Fox // 2007 // 568 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 22nd, 2008
The rules are simple: Fight or die.
Television's most grounded series returns for a third season of action-packed realism. That was a joke.
When Season Two ended, Michael Schofield (Wentworth Miller), found himself as the newest inmate in the infamous Panama prison, Sona. Stocked with the worst of the worst and only patrolled by heavily armed guards outside of the prison walls, Sona is a no-man's land, run by a Panamanian gangster and his horde of chiseled enforcers. Meanwhile, Michael's brother, Lincoln (Dominic Purcell), recently exonerated from his frame job, is on the outside, working on the most ambitious prison break of the series.
But there are wrinkles galore. Turns out, The Company, a shadowy conglomerate of evil corporations and bulbous white men, wants Michael in Sona for a reason -- to break out a man named Whistler who holds the key to something that's never revealed. But that's what you get with a strike-shortened season.
Thirteen episodes on four Blu-ray discs.
Yes, Prison Break is probably the most far-fetched slice of episodic television ever conceived, but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable. I've been tuning into the adventures of Michael, Lincoln, T-Bag, and the boys for each of the three seasons and, though I've had my share of sensory overload and plot-twist-exhaustion, I can tell you the forthcoming Season Four will most definitely find a place on my DVR.
It was a rough trek here and there, as the honeymoon period of the surprisingly cool first season gave way to the foot-to-the-accelerator second season. More than a few times, I flirted with hanging up the orange jumpsuit and moving on to other, less hectic things, like spear-fishing or controlled demolition. But I hung with it and was happy to. Season Three was as outlandish as ever, but at least the return to the prison setting diluted the incessant locomotion of Season Two, requiring significantly less Dramamine.
I also liked the flip; having Michael on the inside with Lincoln on the outside, trying to get his brother out. Linc -- The Man Who Says No! to T-Shirts -- is saddled with biceps larger than his brain, so he's forced to do a lot of chasing and punching. Unfortunately, his bright ideas usually end up inflaming the situation even further. But that's cool, because he supplements the cerebral hijinks of Michael, which thankfully remain the driving force of the show. How in the world is Michael going to get himself out of this one? That's the question the writers want you asking yourself. And they throw so many script grenades in the middle of things that even when you think, maybe, you've got a hold of what's happening, something gets nuked, the credits roll, and it's on to "Previously on Prison Break" and the madness begins anew.
Stacking this installment against what I've seen of the series so far, I'd place the Sona Chronicles behind the stand-out first season and above the manic sophomore effort, thanks to colorful new characters, more William Fichtner, pit-fighting, a surprise decapitation, a femme fatale that's just begging for a smackdown, Schofield's ratty long-sleeved T-shirt (wonder if the writers regret the full-body tattoo gimmick now), Bellick sleazing around in a pair of nasty leopard-skin sweats, and a clever season finale leading to a lot of question and a promising follow-up.
I caught all these shows on Fox's HD channel, so I was interested in seeing how the Blu-ray transfer measured up. The answer: Beautifully. This series has always featured stunning-looking video work, even on standard DVD. On Blu-ray, it's a knockout. The Panama setting (really Texas) is blistering and sun-beaten, and the bright, harsh color work supplements the precision detailing to deliver a high-def presentation that lives in the top tier of Blu TV sets. You'll be able to count pit stains, with a high degree of accuracy. The DTS 5.1 lossless mix is just as impressive. The series features a driving score, rich with bass, and the audio treatment rumbles. Very, very clean.
The bonus features could have been better, though. Four promo-focused featurettes: "Season 3: Orentacion" sports interviews with cast members commenting about their characters; "Breakout Episode" chronicles the making of the escape show; "Director's Takes" are brief segments with the various series helmers; and "Between Takes" features the actors talking about what they do in their downtime. Not exactly thrilling content.
Sure, it may be as realistic as a fantasy-action-adventure about Santa Claus and Chewbacca searching for the Tri-Force of Power in Eternia, but Prison Break is a righteous guilty pleasure. The Blu-ray delivers on all technical fronts, but the extras don't overwhelm.
Not Guilty...but you're going to have to break yourself out.
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 568 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated