Alcatraz Series Premiere Review: Welcome to the Rock

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Alcatraz is sure to be a hit.

First, there's the general story of the prison inmates mysteriously disappearing and then reappearing in present day. Why? For what reason? Who's the person responsible?

Of course, gigantic questions like that aren't going to be answered right away, but the two-hour premiere offers plenty of exciting revelations and twists that are sure to keep you interested for the long haul. There's enough teasing of the grand mystery that has you hungry for more.

Alcatraz Pilot Pic

Yet, even with a larger mythology already set in place, it is the characters who are deeply involved that bring the show to life.

I enjoyed Sarah Jones as Detective Rebecca Madsen. Not only does she hold a particular chip on her shoulder from her partner's death but she illustrates a drive and determination with each case, perfect for finding out the mystery of Alcatraz. And at the same time she's playful and lively, not dark and brooding.

Similarly, the discovery that her grandfather wasn't a guard but rather an inmate at the prison draws a personal connection to the cases. And to top that off, her grandfather happened to be the man she was chasing when her partner was killed. Her eagerness and rapport with the other characters make her more than just a gung ho female lead.

Jorge Garcia of Lost fame is as charismatic as ever, getting some of the most humorous lines. You can't help but enjoy his screen presence. Not only is his character, Diego Soto, an expert on Alcatraz, making him a viable part of the team, but his love for the comic book world makes his whole experience of the situation not simply steeped in intellectual dialogue. It's a wonderment that can be akin to any open-minded child.

And aside from lines about building the bat cave and not being able to keep his new job a secret because he's too excited about it, I love that he questions why no one seems to even blink an eye about the prisoners coming back. Plus, the fact that his question doesn't really get answered is funny because in a way it reflects how many viewers feel when it comes to shows filled with mystery. He may not be a rough and tumble character with a haunted past (that we know of) but he's fun to watch and adds a charm and lightheartedness to an otherwise serious type of show.

Sam Neil does a wonderful job playing the prickly and enigmatic Emerson Hauser. On the one hand, Emerson seems to be playing for "the good guys" but when he gets alone with the prisoners, a sort of dark side seems to creep out. He's on a mission to stop these guys, but there seems to be a lot more that he knows that he isn't letting on. I wouldn't be surprised if something deeply personal sparked his hunt.

Ernest Cobb Photo

What was up with his new bunker/prison that looked like it came right out of Return of the Jedi? I guess it's the new Alcatraz, but I just kept waiting for the Ewoks to pop up. Either way, he's not completely letting Rebecca and Diego in on all his secrets.

So, while the first hour was a fascinating introduction to the show, the second hour, "Ernest Cobb," quickly pushed the action forward, further revealing a certain procedural aspect to the series

It seems that there will be plenty of flashbacks (reminded me a lot of Cold Case) to delve into some of the aspects of the prison that coincide with the present day hunt. It provides for a fun mystery as to what these returned prisoners are doing while attempting to stop them in regular police fashion.

However, it's that mystery that proves most intriguing and gives those jaw dropping "what the heck" moments, much like the final scene revealing that Dr. Lucy Banerjee (does Emerson have romantic feelings for her?) hasn't aged since she worked at Alcatraz. Yes, she's not from present day time.

That shocking reveal spins off a million other questions as to why she's returned, what was her agenda back then and what she knows about the vanishing prisoners. I can't wait to learn more.

Alcatraz hits on all the key elements that make a show great and, while not as serialized as many of J.J. Abrams other shows (Lost, Alias), it does contain plenty of factors that make the series more than just hunting down criminals each week. Fox has another winner on its hands and I'm looking forward to seeing where this show takes its characters and the fascinating mystery that surrounds them.

Welcome to the Rock. Welcome to Alcatraz.

Give the Alcatraz premiere a grade now:


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.8 / 5.0 (5 Votes)

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


I enjoyed it. Enough mystery, twists & surpises to keep me watching for answers. I thought the cast was very good.


The show was OK, not great. It has good characters and actors, and decent writing for the most part with some egregious lapses (The "psychology" and motivations for Cobb being a sniper were ridiculous, and some of the dialog - the cop's speech to her partner in the hospital - made me cringe). The bigger problems are the "mystery" and the procedural elements. The mystery just isn't that mysterious, or compelling, and the procedural component is terrible. The cop looks at a few items then makes leaps in deduction that would make Sherlock Holmes seem like a dolt. The show may find it's fans, and if people like it good for them. I was looking forward to the show, but found the first two episodes too boring and cliched. BTW, body count after just 2 episodes is what? 15? 20?


Or CSI + NCIS + Criminal Minds, just to be sure :)


Lost + Prison Break! What a great idea! I' ll pitch Chuck + The Mentalist to the producers right after the shows are over. JJ Abrams had terrible memories of an island when he was a child I think. Keeps repeating it :) "The island! The island! Aaaaaaand, the others!"


the show was excellent i really enjoyed it...i am just wondering why they are not using real inmate names from alcatraz instead making up inmate names who were never truly inmates is it some sort of legal issue


WOW I missed the first hour and missed alot - trying to figure it all out - loved what I saw!!!


Like the show.....who played ernast cobb. Thank you


Excellent review. As far as J.J. Abrams series go, Alcatraz seems more aligned in structure to Fringe than to Lost, considering its hybrid procedural-with-a-heavy-mythology nature. Perhaps Abrams is trying to perfect what he did with Fringe so that he ends up with a show that carries a large audience further than Fringe could. I can't wait to see where it goes from here!

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Alcatraz Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Emerson: Run along and play now.
Rebecca: Thanks for being a dick about it.

Chief: Have you been hearing any words I've been saying?
Rebecca: I respect you too much to say "yes."