I think my unbridled enjoyment of this out-of-control, batshit-crazy action/adventure/thriller show is well documented. And by well documented, I actually just mean I did a write-up back in December. Just one. Here.
I think that pretty much sums up my feelings for the entire run of the series save for the final six episodes that closed out both the fourth season and, thanks to Fox’s swinging axe, the entire series. With this series, it all comes down to whether or not one is willing to suspend their disbelief week-after-week and realize that, while the show technically takes place in the real world (i.e. non-fantasy), it’s so absolutely ridiculous that it seems to exist in a sort of Bizarro World. As I’ve never had a problem separating common sense from viewing a television show, a movie or a play, this series seemed destined to become a DVR favorite for me, and even if I missed giant portions of the show (such as my scheduling snafu that forced me to miss s3), this is one of those programs that actually works better on DVD, so you can marathon the shit out of its particular brand of madness.
But where does s4, now that it’s closed shop, fall in with the rest of the seasons? I break it down thusly.
Season 1: Incredible network television
Season 2: Good caper, but spread a little thin
Season 3: Underrated and damn exciting, thanks especially to its strike-shortened season
Season 4: Okay caper, spread way too thin
I think s4 could have really benefited from a few more storylines that shifted its major characters away from all the Scylla drama – you know, that file that everybody wanted because it could cause a global conflict thanks to its information on how to build…wait a minute, it doesn’t matter what the hell it does, because it is the perfect example of a MacGuffin – and maybe have started on something a little more emotional and character-focused. Because even during s4’s fall season, there were about 50 major characters all vying for the same prize, and once Gretchen/Susan went off on her merry way, we were left with men staring at each other with increasing intensity. Thank God for the introduction of Michael and Lincoln’s thought-dead mother, who is not only not-dead but is sort of a domestic terrorist and complete criminal mastermind. (Why they chose Oscar-nominee Kathleen Quinlan to play this character I’ll never know, as her attempt at dastard mustache-twirling evilness came off more silly than menacing.) As she attempted to frame her sons once again (turns out she was heavily involved in earlier series conspiracies all thanks to that glorious enigma known as The Company, she puts the emotional hammer down hard by revealing that Lincoln was adopted and was actually birthed by an idiotic, violent drug addict – which, to be fair, explains a lot about the dichotomy between Lincoln and Michael – and proceeds to torment the now-pregnant Sara Tancredi. And as the various character bump into each other (now in Miami, yet another location in this mini-globe trotting adventure), nobody knows who to trust anymore. Along this line, I could have definitely done without the Lincoln/Michael rivalry, as each wanted different things in terms of what to do with Scylla and/or who to give it to and why.
But while I wasn’t 100% invested in four of the six spring episodes, the final two-hour episode was designed almost solely for fans. With the wonderful returns of Sucre and C-Note, finding out the ultimate way to reward the two “brothers” who busted them out of jail in the first place, a piece of the s1 wonder (and the subtler bits from s2) came roaring back. And, as an added bonus, Paul Adelstein took a break from being a sex-addicted pediatrician on Private Practice to revive his role as the bad-turned-good agent Paul Kellerman and pretty much deus ex machina the shit out of this wonky show. As Michael and Sara finally discover that their relationship can continue with baby attached, the future looks bright, as Kellerman allows all the remaining Fox River inmates to strike an immunity deal and be done with this nonsense once and for all. All the inmates, of course, except for the vicious child molester Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell, who the brothers decide to send back to jail, where four years later (thank you, Prison Break coda) he is once again a leader among criminals within the walls of a penitentiary, but only that. No out-in-public sniveling coward.
But what else happened during the immensely satisfying coda?
- The ever-changing-sides Mahone is now clean and off his anti-psychotic drugs and is in a relationship with his former FBI partner (who did, unfortunately, trick him into police custody earlier this season.)
- Sucre and C-Note are ecstatic to be with their respective families, no longer on the run from the PoPo.
- Bellick is still dead.
- General Krantz is put to death in the electric chair after being implicated in countless domestic terrorist activities.
- Kellerman is now a congressman, albeit a controversial one thanks to his checkered agent past.
- Donald Self, during a terrifying escape from the evil members of The Company that involved him breaking his leg in a near-Cronenberg level of grossness and then being poisoned while recovering at the hospital, is now a vegetable at an assisted living home, running over, in his head, his treachery that led to the murder of his innocent family.
- Linc and Sofia are living, deeply in love, back in Central America, the setting of season 3.
- Sara loves her son, Michael Jr.
- Michael is dead.
Wait. What? As the remaining good guys visit a seaside cemetery, we find that this is indeed true. Michael finally succumbed to his brain condition that put him in the operating room at the end of s4’s fall season. Is this the way you’re going to send out your main character? By putting the ever-present origami crane that defined the first season on his headstone, and then walking away?
There’s a final straight-to-DVD Prison Break film coming out this summer, so it’s pretty clear that Michael isn’t actually dead but is thought to be for some ridiculous reason or another. Maybe he’s hiding from everyone he affected during his stint in and after Fox River, a plan that backfired so many times and involved so many others that Michael and Lincoln have basically directly or indirectly caused the death of hundreds of people. That’d be a pretty big weight on my conscience.
We’ll see when all the answers are revealed. I don’t know about you, but Stephen King and I had a fucking blast with this show, and we’re not ashamed to admit it. It was a wild adventure show through and through, a wonderful bit of escapist entertainment, and when this show wanted to reallllly ratchet up the tension, no show on television (other than Lost) could do it as well as Prison Break.
Vaya con dios, Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows. Fox will be less insane without you.