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Series / Prison Break

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Michael: I'm getting you out of here.
Lincoln: It's impossible.
Michael: Not if you designed the place, it isn't.

Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), a petty crook from Chicago, has been tried, convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of the Vice President's brother. The evidence is damning, all appeals have been denied, the government has been railroading proceedings from the outset and Lincoln is left to wait out the last few months of his life in Fox River State Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison. Only one person believes that Lincoln was framed for the crime: his brother, Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), a structural engineer, genius and chronic do-gooder. Armed with an incredibly intricate scheme, in-depth intelligence on both the staff and prisoners, cleverly hidden tools and blueprints for the entire prison tattooed on his body, Michael gets himself incarcerated at Fox River in order to break himself and his brother out of prison.

Prison Break is an American television series that ran for four seasons on Fox between 2005 and 2009. The series originally concluded with a two-episode finale, which was released as a direct-to-DVD movie in the U.S dubbed Prison Break: The Final Break. The series was later revived for a nine-episode limited event series which aired in the spring of 2017.

The first season follows Michael and Lincoln as they assemble an escape team, avoid the suspicions of the prison staff — including Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies), the prison doctor who unexpectedly becomes integral to the scheme and Michael himself — and put Michael's plan into action. Meanwhile, their lawyer friend Veronica (Robin Tunney) tries to uncover the conspiracy that's framing Lincoln. Seasons two through four involved the characters becoming fugitives, breaking out of other prisons and eventually taking on "The Company", a shadowy cabal responsible for framing Lincoln in the first place. The 2017 series, dubbed Prison Break: Resurrection, retconned the Grand Finale in season four, and brought the characters back together once again to take on a rogue CIA faction known as 21-Void. In 2018, a sixth season was announced to be in early development; however, in 2019, Fox announced that they have no current plans for a new season.

A Video Game adaptation for the first season was made in 2010 called Prison Break: The Conspiracy.

For the trope about breaking out of prisons, see Great Escape.

This show provides examples of:

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  • Affably Evil: T-Bag, Kellerman. The General, to some extent, too.
  • Agony of the Feet: Michael has two of his toes cut off by Abruzzi's men early in Season 1 after he refuses to give up the information they wanted. Then Bellick deliberately steps on the wound, causing additional pain to Scofield.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Used by Michael and Sara in Riots, Drills and the Devil: Part 2, to escape from the inmates in the infirmary during the riot.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Gretchen in The Final Break. When she and Sara are escaping, she gets caught. Not only does she not snitch on Sara, but she also leaves behind the necklace she intended to give to her daughter.
  • The Alcatraz: For season 3 of the series, Michael is manipulated by the recurring shadowy conspiracy to break a man out of Sona, a fictional Panamanian prison with a perfect record, surrounded by brutal military forces, and that's run by the convicts. Fox River in season 1 is not this trope, since it is more of a standard maximum security prison, even though it took the protagonists the entire season to break out. Downplayed in The Final Break, where the escape is successful after only two days of planning.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys:
    • Dr. Sara Tancredi. It's part of her backstory.
    • Lincoln with Veronica, Lisa Rix, Sofia, Gretchen, and Sheba. There was also Jeanette in season 2, who led on T-Bag but really had the hots for Lincoln.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song:
    • The Japanese dub uses "Top Secret" by Namie Amuro for the theme song of the second season."Evolution" by Exile was the first theme song for the third season and "Be On Top" is the second theme song. "Change" by YU-A as the ending theme song for the final season.
    • The French dub uses "Pas le temps" by French rapper Faf Larage as the show's opening credits song.
  • Anti-Hero: Most notably Lincoln, but pretty much every character who's not an outright villain. Even then, it's sketchy.
  • Anti-Villain: Alexander Mahone, an FBI agent forced by the Company to kill the brothers and their escape team, or else his own ex-wife and son will die.
  • Anyone Can Die: Can and do. The first unexpected death was LJ's mother Lisa, but from there it just spirals out of control. Out of the main characters, Veronica, Abruzzi, Lechero, Whistler, and Bellick all die while the General ends up on an electric chair. Michael was presumed dead after the events in The Final Break, but the rebooted fifth season reveals that he is still alive.
  • Arch-Enemy: Michael and T-Bag. Abruzzi and T-Bag. Michael and Mahone. Michael/Linc/Aldo and the Company.
  • The Artifact: Bellick in any post season 1 storyline. An argument could also be made for T-Bag.
  • Artifact Title: In seasons 2 and 4, although figuratively it can still be applied.
  • Artistic License – History: A major plot point in the series is that one of the inmates at Fox River is actually D.B. Cooper, who's been hiding the money from his famous plane heist since 1971. While the mystery of D.B. Cooper's ultimate fate has never been definitively solved, the FBI has long maintained that Cooper probably didn't even survive jumping out of the plane: most eyewitness accounts from the hijacking strongly suggest that he had little (if any) training or experience in skydiving, he jumped without proper equipment (he didn't have a jacket or a helmet, and his reserve parachute was non-functional), and he jumped in rainy and windy conditions that would have been highly dangerous for even a skilled parachutist. Even if he survived the jump itself, he would have found himself stranded in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest with no supplies, and no way to determine his location. The show also claims that Cooper made off with $1 million in ransom money (revealed to be $5 million in reality); it was actually just $200,000.
  • Artistic License – Law Enforcement: In the second season, Bellick is shown actively participating in the manhunt for the escaped prisoners. This wouldn't happen: he's a prison guard, not a law enforcement officer; his authority ends at the prison gate. State and local police would have handled the manhunt. Although, Bellick is basically acting as a Cowboy Cop at that point, pursuing the escapees out of pure anger for tying him up to secure their escape and embarassing him. When the escaped prisoners board a train and start to disperse through the country, the FBI takes over and Bellick is fired for his awful performance. While he does continue to pursue the Fox River Eight after that, it's without any kind of legal authority: Bellick and his partner are simply interested in retrieving the money that one of the men who took part in the escape plan had buried somewhere.
  • Artistic License – Prison:
    • Michael visits the warden's office on several occasions, mainly to help the warden complete an elaborate model he's constructing as a present for his wife. No matter how much he's trusted, Michael wouldn't be allowed to meet with the warden one-on-one; regulations require that there always be a guard present for the warden's protection. A prisoner also would not be left alone and unobserved in the warden's office. He'd have access to files, the phone, the computer, and office supplies that could be crafted into weapons. This is deconstructed in season 2 when a disciplinary board concludes that the Warden and the Captain of the Guard have broken numerous rules of conduct that together enabled the escape of the Fox River 8. Both men are fired or forced to resign.
    • The Illinois corrections officers are portrayed as poorly paid (e.g., a veteran officer saying "I ain't a hero for $14 an hour"). In reality for Illinois, because of the poor working conditions the pay is not bad for a job requiring only a high school education: about $24 an hour fresh out of the academy.
    • There's no death penalty in Illinois. The state has had a moratorium on executions since 1999, and it was officially abolished by the governor in 2011. Also, the preferred method before then was lethal injection; the last use of the electric chair was 1962.
