Prison Break S05E01 Recap: 'Ogygia' [Season Premiere]
Any time an old show is rebooted or revived, or some other existing property is otherwise adapted in one form or another, it inherently comes with a built in asterisk asking whether or not such a revival is necessary, if a long-dead show can be good once again, and some baloney about how Hollywood is out of ideas. But I don't really think it's fair to put most shows in such labeled jars. Every new old show should be treated as its own new old show. Some of these reboots and remakes are good, some are just okay, and some are just plain bad.
The Fox network seems to love going back to existing IP. They've rebooted 24 not once, but twice to varying degrees of success, they brought back The X-Files, which in the span of just six episodes last year managed to be both the best and worst thing we've ever seen, and managed to turn Lethal Weapon into a pretty okay police procedural that's arguably better than the movies in some ways.
The latest up to bat is Prison Break, a show not only dead for nine years, but also a show who's legacy is questionable after going out with a fizzle. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who would deny that the first season of Prison Break measures up with the best single-seasons in television history. The story of Michael Scoffield and his elaborate, impossible attempt to get his brother out of a prison of his own design for a crime he didn't commit is legendary. Every episode of that first season had viewers on the edge of their seats, featured crazy yet believable twists, and developed a group of characters that were fun and relatable despite all being criminals and murderers.
From there, the quality of the show waned. Most of the show's viewers will defend a second season which featured the Scoffields and co on the run from the cops, a season which also introduced William Fitchner's memorable turn as the complex Special Agent Mahone. After that, you'll find a smaller but passionate group defending the positives of a third season where Michael, Mahone and the gang find themselves in a different prison in Panana. The events of season 3 strain credulity, but, it could be argued, in a positive way. However no one will tell you with a straight face that the enjoyed the fourth and final season, which dropped the original concept of the show completely to have the Scoffields and the gand team up with, for some reason, Michael Rappaport, to take on The Company, the shadowy organization pulling their strings from the very beginning.
Despite how poorly it all turned out, there's a serious argument here for redemption. This is a show that never lit up the ratings charts but meant a lot to the people who watched it, especially in the early days. It's a show that successfully rode the wave of the serialized TV mystery that Lost had set into motion, all while avoiding too many of the comparisons that would plague so many shows after it. And when it was good, it was great. Prison Break deserved more than a terrible final season and a cobbled together straight-to-DVD finale which left most of its characters out to dry, so forgive me for saying that this is one reboot I have absolutely no problem with. Especially considering that creator Paul Scheuring and his team, who had absolutely nothing to do with this show when it was at its worst, are back to set things straight.
That's a long preamble simply to justify the existence of a fifth season of Prison Break. The real question is whether or not it's any good. While we only have one of nine episodes to go on, an episode with a lot of necessary stage setting to do and, curiously very little Michael Scoffield (Wentworth Miller) in it, I like the direction that the compass is leading us. The premiere, "Ogygia", moves at lightning quick pace and is action packed, as we pick up with Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) several years after the events of the fourth season, who has struggled without his brother in the wake of what happened to him in the original show. By the midway point of the episode, he's exhumed his brother's casket, finding nothing but an empty suit in it, and he's had an attempt made on both his life and those of his brother's love Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies), Michael's son and his son's stepfather. Soon thereafter he and C-Note (Rockmond Dunbar), who has found Islam in the years since the previous seasons, head off to Yemen to find if Michael really is in the titular Ogygia prison.
And by the end, Lincoln comes face to face with Michael, going by the name Kaniel Outis and in this hellhole of a prison because of an alleged allegiance with ISIL. Michael denies being him and knowing who Linc and C-Note are and walks away from them, much to Linc's dismay.
While I'll admit I didn't do a rewatch of the old seasons in anticipation of this new one, and that it's been a few years since I have, I have to say that this episode felt like everything I remember from the good old days of the. It was exciting, action-packed, and chalk-full of mystery. Every little thing is a clue, everything the camera laments on for even a split second is something that will come back over the course of the season. While I'll stop short of calling this episode smart, or a return to form, there's something here that, beyond feeling familiar, feels right.
With that in mind, there's something to be said about pacing, and "Ogygia" maybe moves a little too fast. There's barely any time to settle in and figure out where most of these characters are all these years later. For example, the first proper scene of the episode features T-Bag (Robert Knepper) getting released from prison and receiving the package which Lincoln uses to track down Michael, and there's a subplot with him receiving an experimental prosthetic hand from an anonymous donor, but it's unclear where any of that might be going as we don't have much time to spend with him. Conversely, while the episode spends a lot of time with Lincoln, little of it is actually with him. His actions and behaviour are driven solely by his desire to have his brother back. He's slipped into a life of crime and blames it entirely on Michael being gone, and he doesn't see Sara and his nephew. And while I won't parrot that one Vox article about the show suddenly being Islamophobic, C-Note's sudden and only character trait being that he's a reformed Muslim seems like little more than a plot device, as is the random check-in with Sucre, even though he doesn't join them on their trip to Yemen, while Lincoln promises him they might need him down the road. Never mind that we only see Michael in the closing seconds of the episode.
It would have been a lot better if this premiere had a full two hours, and honestly i don't get why they didn't just delay it a week and give it to them. New Girl and The Mick don't pull in huge ratings and a second hour focusing more on what Michael's been up to in the prison would have given the premiere better balance.
That being said, it was still a good premiere. And to be honest, it's great to have Prison Break back. Like in the old days, "Ogygia" sinks its teeth into you with the well-paced elements of a mystery and familiar, relatable characters that don't seem to have missed a beat in the near-decade that they've been a way. There's room for improvement, but the building blocks are there for an exciting miniseries to come. The return of Prison Break gets 7.5 dead men's suits out of 10.