‘Alcatraz’ Season 1 Finale Review

Published 3 years ago by

Sam Neil Sarah Jones Jorge Garcia Alcatraz FOX Alcatraz Season 1 Finale Review

(This review contains SPOILERS for the season finale of Alcatraz. Stop reading if you have not yet seen the episode.)

When it was first announced, Alcatraz sounded like it had all the makings of another success from proven hit maker J.J. Abrams. But after a somewhat lackluster premiere earlier this year, and a steady, but not disastrous, decline in the ratings, the series had quickly proven it was not the next Lost; in fact, it wasn’t even the next Fringe.

After that inauspicious premiere, there was still hope that when the season came to a close answers would arise to not only validate the unending questions brought up in the storyline, but also to suggest the writers had a coherent and exciting plan for the series – should FOX decide to continue into season 2.

And so, with the season finale comprised of two episodes, ‘Garrett Stillman’ and ‘Tommy Madsen,’ it certainly seemed like Alcatraz was well on its way to revealing its secrets.


While the series hasn’t been incredibly serialized, there have been certain elements that carried over directly from one episode to the next. But here specifically, ‘Garrett Stillman’ and ‘Tommy Madsen’ operate more like a single, super-sized episode that begins by having the prison’s master tactician, Garrett Stillman (Greg Ellis), set up all the pieces for what will be the final showdown between Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and her out-of-time grandfather, Tommy Madsen (David Hoflin).

One of the key pieces outside of Stillman’s control, however, is the return of Dr. Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra), who appears to be fully healed from the gunshot that rendered her comatose after the events of ‘Ernest Cobb.’ We have been waiting all season for the return of Lucy, especially after having learned of her involvement with the returning ’63s and Warden James (Jonny Coyne). Frustratingly, when offered a chance to finally acquire some information that could, at the very least, provide some insight into why the inmates are returning, or why she seemingly “jumped” along with them, the writers have Madsen hit Lucy with questions of what her grandfather was like as a person.

This was a problem that has plagued the series from the onset. In fact, during the premiere, it seemed odd that Madsen and Doc Soto (Jorge Garcia) would not have serious questions about these inmates, but it was worth overlooking to allow the progression of the show’s overall plot. Now, however, as the series stands on the precipice of what may very well be the end, it becomes almost inexcusable to have central characters acting indifferent toward such a bizarre and threatening occurrence, favoring a personal agenda instead.

Jonny Coyne and Greg Ellis Alcatraz Garrett Stillman Alcatraz Season 1 Finale Review

Warden James and Garrett Stillman

Nevertheless, beyond putting Dr. Banerjee back into the fray, ‘Garrett Stillman’ ultimately serves to make clear that former Alcatraz inmate and current reclusive billionaire Harlan Simmons is somehow involved in the mystery of the missing inmates and guards, and that Simmons may be at odds with Tommy and Warden James (Jonny Coyne) – though not revealing what the end game may actually be.

We segue into the final hour (‘Tommy Madsen’) with Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) and Madsen simultaneously tracking down Tommy and searching for a third key to unlock the hidden door beneath the prison’s lighthouse.

It is finally revealed that Tommy is in collusion with the Warden, which almost certainly has to do with the stolen gold seen in ‘The Ames Bros.’ and that the colloidal silver found in some of the inmate’s blood – which also healed Lucy – serves as a means of tracking the inmates. The episode also gives us an unsubtly sliver-haired doctor, played by Matt Craven (Justified, Public Enemies), who is at the center of the blood-related experiments on the inmates.

With Madsen fighting for her life in the hospital, following a Bullitt-like car chase through the streets of San Francisco that ended with her being stabbed by her grandfather, Hauser and Banerjee finally see what is behind the mysterious door. It turns out to be the system used to track the inmates, which also reveals that they are being dispersed across the nation, not simply dropped back into San Francisco. Adding to the new layers of mystery is the silver-haired doctor who is seemingly awoken by Hauser and Banerjee. The doctor is unaware what year it is, but laughs maniacally upon learning it is 2012 – suggesting he’s been in some kind of suspended animation this whole time?

Sarah Jones and David Hoflin Alcatraz Tommy Madsen Alcatraz Season 1 Finale Review

Rebecca Madsen has no respect for her elders

The season ends with Madsen apparently dying in the ER from her knife wounds. So should the series continue on to season 2, perhaps the miraculous colloidal silver might be introduced to bring Madsen back into the land of the living? If this proves to be the last episode in the series, however, that’s one heck of a bummer with which to end things. Then again, there’s always Netflix.

