Alcatraz Review: Do Prisoners Dream of Electric Train Tracks?

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I'm not sure what to make of Alcatraz.

On the one hand, there's plenty of deep mystery, intriguing questions and a set of characters that should be interesting. And let's not forget that it involves the infamous prison and perhaps a bit of time travel (or whatever possible theory for the returned convicts.) That's a great premise, of course.

But the problem lies in the execution and a seemingly standard routine for each episode that drops in significant points here and there, but leaves out energetic characters and motives beyond capturing the bad guy of the week.

Alcatraz Scene

Sure, each felon has his own set of creepy killing standards and the flashbacks provide for a tiny context to explain what makes each so evil for both the past and the present. And for those prisoners, popping back into present time means picking up where they left off and getting back to crime. But there's not enough time to see these characters as more then the basic criminals that they are.

Of course, Johnny was bullied by the prettiest girl in school, that's why he kills people that bother him or because they ride on trains. So while the flashbacks issued a sense of remorse and haunting images for the pained man, present time Johnny seemed at ease with his murder.

And then he eventually gets caught. Did you expect anything different?

Not surprisingly, Rebecca Madsen was grabbed and held hostage. Again. I know she managed to escape a little faster than usual, but someone needs to help her out. That just can't happen so often.

For me, Rebecca has become a character that isn't as spunky and edgy as the show wants us to believe. It's disappointing because she's become the stereotypical cop on the hunt that could easily be replaced by any other newcomer.

I mean, why does she not question Jack Sylvane further about Alcatraz, about Beauregard, about anything that Emerson continues to try and push her away from? Isn't she supposed to be the persistent one who doesn't let others tell her what to do? Shouldn't she want to ignore Emerson and have herself thrown out while trying to seek for those answers?

It's as if her spark has fizzled. Someone please reignite it for her.

As for Diego, I like his personality, but how is that he knows immediately who the criminal is, their relevant background information and exuberantly shouts out their name like he just figured out the answer to a trivia game? I want him to be more than just a verbal encyclopedia of facts.

And Emerson, he continued to be Mr. Grouchy with that hidden soft spot for Lucy, but refuses to be a complete team player. Does he ever lighten up?

I just want these characters to bring their scenes to life and show a little chemistry beyond the fact that they need to be in the same room together.

I would say that the significance of dreams did prove rather interesting, but I have no idea what that could mean for the show. Can Jack Sylvane really not dream anymore? Why can Lucy, if she is potentially a returnee as well? Are they really back? Are they clones? Are they androids? The possibilities really do seem endless.

Yet, even with that fascinating dream tidbit tossed in, you could essentially throw away this episode and still jump right into the series. Which is fine, but the show promises to be so much more with its grander mythology. And when you have three leads that are significantly connected in extremely personal ways, as a viewer, I want to see that personality shine through, that passion, that drive, that confusion. I don't want it to feel like I'm watching any old type of procedural.

When it comes down to it, "Johnny McKee" wasn't a bad episode at all, but it didn't mark for an overly interesting one. As a show that should separate itself from the rest, the hour came across as average, rather standard, and missing a set of characters to bring the show to life in a way that only Alcatraz should.

I still hold strong on the potential of this series, but I just hope that it doesn't get stuck in only the conventional and eventually disappear like its inmates.

Johnny McKee Review

Editor Rating: 2.6 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.1 / 5.0 (49 Votes)

Sean McKenna was a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. He retired in May of 2017. Follow him on Twitter.

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Alcatraz Season 1 Episode 7 Quotes

I'm the grandmaster.


What is it with scientists and mice?