Alcatraz Review: To Catch a Thief

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I know I've already mentioned one of my biggest fears about Alcatraz and its potential use of random bad guys merely for the sake of fueling that larger mystery of why they've returned.

And don't get me wrong, I'm just as eager to know that enigma as much as the next viewer, but "Cal Sweeney" lacked a certain tenacity or suspense when it came to the past or the present, before simply throwing in a clever cliffhanger that was there to keep you coming back for more.

But if that's the case, then really, tuning in to the last five minutes was about all you needed this week.

Sure, there was an interesting comment from Dr. Lucy Banerjee, known as Dr. Gupta in the past, about rewiring inmates and erasing their memories. The concept at least is a potential tie in to the particular returnee inmates and their reasons for running around, killing people and capturing keys for an unnamed boss for an unnamed reason.

Alcatraz Trio

But when it came to the storytelling and any real form of character development, the plot felt like a compilation of already used stories while not providing any real significant connection to the past flashbacks or improving on our three main heroes of the present.

It truly felt like everything that took place was there to serve the purpose of those final moments of finding the key, illustrating that Emerson Hauser has no idea what they are for, and that Alcatraz holds a well locked mysterious room.

I wish that Eric Johnson, who played Cal Sweeney, had gotten more to do other than be moving scenery. He exuded a certain charm and charisma and I've enjoyed Johnson on other shows like Smallville, but there was just no method to his character's madness. It was smile one moment, seduce a teller, kill random people, and then oh, yeah, the last job you do before you get captured is the one where you get the key.

I mean, huh? Why rob those other banks? Why kill those random people when his M.O. never called for it? Why use a weapon from No Country for Old Men? At least he had a better haircut during his crime spree.

And moving from one bank to the next lacked in any real payoff aside from the key. Even the use of the Inside Man switcheroo of pretending to be a SWAT team member lacked in originality.

To top it off, Cal was so quickly caught and "problem solved" by merely crashing the car. I was left speechless. It was really that easy? Oh, wait, it's because the hour of the episode was almost up.

It just didn't make any sense from a storytelling point and, realistically, Cal Sweeney could have been any bad guy you wanted because his story didn't add anything to the larger plot. Even the flashbacks didn't do much except reveal that his family died in a fire and he was outsmarted by another inmate.

Why does that matter? And maybe questions like that might be answered down the line, but I can't really foresee that happening.

I still find Diego Soto to be the most entertaining character, with his comic book background and freshness to the world of "on the scene" crime. Or maybe I just really like Jorge Garcia in the role. Either way, best line of the night included Emerson questioning Diego's driving skills. Great eye roll by Sam Neil.

But even something like that couldn't save the fact that the main characters were just moving pieces towards those final five minutes.

It's disappointing because I like the show, I liked the possibility of the bad guy introduced this week and I'm still fascinated by the larger story, but the series can't survive on cliffhangers alone. There has to be some sort of depth involved for a good portion of the hour.

TI know it's early and I still have hope for Alcatraz. There's plenty of strong potential and material just waiting to be tapped and I hope it is, resulting in intrigue and mystery, compelling stories and compelling characters. Without that, the show could very well disappear like its vanishing inmates.


Editor Rating: 2.1 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.1 / 5.0 (84 Votes)

Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.


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this show was amazing the first episode i thought it was such a good idea. then came the second.. i thought it could be better, then came the third...its all the same, predictable. Not to mention the acting is terrible and whats with the 400lbs geek. this show is terrible and i think they could of made it sooooo much better but they f***** it all up


This shows SUX ......


Really like the concept of the show, has a lot of potential and has had some really good episodes. I hate to agree, but this episode was a bit of a dud. Still, I am hoping that there will be some tie back to it. We don't need to see a new convict/guard each week, ones already caught (or still out there) can be revisited. I certainly hope that is the case with this episode, as the killing of random people because they had a piece of jewelry in a lockbox makes no sense. And, really??? Going in through the ventilation system? A ten year old could come up with that gimmick. Why not escape through it as well? Really like the show, so will allow this episode to slide, and still hoping there is some payoff with Cal Sweeney.


I enjoyed Alcatraz but there is a plothole I find hilarious. Madsen got a call, said that a bank got hit and Soto quickly knows it's Cal Sweeney. OMG? Like there are no any criminals out there in San Fransisco who may think of robbing safety deposit boxes? Just a thought. Alcatraz will be more awesome if we felt tied in to some of the inmates. Like Jack Sylvane, their first caught prisoner, I think the guy has potential to be developed and there's this week Cal Sweeney who I adore too. But really, if the inmates are just going to show up for a week then never spoken of, I think people will get bored of it sooner or later.


This show is that it's built on plot devices, not story. It's built on the premise of the kitchen sink - beg, borrow and steal the conceits of 10 other "mystery" shows and we'll have 10 times the mystery in ours!! Strange keys, locked rooms, time travel, memory tampering... why not throw in dinosaurs. Maybe they will. It's all to desperate and contrived. Not once have I been engaged or thought any of the "heroes" were in any real danger. They'll catch the bad guy at the hour's end and give us some strange look so we know there is something mysterious about this that we just don't understand yet.

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This is why I'm DVRing the eps for later viewing. And if you guys really pan the last eps of the short rookie season then I won't even bother watching, but if the season doesn't end well on March 26th then it prolly won't even be renewed.


T agree also. There are some great and really good actor but most of the time they are wasted. The stories flash forward and back, not really creating much drama. Why will I keep watching the next few weeks? Because I love Jorge Garcia and Sam Neil. And our "heroine" cop, who amazingly figures out everything, is starting to grow on me. The over-all mystery still intrigues me and I'm hoping after these first wpisodes set up whatever they're goping to set up LOL things will get better. Lastly I'll keep watching for awhile like I did with one of favorite new shows this year that started slow and is n hit--Person of Ibterest.


I totally agree with this reviewer. I was so bored, that i actually had the idea to watch only the endings of Alcatraz episodes from now on. So i'd get all the information i need and don't have to watch more stupid inmates acting weird and doing senseless things.


I love Alcatraz....enough said! :o)

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Alcatraz Season 1 Episode 4 Quotes

Rebecca: So, how do we get in that bank?
Diego: Wait? You agreed without a plan?

You can't care about anyone or anything. As soon as they see a soft spot they grab you by the soft hair.