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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 12 - Selfless

28 March 2012

Synopsis: The General and his security are ambushed by Michael, Lincoln, Mahone and Sucre. Michael takes Scylla to the General’s office and waits. Self and Trishanne kill Feng and his men. Gretchen and T-Bag hold the GATE employees hostage after Mr White sees their guns. Trishanne returns and arrests T-Bag. Sara captures Lisa (who is the General’s daughter) in a bathroom and threatens to kill her if the General doesn’t let Michael escape. The General’s security forces follow Michael to the airport but he eludes them and gives Self Scylla. Self then kills Trishanne leaving Michael with nothing but blank paper instead of release papers.

The Good: This is one of the most memorable episodes of Prison Break because of the huge twist at the end. Don Self has been playing with everyone apparently and now has Scylla in his possession. We haven’t been told enough about Self to see this behaviour in any particular context. So at this stage it seems like a good plot development. He is not Company because he wouldn’t have stolen it otherwise, the big question is why he did it?

The build-up to the twist is what makes it so effective. All through the episode this feels like the end of the line for these characters. They all taunt the General when they have the chance. “We did this to you!” Lincoln reminds him. “How does it feel? Being forced to do something you don’t want to do and knowing that if you don’t go through with it, someone you care about is going to suffer?” Mahone asks. Or as Sucre succinctly puts it “Suck it, General.” The General is left without an order to give by the end. So defeated is he.

With their mission complete our heroes get to celebrate. Sucre talks about what it will be like to go to a restaurant or a ball game again after all this time on the run. All that season finale feeling soaks into the story and yet as a viewer you know at episode twelve that this isn’t over. That horrible tension starts to build the longer Michael waits for the vans to arrive. As Self questions Trishanne about other buyers that nasty feeling that all hopes are about to be brutally dashed begins to sink it. The final reveal of the blank pages as Trishanne takes a bullet in the chest is a shock and delivers the big twist you knew was coming.

There is a fine line between irritating twists and dramatic ones. As with most things, the follow up is crucial. Can Self’s actions drive the plot forward to an even more exciting conclusion or will it feel like stretching the story out for too long? The twist is handled very well here and discerning viewers will have known it wouldn’t end so quickly, so for now the twist is on the good end.

The rest of the episode plays out at a terrific pace with each scene must-see television. Michael’s tactic of letting the General’s alarm go off so that Lincoln and the others can get into position fits beautifully into his pattern of behaviour. He gambled in Sona (313) that the presence of guards would allow him to escape, then he turned on an alarm to avoid Gretchen (313) and even this season he allowed the first card holder to turn off his alarm for him (402).

Using the General’s daughter against him has a nice ring of justice to it. It confirms the assumption that Lisa was his daughter and clearly Gretchen passed on that information to Michael (via Self) last episode.

T-Bag’s characterisation continues further as he plays the lesser of two evils opposite Gretchen before asking Trishanne if she believed he could have been Cole Pfeiffer. It’s still difficult to imagine T-Bag earning redemption after all he has done but the writers have stuck to that idea for him consistently.

The General manages to plant the seeds for what may be an important part of the rest of the season. He tells Michael and Lincoln that has information about their parents and that their father was an executioner for the Company. Now that Self has Scylla we may be about to learn more about the Burrows\Schofield family history.

Did anyone else laugh at Lincoln saying “We got company” as Company agents approach them at the airport?

The Bad: The ease with which Feng and his men were gunned down felt contrived. It makes you wonder whether that story was even needed.

The bad part of the episode is just the trouble you get as a show when you build up an omniscient, all powerful organisation and then watch them get defeated. You can’t help but feel the story is contrived or too easy. The General looks foolish bringing only two security guards with him down into the Scylla room. The use of his daughter against him also makes him look weak and human and after letting Gretchen go in the last episode he looks far from powerful. He needs to stop walking into rooms and crowing as well. This is the second time he has done it and been shown up (407 with Self).

The Unknown: What is Don Self up to and who is he? What does the General know about Michael and Lincoln’s parents?

Best Moment: The final ten minutes are excruciating. It all seems like a happy ending and yet the feeling of doubt about it persists throughout. The slow, quiet scenes with our heroes are all the more tense because you are waiting for the big twist to come. Self plays it well, looking dubious but not overly so as he shoots Trishanne in the chest and stares coldly at T-Bag. Michael too plays his own doubt and fear well as he opens the envelope to find blank pages. He frowns and nods a tiny nod. He places the papers on the table and says “Self, Self” with determination.

The Verdict: A terrific episode capped off by a terrific twist. Can the show follow up and push the excitement to new heights?

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