Television Review: Alcatraz (2012)

Title: Alcatraz
Production Year(s): 2012 (cancelled on a cliff-hanger).
Episodes: 13
Categories / Themes: It’s primarily a crime drama and a work of historical fiction.
Cast: Sam Neill as Emerson Hauser, Parminder Nagra as Dr. Lucy Banerjee, Sarah Jones as Detective Rebecca Madsen, Jorge Garcia as Dr. Diego Soto, Jonny Coyne as Warden Edwin James, Leon Rippy as Dr. Milton Beauregard, Jason Butler Harner as Deputy Warden E.B. Tiller…

We begin in 1963 at the world famous prison, Alcatraz. Officers find that every prisoner, guard and other members on staff at the prison to be gone. The cover story people are told is that the prison was shut down and the inmates moved offsite. However, in present day, they begin appearing and causing havoc amongst the city. Emerson Hauser and Parminder Nagra run an operation to secure the inmates before they can do too much damage. Throughout the first episode, they bring Detective Rebecca Madsen (a police officer) and Dr. Diego Soto (a comic book writer and author of many Alcatraz related books) onto the team. There are background members who work in secret, trying to figure out the mystery of the disappearance and the return. Each episode cuts back and forth between the (fictional) historical events of the inmates and the present day occurrences.

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As a crime drama, it’s fairly interesting. The cases they work on seem to be somewhat straight forward; there’s mystery, but since each episode revolves around particular people, each case seems fairly easy to solve and we even get cuts to what the inmates are doing in present day. I think that it’s a somewhat unique television series in terms of basis. It’s a bit stereotypical in terms of overall plot, however. If you take away Alcatraz, it’s essentially a cop drama. Though, we do have a look into the psychological portions of why these criminals behave in such a manner. The cases they work on are fine, but not the most original. Emerson Hauser and Dr. Lucy Banerjee are fantastic characters in my opinion. Though Hauser isn’t the most original, in terms of personality, I appreciate the back and forth views on his life. The same with Banerjee; though she’s not as involved in the present day team as the other characters, she does have a very unique perspective to the criminals and her parts are fundamental to understanding each criminal.

It is disappointing that it was cancelled, though I can understand why it was. I think Madsen’s character was hugely stereotypical; a tomboy police officer, on a revenge mission, who has issues working with other people… Which is just ridiculous considering in a job such as a police force, you have to be able to work with others; that’s a huge part of the work you do. Not only do you need to work with other officers, you need to work well with the community. She just had these flaws that made her seem unlikeable; she didn’t always treat people very well and she didn’t take all of her orders seriously (she even put co-workers, plus members of the public in danger because of this). All that being said, I think the actress did reasonably for the position; it was primarily the actual writing of the character at fault. I don’t think, as a character, Dr Soto is the best person to work in such a position. I can see that he was brought on to the team without much thought or care for training and proper handling of the position. I think he’s good as a team member, but it would have been best (for all involved) if he had just stayed in the office. It just seems silly that he would go out and involve himself with the public and needlessly endanger people because he’s somewhat untrained.

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Also, I think there are just too few characters overall. I know that there’s some sort of super secret research team in the background, working on solving the problems. However, the Hauser, Banerjee, Madsen and Soto team needs to be bigger. It just seems silly that only one or two criminals (or whatever) turn up at a time and they conveniently have enough time to catch them before going to the next criminal that has appeared in the meantime. Surely there would be at least half a dozen officers more to work on cases, especially considering that there might be a dozen appearing at once or something similar. Plus, what about the criminals that were lying low? Surely there ought to be someone working on that aspect, just in case one escapes their notice while they’re busy on a different inmate. On another note, it seems silly to have the characters travelling back and forth from the city to the island to investigate matters. We don’t generally see it happen, but you have to wonder how much time they waste in doing this. I can understand why the outpost uses the original Alcatraz facility, but there really ought to be an office on the mainland where they can work as well. It’s silly because imagine you go out to work on a case- you’d need to travel to the mainland. From there, you find evidence. However, then you’d need to travel back to the island to analyse and do research on that piece of evidence. After you’ve done that, you then need to go back to the mainland to follow any leads you’ve found because of that evidence. It must be a ridiculous waste of time on their part. They don’t do all the evidence analysis themselves, but a distinct amount of their work does take place in their island offices.

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Overall, I really do like the show. However, I think it needed major improvement and a little bit more originality for its characters. Plus, it would benefit from a bit more common sense; many characters just make silly mistakes which put others in danger.
I think there were just too many mysterious aspects going on. Obviously there’s the unexplained disappearance and reappearance, which is a fine inclusion for me. However, it got really complicated when there were keys involved, secret tunnels and treasure. By the end of the season, there are just too many unexplained things.

I am not being paid, nor do I receive and funds, for this post. It’s just an honest review of a show I like.

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