1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 August 2013
Not due to personal experience, of course, I'm a big fan of prison-related Film, Books and TV, fictional or non-fictional, I like everything from the classic "Shawshank Redemption" to "The Great Escape" to "Midnight Express" to every episode of the gritty late 90s/early 00s British ITV women's prison TV drama "Bad Girls". I'm also a fan of conspiracy thrillers, so FOX's "Prison Break" was naturally always on the to-watch-at-some-point list, having heard a lot of good things about the serial over the years.
Lately, I finally managed to watch the series, every episode from the beginning "Pilot" episode to the 90 minute special/finale "The Final Break", and what a journey it has been! "Prison Break" comprises of four seasons which aired from 2005 - 2008, while the fundamental plot is the same, each season is based on a different story arc.
The first series (2005) is set in the notorious Fox River State Penitentiary based in Illinois USA, where the softly-spoken empathetic but highly intelligent structural engineer Michael Scofield, played by the devilishly handsome, Drop Dead Gorgeous Wentworth Miller, gets himself deliberately imprisoned in the aim of breaking out his brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), who has been framed for the murder of the Vice President's brother. The first series is by far the best and strongest of all four series. The acting is superb, the plot is well paced and intense, and you really cannot watch one episode without wanting to watch the next. The finale is an epic climax.
The second series (2006) takes place after the Break, just like in the first series, the plot is fast paced and gets even more complicated, as the FBI and other authorities and media are hot on the tail of the Fox River fugitives as they race across the U.S. in search of a fortune and of course south of the U.S. border into Mexico and beyond to evade the authorities and avoid recapture.
The third series (2007) is pretty much "Banged Up Abroad" Prison Break style. Michael Scofield and some of the others end up in complicated circumstances once again, and end up incarcerated in the notorious Sona Prison in Panama. While this series comes across as rather contrived at many points, that is easily forgiven by the welcome return of the series 1 prison grit and brutality and the fact it keeps the momentum from the previous two series going.
The fourth and final series (2008) is where Michael Scofield and friends work to take down the organisation responsible for their troubles and the conspiracies which shadow the series. To be honest, I really dislike this series. This is the series where the penny drops. The plot completely loses it's momentum and urgency, and is really doomed from the start to finish. The plot and character contrivances from the third series become unbearable. Scofield and his friends are no longer fugitives in a desperate situation, they're suddenly the A-Team or something. Former minor enemies/joke characters are suddenly and bizarrely either the best of friends/heroes or standing side by side with the arch-nemesis. Then there is the brutal overuse of Hollywood-style cliches - men in suits wearing sunglasses engaging in urban gun-play where the protagonists magically seem to dodge bullets/capture attempts from enemy goons and cops, car chases, too many damsel in distress moments, too many soppy moments, plot holes and an unnecessary retcon. Zzzz, it just gets really boring.
The finale "The Final Break" - a 90 or so minute special is a cute homage to series 1 and will leave most fans in tears by the conclusion (me included). I personally felt this special was best off being treated as a what-if, spin-off special, and I actually thought it was at first, but in actual fact it's the real final episode of the series - and when you look at it from that perspective it is really unnecessary and again, very contrived.
Apart from the finale this series has nothing really to do with prison, is a pee poor thriller and just a disappointing end to an otherwise great serial. I actually think it should have ended after the third series and that maybe the story was concluded in a feature length film or something.
I will most certainly be watching series 1-3 again at some point in the future, but I won't be watching the fourth again.
To conclude: I would recommend "Prison Break" to anyone that's a fan of the prison/escape or thriller based genres - be it Shawshank Redemption or 24.
on 25 August 2013
This series is more than a series since the episodes are not in any way autonomous. They all follow one another, the seasons too, with only one story line from the beginning to the end. And you will definitely be moved to deep emotions by the last extra episode, the Final Break. And altogether it lasts some fifty-eight hours of intense breath-taking and disbelief suspending action. The very first lesson is that you must not fool with a civil engineer and attack his brother, even if this brother is not his real brother. It is all in the head and luckily it is, otherwise neither Michael nor Lincoln would have made it to the end of the first season since they had against them their own mother, a power-hungry anti-maternal harpy who is ready to have any of her sons killed or even to kill them herself, slowly if possible because she finds it funny to see them losing their last drops of blood.
But the film is not so much about breaking out of prison but breaking out of servitude and build up your freedom along with the freedom of the whole world. The prison or prisons is or are a metaphor, better a parable of our total enslavement to some kind of order that is far, far beyond our consciousness, not to speak of control. And this battle is triggered by one elder son, who is not a brain but is a brute, who is fooled into going out to kill someone but that is a framing operation and he does not kill, but is found guilty and sent to the electric chair in Chicago in the now famous prison of Fox River, the well named since we are going to discover a prison is nothing but a whole colony of hundreds of foxes, and no vixens at all. Except the doctor and the main nurse. Some of these prison officers are of course rotten and they sell; to influential prisoners the various services that they should control, like the appointment of the prisoners on the working details. Some can even be thieves and steal the property of the prisoners that is kept "safe" in some kind of closed cloakroom. Prison safety is not exactly safety for the prisoners and their property.