    • This is combined with Idiot Ball on the part of the guards on countless occasions. Inmates in Fox River are shown to have shivs concealed in their bibles, under the toilet seats, etc. In reality prison guards know all about these hiding places and check them often. Trying to hollow out a space in your bible to conceal a shiv is a waste of time.
    • While at Fox River, Lincoln is frequently shown interacting with the other prisoners, and even has a job in prison industry during Season 1. In reality, most prisons are pretty strict about keeping Death Row inmates isolated from the rest of the prison population, and it's very unlikely that they would give a paying industrial job to someone who was slated to be executed.
  • Asshole Victim: Several in the series, but T-Bag, along with Bellick ( only to Season 3), is a standout.
  • The Atoner:
    • While Michael was never an actually evil character, he feels regretful for everything he had to do and all the consequences of him breaking Lincoln out of prison, including releasing T-Bag back into society, ruining Sara's life, as well as countless deaths, usually caused by the Company. He spends the entire series trying to get T-Bag arrested again, which he does, only to learn that he, Sucre and Bellick all broke out in Season 4, and his main goal in Season 4 is taking down the Company.
    • After being ditched by the Company and President Reynolds, Kellerman realizes all the things he did for them was in vain. He decides to turn himself in, handing over several documents from the Company, as well as exonerating both Sara and Lincoln in the process, even though he knew he would end up being killed for it — but he was freed by former Aldo Burrows' anti-Company cooperatives, and in the climax of Season 4 he completes his fate as he handles Scylla from Michael to the UN officials, causing an ultimate end to his new nemesis.
    • Bellick — partially in Season 3, very much so in Season 4. Even though occasionally he still wants to escape via the southern border with Sucre as his translator, he realizes his former prisoners fight for a greater cause. His role is vastly exemplified by his tragic death, helping Michael, Linc and Sucre get Scylla.
  • Ax-Crazy: T-Bag, Abruzzi, Quinn, Kellerman (initially), Gretchen, Wyatt.
  • Babies Ever After: Subverted. Sara has Michael Jr., but Michael himself is presumed dead and missing for several years.
  • Back for the Finale: Sucre, C-Note, Sofia, Felicia, Kellerman, and Hale's wife all re-appear for the broadcast finale - despite not being having seen in a few episodes, two seasons, a full season, a few episodes, two seasons, and almost three full seasons — respectively. Strangely, neither LJ nor Gretchen join them, though Gretchen does play a huge role in The Final Break.
  • Back from the Dead: Sara, Kellerman, as well as Michael in the reboot. Subverted with Homeland Security agents meeting Don Self.
  • Backstory: The Season 1 episode Brother's Keeper is set three years before the main story to show the pasts of most of the main characters introduced at that point. Several other backstories are revealed through the series.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: The COs at Fox River are corrupt, and technically all are incompetent considering the main cast was able to escape. Plus, the Fox River escapees manage to outrun almost every single cop in America.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In season four, the members have to gain access to an older cardholder's room in order to get access to his Scylla data. He rebuffs Sara's advances, but she learns from a young, attractive man that the cardholder had propositioned him instead. Sucre reluctantly goes up to his room after the cardholder offers him a thousand dollars for an encounter, expecting to be seduced... Only to discover that the man lost his sexual functionality due to a combat injury, and instead was looking to pay a handsome stranger to have sex with his younger, extremely attractive wife. The look on Sucre's face is priceless.
  • Bald of Evil: Many of the characters on the show sport either shaved heads or hair that is cut extremely close. Justified in that most prisoners tend to cut their hair very short, as long hair is a detriment in a fight because it's too easy for someone to grab a handful and yank your scalp off your head.
  • Becoming the Mask: T-Bag with the Cole Pfeiffer identity.
  • Berserk Button: Michael really doesn't like it if you threaten or insult Linc. Likewise, you probably shouldn't threaten or harm Michael while Lincoln is around. Really, it's just not a good idea to mess with either brother.
    • Somewhat exaggerated with plenty of characters once their families safety is threatened, to the point that it's easily abused by the bad guys.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Monkeywrenched in The Final Break. Michael was dying anyway, so he performs a Heroic Sacrifice to save Sara, although the reboot later reveals that he somehow survived getting electrocuted and his fatal brain tumor.
  • Best Served Cold: Mahone clearly looks satisfied after waiting quite a while before he finally got the chance to kill Wyatt, the man who murdered his son.
    • Subverted with Michael and Gretchen, after he learns that Sara isn't really dead.
  • The Big Board: Michael uses a blank wall in his apartment to display and map out every detail of his escape. Mahone does the same thing when retracing Michael's steps during season two. Most of the plans during season four are mapped out on a whiteboard in the warehouse.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Sara comes to Michael's rescue in The Sunshine State, by ramming her car into the two mooks who are trying to run him down in an all wheel drive vehicle.
  • Big Guy: Lincoln.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The season four finale and The Final Break.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Lots of characters. Special agent Mahone in particular.
  • Blatant Lies: Bellick's explanation of how Michael lost his toes is that he stepped on a pair of gardening sheers; Sara lampshades the absurdity.
    • This applies for all of the explanations of the injuries Michael sustains while in prison. Michael finally just stops even trying to offer an explanation. She finds herself doing the exact same thing in The Final Break after taking a beating from female COs.
  • Bluff the Imposter: In Season 2 Michael realizes the man he's meeting with is not who he claims to be after quizzing him about which asthma medication he takes. The guy knows he's being tested and he still gets the answer wrong.
    • Often played straight with many characters, mainly the Fox River 8, when they're out of the prison cells and try to hide their true identity, only to eventually fail and get the passer-byes to call the cops.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Kellerman clearly has feelings for Vice-President Reynolds and that drives him to do whatever she wants. Terrence openly calls him on it, laughing at how Kellerman honestly thinks he can be "the First Husband" and bluntly tells him Reynolds doesn't care about him. Kellerman doesn't believe it until he finds himself cut out of her loop and when she okays his termination, that's the final straw that drives him to help the brothers.
    • Played with in The Final Break, when Gretchen tries to seduce a female CO to draw her attention and make her and Sara's escape easier.
  • Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: The season 1 finale. Sara's fate as to whether she survives her overdose is at the time uncertain but unlikely, T-Bag is bleeding heavily from his wound, Haywire is unstable and on the loose, and the season ends with the remaining five abandoned by their getaway and running off into an uncertain fate.
  • Boxed Crook: In season 4, the characters are offered a choice between serving out their prison sentences or helping Agent Self take down the Company. You can guess which one they choose, although at first they turn the offer down.
  • Brains and Brawn: Michael and Lincoln, respectively. Lincoln even refers to them as such in season two.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Caroline Reynolds and Terrence Steadman. Also, T-Bag's parents.
  • Bungled Suicide: Kellerman tries to kill himself, but the gun jams.
    • Downplayed with C-Note, who according to Mahone's order tries to hang himself in a prison cell to save his family, but the COs are quick to rescue him.
