Prison Break: Season 3
In 2005 the Fox network came up with an idea for a television series that had a lot of people in the audience doubting the sanity of the executives. The meeting to pitch this idea went something like this. Let’s have a man intentionally get arrested and sent to prison in order to break out his brother who was sent to death row for a crime he didn’t commit. Okay, this would be a reasonably good idea for a movie or even a mini series but how do to stretch it out to fill a whole season? Well, the folks over at Fox not only pulled it off they came up with a major hit. Hot on the heels of another odd idea, ‘24’ the network and the fans were ready to think out of the box. No one ever thought of a series done in real time one hour at a time. If they could make that work they could make an ongoing series called aptly enough ‘Prison Break’. I admit that I had never watched the series before I received the first season on Blu-ray to review. After the first episode I was completely hooked. Now the third season is available on Blu-ray and regular DVD and if you are still not a fan get it now. When I say not a fan that is pretty much the same as saying never watched it. Once you start watching this series you will not be able to stop. The writers and producers of this series are simply put geniuses. They took a little wisp of a plot line and expanded it into a story about conspiracy, government cover-ups, murder and intrigue. If you can believe that a tale about a plan crashing on a desert island can hold the interest of an audience season after season or a group of women living on a street in suburbia can remain a hit for years than there is no excuse not to give ‘prison Break’ a chance; you will not be sorry.
The series was created by Paul Scheuring and this is his first time with a network series. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it is so original in its concept and execution; he is a genuinely fresh mind in the business. He has come up with an adventure show that is gripping. In the first season Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) is falsely accused and convicted of murdering Terrence Steadman (John Billingsley/ Jeff Perry) who just happened to be the brother of the Vice President of the United States. Lincoln is sentenced to death and sent to the Fox River State Penitentiary to await his execution. On the outside his younger brother Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) is a highly regarded structural engineer. He knows that he has to prevent the execution so he devises a plan that has him faking a bank robbery, getting caught, convicted and sent to the same prison. With plans of the prison tattooed on his body Michael will break his brother out. The beauty of season two is it begins a few hours after the climatic break out and has eight prisoners, including the brothers, on the run. A federal agent Alexander Mahone (William Fichtner) is assigned to track down the fugitives. Actually, he is a member of the covert organization called the Company. His goal is not to bring them back to prison but to make sure they all wind up dead. Lincoln is proven innocent but by then Scofield, T-Bag (Robert Knepper) and Mahone have been arrested in Panama and sent to Sona, a maximum security facility. Season three picks up with these men once again in prison with a dire need to escape.
It was an incredible idea to have the second season change to a type of fugitive series. A show like this was amazingly popular in the sixties and the formula of men on the run is great. When they added the current popular theme of a corrupt government organization you have something that can be sustained. In the third season the writers return to the original plot device of the series; breaking out. This season was cut short like so many other shows by the Writers Guild of America’s strike. Instead of the normal 22 episode this story arc had to be done with only 13. The writers keep the action level high by splitting the story between Burrows working on the outside to bring down the company while Scofield desperately tries to get out of Sona. This provides more than the title promises by introducing some elements of the ever popular espionage thriller into the mix. This is not only great for the writers since they are not confined to the prison but for the audience it helps to keep the interest level high.
The prison Sona is not your typical lock up. After a riot the guards have for the most part withdrawn from the facility. They have left the place up to the inmates. This has created a brutal social hierarchy that the three main characters have to fight to establish their place. This becomes ‘Oz’ on steroids or at least as far as a broadcast series can go with things. This plot device also gives a rational reason for the introduction of some great characters. Lechero (Robert Wisdom) is a drug lord who is one of the dominate forces in Sona. He is brutal and unrelenting in his hold on his power. Then there is James Whistler (Chris Vance) who is in for the murder of the mayor’s son. He has someone working on the outside to make sure is stay there is brief; Gretchen Morgan (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe). She is an operative for the Company using the alias Susan B. Anthony. In order to get Whistler out she has to form an uneasy alliance with Scofield and Mahone. Whistler has some other people involved with his plight. His girlfriend, Sofia Lugo (Danay Garcia) masquerades as the wife of a dead inmate in order to slip messages to Whistler. Also in this season Lincoln’s son L.J. (Marshall Allman) and Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies) the woman Lincoln loves, are kidnapped by the Company in an attempt to discourage him from his plans.
Fox has released this thrilling season on both DVD and Blu-ray. Both have the audio and video you would expect from this distributor; excellent. The Blu-ray version features DTS-HD audio which is spectacular. The channel separation is some of the best I have heard in a long time. If you haven’t gotten into this series now is the time to have fun watching TV again.