Stars: Sarah Jones, Jorge Garcia, Sam Neill
Director: Jack Bender
Network: Fox, airs Monday nights
Original Telecast: January 24, 2012

Like all new genre series, the pilot usually kicks things off in grand fashion, but the next few episodes are all about finding a tone and a way to do epic stories on a much smaller TV budget.

The other issue – how much mythology to dole out week by week without confusing new viewers?

ALCATRAZ definitely follows that pattern as the third episode “Kit Nelson” struggles to find a workable tone and an engaging mystery without coming off as second-rate police procedural and third-rate LOST/FRINGE.

Elements of those latter two shows definitely bubble to the surface throughout ALCATRAZ, which can be a bit annoying at times, as it’s trying to find it’s own voice and rhythms.

As we’ve been told, 302 of Alcatraz’s most notorious prisoners disappeared 50 years ago shortly before the prison shut down. Trying to track them down is the mysterious Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) who has recently enlisted S.F. cop Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and comic-book store owner (and author of the definitive book on Alcatraz) Diego “Doc” Soto (Jorge Garcia).

Their job is to identify who has come back, why and capture them so they can be placed in a newly constructed prison underneath the existing Alcatraz.

Kit Nelson (Michael Eklund) was a child murderer who had some mommy, daaddy and brother issues and has returned this week – kidnapping a young boy (William Jackson Shadley) and planning a similar murder to the one he did many years before. Essentially, it involves a great weekend doing fun kid things and ends with the boy getting strangled.

There’s a personal touch to this case for Doc, since, as we learn, he was abducted when he was younger, though we don’t get much more info than that. Hauser also is a wild card this episode – essentially calling off an Amber Alert for fear that the truth about the Alcatraz prisoners is going to be uncovered.

Holding everything together is the cop-instincts of Madsen and as they race against the clock to find Nelson, we also get a glimpse into Nelson’s own past circa 1960 Alcatraz prison life.

One of the big problems with “Kit Nelson” is the storyline for Kit in general is about as compelling as the worst LAW AND ORDER: SVU episode. We see Nelson in prison, but we don’t like him and don’t care to spend time getting to know him. He’s a criminal – a sick one. Anything bad that happens to him – all the power to those that did it to him.

What we want to get to know is our trio of compelling leads – whose own desires, interests and past seem to be far more interesting and worth following.

Garcia is great as Doc, and it’s great to see him stretch his acting muscles. Points for giving him a comic book shop as a hangout. Jones is solid as Rebecca. She’s not too tough – not too icky sweet and her skills as a cop isn’t as annoyingly manly as Mario Bello on NBC’s PRIME SUSPECT.

Still, what’s going on with Alcatraz? Why are the prisoners are coming back? Why are we seeing who they were before they disappeared? All of this brings up frustrating questions that need a few answers resolved to keep people from tuning out in the coming weeks.

As much as executive producer J.J. Abrams has said he wants to keep this a strict procedural with a “prisoner of the week” theme, this concept isn’t going to hold up if the prisoners are just run of the mill baddies.

FRINGE got good when it laid all of its cards on the tables – and then had cases in between mythology breaks. ALCATRAZ needs to do the same and fast.

Points are also given for actually using San Francisco and the neighboring cities properly – with a shout-out to Walnut Creek, CA in this episode. It’s nice to know there are stories to be told in cities other than New York and Los Angeles (even if this series is now being shot in Vancouver, Canada).


Click on Link: TV Review – ALCATRAZ – Season 1 – Cal Sweeney

Click on Link: Exclusive Interview with ALCATRAZ star Parminder Nagra

Click on Link: TV Review – ALCATRAZ – Season 1 – “Kit Nelson”


Click on Link: TV Review – ALCATRAZ – Season 1 – “Pilot”/”Earnest Cobb” – Season Premiere


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Article: Exclusive Interview with ALCATRAZ star Parminder Nagra


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