Review: Alcatraz 1×01 Pilot

January 19, 2012

** This episode review may contain possible spoilers**

If FOX Network‘s pilot episode of J. J. AbramsAlcatraz had to be described in one word, it would be Q.U.I.R.K.Y! I’ve been looking forward to this TV show for 2-3 months now. A story about 302 inmates and security guards who disappear from Alcatraz island on March 20, 1963 without a trace….only to resurface one by one in 2012 not having aged a bit? Now that’s a storyline which has a lot of potential… Add to this mix J. J. Abrams’ creativity and you know you’re ready for some interesting subplots and character developments.

Favorite Quotes:

Soto: Diego Soto. Will you marry me?      — on introducing himself to Detective Madsen

Soto: No one ever escaped Alcatraz. Not to mention the guy looks exactly the same, which if you’re keeping score at home, isn’t possible.

Madsen: Tell you what, I’ll give you your prints back if you let me come with you
Hauser: Why?
Madsen: Because you gassed me and now you owe me one
Hauser: [thinks/sighs]…Don’t forget your lunchbox…

Soto: Is anyone else’s head exploding right now…?           — during the final revelations of the episode


Jorge Garcia and Sarah Jones play Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto and Detective Rebecca Madsen, the principal lead duo in this series.  They definitely make for an unlikely duo, which was highlighted especially in the scene when they are walking together down into the guard barracks of Alcatraz (pictured). Now this is where it gets quirky, not only are they a wonderfully refreshing duo, but also very cute, and looking abnormally young. From the episode, it seems they should be around the same age, although that’s a guess at best, but they act as if they’re between 26 and 28 years old. They have a youthful angle to them that the Fringe duo Peter (Jackson) and Olivia (Torv) do not have – who seem to be in their mid-30s. Even though they have just met, Diego and Madsen get along amazingly and remind me of two kids with an inside joke during their conversations. Is it too early to hope for a romance between the young female detective who recently lost her partner and a history buff and Alcatraz expert who has a grand appreciation for comic books? 😀 [FUN FACT: When Madsen first met Diego at the comic book store, all the magazines on display are titled ‘ALCATRAZ‘]

On the other hand, this pilot of Alcatraz did nothing to elucidate the importance of Lucy Banerjee, played by Parminder Nagra, in the show. Other than learning that she has an awkward partnership with Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), we know nothing of her story yet. I’m expecting this to change in subsequent episodes. Lucy’s character reminds me a lot of Astrid (Jasika Nicole) from Fringe, who also didn’t seem to have much of a role in the beginning of the series. I’m hoping she’s got a dark and intriguing story that deserves the focus of an episode or two.


Hauser and Lucy were waiting for something to happen this whole time. The return of the prisoners was a planned event. The Alcatraz prisoners from March 20, 1963 were taken and sent back to the world by people who are probably not from this day and age… Each is given instructions to do something when they come back, but for what reward? Many revelations were made throughout the pilot that I enjoyed thoroughly, relating to Hauser’s history, Marsden’s grandfather, her partner, the security guards at Alcatraz, and much more. It’s interesting to question not only what the motivations for the prisoners’ return are, but also why these previous Alcatraz prisoners are being put into a newer Alcatraz cell that has been copied in design and structure?

Lastly, the irony behind ‘transfers’ is not lost in this episode. Not only are the inmates said to have transferred out of Alcatraz to another facility back in 1963, this is true but in another sense. Now they are being transferred to the year 2012 for as-of-yet undetermined reasons. On being captured, these inmates are locked up in cells that mimic their Alcatraz cell blocks. So there seems to be multiple transfers in time as they are transported through time from 1963 to 2012 and then put into jail cells that remind them of the past but are quite new. And finally, Madsen gets transfer orders to work with Lucy and Hauser, and I suppose her new partner Diego gets the equivalent of that for his transfer into the secret organization as well.

For a commentary on Alcatraz episode 2 click here!


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