Sam Neill's voice sets up the show for us as we zoom over the night-black waters towards the foreboding silhouette of Alcatraz. "On March 21, 1963, Alcatraz officially closed due to rising costs and decrepit facilities. All the prisoners were transferred off the island, only that's not what happened. Not at all." That... is kind of terrible dialog. On March 20, a ferryboat pulls up to the island and two uniformed guards disembark to find the premises strangely vacant. All the lights are on, but nobody's home. The older guard tells the younger -- who looks to be a pup of about 20 -- to ready his weapon. They go over to the prison proper and find it just as empty as the outside grounds. The cells still bear the personal effects of their missing occupants, but all the doors are closed. The older guard says, "Radio the station. Tell them to send everyone." Sam Neill continues: "302 men disappeared that night. They were never seen or heard from again. Until now."
Cut to the present day as tourists crowd the prison. A little girl hears a metallic clang in the distance and separates from the crowd to investigate. She finds the door open to one of the solitary confinement rooms, peers inside and lets out a shrill scream. The adults come running and find a man asleep on the floor inside. A park ranger tells him to move along, apparently thinking he's some hobo-type looking for a place to crash. The man appears to be fortyish, handsome, with perfectly mussed hair and carefully cultivated stubble. The tour group moves on, leaving our handsome hobo to gape at his surroundings in shock. He pulls on a wool jacket he's been holding and goes outside. He shakily makes his way to the ferry. A ranger asks him for a ticket. He digs around in his jacket and is surprised to find money, a ferry ticket and a locker key. Once on the ferry, he reaches into a tourist's shopping bag and pulls out a book about Alcatraz. He thumbs through a collection of mugshots and finds his own staring up at him. His name is Jack Sylvane, Inmate 2024.
Flashback to 1960. Guards open the cell doors to let prisoners file out in unison. As Jack leaves his cell, a man calls him back. He's wearing a decent suit and is accompanied by guards. He tells the guards to check Jack's cell. "It's clean, Mr. Tiller," one of them says. Tiller goes to look for himself, tosses aside a framed photo of a blond woman and comes back with a screwdriver. "Clean my ass," he says. No thanks. Jack insists it's not his, but Tiller tells the guards to take him away. "Today's visiting day," Jack says. "Not for you," Tiller says with a little smirk.