Prison Break Season 5 Review: A Ridiculous Plot is Rescued by Likeable Characters!

Prior to the past two weeks, I had never watched past the series premiere of Prison Break. This wasn’t because there was too much outstanding programming elsewhere in the late 2000s for viewers to fully commit to Fox’s sibling action-drama.

The first episode made me feel as if I had registered, trained for and completed the New York City Marathon in a single day, and then celebrated with a bucket of Nyquil.

Aside from the basic premise — gifted architect brother Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) is sent to the jail he designed to free his wrongfully-convicted brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) — the show did not offer much to pique my interest beyond a perverse curiosity as to how much testosterone each episode would contain.

This is a series in which a well-educated, smart female physician (Sarah Wayne Calles) faces a lengthy prison sentence for the possibility of falling in love with a vaguely handsome, arrogant prisoner and his brother. If one wishes to interpret this as “love conquers all,” that’s fine, but despite all the talk about the importance of family, neither the previous four seasons nor the four episodes of Season 5 made available to critics provide much insight into what keeps Scofield, Burrows, and Calles’ Sara united as a family.


In reality, it is very evident that no one in the writers’ room of this show has ever been really interested in the nuances and labor involved in keeping a family. Rather, “family” and its supposed aspect of loyalty are viewed as the obvious, necessary alternative to the government’s ideologies of utter evil and betrayal.

And despite the apparent interdependence of all these individuals, all we truly know about a character like Sara, outside her fairly inconsequential past, is how she feels about Scofield and Burrows. We do not know her or many of the recurring characters in the series apart from their relationship with these brothers.

Prison Break Season 5 Review
Prison Break Season 5 Review

One may have hoped that an “event series” would address these gravely crippling problems, but if anything, the most recent episodes of Prison Break veer even more toward utter self-serious male fantasies than the first seasons. Burrows is now tasked with getting a resurrected Scofield out of Yemen’s Ogygia jail, however, Scofield appears to have his own escape plans in place.

To the credit of the series creators, the plot begins to develop almost immediately, and each episode maintains a relatively high level of action. Within the first twenty minutes of the season premiere, a car is hacked and driven off the road, and an assassination attempt is made against one of the key characters.

Those seeking adrenaline and perhaps a touch of nostalgia for a series that concluded less than a decade ago will likely find what they need in these eight episodes. Those looking for quality television will certainly be disappointed by what is occurring here.

In a series that requires a certain level of realism, Purcell and Miller are not very skilled. Because The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow are steeped in theatricality, pulp, and even camp, they are significantly more engaging as villains in these two CW series.

In Prison Break, where corporate law, religion, terrorism, and the American family are all key thematic concerns, they are as captivating as a pair of Bruce Willis clones from the Live Free or Die Hard era. Compared to their shenanigans, the drama of Sara’s new husband (Mark Feuerstein) discovering that Scofield has been resurrected and the return of Kellerman (Paul Adelstein) feel contrived to waste time and overcomplicate a monotonous plot.

Indeed, the primary reason this show probably avoids serious consideration of its society and politics is that such complexities would interfere with the more immediate gratifications of having the chaotic world kept at peace by two white, bald, forty-something American brothers who keep theirs.

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And yet, if all of this had more closely resembled the tone of something significantly more humorous and overtly appealing to basic instincts, such as Strike Back, Burn Notice, or Into the Badlands, there would be less reason to complain about it.

Prison Break Season 5 Review
Prison Break Season 5 Review

As the series progresses and the brothers are reunited in Yemen, following the reappearances of Rockmond Dunbar’s C-Note and Robert Knepper’s riotous Bagwell, the overall tone shifts toward A-Team or Dirty Dozen territory, but the show continues to exaggerate the significance and consequences of their actions.

Knepper has a knack for cutting through the self-important, grim-as-hell tone of the series, as well as the imagery that is chopped and created solely to advance the plot, while the other performances dissolve into this ludicrous fiction in the same manner as 24: Legacy. Neither show is capable of displaying self-awareness, giving the impression that they operate only in the domain of fantasy.

One could assume that Prison Break, now an international ordeal, would strive for the same level of technical terminology, knowledge, and pertinent detail as popular international melodramas like as Homeland and The Americans.


The sense of rich, unpredictable character that distinguishes both of these series stands in stark contrast to Prison Break’s harsh impact. Still, the only thing we know for certain about Scofield and Burrows is that they do s*** for each other, and that seems to be the only thing that matters here.

The lack of complexity in their reasoning and the absence of any unforeseen obstacles that they won’t eventually be able to overcome pulls down an already ludicrously obvious plot.

There is an undeniable appetite for this type of brazen posturing, and for all I know, Scofield and Burrows’ return will please a devoted crowd that is eager to see them abroad. My hope is that this will satisfy the show’s most ardent fans’ desire for a revival if only to put a stop to all of this.

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