Saturday, March 19, 2011

Prison Break - Do not judge a show by its promo

(Caution: May contain spoilers)

One fateful evening of 2007, sat my cousin in front of his laptop, unmoving and staring at the screen with acute concentration. I had to ask, “What are you watching?” I didn’t know the answer was going to change my life for the next four years :O
Prison Break. You must watch it!”

I had seen its promo on TV once. I recalled a man covered with tattoos, a prison and a line, “I am going to get you out of here.”

Given the name of the show and that, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out the plot. So, I answered with an uninterested, “Yeah, whatever. There’d be a guy who uses the tattoo made on his body to get out of prison.” Heard that one before. What’s new?

“Noooo. You’ve GOT to watch it. It’s much more than that!” Really?

And thence began an obsession which lasted until the show was pulled off air :P

Prison Break is the gripping story of a man who helps his brother escape from prison and gain back freedomMichael Scofield (played by Wentworth Miller) is a structural engineer by profession and a gentle, low self-esteem person with a high IQ, by nature. Lincoln Burrows (played by Dominic Purcell) is his hot-blooded, brawny brother who has been wrongly convicted for the murder of the Vice-President’s brother and is waiting for execution on the electric chair.

This post is perhaps a few years late, but for those who’ve still not seen the show, here’s a season-by-season review - 

Season 1: The reason the show is one of the best drama series on television

I remember watching the first 13 episodes in one go! They were the best thought-out, the most interesting and intelligent episodes of all seasons. The show was initially supposed to be a mini-series of 14 parts and I think that has something to do with it. 

At the end of the thirteenth episode, I felt as if the show was originally supposed to end there with the inmates escaping, but with the excellent viewership the channel got, it probably asked the creators to continue. And hence we see the abrupt foiling of the escape attempt. 

However, the script-writers do keep up the spirit of the show till the last episode of the season.

A fellow inmate escapes as Scofield looks on in the last episode of season 1                          
·     Veronica (Scofield’s lawyer) to Scofield: I loved your brother.
Scofield: Past tense for you, not me.

Veronica: You are where you are because of your brother, Michael.
Michael : You are telling me he is where he is because of me.

Prison guard: It’s not that hot.
T-Bag (a fellow inmate): Not that hot! (points to a black man) When this man woke up this mornin', he was white.

·     C-note (a fellow inmate) to Scofield: Darwin wins inside these walls. Not Einstein. Darwin.

Season 2: Nor here, nor there

In this season, the escaped inmates are looking for safe havens, while being chased by police authorities. 

It’s definitely disappointing after the brilliant first season, but not too bad. The interesting bit is the introduction of a new character, FBI agent Alex Mahone (played by William Fichtner) whose intelligence and wit prove a good match for Scofield’s. This is the season when you thank script-writers for having more than just one intelligent character in the story. 

Alex Mahone on the chase -

This season still has the dynamism of the show intact but loses a bit on novelty and pace. 

A few interesting scenes from season 2 
·     Scofield: "You still think you are running the show, don’t you?
Kellerman (Secret Service): You still think I am not?

·    (Kellerman puts phone on the dashboard, after conversation with Bill Kim)
Michael: You leave that on, they'll trace it. 
Kellernman: [laughs] Yeah, uh, Secret Service, it's untraceable. But thanks.

(T-bag eats the treasure map
Scofield- Tell me that it is not what I know it is.
T-bag- It is. But don’t worry. Before I destroyed it I committed it to my photographic memory. I woulda tatooed it to my body but I didn’t have the time.

·     Bellick (to a fat inmate when he’s trying to escape by climbing the prison wall): Humpty Dumpty climbed a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall!

Season 3: Who the hell came up with the idea? 

The TRPs for the show must have been really high for the show to drag to a third season. By this time, you feel nothing can go right with our protagonists. 

The story-line completely loses track and the escaped inmates find themselves in ANOTHER prison, somewhere in Panama. They introduce an obscure twist involving an Australian named James Whistler (played by Chris Vance) and you’re left wondering, where exactly is the story heading. 

James Whistler and Michael Scofield
It seemed as if the creators were trying to recreate the magic of the first season by placing them in a prison again, but failed really miserably. 

We see the introduction of yet another interesting character, Gretchen or Susan B. (played by Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) who is the saving grace of this season. And of course, the charming Mr Scofield. 

Since I was hooked to the show even through this, they must have done something right and hence season 3’s bearable. But just bearable. 

Season 4: Really? World War III now? 

No words for the turns and twists the story line took in this one! The story started from one man being wrongly convicted of murder to a mammoth plot about energy sources and countries fighting with each other to gain control!