Try as it might, Alcatraz seemed unable to avoid disappointing viewers excited to be let in on the mythology week after week, and as those tidbits were dispensed at torturously slow intervals, the audience either grew frustrated or simply checked out. That’s not to say that Alcatraz did everything poorly. No, for the most part, the characters (especially the guest stars) were likeable, if not overly interesting. Perhaps that was part of the problem: without the presence of a divisive character, Alcatraz became too perfunctory week after week. It was like the antithesis of The Walking Dead – which seems only to have characters that drive its viewership nuts.

While Jones and Garcia worked well, it was largely Neill, Coyne and Jason Butler Harner (Deputy Warden E.B. Tiller) who carried the show. Given the excellence of his performance in the episode ‘Guy Hastings,’ that list would also include the great Robert Forster (Ray Archer), had he been more of a substantial presence throughout the season.

In the end, though, it simply progressed at such a deliberate pace that it was hard to tell when there was any real progression at all. For what it’s worth, Alcatraz may have ultimately been a victim of association. Had it not been for the J.J. Abrams/Lost connection, perhaps the program would have been judged on the merits of its own storytelling, rather than the expectation of something grander. But if that were the case, would there have been any point in telling this story at all?


Screen Rant will update with news regarding the future of Alcatraz as information is made available.

TAGS: Alcatraz
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  1. January 16th 2012, ‘Alcatraz’ officially premiered. It achieved record breaking ratings and was met with rave reviews as well as being renewed for three more seasons…….Only that’s not what happened…Not at all….

    I have been waiting to use that joke since about..episode 6? I’d say.
    If it does come back i will probably not be watching it. I’m on “Thanks but no thanks” terms with this show. However i think people like myself who kept watching deserve to have our faith(Optimism? Naivety? Stupidity?) rewarded so if it ends up getting cancelled i think we should get like 5 last episodes to give it some kind of closure.

    • A good show, made so by Sam Neil, the actor who plays the warden, and the other actors who play the returning prisoners from week to week. It is nonsensical, however, to have the prisoners chased down by a short, young female wearing heels to give her height and a 300+ pound comic book guy. Rather, there should be a team of elite fugitive hunters on their trail. Hopefully, the female lead actually died in the final episode, but I doubt it. I’m sure she’ll be back next season, if there is one.

    • I generally don’t read comments but the first 3 lines frm shacasha

      “January 16th 2012, ‘Alcatraz’ officially premiered. It achieved record breaking ratings and was met with rave reviews as well as being renewed for three more seasons…….Only that’s not what happened…Not at all….”

      I cudnt stop laughing wen i read it!!! i cud actually see the transition of my voice to Sam Neill’s voice in my Head at the end with ALCATRAZ flashing rite at the end!!! Hilarious!!!

      totally agree with you, i think the only reason i watched the show was bcoz they had sam neill in it and had a tag of J.J. Abrams!!

    • That was funny lol.

  2. You must be out of you’re mind, this is probably the best show out right now. I only ever soccer or football because all the other shows were dull & showed no real excitement, then when Alcatraz premiered I was instantly hooked, the show did not disappoint or slip up in the slightest. There were no dire questions that weren’t answered and nothing was left to make me think what really just happened there, everything episode plotted together quite nicely and I have zero complaints. If you have negative reviews on this show then you obviously didn’t watch the entire season, therefore making you’re opinion irrelevant.

    • Well, if you only watch soccer and football I think that makes you kind of out of your element in this, right? First off, I can easily name a handful of other shows that are more entertaining than this that you obviously haven’t seen since you hold this in such high regard. Second, i can easily name a handful of other shows on Fox ALONE that were cancelled and were vastly superior to this, even police procedural type shows that STILL make the writing on Alcatraz look weak(Cough Lie to Me Cough). This show has a tight premise and J.J Abrams’ name and that’s it. I watched every episode since the start and initially found myself defending it week after week saying ‘No no once they dive into the main arc it’ll pick up.’ and instead was subject to the water torture that is this show’s attempt at flushing out the story. Normally this would be a risky yet impressive approach but since I’d be willing to bet you the writers have NO idea how the show will end it just comes off as obnoxious and unprofessional. Not only that but the show spells out obvious things for you as if it expects you to not be paying attention, Lack of respect for your audience is pretty arrogant especially at this stage in the game.

