409: ‘Greatness Achieved’
Writer: Nick Santora
Director: Jesse Bochco
Synopsis: Michael, Lincoln, Sucre and Bellick tunnel into the Company's headquarters. Gretchen meets with the General. Michael's condition continues to deteriorate. The police question T-Bag regarding Andy's disappearance. Wyatt propositions Sara while Mahone awaits his shot at his son's killer.
Review: Scriptwriting 101: If you want to kill a recurring character, ensure that sufficient empathy is engendered in the viewing audience before the act occurs, so that maximum emotional resonance is achieved. Ideally, this process takes place over the course of weeks, seasons even, rather than simply forty short minutes… but unfortunately, American television writers return time and time again to the formula of ‘oh shit, we want to get rid of this guy but no one really cares all that much about him… quick, throw in a few lines about his twisted family life and how difficult things have been for him, show how repentant he is… yeah, that’ll do it.’ The moment Brad Bellick started waxing poetic about his regrets in the first few scenes of ‘Greatness Achieved’, it was painfully aware that he was about to get knee deep in some serious shtick. Which he did. And died for his troubles. Poor soul. Aside from this unfortunate predictability, this episode is a masterpiece of dramatic intensity: the ‘tunnelling’ sequence harks back to the hallowed first season, T-Bag’s situation becomes increasingly desperate and in what is unquestionably the absolute highlight, Mahone gets to lay waste to Wyatt in true, horrifying style. The writing is superb, maintaining our interest in the characters, as well as focusing our attention on the ever-spiralling plot, and, as usual, the acting is top notch. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, William Fichtner can do no wrong. ‘Greatness Achieved’? I’d say so, yeah. 9.4
410: ‘The Legend’
Writer: Karyn Usher
Director: Dwight Little
Synopsis: Sara is left with no choice but to take Michael to the hospital as his condition rapidly worsens. Sucre and Lincoln are faced with unknown territory as they are left in charge of the operation. Agent Self makes a surprising ally.
Review: After a moment’s mourn at the passing of Brad Bellick (you know, the one who regularly beat the main cast up in the first and second seasons) – oh Wade Williams, we will miss ye – it’s back down to business as Sucre and Lincoln are forced to face the perils of the Company’s headquarters without Michael, who needs some very important surgery. ‘The Legend’ is a bit of a step down from the rollercoaster ride of suspenseful hair-pulling that was last week’s episode but it certainly has more than its fair share of merits: the ‘mine’ sequences are nail-bitingly intense and once again contain echoes of the kind of quality we were treated to in Prison Break’s first year. Robert Knepper also puts in a stellar performance as a truly torn T-Bag, whose new life as Cole Pfeiffer shows him a side of himself he never knew existed. It’s a fantastic character dichotomy and one that succeeds, again, in engendering sympathy for a conventionally reprehensible individual. Good stuff. 8.5
411: ‘Quiet Riot’
Writer: Seff Hoffman
Director: Kevin Hooks
Synopsis: Michael risks his life by breaking into the Company headquarters along with the others. Gretchen tries to get the last card with a meeting with the general. Trishanne's days may be numbered.
Review: Before I blow so much smoke up this episode’s ass it’s untrue, let’s just get one gripe out of the way: would anyone in their right mind really let Michael jeopardise the entire mission by coming along on the crawl into the Company in his current condition? Come on! He could blackout at any second! Sarah would drug the guy, cart him off to hospital and have done with it. None of this ‘oh yes Michael, you can climb in and get Scylla, even if it does mean you’re probably gonna keel over and set all the alarms off AT ANY POINT.’ Hmph. Anyway, back to the plaudits. ‘Quiet Riot’ is a fantastically written and directed piece of work that succeeds in placing the viewer squarely on the edge of their seat for every single, excruciatingly silent moment. The decision to have no dialogue for a good ten minutes is an absolute masterstroke as it focuses our attention squarely on the dramatics of the scene and, more importantly than that, what could potentially go wrong. I don’t know about you but I was literally squirming when watching the cons exercising their plan, which just demonstrates that Hoffman and co. have achieved exactly what they set out to do. Oh, and Gretchen’s attempted proposition of the General? Priceless. 9.3
Writer: Kalinda Vazquez
Director: Michael Switzer
Synopsis: Sara takes a hostage in a bid to secure Scylla. Michael and Lincoln finally meet the General while one of their members switches allegiance.
