It might have been for the best if 'Prison Break' had been canceled after its first season. What began as a cool prison drama loaded with twist after twist soon became reliant on some increasingly dramatic loops that quickly became too much to take seriously. For three seasons, before the show got canceled, the amount of drama per episode suffered a steady decline, while the new dramatic issues grew more and more intense, to the point that it was difficult to still care. The dead rose again, police would collar the escapees only when convenient for the show, never when they were just a step away from completing a scheme, it just got lame.
The ending of the series in season four was such a massive letdown that this new story, which happens in between the final occurrences of the show and the "fast-forward a few years later" closing, is a bit anti-climactic. We already know what is going to happen, so unless there are to be any ret-con (retroactive continuity) changes, any happenings in this show were a forgone conclusion.
So my main question going into 'The Final Break' was simple: does this addition to the series work within the ending of season four, or will this show, like three seasons before it, just be an utter waste of breath? Be warned: If you haven't sat down to the final season of the show there are massive spoilers ahead!
After taking down the Company, an exonerated Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) and Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies) do what they've wanted to do for some time: tie the knot. Their joyous day is cut short when Sara is arrested for the murder of Michael and Lincoln (Dominic Purcell)'s mother, as there is no evidence to show her slaying was in self defense, yet there is evidence that Sara slayed her. Whoops.
With jails overcrowded, Sara is sent to prison for holding, though her stay may not last long, as the General (Leon Russom), in the male wing of the very same prison puts a hit out on her, and Michael, escape artist that he is, works desperately to find a way to get her out alive. Sara is in the worst situation a pregnant woman could be, surrounded by guards angry at what her man has done for their "fraternity," as it were, inmates looking to make a name (and a few bucks) for themselves, and Gretchen Morgan (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe), the mysterious former Company employee/assassin who has her own plans.
A women's prison 'Prison Break.' After watching four seasons of the show, I can't say I saw this one coming, though I should have, considering the way the show likes to mix it up by putting characters in familiar, yet different, situations. I can't say I'm big on female prison films, or even female prison porn (of the hard or soft variety). The cliches are far worse than those found in their male counterparts, and with only an hour and a half to jam them all in, 'The Final Break' may as well have been a recap on every female prison highlight reel.
The show's cancellation wrapped the story up in a less than tidy bundle, with a few loose ends still left untied, and it is the job of 'The Final Break' to remedy that situation (Lest we be left in an 'Alf'-like limbo of sorts). In a way, it does a valiant job, having to stick within the confines of the ending to the series, rather than telling its own tale. The Gretchen story line from the third and fourth seasons was one of the few shining moments after the introductory break, so the focus on her story is much appreciated here. Sadly, her role in this film, especially her finale, doesn't fit all that well with her role in the series. T-Bag (Robert Knepper) is back as well, and his involvement in the story with the General is the only redeeming factor on the male side of the story. It's hard to not like T-Bag, as he plays the role so perfectly.
'The Final Break' has a very different feel than the series, as this is much like an entire season crammed into the the length of two episodes, and the complex escape plans work so much better when there is a prolonged build up to them. As such, there are far fewer twists and turns, and without commercial interruption, none of the musical interludes that lead into the breaks (after four seasons with the same themes, they were missed just a bit here). The focus on Sara is welcome, as she was a throw away character in the final season (and a dead one in the third), but 'Prison Break' shines more when Lincoln and Michael are doing their thing, and their involvement in this story is so sparse (especially Lincoln's), that it's tough to say this feature redeems the show.
'Prison Break: The Final Break' comes to Blu-ray on a BD25 single layer disc, presented with an AVC MPEG-4 encode at the 1.78:1 ratio.
The opening wedding sequence is amazingly polished, far cleaner than any part of the four seasons during which the show was on air (and particularly cleaner than either season that hit Blu-ray previously), though once this small portion of the film is over, 'Final Break' is back at the 'Prison Break' norm in terms of video quality.
Colors go from sharp and bright to murky in an instant, while the grain level goes from non-existent to healthy, in a non-distracting kind of way. Skin tones remain somewhat accurate and legit, not excessively overblown like many shows that are based in Florida (season four, any episode of 'Burn Notice').
Detail is solid, as stubble patterns are sharp, and pores are often visible. Blacks are crisp and deep, especially in Gretchen's raven mane. Edges are realistic and natural, while DNR is not an issue. Besides the grimy colors, I also found a few soft shots (including some scenes that went back and forth between sharp and dull) that brought things down just a hair. A solid presentation, with a few misfires.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix given to 'The Final Break' is equally as impressive, while flawed, as the video transfer. Perhaps they should get married next, they're made for each other!
Throughout the entire show, ambiance is active, sometimes even excessive (before this release, I really couldn't have imagined myself saying such a thing), with background noise constantly barraging the entire room from all angles, at times in an equal volume level (if not louder) than the foreground action. The music in the opening sequence shares this problem, mixed far too loud compared to the rest of the scene, drowning out any conversation or silly noises or effects.
The LFE would like to chime in here and say something in its defense: "BOOM." It also would like to repeat this phrase excessively like a youth who discovers his first swear word. To say the bass in this release is overstated is like saying 'Prison Break' jumped the shark long ago, as both are severe understatements. The hysterical shoutings in the female wing of the prison can also sound unintelligible at times. On the bright side, I did get a kick out of the seamless motion effects in this release, especially the alarm sirens, as they scream from the front left channel, then echo brilliantly, ending in the right rear.
Not a whole lot, but there's something.
After having to sit through three lame brained seasons, 'Prison Break' didn't really deserve a final send off, even to tie up the loose ends created by the abrupt cancellation of the series that forced a desperate finale. Rather than taking the series out back and putting it out of its misery, Fox decided to bring us two more episodes, by means of a "feature length film" tie-in (read: cash in), that don't correct any of the wrongs the series perpetrated. Like many 'Break' fans out there, I'm going to be try my hardest to imagine there was nothing to the story after the Fox River escape, and be hopeful that there won't be any more tie-ins to a series that should have had its vacuum tubes tied long ago.