Prison Break 4.1: "Scylla"

For many fans, the third season was a pale retread of the first (and still best) season. It seems fitting, then, that the fourth season begins with a premise that feels like a pale retread of the second season. There are enough variations to keep the show interesting, but as one character eventually puts it, “we’re a long way from where we all began”.


The end of the third season left quite a bit unresolved, thanks to the effects of the writers’ strike. I can’t reconcile the notion that this is where the story would have evolved had the third season continued to its intended length. Even setting aside the change of heart regarding Sara Tancredi, too much of the third season status quo is erased. This premiere feels like a producer’s concession to a network, and if the final product is any indication, those concessions were fairly substantial.


That said, the writers did about as good a job as one could hope under those circumstances. The dirty job of adjusting the premise was completed within the first hour, setting up the key conflict without straying too far from the established continuity. The Company’s activities make relative sense, and it’s possible that this aspect of the third season plot never changed substantially. I’m not sure that it makes sense for Whistler’s importance to amount to something so basic, but the show has required greater leaps of faith.


For example, there is the much-discussed return of Sara in this episode, which is one of the most bald-faced retcons I’ve seen in a very long time. The producers and writers never bothered to pretend that the issue would be handled creatively; everything they “hinted” in the initial press interviews in the spring was directly used in the final script to explain her return. Oddly enough, as ridiculous as it seems, it didn’t bother me all that much in the episode itself. This is “Prison Break”, after all!


I was more annoyed by the off-screen resolution to the Sona plot thread. I understand the financial issues that undoubtedly emerged; the move from Texas to Los Angeles was all about saving money on locations. That said, the writers handled the situation badly by coming up with a ridiculous work-around. After all Michael had to do to escape Sona in the third season, three supporting characters escape more or less unscathed when the prison burns down after a riot? Talk about undercutting an entire season’s rationale!


On the other hand, I like the idea of Michael leading a “black ops” team against the Company, underwritten by a questionable agent at Homeland Security. It puts a conclusion to the series within reach, since one can reasonably imagine how this scenario could play out in Michael’s favor. It all feels designed to wrap everything up in one last thrilling season, and if that’s the idea, then I’m for it.


This is especially true when it appears that I will finally get my wish: Michael and Mahone working together. The writers spent too much time in the second season setting them up as equally damaged geniuses to ignore the potential. Adding Sara into the mix on a permanent basis is another smart move. I have no issue with Sucre and Lincoln joining the squad, but I’m deeply tired of Bellick. The less said about the new guy, the better.


As far as the rest of the cast goes, Michael Rappaport should be fine as Michael’s boss, and after a disappointing third season, T-Bag might actually have a substantial plot arc. He’s always been best as Michael’s adversary (and occasional worrisome ally). I’m a bit more concerned with the new Company assassin. Kellerman was great in the first season, and Mahone was inspired. Susan was less than perfect in the third season, however, and that trend threatens to continue. Right now, the assassin is clever, but he’s still a blank slate with little personality.


I don’t believe that this season will bring the series back to its first

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Sep 8, 2008 7:10AM EDT

Definitely echo your annoyance by the Sona storyline, its very frustrating as it they could have easily created a more believable and satisfactory ending to Sona if they had just taken the time. Just seems lazy to say there was a fire, and really undermines Season 3
Great review, agree with what you say, I personally feel its about time Sucre got a happy ending similar to C-Notes in Season 2, where he just goes off with his family.

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