Alcatraz Season Finale Review: Unlocking the Mystery

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Alcatraz, the mysterious serialized mythology wrapped around the weekly routine procedural, premiered with a premise that was intriguing and a cast of characters that looked to become entertaining to follow throughout their journey of revelation.

Except the show had an extremely bumpy ride, throwing in often lazy plot devices, never really exploring the characters beyond their most basic outline and piling on the enigmatic secrets in the hopes that it would distract from the relatively average cases that took place each episode.

Don't get me wrong, the drama garnered strong potential from the idea of the disappearing prisoners and soon found itself improving in connecting the past with the present. And, yes, I was curious enough to want to know where it was headed with all of the special keys, silver-lined blood, familial connections, and the time travel (jump, wormhole, whatever your theory) to see through to the end.

The Wardens

The first part of the two-hour finale, "Garret Stillman" was clearly the set up for the latter half, not giving us really anything more we didn't already know. Even the dramatic reveal that Tommy Madsen was Stillman's handler didn't do too much shock and awe.

However, the journey to that point, following around Stillman on his master plan both in the past and the present was an entertaining ride. It provided motives for both times while maintaining connections between the two. And who doesn't like watching a calculating bad guy pull off clever moves like a chess game?

Harlan Simmons, who appeared back in "Cal Sweeney," was reintroduced as more of a key player than we might have thought. It seems that now the man has become a reclusive billionaire with an original understanding with the Warden.

Why the Warden chose any of the men that he chose for each specific mission is still unknown, but it was interesting to eventually learn that he and Stillman are now on two different sides. Who do you root for in a war of the criminals? Yes, I know that technically the Warden isn't a bad guy, but he plays fiendishly evil with his cartoonish grins that's it hard to say he even played for the good guys.

Of course, the season has for the most part revolved around retrieving the keys to open the Warden's super secret door.

I strongly feared the finale ending right as the door opened to a bright light much like Lost and it's infamous hatch, but thankfully the show managed to allow us and its characters to enter the room. And so, inside the secret room was the revelation that the '63s aren't just appearing in San Francisco but rather the whole of the United States.

Clearly a set up for the next season, but it still doesn't answer why the criminals only choose to commit crimes one at a time. Why don't they all go crazy and cause havoc at once?

And then there was the creepy scientist who managed to bring the Warden's ideas to life and somehow send the inmates and himself forward in time. Why? What's the purpose? Was Tommy Madsen trying to get the keys for the Warden so he could get to the scientist?

I'm still confused on Tommy Madsen's purpose in general. At times he's seemed to play at the beat of his own drum, while other times he seemed to be taking orders. In fact, after he stabbed Rebecca, his own granddaughter, any compassion I might have felt for him went right out the door. Who is this guy? Can he really be a bad guy himself and not just misunderstood?

David Hoflin as Tommy Madsen

But what I'm sure was supposed to be the shocker of the "Tommy Madsen" episode was Rebecca flatlining. That's right: Dying.

It's hard to actually believe that her character would suffer the finality of that fate (I was even so convinced that I was more interested to see what was in the room than wait for her to wake up), but what if the show had the crazy notion to actually kill off her character?

Would it mean a huge emotional impact? Probably not because I never felt like I really got to know her, but getting rid of a character like that would be a huge game changer. It most likely would never happen, after all, Lucy managed to return will some silver blood and she was back to helping the team. I just hope that if she does come back, she comes back stronger, more in charge, rather than an obedient and complacent character. She is the lead after all!

I give the finale credit in moving the show forward at a reasonable but enticing pace, answering some questions, giving us a pretty cool car chase reminiscent of the film Bullit, and managing to make the past and present scenes equally important. There was plenty good here and often for finales, they try and bring their top game.

And yet even with what I liked about the two hour event, I still felt like it was missing something.

There was a continuing sense that the show was still in its early stages of working out the kinks, trying to establish a deeper story that would eventually discover the inner workings of its characters as it expanded its mythos. If anything, the finale seemed to try and find closure for the mish mosh of happenings in the hopes that season two might find a more succinct, compelling, and streamlined approach at providing a tale that wasn't all over the place.

I do hope that Alcatraz gets renewed for a season two and does have the chance to expand beyond its basic premise, beyond its basic characters, and explore a world that can and should be gripping from start to finish. Let's hope the finale is that jumping off board and not simply the conclusive flatline.

What did you think of the finale? What did you think of the show? Were your questions answered? Do you hope the show continues? Sound off below!

