Tuesday, August 22, 2006

PRISON BREAK: Manhunt (Season 2 Premiere)

The gritty, fantastic nighttime soap for men made a stunning sophomore season debut....
Well I shouldn't say for men, because I pulled my wife into the world of the Boys from Fox River Penitentiary last season, despite her protests that "it's a dude show", and she is totally hooked now. Part of it has to do with the see-saw plot that "leaves her feeling sick" from the stomach-turning twists. But another (bigger?) part of it has to do with "hot-hot-hottie" star Wenworth Miller as brooding intellectual inmate Michael Scofield, who tattooed the Fox River blueprint on his body to free his wrongly imprisoned brother, the equally hunky Linc(Dominic Purcell). I see you women nodding your heads.


And if you didn't watch last season, I'm not gonna rehash it here- rent the DVD, available now- because there is already too much going on in Season 2. We left off with the boys on the outside (finally) but without an escape route thanks to Abruzzi's jet falling through. With the cops hot on their tail, especially irate red-ass guard Bellick, the escapees hide for the time being and try to formulate a plan. The group is now down to Lincoln & Michael, along with Sucre, Abruzzi and C-Note. But the lovably loathesome T-Bag is lurking nearby, attempting to re-attach his severed hand (thanks, Abruzzi) at a rural veterinary hospital. And previews show Vanilla Ice- wannabe Tweener returning next week. Nice.

As the boys look for a vehicle, FBI agent Alexander Mahone (William Fichtner) joins the investigation. I must say this is a brilliant piece of casting by the writers; Fichtner is a credible, likable, hard-nosed actor who has proven a capable heavy in roles in The Perfect Storm and Crash. Mahone uses the press to aid his case, and also attempts to get inside the meticulous mind of Scofield. In turn, we get to see some backstory of Michael's character, like how & where he formulated his elaborate plan.

Two of the big cliffhangers from last season do a complete 180 on us:
#1: We learn that Dr. "hot-hot-hottie" Tancredi did not die from her overdose, but is merely in a coma. This invites a whole lot of possibile story lines now, such as her blame for the inmates escape, her pain over Michael's betrayal, and what Michael will do to exonerate her- later in the show she finds one of Michael's trademark paper swans in her purse; written on it are the words "I have a plan to make all this right." I get chills just writing about it.

#2: We are reunited with Veronica at the Montana mountain manse housing the very-much alive Steadman(not Oprah's man). He claims that he has been held prisoner in the house against his will by his sister, bitchy now- President Reynolds. But Veronica doesn't want to hear any of his " I gave up my teeth" sob stories, she just wants to get him out of there so he can clear Linc's name. When Stedman tells her that they are both locked in with no chance of escape, she tries her cell and finds a signal. Even as Stedman holds a gun to her head, her love of Linc is so strong she is willing to risk being shot to see him set free. Daring him to pull the trigger, she calls the cops and waits for their arrival. And they arrive, alright, but not local cops- hired Federal goons whose sole purpose is to keep Stedman on the property. Even if that means shooting an female attorney in the head and heart, and leaving millions of viewers slack-jawed in the process. Now I enjoy a show with balls, and it takes a whole lot of 'em to kill off a central character in the season premiere! I mean didn't they wait till mid-season to kill off the President on 24?! Ballsy, ballsy move, and one that is sure to have major repercussions since Linc was on the other end of the line and heard the whole thing.

The gang picked up a change of clothes (finally, no more prison greys) buried in a graveyard, per Michael's plan, and Michael informs Linc that he has a car waiting nearby. But as they attempt to ditch the others and make a bee-line for the hidden loot Westmoreland buried in Utah, Agent Mahone sniffs them out at the site and chases an incredulous Michael & Co. on foot. This leads to another finish with the cops on their tails and nowhere to run, and we are left to figure out where they will go next, how they will get there, and how many more bodies are going to be left in their wake.

Like I told you it's a soap opera, and all the key ingredients are there:

*Likable villians? A slew of 'em, including T-Bag, Billick, President Reynolds, Tweener, Abruzzi, and Agent Kellerman.

*Lovable heroes? Another bevy of choices starting with Michael & Linc, including Sucre, Dr. Tancredi, the dearly departed Veronica, and Lincoln's son LJ.

*Implausible scenarios? How 'bout a complete prison blueprint tattooed over an entire body, a job I have learned would take about 10 years to execute. Or two brothers being locked up in the same prison and allowed to interact with each other despite one being on death row?

*Exotic locales? Okay, last season we had to settle for cells, the infirmary, the yard and the guard house. Now that they're on the outside, we will get to see numerous fields, airstrips, rural Utah and sunny Mexico. And I'm sure there will be some other interesting locations as well.

Throw in plenty of backstabbing (real & metaphorical), tender romances, f'd up father-son relationships and a murderous female President, and you've got a regular cross between Dynasty and One Life to Live. So just kick back Monday's at 8, grab some popcorn, suspend disbelief for an hour, and get hooked up with some seriously addicting Must Flee TV.

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