Sometime during its first season (ie 2001) I discovered the TV show Alias. It was a bold TV show which seemed to delight in surprising and one-upping itself with shock after show in each episode. Alas, the show played itself out, IMHO, after the incredible episode Phase One, but if there was one thing I came away with from the show, it was to watch out for any new series from producer J. J. Abrams.
This proved to be a good thing as in 2004 I had the upcoming J. J. Abrams’ produced TV series Lost on my radar. While the show’s ultimate conclusion some years later left something to be desired, there is little doubt that for several years this show was one hell of a thrill ride.
Since then, I’ve seen plenty of other J. J. Abrams works (as producer, director, or writer), from the TV series Fringe to the last two Mission: Impossible films and the re-boot of Star Trek. Considering the sheer volume of material, it was inevitable some of the material would prove great while others not so great. Still, my eyes are always open for new works from the prolific Mr. Abrams, so when I heard about his latest sci-fi mystery production Alcatraz, I had to give it a look and yesterday, when it premiered, I did just that.
Alcatraz appears to be a very purposeful attempt to replicate the winning formula of Lost. Yeah, both shows deal with the mysteries surrounding an island. Alcatraz, at least with the first two episodes presented, also features liberal use of flashbacks not unlike Lost.
The plot of Alcatraz is simple: Back in the early 1960’s every single person on Alcatraz -prisoners as well as staff- mysteriously disappeared. This fact was hidden from the American public but today, in the present, the long lost convicts are returning. They have not aged and they commit new crimes. Worse, they appear to have an agenda. Who are they working for and for what purpose?
Enter Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and author Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia). They uncover the odd facts related to Alcatraz and subsequently intersect with Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) and Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra), two people who know much more about the Alcatraz situation than they’re willing to let on.
Now, the first episode was enjoyable. The second episode…not so much. Not that it was bad, mind you, but it was rather repetitious. Essentially, the first and second episode were interchangeable: Our heroes chase down a criminal from Alcatraz, capture him, he is sent to the ‘new Alcatraz’. Side point: Criminal #1 was searching for a key. Criminal #2 was targeting one of the main characters. Big reveal the idea that maybe some characters are as “old” as the criminals they’re chasing.
Again, not a bad night of TV watching by any means, but the repetition was troublesome considering we’re dealing with only the first two episodes of the show. Is this what Alcatraz will be, a “chase-the-villain-of-the-week-while-advancing-the-show-by-increments”? If so, I worry whether it can sustain itself.
As it is, there was enough good in the show’s premier to ensure I’ll stick around for at least a little while longer. However, if the story doesn’t move a little bit more and continues to display too much repetition, I may well let it go.