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Prison Break: Season 1

Prison Break: Season 1

The Last Dragon

What He said:

I have been trying to catch this one for years.  Literally, I have tried a few times, and for one reason or another, it always got away from me.
I remember seeing the commercials for this and being pretty psyched about it. It looked like something I would very likely enjoy. I think I even watched the first episode or two, but it must have gone up against something I “couldn’t miss” and ended up losing track of it.

Sometime last year, I started watching it on Amazon Prime, but they must have lost the rights because it was then no longer viewable to rent. It was only available to purchase. I think I got about eight episodes in too before this happened. I was not happy when this happened. I was invested at that point.

Prison Break: Season 1

I recently came across it on Netflix and started watching again. I did start from the first episode though, because it had been sometime since I saw it. I didn’t really want to watch the first eight episodes again, but I also didn’t remember all the details.  
Michael Scofield is a really smart guy. I know the word genius gets tossed around pretty easily, and I don’t even know if he technically is one by the true definition of the word, but the guy is pretty effin’ smart.  Michael is a couple of different kinds of smart. He has something called low latent inhibition. Without getting too technical, it means his mind is constantly working. He sees things in a way most people don’t. He is able to process information in a way the average person can’t. He’s really good at puzzles, riddles, reading maps, and building things; which is probably why he became a structural engineer. He’s also really good at thinking on his feet. Michael is a meticulous planner, but as we all know things don’t always go according to plan. The only thing that matches his book smarts are his improvisation skills.

Michael’s brother Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) is the exact opposite. Michael is the brains, Lincoln is the brawn. Michael is the successful one, Lincoln is the screw up. Lincoln has had issues with gambling and drugs, but that’s the least of his problems. He has recently been convicted of killing the vice president’s brother, Terrence Steadman. Lincoln has always maintained his innocence. He says he was framed and is the victim of a conspiracy theory that goes all the way up to some very higher ups in U.S. business and politics.

Prison Break: Season 1

You might be wondering though if Michael is so smart and successful, how did he end up in prison, just like his screw up brother? Well, that was on purpose actually. Michael eventually becomes convinced of his brother’s innocence and decides to do something about it. Lincoln is sentenced to death at Fox River State Penitentiary. Michael commits armed robbery purposefully gets caught. During the trail, he requests to be sentenced to Fox River. Given the pending death of his brother, the judge grants his request.

Getting sent to Fox River was always a part of his plan. You see, Michael has the blueprints of the prison tattooed on his body. They are hidden in various images, but he can read them due to his low latent inhibition. Michael worked for a company that retrofitted Fox River not too long ago, so he’s quite familiar with the place, despite never having set foot in it.

Once in Fox River, he immediately begins his plans for escape. He cannot complete his plan alone though and as a result has to let some people in on it.

It would be impossible to break out of your cell without your cellmate noticing, so Michael begins to feel out his roomie. Fortunately for him, his “cellie” isn’t too bad of a guy. Fernando Sucre (Amaury  Nolasco) has made his mistakes – armed robbery for example – but he’s a generally decent guy. He isn’t in any of the prison gangs and generally sticks to himself. He just wants to serve his time and get back to the love if his life, his girlfriend Maricruz (Camille Guaty). He only has 18 months until he is released, and he’s perfectly content waiting it out, until he finds out some urgent news regarding his lady.

Prison Break: Season 1

He needs access to other things to complete his mission, so he does a couple of things. First, he gets himself assigned work duty, and more specifically a program that specializes in grounds care and construction. The inmate in charge is infamous mob boss, John Abruzzi. Abruzzi (Peter Stormare) is a typical mobster; he doesn’t help anyone out of the kindness of his heart. So Michael blackmails him with the location of the witness who helped put him behind bars. He promises to give the information to Abruzzi if he uses his contacts on the outside to help with the escape.

