Alcatraz Review: Between A Rock And A Good Place..

ALCATRAZ: Tuesday 13th March, WATCH, 9pm

This latest convoluted time-bending sci-fi thriller by Lost producer JJ Abrams has as much potential as it does ominous flashbacks (ie. a fair amount), with engaging characters – our old Lost friend Jorge Garcia being a highlight as Alcatraz expert and comic book geek Dr “Docâ€? Diego Soto – and the perfect setting for mystery, conspiracy and intensifying dread – Alcatraz, or “The Rockâ€?.

The customary brave and beautiful protagonista is Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones), a gutsy San Fran detective who runs around on rooftops and enjoys a “Jack on the rocksâ€? in her downtime, you know the type. Garcia becomes her comedy sidekick – “will you marry me?â€? he asks hopefully when she declares her love for Pac-Man – as they investigate the murderous actions of Jack Sylvane, an Alcatraz inmate who should have been dead for 30 years, but whose chiselled features bafflingly haven’t aged a jot. The villainous fiend in this episode is a sadistic warden EB Tiller (Jason Butler Harner), a “ball-breaker of the worst varietyâ€? whose comeuppance hints at the bloodthirsty revenge acts that will define the series.

The action flits between 1960 Alcatraz, three years before every prisoner inexplicably disappeared, “transferredâ€? apparently to nowhere, and present day, when it is revealed that these non-existent men will begin to resurface. The secret behind this will presumably be the backbone of the series, potentially held by government agent Emerson Hauser. The slippery Hauser, played Sam Neill, appears to be in on the investigation, but is undoubtedly deliberately obstructing Rebecca’s progress, which will probably have more to do with his murky FBI ties than the fact that he finds her “too young, too impetuousâ€?.

“Is anyone else’s head exploding right now?â€? is Doc’s analysis of the situation, comfortingly echoing our thoughts as viewers, as we try to process insinuations that the prisoners are somehow under the control of someone – scientists, the government, angels, who knows? – and guess why they have not grown older or died. He is both the voice of reason and welcome comic relief; a blessing among the cheese-centred dialogue that crops up throughout – “this is Alcatraz: no one forgetsâ€? and the rather redundant “Welcome to Alcatrazâ€?.

If the plot sticks to its single intriguing conspiracy set-up, penetrating the unknown events of 1963, and avoids using the fascinating location of the prison as an incidental backdrop to multiple labyrinthine time shifts and parallel universes, then it could be a very popular series. It will only escape the obscurity that cursed failed sci-fi attempts such as The Event by freeing itself from Lost.

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