Review: And it was all going so well, too… Kalinda Vazquez’s ‘Selfless’ is, for the most part, a thoroughly enjoyable episode. The decision to parallel Michael’s apprehension of the General with Sara’s bathroom abduction of his daughter works sublimely on both a character level, demonstrating just how far from their original personas the two have come, and a dramatic one, as the two strands feed off one another and therefore intensify the already substantially heightened level of tension. There’s some absolutely cracking dialogue here too; when presented with the opportunity to have the two heavyweights locked in a room together, the writing staff truly do not disappoint. And how about the look on the General’s face when Michael pulls out all the Scylla cards, eh? Marvellous. It’s just a damn shame they had to go and ruin it all with that last, truly, truly awful minute and a half. Look, I realise that a reboot was needed if the season was to continue. But did Self really have to swerve? Yet another freaking corrupted government agent? In my review of the season opener, in which the character actually states that “not everyone in the government is corrupt, some of us actually want to get the bad guys” (or words to that effect), I said that if they turned him, that’d be the last straw, the end of my association with the show. And while that really was my inner drama queen bounding straight out of the closet, I reserve the right to be thoroughly miserable about it for the rest of the season. I mean God, I liked Don Self. His character was refreshing in his straightforward, no frills drive to actually, you know, do good. That little thing that cops are supposed to do. Having yet another law enforcement representative switch sides is just tiresome and reeks of what it is: a bunch of writers having written themselves into a corner, desperately hunting for something to get them out and hitting upon the first convenient thing, rather than, you know, actually thinking about it for a bit and coming up with something creative. Meh. Spoiled the whole episode for me, that did and I’m sure it’s going to ruin the rest of the season unless they do him off in the next couple of weeks. Excellent ‘til 39:47, hugely disappointing after that. Two full points off the score. 7.4
413: ‘Deal or No Deal’
Writer: Christian Trokey
Director: Bobby Roth
Synopsis: The General works to regain Scylla. T-Bag gets a new partner. Michael and Lincoln have an important meeting.
Review: Given that ‘Deal or No Deal’ comes from the pen of the man that brought you ‘Five the Hard Way’ (you know, the one with the penis-less old codger who wanted Sucre to bang his wife), it is perhaps unsurprising that it is a bit of a disappointment. The episode is like a poorly sewn patchwork quilt: its narrative strands seem to collide clumsily into one another, forever clashing and not really fitting together. Everything feels like an erratic, pointless run-around: Homeland’s chasing Michael, Michael’s chasing Self and the Company’s chasing just about everybody. And if they’re not doing the chasing, they’re running away, like Self (for a large part of the episode, anyway) or Sucre and Sarah, whose brief moment of ‘my God, we’re getting out of the country’ feels like a hastily written filler sequence, designed to plug the gap in a woefully under length script. The reveal that Michael still has a piece of Scylla is far too convenient for my liking too, reading more as a necessary scripting get out clause than a believable development arising from established parameters within the narrative. And what about that scene with the brothers and the Homeland representatives, eh? Switch, switch and switch again! They’re all ready to abandon their moral codes at the drop of a hat and align themselves with whomever, or whatever, is most beneficial to them… just like Don Self did last week and no, I haven’t forgotten about the horrific taste that left in my mouth either. Not a good start to the second ‘block’ of the season. 6.2
414: ‘Just Business’
Writer: Graham Roland
Director: Mark Helfrich
Synopsis: Gretchen and Self wind up with Scylla (and a buyer). Michael battles with the Company for Scylla. Mahone asks some familiar faces for help. T-Bag continues to hold a couple of innocent people hostage.
Review: While I’m still not warming to the all new, bad ass, double crossing, good for nothing, scumbag version of Don Self, ‘Just Business’ managed to keep my attention squarely away from my distaste of this particular plot development long enough to actually allow me to enjoy what I was watching. For the most part, anyway. There’s still a little too much convenient bait and switch going on for my liking (Self and Michael are enemies, now they’re allies, now they’re enemies again) and the Mahone plot was little more than an exercise in how to fill ten spare minutes, but the main thrust of the narrative, the recovery of Scylla from the angle of three different parties, is well executed and manages to inject sufficient tension into the proceedings to be enjoyable. There’s also some wonderful intrigue to enjoy as Lincoln gets handed a mysterious folder labelled ‘Tombstone II’ (what is that, some sort of instruction manual for an X-Box game?) and T-Bag plays a game of identity crisis with both a ‘Bible salesman’ and himself. Credit to Robert Knepper (again): he really makes these scenes come alive and demands your understanding and sympathy. Despite being a murdering paedophile. No mean feat, that. 7.8
415: ‘Going Under’
Writer: Zack Estrin
Director: Karen Gaviola
Synopsis: Michael receives medical attention. Charles Westmoreland helps uncover the real secrets of Scylla. Lincoln and Sucre do everything in their power to retrieve Scylla before it's gone forever.