  • Butt-Monkey: Tweener, Bellick (from season 2 onwards). T-Bag qualifies in long stretches.
    • Haywire, who always comes out on the losing end of any encounter with Michael.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Agent Wheeler. He and Mahone engage in conflicts because of this. Mahone himself states that he used to be this early in his carreer.
  • Cacophony Cover Up:
    • In "Cute Poison", Sucre aggravates the entire cellblock into making a ruckus by singing loudly, allowing Michael to bust through their cell's wall without being caught.
    • In "Safe and Sound", Michael and Lincoln must drill the wall of an empty office in order to gain access to a Scylla card. Sucre and Bellick cover the drilling noise by posing as janitors and using a loud vacuum cleaner in front of the office.
    • In "Selfless", Don Self and Trishanne free themselves and kill their captors when they argue so loudly that Self can open his handcuffs before the captors notice it.
  • Callback: In a Season 4 episode, T-Bag gives his name as Charles Patoshik.
  • Call-Forward: In Bolshoi Booze, Michael confesses that as a child he saw a man bleed to death and recalls that he was glad, because the man deserved it. The following episode shows the event in question, although in a much more traumatic light than he described.
  • Cardboard Box of Unemployment: After Warden Pope discovers burns on Michael, he pins them on Roy Geary, a corrupt guard who'd been shaking down inmates and stealing their possessions for months. The warden searches Geary's locker, finding several stolen items. The next scene is Geary being marched out of the prison, carrying his belongings in a box.
  • Cassandra Truth: Haywire is the only person at Fox River to guess the secret behind Michael's tattoos, but he's also crazy so no one ever listens to him when he tries to tell them. It probably doesn't help that these encounters usually end with him screaming about pathways to hell.
  • Catholic Schoolgirls Rule: Gretchen wears the uniform in one episode.
  • Chained Heat: T-Bag handcuffs himself to Michael during the escape and then swallows the key so the others don't try to get rid of him, as that would leave Michael dragging around a 170 pound corpse. Abruzzi eventually solves the problem by chopping T-Bag's hand off with an axe, to the horror of everyone else in the room.
  • Character-Magnetic Team: Justified in seasons 1 and 3, when Michael is breaking out of a prison and brings people on-board who have something he needs or who know too much. Downplayed in Season 4, when the characters gather around Michael in order to clear their name, but are threatened to go back to prison if they do otherwise.
  • Character Tic: Michael twitches/drums his fingers when he's deep in thought. He also has a habit of lightly thumping his head against the wall while waiting for one of his plans to go into motion, though this mostly only happens in season one. He squints his eyes while analyzing an area or a certain situation, too.
    • Sucre speaking Spanish when panicking, although mostly downplayed. Exploited once in Season 4.
    • T-Bag twisting his tongue whenever he thinks of something perverted or of his liking.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Seemingly unimportant items will often prove essential in Michael's plans. Very often.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In Season 1, everyone is a Chekhov's Gunman for Michael.
  • The Chessmaster: Michael. Justified throughout the series. His escape plans have been planned out to the last detail. Later elaborated on when it's revealed that he has a condition called Low Latent Inhibition — developed after he spent long hours in the dark as an abused child — which enables him to break things down into parts.
    • Christina Rose.
  • Christianity is Catholic: All references to religion and faith are Catholic based.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Michael, elaborated and justified.
  • Clear My Name: The goal of seasons 1, 2 and 4.
  • Clear Their Name: Veronica's main goal in Season 1 is to prove Lincoln's innocence.
    • After a failed suicide attempt, Kellerman testifies in Sara's case in Season 2. Eventually, it gets her and Lincoln exonerated.
  • Cliffhanger Copout: The first season ends with the main characters being spotted and chased by cops about a hundred yards away across an open field. At the beginning of the second season, they get away by... running. Really fast. And this is coming from a show that ends every commercial break with a cliffhanger.
    • Season 3 ends with Sucre, Bellick, and T-Bag still in Sona; season 4 opens with them having apparently escaped during a riot. It's handwaved with the explanation that there was a three week Time Skip between seasons, but it's still kind of a waste since it had just taken Michael a full season to figure out an escape plan, and they also showed T-Bag working out a way to escape through bribes — although in fairness, Michael managed to escape in only a week and a half, while still avoiding unnecessary attention and casualties, whereas T-Bag simply opted to burn the prison down and tell the prisoners to run because 'they can't shoot all of us'.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: This happens a LOT. Especially to T-Bag.
    • Used by Mahone on Wyatt. Mahone shoves a needle into Wyatt's finger. He's also connected to a defibrillator that will give him a wake-up call when he starts to fall unconscious due to the pain. The normally completely stoic Wyatt is screaming and wheezing from the crippling pain.
    • Wyatt himself is both a Professional Killer and a Torture Technician for the Company. He repeatedly invades people's homes to slowly torture them for information. He's most thorough with Gretchen, whom he ties up and locks up in a tiny cell with nothing but a bucket for days, occasionally coming back to explain what he's going to do to her next.
    • Gretchen is both a victim and a practitioner of this. She tortures many characters, including Sara, Sofia, and T-Bag. However, she is also waterboarded in Panama and later on held in captivity, where she is physically abused and exposed to degrading smells, and it's severely implied she was tortured multiple times in the past.
    • It is very common for someone to be almost beaten to death, usually as a way to obtain information. Victims include Michael, Sucre, T-Bag, Wyatt and Gretchen.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Mahone.
    Mahone: Go for the kneecap. You hit it straight on it'll buckle and it'll take the guy out of commission.
    Michael: Fighting dirty, that's your secret?
    Mahone: I didn't think there was such a thing as clean in a place like this.
    • T-Bag and Sara as well.
  • Command Roster: During Season 4, the cons get organized into a team that follows this structure.
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger: All the time. It cuts to photos of Fox River in Season 1, photos of the streets in Season 2, photos of Sona in Season 3, and photos of buildings being broken into in Season 4.
  • Confessional: Michael visits one in Bolshoi Booze because he feels guilty of all the crimes he had to commit and all the things that happened because of his plan.
  • Content Warnings: Several episodes in Season 3 opened with a viewer discretion advisory.
    • Sweet Caroline opened with one, due to the incest laden phone call between President Reynolds and her brother Terrence.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Everyone in the Company who is not an assassin.
  • Crapsack World: Sona Federal Penitentiary.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Michael does a tremendous amount of preparation work before going to prison, including for situations that seem improbable. He's also got a detailed plan what to do exactly after breaking out.
  • Curse Cut Short: Courtesy of Gretchen in Hell or High Water.
    "SON OF A BI—" [cuts to car horn]
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Aldo Burrows to Lincoln and Michael.
    • Michael himself, apparently, in Season 5.
  • Dark Action Girl: Gretchen Morgan vel Susan B. Anthony.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The Series. Seriously, Sucre probably has the least troubled background of all of them.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Michael Jr.
  • Dead Man Writing: The final scene of The Final Break, is Michael's posthumous message to Lincoln and Sara.
