Saturday, May 16, 2009

'Prison Break' finale review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review the series finale of "Prison Break," and again lament the fact that this couldn't have been a one or two-season series that ended while we all still had good feelings about it.

I'm not gonna do a separate post for the finale itself, so I'll try to bump this up on Friday night so people can discuss it if they want.

26 comments:

Dan said...

PB would definitely have been better off calling it a day after S2, but I quite liked the creativity in getting them thrown into a Panamanian prison for S3. S was the big problem, as the show transformed into an entirely different beast that bore no relation to its own title. Still, if you don't take any of it seriously, it was largely entertaining and silly nonsense. I only really started to grow weary with it after it came back from hiatus with a run of terrible episode and stupid twists.

But, Alan, this isn't even "the end", as there's a DTV movie coming in the summer!

Jennifer said...

I've never missed an episode and I have no idea what Scylla is, either.

Also, Michael is not an architect. He's a strucutural engineer. Don't ask me to explain the difference, because I can't.

I just watch for the pretty.

Jennifer said...

strucutural = structural

Oops.

Yet another anonymous said...

I also stopped watching this show mid season two. I enjoyed the review (though headless people coming back to life seems a lot more Days of our Lives than a primetime show), but I really found interesting your comparison with UK shows.

I watch a pretty fair amount of BBCAmerica, and I like their approach to TV series. Sure, I'm often not ready for certain show to end, but at least they often end at a high point, creatively.

Now, the problem with US shows is often two-fold: shows that go on for too long, and then the shows they cancel without giving much of a chance (and my bitterness about not airing the remaining episodes. I'm looking at YOU, ABC. Though I think Pushing Daisies will be coming back in a few weeks.)

Kerry said...

It was a show that was always elevated by the actors, but was done in by the writers' and producers' lack of imagination and contempt for the viewers. The whole Sara beheaded and brought back to life plot showed that, and now we have the nonsensical resurrection of Christina Scofield and multiple rewritings of the entire series premise.

Dan said...

It helps that TV culture in the UK isn't as focused on ratings (even the non-BBC commercial channels, to some extent.) Of course, it helps that shows are British shows are MUCH cheaper to make, so there's not as much risk. In the US, networks pump millions into their shows and they live or die on how attractive they are for advertisers, on the basis of ratings. Pure and simple.

I can't even think of a UK show that was cancelled because of low ratings that DIDN'T deserve it!

And those that COULD continue for years and years don't because the lead actors or writer/creator get itchy feet by year 2 or 3, and there is rarely usually much determination to keep a show going when that happens. Whereas, as you say, a successful TV series in the US is stretched to breaking point if the audience is there.

Anonymous said...

"In American TV, the money comes from staying on the air as long as possible, by any means necessary."

*cough*Scrubs*cough*

Marty McKee said...

I think if you look at PRISON BREAK like a '40s Republic serial, it...well, it doesn't make more sense...but you may be able to appreciate it as just a wacky thrill ride. I'm pretty sure the absurd plotting is intentionally silly.

The direction and action sequences are extremely good for a prime-time network TV show; if not quite as good as 24, then extremely close (and better lit).

I don't think we're really supposed to know what Scylla was, and I don't think it makes any difference. It's just a McGuffin.

I'd love to have seen a Season 5, because I'm genuinely curious to know what the hell the writers could come up with.

HarrySTruman2 said...

At some point they tried to become 24...and Heroes!

Anonymous said...

Originally Scylla was posited as the Company's little black book, and was going to be used by Homeland Security (embodied by the never entertainin anymore MIchael Rappaport)to get rid of the moles in government and business and bring the company down. The keys to accessing Scylla were in the hands of six higher up operatives. At the time, all sorts of people wanted Scylla so they could sell it for a quarter billion dollars.

It was then revealed that Scylla wasn't just the Company's roster, but was the device that stores all of their secrets, including technologies that they have been researching and keeping for themselves.

