If the previous episode was full of telegraphed plot threads and very little inventive storytelling, then this episode makes up for much of the lost ground. Not everything is a complete breath of fresh air, but there’s a big difference between predictable and well-constructed. If you can guess the outcome by the end of the first act, it’s predictable. If you look back and see how the characters have been maneuvered into their current situations, it’s well-constructed. The line may be thin at times, but it is distinct.
In this case, Lincoln’s capture seems a bit too obvious. The writers all but pushed him into making the moves necessary to get caught, and it seems like the kind of plot twist that would be hard to overcome without major contrivance. But looking at the season thus far, this particular situation is the result of Lincoln’s repeated insistence on tossing caution to the wind. Lincoln is not Michael, and he does not think things through before acting.
With Lincoln captured, there’s every reason to think that Michael will want to free him and LJ again. There’s also every reason, especially after this episode, to believe that Mahone will recognize that and will want to take a personal approach in setting up the brothers for a fall. Usually, the structure of a season would suggest that this showdown would come around episode 11 (the midpoint of the season), but with the unusual scheduling preferred by FOX, it could be stretched out to episode 13. That’s assuming, of course, that it happens at all.
Another nice touch was the parallel structure in terms of each subplot. At some point in the episode, Michael, Lincoln, and C-Note were all in danger of being caught. While the audience could be relatively certain that Michael would remain at large, since he needs to be available to counter Mahone, C-Note had no guarantee of survival. That constant potential for disaster kept the tension level steady throughout the hour.
This episode also presents the very real possibility that Bellick will get his hands on Westmoreland’s money. While some future complication will likely render this possibility moot, just the suggestion is enough to set “Prison Break” fans on edge. In a clever move, the audience has reason to want T-Bag to get way with the money, because Bellick is even less deserving of the windfall.
Nearly everyone had guessed that Oscar Shales was buried in Mahone’s backyard; it was all but revealed in the first few episodes. The writers made it more significant by how Michael became aware of it, and how that changes the dynamic between predator and prey. In essence, the writers took something telegraphed and used it in an unexpected way. In contrast, in the previous episode, Sara’s realization about Michael’s messages was straightforward and unimpressive.
Of course, it’s hard not to wonder how much better this chess game between Michael and Mahone could have been, had he not been revealed as a pawn of the conspiracy. That he is probably being blackmailed into working for the wrong side is quite beside the point. If Shales was Mahone’s dirty little secret, then it would serve to put Michael and Mahone on a more even playing field as two men with mistakes and regrets to overcome. That’s not quite true anyone, and the overall structure of the conflict suffers as a result.
(As a sidenote: I also have a new podcast associated with my various reviews called “Velocity TV”. 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