  • Deadly Nosebleed: In Season 4, Michael has a medical condition that sometimes manifests as nosebleeds.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Michael has his moments.
    Self: Making false claims to a government agency? That's like five years in prison.
    Michael: Welcome to the club.
  • Deal with the Devil: Lincoln working for the Company in Season 4.
    • Anytime Michael is forced to work with T-Bag. Invoked and defied in The Final Break.
  • Death Row: Lincoln is on it after being framed for the murder of the Vice President's brother. His brother Michael allows himself to be incarcerated in another section of the same prison to mount an escape. The scheduled execution is at one point actually almost carried out before it's postponed by a call from the judge when Lincoln is literally sitting in the chair.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Zig-Zagged. Michael and Lincoln have fond memories of their mother who died when they were young, and no love at all for their father who abandoned them before Michael was born. Later, they learn that their mother is still alive but abandoned them to go work for The Company without a single regret, and is generally revealed to be a horrible person without a sympathetic bone in her body, while their father becomes a case of Never Speak Ill of the Dead after he tries to make amends and dies in Michael's arms in season two.
  • Depraved Bisexual:
    • Exaggerated with T-Bag.
    • Gretchen hits on almost every character she interacts with. Most of the time it doesn't work, but she uses it to push her own agenda rather than to get sexual satisfaction.
  • The Determinator: Michael Scofield.
  • Deus ex Machina: Passim — often when the main characters are about to get killed, also in many Mexican standoffs or when one is abducted. Most notably to the plot, though, Kellerman in two instances.
    • First in the Season 2 finale. He brought hard proof of the entire Burrows-conspiracy.
    • Happens again in the Season 4 finale. It's revealed that he was still alive and working with the United Nations, so they clear Michael, Lincoln, Sara, Sucre, C-Note and Mahone's names in exchange for Scylla.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: With Michael and Aldo. Because Michael wasn't already messed up enough.
  • Dirty Cop: Bellick and Geary.
    • Agent Mahone, though in his case it's justified, since he was being coerced by the Company, and he clearly does not want to do what they ask.
    • Agent Self.
  • Dirty Coward: Roland Glenn is a disgrace to the name "geek".
    • Brad Bellick in seasons 2 and 3.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: T-Bag often kills prostitutes after having sex with them.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • After being continuously raped by Avocado, Tweener slashes his penis with a razor. Bellick, the one who moved Tweener to the rapist's cell, later on gets punched in the face by him.
    • Kellerman tortures Sara and leaves her to drown in a bathtub, but she escapes and burns his chest with an iron before getting away. Later on, after learning that he's working with Michael and Linc, she can't stand him and tries to avenge her misery by strangling him.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: Averted. Prison Rape is a recurring theme in Season 1, and it's always played for drama.
  • Driving Question: In Season 1 it was 'who framed Lincoln, and why?'
  • Driven to Suicide: Seth in Season 1, after being constantly raped by T-Bag and Terrence Steadman in Season 2. Also Franklin then, but it's subverted as it's forced by Mahone, and eventually unsuccessful. Kellerman, too, at the end of Season 2, but his gun jams..
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Whistler in the Season 4 premiere. Subverted with Sara (due to contract restraints) in that same episode, who apparently died in Season 3, but is revealed to be alive and well.
  • Downer Ending: The epilogue of the Season 4 finale (which turns positive in The Final Break).
  • Dying Moment of Awesome:
    • John Abruzzi in Season 2, defiantly staring down a squad of FBI agents and when told to get on his knees, replying "I kneel only to God; I don't see him here."
    • Brad Bellick, of all people, gets one by sacrificing himself and meeting it head on.
  • Dying Smirk: Paul Kellerman tells the cops in the van that the French considered it honorable to smile before being executed by firing squad. He then smiles as a group of armed masked men open the door and says "took you long enough".
  • Enemy Civil War: The General and Christina Rose Scofield in Season 4.
  • Enemy Mine: Happens a lot. Most notable are Season 3, where Michael and Lincoln work with Mahone, T-Bag, Bellick, Lechero, Whistler and Gretchen, and the Miami chapter of Season 4, where Lincoln works for the General and with Gretchen, T-Bag and Self, who already betrayed Burrows and the rest.
  • Enigmatic Minion: Alexander Mahone, James Whistler.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: We see the moment Michael's plan really starts to fall into place during Brother's Keeper, when he notices the full-sleeve tattoos on the girl dropping off a delivery at his apartment. You can see the light bulb switch on as he realizes that there's a better way to carry the information in with him than trying to memorize all of it.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Bellick mistreats inmates, sells PI, and is a coward keen to turn tail for the highest bidder... but he loves his mama. T-Bag, also, though it comes up less. A mother is the only family they have left, partially due to their nature.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Probably as a consequence of slowly Becoming the Mask, T-Bag shockingly pleads for Gretchen (who has screwed him several times over, and therefore has no obligation to save) to be spared, looking more like a human being than Don Self, who enthusiastically calls for her execution.
    • A darker example in Season 1: there are some people even T-Bag won't rape.
    • Lisa Tabak quits the Company and later helps Sara save Michael from them, claiming to have been disillusioned with the organization's ruthlessness.
    • Abruzzi has this reaction after one of his men kill T-Bag's nephew.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: In Disconnect, Mahone t-bones his car into Michael and Lincoln's vehicle and sets off quite the fireball in the process. The next shot shows the car still in flames.
  • Evil Matriarch: Christina Rose Scofield.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: In seasons 1, 3, and 5.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The main story-line of the first four seasons, from Michael robbing the bank in the first episode until his death in The Final Break, takes place entirely between March and November of 2005, with the main portion of the plot during seasons 1-3 actually taking place between mid-April and late June/early July. note  This raises some questions about how exactly Sucre's daughter had been born by the beginning of season 4, since only about four months had passed since she'd been conceived.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Roland. It ends badly for him.
    • Self with the same fate, although delayed in time.
    • Played with throughout the series. Some examples are as follows:
      • Towards the end of Season 1, Veronica Donovan's seemingly loyal partner, Nick Savrinn, pulls a gun on her because his father was held captive. Subverted, as he can't stand it and eventually releases her, only to sacrifice himself with his father for the greater good.
      • Subverted in Season 2 when the ex-cons find the money in Utah, after which Sucre has this moment. The audience later discovers it was all planned up with Scofield.
      • Apolskis in Season 2, when Mahone pulls a gun on him after the former believed that for what he did he'd be safely escorted to jail by the latter. Downplayed, as we already knew by then what the agenda of the FBI agent was.
      • In Season 4 a bad-turned-good-turned-bad-again Gretchen pulls that off in a Mexican standoff with a Christina Scofield's henchman, Scott, but ends up being shot. Afterwards, she gets to prison, and repays her wrongdoings in The Final Break.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Every Fox River guard who Michael encounters while outside his cell inevitably walks right past him without ever seeing him because they failed to turn their head.
  • Faking the Dead: Sara in Season 3, though it was more a case of Death Faked for You.
    • Terrance Steadman's faked death is the reason the whole plot is happening in the first place.
