Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 6, 2007)
Though saddled with one of the most absurd concepts on record, Prison Break became a hit, and I thought its first season was pretty entertaining. The year ended with the escape promised by the title, so Season Two follows up on that major event.
Will Prison Break manages to remain involving and stimulating with all its characters outside of their cells? Let’s see! I’ll check out all 22 shows in the order broadcast. The plot synopses come straight from the set’s packaging.
Manhunt: “Led by Special Agent Mahone (William Fichtner), the FBI joins the hunt for the fugitives, who bicker among themselves as they try to disappear. Elsewhere, T-Bag (Robert Knepper) seeks medical attention single-handedly.”
Season Two certainly doesn’t waste any time as it cranks up the action right off the bat. It opens with a quick recap of Season One’s characters and scenarios, and I appreciate that. “Manhunt” zips through that side of things in a fast and natural manner, and because it’s been more than a year since I watched S1, I’m glad I got a short reminder of roles and events.
“Manhunt” does assume familiarity with those elements, so don’t expect a lot of exposition, and that’s also a good thing. After the quick recap, we dive right into the action as we watch all the cons flee from the law. I’ll be curious to see how the season pans out, because right now, it looks like this year will become a variation on The Fugitive, albeit one with many more characters to follow. We even meet our own Lt. Gerard with the Mahone character. Despite some concerns that S2 will just emulate its escapee predecessor, “Manhunt” gets us going in a lively and provocative manner.
Otis: “While C-Note (Rockmond Dunbar), Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) and Abruzzi (Peter Stormare) strike out on their own, Michael (Wentworth Miller) and Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) engineer another daring breakout. Meanwhile, Bellick (Wade Williams) and Pope (Stacy Keach) are called to task for their past transgressions.”
I always found LJ to be a weak link during S1, as I thought he was whiny and annoying. I’d hoped we’d avoid him during S2, but obviously that won’t be the case. At least he’s a minor part of the episode, though he motivates a major subplot – one that I guess fits the series’ sense of devotion to family, but one that I can’t help but think is a little artificial. And does anyone else think that if Michael was so smart, maybe he would’ve hidden some wigs and other elements to help with disguises? He and Lincoln don’t do a whole lot to change their appearance.
At least we find some interesting developments among the secondary characters. T-Bag proves as delightfully loathsome as ever, and the situation becomes dire for cops Bellick and Pope. Though I’m disappointed we find the return of LJ, the episode itself proves eventful.
Scan: “As Sucre and C-Note try to reunite with their loved ones, Michael and Lincoln experience some major car trouble, and Bellick teams up with his former nemesis.”
Bellick always offered one of the series’ most intriguing characters simply because he occupied so much gray territory. Though nominally cast as the Corrupt Cop, he became more complex than that, and “Scan” continues his development. Those aspects of “Scan” are its most interesting, though Michael’s attempts to regain his needed possessions create good drama. The C-Note and Sucre aspects of the show are less involving, though, since they’re so predictable. Maricruz was always a glorified plot device, and that’s not changed. C-Note’s relationship with his wife is more complicated, but that doesn’t mean his portions of the episode become particularly dynamic. Nonetheless, the program has more than enough to it to make it another good one.
First Down: “$5 million makes for strange bedfellows as Bellick joins Michael, Lincoln and Nika (Holly Valance) in pursuit of the loot, while Abruzzi’s vendetta against Fibonacci (Roderick Peeples) could cost him everything.”
Although I initially compared S2 of Prison Break to The Fugitive, so far I see one major difference. While the latter often slowed to focus on human stories, the first four episodes of Break’s second year prove relentless. It rarely gives us a break from the pursuit, a trend that could – and probably should – become too much of a good thing.
To date, however, I can’t question the choice to present events in this manner. Four shows into the season and the action remains tight and gripping. “Down” works just as well as its predecessors. It develops the drama – and eliminates one of the eight escapees.
Map 1213: “As Sucre heads to Las Vegas to stop Maricruz’s wedding, the brothers close in on Westmoreland’s millions, but they’re not alone.”
The series’ wild It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World vibe builds to a crescendo as our boys all near their monetary goal. This is a good thing since it reunites our main leads with a couple of supporting fugitives. How can an episode in which T-Bag memorizes and eats a map be bad? Only the ever dreary Sucre/Maricruz story threatens to drag down this show, but the rest is too good for those moments to sink it.
Subdivision: “With Mahone in hot pursuit, the escapees dig for the stolen money in a residential garage, while T-Bag uses his dubious charms to preoccupy the lady of the house.”
As often occurs, T-Bag provides this episode’s best moments, though not in the usual way. “Subdivision” plays with his rep and lets him show a different side of his personality along the way. Tensions mount as the guys near their monetary goal – and crazy Haywire finally returns, though where his part of the story will go is anyone’s guess, as it doesn’t have much to do here. Despite that tease, this is another quality program that thickens various plots in a satisfying manner.
