From the time its very first season premiered on the Fox television network in 2005, Prison Break has commanded strong ratings and acquired a loyal fan base. Following in the long wake of its network companion 24, Prison Break followed a similar formula to success, no doubt spurred on by the success of the former. Using a single story arc played out over entire season with a methodical yet still quick pace and constantly growing tension peppered with much nail biting drama, action sequences and egregious amounts of gratuitous violence, it is dream fodder for the Madison Ave. prime demographic.
The first season of Prison Break placed the main characters, brothers Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) and Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), in the fictional level one maximum-security Fox River State Penitentiary, where Lincoln was on death row awaiting execution and Michael had gotten himself purposely incarcerated with the intention of breaking himself and his brother out. Season Two followed the brothers and the seedy characters they had to take on as allies in Fox River after the break out and further extrapolated upon the conspiracy (first introduced in Season One), of a clandestine group of high powered businessmen and politicians known simply as the Company who framed Lincoln as the man who assassinated the U.S. Vice President's brother and put him on death row.
This third season placed Prison Break back in its proper element -- in a prison with the seeming savant-like Michael Scofield using his exceptional IQ and talent as an engineer to escape. Although it is always known that it is the Company manipulating things, there are less allusions to the vast conspiracy that is the Company than in Season Two, which is a good thing. It is the tension of what happens next -- how will Michael escape, will someone find out and ruin his plans -- that makes Prison Break an interesting show. With the convolution that is the subplot about the Company being moved to the background, Season Three almost attains the level of quality that made the series such a breakaway success in its first season.
Prison Break: Season Three comes to Blu-ray Disc in a brilliant 1080p/24 AVC/MPEG-4 video transfer from Fox in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Stylistically more cinematic in its appearance than many other shows on television, Prison Break is originally filmed on Super-35 then, utilizing a digital intermediate, usually converted to video for its HDTV broadcast. The series is deeply textured and sharp with plenty of film grain and a color palette that is full of rich, warm mid-tones and deep blacks. Fox's high bitrate AVC encoding captures this look tremendously. The 1080p Blu-ray Disc release is so superior to the 720p over-the-air MPEG-2 broadcasts of Prison Break I am so accustomed to seeing, that it is laughable to even compare the two. Where the broadcasts always show a slight softness and tend to pixelate in active scenes, none of those things are present on these BDs.
These BDs show a fine level of foreground and background detail. Every bead of sweat, every fleck of dirt on a character's skin, and every strand of hair is picked up. Clothing and skin textures look so realistic they make you want to reach out and touch them. This transfer's black levels are impeccable -- blacks like coal, yet shadow detail is maintained with crush never becoming an issue. Contrast is perfect, showing no blooming or washing out of details in brighter scenes, and flesh tones are realistic. Like Disney's Lost: Season Three, Prison Break: Season Three is a reference for what TV on BD should look like.
Fox has standardized on DTS-HD Master Audio as the high quality, lossless option for all of their Blu-ray releases. At first thought DTS-HD MA may seem like overkill for a television series soundtrack and, certainly, some other studios feel that a lossy Dolby Digital soundtrack is all that is needed for such a release. The reality is, however, that Prison Break's English DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack (also available in Spanish & French Dolby Digital 5.1 dubbed versions on this release) is quite lively for a television series and benefits greatly from the lossless treatment.
Like the visual look of the show, Prison Break's sound mix is cinematic in its scope. As to be expected, the dialogue is kept full center and always clear, but throughout the show Ramin Djawadi's original scoring fills the soundstage, helping to build tension at every turn. There is hardly a moment in Prison Break, when the surrounds aren't filled with something from the chatter of the prisoners in Sona, to leaky pipes dripping in the prison. The liveliest moments come from the numerous fight scenes within the prison as the chanting of the inmates fills the room. There are many other discrete sounds mixed into the rear or to the sides, such Sona's alert siren, the ubiquitous gunfire, and the sound of rainstorms mixed throughout all the channels for an encompassing aural presentation. Low frequencies are quite weighty; they may never reach the thunderous levels of a feature film, but they have adequate heft to provide some rattle.
Spoiling an otherwise excellent set are the meager extras that are provided for this BD release. Consisting mainly of fluff pieces and some behind-the-scenes featurettes offered mostly in standard definition, most of the supplemental materials offer no real added value and may as well have been left off of this set.
The extras offered on this release are: