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