The other thing he does is feign diabetes in order to get access to the infirmary. The infirmary is the key to the escape. Of all the rooms in the prison, it is the least secure. Since he spends so much time in the infirmary, he befriends the doctor, who also happens to be a woman.

Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies) is an idealist. She believes in rehabilitation and fair medical treatment for all, which is why she chose the prison system; much to the dismay of her father. Her father is the governor and their beliefs often clash. There is chemistry between her and Michael, but you find yourself wondering if it is real, or if Michael is using her to get access to the infirmary.   

Faking diabetes isn’t easy you know, so Michael needs a few things to successfully pull this part of the plan off. Michael needs a specific medication in order to fake symptoms, so he contacts “prison pharmacist, Benjamin “C-Note” Franklin. C-note (Rockmond Dunbar) gets him the drugs, but can’t understand why anyone wants to pretend to have diabetes.
Both C-Note and Abruzzi become obsessed with finding out what it is Michael is up to; because it’s obvious he’s up to something. So-much-so, that they eventually find out and blackmail their way into his plans.  So counting himself, his brother Lincoln, Sucre, Abruzzi, and C-Note, they are now up to 6 people who are in on the escape plan.

Prison Break: Season 1

It doesn’t stop there either. A part of Michael’s plan hinges on a big question mark. Charles Westmoreland (Muse Watson) is a career criminal serving, well I’m not exactly sure how long his sentence is, I just remember that he had already served over 30 years. I think he’s been at Fox River longer than anyone else alive in the place. Charles is rumored to be the mythological thief, D.B. Cooper. Westmoreland denies this, but it doesn’t stop people from asking. Charles is initially uninterested in Michael’s plan, but suddenly changes his mind when he gets some grim news. Michael is all too happy to have him on board, but there’s always mystery surrounding his true identity. Is he really D.B. Cooper or is he simply using his mythological reputation as a way out of Fox River?

Like Sucre, Charles is a pretty likeably guy. He is someone who has made mistakes, but simply wishes to serve out his time in peace. He has a cat, sticks to himself, and is actually a pretty nice guy.

Besides the fact that he’s planning an escape, has to trust people he barely knows, there’s all the “normal” stuff one has to deal with on an everyday basis in prison.

One of the biggest obstacles he has to deal with is a sociopath and racist named T-Bag. T-Bag is a leader of the resident white supremacist group at Fox River and boy is he a real bastard. There are no words for just how vile a human being T-Bag (Robert Knepper) is. Rape, murder, there is nothing this guy isn’t capable of. He will sleep with anything, kill anyone, and do just about anything he wants. It’s not that T-Bag is the most physically imposing guy in the prison, he’s just fearless, ruthless, and driven by his own desires. Michael manages to catch his attention, which is never good, and T-Bag weasels his way into the escape plans.

Prison Break: Season 1

Another obstacle is Captain Brad Bellick. Bellick (Wade Williams) is a crooked as a crooked cop comes. He has his hands in every single scam, deal, or other illegal activity going on at Fox River. He is more of a criminal than some of the inmates. He also hates Michael. He’s threatened by Michael’s intelligence and thinks he’s a wise ass. Additionally, he’s suspicious how easily Michael was able to get a spot on Abruzzi’s work duty team, which is a very coveted position amongst the inmates.

There are so many more people on the show too. Tweener (Lane Garrison) is another inmate. He’s a young kid who recently arrived at Fox River. He fancies himself a tough guy, but soon learns what tough really is. Henry Pope (Stacy Keach) is the warden at Fox River. He is unaware of the unethical activities by most of his officers. He also takes a liking to Michael and the two form something of a father/son relationship. Robin Tunney plays Veronica Donovan. Veronica is a lawyer, as well as Lincoln’s ex. Like Michael, she distanced herself from Lincoln, but is also drawn back to him when she starts to believe in his innocence. Frank Grillo is Nick Savrinn, a lawyer to specializes in death penalty cases and agrees to help Veronica. Paul Kellerman (Paul Adelstein) is a Secret Service Agent who takes an interest in Veronica and Nick’s pursuits to prove Lincoln’s innocence. He’s also a double-agent for the organization the framed Lincoln. They operate in the shadows and are very powerful. L.J. Burrows (Marshal Allman) is Lincoln’s son. He believes this father is a low-life criminal, but is headed down his own dark path ironically. Needless to say, there are a lot of characters.

