Bang and Burn
Under & Out
Hell or High Water
The Art of the Deal
The third season of Prison Break brings the action back inside the claustrophobic confines of a prison – this time a Panaman, high security one surrounded by a bleak landscape of barren rock and desert. There’s fewer episodes this season too, helping to keep the action focused and moving at a swift pace. With clear intent to bring the series back to its roots, season 3 feels like a lite version of the excellent season 1 and despite its best intentions, can’t quite reach the same lofty heights the first season of the show reached.
After Michael (Wentworth Miller) ends up imprisoned in SONA, Panama along with returning characters T-Bag (Robert Knepper), Alex Mahone (William Fichtner) and Bellick (Wade Williams), a fight for survival ensues as the inmate-run prison threatens to overwhelm the returning characters. The higher stakes are shown to brutal effect – frequent fighting, corruption and the isolated location all combine to make things harder than ever for Michael to try and concoct an escape plan. After what starts as a relatively tense first half, the tension does dissipate a little and settles into a more consistent rhythm. With Lincoln working hard to try and find legal means to get Michael transferred to a US prison, the interesting reversed dynamic of seeing Lincoln try and free Michael rather than the other way round is a welcome change of pace.
With some new faces joining the cast this year, the returning characters take on some new roles which helps to differentiate the pace and tone from previous seasons. The orange and brown colour scheme that dominate the prison sequences further accentuate the far cry from season 1 and seeing Bellic’s fall from the top prison officer in season 1 to the bottom of the pecking order of the prisoners is interesting and brings a really good dynamic to the character. He’s the guy you love to hate but there’s times where his character garners a more sympathetic response, helping to flesh his character out. Mahone’s drug addition comes to light too and the full effects of this are explored in a decent sub plot but aside from those two characters, the majority of the cast play familiar roles and take on their personas with little change to the past few years.
Despite its best intentions and the changing locale, colour palette and dynamics for some of the characters, you can’t help but feel that Prison Break is a show that’s running a little thin on ideas. Its not that the season is bad, far from it, the action is entertaining and the episodes zip by quickly with an action-orientated focus and high stakes drama. The trouble is, where does the show go from here? With multiple prison break outs and being kept in prison for extended times over the past 3 seasons, the show feels like its recycling the same idea whilst trying to up the stakes each time. With a fourth season green-lit, it’ll be interesting to see what direction the show takes but right now it feels like a show that’s lost the charm and excitement that kept its action fresh in the first season.
Overall, season 3 of Prison Break does make for some exciting television. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for with its shortened length and quick pace that helps to keep this action-packed season grounded and focused on the prison itself. Some of the supporting cast are given new material to work with this year and regardless of the familiar roles the main cast take up again, the acting is good all round. Whilst season 3 might not be the return to form for Prison Break, it still ticks the boxes to justify its existence, even if it feels overly familiar for vast periods of its length.
Verdict - 7/10