Prison Break: Season 3 (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
THE third season of Prison Break was laughably bad in many ways – but it still kept you gripped.
Picking up in the immediate aftermath of Season 2, the show now found Michael Scofield (Wenworth Miller) wrongly incarcerated in Panama’s terrifying Sona Federal Penitentiary for murder, along with fellow fugitives Theodore ‘T-Bag’ Bagwell (Robert Knepper), Brad Bellick (Wade Williams) and Alexander Mahone (William Fichtner).
On the outside, meanwhile, Michael’s freshly exonerated brother, Lincoln (Dominic Purcell), worked overtime to free his sibling, whilst being compelled by The Company to force Michael to assist with the escape of a fellow inmate named Whistler (Chris Vance), a mysterious loner whose freedom held the key to the combined fates of Lincoln’s son LJ (Marshall Allman) and Michael’s lover Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies).
Needless to say, obstacles flew thick and fast and included brutal prison king Lechero (Robert Wisdom), an inmate who controlled Sona in the absence of any official guards, and Gretchen Morgan (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe), a ruthless Company operative who would stop at nothing to get Whistler free.
Admittedly, the third season remained consistently exciting viewing – but Prison Break‘s ability to be taken seriously had long since passed. The tightly-wound conspiracy driving the first two seasons was now replaced by a wider perspective that wasn’t always obvious – and which sometimes didn’t seem to hang together that coherently.
Crucially, clever plotting and intelligent twists were also replaced by hopeless contrivances and an increasingly strained credibility.
Taken on its own merits, though, season three still managed to entertain and consistently set a blistering pace, with several of the 13 episodes finishing with some fine cliffhanger moments.
Wentworth Miller also remained an engaging presence as the morally conflicted Michael Scofield, forced to act desperately in some really harsh conditions, while William Fichtner’s Alexander Mahone remains, arguably, the show’s most enigmatic presence (sympathetic one minute, edgy and scheming the next).
Of the new additions, Chris Vance’s Whistler eventually emerged as a suitably shady fellow inmate whose motives never became fully clear (paving the way for more season 4 excitement), while Robert Wisdom’s prison king Lechero cut a suitably menacing figure of unlawful authority.
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe went about her business dilligently as the no-nonsense Gretchen Morgan but lacked the authority needed to properly convince, even though some of her deeds proved, well, dastardly.
Series regulars Robert Knepper, as the wonderfully slimy T-Bag, and Wade Williams, as the snivelling Bellick, also made welcome returns, although Amaury Nolasco’s Sucre continued to pine for his lost love and struggled to maintain a consistently absorbing presence.
Of the surprises, the grisly fate of Dr Tancredi seemed like a particularly cruel blow for the Scofields early on, while the various motivations of key characters – most notably Whistler – ensured that no one could be trusted.
But as the series built towards its inevitable escape attempt, some of the twists and/or contrivances really did strain credibility and even suggested that the show’s writers – like its protagonists – were running out of ideas (possibly because of the looming writers’ strike at the time).
The season finale, meanwhile, set things up for a fourth run in suitably exciting fashion without being as entirely pulse-quickening as previous last episodes. With half the show’s cast still behind bars and its two leads parting company to apparently go their separate ways, it will certainly be interesting to see what direction future episodes take.
But one thing’s for certain, viewers are best to take future installments with a pinch of salt to best avoid too much disappointment. A show that was once unmissable is now more of a guilty pleasure that’s daft but highly watchable.
UK DVD Release Date: May 19, 2008
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- Prison Break: Season 2 reviewed
- Prison Break: Season 2 finale reviewed
- Season 2: Chicago reviewed
- Season 2: Disconnect reviewed
- Season 2: First episode reviewed
- Read our verdict on season 1