Shows with deep mythology and strong serialized storytelling are rare these days. But undaunted, the creators and writers of Fox’s mid-season series ALCATRAZ chose to jump right in and brought to screen a murky and mysterious story about how in 1963, the remaining 302 inmates and guards of Alcatraz suddenly disappeared. Then one day, they began to reappear, one-by-one with hidden agendas, personal vendettas, and a whole lot of repressed rage ready to be unleashed on the unsuspecting populace of nearby San Francisco. The intervening 50 years have done little to temper the boiling emotions contained in hearts and minds of hardened criminals who were never supposed to walk as free men again.
With only the final 2-hour finale left to air of the first season, the biggest question is: Will we get answers before the show ends with only a speculative possibility of renewal for a second season for ALCATRAZ? That question may linger until Fox announces its Fall programming pickups and renewals in May.
Thus, for now, we must be content with hoping for answers to the other questions which fans are dying to know answers for: What are the secret properties of Rebecca’s (Sarah Jones) grandfather’s blood that Warden James (Jonny Coyne) is obsessed with? What is in Tommy Madsen’s (David Hoflin) blood that makes him so special and unique? And do those unique blood-properties have anything to do with the bizzaro-versions of the inmates that have come back and gone on killing sprees in our present timeline? For not every inmate of Alcatraz in 1963 was a cold-blooded killer; yet after being dosed with Tommy’s blood, the non-violent criminals have turned into alternate-versions of themselves – coming back meaner, more destructive, and completely lacking in remorse for their new heightened crimes. It is as if the blood turns people into sociopaths.
And if it is not the blood, then what? Is it Dr. Beauregard’s (Leon Rippy) extreme psychological brain washing techniques that is wholly responsible? Or was there some other experiment performed on the inmates of Alcatraz that so altered their brain-chemistry as to transform each exposed person into extreme versions of themselves?
Finally, how in the world did Lucy (Parminder Nagra) and the other guards get exposed to Tommy’s blood or other contaminant such that they too were transported through time to our present day timeline, as if not a day had gone by?
We have learned that the mysterious “colloidal silver” element in Tommy’s blood and which can be found in some of the other returnees has the ability to promote rapid healing. It likely also slows down aging – effectively putting a living human being into a “live” cryogenic state. Frozen in time. But then where are the 1963 disappearees? Where have them been kept for nearly 50 years and how are they suddenly reappearing at random locations and times in the present day?
Better yet, who is behind this all? Is it in fact Warden James? Or is he merely a puppet assisting a yet-unknown criminal mastermind? Was, in fact, the intent behind these experiments diabolical, or was there a more altruistic purpose intended? And if so, what went wrong? Are the returnees merely those who have “escaped”? They found a way to slip through the cracks of time and space and reinsert themselves back into our present day world.
As hinted at in the following interviews with the shows creators, producers and cast from WonderCon last week, things are not exactly going according to plan for anyone. Something has contravened the original intent and purpose behind the disappearance in 1963 – if that was even supposed to occur at all.
Regardless of whether we get all the answers we are dying to know, ALCATRAZ certainly created a world in which it is intriguing to figure out the overall mystery and exactly where all the puzzle pieces fit. If one were to play at being a criminal mastermind, setting up the chessboard with each character as a key piece would be fascinating. There is Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), now an FBI agent, who was once a guard on Alcatraz and who just coincidentally missed out on vanishing like everyone else – who knew that one day all those who disappeared would have to reappear and who vowed to be ready when they did. There is Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones), whose uncle was a guard at Alcatraz and whose grandfather was an inmate – one of the first returnees to have been seen in our modern day timeline and whose blood is highly sought after. There is Doc Soto (Jorge Garcia), the historian who knows more about Alcatraz than any other living sole and who is recruited to aid in the search for the returnees. And then there is Lucy (Parminder Nagra), the psychiatrist brought aboard in 1960 to help with the inmates – and who somehow shared in their disappearing fate. It is much too much of a coincidence for all these people to just happen to be in the right place at the right time just as the returnees are coming back. What is the common thread that ties them all together? Is it fate or destiny? Or is there something more that brought them together at such a pivotal time?
Answers or not, the first season of ALCATRAZ has been a fascinating journey. It posed thought-provoking questions about medical advances, the right to experiment on prisoners, prisoner rights, and what our responsibilities would be if such an incredible event actually had occurred. With our love of science fiction, for some, it is not entirely inconceivable that such an event could have occurred. The best question of all has been: What would you do? Is it enough to round them all up, re-capturing the returnees? Or should a more extreme and lethal method be imposed because they should never have returned in the first place? Or should we use them to better understand the limitations of time and space, subjecting them yet again to the torment of being human “guinea pigs” or “lab rats”? Given the little regard each has demonstrated towards their fellow human beings, it would seem that the returnees are hardly human anymore. Have they relinquished the most basic of human rights because they have rejected their own humanity?
Hopefully, the 2-hour finale of ALCATRAZ provides enough answers that we will be satisfied no matter how much longer the story goes. To see what is revealed, be sure to tune in on Monday, March 26th at 8:00 p.m. on Fox.
“Fun Photos from WonderCon 2012: ALCATRAZ”
“Returning to the Rock: ALCATARZ Offers a Tantalizing Mystery Thriller”
“ALCATRAZ Season 1 Finale Promo”
“Alcatraz Creators, Cast Look to Season Final”