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Prison Break is back – review

If the early reviews are to be believed then Prison Break is in trouble, and its return is lacklustre and offensively islamophobic on a 24 scale. Before proceeding do note that some spoilers will be given towards the end of this review, after the two images of Michael’s tombstone.

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Let’s start with the criticisms of the original run. Yes, much of it was terrible. Most of the show’s charm was in the first series, and quickly descended into chaos from the start of Season 2. Season 4 was not worth watching, frankly. Prison Break is a serialised drama/action show like 24. And like it or hate it (I actually love 24), the genre has its fans and of course those who would prefer to watch a different type of show. So in essence, the show’s viewership base is not found in Neighbours fans, nor is it found in Star Trek fans, nor is it found in Ice Road Trucker’s fans. It’s found within the people who like this specific genre.

Prison Break Season 1 was a great series. Not a “good” series, a great one! What made it great was its bold new style, its ongoing mysteries, Michael’s plan for escape slowly and meticulously unfolding, and a brilliantly executed prison escape. And not just that, but an amazing cast as well – Wentworth Miller went from an unknown actor into stardom.

This is what all other seasons so far have lacked. Season 2 started well, but descended into chaos when it became clear that there wasn’t a path for Michael to follow. And without that the series felt well too drawn out. Not to mention the silliness of bringing back the brother’s dead parents, etc. Series 3 was OK, at least due to the writers strike it was short and snappy weighing in at just 13 episodes. Also, Series 3 had a truly brilliantly executed escape that upstaged the first series’ escape. It was lacking in other ways, but it’s a more re-watchable series than Season 2. Season 4 was an unmitigated disaster. It really had little at all going for it, and listing out all the problems that series had would take up an entire blog post. So let’s jump forward to Season 5.

Season 5 has started well… in fact, very well. I was very pleased to see that in the new title sequence, Miller and Purcell have equal billing. The series begins with a montage of the first 4 series, culminating with Michael’s tombstone mysteriously changing location, and date (as below). Then there is a rather improbable start to the series, such as that Michael has apparently sent dozens of origami  swans all now stuck in the drain right outside Sara’s house (from Yemen?), followed by T-Bag being release after just 7 years following the end of Season 4. That is even more improbable that his unexplained escape from Penitenciaría Federal de Sona at the start of Season 4. I thought escape attempts resulted in an automatic 10 year extension to the prison sentence? I thought that the fact he killed a guard in Fox River State Penitentiary would keep him locked up indefinitely? And since when is he a “model citizen”?

Let’s get to the criticism of the show – offensively islamophobic. Well, no I don’t think so. Jesus, in the first season the only openly gay or bisexual character was a sexual predator – and we’ve since learned that the series star Wentworth Miller is a gay man. He was in the closet at the time, but he did the series despite the negative stereotype of homosexuals that the series perpetuated. I think it’s a great shame that the left always complain about negative stereotypes – yes I will agree that it’s a problem, but the way to solve it is not by criticising people that hold them: stereotypes develop subconsciously and are largely a social construct. Given that Miller is now an openly gay man I personally would hope that the series has a more balanced perspective on homosexuality.

Sarah Wayne Callies is still terrific. Don’t get me wrong, I wish to death that they had left her character dead in Season 4 and hated the fact they retconned her death, but Sara is such a great character,  next to Linc and Mike I would say she’s the most important. Perhaps they shouldn’t have killed her off in Season 3?

SPOILERS follow these images…

Michael’s Toombstone as it appears at the end of Season 4:

prisonbreak-toombstone-s4

And as it appears in Season 5:

prisonbreak-toombstone-s5

Okay, so right away they’ve retconned the series continuity. Originally Seasons 1-4 all take place over a few months in 2005 (unbelievably), it’s specifically mentioned that Michael is 30 years old, and his toombstone is on a beach in either central America (Panama) or Mexico near Linc’s surf shop. Actually, that scene in Season 4 almost made me vomit – are you really going to hug love and kiss Mahone? I did say didn’t I that taking about everything wrong with Season 4 would take forever, but just to reiterate – everything is wrong with that season. For a start, all of Season 3 was building to some great revelation about Whistler, and a the end of the series he and Mahone are plotting something … and that never eventuates. Anyway, in Season 5 the grave is now mysteriously not on a beach, and it’s in America so that Linc can dig it up. Also the tombstones are different! Also, as mentioned, now Michael dies in 2010 creating numerous continuity errors, not the least of which being that are no smart phone in the original series because they didn’t exist in 2005! Why not just set it 12 years later… problem solved.

Okay, so in a rather improbable turn of events T-Bag is released early – just 7 years after being returned to Fox River. I thought that prisoners were given an automatic 10 year extension on their sentences? Also… what is Linc even doing back in the US … why did he abandon the surf shop? And what’s Sara doing back in the US … she’s a fugitive on the run! That’s the reason why Season 4 ends with her in Panama! So there are some serious continuity issues here … Linc has fallen back into the criminal underworld (no surprise there), and T-Bag delivers him the news that Mike is alive somewhere.

Linc’s car gets hacked by that cross-eyed freak Steve Mouzakis, and despite not wearing his seatbelt and being ejected through the windshield … survives completely unharmed. That’s even more improbable than T-Bag’s release from prison. I’m just waiting for Wade Williams to reappear from the dead… any time now. This is after he exhumes Michael’s grave … you know the one that mysteriously moved from a beach in Panama to a lawn cemetery in USA … which is unrealistically shallow … and finds that it’s empty!

Next we go to Sara who just happens to keep unsecured guns around the house. Oh my fucking god, maybe the show really is morphing into 24’s little brother after all. Do you have any idea how dangerous that is … especially with a 7 year old in the house?? Jesus H Christ! At least put it inside a wall or floor safe. An assassin comes in with a gun fitted with a suppressor… and wouldn’t you know it, when the bitch fires it it unrealistically doesn’t make a gunshot sound! Not to worry though, she only shot Sara’s husband in the leg, and luckily Sara is a doctor.

Eventually they go to Yemen, and find Michael. He denies his identity, claims he doesn’t know Linc, and asks to be taken back to his cell. All in all, a brilliant start to the series even if they made a gut-wrenching number of “creative liberties”. With a 9-episode format this series promises to be short and snappy – something that Season 2 certainly could have benefited from.

 

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