Review of “Alcatraz” premiere (from a LOST fan perspective)

Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) meets Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia) in the first episode of "Alcatraz"

The photography in Alcatraz was beautiful, moody, and dark — but it was Jorge Garcia who brought the most life to the show.

When Jorge played Hurley in LOST, he looked so natural that it seemed he wasn’t even acting. But, of course, he was. Being able to appear that natural in the role was a great gift. He’s brought that same gift to his Alcatraz role of Diego Soto — comic book fan, PhD expert on Alcatraz history, and unlikely recruit in a crime-fighting partnership with girl detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones).

He even has a LOST-like moment when he asks “Is anyone else’s head exploding now?,” acting as the stand-in for the audience, just as he had several times on LOST when bizarre events happened and none of the other characters seemed to notice how strange they were.

Even if you didn’t watch the premiere (which was two episodes long), you’ve probably already heard about the plot. A bunch of prisoners and guards disappeared from 1960s Alcatraz and are believed to be dead. Now the prisoners are coming back to the contemporary world, one by one, and they haven’t aged a day since they disappeared over 40 years ago. No one knows what is going on, or at least no one is saying, though Sam Neill (Emerson Hauser) and Parminder Nagra (Lucy, currently in a coma) probably know a lot more than they are letting on.

J.J. Abrams recently said that Alcatraz “is designed very much as an episodic show with … large stories, mythological stories that we’d be able to get to over time.”

The episodic part was surprisingly conventional, a standard police drama of finding and catching a criminal. It’s the mythology that’s interesting. After each criminal is caught, they get driven in a black SUV down a deserted road into a lush forest. They are escorted into a run-down cabin and through a door — and, boom, they are in a bright, white, shiny modern replica of the old Alcatraz cell block. Someone was very prepared for their arrival in the modern world.

But who? And what do they know? Madsen, Hauser, and Lucy all have connections to the old Alcatraz. As much as J.J. Abrams wants to emphasize the episodic nature of the show, I think the show will succeed or fail based on how the mythology plays out and how long it continues to generate suspense.

How does Alcatraz compare to LOST? On a scale of 1 to 10, the Alcatraz premiere was a solid 7 or 8. The LOST pilot, though, was a 12. Alcatraz is better than most shows now on TV, but whether Jorge’s naturalistic charm, the spooky mythology, and the gorgeous photography are enough to carry the show for the long term still remains to be seen.

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