That poor Michael Scofield. How much can one character endure in a fictional lifetime? Out of prison, in prison, out of prison, in prison, out of prison. It’s hard to build a life with the woman you love under those conditions. Especially after she gets kind of decapitated. (Oh, wait…that was merely an elaborate Punk’d thing! Ha ha! Those bad guys, always joking around!) Anyway…the man is tired. He just wants to call it a day already. Preferably in a location where, when you drop a bar of soap, the worst thing that can happen is that it’s the soap, and not your face, that winds up riddled with shower tile imprints.
SO – we’re talking about Prison Break, after all. In a show in which anything goes (and we do mean anything), what can an end-all, be-all series finale possibly look like?
We at Fancast know. Without naming names, let’s just say that:
Someone comes out of hiding. Someone else comes out of hiding. Someone dies. Someone else dies. Yet another someone is left not dead, exactly, so much as left drooling into a cup with a lifetime’s supply of adult diapers to look forward to. Someone goes back to the big house. Someone gets the chair.
As David Byrne once famously observed in song form: “You may ask yourself, “How did I get here?”!”
We have the answer to that, too.
Season One – Titular Triumph
Michael plans to bail his brother Lincoln (who was framed) out of the big house by getting into the big house. Alas, conducting a prison break isn’t as easy as it looks. Wait – it doesn’t look easy at all. That explains why all the drama ensued! Got it. Anyway…there are bad guys on the inside, and bad guys on the outside, and pretty much all of ‘em want a piece of Michael and/or Lincoln. Plus there’s Sara, who also wants a piece of Michael (we won’t say which piece), but for different and more pleasant reasons.
Ranking: We’re proclaiming the first season the best – by a long red mile.
High point (s): The introduction of a brilliant and largely unknown ensemble cast of characters, which includes Theodore “T-bag” Bagwell (Robert Knepper) – easily one of television’s most memorable bad seeds to ever implant himself in a serialized network drama. Plus there’s tight pacing and loads of action. And there’s the freakin’ AWESOME tatt.
Low point(s): Out of the starting gate, massive amounts of suspension of disbelief were required to buy into the basic premise. Still, all the high points made that pretty easy to forgive. It’s TV, after all. Not Swedish documentary filmmaking.
Season Two – “The Fugitive, times eight”*
(* or so proclaimed show creator Paul Scheuring to the Hollywood Reporter)
There’s a bunch of guys on the lam. The Company doesn’t like that one bit. Good lord – the truth about the whole conspiracy to cover up who really killed the Vice President’s brother could come out. Yikes. That would be bad. Hey! Stop those guys on the lam over there!
Ranking: Season Two? Second best season.
High point(s): A main character from Season One, Veronica Donovan (Robin Tunney), dies right off the bat. This establishes that this is the kind of show that doesn’t pull any punches. For now. Plus, there’s T-Bag, who is reliably, consistently heinous. And we love that about him. As for the other bad guys, the conspiracy starts to unravel as certain members of the Company have second thoughts about all the douche-baggery they’ve been perpetuating.
Low point(s): The conspiracy starts to unravel as certain members of the Company have second thoughts about all the douche-baggery they’ve been perpetuating. It’s a double-edged sword, really. Because how plausible is it when every other bad guy is having a crisis of conscience?
Season Three – A Trip Through A Portal To An Alternate Reality, and Not in A Fun, Fringe-y Way
Michael’s “on the lam” thing doesn’t go so well. Oooops.
So – what if Michael and Lincoln’s roles in Season One were reversed? What if The Good And Smart Brother gets locked up (again), and it’s The Sorta Dim and Thuggish Brother who must rescue him? That way, it won’t seem weird that this show is still called Prison Break, right? Plus, it’s set in Panama. People will be speaking, like, Panamanian, and stuff. Totally different.
Ranking: Season three lands fourth place.
High point(s): The introduction of Gretchen Morgan (Jody Lyn O’Keefe), who makes for a juicy villainess.
Low point(s): Pretty much everything else about the season.
Season Four – Redemption. Sort of. In the end.
What with nearly every bad guy from the Company having a crisis of conscience and waffling on their allegiance to all things E-viiiiiiiil, it should be pretty easy for Michael to bring down this ruthless conspiracy once and for all. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight?
Ranking: Season Four brings it home. And started to do that rather well, again. Third place.
High point(s): Introduction of Michael and Lincoln’s mother (Kathleen Quinlan), who is interesting, in a “hates kids, even her own” kind of way; and the fact that Michael’s especially determined to put an end to all this in prison/out of prison crap, once and for all. Which we can all get on board with. We really, really believe he doesn’t want to go back to prison. Again.
Low point(s): Sara transforming from dead to alive; Gretchen transforming from bad to good; the fact that the Panamanian prison from last season conveniently burns down, so that any and all poor suckers who were left behind following the most recent prison break can also start over, only that also means that…uh…what was the point of Season Three again?
Plus, there’s the very existence of Scylla (because why would a top-secret organization insist on keeping all its top-secret secrets in one top-secret hard drive, in highly portable form, with a handy carrying case and everything, which any ol’ high-minded fugitive idealist can just walk off with?); and, in general, how the double-crossing becomes triple-crossing becomes quadruple-crossing becomes…wait, who’s on whose side again? Do we believe anything anyone says anymore?
The final finale vs. the Final Break?
Some confusion resulted with the announcement that a straight-to-DVD movie entitled “Prison Break: The Final Break” would be coming in June. After the finale.
Clarification: The two hour finale on Friday ends with a “Four Years Later” prologue. Events that take place in the Prison Break: Final Break movie will take place prior to that four year jump. Savvy?
So the DVD movie doesn’t in any way negate what ultimately happens at the end of the network finale. It’s bonus material.
Was Prison Break’s Number Up?
A resounding YES.
It was a great premise and, by and large, a good show. Season Four has started to make up for Season Three and remind us why we cared in the first place. It’s always good to end on a high note.
The fact that a show called Prison Break managed to squeeze not one but two prison breaks out of its four season run is pretty damn impressive. Alas, viewership was steadily dropping. Where else was there to go with this idea besides…back to prison? (Groan.) In an interview last month, even executive producer Matt Olmstead admitted, “The ideas that were tossed around in terms of what could be season five were pretty thin. Even if it went that way, it would’ve limped out…”
Instead – no limping here. Just some nice, dignified closure, with a couple of gunshots, and fist fights, and executions, and botched executions, and an actual shanking via stiletto, and some other stuff thrown in for good measure.
Because this is Prison Break, damn it.
Watch your favorite past episodes here. And be sure to catch the riveting series finale this Friday, May 15th at 8/7 c on Fox.