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Prison Break

Prison Break is a drama about Michael Schofield, a gifted engineer who deliberately gets incarcerated in order to try and break his brother Lincoln out of prison. FOX 2005-2009

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Episode 14 - Just Business

28 March 2012

Synopsis: Self shoots tear gas into the warehouse in an attempt to force Michael to give up the chip. But Lincoln catches him and drags him inside. Gretchen even things up and they all agree to sell Scylla together. Once gone Michael makes it clear he won’t sell Scylla and once Sucre tracks them to their motel, Michael plots to steal Scylla back. Michael retrieves Scylla from Self but then blacks out and Self steals it back. The Company agents arrive and take Michael away. Lincoln goes to see the General who offers to perform surgery on Michael in exchange for Scylla. Self kills the “Conduit” because he doesn’t want to share the profits with anyone. A bible salesman arrives at Rita’s house and T-Bag ties him up believing him to be a company agent. T-Bag eventually has a change of heart and lets Rita go. But the bible salesman was a Company agent and he knocks T-Bag out.

The Good: T-Bag’s storyline is handled really well. It means so much more because of all the hints that have been dropped that T-Bag had started to think of redemption and a life after Scylla. Adding to the plausibility of his change of heart are the references to his horrific past, both as an abuser and as the abused. It was important to remember what a monster he was and what made him that way. The Company agent does a really solid job pretending to be a Bible salesman. The twist is not a huge shock but it is satisfyingly delivered. In his moment of redemption the world doesn’t see him as anything but Theodore Bagwell and doubtless the Company will have plans for him. What was so simple and effective about this story contrasted sharply with the plot holes and contrivances of the rest of the dramatic scenes.

Michael’s plan to get Scylla from Self was deliciously simple. Force him down the fire escape and rig it so that it breaks, knocking him down. It’s one of those moments Prison Break does well when Michael’s genius is revealed through simplicity.

There is also some enjoyable characterisation of Lincoln, even if it’s placement in the story looks in retrospect as contrived for the sake of his deal with the Company to save Michael’s life. Sara makes a point which hasn’t been raised before and that is the different motives of those involved in bringing down Scylla. She asks Michael is perhaps Lincoln is only committed to bringing down the Company because of the debt he owes Michael for saving his life (by breaking him out of prison in season one). It’s a nice moment when Michael goes to try and alleviate some of that obligation by telling Lincoln that he has no regrets over breaking him out.

Perhaps the best line of the episode was Michael saying that if they sell Scylla then another Company would be born somewhere else. It was important to establish Michael on the moral high ground and remove the possibility of selling Scylla from his options.

I liked Gretchen pulling the gun on Self and it doing her no good. It seemed like a natural reaction for her as she tries to protect her daughter.

The Bad: There is more to like than the previous episode but it’s sad to see the hard work of the earlier part of the season largely squandered by this lazy storytelling.

Michael’s plan to have Sucre hide inside Self’s trunk was clever. But there was no explanation for where that plan came from. How did Michael know Self would drive up to the warehouse? How did he know what kind of car he would bring? It was all far too convenient.

But much worse was to come once Michael followed Self back to his motel. Finding the necessary tubes randomly on the ground was ridiculously contrived. Then once the Company agents arrive they fire at almost point blank range at Gretchen who escapes without a scratch. Anyone think of shooting her tires out? Then she drives around the corner at the exact moment to save Self from Company gun fire. How exactly she knew where he would be is a surprise. Even more so is the fact that only one Company agent had found Self and was shooting at him. Funny how as soon as they drove off a Company van arrived to shove Michael into. I know most viewers aren’t too fussed with these moments but if any of them remind you that this is a television show and blunt your suspension of disbelief then they should have been written better. I found these lapses particularly disappointing after cutting the show plenty of slack over their much better efforts earlier in the season.

There is some other stuff which seemed equally illogical and foolish. For a start Sucre shouldn’t be anywhere near a fight after being shot a couple of days ago (408). Self’s behaviour defies much explanation. He kills the men who set up this very important deal for him. Now when the buyer arrives he is hardly going to trust Self. In fact, as I questioned when Self first met the “Conduit”, what is to stop the buyer from killing Self and taking Scylla? Self’s justification that he didn’t want to share the money seems ridiculous too considering he will be receiving hundreds of millions of dollars (see The Unknown). I also complained (in the previous episode) that there didn’t seem sufficient motive for T-Bag to remain in harms way with no reason to trust Self. So when Self calls and tells him that if he doesn’t call in two hours T-Bag should kill Rita and her daughter, I wondered what motivation T-Bag would have for doing that? If Self is dead then he would have no reason to start a blood feud with Gretchen. And even if Self were alive, he would have just wiped out the only control they had over Gretchen. It’s just a reminder of the inadequacies in the big “Don Self is evil” twist.

The Lisa and General argument came across as particularly poor writing. She barges in to tell him that by killing Scuderi she realises what a bad person he was. Umm, what about all the other people he killed? What about messing with the entire country of Laos? The fact that he matches her weird statement with a soap-opera style retort (“I wanted a son”) just makes the whole show look a bit pathetic.

The Unknown: Is money Self’s only motivation? If it is then him suddenly being a murderer just doesn’t fly. Prison Break’s treatment of murder has been worryingly flippant considering the premise of the show was that Michael gave up his freedom to free an innocent man. Now Self, who apparently was a good boy and served his country well, is willing to kill loads of innocent people just for money. If he doesn’t have some hidden agenda then this is bad writing. It ignores any sense of character development for the sake of making him seem more like a “bad guy.”

Why would the General need Lincoln to recover Scylla? Why would he help Michael? What is in the file?

Best Moment: Self falling off the fire escape and Michael punching him in the face and taking Scylla. It was such an enjoyable simple and believable plan. And Michael didn’t need to kill or brutalise Self. He just took Scylla and ran. The writers have at least protected Michael’s sense of morality better than most.

The Verdict: The Don Self twist seems to have thrown off the shackles of plausibility which the show had worked pretty hard to build. This episode is all action but it is contrived and annoying to watch. The writers badly need to give Don Self a proper character and make us care about what is going on with him.

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