Prison Break’s “Just Business” proved this week that the show seems to have returned to its original form, which is a nice surprise, given the listlessness and doldrums that the last two seasons have brought. This episode was enticing and thrilling, much like the last few episodes, which just goes to show that a series can sometimes pick up the slack despite foraging in the pits for the last two years.
“Just Business” starts with a very angry Self (Michael Rapaport) blasting gas shells into the warehouse to drive Scofield (Wentworth Miller) and gang out, in order to retrieve the stolen piece of the Scylla Reader that Scofield hid. Unbeknownst to the gang, Self has also shot a hidden camera in one of those shells, while Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) hides in Self’s car in order to track him down. As a result, both Scofield and gang and Self and Gretchen (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) end up surveilling each other’s camps. However, through a series of violent confrontations and shoot-outs, Scylla ends up with Scofield, only to be regained by Self when Scofield’s health deteriorates and he ends up on the ground. The Company shows up and they take Scofield away to what looks like an underground medical facility only to find that Linc comes to them and asks to see his brother. The General then makes Linc an offer, one which will be better explained next week.
Elsewhere, Mahone (William Fichtner) meets with Felicia Lang (from seasons two and three, played by Barbara Eve Harris), who brings along Mark, who is an ex-colleague of Mahone’s. Mahone promises them Scylla, however when Scofield loses consciousness and hence loses Scylla to Self again, Mahone finds himself up river and without a paddle. With nothing to offer Lang and Mark, Mahone has no way out of this jam. Knowing that Lang is lying to him, he gets into the car in full knowledge that he is probably going to be ridden off to the slammer. In an extremely touching scene, Mahone thanks Lang for always helping him, even as the latter tries to hold back tears because of what she is forced to do to him (i.e. take him into custody). That two-minute scene of hidden devastation and anguish between Mahone and Lang was delicious to consume, thanks to the wonderful acting abilities of both Fichtner and Harris.
If this signifies the end of Mahone, one can only applaud the decision, not because William Fichtner is by far the most nuanced, most layered thespian of this group and in this show, and brings his top game every week to accompany his truly mesmerizing performances, but rather because letting go of Mahone only trims down the cast list to a more manageable size. (Actually, logic would dictate that Sucre should be the one who leaves the show, not Mahone, as the former hardly has any input into the storyline at this stage)
Meanwhile, in another angle of the story, T-Bag (Robert Knepper) has Gretchen’s sister and daughter hostage, only to be visited by a Bible salesman. T-Bag recognizes the man sporting the Company ring, and starts smacking him around. Gretchen’s sister though manages to convince T-Bag that the man really is a Bible salesman, and that this could be T-Bag’s redeeming moment, and his chance to have a moral “Cole Pfeiffer” lifestyle if he lets this man go, and T-Bag does so. However, this time T-Bag’s good intentions work against him and it turns out that the Bible salesman is indeed Company, and he overpowers T-Bag and takes him to headquarters.
As farcical as it was to believe that a hardened rapist cum murderer like T-Bag could change suddenly, it was a nice twist that the wimpy, sniffling Bible man turned out to be a savage Company man. In fact, this whole episode delivered smacks and punches in terms of thrills and excitement. From coordinated fight sequences between Sucre and Gretchen, to shoot-outs and chases, this episode took us on a bang-blast adventure! “Just Business” was fun and titillating, even electrifying at times. In a word, it was enjoyable. In another word, it was rousing.
It’s such a wonder that the producers and writers have finally gotten off their laurels and given the audience what they were seeking all along. With the show only drawing five million plus viewers this season, and talk of the series ending, and with the US economy in trouble, and people losing their jobs faster than you can say “Uncle Sam”, it’s a guess that this is what it took to finally get the producers and writers of Prison Break to straighten up and give us some substance and quality.
We were subjected to the sloppiest, most laziest, most uncreative writing and storytelling all throughout seasons two and three and the first part of season four. Even the actors looked bored out of their minds, during those seasons! However, the last few episodes have been nothing short of brilliant, prompting one to think that nothing puts a fire underneath slothful, indolent, and lackadaisical producers and writers than a falling economy, a rise in unemployment, drastically tumbling ratings and their jobs at risk!
However, is it a little too late? Probably. A serial like Prison Break will never grab new viewers, and the old ones who left would never return for the story has traveled so far from the original ideology. And Prison Break has lost a lot of their viewers when the series turned slack for over two seasons. So, while it’s duly appreciated that the writers and producers have woken up and are putting on their best work, it is a little too late to save this series from its demise. The good news is that we can probably enjoy the creativity and fascination of Prison Break while this recession still lasts and acts as the fire underneath the feet of the creative contributors of the series thereby prompting them to deliver a palpitating episode each week!