The Regularly Scheduled TV Show Blog

Monday, September 05, 2005

Prison Break, Episodes 1-3

When I saw the ads for Prison Break this summer, I'll admit my interest was piqued. I mean, the premise is good. For those of you in the dark, it goes a little bit like this: A prisoner, Lincoln Burrows, is wrongly convicted of a crime and is going to be put to death in about a month's time. His brother, Michael Scofield, has fought in court to get his brother's sentence overturned. After the last appeal and the date of Burrow's execution had been set, Scofield decides that the only way to help his brother is to break him out. Scofield then holds up a bank, gets convicted of armed robbery and is thrown into the same jail as his brother. Pretty convenient.

As I said before, the premise got me. However, as the episodes come, I'm feeling a bit letdown. Things are just falling into place too easily and it just seems a bit unrealistic. The first thing that I noticed is the extreme ease at which Scofield finds his contacts within the prison walls. By the end of the first episode, we have the Mob connection (Abruzzi) who is supposed to supply Scofield with the plane he needs once he breaks out, we have the inside connection who can get him anything (C-Note), and the warden in his pocket (Pope). All by the end of the first week in prison, a.k.a. the end of the first episode. I don't know much about prison, but I'm pretty sure that you don't make life changing and prison breaking connections in the first week. But for the sake of argument, we're going to let those slide, since without those guys, we'd have a pretty boring show about a guy digging out of the prison.

Ahh, that leads me to one of the most intriguing aspects of the show, which I feel is the strongest points of the show. How Scofield is planning to get out of the prison. At the beginning of the pilot episode, Scofield is in a tattoo parlor where he is finishing up his body tattoo. The tattooer remarks, "Most people take a few years for this kind of tattoo", to which Scofield remarks, "I don't have a few years." When I first saw this, I thought it just meant he needed tattoos to make him seem like a hardcore prisoner and to give himself some cred when he entered the prison. Boy was I wrong! At the end of the first episode, Scofield shows his brother the tattoo which, as it turns out, are blue prints of the prison. Talk about a nice twist! But it doesn't end there.

In the second episode, Scofield has a mirror up to one of his tattoo's which shows up as SCHWEITZER ALLEN 11121147, which as it turns out, is a screw in one of the benches. The show goes through the tribulations and obstacles that Scofield must endure to obtain the screw (which is a race war/riot, a really poorly done race commentary that really could have been done much better). After all the ruckous, Scofield is shown in his cell with the screw. He begins to sharpen it, and at then end of the sequence, he measures it against a mark on the tattoo. When he realizes that it fits, he smiles, crawls behind the toilet, and begins to unscrew the toilet bolt. Another one of those great moments that I was hoping for from a prison escape show. I just hope these keep coming and it doesn't begin to bog down in these horrible relationships with the other prisoners. I'm all for a relationship driven show, as long as it's done well. But when it's done just to have some relationships, it bogs down the story. Which leads me to my last point.

Sucre. That's Scofield's cellmate, and from what I've seen so far, not much of a criminal since all he ever does when he is on screen is whine about his girlfriend and about how much he misses her. It's quite possibly the most one-dimensional TV show character of all time. All that he is there for is to whine about his girlfriend and about how he misses her, etc etc etc. Don't get me wrong, I'm no misogynist. But his character is just drawn out, and since all his scenes are about him whining about his girlfriend, we know that vulnerablility will play into the breakout somehow. The foreshadowing is just horrible.

In the latest episode, Scofield thinks it's time to test his cell mate and his loyalty. So, in plain view of Sucre, he places what seems to be a cellphone in a conspicuous place, and warns him not to tell. He then has his brother, Burrows inform a guard that Sucre knows about a cellphone. The guard interrogates Sucre, but Sucre doesn't talk. Why the hell wouldn't he talk? Because of some overwhelming loyalty to Scofield? No, he wants to use the phone to talk to his girlfriend of course! Shoddy, shoddy, and weak. When Scofield shows Sucre that the cellphone was just a bar of soap used to test Sucre's loyalty and that they need him to break out of the prison, Sucre flips out and asks for a reassignment of his cellblock. Nice try Scofield! This whole episode was very shoddy and weak, which was supposed to be held up by the character of Sucre. But since his character is so weak, the episode itself implodes. At the end of the episode, Scofield has a new insomniac cellmate, so he can't attempt to dig out at night. Ta-da! Removing Sucre added a whole new layer of drama and made the show even better! No more whining about the girlfriend.

For those of you who are interested in the conspiracy aspect of the show, don't be. It's your usual government official in the shadows conspiracy, and as of yet, I've seen nothing to make me believe that is going to change. So, don't worry about that part of the show, you're not missing much. It's too cliched to add any substance to the show. Also, don't worry too much about the development of the characters such as Burrow's son, the lawyer friend and her fiance (which is a horrible side story by the way), or even the Warden, since Hell, he hasn't played a role with Scofield since the first episode. For now, focus on what is good about the show, Scofield and all the cunning he has developed to break himself and his brother out of the prison. In all, it's a good enough show, but I was hoping for so much more when I first started watching. And by the third episode, it's already losing steam. I just hope they can keep the excitement levels up to keep viewers piqued. For now, I will continue to watch it, but the level of anticipation is definitely waning.

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