‘PRISON BREAK’ Season 5 (2017) – TV REVIEW – Another Prison, Another Adventure. The Brothers Are Back.
Spoilers to follow for all of Season 5 of Prison Break.
I never thought the day would come where I would be talking about new episodes of my favourite show of all time ‘Prison Break’, a show that ended brilliantly and emotionally 7 years ago with Michael Scofield’s timely death. But here we are, 7 years later, Michael never died, he’s been breaking people out of prison (as you do), and now the time has come to break out of another prison (and country) and put an end to Poseidon’s hold over the Scofield family. Despite being very excited and eager to check out this new season i still remained very sceptical about how it would turn out as it had a lot to do in order to convince us that this series needed a season 5. It needed to find an interesting enough story to focus on that didn’t seem repetitive, find a way to believably retcon the events at the end of season 4, and execute it all in a familiar yet original way. I feel that for the most part this show accomplished all that and for the majority of the 9 episode run this did feel like the Prison Break of old but not quite as good.
Firstly, one thing the show did pretty well was explain exactly how Michael has been alive this whole time with no-one knowing….. something i thought this show wouldn’t have been able to make me believe. By the end you understand all or most of the moving parts that went into keeping Michaels fate a secret and the reasoning and motivations behind why Michael left his family and why Poseidon left him in a prison in Yemen. The idea that the whole reason Sarah went to prison in ‘The Final Break’ was because of Poseidon blackmailing Michael into joining him is a little iffy, but i’ll let it slide as it’s basically one of the only ways they could have explained this continuation as they did such a good job at tying everything up the first time. Does this new reimagining of the events of the season 4 finale ruin the show? Does it take away the emotion surrounding the episode knowing Michael lives well beyond those events? For me, no, that ending will still make me cry, and the good thing is you can end it there if you really want, you don’t need to watch or acknowledge this season…. but I don’t see why any fan wouldn’t.
One of the most important elements this season needed to succeed was the overall feel of Prison Break, this needed to feel like the same show and give off the same or similar tones in order for it to be successful. Now where I think this is evident the most is in the return of all of the characters we all love from the original series. Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), Sara Scofield (Sarah Wayne Callies), C-Note (Rockmond Dunbar), Fernando Sucre (Amaury Nolasco), T-Bag (Robert Knepper), and Paul Kellerman (Paul Adelstein) all return for this revival series and it is these characters that make this season feel right at home. Because we already spent 4 seasons with these characters we have grown attached to them, we know them, and they still harbour the same qualities we know and love them for. Seeing them all interact in various capacity on screen was fantastic for fans of the franchise. And they weren’t thrown in just for the sake of making an appearance, they all had an integral part to play in the story and when their time was up they moved on. The showrunners could have shoehorned Sucre into every episode for fan service but a good story was clearly the focus here and their decisions paid off. Some of the reunions were incredible to see again, especially the reunion with Sarah and Michael……. safe to say I most definitely shed a tear in that scene.
From beginning to end this season was intense, and i was on edge just stressing out especially during the last few episodes. The main reason for that was because you care so much about those returning characters….. the new characters however…… not so much. Every season (that takes place in a prison) Michael has had a close group of people with him who you grow attached to over the course of the season, here however his companions aren’t all that engaging. The Ogygia crew, Ja (Rick Yune), Sid (Kunal Sharma), and Whip (Augustus Prew) weren’t as interesting and engaging as the crews in the past and you aren’t able to connect with them for the majority of the show. I feel like this is where the 9 episode length works against the show in that with everything going on there isn’t enough time to properly introduce many new characters. It’s as if Season 3 of Prison Break had begun 2 episodes before the breakout at Sona, where you are abruptly introduced to Whistler, Lechedo, and Luis without seeing their history with Michael. That wouldn’t work as well and it doesn’t work as well here. The only one who does develop into a somewhat interesting character is Whip who in the last 2 episodes is revealed to be the son of none other than T-Bag (what a coincidence he’s also in prison). This revelation can be seen as a little bit forced but i quite liked it and it gave T-Bag’s presence in the show a lot more meaning and built on his character ever so briefly. I say briefly because before you know it Whip dies and now T-Bag is back to having nothing (but hey, he’s got a neck snapping hand now which is cool). If only we learned of this connection earlier it would have given us more time with them bonding, but then again, on a tight 9 episode schedule you need to move on fast.
