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!


Editor Rating: 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.


@casey watts: "Please help me. How did the guy in the mental hospital end up with the key?" Joe "Ghost" Limerick shoots Stillman and takes the key with him to the mental hospital. I don't recall why. Just because, I guess. I'm not sure we even know whether he's trying to hide from Madsen, Simmons, both, or neither.


Sean: This may just be an oversight, but "Lost and IT'S infamous hatch" should be "Lost and ITS infamous hatch." "It's" = "it is".


I actually really like Lucy, I kinda feel sorry for her. The scene when she was talking ti Rebecca in the 'box room' (as I call it) was kinda touching. Honestly hope that she doesn't have anything to do with all the 63s coming back.
Does anyone know why Hauser insists on keeping her safe? Does she have a bigger part in the whole 'jumping' thing without maybe even knowing it? I'm very intrigued...


yes the show got off to a slow start but bexame more intersting as the season progressed. theres a new twist to this show its refreshing.looking forward to the next season.


i loved the show im a kid at heart and love a far out mystery


Maybe I'm being nit-picky, but is anyone else bothered by the fact that the age difference between Hauser and Lucy just doesn't add up? He would have to be 50 years older than her now which would make him at least 75-80 years old, which Sam Neill is not. I'm sorry, but it really bugs me when shows do this kind of thing and think you're not going to notice. They should have used an older actor to play Hauser or at least made Sam Neill look older with make up. But I love the show and I love Alcatraz, visit it every time I visit SF.


Ghost death: the most idiot scene that i ever seen ! A enormous glass window in a psychiatric hospital corridor, really ???


This show is one of the most interesting concepts I've ever seen, Fox would be foolish to cancel it before it really gets a chance. (One half season is not a chance.) I think there's more to Rebecca than meets the eye, and I get a feeling the warden was watching Tommy before he was ever in prison. (A feeling that was spot-on, from what the new creepy doctor said to him.) I loved the season finale, and can't wait for S2. :)


I noticed that they went down Divisidero st in San Francisco, with a Mustang, like Steve McQueen did in the movie. That was a nice touch. I think they could have done better with some of the episodes, but I still like this show. I'm actually surprised they gave us so much information in these 2 episodes then they have with all the previous ones. I think the show is a great concept, and hope they improve a little more if they get a chance at a 2nd season. I can't see them killing off the main character, so I would assume, they give her the blood with the silver in it for next season or they see that she did respond to the defibrillator. I hope they give this another season, if they do I will watch.


Please help me. How did the guy in the mental hospital end up with the key?

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