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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Prison Break: "Orientacion" + "Fire/Water"

Illustration for article titled Prison Break: Orientacion + Fire/Water
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Illustration for article titled Prison Break: Orientacion + Fire/Water

I don't know anybody else that watches Prison Break, or maybe the ridiculous drama just isn't something that comes up in casual conversation. Maybe it's a guilty pleasure, but I didn't feel any guilt watching the first two seasons. Sure, the story was completely outlandish, but in 40-some episodes, the creators spun an incredibly entertaining story. Season One: Michael Scofield breaks his brother, Lincoln—serving time, of course, for a crime he didn't commit—out of prison utilizing his super-intelligence and experience as an architect. Season Two: Michael, his brother, and a gang of other prisoners go on the run, most ending up in Panama with proof of Michael's brother's innocence. All wrapped up neatly. Michael gets the girl. Lincoln gets his son back. Bad guys—including a hilarious child-murderer called T-Bag—get their comeuppance.

So what to do with Season Three? The implausible conspiracy is wrapped up, so why not invent a new one? Michael starts the season in a Panamanian jail called Sona, which is run by the prisoners; the guards have retreated to the fence line and simply kill anyone who comes out. Joning him, of course, is a cast of people that were in his original jail, including T-Bag, evil guard Bellick, and a CIA agent played by terrific character actor William Fichtner. Just when it looks like Michael is on track to be released and start a new life with his girlfriend—the implausibly beautiful prison doctor who helped him escape—another bomb is dropped. Some powerful cabal (another one!) has kidnapped Michael's nephew and girlfriend, and if he doesn't help another inmate escape from this new prison in a week, they're dead.

Yep, that's pretty stupid. But it's just stupid enough to keep watching—at least for now. The scenery chewing in Prison Break is generally entertaining, and the acting is actually good. (Past bit players have included Peter Stormare, Stacey Keach, and Robin Tunney—not A-listers, to be sure, but good at what they do. This season, the prison is run by Robert Wisdom, who fans of The Wire will know as "Bunny" Colvin.)

Grade: B-

Stray Observations

— It looks like the producers have wised up enough to lose some of the multiple plotlines that dragged the story down. Michael's old cellmate, Sucre, finally decides to let his lady live her own life and just help Michael. (Probably.)

— Even in boiling-hot Panama, Michael Scofield wears long-sleeved shirts. Perhaps so he doesn't have to get the full-body tattoos—essential to Season One—applied every day?

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