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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Alcatraz Review

It shouldn’t come as a surprise after my previous post (a glorified love letter to my idols) that I would take the opportunity to review JJ Abrams’ new drama, Alcatraz. So, here it goes. A gushing list of admiration. Endless praise.  Detailing the unblemished success of a creative mind I greatly admire.
Well…not exactly.
Abrams’ knows a winner when he sees one. It was natural to choose a story with compelling characters, a mysterious island, the troubles of time travel, flashbacks, and a villain that tugs at your heartstrings. But enough about LOST.
I had faint senses that Alcatraz would resemble its predecessor, but using the same musical score (or one that is extremely close) pushes my buttons. When the plots share obvious connections, it would behoove the creators to do their best to distance them. The overt parallels nearly seem to diminish the success of LOST as if it were a formulaic show, easily copied. There was even a Jack character*. And don’t forget, Hurley aka Soto is the same loveable teddy bear. However, I admit, this is where the similarities end.
Alcatraz is not a sci-fi / fantasy thriller, even though there are aspects of the show that suit these genres, it is certainly more a new-age cop drama than anything else. I love stories that transform common knowledge into something spectacular, so the concept that the Alcatraz prisoners have actually disappeared instead of being moved is right up my alley. The opening was classic. Hooking viewers with the empty cells and stormy evening, it clearly foreshadowed the turmoil and mystery that will be central to the program. And it doesn’t hurt that the main character, a detective, is female. Who doesn’t love a woman in charge?
Two episodes in (technically three), each show introduces the prisoner who has returned, his M.O. and the inciting incident that alerts Madsen and Soto to the reappearance. In cop-drama fashion they tail their suspect through a maze of misunderstandings until finally he is apprehended. Yawn.
I am interested in the allure of the “63’s” disappearances, much less how they are wreaking havoc on downtown San Francisco. Why did they disappear and why are they returning? What does Emerson** have to do with this incident? Is Dr Beauregard ageless or just really old? Is this a government conspiracy? Who is directing them to cause mayhem once they return? How did they disappear to begin with? The potential for creativity entices me to want more. Not for the dramatic police narrative, I have already found love in Person of Interest (note- another LOST alum) for that.
I trust Abrams enough to produce a story that is groundbreaking and unique. And although so far Alcatraz may seem to be riding LOST’s coattails, I am sure something dwells within the bowels of The Rock that viewers have yet to understand. After all, Lucy, Hauser’s assistant, was a bit too knowledgeable of the inner workings of Alcatraz – and look how that went – she was there in ’63, looking as sinister and youthful as in the present day. Despite my criticism, JJ, you’ve got me hooked.  
*Jack. Could be a nickname for John. Could be the man’s name. There are literally thousands of male names. Writers, please pick something else. Please.
**Emerson Hauser is definitely a nod to Michael Emerson, the portrayer of the incomparable Ben Linus. If he comes anywhere close in character to Ben, I’ll be a happy girl.

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