Each episode begins with Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) narrating the following lines: “On March 21st, 1963, Alcatraz officially closed. All the prisoners were transferred off the island. Only that’s not what happened. Not at all.”
J.J. Abrams continues to push the envelope, combining suspense with extraordinary science fiction that enables the viewers to truly leave their day to day life behind for an hour. As with “Fringe” and “Lost”, the story can change directions with a stroke of the pen (keyboard). Bad Robot Productions, run by Abrams, produced the pilot and continues under the helm of J.J. along with several other executive producers.
Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto (Jorge Garcia) has a background not only in Criminal Justice and Civil War History, but owns a comic book store and has spent many nights putting pen to paper as a writer. The sweetness of Garcia shines in his portrayal of Doc, as was the case when he lit up the sitcom “Becker” 2003-2004. As lovable Hugo “Hurley” Reyes on the long running action-adventure-mystery-science fiction drama “Lost”, he won over fans with his sensitivity but yet often funny description of the crazy lifestyle on an island few knew existed. This appeal continues to work for Garcia as he begins this new chapter as Doc who gets drawn into a mysterious homicide case and finds himself working with Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones), a San Francisco Police Detective.
As the two begin piecing the puzzle together, they find the circumstances not adding up as the fingerprints left at the crime scene only lead them to a suspect who died over 30 years earlier. As an inmate of Alcatraz, he was one of many transported off the island when it was finally closed. Or was he? Rebecca and Doc discover that Sylvane (Jeffrey Pierce) is not only alive, but has not aged since his supposed death all those years ago. The mysterious events get even more perplexing when the two are taken to an undisclosed location by Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), who has secret knowledge that could answer the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where” and “why”, but has his own agenda. His associate, Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra), is loyal with as much passion as Hauser, as both have waited patiently for years for these events to begin to occur.
The writers rock between the slow burn of “The Killing” and the mystery of “Lost” while trying to keep the speed of the storyline in high gear. Connecting one of the main characters, Madsen, to Alcatraz and its past allows her to dip into her own family history while trying to get answers to what will potentially be endless amount of questions.
Garcia will likely have the quietly funniest lines the show will have and his deadpan delivery will put a bit of light into the show’s gray color schemes. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is the backdrop for many pilots hitting the small screen over the past several years. It sets the mood for suspense and science fiction, and although the city can be bright and vibrant, it is the winter months of gray that producers and creators are looking for to set up filming.
The pilot episode was a little like “Person of Interest”, which does not hit it out of the ballpark in the series opener, but keeps you wanting more of the knowledge that the mystery is hiding.
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