      Take Justified for example, the first 2 seasons for the most part were Police Procedural format and did it way better than Alcatraz, and to be honest that’s sort of an embarrassment because Alcatraz has the Sci-Fi edge to draw in people while Justified was on a network known for comedy and cartoons yet still made it to season 3 and is now celebrating it’s most intriguing and engaging season to date. The show took it’s time to let the story melt into place while resuming under the guise of just another cop show with a western feel.

      My advice to you: On a boring Sunday during ANY part of the year just leave your television set to AMC or…watch Justified tonight…Or Person of Interest thursday, Or Awake Thursday…or Fringe on friday…Or Mad Men on sunday. Or just look from the list of cancelled Fox shows, there’s a good amount that actually had intrigue and potential. And don’t hold your breath for a season 2 because, and i’m speaking as a half-fan of the show, it’s probably not going to happen.

      • If I had to choose between Alcatraz and Walking Dead, I would choose Alcatraz in a heartbeat. This show is far more entertaining than the other shows you’ve listed. Also if you know anything about network TV trends, you’d know that “having a sci-fi edge” is almost always the death knell or disadvantage to a network drama. Lost is one of the few sci-fi heavy shows to actually last its entire life span on network television.

        • Well Walking Dead wasn’t exactly the first thing that came to mind when i mentioned AMC but i guess i’m alone there. And if anything i think the ”Sci-Fi Edge” is what would make a show stand out this day & age besides..ya know being good (Justified) especially since all networks are filled with police procedural shows which is essentially, at it’s core, what Alcatraz is. Lost stood out because there was nothing like it on TV at the time and even that show had a bunch of seasons that hardcore fans wish to forget. And now, after what would be considered ‘Nerd Culture’ has become the new mainstream (due mostly to the success of super hero adaptations films/shows) we have networks that are trying to find shows that will be ‘the new lost’ I.E Alcatraz and The River.

          I’m now being put in a position to appear like i hate this show, i do not, but to be real it is far from great.

    • you right alcatraz was great i was so hooked and i dont understand why others keep on saying negative staff about it

  3. I really hope fox renews this

  4. In watching all of the episodes, I’d say that it was steady. I don’t want all the answers! I want the puzzle! It’s been great so far. ~ Stark

  5. this show is fracking awesome!! is it just me or is rebecca kinda hot??

    • No, she’s not. She appears so short and young, she actually passes for Jodie Foster’s child prostitute character in Taxi Driver. I really think that she was miscast. They should have gotten someone a little older and taller, as well as more mature. In the real world, a team of elite fugitive hunters would be tracking these prisoners down…not a short, young female and a 300+ pound comic book guy.

      • I think she’s perfect in her role as is Soto. It’s not the same monotonous “beautiful people” running around, it feels much more organic and true to life. Having normal looking people play these characters adds to the appeal and intrigue imo.

        • I think shes super hot. i dig thr whole tough tomboy thing. she reminds me of steve mcqueen., who is my hero. the whole bullitt chase scene made this season for me.

        • I think shes super hot. i dig thr whole tough tomboy thing. she reminds me of steve mcqueenwho is my hero. the whole bullitt chase scene made this season for me.

        • I think shes super hot. i dig thr whole tough tomboy thing. she reminds me of steve mcqueen who is my hero. the whole bullitt chase scene made this season for me.

        • Soto is Jorge Garcia, not Sarah Jones. Have you watched the show at all?

      • What is the big deal about being short? I don’t get what that has to do with anything. You realize that the average female height is 5’4″, right? Not all women are 5’9″ supermodel height, and neither are all women cops. Plus, they note that she’s young for a cop in the first few episodes. I enjoyed her character very much, and I do hope that they continue the series.

      • I disagree. They want to keep this a secret for obvious reasons…so no elite task force. They kind of explained that in the first 2 episodes.

        • Can’t trust an elite task force, but you can trust a young city cop and a comic book guy? Seriously?

    • I have been saying that since the show began broadcast. Sarah Jones brings a lovely array of visual delight to the screen. And she’s tough….yet it seemed like despite all the chaos of the season, the only ’63 to truly end up owning her was, ironically, her own Grandfather.

  6. It’ll be on…

    Hard to tell where the Ford Commercial stops and the show starts!

