Alcatraz: S01E01 “Pilot” and E02 “Ernest Cobb”

7.5 Overall Score
Presentation: 7/10
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10

Intriguing | Has potential

Many minor annoyances

Co-written with Cheyne

J.J. Abrams returns to TV with a show that once again holds a lot of intrigue and mystery, but unfortunately it’s an intrigue we have all seen before. In what is almost perfectly reminiscent of the Fringe pilot, Alcatraz has high budget (a budget that will likely subside over time), has a leading lady brought into a new department to investigate a mysterious occurrence, and has a secret FBI division leader (supposedly) that is reluctant to reveal information.

The large budget leads to quite impressive visuals, especially the 1960’s version of Alcatraz. The direction on the other hand seems to be very hit and miss. A lot of the camera angles and tricks feel come across like an amateur director who  is trying too hard. The acting is also hit and miss. Sarah Jones gets the job done and Sam Neill shows off his experience but, some of the minor character (See: 1960’s Tillman) are almost distractingly bad, but it can be forgiven.

Watching Jorge Garcia is almost exactly like watching Hurley all over again. Portraying an insecure comic book nerd who compares everything that is happening to him to a superhero movie, but comes through with a brilliantly stupid idea when it actually matters is nothing new for Garcia, so his performance is average as expected.

Surprisingly there are a lot of minor inconsistencies found throughout. This would usually be accepted and ignored, but in the pilot alone there were tons. Why are the files and prisoners’ personal items kept behind a single locked door when they have a gigantic “Batcave” to keep them? This higher up secret group lets in a detective that is known to break the rules and a random comic book clerk in with no questions. The guy in the locker room gets the taxi cab plate number even though he was knocked out and there were no security cameras. There are a bunch of these problems early on and they become annoyingly noticeable. You can tell the writers wanted to characters to be in certain situations at certain times and they just didn’t seem to worry too much about the how and why.

However, the classic J.J. Abrams mystery is still there and it still works. Hopefully they have learned their lesson over the years and don’t bite off more than they can chew with the over abundance of questions and mystery.

We still don’t know entirely the format of the show. It will probably be very similar to Fringe in the sense of procedural “inmate of the week” episodes with small main story parts and then the rare episode that actually shows shit off.

Overall, the pilot was simply okay and seemed very disjointed, like it was trying to find its footing but couldn’t. The second episode of the two-night premiere somewhat redeemed my disappointment with a very interesting inmate added and twists that did clear up certain annoyances. Alcatraz is still up in the air for me though. So far it’s been very hit or miss in most departments, but it does have potential. I’ll definitely keep watching, but I’m not entirely sure its the surefire hit that FOX has been looking for. Only time will tell with this one.


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Author: Chris Fadeley View all posts by
I am UF alumni and a computer engineer. I know virtually every useless fact about videogames ever. I like computers and potatoes.

2 Comments on "Alcatraz: S01E01 “Pilot” and E02 “Ernest Cobb”"

  1. Pat Haynes January 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    Thought the second episode was definitely better than the first. The little plot twists are enough to keep me watching, but yeah, there’s some laughably bad stuff, like the guy getting his hand slammed in a drawer, yet not having the slightest mark on it. Sam Neil was pretty awesome though.

  2. Chris January 17, 2012 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    Yeah there are tons of little things like that. Im at least glad they revealed the girl at the end and why she was important. I couldn’t stand that the head guy was so sad when she was shot and put in a coma cause she wasn’t developed at all and we knew nothing about her. So at least that is good.

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