Wednesday, January 18, 2012

NEW SHOW: Alcatraz

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

Surprised that we're covering this new drama? We've mentioned a few things about the show here and there, but we never really went over what our plans were for the mid-season programming this Spring. Alcatraz is one of the few that we've earmarked for interest, others being GCB and Smash, and *possibly* The River. I've never been a big fan of police shows, so I'm not sure how long Alcatraz will last for me, but I do know that the first two episodes were pretty intriguing. I wasn't into Lost, so I have no big background with Jorge Garcia like some people do (in fact, looking at his IMDB resume, I don't even remember him on Becker, and I had already forgotten he was on last year's failed Mr. Sunshine). But, I really liked him as "Doc" Soto, a comic-book writer who has written no fewer than four books on Alcatraz. The girl who plays Madsen? Not as enticing. Parminder Nagra? Always a favorite. Sam Neill? Other than Jurassic Park, not too big a fan of his. But I'm not a big believer in a cast necessarily "making" a show, so let's not focus on that too much. When it comes down to it, both my husband and I wondered if a film wasn't a better outlet for what's going on here. Though, it seems to fit that medium in the same way that Terra Nova would have been suited for it... so maybe things are just changing. Not that we've seen a renewal for Terra Nova yet, but still. I have no reason to drop this show at this point, as I'm crazyinterested in what is going to come next and the reason for the "disappearances" in the first place!

Alcatraz "Pilot" (S01E01): The opening suggests that, on March 20th, 1963, instead of the inmates being transferred off the island, they just disappeared. 302 men - inmates and guards alike, gone. This was covered up by faking transfer papers, and, later, death certificates, apparently. On that fateful night, two police officers arrives at Alcatraz but no guards met them, so they're on high alert. They find the prison empty, and we learn that the younger of those policemen was Hauser, who now runs a secret division of the FBI. [okay. quite the interesting premise.]

In present-day, a little girl hears a sound while touring the antiquated penitentiary and wanders off to explore, coming across a guy sleeping in a cell. [will all of the missing folks come back inside Alcatraz?] The guy begins to meander about the island, and he even mysteriously has a ferry ticket in his pocket, as well as some money and a key. [how exactly did all of that work?] He thumbs through someone's book to see himself, Jack Sylvane, listed as a prisoner, booked in 1956. Flashback to his stay in 1960: his cell is ransacked, a screwdriver is found (he says it isn't his), and he's denied rights to see his visitors that day. He is put into solitary confinement and later was bled for no apparent reason. [super weird. I wonder how this is going to factor into the future of this drama...] The following month, when he sees his wife at visitors' day, she asks him for a divorce.

A female cop in San Francisco, Madsen, lost her partner in pursuit of a criminal three months ago, and has not had a partner since then. She finds something wrong with each potential pairing that is suggested. [I probably would, too, if my original partner was a great match!] She's called to go to the scene of a homicide, but the feds soon tell her to back off. She steals a photograph with a damaged frame and finds that it has Jack Sylvane's fingerprints on it. [did they not track people often by fingerprints in the 60s? Otherwise, shouldn't the guy have known better?] The victim was a Deputy Warden of Alcatraz, so after she puts two and two together, something doesn't add up. She goes to Diego Soto, an expert on the prison. He tells her that Sylvane robbed a grocery store that sold stamps, making it a federal crime. She tells him that Tiller was killed the night before and Sylvane's prints were at the scene, but Soto says it's not possible, as Sylvane has been dead for thirty years.

Madsen goes to talk to a family friend, who was once a guard at Alcatraz. [and a friend of her grandfather's, apparently.] He tells her to walk away from the case, as it isn't her jurisdiction. [smart guy. but I bet he knows she won't listen to him...] Soto brings her Sylvane's death certificate, but they plot to sneak around The Rock the next day. They try to get to the barracks where the guards lived with their families, since Soto knows that there are files off-limits there. Being a police officer, she picks the lock and they start going through stuff. The lights suddenly go out and a can of gas goes off. When they wakes up, they're with the feds - Hauser and his assistant, Lucy, work in a bat cave of sorts UNDERNEATH Alcatraz. They soon admit that Sylvane's transfer and death certificate are fakes. [was the gas necessary? And did Hauser and Lucy really move those bodies on their own?]

Meanwhile, Sylvane is running loose, and goes to a gym to find the locker that is opened with the key he's carrying. There's a gun inside, and Sylvane roughs up the kid working there. The kid at identified Sylvane for the agents and passed on the license plate number of the cab he took. [well done, kid!] Sylvane kills two cops and goes after a guy named Flynn, asking for a black bag in a safe, which contains a key... then he shoots Flynn. Later, he goes after his brother, who married his late wife. [this is how awful his wife was... she asked for a divorce so that she could MARRY HER HUSBAND'S BROTHER.] The agents are in hot pursuit by now, but when they arrive Sylvane has already taken his brother to their wife's gravesite. Madsen asks him to put down his gun, and he says that he was just doing what he was told, but he doesn't reveal who gave him those instructions. [how strange...] He goes to shoot her so that she'll have to shoot him, but another agent beats her to it. [this whole scene was a bit overly suspenseful, don't you think?] He's removed by Hauser, who pretty much tells Madsen that her work is done, and that Sylvane got a new identity so he can serve a life sentence. When Madsen asks about Alan, she's just told that he won't be a problem. However, there's more to it than that... we see Hauser put Sylvane in a hidden prison that looks just like Alcatraz. [okay. super creepy. really??]