So the series describes all kinds of dependence and imprisonment. The first one is a prison universe with its warden, then its prison officers and various guards and its medical personnel. This is already a hierarchy that has its rules and its alienations. Then you have the prisoners and there too you have a hierarchy. The plain inmates, and then those who have the favor of being considered as able to work in the prison on various tasks for a real pittance, but for something. But the control of such positions is bought up by one prisoner, in our case a mafia higher-up, and he chooses who he wants to be the members of this team. There are also teams working in the kitchen and in the laundry and other general services of the prison. And next to this hierarchy you have another one that is racial, not so much a hierarchy than an apartheid system that cuts the population into the whites and the blacks, or at least the too big groups of people protected by the white and the black main inmates, self appointed of course, at least on the basis of their outside connections, I mean criminal connections. And then you have those who are not under protection on either side, the non-mentionable who can keep their heads low and remain unseen, and as long as they remain invisible they will have no problems.
The last thing to say about such a world, the prison world is that small criminals are of course mixed with major criminals and that is bad, very bad indeed. The small criminals will be afraid from the very start and they will accept some protection in exchange of some petty services. They become the petty slaves of these protectors and there you have the sexual perverts who only want some young flesh for their personal service. Then you have the real criminal minds who organize networks to control the prisoners, and even, when they can, the prison itself. A prison is a college, if not a university, post-graduate studies if you please, for criminals and that education is paid by the state free of charge, full board and pension included.
The prison SONA in Panama is not different from the Fox River Federal Prison in Chicago. All prisons are the same. It is their very nature, at least the very nature the series wants you to think of and ponder about. Of course there are different sides that are not shown: the fact that there is a library and that you can get some real education within the prison and also some prisoners lend their knowledge to the others and even do some research to know more and be more helpful to their fellow inmates.
The second level the series wants you to think about is justice, and there the picture is bleak indeed. If by any chance you do not have the best lawyer and the best defense funds for your first trial you can do and try what you want afterwards you will never get through and you might, today in some states only, escape the death penalty but be in prison for ever. Think of Mumia Abu Jamal, and he is not the only one. In the reverse case you can literally buy yourself the best just and equal justice you can if you can bring experts in and pay for DNA tests and so on. The police will not try to get to the bottom of a case if they have an easy solution on their platter. The police is the easiest institution to manipulate with the easiest people to influence you can imagine. They only run after real evidence in series and in very special cases. Everyone is not DSK with all the political leverage behind such a case. Then there is only one choice: to dream till you die, or to escape and run till you die.
But very fast the series gets what is at first an undertone to the level of the major plot. Our global world is under the menace of some "company" that is secret and possesses a tremendous amount of scientific knowledge that is both positive in the civilian field and deadly or lethal in its military applications. And there are in this world a lot of people who would like to control that technical and scientific knowledge to sell it to potential war-mongers or war-minded politicians or dictators to have some fun in this very dull world indeed. That's always the basic debate with science. In hard science like mathematics and physics the constant choice is between military apps and civilian apps, and military apps are bringing in some profit a lot faster than civilian apps. But think of the medical field and the famous and frightening nanobots that will cost a fortune and that will give such an advantage in life span and physical or mental means to those who will have them in their blood and brain. They will not forget that these nanobots can communicate within each individual, but, and they will forget this, also within a certain spatial area (like GPSs and smart phones) and particularly to the main motherboard controlled by a few people, I mean very few people, like the six card holders of the "company" in this series. Those who will have the nanobots in their blood and brain will become the real aristocracy of the world and take the control of the planet and the cosmos but will be controlled by half a dozen people at an even higher level. And this totalitarian ideology is coming under the disguise of an MIT professor. Never mind which one. There will always be a mad scientist to plan such projects.
But do not think humanities are not concerned. They are working a lot today on human sciences like sociology, psychology, even psychiatry to find the proper genetic ways to control the DNA of people, to change it if necessary, and also to control the minds and the behaviors of people with plain old manipulation, brain washing and other hypnotic techniques. Any totalitarian leader or party will find the way to mesmerize people, to control people with propaganda or with some drugs or products including in your food or drinks. Think how easily they make you addicted to caffeine, to energetic drinks, cola drinks or alcohol, not to speak of tobacco. They are ready to use any ideology to achieve their objectives and particularly religious ideologies and absolutely no religion is immune because the basic objective of a religion is to bring people together and make them think and feel and respond to the world collectively along one single line. God made you free to choose the truth and in all religions there is only one God's truth.
The series thus becomes political science fiction at first and then plain science fiction after the political intrigue is pushed aside with the resignation of the Vice President who had become President with some poisonous drink enhancement for the elected President and who was behind the framing of Lincoln Burrows, as a faithful beneficiary of the "company". This science fiction is of course nothing but science fiction and in that case it is not a utopia at all, but a real full and absolute dystopia, at least till the last episode and the Final Break.
