When it was announced that J.J. Abrams was producing a new show about Alcatraz (ironically, often referred to as, the Island) and starring Jorge Garcia many people thought that it would be the “new Lost”. Other than both shows having crazy timey-wimey twists, Alcatraz is very much its own thing. Starring Sam Neil (Jurassic Park), Sarah Jones (Still Green), and Jorge Garcia (Lost), Alcatraz is about what really happened when all of the inmates disappeared all those years ago and how they are all reappearing now one by one.
The show so far has had eight episodes, and while it is still intriguing and interesting, it has already fallen into a pattern, and because of this, its appeal has started to fade. Right off the bat, starting out with the first episode, it was clear that every episode was going to follow the same formula. [SPOILERS] Every episode starts out with an inmate who has reappeared who then kills someone, then cuts to the our police friends investigating the crime scene. The killer strikes again, narrowly escapes, and then there is standoff and the good guys win. Every episode then ends by revealing some small detail that we have either figured out already or something that means nothing to us at this point. Now and then they will mix up the order of said events but for most part it follows that exact order. Alcatraz definitely has the potential to be mind blowing and a fantastic show but in order to achieve this it has to mix things up a bit. They need to be willing to take some chances and risks with the writing and stray away from the safety of their formula. This is something they should have taken from Lost. While Lost might have also had a cookie cutter format every episode they also expanded on the story at the same time. The show was going somewhere and was building on something where Alcatraz feels more like it is sitting still.
Another downside that show has naturally working against is characterization. The show follows a format where we are looking at one inmate an episode and after that episode we don’t see much more of him. This makes it hard for the audience to become emotionally involved in the conflict because there is no consistent villain that the audience can love to hate. There are a couple of a reappearing antagonizing characters in the forms of the warden and a couple other members of the staff on the Island as well but they are only present in the periodic flashbacks to Alcatraz. Its not only the villains that the audience isn’t attached to but also the protagonists. So far we don’t know the good guys very well either. This is another concept the writers would have benefited from by copying Lost . Every episode of Lost was dedicated to a character and each episode we were exposed to an intimate memory or experience important in defining who that character was. Alcatraz as of now, has yet to really intimately define its protagonists which is something you generally want to do early on so the audience becomes more emotionally involved in the plot.
To be completely honest it is unfair to compare Alcatraz to Lost. Lost is possibly one of the best shows ever made and it doesn’t make sense to hold Alcatraz up to that standard. Despite the repetition between episodes Alcatraz is a good show. The plot is original and intriguing and has me coming back each week. It is clearly building up to something but at this point the build up has almost started to make me bored rather than curious as to whats going to happen next. It is being produced by J.J. Abrams so it is definitely safe to say that the show has the potential to be great it just hasn’t convinced me yet.