This direct-to-DVD release has an interesting history. The general story first originated with the announcement that âPrison Breakâ would receive its own spin-off, set in a womanâs prison, provisionally called âPrison Break: Cherry Hillâ. What must have seemed like a good idea at the time of the writersâ strike of 2008, however, must have seemed far less promising once the fourth season numbers came in for âPrison Breakâ itself.
When FOX announced that the fourth season would be the end of the series, the writers still had six episodes left to write. That gave them time to wrap things up, but they wanted an extra couple of episodes to put a final spin on the story of Michael Scofield. The studio was more than happy to put forward the capital for the project, but somewhat foolishly, the network decided not to air these two episodes (âThe Old Ball and Chainâ and âFreeâ).
This is an oddity, to say the least. Despite the fact that the episodes were produced relatively soon after the final episodes of the series, it doesnât have quite the same tone. These episodes feel a bit more isolated and self-contained. Also, the pacing is significantly different from the pace of the fourth season. This story feels rushed, jumping from concept to concept so quickly that they never seem to get the treatment they demand.
At the same time, it feels like the writers had intended the first segment of âThe Old Ball and Chainâ to be the original end of âKilling Your Numberâ, the series finale. Similarly, it feels like the epilogue in âKilling Your Numberâ would have made a bit more sense at the end of âFreeâ (even if this storyâs ending is more than sufficient). It fills in the obvious gaps in the finale, which is what the producers promised.
Which is why it is odd that âFinal Breakâ manages to add details that donât add up. It explains Michaelâs death with a nice twist, explaining precisely why the characters seen in the epilogue of âKilling Your Numberâ were the ones that kept coming back year after year. It provides Mahone with a much better moment of redemption and explains why he would be on such close terms with Lincoln, Sara, and Sucre. And it wraps up a couple of plot threads that were left dangling.
Yet for all that, the finale was definitive because the surviving âgoodâ members of the Escape Squad were free and clear. Kellermanâs amnesty resolved the possibility of anyone being hunted down from that point forward. Forcing Sara into a prison makes sense if and only if her eventual exit places her character, and everyone involved, in the same free and clear status.
This story does not do that. Michael dies in the commission of yet another federal crime, so his exoneration would be null and void. He certainly wouldnât be allowed to be buried by family, which is the only way to explain his tombstone. (And one would think that someone would be watching the tombstone, especially on anniversaries, if any of the gang was an escaped convict or an accomplice to a prison break!)
Sara herself is now legally a fugitive, so how does Michaelâs assertion that she is âfreeâ at the end make any sense at all? Lincolnâs decision to run with Sara, and stay close to Sara and the kid, doesnât mesh with the epilogue either. They donât seem to be anywhere near each other four years after the fact. Mahoneâs involvement would have been very obvious, given that he betrayed the FBI, so how would he remain at all free? And Sucre is right back with his family by the epilogue, so the authorities would clearly know where he was!
Perhaps worse, the inclusion of the General and T-Bag undermines the strength of their final comeuppance in the finale. This may be the Generalâs final gasp of revenge, but it easily could have been some straggler from the Company, which would have kept the Generalâs fate intact. It was important for the General to be left ineffectual at the end; keeping him viable as a villain undermines that. T-Bag came out a little better in terms of proper resolution, but the writers seemed to be forcing the character into the mix.
Not everything is frustrating or counter-productive to the purpose of providing a strong explanation for Michaelâs death and the circumstances of the epilogue. Mahoneâs character arc comes to a better end than presented in the finale, and it was good to see Gretchenâs arc end on a positive note. Given how little time they get to make an impression, the characters in the womenâs prison are quickly distinct. Daddy is a bit too much like a female T-Bag at times, but Lori Petty makes it work well.
If the epilogue in âKilling Your Numberâ had never been shown, this particular coda would have been perfectly fine. It still would have felt a bit rushed, but switching from a season arc format to a direct-to-DVD format has its natural limitations and that would have been easy to forgive. For a such a presentation, this has great production values. Most of the problems are problems of continuity, and considering that the finale and this production came about in roughly the same time period, the discrepancies are hard to swallow.