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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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/100

Episode 1 - Scylla

28 March 2012

Synopsis: Michael finds Gretchen and Whistler but they tell him that Sara is still alive. Mahone and Whistler tell Michael that they have found Scylla, the company’s black book and that with it they can bring down the company. Whistler is killed by the company’s hit man and Scylla lost. The hit man seems to kills Gretchen and then Mahone’s family. Meanwhile Lincoln is attacked and kills a company agent before being arrested. We also learn that Sona burned down after a riot, allowing Sucre, Bellick and T-Bag to escape. T-Bag is left for dead in the Mexican desert by the men giving him a ride back to the States. Bellick and Sucre are arrested after visiting Sucre’s baby in hospital. Michael and Lincoln are released when Bruce Bennett pays their bail and they are reunited with Sarah. With everyone in custody Agent Self of homeland security offers them a deal. They will steal Scylla and bring down the company in exchange for their freedom. They board a plane heading to L.A.

The Good: For anyone who has watched Prison Break from the start, this episode is not particularly strong. By the end of the episode it is very clear what the writers are trying to do. We have the whole gang back together, working to bring down the company. Presumably this season (which feels like the last of the show) will see our heroes working like the A-Team or The Avengers to try and bring down the company. It’s not a bad premise but it is of course very contrived. In order for all six of the main characters (leaving T-Bag aside) to be arrested and brought together, a number of coincidences and convenient occurrences have to happen. Your opinion of this episode will probably depend on how much you dislike these convenient and implausible developments.

However there is some good stuff here. First and foremost is the feeling that the end is nigh. Like Lost it seems the producers of Prison Break have finally worked out where the end of the show is. With the greater focus on the “Pad man” or “General” as he is now being called, it would seem we have the leader of the company and a clear story for how he will be brought down. It is difficult to justify a show called Prison Break when there is no prison or escape plan and so it seems this season will bring the story to a close. Further evidence is given for this when Michael and Lincoln’s struggle is linked back to their father’s work. The major arc plot of the show is starting to come full circle. The Company would have gone on their shady way but for the crucial mistake of framing Lincoln Burrows in season one. By doing that they angered his genius brother Michael Schofield and the sons of one of the company’s enemies will now bring down the company together. With this story in place, fans can now begin to assume that at the end of this season a happy ending will have arrived.

It would seem that Whistler too was working to bring down the Company. That revelation finally begins to make sense of his behaviour in Sona and his strange conversation with Mahone at the end of season three (313). It’s a real shame that Whistler dies because the carefully woven story from season three looked like it was about to pay off.

Sara’s return is probably a good thing. Having a woman amongst the group adds an important dynamic and she does a fine job acting like a torture victim who is desperate to be safe with Michael. And despite the convenience and breathlessness of the episode, the writers make their point well: that no one will be safe as long as the Company is trying to kill them.

Finally there are some nice smaller touches. Gretchen’s sexual advances to Whistler imply something important. She was a Company agent who seemed a little too interested in Whistler’s well being. Perhaps if she had feelings for him, that added to her desire to get him out of Sona safely. Seeing Bellick’s mother is a very nice moment. We have seen her repeatedly referenced and now she has come to help out her loser son. If Bellick is going to become a reformed character then he will need more moments like this. Similarly Mahone continues his rehabilitation which began in Sona last season when he seems to be reconciling with his wife and son. T-Bag still seeing the “nun” from Sona is a nice bit of continuity.

The Bad: There is far too much going on here and it is too contrived to feel like good drama.

For an audience to really absorb developments you just can’t have this many things going on. Mahone’s family is murdered for a start or at least that is what it appears like. This is robbing Mahone of the hope he has been living on through his drug addiction. It’s a big deal but it is almost forgotten by the end of the episode. It also seems strange that Mahone runs into the arms of the police. Despite being overcome with grief he is throwing away the freedom he fought hard to gain.

Speaking of death, Gretchen and Whistler are apparently no longer with us. In both cases this is a great shame. Both established compelling and complex characters last season which have been swept away. What those deaths do is make you think the producers want to forget about last season. I think that is a shame but more than that it sends a message to the audience that what they are watching may not matter all that much. If an entire season can be swept aside like this, then who is to say anything that happens in this show matters?

Sara coming back from the dead also feels odd. However in this case I think the producers may have planned this all along but the writers strike prevented them from delivering it. But for such a major revelation it is given almost no time. We have only one scene to accept that she and Michael are together again before we are back to bullets and escape scenes. Similarly Sucre now has a kid, but we don’t get to see what that means to him beyond the most basic of scenes. LJ and Sofia are left in Panama presumably wandering what is going on and Lincoln doesn’t mention them or seem worried about them which he should be. In fact there is no mention of how Sara found her way from Panama all the way back to Chicago.

T-Bag’s desire for revenge on Michael is a passable excuse to keep him in the show but his scenes are far too sketchy. He seems far from his usual careful self when he foolishly brags about his money and prospects to his unknown drivers. But stranger than that is his speech about being the same as Michael. The idea of a blood feud between them would need more explanation given to be convincing but his comment that they have the same “one in a million top charisma” seems out of place. Michael may be a charismatic guy but he has always played silent and brooding in the show. There has never been an obvious need to compare the charisma of the two before. It sounds more like something a viewer of the show would say, rather than the characters.

It is very symbolic that Michael has his tattoos removed. He is finally removing one of the impediments to him having a normal life. However for such extensive laser surgery he would have needed weeks or months of sessions. It is ludicrously blasé to have it done in one night like this.

The Unknown: Is Gretchen dead? Are Mahone’s wife and son dead? Who is the grey haired man who seemed aware of Whistler and picked up the card he left? Who is he working for?

Best Moment: The opening sequence with Michael finding Gretchen and Whistler and learning that Sarah is alive. It’s dramatic and intriguing and keeps you guessing. It’s also a cleverly written dilemma for Michael. As much as it seems like they are deceiving him by telling him Sarah is alive, he can’t risk killing them if that is true. It’s also a bit of a shock for most viewers to consider the idea that she might not be dead after all.

The Verdict: When you are thinking about the show’s producers more than its characters then you have a problem. The producers wanted to sweep Sona out of sight and move all the characters into a new story. I would recommend that they take at least three episodes to do this. By cramming all the craziness into forty two minutes, so much impact is lost. What are viewers supposed to remember or be interested in after this? They may be intrigued but I suspect that most will be confused and overloaded with information. A poorly thought out episode in terms of its execution. Its story may be salvageable.

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