The last and essential dimension of this series is a study in loyalty, not allegiance which is not always rational, but loyalty. There are three types of loyalties. First the loyalty to the "company" and this one is nearly easy to counter: let them shoot the first bullet and then shoot them all down. And if you can capture one or two try to get into some exchange of arguments, even striking arguments if necessary, to make them change allegiances and then loyalties. But then you have the official services that are supposed to enforce the law, security services and justice. Both are supposed to develop a rational loyalty to the country, the fatherland, the motherland, the constitution, or whatever charter or declaration of universal human and civil rights. But how can you recognize at the bottom of the institution or outside that the order given to you is respectful of such principles, and such orders can come from a long may up the ladder of authority and if my boss tells me something he must have his good reasons to do so, and I have to obey, don't I? And then think within the frame of local police, state police, FBI, Homeland Security, Secret Services, Presidential Security and many others and you have the full picture. Think within the frame of elected officials of the police, justice, judicial administration, justice department, etc. Good luck at surviving in that maze.
But the main loyalty is the loyalty you owe to those who have helped you in a difficult situation, those who have been your associates in some ethical project, even if it is to escape from a prison. And this loyalty is of course all the more powerful if we are speaking family. This started in 2005 like Supernatural and in both cases you have two brothers, the elder one less brainy, the younger one brainier, with a mother that disappeared in their young age. They are not real brothers, be it only because they family names are not the same, but they were raised together and after the disappearance of their mother, and later father, the elder one takes care of the younger one and even puts him through college and university to the level of engineer. But his means were not always very swift and they were often criminal. Those two brothers who are not brothers and yet are brothers have no mother till very late in the series and the mother is such a caricature that they can only deny her motherhood that she refuses anyway and what's more they do not have no father any more, though he makes a quick come back to disappear by falling on a bullet. The two series are so similar along that family line that there must have been some leak from the one to the other. But Prison Break is one story line and one plot, not episodes that have little to do with one another and a rather loose general line. Of course Prison Break has to come to an end, whereas Supernatural can last forever. The two brothers are Michael and Lincoln, just like the two brothers in Supernatural are supposed to be the vessels of archangel Michael and Lucifer. The parallel between Lincoln and Lucifer is of course hilarious but not gratuitous. Lincoln the liberator of the Blacks, Lucifer the liberator of the Apocalypse, of the human species once and for all, or till the next whimsical caprice of God who could recreate his imperfect creation a second time in a few eons.
And the last episode is discreet about the death of Michael with one blood drop and a few light headaches, and then we skip four years and discover his son and Sara his wife but no father coming on his tomb with Alex, Sucre and Lincoln for some anniversary in some Central American country. The Final Break episode explains what happened and that episode is so phenomenally emotional with the post-mortem video message from Michael explaining why is not here any more. Absolutely beautiful. But also very Christian. The liberty of all and the punishment of the real criminal minds can only come through the sacrifice of one member of the team and the flight as fast and as far as possible of the only one that is menaced still, Sara, the Mary Magdalene of this modern Christ. Michael Scofield, MS in civil engineering, has to be sacrificed with his superior knowledge and intelligence. We will regret that in the final episode Lincoln's son is not brought back on his uncle's tomb with the rest of the family that includes Alex and Sucre who are not really members of the family.
A brilliant experience.
Prison Break is one of my favorite tv programmes. It's unapologetically macho and a real breath of fresh air in this politically paranoid society we live in. The plot gets a little silly at times, but that just adds to the charm of the programme (to me) and I don't think it would work so well if it took itself too seriously.
It follows genius engineer Michael Schofield, who gets himself put into the prison he designed so that he can free his older brother (Lincoln, who is on death row for killing the vice president's brother). Michael has the blueprints for the prison tattooed all over his body, but his planning can only take him so far and before long he has been forced to enlist the help of a motley crew of degenerate misfits (all wanting in on the escape plan). A mafia boss, a killer and rapist, an old school train robber, a former soldier who turned to crime after Iraq and Michael's Mexican cell-mate form the main "crew" and there are quite a few great secondary characters (notably Stacey Keach (yes, "Mike Hammer" himself, for those who can remember it!) as the Prison's Warden). On the outside, Lincoln's lawyer and son are pursued by the secret service, as they follow the trail that Lincoln was framed by the government for the murder.
It may sound daft, and it's true it is a bit daft, but it really works well just as a good old fashioned action thriller. It's exciting, nailbiting, humorous and also surprisingly touching at times (though there's no melodramatics or sentimentality). The characters are all great and you really get caught up in their capers! If there is a downside, it's probably that the second 2 seasons do get a bit too far-fetched at times, but despite that I still enjoyed them as much. I doubt it won many awards, but it does win my award for being least poncy show I've seen in donkeys years.