Prison Break Season 4
Recurring character(s): Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), Don Self (Michael Rapaport), Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies), Fernando Sucre (Amaury Nolasco), Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell (Robert Knepper), Alex Mahone (William Fichtner), Gretchen Morgan (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe)
Original air date(s): 09/01/2008 to 12/22/2008; 04/17/2009 to 05/15/2009
DVD Date: 06/02/2009
Running Time: 965 minutes
Note(s): This fourth season consists of 22 episodes plus a special 2 episode finale prequel, released separately, but included in this review.
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Review: This fourth — and final — season of Prison Break involves, at best, a metaphorical prison, one in which the characters are trapped and must escape by performing a series of daring deeds. Most of the previous seasons' characters return, some quite unexpectedly — including Sara, who was written out as having been killed last season — but also introduces a couple of new ones.
New this season is FBI Special Agent Don Self, who recruits — some might say blackmails — the team to take down The Company, the organization that arranged for Lincoln Burrows to be imprisoned in the first place and which caused his brother, Michael Scofield, to break him out. The key to The Company's power is something called "Scylla", a computer device of some sort that, at least initially, has some sort of awe-inspiring capabilities. (I suspect even the writers didn't know what to make of Scylla at this point in the season, though we eventually learn that it can be used to develop an unlimited source of clean energy.) In order to obtain Scylla, they need to get hold of six "keys" that, when used in combination, will unlock it from its secure location.
Of course everything that can go wrong does go wrong, but the early episodes in this season feature the ingenuity and clever schemes — mostly devised by Michael — that were a hallmark of the first season. But it also showcases how irrelevant the character of his brother Lincoln is. I still can't quite figure out why he wasn't written out of the series two seasons ago, as the actor who plays him never seems fully engaged in the part and actually seems put out that someone is directing him to say, or more usually mumble, his lines.
About midway through the season, much of the cleverness disappears and the episodes become action-oriented, with one chase scene after another. These scenes become so routine that it allows the viewer to ponder how preposterous some of the action really is. People regularly show up out of nowhere at the last minute to either save — or ruin, as the case may be — the day. And it is about this point as well that loyalties begin significantly shifting, and it takes a cheat sheet to keep track who is working for whom, and whether or not they're doing so because they want to or because they've been coerced to. That's not necessarily a bad thing from a plot perspective, but a lot of the motivations seem suspect (or flimsy).
It all starts to come together (again) when Michael gets his hands on Scylla and begins to negotiate with everyone involved for an exchange: Scylla for this or that, depending on who he's talking to. He has his own agenda, of course, and that's what makes it interesting. But it's all for naught, when an all but forgotten character materializes from the past and offers Michael a deal he cannot refuse. It's all rather anti-climactic.
The series ends with a scene four years from date of this final deal, showing the fate of most of the primary characters.
If the final episode seems a bit rushed, apparently others thought so as well. A special two-part "prequel to the finale" was produced, titled Prison Break: The Final Break. (I don't think this final episode ever aired on Fox and was a direct-to-DVD release, but I could be wrong.) The premise of this special returns the series to its roots, with Michael breaking Sara out of prison for a crime that she committed, but for which everyone thought she had been given immunity against. It is actually quite good on its own merits, and for anyone watching the fourth season, it should not be overlooked as it does provide some continuity that is missing from the complete season itself.
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