Wednesday, January 31, 2007

If ever there was a show with no memorable quotes, this is it – Prison Break

Spoilers, if you care.

It has become very difficult to get excited about Prison Break over the course of its second season. At first, I was hugely excited at the prospect of a runaway thriller sprawled across a whole ensemble (not to mention the whole of America) and lasting twenty-two episodes. The first few episodes were exactly what I had been hoping for: as entertaining as the show’s first season, but with a considerably racked up pace.

However, this proved impossible to maintain. Not only has the pace of the show buckled, the writers seem to be under the mistaken impression that any of the show’s characters, other than Michael and Kellerman, are in any way compelling or sympathetic. Sucre and C-Note, the romantics of the group, are perfect examples. They've spent fifteen episodes chasing their true loves; that could have made a decent jumping off point, but streching it over the whole season is dullness defined – who actually cares about these relationships? In last night’s episode, Sucre’s scenes consisted entirely of him stealing a kind old man’s car. This is Prison Break, not freakin' Waiting for Godot.

Come to think of it, the show actually has three romantics running about. T-Bag has spent the the entire season so far searching for the Hollander family, which he longs to be a part of. It’s an astonishingly lazy direction for the character, and any shred of menace left in T-Bag is now a distant memory; the guy just doesn’t work outside of a prison setting. Brad Bellick, meanwhile, barely deserves mentioning - although Wade Williams has proven himself a very capable actor, no-one could draw anything interesting out of the assorted insults and catcalls Bellick constantly drawls.

The only truly interesting characters, tellingly, are the ones who hide every shred of their personalities. Fichtner’s Alexander Mahone is a decent villain and an always arresting presence, despite the heavy-handed attempts at humanizing him. He pales in comparison, however, to Ex-Agent Kellerman, who has become the show’s best character. This is mostly down to Paul Adelstein, whose startling intensity and inexorable charisma have carried Kellerman through even the show’s most ridiculous conceits. Having him defect to the good guys was one of the few clever storylines season two has offered up.

Which brings us to Michael and Lincoln. Wentworth Miller’s work this season has been stellar; somehow he continues to overcome the pathetic plotting and impress me. He and Purcell also make an engaging duo thanks to believable chemistry. Sadly, that's where the positives end. The Burrows plotline is going round in circles: they continue to allude Mahone, but any and all of their attempts to bring down The Company are thwarted within an episode or two. It gets frustrating, fast. Throwing Kellerman into the mix was an undeniably smart move, but it’s quickly proving too little, too late.

I had planned to spend more words on the developments in Monday’s episode, The Message’, but this rant has gone on longer than I’d planned so I’ll just mention one thing. This week saw the return of Haywire (Silas Weir Mitchell) who has been trying, unsuccessfully, to build a raft. So he can go to Holland. That’s it. And I swear to god, that storyline does not feel slow in comparison to the others. Sigh.

Next week: why it's time to bring John Abruzzi back from the dead. Anything's possible on Prison Break, right?

1 comment:

Todd VanDerWerff said...

The storyline where Haywire is trying to build a boat to the Netherlands may be the greatest storyline on any show ever. Because he's doing so on the shore of Lake Michigan. With a dog. And a hat. Good luck there, Haywire!

But, yeah. I don't know why I'm still watching this. Good thing Sucre ran into a kindly Mexican, apropos of nothing! None of these characters make any sense outside of a prison setting, and that makes the show all the more laughable.

That said, since the first two seasons were, ostensibly, PLANNED OUT, I'm hoping that the following seasons, for which there is no plan, turn ever more gloriously random. More Haywire, less T-Bag!