Prison Break season 5 may have finally given the Michael Scofield and his brother Lincoln a happy ending, but the “final” season was something of a mistake. Prison Break season 1 was a pulpy, highly entertaining thriller with great characters and provided a fresh take on the prison subgenre. From the beginning though, the series had an inbuilt flaw – the concept itself. Season 1 had to end on the Scofield’s escaping, and Prison Break season 2 found them on the run. Of course, they were back in another prison by the end of that season and the pattern would repeat in ways that soon became very tedious.
Prison Break then began to introduce convoluted conspiracies and shady government agencies to extend the concept, and the narrative focus of season 1 quickly became lost. The show ended with Prison Break season 4, which revealed in a flashforward that Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) died, presumably of the terminal brain cancer he was diagnosed with. A TV movie called Prison Break: The Final Break later revealed he sacrificed himself to save his wife and brother one last time by electrocuting himself to open a locked prison door.
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So, Michael was definitively dead – until Prison Break season 5 arrived in 2017. Prison Break season 5 followed a number of high-profile revivals of popular shows like The X-Files and Twin Peaks, and the new show was pitched as a limited miniseries. Of course, the show struggled to explain how its lead character could still be alive – even if he survived the electric surge from The Final Break, there was still the terminal brain cancer issue. The show would eventually explain his survival via some farfetched retcons.
Prison Break had something of an issue with reversing major characters deaths before this. Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead) originally left the show during a contract dispute in season 3, with Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) discovering her character’s severed head in a box. Callies later returned for Prison Break season 4, with her death handwaved away as an elaborate ruse by the villains. While Prison Break was never exactly realistic, the increasing reliance on silly twists gradually turned fans off.
Michael’s emotional death in season 4 at least offered some closure, but Prison Break season 5 even undid that. It’s difficult for audiences to invest in the stakes of a show when it’s brought back not one, but two deceased main characters. Prison Break season 5 didn’t offer much in the way of fresh ideas for the central concept either, contriving another convoluted conspiracy to reunite all the main characters again.
If nothing else, Prison Break season 5 was designed as something of an ending for the series, reuniting the brothers once and for all. That said, no sooner had the series ended that talk of season 6 appeared. Season 5 even hints at this, with Michael being offered a government job to make use of his unique skills. Star Wentworth Miller also revealed he pitched an endearing silly season 6 idea where the brothers are locked up by their psychotic, previously unrevealed brother Tag and they’d have to relive their past escapes in a new prison.
Creator Paul Scheuring, on the other hand, appears content that Prison Break season 5 is the end, and it really should be. The original series of Prison Break should have ended earlier than it did and trying to extend its lifespan gradually weakened the show. Season 5 proves the show should have been left alone, and there’s nothing the brothers can break out of any more that will seem fresh – expect maybe space prison.
Next: Michael Scofield’s Death Explained