    • Self trying to trick the Homeland Security that he's gone to frame Michael and Lincoln for the double-murder, and also to get off the radar to safely sell Scylla and disappear with his wife.
    • Season 4 reveals Christina Scofield has been faking this since Michael and Lincoln were kids, and Kellerman is also revealed to have survived his apparent execution in season two.
    • Michael post-Season 4, although it wasn't voluntary.
  • Fanservice: Michael has several shirtless scenes in the early seasons, ostensibly to showcase his tattoos, but it also treated viewers to some very quality shots of his naked upper body. And that scene in the showers with the Modesty Towel was obviously this.
    • Sucre — sometimes, while shirtless or making love to Maricruz.
  • Fan Disservice: Any scene where Bellick is shirtless. And, for that matter, any scene where his shirt is too short (vide in Sona, Season 3) to cover his belly.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Self ends up mostly paralyzed, in a wheelchair and needing someone to wipe the drool from his chin.
  • Film Noir: The show isn't at all, but Michael in the (early) first season sounds like he belongs in one, both because of his word choices and his cadence.
    Michael: The evidence was cooked.
  • Fingore: When Mahone tortures Wyatt by pushing needles into his fingers, starting from the top of them. The former gives a specific description of the process — whenever the latter starts losing consciousness from literally the strongest pain possible, Alex gives him an electric shock to wake him up. Although we don't see how the first part is done, the final effect — with a needle sticks out of Wyatt's finger — is shown. And hell, we hear the scream and can certainly imagine what it felt like...
    • The way Michael is tortured by Abruzzi's thugs in Fox River — they cut two of his toes off, but John soon realizes it's ineffective and has to think of a different approach to get Scofield to reveal the location of Fibonacci — ideally a lighter one, to say the least...
  • Finish Him!: The whole point of Sona's chicken-foot fights. Only one man can come out alive. However, Michael doesn't really follow this rule and gets touched by his nobility in his first duel: after seriously damaging his opponent, the former wants to quit, but is not allowed to by the crowd demanding him to finish the job, which allows the latter to come back and almost kill Scofield, had it not been for Mahone.
    • Happens to Michael, when he holds enemies (which almost always are objectively-bad people) at a gunpoint, but ultimately refuses to kill them, which makes him the most upstanding, sensitive and somewhat-stupid character in the series. It usually bears the same consequences as those in his Sona fight. People whose lives he saves oftentimes return later to harm him even more, like T-Bag, causing a lot of trouble along the way only to eventually start working with the Company and almost rape Sara, or General Krantz, who — while incarcerated — orders dr. Tancredi's death. Scofield's attitude seems to shift in certain points of the plot, though. At the end of Season 2 he wounds Bagwell to let the Panamanian police get to him, whereas in Season 4 he tries to put his mother to death twice, including a shooting attempt failed only by an empty magazine.
    • Linc occasionally jumps on the mercy bandwagon, too. In Season 4, when Gretchen intends to sell her company, he doesn't pull the trigger despite Self trying to convince him that she deserves it. In the Season 2 finale, when pointing the gun at Mahone, he's unable to kill him. Alex then breaks the deadlock and handcuffs Burrows.
  • Flash Back: Used to show how Michael set something up.
  • Foreshadowing: We see Michael laying the groundwork for several steps of his plan during Brother's Keeper, but don't learn what they are until they're utilized in Season 2.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Michael's first escape attempt at Sona fails because a cloud drifts in front of the sun. It all goes downhill from there.
  • Freudian Excuse: T-Bag was conceived by Bagwell Sr. raping his mentally challenged sister, and as a child he was sexually abused. And forced to memorize the dictionary.
  • Friend in the Black Market: C-Note in Season 1.
  • Functional Addict: Mahone still manages to be a Worthy Opponent for Michael and figure out every step from his plan, despite being a drug addict. Subverted in Sona, where he's got no means of obtaining his drugs.
  • Gambit Pileup: Throughout the series, but especially in Season 4.
  • Genre Shift: Season 1 is a classic jailhouse drama with a Great Escape plot, and its cast is filled with classic prison Stock Characters. Season 2 is a Stern Chase centered on the characters evading the law, Season 3 is a thriller set in a Hellhole Prison (though with a Great Escape still worked into the plot), and Season 4 is a conspiracy thriller about the characters MacGyvering their way out of scrapes with The Syndicate.
  • Get into Jail Free: The main premise: Michael robs a bank to get himself in jail so he could break out with his brother Lincoln.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Invoked by Michael as a ploy to get himself moved out of solitary confinement and into the psych ward. Subverted with him being held alone in a dark room as a child by his foster father, where he actually developed his space-analytical skills that we so often get to see in the series.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Most of the goriest moments in the show happen off-screen, such as Nick Savrinn getting shot, Avocado getting his dick cut off and T-Bag having his hand chopped off with an axe.
  • The Government. Politicians and federal agents, corrupted by the Company, were the main antagonists of seasons 1 and 2. In season 4, the protagonists teamed up with government people working against the Company... only, those guys weren't much nicer.
  • Great Escape: The first season revolves around an honest-to-god prison break with a cast composed almost entirely of stock characters ripped from classic prison movies, and the second season continues it with the escaped inmates on the run from the FBI. By the end of the second season, the escapees have all successfully evaded the law (the few that survived, at least...) but the writers manage to justify the title by having the main characters all rounded up for random reasons and sent to a new, even worse prison in Panama. Then the final season rolls around, and the whole series morphs into some weird cross between MacGyver and The Bourne Series about the main cast trying to take down some evil shadow corporation using zany schemes whipped together with loot from the Dollar Store.
  • Groin Attack: Tweener slashes Avocado's penis with a razor. Ouch.
  • Handy Cuffs
  • Happy Ending Override: At the end of season four, Michael and his team have apparently defeated everyone trying to get rid of them, up to and including the Big Bad, Michael's with a pregnant Sara, Lincoln is reunited with Sophia and LJ, and the good guys are exonerated... Only for a Time Skip to a reunion at Michael's tombstone. The grand finale takes this even further, having the exoneration not apply to Sara for her killing Christina, and Michael sacrifices himself to save her. Michael turns out to be alive in the fifth season and explains why the Happy Ending Override had to occur in the first place.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • T-Bag kills a guard in Fox River after he sees the hole in Michael and Sucre's cell.
    • This is the main reason for most deaths ordered by the Company. In particular, they order Mahone to slaughter every single member of the Fox River Eight because they're afraid of what Michael and Lincoln might have told to their fellow escapees.
  • Heroic BSoD: Lincoln goes through one after finding the box with Sara's head. Michael suffers a brief one after being told of Sara's death. Mahone seems to suffer one after the murder of his son.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: In seasons 3 and 4, Anti-Hero Michael becomes increasingly fanatical about destroying the Company, while Lincoln takes on a "Violence is the Only Option" mindset, leading them to do things they condemned others for doing only a season or two ago. Michael learned of Sara's apparent murder in season 3 and had a lethal brain tumor in season 4, so he at least had an excuse for his judgment impairments.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: T-Bag was Becoming the Mask with his Cole Pfeiffer identity and was genuinely on the fence about his entire character after he left. He waffled back and forth while keeping Gretchen's family hostage, and kidnapped a passing Bible salesman out of paranoia that he might be Company. T-Bag tests the salesman be reciting a verse, and when he passes, he lets the family and the salesman go free. But the salesman really is Company, and he immediately puts T-Bag in a choke-hold and delivers him to the Company. He is back to his old self by the next episode.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Abruzzi in season 1. Lampshaded by Michael early on: "You're a mercurial man, John."
