[08/29/08 - 05:18 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Prison Break" (FOX, Season Four)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

The network's description: "Michael uncovers unbelievable news in Los Angeles when he seeks revenge against Whistler and Gretchen for Sara's death. Michael and Lincoln are reunited with the gang and receive an offer from a Homeland Security Agent they cannot refuse. Mahone suffers a devastating loss, and T-Bag is deserted during his flight to freedom in "Scylla/Breaking & Entering," the 2-hour season premiere episode of PRISON BREAK airing Monday, Sept. 1 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX."

What did they leave out? Not surprisingly, quite a few characters don't survive the opener.

The plot in a nutshell: It's been three weeks since Michael (Wentworth Miller), Mahone (William Fichtner) and Whistler (Chris Vance) escaped from Sona, leaving their cohorts Sucre (Amaury Nolasco), Bellick (Wade Williams) and T-Bag (Robert Knepper) behind. Michael however has only revenge on his mind as he's tracked Mahone, Whistler and Gretchen (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) to Los Angeles, where he hopes to make the latter pay for Sara's (Sarah Wayne Callies) murder. Meanwhile, Michael's brother Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) is still laying low in Panama City where he's forged a new status quo with son LJ (Marshall Allman) and Whister's ex Sofia (Danay Garcia). In any case, we learn that Whistler's ultimate purpose was to buy back a data card from some business types, a card which contains The Company's "black book." (For those not keeping score, The Company is the evil corporation which framed Lincoln for murder in season one and subsequently forced Michael to break Whistler out of Sona in season three.) Concurrently it's radioed in that Sona itself has since burned down after a prison riot, setting Sucre, Bellick and T-Bag loose on the world once more. Anyhoo, Michael gets the drop on Gretchen and Whistler but is disarmed by the knowledge that Sara is indeed still alive.

But before he can even process said development, he - along with Lincoln, Sucre, Bellick and Mahone - are scooped up by the Feds, led by crusading agent Don Self (Michael Rapaport). Don has some good news for Michael - yes, Sara is really alive (albeit traumatized by her captivity) and he's got a way to put his (and everyone else's) legal troubles to rest forever. You see, Don wants to use Michael and company (yes, even Bellick and Mahone) to take down The Company. After all, any official investigation of The Company always gets snuffed out by their operatives, meaning a secret (not to mention expendable) team - complete with secret headquarters (no, I'm not kidding) - is the only option. Their first mission: steal back the data card and use it against The Company. But even bigger problems lurk on the horizon: Wyatt (Cress Williams), The Company's latest sociopath is out to tie up all of their loose ends; T-Bag, still seething from being left behind by Michael, wants his pound of flesh (figuratively - and literally - as you'll see); and Michael, well, he has a new secret of his own.

What works: The new season is an unapologetic reboot of the franchise, one that...

What doesn't: ...makes the show even more contrived and silly than it was before. The goal of the two-hour opener seems to be to rejigger the series into some kind of 21st century take on "The Dirty Dozen" in which Michael and his band of criminals "break in" to a new location each week to find a new piece of the puzzle needed to take down the big, bad Company. On paper that's not a bad idea - it's obvious that the escape/flee/get caught/wash/rinse/repeat cycle the franchise is currently in isn't sustainable much longer. What's troubling then is the extremely convoluted way it gets to the new status quo - literally a major event like Sona burning down is mentioned passingly in dialogue; Michael, Lincoln, etc. are recaptured in the laziest ways possible; T-Bag just seems to exist only to see how much more depraved he can be made (not to mention see how much more of an outrageous excuse there is to keep him around); and stagnant elements from previous seasons like Michael's tattoo or Whistler's supposed irreplaceability are literally wiped away. Again, not necessarily bad things - they're just done in a manner that makes you wonder what was the point in investing into the build up to this season. All we're really left with is Michael good, The Company bad, Michael must stop The Company. And so with the character development sidelined, the producers have opted to go with a heavy-handed take on the Odysseus myth, in which he had to choose between the Wandering Rocks (which meant everyone would either live or die) and the monster Scylla (which would guarantee passage to all but six of them). Odysseus chose the latter but didn't tell the crew - and six did indeed die. What will Michael do if given the same choice? Oh, the drama.

The bottom line: All in all, if you made it through season three, you pretty much are in it for the long haul or you aren't.

  [august 2008]  


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