The biggest difference here from the original show is most definitely the pacing, now where as seen above this leads to difficulties with incorporating enough character development I feel like it was necessary to give this season a sense of originality from what has come before. It really is like they packed the general structure of seasons 1+2 or 3+4 into this short 9 episode sequence (escaping prison then taking out the government body). This meant that the show moves at a really quick pace and when I say quick I mean really damn quick….. Our crew is hopping half way across the world in a matter of minutes, and plans are being conceived and executed within a matter of 1 or 2 episodes….. an ordeal that previously would take half a season to unfold. It is a welcome change to keep things progressing quickly and avoid down-time (which this show basically has none of) but part of me, the more selfish side, would like to see a more traditional season length for the story told here, but definitely not needed.
As for the villains of this season i thought they were largely very strong, had understandable motivations, and for the most part proved to be a decent problem for Michael and the crew. The way the character of Poseidon was handled throughout the show i thought was done really well and incorporated a mini mystery of his identity with a bit of a deceiving fake-out. The revelation that Poseidon was none other than Sara’s current husband Jacob Ness (Mark Feuerstein) was a cool little surprise that part of me suspected but it still did catch me off-guard, especially as they seemingly cleared his name once already early on. He was a blatantly evil dick who was very easy to hate, even for the fact that he was married to Michael’s wife alone. His arc was handled very well throughout the show and seeing him get his comeuppance in the end, being put away for the murder he originally got away with was great. The fact that Michael’s genius plan executed smoothly is surprising but the fact that it resulted in him being put in a cell with T-Bag is perfect karma…. somehow I don’t see him living too long.
Poseidon’s henchmen ‘Van Gogh’ (Steve Mouzakis) and ‘A&W’ (Marina Benedict) weren’t interesting characters with any real depth to them but as gun wielding CIA agents they served their purpose. They maybe got one or two scenes each that tried to give them a little bit of backstory and add to their character but in the end there wasn’t anything particularly engaging about the two of them. There is one other villain who shows up a few times throughout the show mainly to cause setbacks in Michael and Lincoln’s plans and that is Luca Abruzzi (Leo Rano). Now this character for me was a huge misfire on multiple fronts. He serves more or less the same purpose as the gold people in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’; show up, cause trouble, go away. One time they use him to get back into the US but really he was nothing more than a throwaway goon. But the thing I don’t understand most about his character is why the writers felt the need to throw in the detail that he is the infamous and amazing John Abruzzi’s son. That detail added nothing at all to the character or the situation surrounding his connection to Lincoln and was just pointless.
The story itself overall was a pretty good one. It has problems and small holes here and there due to being constrained to 9 episodes but i feel like in getting all of the main beats in there it worked. For me the show was a lot more interesting once they got out of Ogygia prison, and then even more interesting once they got back to the US. The constant back and forth war of smart plays between Michael and Poseidon was very entertaining and it is drawn out to the final moments of the season where it all pays off fantastically. The revelation that in the end, all this time, Michael was the one holding all the cards and the one who really had the upper hand on Poseidon was great and very much within his character. This made their confrontation in the final episode so tense and gratifying, to see Michael not only overcome Poseidon in mind games but also in physical combat was a great close to their story. Also for everything he did to Sara and Michael Jr seeing him get what he deserved was a nice close. Now contrary to the ending of season 4, this season ends on a happy note for everyone, this time including Michael. It wraps up everything introduced in this season very well to where once again it doesn’t allude to or demand more future seasons.
The only element of the ending i’m not too sure about is the fate given to T-Bag, I mean seriously, the guy can’t catch a break. Just like the end of season 4 he ends up back where it all began so long ago, Fox River State Penitentiary. Now it’s a little odd, the end of the season was leaning more towards having T-Bag sort of change but still be more or less the T-Bag of old. He was becoming more humane in a sense and I feel that even though he is back in prison again it’s on different terms than before. As if now it’s like he’s accepted this is his life and this is who he is, I don’t know, I was expecting the favour Scofield asked of at the end there would be to exonerate T-Bag but I guess not.
So in the end this was a good return for my favourite TV series of all time that was far from perfect. But despite whatever flaws it contained it managed to retain mostly everything I loved about the original run and give me more of classic Prison Break content with the classic characters I never thought I would ever see again. Now that this is over, the same question is being asked that was raised 7 years ago; Do I want another season of Prison Break in the future? And my answer to that is still going to be the same……… No. I feel that just like the ending to season 4 this wrapped up nicely and I don’t need another season. That being said, if the writers are able to come up with another good, original story that warrants being made then i say go for it, but until then there is no immediate need to continue this series.