One of the elements of “Prison Break” that must be embraced, as evidenced by the first season, is the inclusion of unlikely or even preposterous plot elements. I’ve always said that this series has embraced the “24” style, for better or worse, while trying to improve upon the storytelling possibilities. The result is a show that has a tendency to develop complex and memorable characters while still relying on plot twists that make no rational sense.
The main plot with Michael and Lincoln is a perfect example. All decisions made along the way are fairly consistent with the characters as previously portrayed. Lincoln is deeply concerned with LJ and his future, having lost Veronica, and Michael often allowed his better judgment to be clouded by the pain and suffering of others. Even so, it all hinges upon a choice that neither character would rationally make: springing LJ from a courthouse within hours of their own prison escape.
There were reasons for the plot choice, of course. It keeps the plot from losing tension, which could easily happen, given that the characters are spreading out and the plot elements need time to build again. Michael has demonstrated an ability to improvise, but he also saw those moments as a means to an end: getting to the next stage in the plan. This episode begins to show how he copes with an open-ended situation, where his plans are all but tossed aside.
This also serves to demonstrate just how quick Agent Mahone can be on his feet. Once again, I have to give full credit to William Fichtner for his portrayal of Mahone. If the premiere required a bit of rationalization to explain how he could draw conclusions about Michael so quickly, then this episode was all about matching Michael’s ability to improvise. It’s no mistake that Michael and Mahone end up facing each other down in the final act, because the episode is neatly structured to culminate in that fashion. Michael is going to have to get used to the idea of a nemesis that can be just as clever.
More logical was the process of cutting Pope out of the action and setting Bellick up as the wild card in the whole manhunt. Bellick, like T-Bag, is a character that the audience loves to hate, and now he’s more dangerous than ever. As a CO, he had to operate within certain boundaries, however loosened to his tastes. As a vigilante, he has no such restraint, beyond getting caught himself. The interesting implication is that Mahone might find himself warring with Bellick, thus giving Michael just enough room to maneuver.
The subplots with T-Bag and Tweener were definitely setup, pointing to a reunion of escapees in Utah, probably around episodes 6-8, when the first turn in the season arc is likely to strike. Tweener is hardly the most inconspicuous individual, so it’s likely that this roadtrip of his will go badly. T-Bag’s thread, however, involves a bit of a writing cheat. Could T-Bag really get his hand back under those conditions? It’s unlikely, and I fully expect him to have full use of the hand in a matter of days. That, and the whole idea of breaking LJ out of the courthouse in the first place, were two plot contrivances that the writers did a lot to salvage.
(As a sidenote: I also have a podcast associated with my various reviews called “Dispatches from Tuzenor”. Current episodes cover the “Prison Break”, so it might be something of interest. Go to http://entil2001.libsyn.com if you want to listen!)
Final Rating: 7/10