Alcatraz: Liveblogging the Pilot. Kinda.

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I’ve never liveblogged anything before. Seems like less fun than enjoying what’s going on. Nonetheless, I’ve just watched Episode One of the new JJ Abrams produced Alcatraz (though he neither created the series nor wrote or directed the pilot). I’ve been looking forward to it since it was announced and so I thought it might be fun to take notes as I was watching and type them up as a kind of Liveblog After the Event. Because yeah, that’s a thing now. Either way, I suppose it’s how you find out what watching TV with me is like…

Some brief comments first. Overall, I enjoyed the pilot though I found it somewhat low-key. I can only assume that to be intentional. In terms of production and story, it really doesn’t reach the high water marks of previous Abrams ventures like Lost of Fringe. The acting is quite good though, however no one really got that much to do. There was a disproportionate amount of time given to what I presume was a villain of the week and I found this odd. Sam Neill and Jorge Garcia have fun with the material they’re given (but why didn’t they both get more screen time?). On the other hand, Sarah Jones’s character failed to leave an impression (um… she was blonde?). Seeing as how she’s our nominal protagonist, that’s a little less than successful. I suppose it didn’t help that her storyline was quite similar to that of Olivia in the Fringe pilot. Except in no way as cool.

Anyway, follow with me now as I watch the proceedings! It goes without saying that pretty much everything from here on out is a spoiler or, at least, is spoiler adjacent…

  • Okay, here we go. Lost meets The Rock, right? That’s what I’m expecting.
  • Two guards enter, one guard leaves…? Nope, looks like everyone else has left. Plus the younger guard is going to grow up to be Sam Neill, yeah?
  • Here’s Jeffery Pierce as our villain, Jack Sylvane.
  • And we’re spending a lot of time with him. The whole teaser in fact.
  • Hey, outdoorsiness! Is this filmed on location? I suppose it would have to be. San Francisco looks great though; someone send me back!
  • Sam Neill time. Doing his bad-ass routine.
  • Hurley! And he owns a comic book store?! Awesome.
  • Also, I love that TV characters always have two Ph.Ds (Hi there, Dr. Jackson!). Here, Hurley’s character (yes, I know it’s really Jorge Garcia’s character) has qualifications in Criminal Justice and Civil War History. As you do.
  • And now he’s telling us Sylvane isn’t that rotten an egg. The show is really trying to make the bad guy sympathetic.
  • I don’t know if I’m enjoying the flashback to Sylvane’s time in Alcatraz. Are the flashbacks going to be an ongoing element of the show? Worked on Lost, sure, but here they feel off. At least for now.
  • And Hurley writes comics too?! Seriously, why are we only meeting this character now?
  • Also, I really need to learn his name in this show!
  • Back then to our second lead, Plucky Female Detective Without a Partner. Shades of Fringe.
  • Hurley’s Wisdom (TM): ‘Smart doesn’t always make you happy’. True that.
  • Wow, the location stuff really works. It’s not popping, or anything, but it just looks really nice. Hope we get this every week although, I get it, location work costs money…
  • Sam Neill: Surprisingly awesome creep.
  • ‘You built the Batcave underneath Alcatraz?’ Overselling it a bit, aren’t you, Hurley?
  • Though I suppose this is our main set for the show? It’s a little sparse…
  • Mind you, it comes with Parminder Nagra as Sam Neill’s computer guru. Always liked her on ER.
  • Jack Sylvane: The show keeps telling us he’s not that bad, or at least misunderstood, but he just gunned down two cops. Seems like a pretty cold-blooded killer to me.
  • Chase scene! Down those San Francisco hills!
  • No, no I was wrong. That didn’t last very long.
  • Oh. My. God. It’s Dr. Beckett from Stargate: Atlantis! Looks like that cameo in JJ’s Star Trek has really paid off.
  • Interesting: We’re still spending a lot of time with Sylvane. Feels like half the episode.
  • ‘I only did what they told me’. Kind of a generic, X-Files style conspiracy at work here, I guess.
  • 256 missing prisoners, 46 missing guards. Plenty of stories for years of this show so.
  • Though, how has no-one questioned how these people are travelling through time?! Seriously, that’s the first question I’d be asking! (And I know, I know, it’s because the show doesn’t want to scare people off by pointing to the sci in fi, as it were, but still!
  • Ha! The kid guard from the start was Sam Neill.
  • Ooh, twist! The blond detective woman (yeah, remember she’s in this show?) recognizes her grandfather amongst the missing people files… but he wasn’t a guard like she always thought, he was a prisoner.
  • Double twist! He’s the one responsible for getting her original partner killed. Though I refuse to say he killed her partner because, let’s face it, Sarah Jones’s character kind of dropped the ball on that one herself.
  • Hurley seems to be the surrogate for the audience here. Guess nothing changes then.
  • Aaaaaaand… Cut to a forest?
  • Yeah, that’s creepy; Sam Neill has an unsettling (it’s all the bright white walls) recreation of Alcatraz in a bunker underneath the forest.
  • Though couldn’t they have built something, I dunno, more secure or modern for the criminals we’ll apparently be depositing here week after week?! Just a suggestion, Sam Neill; don’t headbutt me and lock me away.
  • Fin.

Okay, so I’ll definitely watch a few more episodes of Alcatraz but the pilot didn’t leave me with the same expectation or excitement as the first episodes of Lost or Fringe did. It’s probably unfair to compare the show to its Abrams stablemates (especially as he didn’t have the same hand in the creation process) but that’s how these things go. I’d like to see more of Jorge Garcia and Sam Neill’s characters of course, preferably having adventures in space-time and generally being awesome, but if the show is going to follow the pattern of Episode One and spend half its airtime focusing on villains of the week with little or no input form the core cast…? Well, I’ll certainly be less enthused about it, let’s say that.

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