It’s been all but forever since this series was on the air, so there are those who might be disappointed by the fact that this is one of the least “active” episodes of the season. But from a more reasonable perspective, this is the perfect way to come out of the hiatus. It gives everyone in the audience a chance to reinvest in the characters and remember the context from the first 13 episodes.
As it happens, new shows are typically only given an initial 13 episode order, so the networks can evaluate progress and determine if they want to throw more money into the game. For instance, the first season of “24” was written in two distinct periods of time, and one can tell the difference between the first 13 episodes (very tightly written) and nearly everything that came afterward (amnesia, anyone?).
So this episode was conceived after the first 13 episodes were constructed as a definite story arc, meant to come together at the point where the initial prison break was foiled. The story needs to generate momentum again, despite the high-energy lead coming out of the previous episode. Focusing on character tensions, thus reminding the audience of the stakes and the connections established, makes perfect sense.
The arguments for a stay of execution provided a quick and dirty overview of the conspiracy to date. Absence must indeed make the heart grow fonder, because I wasn’t nearly as annoyed with Veronica this time around. I still think she’s less effective than the producers must believe, but when she’s not annoying, it makes the show more anjoyable.
I really like how Michael panics in this episode. I forgot how much he holds inside, so there are scenes where his emotions are barely contained beneath the surface and it’s all captured behind his eyes. It’s also fun to watch the Escape Squad react to the fact that the plan failed. It’s going to be a long road to the end of the season, when a break is most likely to take place, so the “politics” of the situation should have plenty of time to complicate.
I liked the fact that the easy answers were slowly and methodically removed from the board. Even Michael’s gambit with the rat failed, largely because of the other rat in his midst. One thing doesn’t quite make sense, however. If Bellick really thought that Michael could get a rat into the electrical box for the chair, wouldn’t that be enough for him to inspect the cell and its surroundings more closely? Or did Bellick simply assume that Michael was getting help?
Ending the episode before the anticipated execution, with no solution to the problem in sight, was a good way to ramp up the tension again without resorting to shock value. All the tension was related to the situation, mapped out in advance, and how the characters dealt with that situation, consistent with their previously established motivations and personalities. And the episode worked all the better for it. It’s a strength that a more established series on the same night might want to consider.
Final Rating: 8/10