Sunday, July 1, 2012

TV Series: "Alcatraz" - Mystery of the Avenging Inmates

There is an intriguing premise in the TV series “Alcatraz”. But before that, here's a little piece of history. The infamous island is located 2.5 kilometers off the coast of San Francisco and has had several uses through the years. It was a working lighthouse; became a military fortification; a military prison (1968) and federal prison from 1933. For 30 years, it was referred as “The Rock”, an impregnable fortification where no convict has ever escaped.

But in 1963, Alcatraz closed shop due to the rising cost of maintenance and its decrepit facilities, making it unsafe for both prisoners and their guards. Its prisoners were transferred offshore. That’s how the story went. Reality is allegedly a different matter. In fact, its 263 prisoners and 46 guards all disappeared without any trace; their possessions have all been left behind. This mystery has been classified. After all, 263 of the most ruthless criminals running free around the country could only cause panic when there isn’t even an explanation as to their whereabouts - or disappearance.

One day, a former assistant warden of Alcatraz is murdered. The assailant’s fingerprints all point to Jack Sylvane (Jeffrey Pierce) – prisoner no. 2024 – who has been dead for the last 8 years or so. But sightings in surveillance cameras indeed show Jack who appear to have never aged since ‘63. What is happening here?

Hot on Sylvane’s heels is homicide detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) who lost a partner after a failed heist with another prisoner (no. 2002) who eerily resembles his departed grandfather, once a guard in Alcatraz, or was he?

Helping Rebecca is Doc Diego Sotto (Jorge Garcia), a credible resource person on the history of Alcatraz. Both of them become part of a covert Fed unit headed by Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) tasked to investigate (and capture) the series of baffling re-appearances of some of Alcatraz’s 263 criminals, each one as young as they were back then. Hauser was a rookie guard when, in 1963, a partner and he discovered the mysterious disappearance of the facility’s population.

What is the mystery behind the return of these prisoners? Why haven’t they aged? More importantly, is there a way to recapture such entities; some of them have already been declared dead? 

Sarah Jones is Detective Rebecca Madsen

I've heard of the buzz from friends about "Alcatraz" but have never had the chance to watch it until now. The premise is rightfully befuddling. Producer JJ Abrams sure knows how to cook up his mysteries and cliffhangers so that when these former Alcatraz inmates begin to re-appear in modern day San Francisco, wrecking further havoc on the lives of those they once wronged, we couldn't help but sit up and wait for the next "criminal guests". Their back stories are always interesting.

In Jack Sylvane's case, he was a prisoner from another facility when, at the common shower, some other inmate got too frisky with Sylvane, he had to eventually protect himself, killing the frisky guy in the process. This throws the dreamy Jack in Alcatraz. But there's more to Jack's story. His European wife gets re-married to Jack's brother. Moreover, Jack wanted his sweet revenge on the heavy handed assistant warden. Men do get scorned too, and hell hath no fury for them, right?

Detective Rebecca and his partner Diego ties down each episode with the help of Emerson Hauser (Neill), head of this secret division of the federal bureau, but is Hauser even trust worthy? There is a lingering paranoia going around whenever Hauser shows up.

This state of intrigue and mystery beautifully buoys this series. And I am glad I finally found it playing in my video player. There are, of course, talks of the series getting the ax. Let's hope not.  

Rebecca and Diego look for leads.

Rebecca gets hurt.

Sam Neill is Emerson Hauser

Jorge Garcia is Doc Diego Sotto, the detective's assistant.

The cutest inmate Jack Sylvane played by Jeffrey Pierce.

Jeffrey Pierce

Jeffrey Pierce is Prisoner # 2024

Sarah Jones

These days, Alcatraz is a historical tourist facility. This photo courtesy of wikipedia's John O'Neill.

No comments: