Way back in 2005, many Americans saw ads for "Prison Break" during commercials on "Arrested Development," arguably one of the best shows to hit the mainstream. Many were appalled. Questions arose: how is it that Fox could cancel such a quality show and instead run this thoughtless tripe? How can such a plotline last beyond one season? Do they break out of prison, and if so, how many times can one really accomplish that? Is that the guy from "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (2005)?
The last question has an easy answer (yes). The rest, however, can only be answered by recovering from the loss of "Arrested Development" and giving Fox's new endeavor a shot. Now, "Prison Break" is no "AD," but in all its trashiness, it has arguably become the must-watch guilty pleasure of the year.
Now in its second season, our boys have broken out of prison. To catch up those just now tuning into the show, the original plan was that one man, Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), would escape with his brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell). Over time, the plan expanded to include nine men. Of the nine escapees, one died during the escape, two were shot by the police, one got into a rowboat in Lake Erie (ostensibly headed for Holland) and the rest have pretty much split up.
At this point, the show has clearly left the original blueprint behind (maybe they never expected to get renewed?), so the plot twists suggest that a crazy person or perhaps a child has been writing scripts. This, however, is what makes the show delightfully unpredictable. If the show's tone seems strangely recognizable, there's a reason - the executive producer, Brett Ratner, directed the third X-Men movie. Needless to say, that doesn't exactly hint at a reputable directing history, but it seems that maybe a thrilling mainstream TV show is exactly what Ratner was made for.
In the ever-so-delicate, subtle style of such shows, "Prison Break" is not timid about killing off characters left and right. Of course, the two protagonists, Michael and Lincoln (played by the most wooden actors in history that weren't shaped by Geppetto) cannot die, because they were the original prison break, and that sort of futility wouldn't do at all.
The audience is very lucky, though, that the show's creators are so devoted to pleasing its fans. Like "Lost"'s Charlie (possibly the most annoying television character never to appear on "The Nanny"), T-Bag (Robert Knepper), a child molester who broke out with the rest, is so popular that he cannot be killed. He isn't popular only due to good looks or juicy celebrity gossip; Robert Knepper presents the role with a usually unachievable amount of expertise, especially for a television show. Never before has a child molester been played with such convincing aplomb, complete with a hint of Southern manners.
At this point, having run out of plot, it seems that the producers are sort of competing among themselves to keep raising the stakes. T-Bag has an entire family held hostage because they won't accept him as "the daddy." The president's brother, once thought dead, has just shot himself. Now what are Michael, Lincoln and the Secret Service agent with whom they have joined forces to do? And what of the rogue agent who has just killed an FBI agent? Will Haywire ever reach Holland? Now returning from a mid-second season hiatus, "Prison Break" is as worthy of your time as ever, and it is just getting more ridiculous.
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