Saturday, 25 August 2012

TV Shows #1

Prison Break (2005 - 2009)
Created By: Paul Scheuring Starring: Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Sarah Wayne Callies, Amaury Nolasco, Robert Knepper, William Fichtner, Paul Adelstein, Robin Tunney, Wade Williams, Peter Stormare, Lane Garrison, Rockmond Dunbar, Silas Weir Mitchell, Marshall Allman, Chris Vance, Jodi Lynn O'Keefe

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42 Minutes (per episode)

Tagline: "Escape is Just the Beginning"

Any film or TV show set in a prison is automatically awesome, everyone knows that, but even with that in mind, few shows have become as immediately popular and successful as this one. The prison of the title is the fictional Fox River State Penitentiary (at least initially) in which Lincoln Burrows is being held on death row, awaiting execution for the murder of the Vice President's brother. His younger brother, Michael Scofield, is a brilliant structural engineer and is convinced of his brother's innocence. To that end, he formulates an elaborate plan to get himself incarcerated and then bust them both out of the maximum-security prison, but he won't be able to do it alone...

Spoiler Alert: I'll try not to reveal any major plot twists or cliffhangers with these posts but they may contain a few spoilers so if you haven't seen them and don't want to know anything, don't read!

Season 1 (22 episodes)

The two brothers, both behind bars...
It's here that we meet most of the main characters for the first time including Michael who's in the process of getting himself banged up for armed robbery - something done on purpose to ensure he ends up at the same prison as his brother, Lincoln, whom he intends to break out of the prison. The escape, as well as presumed events to come later, have been meticulously planned and organised down to the tiniest details with seemingly every contingency catered for but naturally things become a little more complicated than originally anticipated! This first season is still the most popular and it's easy to see why - Michael's detailed and long-envisioned plan may have been mulled over for a good while by him, but to us it's all new, ingenious, and very exciting! A superbly eclectic cast of characters is soon assembled with a lot of help as well as hindrance coming accordingly and the result is one of the tensest and most entertaining début seasons any show has produced for a long time. The only problem is, keeping the pace going... 9/10

Season 2 (22 episodes)

Running, running, lots of running in season two...
Well, Michael's plan may have faltered but it worked and nearly all of those involved are out and on the run! Now dubbed the 'Fox River Eight', they're also the most wanted men in the US so if they're going to stay out, they'll need a bit of luck and a good few more helpings of Michael's genius and foresight, especially with the equally intelligent, not to mention ruthless FBI agent, Alex Mahone, on their tail. At the same time, the investigation into the apparent conspiracy and subsequent framing of Lincoln, started in the first season by family friend, Veronica Donovan, also gathers some pace here and sees Secret Service agent, Paul Kellerman, doing his best to thwart her efforts as the body count starts to rise. The difference in the settings between seasons could hardly be greater, and the action is broken up a bit by switching between characters after they start parting ways, but the level of tension remains high and the series is still immensely watchable... 8/10

Season 3 (13 episodes)

Covert information exchanges at Sona...
The production team already had their work cut out for them to match the drama that had gone before, and since season three weighed in at just over half the length of the previous two seasons due to the Writer's Guild strike, their job was made even harder! Much of the season takes place in Panama - originally Michael's retreat of choice but also home to the brutal Sona prison where he now finds himself banged up, and there are some familiar faces there too. Not among them is Lincoln - with the two brothers finding their situations reversed, it's up to the brawn of the family to find out who wanted Michael in the Panamanian hell-hole and why. A few new characters were introduced in this season and the mostly-prison-based action is at the very least intriguing, but there's no question that the show was starting to lose its appeal by this point. Still a far better season than most shows can manage, but not as good as the previous two... 7/10

Season 4 (22 episodes)

Working out their next move with default IT boffin...
But would the series go out with a bang or a whimper? This fourth and final season sees all the remaining major characters recruited by Homeland Security, supposedly with the intention of finally bringing down the entire conspiracy and exposing the 'truth'. After having evaded the authorities for so long, however, can Michael and Lincoln trust them? That's for me to know and you to find out (although most people reading this will probably already know!), but the action remains tense and exciting, although possibly slightly less so than previous seasons due to the marginally more relaxed pace - there's no prisons to break out of or Feds chasing them now, after all. You could say that by now the whole conspiracy has grown to such a scale that it loses the 'human' element, so to speak, but it's still captivating entertainment and is played out to a reasonably satisfying and slightly emotional ending. It's been quite a ride... 7/10

The Final Break (feature length)

Sara is confronted by an old friend...
But it's not over yet! This final instalment in the saga was in some cases included as the final two episodes of season four and in others released and shown as a separate TV movie. Regardless of how it was seen though, the story concerns events after the culmination of the conspiracy storyline that has dominated the show up to this point but before the epilogue of the final episode of season four, and concerns the arrest and imprisonment of Sara, Michael's newly-married girl. This of course brings the gang to the conclusion that the only answer to this dilemma is - break her out! It has to be done quickly too, as one of our old friends has put a bounty on her head. What this obviously means is, the writers had to try and fit into 84 minutes what they usually devote a whole season to, so the pacing is certainly a lot quicker than normal but the style is still very familiar and it provides a satisfactory, if not perfect ending to the whole affair... 6/10

Final Thought:

Some fans have said that Prison Break stayed for too long, tried to do too much - it is called Prison Break, after all. If the show had been wrapped up after the second season, it certainly would've made for a short but amazingly good show. However, it's impossible to watch the first two seasons as they are and not become attached to some of the characters here to some extent, even some of those opposing the brothers. That's one of the greatest qualities this show has that so many others don't - the characters. None of them are perfect and none are black and white, saints or demons, so I so think it's worth watching the show to its conclusion, even if the sheer brilliance does wane after a while. To quote the tagline, "escape is only the beginning", but what an escape it is...

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