Michael and Linc's mom managed to steal Scylla from the people that stole it from the people that stole it from the people that stole it from Michael, who stole it, and sold it to the son of the Indian Prime Minister for completely altruistic reasons (they were going to use the solar technology they developed to stop their dependency on fossil feuls) and then framed Linc for assasinating him so that his father would decide to use the technology for military reasons. She also had it implied that it was the Chinese that paid Linc to do it, which is silly, because he was exonerated for killing the Vice PResident's brother and would be a horrible choice for a paid assasin, as he is kinda famous for being a part of the Fox River 8 two years ago.

Anyhoo, Momma also plans to sell the technology to the Chinese and anyone else who wants to keep up with the superpowers as she sends the planet into world war 3 for fun and profit.

And Michael had his tattoos removed. I know they were useless at this point and a bitch to recreate all the time, but DAMMIT!

Ben K. said...

I also stopped watching "Prison Break" because of its incredible ridiculousness. But what's interesting is how closely the plot followed so many other thriller-style TV series:
1. The main character (or characters) is recruited into a strange situation, and seems to have unique powers for dealing with it.
2. The situation turns out to be related to a vast conspiracy.
3. The people on his side can't be trusted.
4. The people working against him have complex motives (and will eventually try to recruit the main character).
5. A mysterious person helps him.
6. The mysterious person turns out to be a presumed-lost parent or other family member.
7. The main character, who thought he got into the weird situation randomly, turns out to have been born into it somehow.
8. More family members turn up on the good and/or evil sides.
9. The main character is almost killed.
10. After coming close several times, the character eventually prevails, and finds the artifact/solves the mystery/learns what it all means.
11. Except that turns out to be only part of the mystery, and it opens the door to an even vaster conspiracy.
12. And so on, for as long as the show manages to stay on the air.

I can count dozens of shows that have followed a similar pattern. (Hello, "Chuck" and "Fringe"!) In fact, I think I'll start a writing seminar....

Marty McKee said...

Any idea what timespan the entire series takes place in? From first episode to last, how long? This season appears to have taken place over no more than maybe a couple of weeks? You'll notice that no one ever eats or sleeps, and that almost every scene takes place during daylight.

I could talk PB for hours. I think it's a fascinating guilty pleasure, and I suspect it may well turn into a cult series sometime down the line. Fox must have thought highly of it to make it the first (or one of the first) TV series to get a Blu-ray release.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Marty, there's a scene near the end of the finale that makes the show's timespan pretty explicit.

Marty McKee said...

Ben K., THE X-FILES may be long canceled, but its legacy lives on among TV producers. I don't think there's an hour drama on television that hasn't been inspired in some way by it.

Thanks for the heads-up, Alan!

Billiam said...

Personally, I enjoyed season 2 more than many did, but felt it was painfully obvious that season 2 was orignially intended to be the end (as the creators confirmed in interviews). Putting them in a new prison just felt so contrived, and I skipped out on most of season 3. I did however mostly like the way they re-envisioned season 4 as a heist sort of show. But I felt it could pretty easily have ended about halfway through (instead of having Rappaport betray them and setting off a new chain of events).

foodie_cristi said...

I loved the first seson of Prison Break. But I, too, lost the stomach for it in Season 3. Too bad, too. The characters are very memorable and in my opinion, the show was well cast. I will watch the finale just to see how this whole unbelievable thing comes together in the end...

Jennifer said...

Well, now that it is over, I am sad and oddly satisfied.

I appreciated the jump forward into the future--I think it provided some nice resolution. I didn't care for all of the resolution, but some of it was really nice to see.

I am so glad some characters showed back up for the finale. It was a fun ride, and I will miss it.

I have watched faithfully since the beginning, and even got to be on set for a scene and I own a small piece of the Taj Mahal Scofield made in the first season, so seeing the end was bittersweet. Since I always regarded it as a bit of a fantasy (T-Bag surviving the amputation was the thing that pushed me over the edge on that), I didn't mind the ridiculousness of the recent plots.

