A Case of the…. Prison Break – Episode 3-13

The following comes from my fall finale column, posted on November 20th, 2007:

I can easily see the end of T-Bag’s character occurring at the conclusion of this season (the real finale), either with Michael escaping (and you know the show will follow wherever he goes), leaving T-Bag sitting on his Sona throne, or with T-Bag meeting his maker following an inmate mutiny just as he takes over Lechero’s position. What makes T-Bag’s eventual reign even more enjoyable is the fact that you can clearly see Sammy is trying to do the same, but he’s so much less smooth about it, which will ultimately lead to his failure (and probably his death).

While this may not be the end of his character (that’s to be determined next season), I was pretty spot-on with the rest of my predictions. T-Bag did indeed unseat Lechero as king of Sona in the finale, shortly after Sammy tried to do the same, ultimately leading to his death. Yay me!

One thing I do have to ask, though: In what twisted way does Lechero consider suffocation a quicker death than a bullet to the back of the head?

Anyway, while I did enjoy the season finale of Prison Break, I can’t help but feel like the previous week’s episode (“Hell or High Water”) would have served as a better season ender. Yes, there would have been some unresolved, cliffhanger endings (the biggest of which would have been the lack of a hostage exchange between Michael and Susan B.), but overall it was just such a superior episode.

That minor criticism aside, I think the reason why most fans of the show are willing to deal with a season-long build, with little resolution until the finale, is because it’s just so much fun watching Michael in action. This episode was no exception, as seeing Michael use his cunning to outsmart Susan B. at every turn was golden. I especially loved how she would constantly try to gain back the upper hand, only for him to cut her short at every attempt. Absolutely great stuff.

However, this really does accentuate the differences between him and Lincoln. The latter has been dealing with Susan B. all season and would end up in the submissive position each exchange. The former has a handful of interactions with her in one episode and always ends up on top. Everything from forcing her into the museum (where she had to go through a metal detector) to setting off the security alarm to create a diversion was brilliant.

I suppose the big twist of the season was that The Company didn’t want coordinates from Whistler after all. And he may or may not be bad. I’ll be honest: I didn’t completely follow this particular story arc. This can probably be contributed to a combination of a lot of twists, a few long hiatuses, and the information in general being very vague. Basically, at the end of the episodes I wasn’t saying “No way!” It was more like “Um, okay?” And while I like the idea of Mahone sticking around for another season (he was one of my favorites this year), I am very confused as to why an agent of The Company would work hand in hand with him when just last season (which was what, a few weeks ago in the TV timeline?) wanted him knocked off.

I don’t have much to say about what happened to Sucre other than that I was confused as to why he would agree to dig the hole in the first place. Much like with Lechero, why on earth would Sucre think that being shot in the head is a crueler fate than being buried alive? On top of that, he’d have to go through the agony of digging a hole several feet deep and wide without any gloves, in the scorching hot sun, while wearing pants.

Something really struck me about the finale, and that’s the acting talents of Wade Williams, who plays Bellick. I didn’t watch very frequently the first season, but when he was a prison guard, he was this hard assed tough guy. However, this past season, he’s become so meek and cowardly. Managing to perform at such extreme sides of the spectrum while maintaining character consistency takes a lot of ability. I mean, compare Bellick’s interactions with T-Bag when they were both in Fox River to the finale, when the two of them were in Lechero’s lair. It’s like night and day. I do believe his character should be written off, immediately, but bravo to his performance.

More than anything, the season finale reinforced my main point of contention with the show, which is that it refuses to allow itself to grow out of certain story arcs. The storyline with The Company was quite interesting and even thrilling at first, but going on four years now, it’s just so drawn out that it has dissipated to tediousness. It’s like, “what new twist can we possibly add to ensure that this story continues?” Anybody who doesn’t think the writers have the chops to properly resolve this matter and move onto something altogether new, consider that arguably Prison Break’s most exciting and entertaining season didn’t even involve a prison.

Another example of this inability to grow is the show’s resolve to keep virtually every character on the series, despite many of them either staying well past their welcome, or ignoring natural opportunities for their departure. That’s why I shuddered when Sucre was imprisoned in Sona. Otherwise, it seemed like a fitting end for T-Bone and Bellick’s characters. T-Bone is a sociopath who felt at home in Sona, so making him the king of the castle fit. Bellick was, all in all, a loathsome person who treated people poorly, and thus living the rest of his life in a prison such as Sona was a just fate. If the story ended there, all the viewers would have known is that these two are in Sona, and they’re not getting out. Ever. We may not know the intimate details, but we wouldn’t need to.

But with Sucre detained as well, I can’t help but feel like the writers will insist on continuing a Sona arc to keep the stories with Sucre, T-Bag, and Bellick going. This is bothersome to me because short of being killed, this was the perfect way to write off T-Bag, and Bellick in general no longer serves a purpose. While I like Sucre, and I think it’s a sad ending for a generally selfless person, it may also be somewhat beneficial for the show to have him suffer a fate worse than death in Sona, never to be heard from again. Of all the Fox River escapees, nobody has really paid the price for (a) the crimes they had committed and/or (b) breaking out. C-Note got pardoned, and pretty much everybody else (most of whom were bad people) were executed. Having Sucre – a genuinely good guy – pay a terrible price would really add weight to the severity of what Michael is doing.

Nevertheless, count me in for next season. The idea of separating Michael and Lincoln is intriguing. We’ve seen Michael on the brink of snapping numerous times in the past. It could be fun finally seeing him take the plunge to avenge Sara’s death.

Sir Linksalot: Prison Break