Home > Television > Oh Alcatraz, We Hardly Got To Know Thee

Oh Alcatraz, We Hardly Got To Know Thee

“In March 21, 1963, Alcatraz officially closed. All the prisoners were transferred off the island. Only that’s not what happened…not at all…” 

Shivers run down my spine thinking about Sam Neill’s voice (Hauser) in that opening sequence.

Plot Summary (via Wikipedia Alcatraz TV page)

On March 21, 1963, 256 inmates and 46 guards disappeared from the Alcatraz Island prison without a trace. To cover up the disappearance, the government invented a cover story about the prison’s being closed, due to unsafe conditions, and officially reported that the inmates had been transferred. However, federal agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), a young San Francisco police officer tasked with transferring inmates to the island in 1963, is one of the first to discover that the inmates are actually missing and not transferred. In present-day San Francisco, the “63s” (as the missing inmates and guards are called) begin returning, one by one. Strangely, they haven’t aged at all, and they have no clues about their missing time or their whereabouts during their missing years; however, they appear to be returning with compulsions to find certain objects and to continue their criminal habits. Even more strangely, the government has been expecting their return, and Hauser now runs a secret government unit dedicated to finding the returning prisoners; this unit was set up long ago in anticipation of the prisoners’ returns. To help track down the returning prisoners and capture them, Hauser enlists police detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia), a published expert on the history of Alcatraz and its inmates.


(If you are not familiar with the show, you can get the basics from the Alcatraz TV Wikipedia page or Fox Broadcasting).  Better yet, download the series, watch and get caught up.  But then you might get as pissed off as I am that it got axed!  You can preorder the DVDs from Amazon to be released October here in the US.


To my knowledge there has been no concrete movement for Alcatraz getting picked up by another network or any other realistic chance for “saving” the show.  Defies logic, but I am not hearing anything.  There has been some valiant fan based efforts, which I wholeheartedly applaud.   The cast and show runners seemed to have moved on.  Not sure I will ever get over it – not completely.  I don’t understand the “it was the ratings” reasoning for the cancellation.   Certainly there has been a fairly vocal fan outcry if twitter has been any indication.  Not saying a miraculous pickup couldn’t happen – never say never – but just doesn’t seem in the cards.


We only got 13 episodes of this fascinating series before it was cancelled by Fox.  [To make room for more Gordon Ramsey (Hotel Hell) and singing competition shows, apparently.]

Alcatraz was untimely cut short.  Sam Neill tweeted “we were just getting started.”  For me that says it in a nutshell.

Reason 1:  Think for a moment about what they were attempting to do.  The story they were starting to tell.  A prison with an incredible real history and mythology all its own.  That made the prison a main character in and of itself.   The development of the team:  Hauser, Soto, Madsen and Lucy.  Their interactions and relationships with each other were just beginning to take shape.  The main plot line of the time travel/disappearance/reappearance of the inmates (63’s).    Alcatraz was trying to tell a very big story in the most excellent way.    Did we as an audience not give it enough chance?   I did hear some rumblings about the show’s pace being too slow – more and faster reveals needed.   Probably too many people gave up on it early on.   Something this huge takes time to develop if you are going to do it right, people.

Even the Season 1 (now Series) Finale was larger than life.  They recreated the freakin’ Bullitt car chase for Pete’s sake.

Reason 2:  The incredible performances:

Jonny Coyne as the Warden.   Brilliant portrayal.  Always waxing poetic with a philosophical (albeit twisted) point of view.  So eloquent and completely Emmy worthy!

Leon Rippy as the chain smoking Dr. Milton Beauregard.   Sadly we never really got HIS back story, how he ended up in either timelines or much further on him personally.  Always outstanding.

Sam Neill as Hauser.  Wow.  You don’t even have say much more for me to be interested. I would pay to listen/watch the man read a phone book. Riveting and mysterious as the curmudgeonly agent tasked with solving the mystery of the 63’s.   Once told by a Chinese herbalist that his ch’i was murky. We’ll never know if it got cleared up!

