Prison Break has always been one of Fox’s more popular “break-out” series in recent years. It was also one of the few to actually go out on its own terms, as a vast majority of Fox shows that develop a following are not able to go out on a proper note when it comes to how abruptly Fox cancels some shows. But for fans of Prison Break, a show that in of itself was already a concept that could only go on for so long, they were given the chance for the show to not only tie itself up in a lengthy fourth and final season, but to also add a little addendum to it with The Final Break, which arrives on DVD in about a month.
After engineering an escape from the hellish Panamanian prison Sona, brothers Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows are determined to seek justice against The Company, the shadowy group responsible for destroying their lives and killing the woman Michael loves, Dr. Sara Tancredi. During their quest for vengeance, Michael’s world is turned upside down when he learns that Sara is still alive. Realizing the only way they will truly be free, Michael and Lincoln avenge to find Sara and take down The Company. With the help of a government handler, they assemble a group of allies and familiar faces including Mahone, Sucre and Bellick to aid in their seemingly impossible task. Unfortunately for the brothers, they must also enlist T-Bag, who unknowingly possesses a vital clue to help them pull off their most difficult challenge yet. They’ll soon discover the only thing harder than breaking out is breaking in. The ending with shock you!
I had started watching this season when it was airing on television, but ultimately decided to hold off until the DVD after the two-hour premiere. I’d long since felt the series was getting a bit ridiculous with its stories and this latest one was just too much to handle at times. Still, I had watched the series since the beginning so I stepped into this fourth season after a long hiatus with relative ease…but the cheese factor of it definitely became more apparent with so much time spent away from it. It’s really like a Michael Bay film—there’s so little substance as it’s mostly just about action and suspense. They added some personal elements to series throughout its life, sure, but when it all came down to it each season was just about the group of Fox River inmates narrowly escaping custody.
So with this fourth season where the group attempted to cut a deal for their freedom…well, that didn’t go as planned, obviously. Although we were led to believe everything would be fine, the ultimate betrayal of those they trusted eventually went down the toilet…in typical Prison Break fashion, however, they of course ended up working with these people again down the line, although in some instances it seemed like they accepted this a little too easily. But…still, the series had plenty of hyperbolic drama that was really just too much in some cases, but it kept it lively and entertaining at the very least.
And really, as ridiculous as this show got with all of the betrayals, backstabbing and just genuinely unbelievable things that it did, it was always entertaining. As quickly as I gave up on watching it on television, I knew I’d get into it more with the DVD as I could speed through the weekly cliffhangers that would leave me disinterested before…but this time completely entertained by it because I didn’t have to wait 168 hours to watch the next installment. Of course even watching them back to back didn’t make everything completely clear, as there was a moment around disc four or five where it felt like I’d missed some big storyline as everyone was in different cities and attempting to find the war-generating device that they’d stolen earlier in the season.
The final conclusion to the series was a strong one, although without knowledge of the goings on of The Final Break, the death of one of the main stars is a bit vague and really just angers you to the point where you want to punch someone. But with knowledge of what happens in that DTV/DVD release (although it’s apparently already aired overseas for some reason), it’s a bit of an easier finale to swallow…bittersweet, but still entertaining, even if it brings up a few more questions about the series finale, which I’ll leave for The Final Break review when the time comes.
Overall this fourth and final season of Prison Break is even more disconnected from reality than the first season, with the mystical big, bad Company having it’s claws in everything and everyone at every moment…but at the same time it’s just simple popcorn fluff that’s easy to watch because it’s so ridiculously simple and easy to swallow. So while it won’t win any awards for brilliant writing or acting, it’s a show that is, for the most part, generally well done and fully capable of putting you on the edge of your seat in the same way a soap opera does; it leaves enough open at the end of each episode that you can’t wait to see what happens to the characters next. Even if the ending is done in such a ridiculously over-dramatized way that you can’t help but laugh. Recommended.
Fox has opted not to release this fourth season on Blu-ray (so that makes only season 1 and 3 on Blu-ray…for whatever reason), so those who stuck with the DVD releases only…congratulations, your shelves won’t look completely wacked. Although Fox will still screw with you a tad, as they have condensed the entire fourth season into a single-width Amaray case, courtesy of the Viva Multi-pak setup. Fantastic for saving space, but it’ll screw with the slip cased look of the past three seasons. Inside the set is a single insert for The Final Break, while the reverse of the insert lists episode information and disc extras.
Video and audio are what you’d expect from a modern production and as such the MPEG-2 video and DD5.1 audio looks and sounds perfectly adequate. I didn’t watch the season, as previously stated, on TV so I don’t even know what it looks like 1080i, but I was more than content with this 480p signal (on top of that the PS3 was upscaling to 1080p, so it was even better). The DD5.1 mix was a bit tame at times since there was no real…well, surrounding noises to make for the majority of the season, but whenever explosions were set off or bullets flew, the sound was more than satisfactory.
•“Scylla & Breaking and Entering” Commentary by Zack Estrin, Kevin Hooks, Matt Olmstead, Nick Santora and Karyn Usher
•“Blow Out” Commentary by Seth Hoffman, Graham Roland, Christian Trokey and Kalinda Vazquez
•“Greatness Achieved” Commentary by Seth Hoffman, Nick Santora, Christian Trokey and Agatha Warren
•“Quiet Riot” Commentary by Seth Hoffman, Nick Santora, Karyn Usher, Kalinda Vazquez and Nick Wootton
•“Just Business” Commentary by William Fitchner, Mark Helfrich, Matt Olmstead and Graham Roland
•“Going Under” Commentary by Zack Estrin, Matt Olmstead, Dawn Olmstead and Karyn Usher
•“The Sunshine State” Commentary by Seth Hoffman, Kevin Hooks, Matt Olmstead and Nick Wootton
•“S.O.B.” Commentary by Garry A. Brown, Dominic Purcell, Karyn Usher and Kalinda Vazquez
•“Cowboys and Indians” Commentary by Zack Estrin, Nick Santora, Agatha Warren and Nick Wootton
•“Fade Out: The Final Episode” Featurette
•“The Plan, The Execution and the Bullet” Featurette
•“Director’s World” Featurette
The extras are plentiful, with nine episodes receiving commentary from cast and crew, although how the finale didn’t get commentary I don’t know…I guess they’re saving that for The Final Break commentaries. The three featurettes on the sixth disc are informative and dive into the production of the final season of the show to an extent that I think will please fans.
Overall this fourth season is Recommended for fans and worth a Rental for casual viewers, especially if you were like me and didn’t finish watching the season on TV. It really is worth checking out, as even if it’s cheap entertainment…it’s at least a ton of fun to watch.
Prison Break – The Final Season is now available on DVD.