Prison Break: Season Four

I’m just silly about Scylla.

First they broke out of prison. Then they were on the run. Then they broke out of a second prison. Now, the heroes of Prison Break are no longer fleeing or escaping. They’re on the offensive, with a plan to take down the bad guys once and for all. They better hurry, because this is the last season.

When we last saw Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller, Stealth), he had successfully escaped from a nightmarish Panamanian prison, cleared the good name of his brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell, Blade: Trinity), and was on his way to L.A. to take down the Company, a vast conspiracy that landed Lincoln in jail in the first place.

Through a series of astonishingly convoluted circumstances, Scofield and Lincoln end up arrested yet again, as do a number of their fellow cons. Instead of going back to yet another jail, the gang makes a deal with Homeland Security agent Don Self (Michael Rapaport, 29 Palms). Self wants Scofield and friends to recover a top-secret object called “Scylla” from the Company. As a show of faith, Self reunites Scofield with his thought-dead lady love, Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies, The Celestine Prophecy).

Scofield, Lincoln, and Sara are joined by nice guy burglar Fernando Sucre (Amaury Nolasco, Street Kings), edgy former FBI agent Alex Mahone (William Fitchner, The Dark Knight), and former prison warden turned sniveling weenie Brad Bellick (Wade Williams, Bug), as well as newcomer Roland (James Hiroyuki Liao, Management), a quirky computer hacker.

Now, this ragtag bunch has to pull off a series of outrageous heists to get their hands on Scylla. One final complication: Creepy yet charming serial killer T-Bag (Robert Knepper, Hitman) has a key piece of evidence regarding Scylla, and he’s after it too.

This is the least realistic show on television, and that includes Yo Gabba Gabba. No longer confined to a singular prison location, our characters have free reign to run around in a number of new environments and interact with many more characters. This means the writers, producers, and directors also have free reign to pull off as many crazy stunts and twists as they can think of. Major characters die, other major characters come back from the dead, and everybody gets a gun pointed at his or her head at some point. The characters travel from L.A. to Vegas to Miami, and their loyalties jump around even more, as plot surprise piles upon plot surprise.

It’s expected that, on a show like this, each episode would end with an outrageous twist. In most episodes, though, there are numerous twists throughout. A number of times, after a huge reveal, I mistakenly thought the episode was over, only to have it go on for another two acts, with another two crazy twists.

As the show’s marquee star, Wentworth Miller continues to do a great job carrying the series. As the guy engineering all the schemes, Scofield is the group’s leader, and he fits the “brainy hero” role nicely. Bringing back Sara adds a lot to his character. Not only do Miller and Callies have great chemistry, but having her back in Scofield’s life gives him something worth fighting for. It makes the stakes more personal, so Scofield’s struggle has more to do with just revenge. Then the writers add another wrinkle by giving Scofield serious health problems. This adds a “ticking clock” to the characters’ adventures beyond the McGuffin that is Scylla.

William Fitchner has always been intense on this show, but he really dials it up this season, being more driven and about-to-explode than he’s ever been. First we see his furious anger at a Company assassin, and then we see him go back into “tough guy cop” mode as he joins in on the search for Scylla. He’s excellent throughout, able to say a lot with just a glance. The commentaries praise Mahone for being the show’s “moral compass.” I’m not sure I agree with that, considering the many murderous things Mahone’s done over the course of the series. I’d say the “moral compass” duties belong to Amaury Nolasco as Sucre, who continues to come across as the nice guy who just happened to get caught up in all these crazy adventures.

Dominic Purcell doesn’t have as much to do this year until the end of the season, when Lincoln and Scofield end up at odds with each other for a while, but he too fills the “tough guy” role nicely as well. I kept waiting for the Bellick character to find his inner badass, and I suppose you could it did finally happen, but a little too late. Still, he has some humorous moments as the official team wimp. Roland grates a little as the requisite computer hacker, but that it only makes it a relief when the other characters keep telling him to shut up.

Michael Rapaport is an interesting addition to the Prison Break mythos. He’s a character living a dual life. He’s a sad sack bureaucrat when we first meet him, but then he switches and we see the ballsy side of him, especially when standing up to Scofield and the other cons. The commentaries praise Rapaport for his ability to “talk trash,” and I agree; he does it well.

On the other side of the fence, there are about as many villains this season as there are good guys. Although he’s been a mysterious background character in past seasons, known only as the “pad man,” the character played by Leon Russom (The Big Lebowski), now known as the General, finally gets his time in the spotlight as the cool-headed leader of the Company. He’s got a powerful presence, and his character casts a shadow over everything that happens. Jodi Lynn O’Keefe (She’s All That) returns as the sinister Gretchen, and this time we learn a little more about who this person is and where she comes from. This gives her a little humanity, as opposed to the pure evil she brought to the role in season three. Kathleen Quinlan (Breach) shows up late in the season as a special surprise villain (guess who!) and she really pours on the delicious cruelty with her interactions with Scofield. Rounding out the villain ensemble is Cress Williams (E.R.) as Wyatt, an emotionless Company assassin. Many have compared the character to the Terminator, and I can see that, as he comes off as this unstoppable force that is relentless in his pursuit of our heroes.

Oddly, the character who experiences the most change this season might be T-Bag. A lengthy stretch of episodes has everybody’s favorite psycho killer posing as a successful salesman in an office setting. It’s played for fish-out-of-water laughs at first, but, as it goes on, it has a transformative effect on him. He comes to enjoy what he perceives as a “normal” life. When the ruse falls apart and T-Bag has to move on in order to survive, you see how much it hurts him to leave that life. His motivation throughout this series has always been to stay one step ahead of everyone else, but this time it’s for a real reason, to get back to that normal life. During his final confrontation with our heroes at the end of the season, when he breaks down and goes back into full-on psycho mode, a lot of it has to do with his frustration over not getting that “normal life.”

Production values remain top notch throughout. This has always been a good-looking show, even when wallowing in prison sewers, and this season continues the tradition. The visuals are feature-film quality, and the action is larger than life. I especially like the bank shootout near the end of the season, which switches to slow-mo for a minute or so as Lincoln blows away the Company bad guys. Very nice. Additionally, expect a lot of car chases, fist fights, foot chases, and MacGuyver-style mechanical improvisations.

Is it just me, or was anyone else getting sick of hearing about Scylla all the time? There are some scenes where the dialogue is just “Scylla this” and “Scylla that” and “Scylla, Scylla, Scylla.” Ugh.

This six-disc set maintains the high standard of Prison Break on DVD. The picture quality is excellent, showing off the variety of settings seen throughout. The audio is equally good. The highlight of the bonus features are the commentaries. These mostly star the show’s writers, with occasional appearances by actors and production folks. They discuss creating the overall plotline, and various story ideas that didn’t make it, as well as the occasional production anecdote or trivia item. Three featurettes look at the making of the show, highlighting the huge amount of work that goes into creating each episode, with an emphasis on crafting the series finale. It might not sound like much, but it’s actually a fairly deep look at how the show is made, both creatively and technically.

As the final episodes of Prison Break aired on TV, the ratings dropped down so low that people in comas in front of their televisions somehow managed to change the channel. I don’t quite understand that. If you’ve followed the show for this long, from Fox River to Sona, then you owe it to yourself to follow it through to the end. The good news is, it’s a pretty satisfying end.

The Verdict

Prison (Scylla) Break: Season (Scylla) Four (Scylla) is (Scylla) found (Scylla) not (Scylla) guilty.

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