Prison Break, Season 5: First Thoughts

Last night the fifth season of Prison Break premiered on UK television, almost eight years after its final season concluded. Here’s my first thoughts on the opening episode.

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“What angle could I possibly have for coming here and telling you it looks like your brother might just be alive?”

So T-Bag asks Lincoln, triggering a familiar title and theme song; and thereby opening the Pandora’s box that is the fate of Prison Break’s Michael Scofield.

“I got good in me, Michael”, pleads Lincoln to his brother’s headstone. “I got good in me: it’d just be nice if you were here to help me find it.”

Way back in Prison Break’s first season (2005-2006), Michael Scofield lamely robbed a bank in order to get himself incarcerated in the same maximum security prison as his brother – Fox River State Penitentiary – who was awaiting execution, having been (we later discovered) framed for the apparent death of the brother of the Vice President of the United States. Believing his brother to be innocent of the crime, Scofield devised an elaborate plan to spring his brother from Fox River. A successful civil engineer, Michael Scofield, with access to the blueprints of the prison, had them tattooed onto his torso in a design impenetrable to the unknowing eye, and only matched in its complexity by Scofield’s plan of escape.

Having enlisted the assets and attributes of a mafia boss, the prison’s physician, Sara Tancredi (who happens to be the state governor’s daughter and a former addict, which whom he eventually falls in love), convicts caught by the worst of luck, and other most unsavoury of characters, Michael Scofield breaks his brother Lincoln out of Fox River and goes on the run with a motley crew of escapees in toe. As the group are pursued by the authorities across the country, a conspiracy flirted with in the first season is simultaneously unravelled: Lincoln Burrows was framed as part of scheme concocted by a shadowy and seemingly omnipresent organisation known as The Company, who have tentacles in every strata of society, and murder both indiscriminately and with impunity. The third season placed Michael in a Panamanian prison, whilst the fourth saw the surviving members of the group work to clear their names and bring down The Company; it ended with a flash forward in time to Michael’s funeral. A follow-up feature-length episode told the story of how Michael died whilst breaking into a prison in order to free Sara, who had been imprisoned after the group had been exhonerated.

Returning to the new season, it rapidly resumes the dramatic pace and mystery of its preceding seasons. Michael Scofield has been presumed dead for seven years by brother Lincoln and widow Sara Tancredi (with whom Michael had a son). When one of the show’s most repellent characters, Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell, is released from prison in receipt of mail which appears to show Scofield alive, Lincoln desperately tries to uncover the truth.

Having cracked a cryptic code in the mail – characteristic of his brother’s communications – Lincoln follows his brother’s clue across the internet to Ogygia Prison in Yemen – a place for “heavy hitters, political prisoners: in Yemen, it doesn’t come any worse”, according to Benjamin Miles “C-Note” Franklin, a former Fox River inmate and ally who Burrows goes to for help in travelling to the country. Lincoln digs up his brother’s grave to find it empty, after which someone hacks his electric car, sending him careering off the road into the river – an obvious attempt on his life which, fans of the show will know, means only one thing: someone is trying to hide something. Indeed, Lincoln’s phone call to Sara is cut short as someone breaks into her house, shooting her husband in and being deterred only by incoming police sirens – suspense remain as omnipresent as did The Company in the original series. Meanwhile, an internet search finds photos of Michael to be replaced by the faces of others. As Lincoln puts it, “Someone’s erasing him from history.”

And just like that, Prison Break is back.

Except it doesn’t end there.

As the show would routinely do when it was on form back in its day, it crams a number of twists and turns into a single episode. And this, its fifth season’s premiere, is probably as perplexing and intriguing as that of the first season.

For Lincoln and C-Note travel to Yemen. And they find Michael – alive – in Ogygia Prison. Again donning tattoos, Michael tells his brother from a Yemeni prison cell:

“My name isn’t Michael – and I don’t know who you are.”

Scofield is instead going by the name Kaniel Outis which, according to C-Note, is that of a notorious terrorist affiliated with ISIS. Bizarre, yes; but Prison Break has always delivered this in lashings.

Michael’s emergence is spliced with his son asking mother Sara what his paternal father was like. Michael Scofield, responds his widow, was

“Like a storm; beautiful, frightening and mysterious.”

As daft as the plot appears, the formula remains the same and I – as a big fan of the original series – cannot help but eagerly await to find out where it goes from here.

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