Sarah Wayne Callies and Wentworth Miller
Fox's Prison Break wrapped up its four-year run (and run, and run, and run...) on Friday night, as Michael finally decided into whose hands he could entrust Scylla. Along the way, a pair of familiar faces resurfaced, justice was meted out, and, in a four-year flash-forward, a variety of fates were revealed.
It was during that epilogue that the producers uncorked one final — and fatal — twist. If you have finished watching the two-hour series-ender, read on for executive producer Matt Olmstead's answers to the burning questions you likely have.
TVGuide.com: At what point during the four-year run did you decide that Michael would die in the end?
Matt Olmstead: At the beginning of this season, we had a debate about it. I was on NYPD Blue and I came on during Season 6, which was Jimmy Smits' last arc — and it was some of the best TV ever. They had the thought that when a character goes that's beloved, if you drop a safe on his head, the audience is going to hate you, because they haven't had a chance to mourn. So let's show up early that the character has a [health] problem. [NYPD Blue creator] David [Milch] did it brilliantly [with Smits' character dying of heart failure], and I always remembered that. So when we met with the writers after the [WGA] strike, we asked ourselves: Is Michael going to last? Either way, let's [give him] a nosebleed in Episode 1. That way we can kind of suggest that something's up, and it also gives us the opportunity to play some scenes — if we want to go down this road — where Sara can mourn it, Lincoln's aware of it, and the audience is aware of it. Then they too have a chance to mourn the loss.
TVGuide.com: What was Wentworth Miller's take on the matter?
Olmstead: He ultimately liked it. He had heard rumblings, and when that script went out, a complimentary email came back from him, because he saw the merits of it. The idea of Michael not making it stemmed from a conversation he and I had in Season 2. He said that at this point [Michael's] hands were as dirty as anyone's, and that was something we addressed along the way, this mounting guilt. "I broke my brother out of prison, the ramifications of which have included people getting killed" — neither he the actor nor the character were ignorant or dismissive of that. So the idea of a finale where [in the coda] he doesn't make it but everyone else does was the right ending for him as an actor. For Michael to have traipsed off into the sunset with Sara may have seemed a little like, "Hey, good for you guys."
TVGuide.com: But the network fought you on the death, right?
Olmstead: It was split over there; half the people wanted to see Sara and Michael together, and half saw the merit in Michael not making it. Once they saw the scripts, they agreed unilaterally that it was the right move to make.
TVGuide.com: It should be noted that Michael is alive in Prison Break: The Final Break (a two-hour standalone movie slated for a July 21 DVD release).
Olmstead: Right. The Final Break takes place shortly after everyone's exoneration, so we go back and see Michael alive.
TVGuide.com: That was a nice little wink you had there with Michael Jr. getting a fake tattoo.
Olmstead: Yeah, it was [writer/co-executive producer] Nick Santora who had that idea.
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about the returns. Did Paul Adelstein (now on Private Practice) foresee your phone call coming? I have always told him that Kellerman would one day resurface.
Olmstead: I've run into him occasionally, and I'd say, "One day you'll get a phone call." He was always enthusiastic about it. We didn't know obviously what the storyline was going to be, but we increasingly wanted to save it for the finale.
TVGuide.com: Rockmund Dunbar [who plays C-Note], I have to imagine, was a bit more surprised.
Olmstead: I think so. We knew that this was [the end], and who did we the writers want to see back? Who would make a nice impact in terms of the viewers? We didn't want to just bring him back in a service role; we wanted him to come back for a plot twist.
TVGuide.com: Did you consider bringing back Patricia Wettig's disgraced President Caroline Reynolds?
Olmstead: No, no.... That character is done.
TVGuide.com: And were none of the various Maricruz actresses available?
Olmstead: We thought about it, but all that we really see is probably her holding the child, or saying one line. It just wasn't worth our while — and I doubt the actresses would have been interested either.
TVGuide.com: Robert Knepper told TV Guide Network's Hollywood 411 that the fate you chose for T-Bag was the "greatest" of all the options.
Olmstead: I think it was very poetic. For us [the coda] was the right combination of people getting just desserts, sweet surprises and tragedy. People were saying that you couldn't have T-Bag still on the loose, that you couldn't do the Hannibal Lecter version of it, because that would put a black mark on Michael. That he unleashed this monster on the world. Nor could you kill T-Bag, because ironically he was too loved by the audience. So we put him back where he started, but with a heartache. He overhears this thing about GATE and it strikes a chord. It reminds him of what he almost had.
TVGuide.com: That was an interesting romantic twist you did there with Mahone.
Olmstead: That was one of the surprises. Here he is, sending a birthday card to his ex-wife, yet now he's with his former [FBI] colleague [Felicia Lang]. We provide more "what happened" information on that in The Final Break.
TVGuide.com: When last you and I spoke, you said that Michael's overnight tattoo removal was your least-proud moment. Looking back on the show's run, what are you most proud of?
Olmstead: The thing I am by far the most proud of is that the [writing] staff was pretty much the same through all four years. There were people who were there from the beginning to the very end — Zack Estrin, Nick Santora, Karyn Usher — and we had other writers who came up through writers' assistants and then got staffed — Seth Hoffman, Kalinda Vazquez, Christian Trokey.... It was a very tight group, and everything was done collectively, because it is such a serialized show. Every outline was tabled as a group, every script was tabled as a group, every cut was watched as a group.... We got to see people evolve and flourish and evolve, and as luxury to me, I had eight people who were all heavy hitters. At the beginning of this season, we were at a crossroads with the network and the studio — it was post-strike, an accelerated process — about what we were going to do. We had to really show them something, and everybody pitched in and we solved it.
TVGuide.com: Is there any ratings number you can hit with the series finale that will get The Final Break broadcast on Fox?
Olmstead: I really don't know. I don't even know if they've seen it, being busy preparing for the [May 18] upfronts. But we're really proud of it, and I hope you like it.
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