Third-episode verdict: Breakout Kings

Prison Break again, but this time we want them to be caught

Breakout Kings

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, A&E

One of the things about holidays, work, et al, is sometimes it takes me a while to catch up with everything, particularly new shows that don’t look especially brilliant from the outset. That’s why I’m three episodes behind on Breakout Kings, which looked anything but appealing – except for one thing

For starters, Breakout Kings has had something of a chequered history. Originally in development at Fox, the show got a pilot episode in January 2010. However, Fox didn’t pick up the series but tried to sell it to other networks instead. A&E picked up the show in June 2010 and after a wee bit of recasting, here it is.

Now, not to suggest that the writers are stuck for ideas, but we have here the story of a bunch of criminals who help US marshals track down escaped prisoners. Want to guess which Fox show the writers used to work on?

That’s right: Prison Break. They even brought T-Bag (Robert Knepper) along for an episode.

Cue the trailer.

Driven by the fact that there are few things more dangerous than a prisoner who has just escaped, and tired of following protocol and resorting to outdated methods of law enforcement, veteran U.S. Marshals Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonso) and Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi) are taking an unorthodox approach to their work: using former fugitives (Jimmi Simpson, Malcolm Goodwin & Serinda Swan) to catch fugitives.

“Breakout Kings” follows U.S. Marshals Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonso) and Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi) as they form a special task force composed of the three most elusive convicts Ray ever captured: Lloyd Lowery (Jimmi Simpson), a former child prodigy and behaviorist/psychiatric expert whoexcels in psychoanalysis; Shea Daniels (Malcolm Goodwin), an ex-gangbanger who knows how to work the system, both in prison and on the street; and Erica Reed (Serinda Swan), a sexy expert tracker who learned her trade from her bounty hunter father. Charlie and Ray also employ the services of Julianne Simms (Brooke Nevin), a civilian who acts as the “funnel” for the group – all information, tips and data go through her.

Is it any good?
It’s really rather bad, to be honest. It didn’t start great, but the pilot episode was still a whole lot better than the following episodes.

The problems are quite substantial: a bad premise, bad acting, bad characters, bad plots, a bad title sequence (possibly the worst I’ve seen in a good few years) and bad dialogue. It’s bad.

There are some good spots. The prison breaks are always imaginative. The show’s willingness to ditch characters is to be applauded. Jimmi Simpson and the former child prodigy he plays are always entertaining, a combination of psychological profiling and freakonomics-style analysis of people that veers into racism at times. However, they clearly thought he was too interesting since they dialled down his almost omnipotence from episode two making him just a bit snarky and geeky instead.

Nicole Steinwedell of The Unit did a decent job in the pilot episode as a con woman member of the team, before A&E decided she wasn’t “edgy and ethnic” enough for the series-proper and replaced her with Serinda Swan (best known as one of the Sirens in Tron: Legacy. If you can call that ‘known’), who looks good but doesn’t exactly have range and whose character is pretty much non-existent and adds little to the ‘team’. But then most of the other characters are a collection of by-the-book traits, listed for us, rather than anything that actually affects the plot or causes them to act in particularly interesting ways. The few scraps of character interest that were in the pilot episode seem to have been shaved off, leaving a bunch of cyphers.

Instead, this is a plot-driven affair in which a nasty prisoner escapes each week in a cunning way and our heroes use their special skills to catch him again. Highlight of the series so far has been episode three, which saw the return of T-Bag from Prison Break. It was a much more interesting affair than previous episodes since we actually got to know the escapee as a character and already had a fair amount of background from Prison Break.

Nevertheless, it still didn’t really excel at anything. No one’s really that edgy. No one really feels like a con. None of the characters really gel. It’s just an excuse to have lots of running and shooting. And if that’s your thing, this is perfectly serviceable – it is at least mildly more entertaining than Chase. But if it’s not your thing, there’s really nothing to be gained from watching this.

Carusometer rating: 4
Rob’s prediction: Dead by the end of the season


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.