OpinionTelevision & Film

ALCATRAZ: Potential Break Out

“Alcatraz” debuts tonight on FOX, and we got a chance to sneak peek the first two episodes, which are running as a two-hour block tonight.

Starring Sarah Jones, Jorge Garcia and Sam Neill – who really needs to fix that crick in his neck – the show focuses on Detective Rebecca Madsen (Jones) and her new trusty sidekick Dr. Diego Soto (Garcia), who runs a comic book shop and has written several books about the Alcatraz prison. While investigating the murder of a former assistant warden, Madsen lifts a fingerprint of a prisoner who’s supposed to be dead. When in fact, he’s just part of the group of prisoners and guards who disappeared from the prison on March 20, 1963. Called “The 63s” by federal agent Emerson Hauser (Neill), they’re suddenly starting to re-appear in the present day.

Co-star Parminder Nagra, who plays technician Lucy Banerjee, tells The Hollywood Reporter the show will be a mix of frustration and intrigue. “Generally, you really get to have a look at who you’re playing and you flush it out quickly. Here, we’re in a situation where you know a little bit. Sometimes you have to go with it and that’s what I feel like with this show. I think it’ll be equally frustrating and intriguing for everybody watching.”

Expect some really solid performances from this cast. Garcia is the perfect audience proxy and comic relief. His geek cred is substantial, but not over the top that it gets into parody. Sam Neill is … well… he’s Sam Neill. And he delivers equal parts “knows more than he’s telling” mixed with “really doesn’t want to know what he knows” – all the while with his head cocked in that signature tilt like he’s listening to the world.

Sarah Jones is going to surprise people, I think. I’d never heard of her, but you might recognize her from “Sons of Anarchy” among her various guest shots. I think she’s going to break out (pardon the pun) and prove to be a solid star for this show. She’ll have to be, because not only is she carrying the week-t0-week cop procedural, but she’s also going to be the center (or at least close to center) of the mystery surrounding the 1963 incident.

With the pedigree of Bad Robot attached to the show, it’s got plenty of potential to turn into a solid hit. The two biggest challenges facing the show: 1) it’s on Fox, and 2) it could very easily go off the rails with regard to the over-arcing mystery. As we saw with “Lost” and “Battlestar: Galactica”, if the writers don’t know exactly where they’re going, they won’t know when they get there. So far, the focus is mainly on the “63 of the week” and not the mystery. But as things progress, there are plenty of places where everyone could get lost.

For the most part, though, I’m intrigued by the premise. And it helps that they actually did some shooting on The Rock. That gives the show some authenticity. And I’m looking forward to seeing Sarah Jones take this show and lead us down the rabbit hole.

[Official Show Site on FOX]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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