Mike F said...

This was an excellent show in season one, especially the first half of season one...and that's how I choose to remember it...

Enjoyed the finale to some extent because consequences become more real for the characters...which they haven't been since season one.

In some respects, I felt like Prison Break jumped the shark in a similar manner to Alias...where deaths weren't really deaths, changing sides happened so often you no longer cared about sides, and the show was reduced to the bare attractiveness of its leads and its ability to produce an action sequence...all show runners doing shows heavy in mythology should be forced to watch both shows to learn from their hideous mistakes

BigTed said...

Now that I've seen the finale (after not watching the show for two years), it ended on as much of a random note as ever. The people Michael decides to trust in the end (formerly duplicitous and murderous agent Kellerman and an anonymous UN official) turn out to actually be trustworthy, but they could easily have just have been working for more bad guys. (When Michael asks, "Just how exactly does this UN guy have the power to solve all our problems?," the question is never adequately answered.) Their troubles come to an end because the show is over, not because there's any good reason for it.

Then when it's all over, Michael gets the sniffles -- which any soap-opera viewer knows means he's doomed. I guess that's supposed to be extra-dramatic, but it just seems as silly as everything else.

Anonymous said...

people... it's just television, all you have to is to turn your tv off and move on with your lifes.
If you think you can do better why don't you get your own productions company or write down your own ideas...

Anonymous said...

Okay, I feel pathetic, but I"m really sad that Michael died. I thought the company had cured him.


I know the show's plot had gotten ridiculous, and the season finale was just as illogical as ever, but I got attached to those stupid guys.


It's sad enough that the series ended, did they have to make it worse by killing him off. Why couldn't they just let him live?

Anonymous said...

Like a lot of folks I loved season 1 and watched season 2 despite being upset about the direction the show was taking. I tried to watch the first episode of season 3 and I just lost interest.

Just watching tehe finale it was pretty entertaining. I was obviously missing out on what had happened on the 2nd half of the series, but the actors were good despite the material and it was cool to see their endings. And I was sad to see Mike pass on after all he had gone through lol!

I have the first season on dvd and if you ever need something to watch its worth going back and watching again the first season was excellent

GabbyD said...

you were born a scoufield and you'll die a boroughs...

hahaha -- cheesiest line evah!

goodbye PB! loved the first season...

Craig Ranapia said...

Dear God of TV:

Please get William Fichtner a gig in a show that 1) doesn't suck, blow and urinate on the carpet, and 2) lasts longer than a season.

I've no problem with 'this is so bad it's kinda good' guilty pleasures, but 'Prison Break' not only got super-silly, but I ended up wondering if anyone actually gave a damn anymore.

Anonymous said...

What's up with you people. Prison Break is the best series to grace the telly. Every episode left you wanting to watch the next immediately thats called good tv. And people keep saying the 3 seasons after the 1st were not about Prison Break but that is the initial title. We can't change this. The only thing I will say is that I was a bit dissapointed that after 4 seasons it ended pretty sudden with Kellerman of all people being the man to end it all.
All in all though I loved this programme although not sure i can forgive the writers for killing Michael just as everyone was happy they had finsihed the job they started. Idiots left me feeling robbed!! Anyway get on with writing something new as Big Bang Theory has just finished as well and I've also just finished my Sopranos box set.

Carrie said...

Anonymous, don't feel pathetic. I was really, really sad Michael died. Now that has just given way to anger. I'm annoyed I wasted so long on the series just waiting for Michael to get a happy ending, and then he dies. I know he's a tragic character, but seriously. Did they need to kill him? I'm watching a silly action show here, not a Shakespearean tragedy.

I am more attached to the Michael Scofield character than I realized, I suppose. The show was tremendously silly over the years, but I always enjoyed watching Michael MacGyver his way out of sticky situations. I guess he couldn't MacGyver his way out of brain cancer in the end. Sigh.