BREAKOUT KINGS “Pilot” (Series Premiere) Advance Review


BREAKOUT KINGS “Pilot” Season 1 Episode 1 BREAKOUT KINGS, premiering on A&E tonight, is the much-anticipated series from Prison Break writers and producers Matt Olmstead and Nick Santora. In the pilot, U. S. Marshal Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi, The Wire) forms a team of his toughest recaptures to track down a particularly nasty escaped convict. Another Marshal, Criminal Profile Analyst Charlie DuChamp (Laz Alonso, Southland) joins the team to supervise Ray and keep everyone in line. I had high expectations for the show, and I’m left more ambivalent than I had hoped.

Each episode of Breakout Kings opens with a sequence introducing us to the Baddie of the week and his/her escape, so the pilot gives us good action right off the bat as we see revenge-driven bank robber Tillman (Jason Cerbone) pull off his impressively complicated plan. The creativity of this escape makes the unlikelihood that a task force with a rag-tag bunch of criminals is needed to combat an epidemic of prison breaks easier to swallow.

Before we meet our merry band of convicts, we spend a few minutes with the two Marshals. Ray is the tough and street-wise, bend the rules to get the job done guy while Charlie is the very smart, by-the-book former desk jockey who’s thrilled to be on the streets despite having a health condition that makes it risky. It’s a decent odd couple pairing, but I wish Ray didn’t have a backstory that requires so much suspension of disbelief in accepting he still has his job. It just isn’t necessary. Anyway, there’s also a third “good guy” in Julianne Simms (Brooke Nevin), the civilian information gatherer/funnel. She had been on the fast track with the Marshal Service but emotional issues crippled her progress and this is her second chance to prove herself.

For the convicts, Lloyd Lowery (scene-stealing Jimmi Simpson) is a brilliant former child prodigy and medical doctor turned gambler. He has a complicated relationship with his mother and is serving twenty-five years for an as yet un-divulged crime. Shea Daniels (Malcolm Goodwin) is a gangbanger who sees himself as a highly successful businessman and has the potential to be a standout. Nicole Steinwedell appears in the pilot as Philly, a con woman and former Miss Idaho. She’s not very interesting, but her character doesn’t make it past the pilot, so no worries there. Serinda Swan takes her place in future episodes, playing Erica Reed, but judging from the other episode I watched, I’m not sure she’s an improvement. As with most crime procedurals, the characters are-at least initially–types and it will be up to the actors flesh them out.

Breakout Kings looks great: it’s slick and well shot. with some cool camera angles The pilot zips along with decent action and some good Leverage-like dialog. The problem is that there’s nothing new here. We have seen ensemble criminal procedurals and criminals catching criminals many times before and so far there’s very little to set this show apart.

I think the key will be whether the characters and their bid for redemption suck us in. Everyone is looking for a second chance here, which is a good hook, but it’s too early to know how much I’ll care. Most of the characters mesh well with decent banter, and I’m most curious to see the relationship between Lloyd, and Julianne develop because they have some interesting interplay. I’m least curious and most ambivalent about Ray. I like the actor, but the character is a bit over the top with his “I’ve got something to prove so watch me sweat pure testosterone” shtick.

I think I had too high expectations for Breakout Kings given its pedigree because I’m disappointed even though the show is off to a decent (but not great) start. It has fast- paced action and there is potential for the characters to develop and grow on me. Unfortunately, the show feels both too familiar and a little disjointed, like the puzzle pieces don’t quite fit. Admittedly, that’s typical of pilots and I hope it changes as the show progresses.

After you’ve watched the Breakout Kings pilot on A&E tonight at 10pm eastern/9pm central, I hope you’ll come back and post your thoughts. Did the pilot meet your expectations?

You can read all our Breakout Kings coverage here.

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