Friday, March 30, 2012

Alcatraz - Post Mortem

There has been a plethora of JJ Abrams/Bad Robot shows this season and Alcatraz was the latest addition. It aired its two-hour finale on Monday (the 26th). In true Abrams fashion it was a mythology based drama with a slow burn to that mythology. I think of all the Abrams-related projects (including the Kitsis/Horowitz “Once Upon A Time”) Alcatraz was the most LOST-like. I mean come on, you have a mysterious island where people disappear and reappear. And Hurley’s there! So anyway, I thought I’d give a little post-mortem of the show. Beware of SPOILERS!

The Premise

Alcatraz’s basic premise revolved around SFPD Officer Rebecca Madsen. After her partner is killed while pursuing a suspect, Rebecca gets scooped up by FBI Agent Emerson Hauser. He’s got a secret little taskforce hunting down the prisoners and guards from Alcatraz. Except everyone thinks they were transferred off the island in 1963. But they weren’t. They all mysteriously disappeared and one by one are reappearing in2 012 to do horrible criminal things. Rebecca’s sleuthing partner is Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto who wrote a book on Alcatraz (and got it all wrong). Throughout the season the team hunts down the ‘63s all while trying to figure out how and why they are returning.

The Finale

So the finale was a 2-hour affair in which we do get some answers to some questions. We learn that Rebecca’s grandfather (Tommy Madsen who was an inmate) made an agreement with the Warden to be his muscle. And for some reason, Tommy is out to get Rebecca. We learn that he gave custody of his son to his brother (the guy who raised Rebecca). We also learn that the Warden was behind the mystery on Alcatraz, as well as putting the silver in some of the inmates’ blood to track them. It’s kind of really creepy. As Rebecca fights for her life after being stabbed by Tommy, Hauser finds the man responsible for the blood experiments. It looks like he’s just jumped in time, too.

The Weaknesses

While I enjoyed Alcatraz overall, I think the biggest issue for me was that the show’s mythology was too slow a burn. With only 13 episodes we really should have had some of the mythology answers around the halfway point. I think if they were going with a 22-episode season, the pace they were at would have worked just fine. But given that they had less time to work with, I think they really spent too much time meandering towards answers. While we knew some of the answers (that one of the characters, Lucy, was actually a ’63 herself long before Rebecca and Doc did), it took the characters too long to find out.

The Prospects

So I’m not really confident Alcatraz will get a sophomore run. The ratings were never that great to begin with and they continued to drop throughout the season. I think the finale only garnered maybe 4 million viewers. For Fox on a Monday night that’s not all that good. However, if the network is kind and gives it a second season, I think the writers and Executive Producers need to rework the mythology to deliver the answers faster. It isn’t LOST. They don’t have the luxury of drawing things out for six seasons.

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