TV REVIEW: Breakout Kings

Let’s welcome our new TV writer, Joseph Riley Land as he reviews A&E’s new series Breakout Kings, which debuts Sunday, March 6th. Follow him on Twitter (@josephrileyland)

I went into A&E’s new drama Breakout Kings with no expectations. I knew nothing about the show except that it was debuting on March 6. That was it. Part of me wants you to have that same experience. It certainly makes for a more interesting hour of television. Of course, it’s my job to discuss the show, give you my professional opinions on how the show is made, etc. So, with that, let’s jump in headfirst.

The series opens in a state prison – think Oz, Prison Break, Breakout Kings. I get it. An inmate is plotting his escape, although we’re not 100% exactly how or when it will go down. Then, mere seconds into the show, he successfully escapes. To be fair, it seemed way too easy, having been a fan of the late, great Oz.

Cut to four other prisons. A convict from each prison is called out for a transfer. They’re in collusion with the original guy? No. They are a ragtag team of convicts put together by US Marshalls Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi, The Wire) and his supervisor Charlie DuChamp (getting a well-deserved chance in a lead role) Laz Alonso (Avatar) in an attempt to think like a criminal and apprehend runaways. I am caught up; this makes sense: it’s a procedural and the twist is that the investigators are convicts. I’m down.

The pilot is fast-paced and, stylistically, looks really good. Creators Matt Olmstead and Nick Santora (Prison Break) do an excellent job of introducing the team, giving us clear depictions of each character. We witness the power struggle between DuChamp and Zancanelli and the show’s premise proves workable, as each inmate provides valuable intel that helps the crew catch the bad guy at the end.  Along the way, we travel to Boston, Baltimore and NYC – a lot of traveling in a short time, but I let it go because it’s TV. At the end of the pilot, we get our shocker – you knew there would be one – that isn’t as surprising as I would have expected, but jarring nonetheless. We’ll see how that affects storylines down the road.

Having seen the pilot and episode three, I have to admit I am torn. The pilot was much better than the third episode, but that could have been a fluke. I need to see more to make a firm decision. With a recast of one of the fugitive investigators – I’m assuming the goal was to “humanize”the female lead ; instead they actually made her a weepy, weak stereotype of the woman in peril. The writers also started fleshing out DuChamp’s back-story and home life, which I like. There was an interesting couple of moments concerning his health that happened in the pilot and have yet to be addressed (but possibly were in episode 2, so again, I am letting it go). All of that being said, I am willing to give the series a shot and see where it ends up on my DVR must-watch list.