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Prison Break: Season 2 - Part 1 (Review)

Prison Break, Season 2

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE second season of Prison Break offered a very different proposition to the first – and was no less enjoyable. Gone was the claustrophobic tension that marked the original, replaced instead by a race against time approach.

Picking up moments after the escape, the second season hit the ground running and – barring the odd hiccup – barely let up. The first 12 episodes – now available to buy on DVD – were packed with nailbiting situations, surprise character developments and the odd duff clanger.

But it quickly established that it wouldn’t hang around and wasn’t necessarily interested in pursuing a “happily ever after” conclusion. Very few characters were guaranteed to survive and by episode 12, they’d started to drop out of the equation.

The story continued to focus on the Burrows brothers – Lincoln (Dominic Purcell), a victim of a political conspiracy that had placed him on Death Row, and Michael (Wentworth Miller), who’d deliberately got himself imprisoned in order to break his sibling out. But joining them on the run were the likes of T-Bag (Robert Knepper), a psychopath plotting a reunion with the woman who led to his capture; C-Note (Rockmond Dunbar), a former soldier desperate to be reunited with his family, and Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) Michael’s loyal former cellmate, who was also seeking to be reunited with the woman of his dreams.

Pursuing them, initially, was disgraced and embittered former prison guard Captain Bellick (Wade Williams) and the dogged Special Agent Mahone (William Fichtner), a man with his own clinical reasons for wanting to have them recaptured.

Early on, the episodes were concerned with putting enough distance between the escapees and their pursuers to allow the personal stories to develop – even though most found themselves headed to Utah in search of the buried millions of former cellmate Westmoreland in order to finance their various plans.

But once that was out of the way, the show really began to deliver some thrilling episodes. The central conspiracy theory gathered pace, several escapees found themselves cornered and killed (we won’t reveal who) and fans were even teased with the possibility of a reunion between frustrated lovers Michael and Dr Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies).

As daft as Prison Break became on occasions – most notably during the episodes concerned with the dig for buried funds – it still managed to keep viewers gripped while also tossing in the odd surprise.

Characters were developed nicely and the stars worked hard to ensure that you kept rooting for them, even during some of the more ridiculous strains on credibility. But the real bonus was the inclusion of William Fichtner as Special Agent Mahone, who provided the show (and Michael) with a genuinely worthwhile adversary.

Their cat and mouse games – both physical and mental – were brilliantly realised and expertly played by two stars at the top of their game. And it was refreshing to find that Fichtner – an actor I’ve long admired – wasn’t content to play to the kind of stereotype established by Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive movies. Mahone was a real loose cannon and made viewers believe he was capable of anything. Yet, crucially, there was also a sympathetic side to him.

Watching the early development of the character formed one of the highlights of the first part of season 2, as did standout episodes Disconnect, Rendezvous and Buried.

Hence, the release of this box set is certainly worth considering if you’ve not been able to keep up with its current Channel 5 run. But if, like me, you are keeping pace, then it’s probably worth waiting until the full season is released later this year so that you can see things through to what will undoubtedly be another thrilling conclusion.

Prison Break remains one of the finest US imports of the moment and – yes – a third season is on the way.