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Prison Break: Season 4

Prison Break: Season 4

The Last Dragon

What He said:

TV shows often have a lower production value than movies, so the effects might not always look as good, and there are other certain limitations to the story, but there’s one benefit TV holds over film and that’s length. Even a show that is on for just a year can delve into stories and characters in much greater detail than any single movie. Because of that, it’s not uncommon to develop a stronger attachment to the characters and the fictional worlds that they live in. You can become invested in a TV show in a way that just doesn’t happen with a movie; even a really good one.

I’ve been putting this review off for a while and it’s partly because there is a part of me didn’t want the show to be over and my review of the final season is pretty much it (there’s an after-the-fact movie, but that’s never the same).  I have enjoyed this show quite a bit and I didn’t want it to end. I finished the show a while ago, but once I review the final season, there’s not much more to talk about.  I guess I have delayed this long enough.

A big portion of last season’s storyline is spent on a man named James Whistler (Chris Vance). Whistler is…well it’s not made totally clear. He claims to just be a fisherman who got caught up in the affairs like The Company, much like Michael (Wentworth Miller) and Lincoln (Dominic Purcell). He says he took a naturalist on a fishing trip and soon after that a bunch of goons, henchmen from The Company, demanded to know the exact coordinates of where he took the man. The next thing he knows, he’s a pawn of The Company – working specifically with super bitch and Company operative, Gretchen Morgan.

Prison Break: Season 4

We never find out whether he was lying about just being caught up in it all or he was actually a Company operative. He’s hiding things about his life for sure, but you also get the impression he was not necessarily a willing participant in Company activities. Either way, I liked the ambiguity. It made you unsure of whether Michael and the gang could actually trust him.

Unrelated to his issues with the Company, he is imprisoned in Sona Federal Penitentiary when he kills a local politician’s son in a bar fight. This is where Michael comes in. The Company wants Michael to break him out and blackmails him into doing to (remember they have his girl Sara and nephew LJ as hostages). Michael, along with Mahone, and Bellick break out of Sona with Whistler and deliver him to Gretchen (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe), but Whistler flees because he fears for his life. Because of this, General Krantz, who is the guy calling the shots for the secret organization known as The Company, cuts ties with Gretchen. Krantz (Leon Russom) is known to do this sort of thing. He’s a real bastard and will use you if he finds that you have value, but won’t hesitate to turn his back on you if he feels you don’t.  Due to this turn of events, Gretchen decides she’s had enough and much like Paul Kellerman (Paul Adelstein) before her, she decides to go after her former employer. She teams up with Mahone (William Fichtner) and Whistler, both of whom have no love for The Company given the fact that they were both forced to do its dirty work. Gretchen was a willing operative, Mahone and Whistler were coerced.

There’s a little problem though, because as much as Michael would love to help bring down The Company, Gretchen has done some terrible things on behalf of the Company. Specifically, she’s killed Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies). When Michael threatens to kill her to get revenge, she reveals that she didn’t kill Sara, but only tortured her instead (so see, she’s still a terrible person and only wants to bring down The Company for selfish reasons). After she proves that Sara is still alive, Michael reluctantly sides with Gretchen and Mahone (minor spoiler, but Whistler is killed).

This is only the beginning of their fragile alliance though, as Michael, Gretchen, Sucre (Amaury Nolasco), Bellick (Wade Williams), Linc, Mahone, Sara, and some throw in character named Roland Glenn (James  Hiroyuki Liao) are all recruited to a special black ops team being run by a Department of Homeland Security agent named Don Self (Michael Rapaport). That’s right, these criminals, a few of who could be considered amongst the most wanted people in the country, are now government sanctioned employees. Well sort of, only Self really knows the identity of his team. His boss is aware that he is running a secret operation to take down the mythical Company (their existence was unveiled during season 2, but it’s not known how much deeper their leadership group went past Caroline Reynolds).

Prison Break: Season 4

Oh, and how can I forget about everybody’s favorite snake, Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell.  I forget all the details, but T-Bag (Robert Knepper) manages to get his hands on some money and fake credentials of one Mr. James Whistler. Company operative or not, Whistler had planned on running away and assuming the identity of a white collar man he created. Cole Pfeiffer is supposed to be some rock stars salesman who was just hired by Gate Inc. Gate, if I remember correctly was some sort of motivational/consulting business, but Whistler picked them because their facilities are on top one the mainframe of Scylla.
If you need a reminder, Scylla is essentially the storage unit for everything and everyone The Company owns. Politicians and other world leaders, advanced technology, and other valuable information can be found in it. You see, The Company essentially controls major world events. They start wars, orchestrate the assassination of politicians, and sell weaponry to anyone that will pay for it – and are always there to pick up the pieces of the events they helped orchestrate. They are essentially what some people believe Haliburton to be, but on steroids. They are the puppet masters.

Michael and the rest of the Scylla Team spend a healthy portion of the season hunting down the 6 access cards held by Krantz and the rest of his leadership group. In the process, they come across assassins, captains of industry, crooked businessmen and politicians, and all the wonderful conspiracy theory type of stuff this series is known for. Uneasy alliances, being forced to align themselves with one evil to bring down another, and compromising moral situations are present throughout the season. Having to work with Gretchen and T-bag are some examples of that. Being forced to, at one point, to work for Krantz and The Company is another. There are lots of twists, turns, and betrayals.