  • Heel–Face Turn: Daniel Hale in season 1, Kellerman in season 2.
  • Hero Ball: Michael often carries this.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Brad Bellick and Michael Scofield.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Michael has two: one with Linc and one with Sucre. They plan to go separate ways at the end of each season, but they never do, and each trust the other and are willing to do whatever they have to for the other. Sucre tries to separate from Michael a few times, with Michael's blessings, but always seems to come back.
    • To a lesser degree than most cases, Lincoln and Mahone.
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: General Jonathan Krantz.
  • Honor Before Reason: Michael, lampshaded several times. On one occasion, he abandons a chance at a clean getaway after receiving word that T-Bag is hiding out nearby and instead runs off to try and assist Sucre in catching him.
  • How We Got Here: "The Final Break" is one long one explaining the sudden, abrupt Dropped a Bridge on Him at the end of "Killing Your Number," where the final shot lingers on Michael's tombstone without any explanation as to what happened or how he died. It also explains the origins of Sara's scar from the same episode.
  • Human Notepad: Michael's tattoos, which have the blueprints of Fox River and a lot of other information he needs for his escape plan.
  • Humiliation Conga: Bellick. Not that he doesn't earn it.
  • Hyper-Awareness: Michael is a justified case, as he has a mental condition that enables him to absorb and process more of his surroundings than the average person.
  • Iconic Item: The origami crane, which served as Michael's calling card in the early seasons and was featured heavily in the first season opening credits. The Whole Episode Flashback reveals it to be a symbol of devotion for the brothers — Lincoln used to leave them by Michael's pillow when they were children to reassure Michael that he was looking out for him, and Michael leaves one behind when he decides that it's time for him to look out for Lincoln instead — and they appear throughout the series.
    • Origami in general, actually, is this for Michael. The origami flower he gives to Sara as a birthday present is what moves their relationship beyond general flirting, and it's one of the first things he returns it to her after her return from the dead. He also has a tendency to send her messages folded in various shapes, as it's an easy way for her to know they're from him without him needing to sign his name (which is useful when you're a fugitive).
  • Idiot Ball: Gets passed around a lot as the plot demands, but especially in later seasons.
  • I Have Your Wife: Quite a lot of times. This was Mahone's motivation during season 2, and Michael and Lincoln's during season 3. One episode of season 4 has the brothers try this tactic on the villains.
    • This is basically the reason for LJ.
  • Important Haircut: Sara cuts and dyes her hair while on the run in season two.
    • Lincoln's head is shaved prior to his almost execution.
  • Improvised Screwdriver: In "Allen", Michael steals a bolt from the bleachers and rubs the bolt until the end forms a hexagon shaped key, big enough to unscrew the cell's toilet.
  • Improvised Weapon: A frightening number of prisoners Fox River have a homemade shank or knife hidden somewhere in their cell and they are not shy about using them.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Bellick in season 3 — he tries to betray Michael several times, but always fails.
    • T-Bag pretty much becomes this by the end of season 4 — without the sympathetic part — as he is in way over his head when it comes to government conspiracies.
  • Interrupted Suicide: C-Note tries to kill himself because he's being blackmailed by Mahone, but the prison guards save him in time.
    • Bellick was going to kill himself after being fired, but his mother (unaware of what he's about to do) interrupts him with news about the Fox River 8 rewards so he decides to chase them instead.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: A non-verbal example happens with T-Bag when he sees his mugshot on the news. It's weirdly funny how offended he is.
    T-Bag: That picture makes me look like a sociopath.
  • Ironic Echo: Between C-Note and Michael during first season:
    C-Note: Well let me school you. Darwin wins inside these walls. Not Einstein. Darwin.
    • Later on in the season:
      Michael: There's a reason they replaced it with a twelve-inch pipe, Darwin - people can't get through it.
  • Is That What He Told You?: The General, regarding Michael and Lincoln's father.
  • It's Personal: Lincoln tends to shift into this mode at the worst possible moments.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: The threat used to keep people in line. Combined with I Have Your Wife.
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: Tweener gets incarcerated in a penitentiary loaded with criminals like Abruzzi and T-Bag... for stealing a baseball card.
  • Joker Immunity: T-Bag, Gretchen.
  • Just Got Out of Jail: Linc (after his name was cleared the first time) kills a Mook and tells LJ and Sofia to run since he rightly assumes the police won't care if its self-defense.
  • Justified Criminal: In order to save the life of his brother Lincoln Burrows, who has been sentenced to death for a murder he didn't commit, Michael Scofield robs a bank so he can be sent to the same prison and execute an elaborate Prison Escape. As things never go as planned, several more criminals are drawn into the scheme than originally planned and several more crimes are committed along the way.
  • Kidnapped Doctor: After the "Fox River 8" escape the titular penitentiary, T-Bag gets his hand cut off when he cuffs himself to Michael. He later takes a veterinarian hostage to force him to stitch it back on despite the man's protests that he's trained to treat animals, not people. T-Bag kills him when he's finished anyway.
  • Kill Him Already!: Zig-Zagged with Gretchen. Wyatt advises against the General not allowing him to kill her when she's being held in captivity. It happens again when Lincoln has the opportunity to shoot her, but while Don insists that he should kill her, T-Bag and Mahone insist otherwise.
  • Lampshade Hanging: More than one character calls out the fact that Michael and Lincoln shouldn't have ended up in the same prison, and that Michael's lack of criminal record prior to his badly botched bank robbery should have been a huge red flag.
  • Large Ham: Daddy in "The Final Break."
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": In "The Legend", while looking for a way into the Company's headquarters, Sucre accidentally steps on a land mine which starts beeping. With Sucre unable to move for fear of detonating the mine, Lincoln reluctantly brings in Gretchen who attempts to disarm it. Michael and Mahone decode the blue prints for the defences around the Company HQ and learn the mine is also an alarm and disarming it would alert the Company, so they manage to override the mines, allowing Sucre to safely step off.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Don Self becomes a vegetable, just like what happened to his wife because of his own doing.
    • General Krantz ultimately is executed in the electric chair — just like the Company planned for Lincoln.
    • You have to wait until the Crossover episode of Breakout Kings, but you can argue that T-Bag ends up with this when his mother, the only person he cares about, is sexually assaulted.
  • Last-Minute Reprieve: Lincoln Burrows is already on the electric chair for the (fake) murder he was framed for when a phone call from the Governor comes in to postpone his execution so that new evidence in his case can be reviewed. The Warden profusely apologizes to Lincoln and his family for the extremely callous manner in which the Governor handled it, who later refuses to pardon him anyway. Luckily, this does give Michael the time he needs to implement his escape plan.
