Alcatraz: The Pilot!

As per the dictates of a recent Avod poll, I watched the pilot of the new television show Alcatraz this week! While while I found it to be a pleasant and diverting enough experience, it was full enough with inconsistencies and bizarre premises to warrant having most of them called out here.

So now, in no particular order, here are the issues I had with the pilot episode of Alcatraz. Keep in mind, however, since this is merely a pilot, I'll be happy to find some of these bizarre choices explained away in subsequent episodes.

Sam Neill's American accent hasn't gotten any better over the years, has it? It's not so bad when he's playing a man of indeterminate national origin, but now he's playing in FBI/mysterious government agency official who was a fresh young guard at Alcatraz when all the prisoners disappeared fifty years ago. Which makes his mid-Atlantic growling just seem odd. He's also named Emerson Hauser, which is one of those distractingly strange television names that exists only to avoid being sued over the similarity to a real person's name. I was going to make some comment about it being preposterous that Sam Neill is playing a character in his mid-70s, but then I looked it up and turn he's sixty-five and just looks fantastic for his age.

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth is made over the fact that hundreds of America's worst criminals are being released back in the San Francisco because of a time anomaly/government experiment, but I'm not sure I understand why these guys would be especially hard to catch. In fact, given the fact that you know the name, fingerprints, and have a current picture of every single criminal you're looking for, it seems like they'd be far easier to catch than the escaped sinners on Brimstone were. I'm sure the show would respond that it could cause awkwardness putting me faces and names of various criminals in the news when they're supposed to have died some fifty years earlier, there's no need to give out their real names or personal histories. Sam Neill is fronting for an FBI with such enormous powers that it was able to come up with fake stories to explain away the disappearance of hundreds of prisoners and guards from Alcatraz, lying about transfers and deaths for years afterwards. How hard could it possibly be to show the press a picture of a guy and say hey, this is Steve Williams, if you see him call the FBI! Then put a little note into national fingerprint identification system that says call FBI whenever one of their prints comes up instead of sending the name of a ninety-year-old person to the local police departments. If you've got the juice to build a secret replica of Alcatraz under the redwoods of Northern California, how difficult can that really be?

If Alcatraz was the site of a mysterious, possibly supernatural mass disappearance, and also ongoing government research into said disappearance, why would they let tourists tromp all over the place? If the entire story of why Alcatraz was closed in the first place was an elaborate lie, why not take the lie one step further and tell the public that the place is essentially made out of asbestos and not safe to go to?

Hopefully in subsequent episodes it doesn't turn out that every single returnee shows up on Alcatraz the way the one in the pilot did – maybe that's necessary for the time jumping based plot, but it won't make Sam Neill's character look particularly competent if a secret government organization is unable to catch a series of guys who all teleport within a few hundred feet of their secret base.

I wouldn't be so concerned about how contrived it is that the main character's partner was killed by her own time jumping grandfather if the show had done a better job of explaining why she and her partner were chasing the man in the first place. I guess he must've committed a crime, but she's a homicide detective and they certainly didn't mention any murder – she complains about no one having any idea who the man was, but didn't he leave fingerprints near whatever crime he committed?

I mean it's not like he was wearing gloves. Also, he's characterized as being weirdly super evil, returning to kick a man whose dangling from a roof like in the opening of Vertigo. That's so evil that it's actually against his own self-interest, which seems weird. If you make a jump in the cop following you doesn't, that means his partner is going to have to stop to help him up if she makes the jump. This gives you ample time to make your escape – instead, grandpa chooses to come back and kick at the partner, giving the main character both reason and opportunity to shoot him dead where he stands. She doesn't, of course, because she's not good at her job, but that doesn't explain why her grandpa made such a pointlessly self-destructive choice.

Not for nothing, but there's got to be a better way of finding henchmen to kill your enemies and steal their property than yanking convicted murderers through time. Seriously, I don't even know why the thief from the first episode would rob and murder a guy for an evil conspiracy – what could they possibly offer him? The guy was basically suicidal, and it's not like he had any family that they could blackmail him with.

Perhaps I'm harping on this, but it really does seem like this is a show about catching the easiest criminals in the world to find. I'm sure we'll get some explanation later on that they don't want to go to the press with these people's pictures, for fear of revealing the evil time jumping conspiracy, but that just doesn't make a lick of sense. After all, other than Jorge Garcia, who plays a famous historian and the world's foremost expert on the prisoners of Alcatraz, no one would see a picture in a newspaper and think "oh, that's looks like one of the last prisoners who was at Alcatraz!" And since Jorge Garcia already works for the conspiracy (he's recruited by the cop at the end of the episode), what harm is there in getting the public to help catch these people?

I can't express how much I hope we learn that most of the prisoners are already out and round San Francisco, since again, like Brimstone, it's a way bigger threat if they all come back at once then if they keep teleporting back one at a time.

So that's the pilot, I look forward to watching all future episodes of Alcatraz until it's canceled six weeks from now. Naturally, I'm kidding, this show has everything it takes to be this year's FlashForward, so we could be looking at as many as thirteen weeks before it's canceled!

And despite how much the show benefited from actually being shot in and around San Francisco I predict one week before the production moves to Vancouver, Monk style. Although that would be super weird, since they would no longer be able to shoot the show Alcatraz at Alcatraz, when Sam Neill's base is under Alcatraz.

Yeah, this should be fun.

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