The only new show of the midseason that I stuck with is Alcatraz, which was erratic at best, and at times was entertaining, but never approached the realm of brilliant that we had all hoped for. This was due, most likely, to the nature of the show. The criminals got the focus each week, as we followed one in 1960, and then again in 2012. This device led to the issue that there was a new main character every week, and it was nearly impossible to get emotionally invested.
As the season wore on, we started to have recurring non-prisoner characters: the three main characters of 2012 (Hauser, Madsen and Dr. Soto), Dr. Beauregard, Lucy and especially the enigmatic and fascinating Warden James. This made the show easier to watch, as we delved deeper and deeper into the mystery of the prison in 1960.
The problem is that the mystery remained a mystery, with new places and clues every week. Sure, we cared about what happened to these prisoners, but only as far as you could swing a cat. There was no deeper philosophical or emotional rub to make the times between revelations seem like they matter.
Which brings us to the finale.
Using the "door" as "Alcatraz's" version of "Lost's" hatch, we finally broke in. But rather than wondering if we should break in, or even using the door as some larger metaphor, Hauser just opened it right up with three keys. Inside, he found...something. A way to track the prisoners with a giant Light Bright.
The question now exists: Does any of this matter? I understand the point of most shows is to make money and to keep the story going for as long as possible. The story is usually secondary to staying on the air and keeping people interested, and in that regard, "Alcatraz" may have succeeded.
It would have been a mistake to bring the warden into the present, so I applaud that decision. But the big revelation of this finale was a Manchurian like corporation controlling money and possibly more. And if the writers are smart, they will play this up.
Shows have recovered from poor first seasons in the past. The best example is "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" which is in the top part of many people's lists, certainly at the top of many people's network shows lists.
"Alcatraz" has a good premise in place and an established audience. It's brave and ambitious, and can learn a lot from other genre shows. It needs to stick to the shortened seasons, though, and needs to flesh out its characters. Madsen dying isn't the worst thing it could do, as long as it doesn't treat her inevitable resurrection incorrectly.