PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Prison Break: An Epitaph

Prison Break wrapped up its fourth and final season on Friday. Here's what happened for those of you who tuned out long ago from one of television's most entertaining (and definitely its most ridiculous) action shows.

Prison Break is over. Three seasons after Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) successfully broke his falsely accused brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) out of Fox River Penitentiary, and two seasons after creators originally intended the show to end, it's done. Well, mostly. Word is that they've cooked up one more two-hour special that takes place between the end of the last episode and it's "4 Years Later" epilogue. But for all intents and purposes, the show wrapped up on Friday night.

Some people have complained that the show lost its momentum in the second season, as the characters got out of prison and separated. Others thought it jumped the shark in the third season, when most of the characters ended up in another prison, this time in Panama. "It got completely ridiculous!" they shout. I submit that the show was always completely ridiculous and that they're remembering season one through rose-colored glasses. Look, I'll admit that the twist at the end of season two that put them back in prison was over-the-top silly, but that was the point where I decided to mostly stop worrying about the logic of the show and just enjoy the twisty thrills it provided on a week-to-week basis. Clearly they had to come up with something when Fox renewed the show past the second season, so they completely embraced the pulp fiction/1940s movie serial-style action that was always bubbling under the surface. Prison Break always packed in the thrills and suspense, and they always knew when to ratchet up the action. This kept the show as an exciting guilty pleasure even when it bent over backwards with the twists.

Season four found the remaining ex-cons banding together against the Company, the shadowy conglomerate behind, well, pretty much everything in the show, starting with framing Lincoln for the murder of the Vice President's brother and sending him to death row as their patsy. The Company had a thing called Scylla, a special device which contained all of their secrets, and most of the season was taken up by Michael and his allies plotting to break into Company headquarters and steal it. Once they acquired it, the double-crosses and betrayals intensified as factions from all over the world attempted to acquire the device. As the finale opened, Michael was in possession of Scylla, but was trapped with an impossible choice. The Company's leader, General Krantz, had Michael's pregnant girlfriend Sara, while Michael's long-lost and very evil mother (Kathleen Quinlan) had his brother Lincoln, who had been shot and was slowly bleeding to death. Both hostage-takers wanted the device, so Michael had to figure out a way to save both people while still holding onto it.

This setup provided a final two-hour jolt of thrills as Michael and Mahone (the excellent William Fitchner) scrambled to save their friends and themselves. As a bonus, the show brought back Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) and C-Note (Rockmond Dunbar) to give Michael a final chance to get Scylla into the right hands. What was really surprising, though, was the return of Kellerman (Paul Adelstein), the evil Secret Service agent last seen eating a bullet at the end of season two. Whatever. Like I said, Prison Break is all about the action -- you just roll with the insanity of the plot twists. In the end, Michael managed to give Scylla to a representative of the UN and gain immunity for all of his friends. As a final topper, the selfish T-Bag (Robert Knepper) ended up right back in Fox River while the General got arrested and received the death penalty for his years of evil conspiracies. Michael and Sara took a walk on the beach together, happy at last. Until Michael got a nosebleed, cueing the return of his degenerative brain condition from earlier in the season. Cut to four years later, and the various characters assemble to take a walk to a small beachside graveyard, where Michael's son lays flowers on top of his grave.

As a longtime fan of the show, I can understand the writers desire to go for the bittersweet ending instead of the straight-up happy ending. And even though I just got finished saying I could roll with every plot twist, no matter how ridiculous, I have to say that this ending was at least mildly annoying. Kellerman's return from off-screen suicide was a bit of a bummer. Not so much because he was back, but because his character's story arc ended really nicely at the end of the second season. But heck, Sara had her head cut off in season three, only to have actress Sarah Wayne Callies agree to return for season four. So in season four it turned out that Sara had actually escaped from her Company tormentors, and the head that Lincoln saw inside of a box was just from a different girl who resembled Sara.

That's the kind of stuff that Prison Break asks us to buy. But Michael's invented brain condition was supposedly completely fixed by the Company's surgeons, who did the same surgery on Michael's mother. His mom was alive and well for 20 years after this surgery, but Michael had a relapse only weeks after his surgery? Even I found that last twist a bit tough to swallow. Still, at least the character died happy (we assume), and every other character in the show got proper closure. So I salute Prison Break for providing four seasons of ridiculous but exciting action and suspense. Now I'll just have to get my fix from TV's other strong action shows; namely 24 (still strong going into season eight), Burn Notice (possibly the most entertaining show on TV), and Leverage (TNT actually managed to come up with a reasonable substitute for Mission Impossible. TNT! I know, I was shocked, too).

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.


Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.


MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.