Writers were probably just out of ideas and doing the most predictable things possible. By the middle of the season, the show resembled a bad Bollywood movie. The hero almost always gets it right, his brother is as dumb as he is clever, the heroine is pregnant and distressed, the villain has her hostage and just about anything else you can imagine. 

All in all, highly predictable, too cynical and a pure dog-eat-dog world. The idea that everyone keeps deceiving everyone else, except the few angel hearts, gets onto you. The introduction of mediocre new characters leaves you unsatisfied (that computer hacker Roland Glenn drops from nowhere?!)

Yet, it is much much better than season 3!  They just needed to keep it simple. But perhaps they wanted to end it grand. 

At the end of it all, I did watch all four seasons! Main reasons: Scofield's character, great writing, unpredictability and the urge to know how it all ends. So, you’ve GOT to watch the show!  

My favorite scene from season 4

General: The best minds in the world designed this security system. And you almost beat it.  Frustration must be killing you. 

Scofield: Actually, there's just one piece missing. And you just brought it to me. Your scylla card. Now. (Takes the card and starts examining the security system. It has five more card slots.)

General: Not what you expected.

Scofield: What I expected from a man like you is a system where you've got all the advantage. 

General: Looks like you're a few cards short. 

(Scofield takes out the five cards and puts them in the slots.)

General: How did you get all the five cards?

Scofield (smirk smiles): Frustration must be killing you! :D :D :D

Hats-off to Paul Scheuring for creating such an interesting TV series!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Orphaned Indians in Libya: Why is the government waiting?

"Another 1050 Indians will be evacuated today from Tripoli," tweeted India's Foreign Secretary, Nirupama Rao on March 2, 2011 - 15 days after the protests began in Libya.
For those of you who've been away from the news of late, people in Libya have been protesting against its ruthless dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi, much inspired by the Egyptian protests against President Hosni Mubarak. 

Courtesy: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
A child joins demonstrators protesting against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi 

The situation in Libya is now feared to be explosive. A civil war just ready to break out. But the Indian government it seems is waiting for more. It's just not urgent enough yet. Dead bodies will sure be easier to carry. 

While China has brought back its 36,000-odd nationals safe and sound from a violence-hit Libya, India hasn't been able to manage half that number. 

Around 3500 Indians, of the total 18,000 estimated to be in Libya have returned home safely. 7000 others wait for Indian warships to reach them in Alexandria, Egypt by March 8 next week, according to the navy chief. 

As per other media reports, evacuation plans have been extended to March 12.  That still leaves about 7500 Indians unaccounted for while the government waits in inaction.
"We are not in competition with China here. We're focussed on the task of bringing back our people safe and sound. Please let's not devalue this,” goes another tweet by Ms Rao. 
I considered finding explanations for the government's lapse. Does India not have enough military might to evacuate 18,000 men in emergency situations? India stands fourth on world military strength rankings. It must say something about the country's capability and military resources.

Is Libya not cooperating with Indian authorities to facilitate the evacuation? Not that it should be a reason, for Germany conducted covert operations to get back its citizens and China did an all out mission to get back its people. But that's not the case, since Mussa Kussa, Libya's Foreign Affairs Minister has extended support to India in its rescue plans so far.

Then is it the same old inefficiency, red tape and indifference of the government the cause for the delay?

I fear so. An Indian stranded in Libya recounts her horror story to the magazine, indiatoday "I was ashamed and unlucky to be Indian." She recounts how she saw people from other countries leave within the first few days since the protests began while the Indian Embassy kept ignoring them as they called.

BBC & Reuters estimates of other foreign nationals before the unrest in Libya and after the rescue operations - 

Before the unrest = 60,000
Evacuated = 400, by March 1, 2011 

Before the unrest = 1500
Evacuated = 700 by March 3, 2011

Before the unrest = 500
Evacuated = 350, by March 3, 2011

Before the unrest = 213
Evacuated = Almost all have been evacuated by Feb 25
Not a single Canadian had been airlifted by Canadian authorities :P They had hitched rides on allied country's flights and ships. 

Before the unrest = 30,000
Evacuated = Almost all have been evacuated. The government got most of the people out in just three to four days using huge air, sea and land operations. 

Before the unrest = 500-550
Evacuated = 400, by Feb 23

Before the unrest = 30,000
Evacuated = 9231 by March 3, 2011

Before the unrest = 25,000, 
Evacuated = 18,000, by March 3, 2011

Before the unrest = 600
Evacuated = Almost all. Has closed embassy and evacuated all staff by Feb 23. Soon followed  talks of sanctions against Libya.

You're right Ms Rao. We are in no competition with China here. We're not even close to Turkey. And we do devalue our people.