Prison Break is an extremely fun show, but sometimes I catch myself getting way more into it than I think the show often deserves. I don’t necessarily know how good of a show it is. The plots make very little sense, the coincidences are too staggering to take seriously, the characters bounce in and out of personalities whenever the story calls for it and even the showrunners and writers seem to constantly write themselves into corners and sometimes fail to ever come out of said corner.
But I dig it. I really, really dig it. I have never had a problem with suspending my disbelief, because I can get into premises quite easily with nary a care. Each movie, each play, each show is allowed to create its own world, even if that world looks a good deal like ours. I’ll never understand Herc over at AICN, who easily accepts the vampires and demons world of Buffy The Vampire Slayer but can’t get over the fact that at the beginning of Prison Break, when Michael Scofield held up a bank just to get sent to prison and thus try to free his brother from death row, he just happens to get sent to the correct prison where his brother is incarcerated instead of the many other prisons in the Chicago area.
Get over it. It’s entertainment. It can do whatever the hell it wants.
Oh, and those of you who have issue with the title of the show itself, how it’s called Prison Break and yet after season 1 they were already broken out of prison, get over that too. It doesn’t matter to me one lick. I don’t get pissed when The Office moves outside of the office set and into other locations, so it really shouldn’t matter that in s2 Michael, Lincoln and the gang are racing across the country to get to a big pile of money, or in s4 that they are working with a Homeland Security agent to recover several missing pieces of a big information hub known as Scylla (which, while a badass name, has seemingly nothing to do with its ancient namesake).
Hell, the show could be called Dingy Ring A Dong Bong Sloops and I wouldn’t really care. (Well, I’d care just a little bit. That’s a sweet-ass name.) In other words, get over it. The show is still the show.
I’m going to be one of the few exceptions to popular opinion, but I thought that s3 of Dingy Ring A Dong Bong Sloops (formerly known as Prison Break) was pretty fucking awesome, and far better than s2. While s2 very slyly worked several disparate storylines as they bounced in and out of each other’s trajectories and upped the stakes, especially in regards to Lincoln’s frame job regarding the death of the Vice President’s brother, as well as Patricia Wettig’s rise to power as the President of the United States, some of the magic of the first season forget to break out with the gang. By the end, though, everything had become so intense that it was almost overwhelming, including the death or capture of at least six major characters.
In the highly underrated third season, Michael, T-Bag, Bellick and Mahone end up stuck in a Panamanian prison (why? I was never completely certain), which acted as a sort of tropical Oz (as in that HBO prison show with all the race wars and the buttfucking, not that Judy Garland movie with all the race wars and the buttfucking). In this overheated hellhole, Bellick lost all power he ever had as a prison guard, Mahone nearly lost his soul after unintentionally weaning himself off of his crazy pills, T-Bag nearly became the lord of the prison and Michael…well…Michael has pretty much been the same character for four seasons now. But the political power struggle within the walls of the prison was top-notch thriller television, thanks especially to The Wire’s Robert Wisdom as the villainous Lechero (which sounds like the best villain name ever until you realize it means “milkman”). And the stuff on the outside was just as good, as Lincoln and Sucre battle Susan/Gretchen and her blackmail scheme to get her own man, Whistler, out of the same prison on a very strict deadline. It was a great mini-season, and it further proves the idea that more American television should limit their seasons to 10-13 episodes and then let another show take its spot in their opposite season (i.e. fall/spring and vice versa).
When s4 rolled around this year, however, I really wasn’t into it. The show had listened to the fans more than they listened to their brains and brought back Dr. Sara Tancredi as a love interest for Michael, even though she got her head cut off midway through s3. (The show’s explanation? Kind of lame.) It also decided, after some spectacular and out-of-the-ordinary location shooting for the first three seasons (the majority of the first three seasons were shot in the Chicago and Dallas areas as well as some extra Florida shooting), to finally film the show in and around Los Angeles, thus rendering the show a little bit less special.
I’ll be honest. For about five episodes I was surprised to find myself not having any interest in the team nor their task. While I like Michael Rapaport and still do, I found his Homeland Security agent Donald Self to exist completely outside of the PB universe and felt the actor wasn’t taking it seriously. I also, after years of defending the show’s out-there plot contrivances (as you have seen in this post), was not really accepting T-Bag’s personality shift as he takes on a false identity and begins working for a mysterious company that seems to have actually very little purpose. (How did he get this new identity? He followed the clues in Whistler’s bird book, which I also cannot entirely explain.) And no, I was not feeling the Michael/Sara romance.
But as the season progressed, and Gretchen was basically resurrected from the dead, I found myself once again a victim to the ticking clock thrills of this show, the inane plot twists, the remarkable amount of violence and the completely unbelievable amount of technological knowledge Michael seems to possess. Suddenly I didn’t care that Mahone had gone from a completely fucked-in-the-brain FBI agent and murderer to righteous mercenary, that Bellick had become a good guy, that Lincoln had suddenly grown a brain, and that T-Bag really was ready to become a better person. Frankly, it didn’t matter, because really cool shit was happening onscreen.
I think that’s how I can honestly describe most great episodes of PB – really cool shit happening onscreen. Self’s sudden shift from Homeland Security agent to traitorous dickbag? Cool shit happening onscreen. The team’s final break-in to retrieve the Scylla hub? Cool shit happening onscreen. Michael’s sudden brain disease that went unmentioned until this season? Well…not so cool.
Now that the fall season is done, what will happen next? I know the show is suffering in its ratings, and I feel that it can definitely and organically finish itself off this season, but I damn well want to know what’s going to happen to Michael and his recently-under-surgery brain, his thought-dead mother’s involvement with the mysterious Company, and if Lincoln is ever going to see his son again.
Dingy Ring A Dong Bong Sloops, you make me giggle with your absurdity. Why can’t people understand my love for you? I know Stephen King does as evidenced in an Entertainment Weekly column this year, and he too has a great deal of trouble explaining the show at times. Whatever. A thrill is a thrill, and if some logic is going to be lost to reach that thrill, then I’m all for it.
But please, make Michael just slightly less mopey. Please?