Review: Well, this is nothing short of a fan boy’s wet dream… season one flashbacks? References to events that have occurred throughout Prison Break’s four tumultuous seasons? Setting a third of the episode in Michael and Sucre’s cell? CHARLES WESTMORELAND? Wowsers. I certainly didn’t see this one coming and, well, thank the television critic Gods for that. ‘Going Under’ is a thoroughly refreshing surprise, taking a minor break in the main narrative drive from all the back stabbing and running around that has become the crux of the show as of late, so that we can have a closer examination of the ins and outs of Michael’s psyche. As well as letting him solve the mystery of what Scylla actually is. Wentworth Miller gets to flex his acting muscles in this one and he does a damn fine job, admirably matching up to the much-missed skills of Muse Watson. Oh, it’s good to have Charles back. He’s fantastic, isn’t he? Though it was a brave decision to kill a character so beloved at the end of season one, retrospectively, I’m not sure it was the right one. It would’ve been great to see DB on the run, looking at how he coped with life outside of the four walls he’d been cooped up in for the better part of his life. Still, no point whining about that now. His presence turns a good episode into an excellent one, making what could have been a somewhat tiresome psychological trudge into a captivating exploration of what makes Michael tick. Cudos to Zack Estrin for taking a chance and deviating slightly from the tried and tested formula. Oh, and for getting rid of Sucre too… hopefully for good. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy and all but was anyone really buying that he’d continue to stick around? Nah, didn’t think so. But wait! There’s more! Michael and Lincoln’s mother worked for the Company! What’s the betting she’s alive? I’ll eat my hat if she’s not. 8.8
416: ‘The Sunshine State’
Writers: Paul Scheuring, Matt Olmstead & Nicholas Wootton
Director: Kevin Hooks
Synopsis: Lincoln and his team travel to Miami looking for Scylla. Michael learns some shocking secrets about his past while Sara searches for him.
Review: Yup, she’s alive. Well, nobody saw that coming ten thousand miles off, did they? The resurrection of Michael and Lincoln’s mother, and the positioning of her as the ‘enemy’ from which the brothers must wrest Scylla, smacks just a little too much of desperation for my liking. Much like the decision to turn Self earlier in the season, it seems that the production staff were scrambling for the most dramatic twist imaginable in order to inject the remainder of their season with characterial angst and marry emotional investment in the core cast with the minutiae of the action. Unfortunately, they hit upon just about the most fan-frustratingly ludicrous plot development imaginable; now the entire Prison Break audience is screaming, “WTF?!” at their screens and throwing their bird books down on the coffee table in protest. Wasn’t this woman supposed to be a gentle soul, the kind who wouldn’t take kindly to a man like Mahone? (Season two reference there, fellas). And okay, so perhaps the boys didn’t know the real Mrs. Burrows… but does her role within the Company mean she knew about her husband’s betrayal of the agency? The plot to flush him out that ensued… i.e. the framing of her son, the placing of him ON DEATH ROW? Are we really expected to believe that she chose to brush these pesky little things aside? Or are the writers going to explain it away with one of the following empty explanations? 1. She really doesn’t care about her family and has always been a Company agent, through and through. 2. She ‘knew’ Michael would come through for Lincoln and save the day because he was always the intelligent one and her favourite and blah blah blah blah blah. I vote for the latter, actually. It’s all just far, far too convenient; it reads as a need to dramatise the plot, rather than the drama arising naturally out of it. And that’s never a good thing. Oh, there’s the rest of the episode to consider and we’re running out of space. Um, Gretchen nearly dying = good, Mahone turning up to help = well, a bit silly but okay, Self/T-Bag/Linc/ho-bag working together = more annoying bait and switch, got on my nerves, Sarah rescuing Michael = thoroughly unbelievable but a guilty pleasure and Michael having his ‘personality carved up’ = best thing about the episode, fantastically written and played by all involved. It’s just a shame you walk away from ‘The Sunshine State’ with such a gosh darned bitter taste in your mouth. 7.1