Alcatraz: Pilot

Posted by: Andrew Burns  //  January 17, 2012 @ 1:05am

Filed under: TV Recaps/Reviews 

"On March 21st 1963 Alcatraz was officially closed due to rising costs and decrepit facilities. All the prisoners were transferred off the island... only that's not what happened. Not at all." – Emerson Hauser

Those are the ominous opening words spoken by actor Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) as Hauser introducing this new series on FOX, Alcatraz. So what kind of show is Alcatraz? Well look carefully at the opening credits or see any of the promos leading up to this "Pilot" premiere episode because they all say J.J. Abrams (Lost, Fringe) is an executive producer. Having J.J.'s name synonymous with the series tells you right there that every question who might have will only lead to more questions. But it also means audiences are in for one hell of a ride.

Obviously in typical 'Bad Robot' (Abram's production company) fashion most of the show is shrouded in mystery, but I'll re-cap what's on the surface of Alcatraz. Like mentioned by Neill's character the infamous Alcatraz prison in San Francisco closed in 1963. Only the transfer off the island never took place and 256 prisoners and 46 prison guards vanished without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again. Fast-forward to present day, during an Alcatraz tourist group on the island a single inmate known as Jack Sylvane (Jeffery Pierce) reappears in his cell. Sylvane, who hasn't aged a day since 1963, leaves The Rock with the tourists and hunts down those wronged him all those years ago. After Sylvane's first murder young detective Rebecca Madsen starts to uncover secrets into the supposedly already dead killer from 49 years ago until she gets kicked off the case by the mysterious federal agent Hauser. Unable to let the case go Madsen enlists the help of Alcatraz expert Doctor Diego Soto, played by Lost's Jorge Garcia, and the two go deeper into this strange phenomena while constantly running into agent Hauser, who is trying to keep the whole situation quiet.

Okay since you now are up to speed on Alcatraz's story lets meet the series regulars (in opening credit order):

  • Sarah Jones as Detective Rebecca Madsen: Character-wise she is a young San Francisco cop who has been working solo for the past three month since her partner died in the line of duty. Dad was a cop but both parents died when she was a kid. Also has an old family connections to Alcatraz. Actress-wise Jones has had many guest starring roles in multiple TV series with her longest stint being on Sons of Anarchy for 6 episodes. So far Jones has brought some great humor and a bit of a mouth to her Madsen character. She has all the makings of a very fun lead to carry the show.

  • Jorge Garcia as Doctor Diego Soto: Most famously known as Lost's lovable Hurly, Garcia is just one of the many 'Bad Robot' regulars to join this new project. With 2 PHDs and 4 books written on Alcatraz the character of Dr. Soto will be the intellectual role for the show. Apart from being a history buff genius when it comes to all things Alcatraz, Soto also owns his own comic-book shop so there will be plenty nerdish pop culture references in episodes to come.
  • Jonny Coyne as Warden Edwin James: Dead in the show's present day Warden James is seen only in 1963 flashbacks or earlier. James is the typical hard-ass prison Warden. Not much else known other than that.
  • Parminder Nagra as Lucy: Probably most recognized as one of NBC's last ER series regulars Nagra looks to have found a new home on FOX. Lucy works side by side with agent Hauser as one of the few that actually knows about the reappearing inmates. Since Lucy doesn't have a last name yet it only adds to the character's mystery.
  • Santiago Cabrera as Jimmy: Cabrera's character is also without a last name as of this "Pilot" but Jimmy looks to be nothing more than just a rookie San Francisco cop.
  • Jason Butler Harner as Associate Warden E.B. Tiller: Another 'Bad Robot' alum, Harner was also part of Fringe's "Pilot" back in 2008. Like the other Warden, Tiller is also dead in the show's present day (well at least after the opening 10 minutes) so all of his stuff will be in flashbacks as well. Tiller seemed to be worse than the actual Warden, being known as a 'ball breaker of the worst variety'.
  • Robert Foster as Ray Archer: Unofficial uncle of detective Madsen, Archer raised her after both of Madsen's parents died. In present day Archer runs a local bar but back in the day he was an Alcatraz prison guard. Will likely be a source for both Madsen and Soto when they can't find something on record about certain inmates.
  • Sam Neill as Agent Emerson Hauser: Lastly we come to the most secretive character in the show so far in Hauser. Neill's character seems to know the most, if not all, about what's going on in Alcatraz. Back in 1963 Hauser was one of the two guards that discovered the empty prison that fateful night and seems to have stayed with the mystery all these years later.

Working on tracking down Jack Sylvane in the "Pilot" is what sets up the alliance between Madsen & Soto and Hauser and his operation. Sylvane didn't just use his reappearance to settle decade old personal vendettas but was also being told to commit other crimes on orders by someone else's behalf. Neither Sylvane nor Hauser know who is behind those hidden orders so that becomes yet another mystery for the show. Sylvane wasn't the first of the 256 prisoners to reappear and all signs point he isn't going to be the last. Back 1963 Alcatraz housed the absolute worst of the worst of America's criminals so having them all start popping back up will make for a very interesting series to watch.

Tags: Alcatraz, Sarah Jones, Jorge Garcia, Sam Neill, Parminder Nagra, Jeffery Pierce, FOX, Lost, Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams

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Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.

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