In an age of television revivals perhaps the most anticipated of the lot is Prison Break. Great in its heyday, lacklustre in its final seasons, Prison Break was THE perfect escapist television. The sort you can sit down and watch, without really paying attention, for hours on end. It never required the viewer to think.
Eight years later and Prison Break is back. Did it need to return? No, probably not.
Spoilers to follow
Don’t get me wrong, I’m EXTREMELY excited to be watching new Prison Break (as a side note, how surreal does it feel to be watching brand new episodes?!), but based on this premiere there’s nothing new being brought to the table. ‘Ogygia’ is a whistle-stop formulaic look at what a typical Prison Break episode should look like. A character in prison? Check. A tantalising mystery? Check. Shady agents on the hunt of our heroes? Check. Ten thousand cliffhangers? Check.
‘Ogygia’ suffers because it’s the first episode in eight years. We need to see where all the characters are. We need the reintroductions. But whilst some work exceptionally well (kudos to creator Paul Schuering for shining a positive light on Islam in a mainstream American show) others… don’t. Sucre just happens to turn up? Nah, not buying it. Why would C-Note ring him only to offer to go with Lincoln anyway? Sucre’s appearance felt forced; why not leave his return until next week along with Kellerman?
But, despite all the negatives in rehashed storylines and forced characters, it is SO good to catch up with these characters, even if their future paths are extremely frustrating. The sooner Sara’s new husband is bumped off the better; he will obviously turn out to be a bad guy – he had WAY too much knowledge about how to set up that gun. T-Bag just happens to receive a prosthetic hand by way of a mysterious benefactor (more on that in a moment); whilst he appears to be a ‘model citizen’ (his words, not mine) he hasn’t really changed, has he? Just look at how he treats that doctor! And Lincoln… poor old Linc. You’d have thought that after everything he and Michael went through in order to escape their previous life Lincoln would do things differently. But here he is, in debt and running from the people he owes money to. Despite all he went though to reunite with LJ, and despite promising to watch over Sara and Michael Jr, Lincoln appears wholly alone. Surely Marshall Allman could’ve been persuaded to return?
So – Michael is alive, and after a somewhat elongated journey to Yemen (in typical Prison Break fashion we’re shown Lincoln career through his car windscreen only to walk off without a scratch; Sara once more comes under threat of some shady, and cliché, agents (PLEASE don’t be the Company; that storyline is done!); and T-Bag is gifted a prosthetic arm by someone whose name translates into ‘Nobody’… the very same translation of Outis, the surname that Michael is now going by – it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Michael has somehow, and bafflingly, bequeathed his mortal enemy T-Bag this hand), Michael and Lincoln reunite.
And this is perhaps the most frustrating part of ‘Ogygia’. With only nine episodes in season five, we can’t afford time for filler storylines, and yet this ostentatiously feels like filler. The season trailer has already shown Michael and Lincoln embracing, with the former calling the latter ‘brother’, so it’s clear that Michael remembers Lincoln. So why, when the viewers have had to wait eight years, is Michael pretending he doesn’t know who Lincoln is? Hopefully this plot will be resolved quickly, along with Sara’s refusal to believe that Michael – or Kaniel Outis, as he’s now known, a big-time terrorist – is actually alive. We only have eight episodes left (unless a sixth season is announced) – I don’t want to spend seven of those watching Michael be a deuce to the people who love him the most.
As an opening episode ‘Ogygia’ fails spectacularly, but I didn’t exactly have high hopes anyway. It delivered enough to keep me intrigued, but it’s deliverance was formulaic and uninspired. Hopefully the remaining episodes will pick up. I’m not expecting a repeat of the brilliance of season one – I just sincerely hope we don’t have a rehash of the dire fourth season (in particular the final batch of episodes).