‘Prison Break’ is Back Baby and, Well, Exactly the Same

After eight years of being off the air, the fifth season of “Prison Break” quickly returns to the story seemingly finished in 2009. The revival is slated to run nine episodes, substantially less than the previous seasons, and is confirmed to be the last season. Featuring constant action, against-all-odds survival, and the same reliable characters, “Prison Break” fails to either impress or disappoint its fans.

The show leaves off with Michael’s apparent death via electrocution, while Sara breaks out of jail in the now ironically titled finale, “The Final Break.” However, as all “Prison Break” fans should have learned over the years, the main characters of “Prison Break” are invincible and apparently immortal. Hence Michael’s survival should come as little surprise.

After a lengthy opening credit scene, channeling many images from the show’s glory days in season one, Michael (Wentworth Miller) appears and says, “Not all deaths are the same. Some are real, some are a story.” Indeed, this story of his deception seems to be the driving factor and sets the tone for the season. Known for his meticulous planning and incredible intelligence, Michael has remained hidden from his friends—not to mention his wife and son—for unknown reasons.

Michael gives the first clue of his survival to, of all people, T-Bag—a sleazy, cunning, double-crossing psychopath—as he leaves jail. T-Bag quickly finds Lincoln, Michael’s muscle-man and impulsive brother, who launches into a mission to uncover the truth. Within minutes, he is followed and attacked by terrorists who are somehow able to car-jack Lincoln’s car and send him flying into a lake, though his front windshield miraculously lacks a scratch. Directly after, the same terrorist group breaks into Sara’s, Michael’s wife, house, shooting her new husband and attempting to kill her and her son, before being deterred by police sirens.

Lincoln then decides to travel to Yemen with a fellow former inmate, and miraculously survives a surprise attack by a group of five terrorists. At the end of the episode, the pair finally finds Michael in—wait for it—a prison. However, he goes under a false name, is known as a terrorist, and refuses to acknowledge his brother and friend. The episode ends with Lincoln crying out to Michael, and Michael blatantly ignoring him.

In addition to the similar plot sequence, the acting is almost exactly the same as in the original series. Robert Knepper’s T-Bag has the same presumptuous tone of voice, threatening stance, and nervous tic that makes the audience quickly weary of his presence. Meanwhile, Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) still acts like a buff jock and fails to exhibit real emotion. Even when digging up his brother’s grave, he fails to give the camera a genuine glance. However, the portrayal of Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies) compellingly depicts utter disillusionment—she is unfazed at the idea of Michael’s survival (a nuanced change from the original show). Overall, more of the same, but in upcoming episodes it will be interesting to see how the main character, Michael, is portrayed, given that he did not play a major role in the first episode.

Why is Michael acting the way he is? Why is he thought of as a terrorist? And most pressingly–why would he allow his family and friends to think he was dead for so long? Those questions will most likely drive the rest of the season forward. Although the episode was entertaining and nostalgic for old fans, its failure to change or adapt will prevent a widening of its viewing base.

Memorialized in our hearts, and also on Netflix, the first season of the show will remain the golden age of “Prison Break,” a time when its plot felt purposeful and fun. Its subsequent seasons, including this one, feel forced into creation by aimless terrorists and unlikely events. There is still hope that the upcoming episodes will reveal a clear and compelling motive behind the plot, but if not, “Prison Break” needs to be given a permanent break.

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