Monday night, J.J. Abrams much hyped sci-fi drama series debuted on FOX drawing over 10 million viewers nationwide.
In the two part opener, present-day San Francisco is plagued by a series of brutal slayings perpetrated by Alcatraz inmates—Jack Sylvane (Jeffrey Pierce), Ernest Cobb (Joe Egender), and Tommy Madsen (David Hoflin)—who have mysteriously reappeared after disappearing with 302 prisoners and guards the night the prison closed in 1963.
Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones), Tommy’s daughter, investigates the murder cases along with her partner Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia), an Alcatraz historian.
Soon they begin reluctantly working at the behest of a dicey government agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), who was one of the cops assigned to pick up the prisoners the night of the disappearance, and his equally shady sidekick Lucy (Parminder Nagra).
After a series of twists and turns, Sylvane and Cobb are eventually captured and imprisoned in a secret underground maximum security prison. Madsen remains on the loose and it becomes evident that “the missing 302” are strangely coming back.
Mind-bending plot and supernatural aspect aside, the show is basically a police procedural with a “catch them before they do it again” theme.
Method acting isn’t at work here as the overall the performances are subpar. Jones, Garcia, Neill, and Nagra fail to register any intellectual or emotional connections with the audience.
Oscar-nominated actor Robert Forster made only a cameo appearance as Ray Archer, an ex-guard turned bar owner and Rebecca’s uncle. Viewers hope to see the “Jackie Brown” star take on a larger role in future episodes.
By far the standout amongst the regular cast is Jonny Coyne who shines in his role as Warden Edwin James. His verbal exchanges and mental chess game with the eloquent sniper Cobb (Egender) were the show’s highlights.
Jason Butler Harner as Associate Warden E.B. Tiller seems solid as the iron-fisted compliment to Coyne’s character.
The exterior shots of San Francisco, the few scenes filmed on the actual island, and set mock ups of the real prison are amazing.
There’s no doubt that the show will capture an audience, spark interest in the Rock’s true history, and increase Alcatraz tourism.
“Alcatraz” will occupy the 9 p.m. time slot Monday’s on FOX.