Jorge Garcia as Doc Soto.    I think my favorite parts were Soto attempting to shadow & follow Hauser – trying to figure everything out (good luck with that).   Some comic relief as Jorge is great at providing.  But also sweet, endearing and smart!   The resident geek and expert on all things Alcatraz prison and the inmates.   Many times his knowledge and insight saved the day.   I think given time we would’ve seen a father/son thing happen between Soto and Hauser – slightly antagonistic – but there.    I loved Soto’s fascination with everything – like the bat cave within the bat cave.

Gorgeous Sarah Jones as Rebecca Madsen.   The center of it all.  Talk about family issues she’d have to deal  with.   Tough, smart, capable.

Parminder Nagra as Lucy.    We honestly didn’t get to know her too well because she spent most of the time in a coma.  But I will never forget *spoiler caution* the camera zooming in on her lovely face as she awakened!

Reason 3 – Cliffhangers and burning questions left unanswered.


This is a biggy for me.  So much we’ll just never know.    I would die for a handful of episodes, a special, TV movie, animated series or even graphic novel depicting the show runner’s vision of what would have played out if we had gotten Season 2.  At very least to give some issues closure.  The finale was one big 2 hour cliffhanger (although it did give some answers, left us with even bigger questions).   I think this is what makes it so hard to let go.  It was just left that way.  Way to go Fox!

Obviously, the main mystery of the show.   WHY and HOW were the 63’s returning and who was behind it all?

The mysterious Mr. K played by Matt Craven.  He would’ve been a huge part of Season 2 I am thinking.   What was the deal with him?

The last we saw Rebecca she was presumably dead, killed by her own grandfather!  Would she be saved by the good (?) doctor, much like Lucy?  What would be Madsen’s fate?  Or would Ray take over her spot on the team hunting the 63’s (given that Hauser tried to recruit him to do just that several years prior!)

Lucy and Hauser’s relationship.   We find out that Lucy and Hauser dated and fell in love at Alcatraz in 1963 before the jump.   She apparently got caught in it, disappeared and returned at some point like the inmates.   Emerson has aged and lived a life, making him a different person.  She has not .  Their feelings for each other are still there, strong and evident (very sweet).  But how would they resolve a 50 year gap!  Could they?  Were Hauser’s visits to the Chinese doctors an effort to turn the clock back on himself?   It seems most of Hauser’s motivation was stemming from his love for Lucy.  Who’d a thunk he was such a romantic soul?

What was the intent of Lucy’s psych experiments on the inmates?   What role did they play and did they have a negative effect on her?  In relation to that – the Dr’s role – pumping the inmates with silver?  How did they get caught in the time jump?  Was it deemed necessary by whoever is controlling the 63’s that those two be part of it as well?

On the procedural crime level, there was potential to continue as well.  We learn the 63’s are returning – not just in modern day San Francisco – but in places all over.   That gave a great reason to branch out – Nationwide? Worldwide? –  as the team continued to pursue the 63’s.   Were those locations strategic and purposeful in nature?  Fascinating to learn about the inmates, their crimes and subsequent capture.


For all these reasons and more, Alcatraz deserved to be given more of a chance.  FOX BROADCASTING – one thing’s for sure.    You literally broke my heart with the cancellations of both Terra Nova and Alcatraz.  I will be all the more hesitant to invest myself in any new programming as the new fall broadcast season gets ready to begin.   Fox seems particularly eager to cancel things that are not immediate hits without giving them a chance.   I will tune in for the final episodes of Fringe.  Thank God for that!  I will also watch Touch for as long as it remains.   They are really trying to do something unique and beautiful there – I don’t give it much of a chance for commercial appeal sadly.  But other than those 2 being grandfathered in, I am done watching Fox network.  There is nothing else on that network that interests me in the slightest – either returning programming or new.

What are your thoughts?   Will you miss Alcatraz as much as I still do?

Thank you for reading.  I am not a professional blogger/ writer (obviously).  This is all straight from the heart.


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