First season: the characters break out of prison. Second season: they’re on the run. Simple and straightforward enough, right?
In these first two seasons, the series’ most suspenseful moments echoed the peak of other contemporary actions thrillers such as “24.” A suspension of disbelief was obviously required to buy into the many ridiculous scenarios and Rube Goldberg-like schemes of Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), but these situations were well-executed and structured enough to warrant their actual silliness.
So what happened after the show became an unexpected hit? Fox wanted more seasons, of course, with Scheuring ousted in the process. After deciding to put the characters back in a Panama prison with another subsequent breakout – only less intricately layered – in its third season, “Prison Break” began to struggle more with allowing its entertainment value to mask its glaring flaws.
First, it repeated itself with a less interesting escape and then had no idea what type of show it wanted to be in its fourth season. Even after seeing a gradual decline into complete absurdity in its original run, it’s hard to believe that the series has ever set the bar as low as this new revival season.
The reboot premiere completely dismisses the notion that Scofield was killed off in the original series finale, revealing that he’s instead been imprisoned in Yemen in the eight years that his family believed he was gone.
Yes, a prison breakout is happening for a third time. One of the series’ main antagonists, Theodore Bagwell (Robert Knepper), is also released from the fictional Fox State Penitentiary despite having a series of murders, cases of abuse and prison breakouts on his record.
No explanation for this release is given whatsoever, and the viewer is just left to accept that he’s a free man again.
It doesn’t necessarily matter how ridiculous these premises are since the show has run on that staple since its heyday. It does matter, however, if the outlandishness is executed in an entertaining manner that justifies an emotional investment. In this case, any sense of thoughtfulness or passion put into the original series feels completely lost in this new run.
Predictable twists, cliché dialogue, lack of memorable new characters and shallow political statements toward the Islamic State group all seem to elicit more anger than any sense of intrigue towards building mystery.
A sequence toward the end of the episode involving a prosthetic robot arm takes everything a step way too far, which is saying something for a show like “Prison Break.” Perhaps the biggest sin is the lack of the original breakout character, Agent Alex Mahone (William Fichtner).
Mahone is the closest the series ever came to developing a character with a perfectly defined story arc, and his exclusion contributes to the little excitement found in the premiere.
The “Prison Break” reboot offers little reason to stay tuned in even for a brief nine-episode run, and certainly does more to bring light to the show’s worst tendencies than whatever strengths it ever had.
The only element that gives the new season any hope is to see how the actual breakout unfolds, since Scofield’s current predicament does not get much screen time in the first episode.
Even then, the way events unfold in the premiere seem evident enough to suggest the show is too deep to break out of its worst habits.