It's a typical "one prisoner a week, captured or killed by the end of each episode", like most other crime shows. The three leads don't have memorable performances by a long shot (in fact they're quite mediocre) but every episode ends on an unfinished note, just forcing you to watch it again the next week, making you hooked--and in a good way.
Produced by J.J. Abrahms' Bad Robot Productions, 'Alcatraz' falls short of other great shows by the same producers, such as 'Lost' and 'Fringe', two cult TV shows. Not to say they don't emit the same sort of vibe. The whole premise of the show is that in 1963, all the Alcatraz prisoners and guards mysteriously disappeared one night and all reappeared in modern-day San Francisco, not having aged one bit. And of course, it's up to three detectives, Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones), Doc Soto (Jorge Garcia) and Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) to find and recapture them all.
There are some interesting backstories with the three characters that have great potential but aren't developed too well. Madsen's grandfather was an inmate who recently "killed my parter!!", Soto is (very conveniently) the most well-read person about Alcatraz to ever live and Hauser himself was a guard at Alcatraz all those years ago. Neill is probably the most interesting out of them all and even he isn't that interesting. Garcia seems to be nothing except "awkward comic book guy" and don't even get me started on Sarah Jones. She's boring, has no character and is just a female, more kick-ass version of Sherlock Holmes (though no way as cool).
Undoubtedly, the series depends on the frequent flashbacks of Alcatraz during the 1960s. These scenes are exciting, well-shot and reveal many plot twists, notably the character of Lucy Banerjee/Lucy Sengupta (Parminder Nagra), who exists both in 1960 and 2012. Other characters who are only seen in flashbacks are Warden Edwin James (John Coyne) and Deputy Warden E.B. Tiller (Jason Butler Harner). The two actors provide chilling performances which I hope will be developed further.
Like other Bad Robot productions, the show might take a little time to get started and really delve into the action. We just need to give it a little more time.
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