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Prison Break - Season 1 (Episodes 1-13)

Prison Break

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

PRISON Break is another first-rate offering from America that’s had Channel 5 viewers enthralled.

As the first series nears its completion, the first 13 episodes are being released on DVD and make essential viewing for anyone who likes their TV taut, uncompromising and intelligent.

Wentworth Miller stars as Michael Scofield, who stages an armed robbery so that he can get himself thrown into prison. Why? To rescue his older brother, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), who is serving time on Death Row for a murder he claims he didn’t commit.

Needless to say, both the escape and the conspiracy involving Burrows aren’t as simple as they seem.

First of all, there’s the small matter of the murder itself, given that the victim was the Vice President of America’s brother. The people behind it, including the VP herself, will stop at nothing to ensure that Burrows makes the electric chair.

And then there’s the prison itself – Fox River State Penitentiary, which is populated by corrupt guards and all manner of unsavoury inmates – several of whom Michael needs to enlist in order to put his plan into play.

Hence, Michael must count on the support of a Mob boss (Peter Stormare), as well as his cell-mate (Amaury Nolasco) and several other conspirators to ensure that his elaborate plan doesn’t fail.

Working on the outside, meanwhile, is Burrows’ former lover and lawyer, Veronica Donovan (Robin Tunney), who desperately seeks a stay of execution as she attempts to uncover the truth about the crime.

Throw in a sympathetic doctor and potential love interest for Michael (in the form of Sarah Wayne Callies’ Dr Tancredi) and a corrupt bunch of prison guards led by Wade Williams’ Captain Bellick and you have all the ingredients for an exciting potboiler capable of rivalling the tension of shows like 24.

A lot of the credit for this must go to the series’ creators who consistently found ever more outrageous and inventive ways of stringing the story out – while ensuring that Prison Break threw in all the usual prison conventions.

Some of the plot contrivances are (and continue to be) a little hokey but viewers should be having too much fun to really notice – for the entertainment value is so consistently high that you really don’t notice.

In the first 13 episodes, there’s plenty to keep viewers on their toes as the conspiracy involving Burrows begins to unravel – but it’s two episodes in particular that had fans on both sides of the Atlantic raving.

Riots, Drills and the Devil, parts one and two, involves a prison riot that Michael unintentionally creates while attempting to buy himself the time needed to further his plans – but which spirals out of control to such an extent that most (if not all) of the main characters are threatened in some way.

It is a hard-hitting double bill that contains plenty of surprises and which seldom lets up for the duration. That it came so early in the season’s run shows the level of confidence the writers clearly had in their ability to sustain viewers’ attention throughout the first season run – which they have achieved impressively.

There will, of course, be a complete box set of the whole season later this year but, in the meantime, or if you can’t wait that long to get caught up with it, these first 13 episodes provide plenty to savour. Once you’ve tuned in, the endeavours of Michael Scofield and co prove pretty difficult to escape from!