CR: James Dittiger/FOX
Lucy and Hauser tell Madsen that they knew the 256 prisoners and 46 guards that disappeared were going to come back, and that they've been waiting a long time for it to happen. [but they don't say more than that? Madsen and Soto don't ask for more information??] Madsen and Soto are brought into a room filled with the photos of the folks who will reappear. In this room, Madsen learns that grandfather wasn't a guard, he was an inmate... and he was the guy who killed her partner three months earlier. [wow. talk about a double shocker!] Howser has Madsen transferred, though he tells her that she has to keep quiet... this is extremely secret work. [no sh!t, Sherlock!] She requests Soto be her partner, who accepts and is accepted by Hauser, who now doesn't have to kill the guy. [eek!] Their mission: find all of the missing folks, as well as whoever took them in 1963. [this should keep them employed for quite a while!]

Alcatraz "Ernest Cobb" (S01E02): Ernest Cobb was a serial killer who requested to be moved to Alcatraz so that he could enjoy a private cell. [just like the head warden, I was amused by this request.] He then requested to be in solitary confinement, to abstain from yard visits, etc. but his request is denied, which makes him freak out. He eventually disobeys orders to get thrown into solitary, but the head Warden is onto him, so he makes him share a cell with a talkative fellow that that the situation is a true prison for him. [that SUCKS!!] Cobb spent more time than any other inmate in solitary confinement while at Alcatraz. [and it was by choice. how interesting!] Eventually something else must have happened, though, as he wound up in a straight jacket, and Lucy was his doctor!! [we don't know who all knows this at this point, but I assume Hauser is in the loop on it.]

Lucy asks Sylvane if he knows Cobb, but doesn't learn much. [so already-captured former prisoners will be recurring on the show for questioning?] Sylvane says that he was in his cell 50 years ago, but something happened. She asks him about the key he was found with... but he doesn't know what it opens nor who asked him to get it. This whole time, his hands are on some sort of lighting device, which is a type of lie-detector. [interesting. Is this a futuristic device or am I just not aware of such technology?]

In present day, Cobb has a picnic alone in San Francisco. He uses a scope to look at people, then shoots three from a great distance. Seeing a couple dead crows lets Soto know immediately who the marksman was, and, since Soto knew what kind of gun Cobb preferred, they are able to figure out the range rather quickly. [I love the character of Soto. so smart!] Madsen, who has to remind Soto not to let his emotions cloud his judgment, leads her partner up a hill, where she finds a casing, despite Soto's warning that Cobb was kinda OCD. [I wonder about the OCD comment. That wasn't too necessary this episode, I didn't feel. was it to set up something that'll happen later?] Lucy, Madsen, and Soto go to a specialty gun store to show a worker a picture of Cobb. [why did Hauser send Lucy on this errand?] Cobb used a prepaid credit card with no name or address, and had a hotel key on him. They track down the hotel and go to the room, but Cobb isn't there. [wow! what a run-down place!] Instead, he's across the road, and shoots through the window to wound Lucy in the heart, who is taken by ambulance to St. Mary's and is later in a coma. Hauser goes to Sylvane to ask if Lucy was a target, but he doesn't know. [hmmmm.... so I guess Hauser doesn't know that Lucy was a doctor at Alcatraz?]

Madsen notices that there's always a girl who looks 15- or 16-years-old in each cluster of shootings, so she's trying to figure out why. [are we to believe that nobody ever picked up on this before? because that seems highly unlikely...] Soto finds a letter addressed to Cobb that he never received... when he went to meet his mother (he grew up in an orphanage), she slammed the door in his face, but he saw she had a daughter slightly younger than him, hence his hatred of girls that age. [okay. I get it. a teeny bit of a stretch, but okay.] Madsen recreates Cobb's cell, then spends all night trying to piece things together. Eventually she realizes that he had made a scope to watch the city. [resourceful guy!] Soto and Madsen compare the area of San Francisco that Cobb used to watch with a current map to locate two buildings that would have a high enough vantage point to match a second round of shootings that is going on. Hauser and Madsen find Cobb, and although Madsen is nice to him, Howser shoots him in the hand, to avenge Lucy. [gross.]

A final note: In his books, there's not much about Tommy Madsen, and Soto says that's because he couldn't find much about him. [hmm. this is obviously going to resurface again...]
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