Alcatraz: The Complete Series (DVD)
When San Francisco Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) is assigned to a grisly homicide case, a fingerprint leads her to a shocking suspect: an Alcatraz inmate who died over 30 years ago. Once the enigmatic, knows-everything-but-tells-nothing government agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) tries to impede her investigation, Madsen turns to Alcatraz expert Dr. Diego "Doc" Soto (Jorge Garcia), to help her piece together the inexplicable sequence of events. By delving into Alcatraz history, government cover-ups and Rebecca's own heritage, the team will ultimately discover that this reappearance is only a small part of a much larger, more sinister present-day threat. For while he may be the first, it quickly becomes clear that this fugitive won't be the last to reappear from Alcatraz.
It's still got that mystique, Alcatraz. Where else would you build a TV series premise about the closing of a prison that resulted not in the orderly dissemination of the remaining prisoners and staff but an inexplicable opening in the time-space continuum that caused the vanishing of hundreds of people? Alcatraz closed in 1963, so the present-day characters in Alcatraz
have their hands full, and their minds blown, when the missing folks begin to materialize in San Francisco. This means the 2012 show's double-humped concept has investigators solving a case per episode--these escapees are still up to their old criminal tricks--but also pursuing the overall mystery of what the heck happened in '63. The presence of genre maestro and executive producer J.J. Abrams can't lick this awkward setup; for instance, even with an eager suspension of disbelief, it's tough to imagine that nobody in this alternate universe would have questioned the mass disappearance of that many Alcatraz-connected people at the same moment. It would help, of course, if the characters were something other than tiresomely stock. Sarah Jones plays the cop with a personal connection to the case (rather refreshingly without a romantic interest), Lost
favorite Jorge Garcia is the Alcatraz expert/comic shop owner who joins the investigative crew, and Sam Neill grimaces as the hard-as-nails boss man. The show's distinguishing factors include some striking set design as well as truly explicit violence--none of which was enough to sustain it beyond 13 episodes, at which point it was cancelled. The show was obviously meant to be spun out over a good long spell, so--spoiler alert--the "Finale" ends with a cliffhanger designed for an exciting follow-up. That won't happen, and it's not difficult to see why the thing didn't catch on. Special features in this three-disc set consist of a short gag reel and a 10-minute look at the filmmakers and cast talking about the allure of the original Alcatraz. --Robert Horton