Buried: “While Tweener (Lane Garrison) cracks under the pressure of interrogation, Michael and Lincoln part ways as Lincoln risks it all to free LJ (Marshall Allman).
Wow, where to start with this extremely eventful episode? So many major occurrences materialize that I can’t touch on them all – and don’t want to anyway, since they’d provide spoilers. Suffice it to say you should expect the unexpected.
On the positive side, we get more real depth about the mysterious Mahone. His moments are the best parts of the show, as they open him up in a terrific way. In a negative bent, is Lincoln really stupid enough to fall for the obvious ploy executed by the authorities? Doesn’t he know that they released LJ just as bait? Well, brains were never his strong area. While I could live without the plot device that separates the brothers, this remains an excellent episode.
Dead Fall: “After being double-crossed by T-Bag, Michael helps Sucre out of a jam. Elsewhere, Lincoln is reunited with his son, and Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies) is targeted for assassination.”
After the momentous “Buried”, it seems inevitable that “Fall” will lack the same drama. It does, though that doesn't mean it fails to move things along well. Unfortunately, it comes with my two least favorite plot devices: Maricruz and LJ. Those elements mar the show a bit, but it still has enough good moments to overcome its flaws.
Unearthed: “Still on the run, Lincoln and LJ get reacquainted while Michael delves into Mahone’s past. C-Note, meanwhile, makes a desperate attempt to join his wife and daughter.”
Am I a bad person because I can’t muster any interest in C-Note’s attempts to reunite with his family? Those segments seem so impractical that they become almost ludicrous, as do Lincoln’s attempts to stay on the lam. Michael really did get all the brains, as Lincoln can’t out-think the proverbial paper bag. I suppose that makes both Lincoln and C-Note more realistic than super-smart always-one-step-ahead Michael, but it also means that they look like idiots much of the time and become almost unsympathetic in their dopiness.
At least Michael manages some fine moments here. In his relationship with Mahone, the prey becomes the hunter, a fact that ups the dramatic ante to a big degree. Add to that a violent reunion between Bellick and T-Bag and there’s enough good material to overcome the Lincoln and C-Note sides of the show.
Rendezvous: “Michael and Sara are reunited at last, with Mahone hot on their trail. Lincoln is taken to meet with his father (Anthony John Denison), and T-Bag holds the key that Bellick is straining to find.”
Here we establish that I can like the romantic side of the series – as long as it’s not stupid. Michael goes to extremes to get Sara, but he does so in an intelligent way. Lincoln, on the other hand, needs outside intervention to get out of custody – not that the show kept him shackled for long. A few too many of those deus ex machina moments appear here, but it’s hard to mind with the great scenes between Bellick and T-Bag.
Bolshoi Booze: “While Kellerman ruthlessly tortures a defiant Sara, Michael struggles with his conscience as he heads for a rendezvous with Lincoln in the New Mexico desert.”
After all he’s done, Michael starts to grow a conscience here – and I can’t decide if that’s a good extra layer for his character or a cheap ploy. To give the series the benefit of the doubt, I’ll go with the latter for now. The Sara side of things proves most moving here, though, as her situation turns dark. While this isn’t one of the most impressive episodes, it works for what it is.
Disconnect: “While C-Note’s daughter faces a medical crisis, Michael’s bittersweet reunion with his father is short-lived as they head for a getaway plane.”
You know why it’s so easy to approve of the Michael/Sara relationship? Because she’s not just a babe – Maricruz is hot, too – but she’s also a kick-ass babe! You think whiny Maricruz will fight off a federal agent, jump out a window, smash into a windshield and then sew herself up? No way – she’d be too indecisive.
Plenty of big events happen here, but the most fun comes from those that involve Bellick. He finds himself in a Fargo-esque situation with a small-town female cop who figures out a lot more than she’d like. There’s a lot to like in this dramatic episode.
The Killing Box: “As Bellick makes an unhappy return to Fox River, Michael and Lincoln appear to be headed there themselves, unless Mahone and Kellerman can get to them first.”
“Deus ex machina” isn’t just an answer in a crossword puzzle; it’s a major factor in many of this series’ events. That should bother me more than it does, but one must accept such elements to enjoy a show like this. If you can get past that side of things, there’s a great deal to like about “Box”. T-Bag is more predictable than I’d prefer, but the Michael/Lincoln parts come with lots of thrills, and we see an interesting conclusion (?) to the saga of Bellick.
John Doe: “While Bellick adjusts to life behind bars, Michael and Lincoln find an unexpected ally in Kellerman. Meanwhile, T-Bag makes himself at home with the Hollander family.”
So much for my thoughts that the tale of Bellick had come to an end, as we follow his journey here. I don’t know how long this will continue or whether it’ll connect to the series’ overall arc, but it’s fun to see.
