Fox, 5 March-26 March 2012
Mysteries deepen around Soto (Jorge Garcia) and Madsen (Sarah Jones) as Alcatraz’s returning time-warped prisoners seem to have an agenda.
Sure, it was trapped by its own formula and by endless (and obvious) comparisons to Lost, but while it contained some good concepts and some decent performances (not least from lead Sarah Jones), Alcatraz has failed to become ‘must see TV’ (a story told through the show’s collapsing ratings).
A shut down in production and seeming rethink on what the show was about resulted in a strong set of episodes in this second half of the season, all building to a climax that revealed just enough to keep viewers who come this far interested. However, for a show to start with 10 million viewers to end a season on a low of just 4.75 million after 13 instalments is a clear death warrant (unless Hollywood politics and the need to keep J.J. Abrams happy play a part—that didn’t work for one season wonder Undercovers).
By the end we’d seen inside the ‘mystery room’ under the prison, discovered a possible explanation for the time jumps (something to do with geological fault lines, apparently), and have been given a hint of a larger picture, as well as a welcome degree of ambiguity around the perceived villainy of the warden. We discover all this in the company of Soto and Madsen who have been inexplicably (and artificially) kept in the dark throughout. Like Lost, Alcatraz was a show in which no-one asked the obvious questions, and if they were asked, they certainly were not answered.
Characters and their motivations were altered through the run of the series. Most obviously, when Parminder Nagra’s psychiatrist awakes from her coma she seems completely different to the character from the show’s opening episodes. Sam Neill’s Hauser seems unsure of his motivations throughout. The introduction of a mystery collection of backroom boys halfway through (seemingly reduced to one guy by the final episodes) was just weird.
Neither one thing (case of the week) or the other (an epic mythology), Alcatraz has failed to capture the imagination of television viewers (shown in the collapse in ratings) and looks likely to be cast back into solitary confinement, unloved and unmissed—as dead as the leading character appears to be in the last episode’s final moments.
Verdict: The evident work-in-progress re-tooling of this series may not have been enough to save it, despite some intriguing ideas…
Episode 8 ‘The Ames Brothers’: 5/10
Episode 9 ‘Sonny Burnett’: 6/10
Episode 10 ‘Clarence Montgomery’: 5/10
Episode 11 ‘Webb Porter’: 6/10
Episode 12 ‘Garrett Stillman’: 7/10
Episode 13 ‘Tommy Madsen’: 7/10
Brian J. Robb