    Had to laugh when they wrecked the Dodge last night! ~ Stark

  7. It’s a wonder it lasted as long as it did….By the third show it was obvious it just wasn’t going to get any better…..

    • IMO opinion it got better as the season went on.

  8. I love this show, however it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have flaws. I think it needs to pick up speed but I love the idea of the show. If Fox gets rid of it, I hope Scifi picks it up. It could go really far, especially if it gets picked up by scifi.

  9. I think this is one of the best shows on TV right now. Its not mindless, it makes you think. I really hope people will give it another shot and we get another season. Dont believe all the negativity (even some in this article). This is a great show!

  10. I did’t see lost. Must be why I like this show.

  11. This is the kind of genre show that would work so much better on HBO or FX.

  12. Meh, how many more cop, doctor, or lawyer shows do we need? They try and dress this show up with a sci-fi twist but for the most part it’s just another cop show.

    I can usually enjoy those types of shows if they keep the main story line going at a reasonable pace but this show doesn’t do that at all.

    I’ve had 4 separate sit-downs to try and finish the finale that I recorded on the DVR. I still haven’t gotten through it. I won’t miss it at all if it isn’t renewed.

  13. Of course there should be a season 2 I mean I know it isn’t the next lost but it is still a darn good show and I personally watched it from the very beginning and i was very disappointed when there was only 10 episodes, please air this show next year

  14. I watched this season on Hulu Plus and I caught up on the first half of the season (because the episodes were about to expire) in a couple of days. I was hooked. Then, I had to wait a week between episodes and figured out that it wasn’t worth the wait.

    After finishing this season, I decided that I’ll probably be done watching it on a week by week basis. However, when it is streaming on Netflix or if I can save up episodes to watch on my Hulu queue, so I can sit down and watch a bunch of episodes in a row whenever I want…I’ll will watch it. This series would work great on Netflix…because you have that mystery feeling at the end of an episode that makes you want to see more, so you watch the next episode. Next thing you know, its 7 a.m. and you should be at work, but you only have one more episode to go.

    Still, I want to know if Soto gets the girl (Madsen’s coroner friend). And I love Soto’s nerd/fanboy talk, “the Batcave behind the Batcave.” And will Lucy and Hauser shoot that guy laughing hysterically about the year…if I was Hauser, I would have popped one off in his head and said to Lucy “You saw it, he lunged at us.” And Rebecca Madsen really looked busty in that turquoise shirt…I mean I hope she survives. And the warden is an excellently created character…the actor deserves an Emmy. And how does the Deputy Warden play into this time “jumping” mystery. I guess I’m a fan and I’ll be watching no matter what. I just hope they do a lot more question answering if another season begins…I’m a bit jaded after what LOST did.

  15. Alcatraz left me mad leaveing a ending like that and saying it will not go to a season 2 makes it worrs i think it needs another season cos i was interested more and more and now wonder what will happen in the wardens room the other reason is there are to meny tv shows like csi i think why make Alcatraz if your just going to cut it cos of rateings it stinks

  16. My husband and I love the show and see its growing potential – we are keeping our fingers crossed for a season 2!

  17. Anyone else notice the green VW Beetles popping up during the final car chase? Bullit down to a T. Series held my interest but itching to actually find out what’s going on. Nearly stopped watching after the bunker, Alcatraz take two, popped up, I was expecting someone inside pushing a button.

  18. I thought Alcatraz was most compelling. Kept me coming back week after week. How can we find out what was going to happen?

  19. Im so pissed FOX dropped Alcatraz its also dropped at least 4 or 5 more. I thought maybe they got great new stuff. Well im still waiting! FOX please just awnser 1question what does the great Chef Gordon Ramsey have on you? Hells Kitchen is ok some but now you have Master Chef & when i really got pissed now your an expert in Hotel industry. Just ridiculous.well when Fringe is done Ill be done with FOX i lost respect for channel when at end of every show its not lets do better in kniw you can or anytype of positive reinforcement its always f*** OFF! So FOX after FRINGE f*** OFF! f*** OFF GORDON RAMSEY!

  20. This show is a rip-off of a short film about Croquanna Island that was making its way around the internet in 2009…two years before this show ever started filming. TOTAL RIP-OFF! Even the title sequence is the same…

  21. Yeah! This show is great. It started slow in first few episodes but as the show goes on becomes interesting. Comeon i want season 2 to start. About the female lead, it doesn’t matter how she looks;short or immature, the character suits her. It is way better than other comedy shows except for few. :)