Coming into the third season, fans of “Prison Break” will find much familiar with the series. Unlike the second season, most of the action is centered on breaking out of a prison, harkening back to the original premise. Many of the same characters are in play, both in and out of the prison, and despite the resolution of several plot elements in the second season, the conspiracy has evolved into something new.
Michael Scofield is still the embattled genius, fighting to maintain some sense of control, and that continues to work well for the series. This season in particular presents Michael with a new challenge. The first season was about executing a grand design while struggling against unknown elements. The second season forced Michael to adjust, but he still had resources and plans as a resource. This season will force Michael to develop plans on the fly, and that always pushes him to the edge.
This also applies to former agent Alexander Mahone, the standout character addition from the second season. Mahone was Michael’s opposite number, the insightful detective under the thumb of the Company. The second season kept Michael and Mahone apart for much of the time, but their scenes together were among the most impressive. Forcing the two characters into the same situation as uneasy allies is a stroke of genius. If nothing else, Mahone’s presence should keep this season from falling into predictability.
Just as Fox River was a character in and of itself in the first season, Sona has its own imposing personality. This is a prison without guards, with inmates running the show, and that leaves Michael at a massive disadvantage. As the one running the show, Lechero conveys the perfect sense of menace. He personifies the hostility of Sona for Michael, and as such, the audience.
Lincoln’s role is completely different this season, and it’s still too early to tell if this is a good thing. In terms of the premiere, his role is too close to Veronica’s purpose in the first season for comfort. His activities are also tied to the latest iteration of the conspiracy, which had worn out its welcome in the second season. Even with the gorgeous Jodi Lyn O’Keefe involved, without some major twists and turns, this plot thread could become tedious. Hopefully Sucre’s inevitable involvement will inject some life into the action outside the prison.
Equally questionable is the inclusion of T-Bag and Bellick at this stage of the game. While T-Bag is undoubtedly one of the more popular characters, there’s the danger of endless repetition. Similarly, as much as Bellick has earned his current torturous existence, the character has little more to offer, and unlike T-Bag, he’s not engaging or charismatic. Hopefully the writers will develop something new for the characters.
One final comment should be made regarding the character of Sara Tancredi. The producers were ready to write off the character at the end of the first season, but brought her back after fan backlash. Now the actress has been written out again, with the character pushed into the background, as if the writers had no idea what to do with the actress yet again. This has gained the producers very little in the long run, beyond fan outcry, and one cannot help but wonder why the actress was constantly on the short end of the stick.
Still, this takes nothing away from this season premiere, which manages to reboot the series closer to the original incarnation while building on the strongest new elements of the second season. If the writers can continue to inject creativity into the concept, the third season should make the grade.
Final Rating: 8/10
Reprinted with permission
Original source: c. Critical Myth, 2007
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