It’s an unfortunate truth, but Prison Break is a very forgettable show. That’s a pity because the first two seasons were brilliant television. The writers took a ludicrous premise, and managed to create a bold and thrilling adventure that was expertly-plotted and relentlessly unpredictable. Then something odd happened: the show fizzled out and almost everyone I knew quit watching. After all, a jailbreak was never going to be a sustainable long-term premise, and although season two was a riveting followup to the masterpiece that was season one, the show never really recovered after that. Here’s hoping I get to rewatch the show sometime in the future so I can really dive in and analyze it in-depth. After all, it was a huge part of my TV-viewing experience for several years.
Exploding out the gate with a terrific pilot and culminating with a tension-soaked finale, Prison Break gripped me like no other show could during that first season. As unbelievable and crazy as that first year was, I can’t deny that it made for thoroughly compelling and exhilarating television. The diverse cast, the shifting allegiances, the mind-blowing twists (often rivaling those of Alias & 24) – it was all remarkably astounding. I vividly remember waiting with baited breath week after week, incessantly trying to predict how Michael Scofield would get out of the predicaments he often found himself in. The writing team did an absolutely stellar job of prolonging the prison break until the finale in believable (!) ways (and in a manner that surprisingly wasn’t groan-inducing). TV at its finest.
When the boys finally broke out, most assumed Prison Break would end. But season two was almost as exciting as the show’s debut year. Although it might not have been as focused (and masterfully plotted), the show still had its own special brand of twists and thrills. Plus, the show capably adopted an “on-the-run” vibe (my favorite feeling), and crafted an almost-impeccable season in the process.
And this is where Prison Break really lost its way. As far as I’m concerned, the show should have just ended at season two because year three was an absolute disaster. Sure Sona was different, but I wasn’t impressed with the guys going to prison. Yes there were some thrilling moments interspersed throughout, but all in all, I found the show utterly useless this year. The only highlight was the introduction of Gretchen, an admittedly compelling female antagonist. Furthermore, killing off Sarah proved to be a very bizarre decision (thanks to behind-the-scenes drama), and it was made even worse by the awful retcon. If you need pointers on how to suck the life out of a fantastic show, just give this season a shot.
Much-improved. A lot of the awesome twists that were a vital factor of the show’s first two seasons returned in season four and it became thrilling again. BUT, it really was too late. The show had lost a lot of what made it fresh, and of course no one was watching anymore. Nevertheless, it was a much more fitting ending for the show so I was thankful Prison Break went out on a semi-high note. I was also particularly impressed when the writers took the brave route of killing off Michael, the show’s primary protagonist. But, that development was somewhat tainted and robbed off its impact with the extra TV movie (with Sarah in prison). Let’s pretend that never happened…
In the end, Prison Break was a show that definitely overstayed its welcome. Had it been a limited-run series, it might have been more fondly remembered. Sadly FOX spoiled the show by extending it past its lifespan, and we were left with a horrible third season and an above-average final year. Too bad really, Prison Break could have had an amazing, iconic legacy. But today, it’s nothing more than an amusing show that few people remember.
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