The comparison is impossible not to make. Fox’s Alcatraz, a new thriller series by J.J. Abrams, is always going to be compared to his hit series Lost. Unfortunately, this is going to be Alcatraz‘s downfall. Even worse? The show does not even come close to the qualities that made Lost so wonderful: mysterious storylines, great writing and fantastic acting.
Alcatraz begins with an intro, a voice-over by Sam Neill. We are told that on one day in 1963, all the inmates, guards and personnel at Alcatraz just up and disappeared. In other words, they went poof. Sam’s voice leads us to believe that we are in on a tale about perhaps one of the the world’s greatest mystery. And yes, it all happened. On an island. Sound familiar?
In the present day version of Alcatraz, man seems to appear out of nowhere while Alcatraz is crawling with tourists. He blends in and leaves the island. Yes, in this story, they can leave the island. Again, the comparison cannot help but to be made.
Fast forward to the present day and we are introduced to Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones), a detective with San Francisco’s homicide department. She stumbles upon a murder mystery involving Alcatraz and brings in expert author Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia). In their investigation, they run across Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), a fed who is obviously hiding something about the day the inmates disappeared and their present-day reappearances.
This is all well and good, but the show cannot seem to decide if it’s a crime drama or a supernatural/science fiction thriller. And any writer that makes even Sam Neill seem boring should be fired. About halfway into the show, I was fighting off a serious case of the nods. As a crime drama, the show fails: it’s predictable and we’re already given the villain at the beginning of the episode. Seriously, where’s the fun in that? Of course, obviously, we also know Neill’s character is probably the ultimate villain, mainly because it’s portrayed by Neill. And he scowls a lot.
As a supernatural/science fiction thriller, there is neither any hint of supernatural (or science fiction, for that matter), unless you count people disappearing and re-appearing 50 years later having not aged . And as far as the mystery goes? The only mystery is why the inmates disappeared and there is none of that wonderful redirection and red herrings that Lost always brought us. Sure, there’s a twist at the end of the episode, but it’s not enough to get me excited.
The only truly good thing about this series is Garcia. The minute he appears on screen, you cannot help but to be taken in by his charm. However, this is not enough to save the show.
So everything that made Lost so successful seems to be absent here, and it’s a crying shame. I really wanted to like this one.
Did you see the premiere of Alcatraz? What did you think?