  • Last-Name Basis: Varies depending on the character and their relationship. For example, Mahone refers to Michael as 'Scofield' in season two when he's chasing him, varies it in season three (when they're uneasy allies), and finally begins calling him Michael when they become friendly in season four.
  • Left for Dead: A lot, and it always seems to come back to bite the characters in the ass. If someone is left bound and 'fatally' wounded on this show, you can pencil them in for a reappearance in a shocking plot twist. The constant refusal to give in to Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him? added a season-and-a-half of plot, minimum.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: In season two, T-Bag was forced to re-sever his reattached hand to evade recapture by the police after he was left tied to a radiator by Bellick and Geary, who were after the D.B. Cooper money he had taken.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Justified in the first three seasons, as they are...
    • 1: In prison and have only their prison issued clothing to wear.
    • 2: On the run, with little more than the few changes of clothing that Michael had stashed beforehand.
    • 3: Several characters wind up in a hellhole prison in Panama with literally only the clothes on their backs.
  • MacGuffin: Westmoreland's stash of money and the Steadman recording in season 2, the bird book in season 3 (later becomes a subversion, as the book is revealed to contain information critical to the theft of Scylla), Scylla in season 4.
  • The Man Behind the Man: General Jonathan Krantz, better known simply as "the General" (known by the fans as "Pad Man" before his name was revealed).
  • Manipulative Bastard: T-Bag, again. And Christina Rose. Michael at times, too, though he at least feels guilty about it.
  • Meaningful Name: Most of the names of the prisoners but C-Note is of worthy mention. He can get you anything you want for $100, so his name is C-Note (slang for $100), but his real name is Benjamin Franklin, whose face appears on the 100 dollar bill.
  • Mercy Lead: Agent Lang does this for Mahone after he escapes custody.
  • Mind Rape: What the General has planned for Michael if he refuses join the Company.
  • The Mole: Don Self. Tweener. T-Bag, when it suits him.
  • Morality Pet: T-Bag has Susan Hollander and her kids, as well as Gretchen's family.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Gretchen takes this role for the most part - a lot of tight clothes and leather, and on one memorable occasion a Catholic schoolgirl's uniform.
    • Sara at one point wears a very cleavage-y top as part of a con, telling Michael "don't get used to it."
    • At one point, Trishanne/Miriam Holtz is running around wearing a very flimsy and very lacy white camisole and a short skirt, for absolutely no reason other than "it's fun to have Shannon Luccio running around in flimsy lace and short skirts."
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Michael, thinking about the number of deaths he's (indirectly) caused by breaking Linc out of jail.
  • Mysterious Parent: The brothers' father abandoned the family, so when their mother died, they were left in foster care, but he interfered once to protect Michael. Both turn out to be operatives for the Company itself, with their father's desire to protect them being the reason for his departure, while their apparently Not Quite Dead mother is ironically not quite as benevolent as she was made out to be.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Michael Scofield is named after the deadly Schofield revolver. While he's not the toughest character on the show, he definitely is one of the most dangerous.
  • Neck Snap: Seems to be Mahone's preferred way of killing someone if he doesn't have a weapon on hand.
  • Never Going Back to Prison:
    • Abruzzi makes this vow. He tells his wife he'd rather die than go back to prison.
    • Averted for Michael, who tells Whistler in Sona that he was willing to stay there to pay for his sins; Tweener, who decides to go back to prison instead of ratting on the others; and C-Note, who also turns himself in after his wife gets arrested.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Played straight with Brad Bellick's death. Sucre especially is ready to take out anyone who speaks ill.
    • The brothers become much more forgiving and accepting of their father's memory after his death in season two, and no longer blame him for their lives going to hell.
    • Subverted with Roland. Brad calls Linc out for his comment and Linc basically tells him to shut-up.
  • New Era Speech: T-Bag gives one to take over Sona.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: There's several, but arguably the first one was in "Riots, Drills and the Devil". Michael needed an uninterrupted block of time in order to break through a certain wall without being missed, so he sabotages the air conditioning system to trigger a lock-down. While he does accomplish his goal, the ensuing riot leads to the death of a guard, possibly the death of another guard (it's unclear if he dies or is just badly beaten), the death of several inmates, T-Bag finding out about the escape plan, and Sara getting suspicious and nearly raped. Whoops.
    • Although he didn't have much of a choice at the time, Michael allowing T-Bag to join the escape directly resulted in the brutal murder of five or six people. He feels enormous guilt over this, and spends much of the rest of the series trying to get T-Bag back behind bars.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Company and Caroline Reynolds' treatment of Kellerman in season two, capped by their eventual decision to have him terminated, leads to him having a Heel–Face Turn and greatly aiding the protagonists in the long run.
    • Invoked by Michael in season four. He needs the final Scylla card, which belongs to General Krantz -– the only one who has access to Scylla's security cameras — so he breaks into the vault and activates the alarm on purpose, and when the General arrives, he, Lincoln, Mahone and Sucre are able to steal the card directly from him.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: In season 4 while he's holding Gretchen's family hostage, T-Bag assumes a Bible salesman is a Company agent. Still wanting to return to his role as Cole Pfeiffer, he decides to let all of them go... only for the salesman to really be a Company agent who immediately attacks him.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Michael is on the receiving end of several.
  • Noodle Incident: A single conversation between Sucre and Manche reveals several, although the donkey clearly takes the cake.
    Sucre: You owe me!
    Manche: Like hell I do, it's your turn, not mine.
    Sucre: Miss Mangini's broken window?
    Manche: The Terrado sisters?
    Sucre: Your brother's "lost" El Camino?
    Manche: The church collection basket?
    Sucre: The donkey!
    Manche: [horrified beat] We took an oath, bro.
    Sucre: Don't make me break it.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: How T-Bag survives being stranded in the desert in season four - though to be fair, Sancho tried to do it to him first.
    ATV Rider Rescuer: What's the matter? Eat some bad Mexican?
    T-Bag: Something like that.
  • "No Peeking!" Request: In "Safe and Sound", Oren requests Self to turn around as he enters the password on his electronic safe.
  • Not Quite Dead: Sara Tancredi, Christina Rose Scofield and Paul Kellerman in season 4.
    • Michael, as revealed in season 5.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: The person who gets thrown over the railing during the prison brawl in 1x02 is clearly not Wentworth Miller.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Dominic Purcell (Lincoln) occasionally slips into his Australian accent. He seems to especially struggle with words that have a strong 'O' sound.
  • Orphaned Punchline: When Pope's secretary eavesdrops on what she thinks is a call from the DOJ.
    "And I get why the guy's lighting the candle, but why are the other two playing the bagpipes?"
  • The Old Convict: Charles Westmoreland, who had served in Fox River for thirty-two years.
  • One-Steve Limit: Downplayed. Several characters share their names, but it's not an issue because they're never seen together, they're called by their last names, and/or one has a nickname.