Review

Editor Rating: 4.3 / 5.0
  • 4.3 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.0 / 5.0 (2 Votes)

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

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@stew the only people corrupting kids is morons like you who use lines like "corrupting our kids" pathetically ironic isn't it? you're just another moronic hypocrite using harmless cartoons as scapegoats for why you're kids end up being selfish a-holes. it clearly has EVERYTHING to do with the cartoons they're watching and of course NOTHING to do with their pathetic parenting or lack there of! HA it's simply unreal how dumb some people are, good job all round, loser ; )

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Why cancel such a good show and not even finish the storyline. Why does this sound all to familiar. Cancel the good shows and leave the extremely stupid shows on the air???? Why continue the stupid Family Guy, but cancel a show with some history attached to it with the prison Alcatraz. What is the world coming to when you have The Family Guy, American Dad, Southpark, and many other stupid shows that corrupt our kids. How about keeping the good sows running that make sense like Alcatraz, The Ghost Whisperer, The Chronicles of Sarah Connor, and the Dead Zone.

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This is probably one of the best shows on TV, in my opinion. Why do they always take off the good ones???? We normally don't watch the channel it was on but once I found it on that channel, I faithfully watched it every week. I can't believe they would leave us hanging. My vote is for more seasons....definitely more! They've dangled the carrot so now they need to finish what they started.....we're after the carrot. Just a total shame to drop this show. Too many unanswered questions!!!! Keep it on the air!!!!

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This show's actually a big hit with my family (but we're Aussies so we're also team Sam Neill!). The family all congregates at mine and try to figure out what could be happening :) Honestly though, like others have said - it's incredibly refreshing so I couldn't believe it's even 'on the fence' with not being renewed?! How frustrating...

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I don't think I'll bother watching another series if this gets cancelled.....people won't put time to watch a show every week and then find out its been cancelled!

Watchestoomuch

@echyone: "How is Dr. Beauregard able to use all of the modern medical equipment so easily?" What I said jokingly above, or they have been back for a fairly long while. Hauser might have lied about when people started popping up. "If Tommy Madsen killed Rebecca's parents, as he implied, Rebecca needs to be over 50 years old." Maden's son was a toddler around the time he disappeared. He couldn't have killed Rebecca's parents in the 1960s. He either returned briefly in the 1980s or was lying.

Watchestoomuch

@echyone: "Earlier in the season Hauser was trying to find out where the prisoners had been before arriving in the present time. Couldn't he ask Lucy or Dr. Beauregard?" When other returnees were questioned, they said that they didn't know what happened. I presume the same is true of Lucy and the doc. "How is Dr. Beauregard able to use all of the modern medical equipment so easily?" Fast learner. Like Lucy. "The group was talking about the how the silver is used to track the prisoners on the map but not all of the prisoners have silver in them." Yeah. And given that the prisoners seem to be appearing one at a time, we can only guess that the dots on the map are either where the prisoners are "sleeping" or where they will be later, when they wake up. "If Tommy Madsen killed Rebecca's parents, as he implied, Rebecca needs to be over 50 years old." Maden's son was a toddler around the time he disappeared. He couldn't have killed Rebecca's parents in the 1960s. He either returned briefly in the 1980s or was lying.

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I watched every episode and came away with the following questions: Earlier in the season Hauser was trying to find out where the prisoners had been before arriving in the present time. Couldn't he ask Lucy or Dr. Beauregard? How is Dr. Beauregard able to use all of the modern medical equipment so easily? The group was talking about the how the silver is used to track the prisoners on the map but not all of the prisoners have silver in them. The ages of most of the characters don't add up. If Tommy Madsen killed Rebecca's parents, as he implied, Rebecca needs to be over 50 years old. If anyone knows the answers please let me know.

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i hoped that they would have told us what the crimmials did to get on alcatraz instead of us having to guess. i hope they have plenty of more seasons to come because im gonna watch all of them to the day i die if they are still on!

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I'm still confused about the map with the prisoners on it. Are there a couple dozen prisoners running around RIGHT NOW? Do the red lights instead represent where they WILL BE once they bloop back into existence or wake up from suspended animation or whatever? If they're around right now, why hasn't anybody noticed? BTW, does anybody else hate the ridiculous way the warden speaks? The probability of a real person having such artificial speech patterns is zero. Even if such a person existed, he'd probably have been killed off by age 20 for being so annoying.