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Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Best TV Series of My Life: Prison Break (2004 - 2007; 2017)

Historically, I haven't been much of a television viewer, so this new feature may not be that long. But truthfully, I don't know. Once you get to thinking about your favorite series, thinking there can't be too many of them, you might end up, as I did when I thought of my favorite dance music, coming up with all sorts of candidates.

I agree with Kye in that we are now enjoying a new golden age of television, especially with the advent of streaming. Producers, directors, and writers have been largely freed to experiment, and the result has been, for viewers at least, glorious. Technology has allowed producers to "cinematize" individual shows so that episodes feel like big-budget movie productions. I remember a time when big stars didn't deign to "do television"; now it seems television is the thing to do.

I didn't watch Prison Break until the show had run its course and ended, probably around 2009. It's an edge-of-your-seat series, especially the first two seasons, very tightly written, with excellent casting and gritty, in-your-face episodes. Ramin Djawadi is the show's composer, and he really does a fantastic job keeping you locked in, even from the start:

Djawadi went on to compose for Game of Thrones, Person of Interest, and Westworld. He's the shit.

Prison Break is, of course, about a prison break. It centers on the efforts of Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) to free his wrongfully accused brother, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), from death row. To do this, he holds up a bank with no intentions of not being caught, which he is. Sent to the same prison as Lincoln, he sets his plans in motion, aided by a body tattoo, one that, in the details, maps the prison's blueprints and other important information.

Scofield is a structural engineer who just happened to be working at the firm that retrofitted the prison some years earlier. He's a genius who devotes, in essence, his life to saving his brother. Very compelling.

Of course, there are many roadblocks along the way, and many who work tirelessly to derail Scofield, whether or not they know they are doing so. One of them is a killer named Theodore ("T-Bag") Bagwell, a twangy, trailer trash-spawned, pedophilic, Southern-fried monster played brilliantly by Robert Knepper. T-Bag is one of those characters you just love to hate, and so, when the series concluded, I decided to begin my own fan-fiction story about him.

Here's one of my favorite scenes.

It's T-Bag at his best (worst): hanging back and letting others do the dirty work whenever possible.

The thing about T-Bag that makes him especially compelling to me is that he is, falteringly and slowly, and with many setbacks, earnestly trying to become a better if not redeemed man.

There are many other great actors in this series, but one more who really stands out is William Fichtner, who plays Alex Mahone, a compromised FBI agent who comes on the scene after season one, and who is tasked to bring in the "Fox River Eight," those who, with Scofield, managed to break out. He is also tasked to kill them by his shadowy overlords, unbeknownst to most. Here's a great phone confrontation between him and Scofield.

The series ran until 2007, but a fifth season aired in 2017. Between the two there was Prison Break: Final Break, and a number of shorts, which attempted to tie up loose ends from the original story arc, and to make amends, I believe, for the original series' horrific ending. Season five is well worth your time, even if you, like me, didn't watch any of the extras. It puts a much better wrap on matters than the original ending.