Friday 15 March 2013

Late to the Party: Prison Break Seasons 1&2

Much like 24, I heard good things about Prison Break on its release, but I was also told that it quickly became silly. Having recently made peace with 24's farcical antics, I decided to give Prison Break a go. After all, I sat through the whole of the decidedly mediocre Oz, and I have a soft-spot for Bad Girls, despite how trashy it is. Okay, I love Bad Girls because it is so trashy.
Compared with the giddy heights of Larkhall, Prison Break is not trashy enough in the first instance. However, like 24, it certainly is not the quality television suggested some critics declared it to be.
The first series suffers from its duration. The escape plot is endlessly and frustratingly spun-out. Still, that at least gave me chance to get over Wentworth Miller's uncanny similarity to a Team America puppet. Seriously, the man looks and speaks like a marionettes.
According to word-of-mouth reports I received (well overheard - I don't socialise much), the second series suffered in premise. "The show is called Prison Break", I heard people scoff, "how can it possibly work once they have escaped?". Well, as it transpires, the eponymous break is the best thing that could have happened to the series. As much as I would have liked to see whether the writers could drag out the attempted escape over 81 episodes, I am reasonably certain I would turn off after the first 40 hours. Rather than being treated to an endless barrage of aborted plans in the jail, season two offers a host of hindered ploys in a variety of locations. Admittedly, that does not sound like much of an innovation, but it makes a noticeable difference to the show. Engaging with a variety of incidental characters and situations provides room to breathe, meaning the convoluted plot does not feel quite as ridiculously drawn out as it undoubtedly is.
Moreover, the characters flourish in their new surroundings. Robert Knepper really shines as T-Bag in a way that he did not in the first series. Engaging with the diegetic populace means he can to swing wildly between sleazy, sinister, vulnerable and utterly charming - not an easy range to pull off while still maintaining the character's integrity.
That said, with great freedom comes great responsibility (or something like that), and the show's writers frequently forget to maintain narrative coherence. Allowing the characters to roam opens up a host of gaping plot holes, and moments of sheer over exuberance ("Christ in a Rose" - good lord). If you are willing to chow down this s**t with a healthy pinch of salt, it is fun-times all round. Bring on season 3 where Michael finds himself...IN ANOTHER PRISON. If you have not seen the series, I will leave you guessing as to whether I am joking or not....

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