Long ago, I was embarrassed that I had to listen to Brett Ratner at an NYU symposium tell me how to break into the music video industry. Today, I’m just as embarrassed by how much I’m enjoying Ratner’s exec-produced Prison Break, in which The Human Stain’s Wentworth Miller stars as Michael Scofield, an engineer who robs a bank in order to land in the same prison where his brother, Lincoln (Dominic Purcell), awaits execution for murdering the Vice President’s brother. With time, prisoner hostility and a commanding government conspiracy working against him, Michael plans to break himself and his brother out of the prison using the information inked onto his upper body in the form of an elaborate tattoo. The show comes to us in the form of a rubix cube, and its pleasure lies in watching which new and exciting direction its plot gears will turn. Every episode centers around Michael solving a new piece of a puzzle coded in the intricate design on this chest—like securing the screw that will dismantle the sink in his prison cell and contriving a fake escape in order to get to the roof of the prison and determine which road he needs to take during the real deal—with one prison drama or another putting a kink in his plans, from warden Henry Pope (Stacy Keach) threatening to transfer Michael to another prison to a deranged inmate coming dangerously close to discovering the implications of Michael’s tattoo. Outside prison, Veronica Donovan (Robin Tunney), an attorney and former flame of Lincoln’s, also stumbles over all sorts of tripwires, except these aren’t set by sheer acts of fate but by a pair of secret agents that appear to get their orders from Martha Stewart. Post-Oz, it may be impossible to take the show very seriously as an exposé of racial and sexual predation in prison, but the writers never lose sight of the seriousness of prison life, especially in an episode that has Michael risking death by “playing” both gay and black inmates in order to secure a crucial piece of his puzzle. Like Lost, the show seems predicated on an unsustainable premise, but Prison Break is moving along more briskly and with a lot less dickteasing (unless, of course, you count how little flesh Miller is allowed to show). Lost’s cast can only stay lost for so long, but for Michael and Lincoln, they still have to break out of the crippling hold of our legal system. The possibilities may not be endless but the possibilities that do exist are promising.
- FOX, Mondays, 9 p.m.
- Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Robin Tunney, Peter Stormare, Amaury Nolasco, Marshall Allman, Wade Williams, Paul Adelstein, Robert Knepper, Sarah Wayne Callies
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
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