*ing: Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Sarah Wayne Callies, Paul Adelstein, Rockmond Dunbar, Robert Knepper, Amaury Nolasco, Mark Feuerstein, Inbar Lavi, and Augustus Prew
With the American television industry suffering from a concerning outbreak of revival fever, several ended and cancelled series have been rising from the dead in order to reunite viewers with familiar names and faces. But after delivering their initial hit of nostalgia, few of these shows have been able to sustain the giddy joy of their return and actually given their audiences a satisfying, solid season that would validate their resurrection.
The Fox drama originally ran for four seasons that got progressively worse. It started out with an interesting, gripping first season – which told the story of a man, Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), who tries to break his wrongfully-convicted brother, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), out of prison – and then went downhill from there as the writers struggled to keep the series alive with increasingly convoluted, ridiculously preposterous developments.
The show eventually wrapped up in 2009, tying up its loose ends with a TV movie. The ending it left us with felt quite final – Michael, the last episode told us, was dead, and so was the series. But the revival tells us a different story.
Seven years after his supposed demise, we find that the show’s tattooed protagonist is – fatal brain tumour and electrocution be damned – alive and well but locked up in yet another prison. And in a reversal of roles, this time it’s Lincoln’s job to help his younger brother.
Clues emerge, starting with a photo and cryptic message received by newly released jail bird T-Bag (Robert Knepper), that Michael is incarcerated in a slammer in Yemen, leading Lincoln and his fellow Fox River escapee C-Note (Rockmond Dunbar) to travel to the ISIS-ravaged region, find the missing Michael, and figure out how to get him out of his predicament.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Michael’s wife Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies), who is now married to academic Jacob (Mark Feuerstein), tries to come to terms with the fact that the man she loved and lost is still alive. But she soon finds herself being hunted by hitmen – A&W (Marina Benedict) and Van Gogh (Steve Mouzakis) – who work for the mysterious Poseidon, the man who has something to do with Michael’s disappearance.
It is a testament to the powers of nostalgia that these characters have been able to add another chapter to their stories, but even the excitement of their return can’t mask just how ridiculous the whole plot is. Separating the characters into two sets, with one group in the U.S. and the other in the Middle East for much of the season, wasn’t the show’s best idea, especially since the Yemen arc is a drag. Things get a little better towards the end when the action consolidates at one location, but the events always range from patently silly to laughably ridiculous.
It’s a good thing, though, that the season generally proceeds at a brisk pace, because if you get the chance to think about pretty much any plot point for about 10 seconds, it all starts to unravel. Sure, realism was never a hallmark of Prison Break, but it gets exhausting when a drama constantly requires its viewers to suspend disbelief to a ludicrous degree.
What keeps the season afloat despite the terrible writing weighing it down is the camaraderie between the cast. Most of the main actors have reprised their roles for the resurrection. Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell in particular add poignancy to the reunion of their characters and the bond between the brothers. The newcomers, however, don’t fare as well, since almost none of their characters are given much depth. The villains, especially, are disappointing, and it is fairly easy to figure out who the mysterious bad guy is very early on.
But while it may all be very contrived and predictable, the season does do at least one thing right: it gives us some closure. Season five primarily seems to exist to give (some of) the characters the happy ending they were previously denied, and even though it doesn’t capture the suspense or excitement of its debut season, the Prison Break revival still leaves us with a finale that is likely to please fans of the show, while gently telling everyone that it’s time to let this series go.