Alcatraz Season Finale Review: Unlocking the Mystery
Alcatraz, the mysterious serialized mythology wrapped around the weekly routine procedural, premiered with a premise that was intriguing and a cast of characters that looked to become entertaining to follow throughout their journey of revelation.
Except the show had an extremely bumpy ride, throwing in often lazy plot devices, never really exploring the characters beyond their most basic outline and piling on the enigmatic secrets in the hopes that it would distract from the relatively average cases that took place each episode.
Don't get me wrong, the drama garnered strong potential from the idea of the disappearing prisoners and soon found itself improving in connecting the past with the present. And, yes, I was curious enough to want to know where it was headed with all of the special keys, silver-lined blood, familial connections, and the time travel (jump, wormhole, whatever your theory) to see through to the end.
The first part of the two-hour finale, "Garret Stillman" was clearly the set up for the latter half, not giving us really anything more we didn't already know. Even the dramatic reveal that Tommy Madsen was Stillman's handler didn't do too much shock and awe.
However, the journey to that point, following around Stillman on his master plan both in the past and the present was an entertaining ride. It provided motives for both times while maintaining connections between the two. And who doesn't like watching a calculating bad guy pull off clever moves like a chess game?
Harlan Simmons, who appeared back in "Cal Sweeney," was reintroduced as more of a key player than we might have thought. It seems that now the man has become a reclusive billionaire with an original understanding with the Warden.
Why the Warden chose any of the men that he chose for each specific mission is still unknown, but it was interesting to eventually learn that he and Stillman are now on two different sides. Who do you root for in a war of the criminals? Yes, I know that technically the Warden isn't a bad guy, but he plays fiendishly evil with his cartoonish grins that's it hard to say he even played for the good guys.
Of course, the season has for the most part revolved around retrieving the keys to open the Warden's super secret door.
I strongly feared the finale ending right as the door opened to a bright light much like Lost and it's infamous hatch, but thankfully the show managed to allow us and its characters to enter the room. And so, inside the secret room was the revelation that the '63s aren't just appearing in San Francisco but rather the whole of the United States.
Clearly a set up for the next season, but it still doesn't answer why the criminals only choose to commit crimes one at a time. Why don't they all go crazy and cause havoc at once?
And then there was the creepy scientist who managed to bring the Warden's ideas to life and somehow send the inmates and himself forward in time. Why? What's the purpose? Was Tommy Madsen trying to get the keys for the Warden so he could get to the scientist?
I'm still confused on Tommy Madsen's purpose in general. At times he's seemed to play at the beat of his own drum, while other times he seemed to be taking orders. In fact, after he stabbed Rebecca, his own granddaughter, any compassion I might have felt for him went right out the door. Who is this guy? Can he really be a bad guy himself and not just misunderstood?
But what I'm sure was supposed to be the shocker of the "Tommy Madsen" episode was Rebecca flatlining. That's right: Dying.
It's hard to actually believe that her character would suffer the finality of that fate (I was even so convinced that I was more interested to see what was in the room than wait for her to wake up), but what if the show had the crazy notion to actually kill off her character?
Would it mean a huge emotional impact? Probably not because I never felt like I really got to know her, but getting rid of a character like that would be a huge game changer. It most likely would never happen, after all, Lucy managed to return will some silver blood and she was back to helping the team. I just hope that if she does come back, she comes back stronger, more in charge, rather than an obedient and complacent character. She is the lead after all!
I give the finale credit in moving the show forward at a reasonable but enticing pace, answering some questions, giving us a pretty cool car chase reminiscent of the film Bullit, and managing to make the past and present scenes equally important. There was plenty good here and often for finales, they try and bring their top game.
And yet even with what I liked about the two hour event, I still felt like it was missing something.
There was a continuing sense that the show was still in its early stages of working out the kinks, trying to establish a deeper story that would eventually discover the inner workings of its characters as it expanded its mythos. If anything, the finale seemed to try and find closure for the mish mosh of happenings in the hopes that season two might find a more succinct, compelling, and streamlined approach at providing a tale that wasn't all over the place.
I do hope that Alcatraz gets renewed for a season two and does have the chance to expand beyond its basic premise, beyond its basic characters, and explore a world that can and should be gripping from start to finish. Let's hope the finale is that jumping off board and not simply the conclusive flatline.
What did you think of the finale? What did you think of the show? Were your questions answered? Do you hope the show continues? Sound off below!
Alcatraz: "Tommy Madsen"
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.