Prison Break is a solid. It explores what it is life to live in a prison, but I wouldn’t call it a prison drama. That’s simply the backdrop for the show. This show is really more of an action/political thriller. This show is heavy on the action, as well as the political drama. Dirty politicians, secret societies, assassination attempts, and good old-fashioned prison riots are present throughout the show. It’s not so much a serious and in-depth look at politics or prison life, as it is a glamorized version of both, which is fine by me. I watch things to be entertained and this entertained me.
Before I conclude this review, I offer you a couple of tidbits.

Prison Break: Season 1

I wasn’t crazy about Paul Adelstein’s portrayal of Agent Paul Kellerman. I found his performance a little distracting, particularly when the character tried to talk tough. He simply wasn’t good at it. He was something of a cheeseball if you ask me. I’d be more inclined to laugh, rather than quiver, if this guy threatened me.  Fortunately, he’s not the only villain in the show. There are other members of his organization who are fine. Additionally, some of the inmates are an absolute delight to watch. Robert Knepper and Peter Stormare absolutely shine in this show. Despite the fact that they are aligned with Michael, they are not good guys. One is a ruthless mob boss, the other is a disgusting human being. They are interesting characters and the kind of guys you love to hate. Sometimes you just have to laugh at their antics. They are cruel, selfish, and vindictive, but they are extremely entertaining. It was also cool to have more than one villain; and have some of the affiliated with the protagonists too. Wade Wilson is also fabulous as Bellick. He doesn't care about conspiracy theories, Linc's innocence, or the inmates. He cares about himself. He wants money and power and that's it. He will form an alliance with anyone - and discard them just as quickly - to get what he wants.

The relationship between Michael and Lincoln is a complicated one. Michael is the brains, Lincoln is the brawn. Michael is a planner, Lincoln just punches things. Lincoln is a life-long screw up and petty criminal, so even though he was framed for the particular crime he was imprisoned for, it’s not exactly a surprise he’s locked up. Not everything is as it seems with him though. He’s a lunkhead, but he has more depth than you’d think. Michael is calculating, deliberate, and organized. He’s also prone to what can best be descried as little panic attacks. When things get tough, he zones out suffers some kind of overload in emotion. It’s interesting to watch Lincoln, the criminal, console his much more together brother.

Prison Break: Season 1

Relationships in general are interesting and complicated on this show. Almost nobody fully trusts anyone. Nine times out of ten somebody needs something from someone. Sara feels something for Michael, but she’s also very aware  of the fact he’s an inmate and a relationship with him would be a bad move. You can never totally tell if Michael really cares about her or is using her as a way to get more access to the infirmary, which as I said earlier is the prison’s weakest point security wise. Sucre is, for the most part, very trusting of Michael. He has no reason to be. But C-Note is always whispering in his ear about how Michael is hiding things. He is quick to say that if Sucre was not his cellmate, Michael wouldn’t need him. Pretty much nobody trusts Abruzzi or T-Bag, but they are both very dedicated to the mission.  C-Note is black, T-Bag is white, and both are members of gangs consisting solely of members of their own race. It goes without saying, but they aren’t too fond of one another either. There’s a lot of back-stabbing , opportunism, and mind-games.

This show is all about thrills. It’s not a prison drama or a political thriller, but an action movie version of both. You have to suspend belief once and a while, but that’s no different than any other work of fiction. If you like action, tension, and colorful characters, I recommend the first season of this show.

Diagnosis: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on September 1, 2014.

 

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