By Ken Tucker
January 23, 2012 at 12:00 PM EST

Alcatraz premiered last week with back-to-back episodes that lured more than 10 million viewers and bested the premiere of its time-period predecessor, Terra Nova. The show had two things going for it from the start: A catchy premise (Alcatraz prisoners from the 1960s are somehow transported into our current era) and fan-favorite Jorge Garcia.

Behold some of my thoughts on Alcatraz‘s appeal in my weekly video review, and I’ll update this post after tonight’s episode airs (titled “Kit Nelson,” starring Michael Eklund, who was in the fine third-season Fringe episode “The Plateau”), so come back; thanks.

UPDATE: Just finished watching week 2 of Alcatraz and have a few thoughts, so, I guess, SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED. 

Now then:

• Michael Eklund’s performance as Kit Nelson was terrific. (Didn’t I tell you the Fringe connection was worth remembering? Remembering because you’re all watching Fringe, right? Right?) I’m usually not in favor of kids-in-jeopardy plots (at once too easy and too disturbing for my taste), but when Nelson clamped his hand over the boy’s mouth and said to be quiet “or I’ll kill your brother,” Eklund’s chilling performance was thrilling. So was the moment a bit later, when the pair were in the water, and after being dunked under, Nelson said flatly, “Your turn.” And the scene in which he described strangling his brother. Brrrrr…. That kind of thing has to be well-written and -performed to avoid cheap thrills, and these scenes were.

• The episode, written by showrunner Jennifer Johnson, did a good job of filling in more characterization for the three main players. Sarah Jones played Madsen with a nicely believable combination of toughness in the field and sensitivity to the way Jorge Garcia’s Doc Soto has to be handled as a civilian new to chasing criminals. And her irritation with Sam Neil’s Hauser was meant to serve as surrogate emotion for the perplexity we in the audience feel for his seemingly cavalier orneriness.

• The Madsen in the prison bed next to Nelson — what’s his connection to “our” Madsen? Thanks for reminding me, readers, that Sarah’s grandfather was a guard at the prison. Clearly, I shouldn’t have been writing this while trying to catch up on the Republican debate. (And can I just say here that I’d like to see, some week, a cameo by Michael Madsen?)

• The final moments that began with Hauser berating Doc (“arrested development”) and Doc revealing to the boy that he’d experienced something similar and “I got away, too” — I’m optimistically ambivalent. On one hand, I’m glad we’re getting some backstory early on in the series, that it’s not being dragged out for weeks. On the other, this made the whole kidnapping plot a little too on-the-nose, no?

• The final final moments, with a smoking Dr. Beauregard dancing: Excellently odd.

What’d you think?

Twitter: @kentucker