Throwback Thursday – Prison Break
Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.
There are moments in a young television show where the viewer finally exlaims, ‘I am fully in!’. For me, these two spectacular outings from the freshman season of Prison Break were those episodes. The action packed two-parter broke open Michael’s carefully thought out plan and had massive consequences when it came to breaking his brother Lincoln out before he was to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. In this TBT article, I examine the bonkers episode and what it meant for the series.
I Can’t Get Through The Wall
Anyone that watched Prison Break knew that what made Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) tick was a plan. The entire premise of the show was him meticulously planning the prison break that would save his brother Lincoln’s (Dominic Purcell) life. In the first five episodes we watched as Micheal assembled a small crew of HIS choosing and put his chess pieces in place, but he ran into a literal wall when nightly bed count was hindering his ability to break through a very thick concrete barrier to get to the infirmary. It was Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) who then suggested the only way that Micheal could buy time would be to have his cell block go on lockdown making bed checks unnecessary. BAM….. We have the engine running for a new version of the plan which included Micheal going into the walls and cutting off the A/C, thus making the inmates volatile and ripe for conflict with the guards.
Michael’s actions set off a chain of events that he definitely didn’t bargain for, but hey, that was Prison Break. It was T-Bag (Robert Knepper) returning to A-wing that made things go from bad to deadly. His antagonization of the guards and ability to get prisoners to get behind him (To this day, I still don’t get why so many followed him blindly) led to the lockdown. What made matters worse was that the guard decided it would be fine to leave 20 overheated and angry inmates out on floor, instead of in their cells. This action led to inmates easily taking the block and throwing the entire prison into a tailspin.
Michael and Sucre were oblivious to the chaos going on within the cellblock and got to work. Michael explained how he was going to use a single egg beater to weaken a thick concrete wall using the outline of one of his many tattoos, the drawing of a Devil. The horns and beard were designed to show Michael the weak point in the walls that would make it collapse (This is apparently called Hooke’s law of elasticity).
Sucre needed some convincing to do his part as he was a man of faith and using the Devil was not something he thought would bring him good energy, but eventually he does give in thanks to a convincing Micheal. This moment once again showcased Michael’s intelligence, but also his ability to use manipulation to get what he needed. I love Michael Scofield, and he remains my favorite TV character of all time, but no one can deny that when push came to shove, he would use his smarts and charm to accomplish his goals. The consequences of this would eat at him, and that was shown several times throughout the show as he battled the demons he racked up in the name of family, but it is why we love this deeply complex and flawed character.
Back to the episode, Michael is once again interrupted when he and Sucre hear a loud noise coming from their cell and they go to investigate and what Micheal finds, horrifies him. This is the moment that the inmate he despises the most, T-bag, joins his crew by chance. You see while Micheal and Sucre were working, T-bag had gotten ahold of rookie guard Bob, and planned on violating him in the worst way possible. When he throws Bob in Micheal’s cell, the guard falls on the toilet exposing the hole in the cell and with that, T-bag figures out the plan. Micheal and crew have no choice but to placate T-Bag and let him join the crew so they are not exposed. This moment will eat at Micheal as the series goes on because this was never part of the plan and what T-bag had done went against everything Micheal stood for.
These threads being pulled are why this two-parter is so important to the mythology of the series, so many ripples were set off and that carried us through until the end. One of these ripples is also something Micheal didn’t anticipate, falling in love. Why am I bringing this up here? Because it is at this moment in the episode when Micheal is dealing with T-bag, that he hears the other inmates excitedly exclaiming that they have the Doc trapped. As we all know, that doc is Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies), the woman Michael has been slowly building a connection with despite him trying not to.
You Ever Been to Baja?
It was Micheal immediately setting off through the ducts and walls of Fox River to save Sara that made me realize he had developed feelings for her and while the optics are bad because he is an inmate and she the prison doctor, they still remain one of my all time favorite fictional couples and it all started here. Sara was holding her own against the prisoners she was trapped with in sick bay, but they were about to overcome her when Micheal appeared from the ceiling, and in that split second she trusted him and let him hoist her up to temporary safety. Micheal reassures her right away that he isn’t going to hurt her and puts her at ease.
As they make their way through the ceiling on a series of pipes, Michael tries to distract Sara and ask her about going to places like Baja and getting 50c beers. This line becomes a running theme in their love story, that when things aren’t the way they are that they have a date for some beers and I love that those seeds were planted here. But Sara is no dummy, she questions how Micheal was able to easily find her and his explanation of removing toxic mold sets off some alarm bells within her.
What I loved about these scenes is that Micheal and Sara make quite the pair in fighting off scum bag prisoners who want Sara for themselves and do eventually use some great teamwork to make it to safety. Once clear of the prisoners, Michael reminds her that he is indeed one of the bad guys, so that is why she needed to run even though sniper sights were at center mass on his chest, ready to take him out.
Sara does make it to safety and Michael makes his way back to his world. He finds that Sucre and Abruzzi (Peter Stormare) were successful in breaking the wall, but at what cost? T-Bag was now part of the team, he had killed Bob the guard and Sara realized Michael was lying about how he knew where to go. It was not what Micheal intended when he cut off that AC, and that becomes his reality, the plans he made on the outside were no match for the unexpected and this is the first time in the series things went REALLY wrong. And what of Lincoln this whole time? Let’s talk about that.
Lincoln started the episodes with a sliver of hope. Nick Savrinn (Frank Grillo) had dug up new information that the 9-1-1 call made the night Lincoln was framed originated in Washington D.C., so it was impossible that someone saw Lincoln running from a garage in Chicago. Nick got Veronica (Robin Tunney) to trust him again after the events of the previous episode and they hightailed it DC to prove the call was fake, just as the riot was popping off.
Lincoln was being led back to his cell oblivious to the fact that Kellerman (Paul Adelstein) had put a hit out on him via Prison hitman Turk at the top of the episode. Lincoln got distracted by his brother’s cell block being the hot bed of action and followed his hitman when he said he knew where Micheal was. Lincoln was led into the bowels of the prison and ended up fighting for his life once he realized that Turk was sent to end him. It showcased that the group framing Lincoln had a far reach and he needed to get out before he was dead. Lincoln of course survived Turk’s attempt on his life and found Micheal but was equally horrified that T-Bag now was on the team (who wouldn’t be?). And that phone call?
Veronica and Nick did find out it was fake but were contacted on the same pay phone it originated from with a fresh threat on their lives. These moments set up the long game when it came to invisible enemy that Lincoln was up against in this first season, the ones in the shadows that had picked him to be their patsy and it sets up the long road to freedom for everyone involved as they got intertwined in web of The Company.
This two-parter was some of the best episodes the series ever produced. The things that happened really cracked open Micheal’s plan and forced him to improvise way more than he ever anticipated. It also showed that he couldn’t fight something that was inevitable, love. The seeds planted here are what helped to make Sara and Micheal grow and their journey was intense and heartbreaking. We also got to see the worst of prison culture with the inmates trying to get to Sara and Bob’s murder by T-bag. On re-watch, the big moments still stick out and are just as intense as the first time, which makes the show stand the test of time.
What do you remember about this one? Does it still hold up on re-watch? Let me know and share any other thoughts and memories in the comments!
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