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Prison Break: Season 4 - Review

Wentworth Miller in Prison Break: Season 4

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

WHERE once Prison Break was the most exciting and – dare I say – innovative series on TV, it’s now almost a laughing stock.

The lapse in quality over the four seasons the show has run its course has been shocking. Season 1 was taught, inventive and genuinely gripping. Season 2, which found the brothers on the run after breaking out of Fox River, suffered from lapses but was still intriguing and tense. Season 3, however, returned to its prison-based roots with much less success (albeit south of the US border). And now Season 4 attempted to wrap things up in laughably OTT fashion.

Credibility was strained to the max, once rational characters began acting irrationally, ghosts from the past were resurrected in a bid to boost ratings, and the show was duly axed. The one good thing to emerge from this fourth season was a successful resolution, which – unlike many other axed shows this season – did tie things up in half-way satisfying fashion.

The fourth season picked up in the aftermath of their daring escape from the hellish Panamanian prison, as ‘brothers on the run’ Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) and Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) discover a fresh determination as they seek retribution against The Company.

This shadowy group was responsible for destroying their lives and supposedly killing the woman Michael loves, Dr Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies).

Michael’s quest for vengeance leads him to Los Angeles, where Sara makes a shocking comeback from the dead (the best on-screen revival since Bobby Ewing returned in the shower?).

As the two reunite Michael realises to be finally free he must destroy The Company and steal SCYLLA (the organisation’s ‘black book’). With the initial backing of Homeland Security, Michael and his gang commence their ultimate mission as the time has come for justice to finally prevail.

Despite its potential, the rot set in early during Season 4. Tancredi’s comeback, while welcome, wasn’t very believable, while the brothers’ ongoing attempts to gather the key components to that would enable them to make a snatch and grab on SCYLLA went on and on, as each episode involved a Mission: Impossible style scenario for the brothers to crack in order to get the key cards.

The Company ceased being sinister and looked increasingly pantomime-esque in terms of their villainy, while the late inclusion of Michael and Lincoln’s mother as yet another baddie merely added to the absurdity and strain on credibility.

Admittedly, there were some surprise deaths along the way with the writers showing a refreshing lack of sentimentality when it came to making the big choices.

But by the time the show had reached its mid-season break, the end was nigh and the remaining shows were commissioned as a means of wrapping things up and putting everyone concerned out of their misery [viewers included].

Admittedly, the final four or five hours were exciting in a laughably OTT kind of way. But the final hours of the show were a pale imitation of the first 20, which had everyone so hooked.

The resolution, while tidy – and involving the comeback of yet more long-since departed characters (we won’t spoil surprises) – also felt bittersweet (although, again, we won’t ruin the surprise).

Of the key cast members, only really Robert Knepper’s wretched villain T-Bag and William Fichtner’s conflicted former agent emerged with their credibility intact. But Purcell and Miller appeared to be going through the motions and weren’t assisted by the ludicrous plotting or script, while even the likes of Michael Rappaport and Kathleen Quinlan floundered.

All in all, then, an inauspicious ending to a formerly fine series. It’s sad to say, it won’t be missed!

Certificate: 15
Running time: 24 episodes each 45 mins + over 50 mins of bonus features
UK DVD Release: Monday, July 6, 2009