Actually, right now almost everything other than the Michael/Lincoln tale doesn’t fit with the global plot. I assume that’ll change eventually, but it does make the other stories seem somewhat extraneous. They vary in interest. Of course, I remain less than invested in C-Note’s side of things, and as much as I love him, T-Bag’s getting a little tedious. Well, there’s still a lot of good stuff here despite some up and down elements.
The Message: “While Sucre continues his run south of the border, Lincoln attempts to go public with his story, and Bellick does hard time in the infirmary.”
Wow – I was just wondering if the series would ever bother to follow up on the fate of Haywire, and here he’s back again! Not that his story goes anywhere just yet, but I have faith that all the various loose ends will tie together eventually. At least Bellick comes back into the fold in terms of the overall arc; his presence fits with some of the other pieces. The show meanders a little more than I’d like this late in the season, but it presents plenty of interesting twists.
Chicago: “With Bellick and Mahone in pursuit of Haywire (Silas Weir Mitchell), C-Note becomes involved in a robbery. Meanwhile, Michael, Lincoln, Kellerman (Paul Adelstein) and Sara make tracks for the Windy City.”
I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but Break manages a rare subdued ending – and one with more emotion than usual. That makes this episode more effective than many, if just because it’s a little different. The main arc intensifies well, as we remain unsure if we can trust Kellerman. I could still live without C-Note’s stuff, but I like the rest.
Bad Blood: “The fugitives seek the unlikely help of Henry Pope (Stacy Keach), while Sucre is at last reunited with Maricruz. Elsewhere, C-Note turns to desperate measures to save his daughter.”
It’s always nice to get a return from a seemingly departed character, so it’s fun to see Pope again, especially in the way the show utilizes him. In addition, the C-Note side of things finally starts to tie back in with the main arc, which is a good thing because I’m sick of his family drama. Add to that some good action and the show becomes a winner.
Wash: “Holding the evidence necessary to clear their names, Michael and Lincoln attempt to contact the only man who can help them. And C-Note makes a fatal decision, while T-Bag plays doctor.”
Cheesy tactic of the day: Michael and the others finally hear the potentially potent audio file – but we don’t, as the show won’t allow us to learn of its contents just yet. I’m sure this will work for dramatic purposes, but right now it feels like a cruel tease.
Nonetheless, lots of drama crops up here, as the show keeps us intrigued and entertained. The T-Bag saga takes some interesting twists, and the whole problem of the audio becomes even more up in the air. All that and an ending that literally leaves us hanging!
Sweet Caroline: “Face-to-face with the president, Michael uncovers a startling secret and demands pardons for his brother and him.”
This episode makes me almost feel sorry for Sucre. Actually, I do, but the fact I hated enduring his hangdog obsession with Maricruz means it’s more difficult for me to buy into his almost-happy-ending. Still, seeing what a babe Maricruz is leads me to think Sucre might’ve done the right thing all along, and his tale takes some big twists here.
Actually, major drama is the theme of this episode, especially as we finally re-encounter the president and see serious complications with her. C-Note gets into things deeper as well, and Bellick comes back in an interesting way. Good stuff!
Panama: “Sara is apprehended as the brothers escape to Panama, while C-Note cuts a deal. T-Bag, meanwhile, is up to his old tricks.”
As much as I’ve griped about the dumb things C-Note and Sucre did for love, I gotta admit I like the fact that Michael starts to slip due to his feelings for Sara. For much of the series, Michael came across as a soulless robot, so it’s nice to view him as more of a human. Various plot threads develop intensity in addition to this emotional side, and a new twist emerges in this quality show.
Fin Del Camino: “Hoping to put an end to T-Bag’s bloody rampage, Michael joins Sucre and Bellick’s shaky alliance, while Sara is joined by a surprise witness on her day in court.”
I expect a lot from the season’s penultimate episode, but “Camino” doesn’t kick butt as much as expected. Oh, it includes the requisite plot twists and intrigue, but they don’t quite entice to the anticipated degree. Still, the show does what it needs to do at a basic level and leaves me eager to check out the finale.
Sona: “As Mahone falls victim to his own double-cross, Sara joins Michael and Lincoln in Panama, where their newfound freedom is short-lived.”
S1 ended in exactly the manner we anticipated, with the titular prison break. S2 comes to a less easily anticipated conclusion, as all we can expect is the unexpected. This being Prison Break, S2 finishes with more questions than answers, a fact that may frustrate. S1 concluded with a release in both the literal and figurative terms, while S2 doesn’t offer the same sense of semi-completion. Of course, that’s intentional, but it means that “Sona” might annoy some viewers.
Though I’m not sure how much I like the ending of S2, I think the year as a whole was very good. I wondered if the series could keep us interested with our characters outside of the prison walls, but it succeeded in its attempts to ensnare us. Indeed, I think S2 outdid the drama and tension of S1. The first year could be predictable, but away from the basic constrictions of the prison setting, the situations opened up better and the series pursued its drama at a relentless pace. S2 of Break proved quite satisfying.