My feelings about Alcatraz haven't shifted after its third episode. It's doing a poor job making its primary characters appear interesting, simply because it spends almost no time focusing on them. Instead, the majority of every episode, so far, has been spent exploring the week's escapee—in this case child killer Kit Nelson (Michael Eklund)—and that's a puzzling decision to have made. A few scraps about Soto's (Jorge Garcia) past were alluded to near the end (he was kidnapped aged 11), and it seems more obvious than ever that Hauser's (Sam Neill) keeping the whole truth about the disappearance of the "Sixty-Threes" from his new teammates, but 95% of the episode is still spent fleshing out a glorified guest-star.
Fortunately, the character of Kit Nelson and his storyline was provocative and entertaining, on the level of a chilling tale about a man who murdered his younger brother, derived pleasure from that act, and went on to kill other children as an adult. Eklund (cast because of his brilliant performance in Fringe's "The Plateau"?) was both horrifying and sympathetic here, and I enjoyed all of his scenes simply because he was in them. The way the show flashbacks to a pre-'63 Alcatraz is also working quite well, even if everything happening in the '50s or '60s feels as realistic as a Sin City vignette at times. It's also becoming clearer that Alcatraz is to Fringe what Millennium was to X Files; a show operating in the same ballpark, but more interested in dealing with human monsters than issues of time-travel and whatnot. You can imagine a cameo from Walter Bishop, as the two shows feel like they exist in the same universe.
I wouldn't say Alcatraz is a big failure just yet, because I'm enjoying it more than most other sci-fi shows after three hours (i.e. FlashForward and The Event.) It's just difficult to see this show maintaining any appeal by the time we've caught the tenth, twentieth or thirtieth bad guy and thrown them back in the slammer... with potentially another 272 left to catch! (And how long are previous guest-stars expected to stick around to be filmed mooching around their new cells? Or have all the actors filmed numerous scenes that the creators can simply paste into future episodes?)
Overall, this was an entertaining and atmospheric episode, for the most part, but I think we need to get under the skin of Madsen (Sarah Jones), Hauser and Soto before they disappear into the background entirely. And it would also be nice if they could explain why every prisoner arrives in the present-day with negligible culture shock (having jumped 49 years into their future), with the odd compulsion to continue their crimes! Wouldn't most people, except maybe the true psychopaths, simply lie low and try to disappear into the fabric of modern society? Why are they all keen to continue their signature crimes that saw them thrown into jail to begin with? I know it's hard to have a show if they don't do that, but it's still a strange flaw in the show's logic they should perhaps try to answer.
Three hours in, what is everyone else making of Alcatraz? Is the procedural nature of the show too much of a turn-off, or are you enjoying watching stories that resolve every hour? Are the main characters appealing to you, or do you agree they currently exist to chase the more interesting weekly villains?
written by Jennifer Johnson / directed by Jack Bender / 23 January 2012 / Fox