and extract the mysteries that the show presents. Abrams has a knack creating concepts that go above and beyond a simple premise and if the Pilot is any indication, we should have an intense, complicated and exciting journey to look forward to.

The two-hour series premiere of Alcatraz airs on Monday, January 16 at 8pm on FOX.

**Interested in more Alcatraz? My lovely friend Jo will be covering the show and posting weekly spoiler free theories on her website, Inside Alcatraz. I encourage you all to bookmark the page, as your mind will surely be spinning with questions and mystery every week. Jo’s thoughts are wonderfully insightful, and you would be remiss not to read up on her theories.

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