‘Prison Break’ reboot coming April 4

Laurel Kraus, Managing Editor

Spoiler alert: This review contains plot spoilers. 

How many times can the same plot be reused and still manage to hold the audience’s attention?

Apparently, five times and counting.

After having a rather momentous run from 2005-2009, “Prison Break” is being rebooted for a fifth season, which premieres at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4 on FOX.

Following their reunion on the CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow,” the idea for a new season was brought to FOX by lead actors Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell.

The serial drama created by Paul Scheuring had somewhat of a cult following, which prompts a look back on just what made it so alluring.

In 2003, FOX turned down the idea for this show precisely due to concern about long-term prospects for the storyline, only to become convinced after the success of TV hits such as “Lost” and “24.”

It was a risk well-taken, producing a show deemed so realistic that it is banned in at least 13 known prisons, leading to speculation that it could be considered educational programming.

The lead character, Michael Scofield (portrayed by Wentworth Miller), was diagnosed with low latent inhibition. This real-life mental condition describes an individual whose brain processes details a normal brain would not, essentially labeling Scofield a creative genius.

Combined with the character’s obsessive need to protect others over himself, this left audiences with a perfectly reasonable explanation for the premise of the plot.

After his brother, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), is set up and placed on death row, Scofield masterminds an intricate plan to break him out, which gets himself incarcerated.

The show manages to continually reinvent the same storyline through a Mexican prison and an all-women’s prison as the seasons go on, yet somehow remains fresh and surprising.

A large part of what made this contradiction work was the fact that, unlike the majority of current shows, the “Prison Break” writers were not afraid to kill off an important character or two.

However, IMDB has revealed that quite a few of the significant deaths were not necessarily planned.

Scofield’s love interest, Sara Tancredi, (portrayed by Sarah Wayne Callies) was scripted to overdose in the first season finale, but after FOX protested due to the character’s popularity, her death was replaced with with that of Burrow’s love interest, Veronica Donovan (portrayed by Robin Tunney).

Callies escaped the axe yet again in season three, when her character was set to be killed off due to her pregnancy. Tancredi’s head was literally delivered in a box, which caused a fan outcry so severe that the character returned a season later with only a semi-acceptable explanation.

Another character, David “Tweener” Apolskis (portrayed by Lane Garrison), was just beginning his story arc when he was senselessly relieved of his heartbeat due to the actor’s casting in the 2007 movie “Shooter.”

To their credit, the writers pulled it together in the series finale.

Powerfully executed in the sense that can leave elements up to the audience’s imagination can often be impactful, the finale flash forward four years in its last eight minutes.

Viewers were serenaded by an emotion-evoking melody that showed each of the characters in their new lives as they reunited at a cemetery, shockingly revealing the death of Scofield.

Nearly all of the main characters, including Scofield, will be returning in the new season, leaving “Prison Break” the challenge of convincingly explaining how he survived.  

The nine episodes will feature the crew’s biggest break yet, first out of a prison in Yemen and then out of the country itself.

One can only hope it will not follow the crashing-and-burning trend of other reboots, such as “Heroes Reborn” and “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.”

Cheers to “Prison Break” for taking what could have been a one-and-done storyline and milking it for all it’s worth.