Is this show perfect? No show is, but that’s not what I meant. Do these characters, who are high up on the most want lists of the CIA, FBI, and just about every other agency run around a little too freely without actually ever getting caught? Yeah, these guys and gals should have been busted 50 times since season 1. But if they get caught, there’s no show, so some things you simply have to forgive, or just stop watching.

One thing this show is though is extremely entertaining. There’s great action, conspiracies, thrills, and as the show went on, some really great character development.

Take Bellick and Mahone for example. You hate the both of them when you first meet them. Bellick is a dirtbag prison guard who is as crooked as the inmates he watches over. But as time goes on, and he is forced onto the other side of the law, and later put on this team of reluctant heroes, you really come to like him. The guy is actually sorry for who he was and the only thing he cares about when recruited on the Scylla team is making a difference in the world. He is sorry for who he was and genuinely wants to be a hero. I’m not the most forgiving person in the world, but when someone is genuinely intent on being a better person, it’s hard not to root for them. This character did such a 180, but you were always interested in seeing him on screen. He was a great villain and eventually became an underdog of a hero, after becoming absolutely pathetic and sympathetic in season 3.

Mahone is another utterly fascinating character. You start off hating him because he’s the FBI agent tasked with tracking down the brothers and putting them back into prison. You hate him because Lincoln never did what he was accused of and Michael was simply trying to save his brother’s life. You hate Mahone even more when you realize he’s working for The Company. But when you find out he’s being forced to, and see some of the things they put him and his family though, you really start to sympathize with and even like the guy. Considering he wasn’t in the first seasons, which is usually the best and most impactful one of any show, he’s one of the most memorable performances of the show’s entire run.

Prison Break: Season 4

Robert Knepper continues to dazzle as T-Bag, who is one of the most despicable characters ever on TV, puts those chameleon-like abilities to use once again. He had simply planned on stealing Whistler’s identity, but is sucked back into this insane world when it turns out he has access to Scylla’s location. He is reluctantly brought on-board the team, but if you know anything about T-Bag, he always has an agenda. He’s putting up a front, but really plans on working with Gretchen to sell Scylla to the highest bidder, and not turn it over to Self’s team. It was absolutely hilarious to watch him play Cole Pfeiffer. T-Bag is a master bullshitter, but even he has trouble playing a white collar worker at times, especially when Michael’s group is in and out of his office trying to gain access to Scylla. I’ve said this in past reviews, but he’s also extremely sympathetic at times. He’s disgusting and you can’t excuse anything he’s done, but he’s got a sad past and a soft spot for certain people. There are times where others wanted to kill someone and T-Bag of all people was the voice of reason.

I’ve said this in past seasons, but I also love the brotherhood amongst the characters. Michael and Lincoln are obvious. Michael saved Lincoln’s life by breaking him out of Fox River in season one. Lincoln feels obligated to do the same as Michael works on finishing this obsession of taking down The Company. Michael was originally only interested in saving his brother, but after seeing who and what The Company is, and feeling responsible for all the terrible things T-Bag has done since Michael brought him on board the original Fox River escapee group, he feels compelled to right those wrongs.  As a result, Lincoln feels obligated to protect his brother throughout this. Sucre is practically the third brother in this group. He’s forever grateful to Michael for giving him his freedom. Originally, all he wanted was to be free with his baby mama, but like Michael he cannot ignore the terribleness of The Company. They all sort of feel obligated to try and stop them. They all broke out of prison for selfish reasons, but after seeing who powerful and evil this group is, they cannot ignore it.

We finally get to see more of General Krantz this season too. He’s a mysterious background character for most of the show, but was given the most screen time and biggest role in this season. T-Bag is a monster, but this guy is pretty much the devil. He will wipe out and entire country just to make money off of rebuilding it. He is a true bastard and the way his story closed out was extremely satisfying, particularly the very end.

This show is not perfect. As I said, the way these characters walk around and don’t get caught is a little too blatant at times. They are practically the most wanted people on the planet and they walk around way too easy. Even when they get busted, they get out of it by the next commercial break. But the entertainment value and character development is through the roof.  The show entertains you with action an thrills and keeps you sucked win with extremely deep and complicated characters. I have to put it up there with one of the better hour-long dramas I’ve watched from start-to-finish.

I also have to note that as I was watching this on Netflix, I was really caught off-guard by some of the ending. Part of that was because the episode list for the final season includes the movie, which I didn’t realize. I was watching the final episode and didn’t realize it, so when it became obvious that was the conclusion, I was absolutely floored by the ending. I was happy about this, because it made for some great surprise and caught me off guard emotionally. I wasn’t prepared for what I was going to see. I thought I had an episode or two more to go. I’m kind of glad it unfolded that way, because it left an impact on me.

Rating: Thumbs up. I’ll miss the experience of watching this show.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on December 28, 2014.

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