    • Lincoln Burrows and Lincoln Burrows Jr., but the latter is only called LJ.
    • Michael Scofield and his son who has the same name.
    • Charles Westmoreland and Charles Patoshik. The latter is usually referred to as "Haywire", and both are also referred to by their surnames. Aside from the Lincolns, these two are the only ones who are ever seen together.
    • Lisa Rix (LJ's mother) and Lisa Tabak (daughter of the General).
    • David "Tweener" Apolskis and the engineer David Baker.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Many of the Fox River inmates. Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell, Benjamin Miles "C-Note" Franklin, David "Tweener" Apolskis, Charles "Haywire" Patoshik. A lot of the Fox River characters only ever called Lincoln "Sink" or "Linc the Sink".
    • In Sona, there were Norman "Lechero" St. John and Luis "McGrady" Galego.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Michael and T-Bag, Mahone and Wyatt.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In season two, the Fox River Eight manage to elude a nationwide manhunt with nothing more than street clothes and the occasional hat. Michael also dons a pair of glasses or a hoodie from time to time. This is probably why they get captured so frequently.
    • Michael is actually an extreme case, as his tattoos are a dead giveaway and he has to spend the entire season in long sleeve shirts (in the middle of summer) so that no one will recognize him and even that doesn't always work.
  • Pariah Prisoner:
    • T-Bag is despised by almost every other inmate in Fox River, mostly for being a child rapist.
    • Since Tweener is a white guy who tries to affiliate himself with the black inmates, he is rejected by the groups of both races.
    • Bellick becomes this twice, first in Fox River, for being an ex-guard, and later on in Sona, for trying to keep his wallet.
    • Sammy invokes this in Sona. Any prisoner who tries to hold on to his wallet is left hanging around in his underwear with no food or water, symbolizing his low position in the prison's social scale.
      Bellick: Do you understand what happened? You're a... what's it called... pariah. You made the same mistake when I walked in. I tried to hang on to my wallet, next thing I knew, I spent the next two days kneecap deep in human feces. In Sona, it's every man for himself. Here, cheese.
      Tyge: I'm not hungry.
      Bellick: Yeah, you will be.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: In the season two episode "The Message", Haywire kills the abusive father of a teen girl that he met earlier that day.
  • Pet the Dog: Kellerman in Wash, Gretchen in Blowback.
  • The Plan
  • Plot Coupons: The Scylla cards in season 4.
  • Plot Induced Stupidity: Michael and company have a few notable instances, which comes off as particularly jarring because Michael is a skilled Chessmaster. Not killing T-Bag and Gretchen repeatedly comes back to bite them in the ass, as do many occasions of them leaving people tied up and injured instead of finishing the job. The double-cross pulled on the team in season four relies on them not checking the paperwork until after Self's long gone — which seems like the first thing they would do after all the times they've been screwed.
    • Everyone thinks they can outsmart Michael Scofield, despite knowing about everyone who previously got into trouble for doing so.
    • Periodically, everyone in the show's universe forgets that the existence of the Company has been publicly proven, and they have to start all over again.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: T-Bag, who is a white supremacist, rapist, and child molester.
  • Post-Script Season: Seasons 3 and 4.
  • Previously on…: Every single episode.
  • President Evil: Caroline Reynolds, who was the Vice-President of the United States until her "promotion" in the season 1 finale.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: David Apolskis. An inmate in Fox River which (like most real world prisons) is divided along racial lines, he quickly becomes rejected by both black inmates for trying to affiliate himself with them, and by white inmates for trying to affiliate himself with black inmates, earning him the nickname "Tweener" (In-Betweener). Lampshaded by T-Bag, the leader of a white racist gang:
    T-Bag: The boy sure seems confused about his pigmentation.
  • Prison Rape: Tweener and Seth are victims; T-Bag and Avocado are regular perpetrators.
  • Prison Riot:
    • Michael and Sucre initiate a lock-down by disabling air conditioning so that Michael can keep drilling without worry of headcounts. Unfortunately, this leads to a full-blown prison riot.
    • T-Bag starts one in Sona, which leads to all remaining inmates escaping and the prison being burned down.
  • Prisoner's Last Meal: In Season One, Lincoln Burrows eats blueberry pancakes for his last meal, before being strapped into an electric chair and being issued a stay of execution at the last moment.
  • Product Placement: Lincoln drives a Toyota Sequoia for a few episodes during season four and the show really wants you to know that.
  • Pseudo-Crisis: All the time. Combines with Commercial Break Cliffhanger.
  • Psycho for Hire:
    • Quinn and Turk in Season 1.
    • Wyatt in Season 4.
  • Public Secret Message: While on the run in season two, Lincoln and Michael release a video stating their innocence and Michael uses the opportunity to drop a few hints to Sara about how to contact him.
  • Put on a Bus: LJ's on a bus to a safe place in Panama in season four and doesn't appear again.
  • Race Against the Clock: Both throughout the seasons (Lincoln must be broken out before his set execution, Michael must break Whistler out before Gretchen's deadline) and during specific episodes.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Lampshaded by Michael in season four.
    "Let me guess. He had a ragtag band of criminals ready to pick up the slack."
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: In season 3, the guards at the Panamanian prison only guard the perimeter. Inside, it is ruled only by the criminals, with an incarcerated drug lord its de facto warden. This may seem ludicrously far-fetched, but some prisons in this part of the world are in fact run in this way.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Sarah Wayne Callies was pregnant at the beginning of season three, so the writers attempted to plot around her maternity leave. Fox refused to sign off on the proposed plotline, forcing the writers to redo everything and their new season arc ended up involving Sara's death. Callies' refused to return to work just to be killed off so her scenes were shot with a body-double and her death in the fourth episode occurred off-screen. Didn't stop them from bringing her back from the dead in season four though.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Henry Pope.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Sara delivers an epic one to T-Bag in the penultimate episode of season four, telling him that she's always suspected the reason he rapes and hurts people is because he has neurological erectile dysfunction, likely caused by the sexual abuse he sustained during his childhood. He's practically roaring at her to shut up by the time she's done.
  • Recovered Addict: Sara is a recovering alcoholic and morphine addict. She falls Off the Wagon a couple times, but ultimately does her best to stay clean.
    • Mahone eventually beats his addiction to heroin and a drug called Veratril.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: Because of his first successful breakout plan, Michael is compulsorily recruited by the Company to break James Whistler out of Sona.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Lincoln is the red to Michael's blue.
  • Redemption Equals Death: In season 4, subverted with Paul Kellerman and played straight with Brad Bellick.
  • Reformed Criminal: Most of the convicts. Discussed by Sucre:
    Lincoln: I got your back, man. When you get home, whatever you need, whatever you want...
    Sucre: That won't be necessary. When I get back home, I'm a saint. I'm not even jaywalking.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The show, especially season two and four. That's right; breaking out of the prisons isn't even the strongest moments of this.
  • Retcon: The timeline was heavily retconned between Seasons 4 and 5. Originally Michael died November 4, 2005 — as seen on his grave marker — and the plot of the entire first four seasons took place over a couple of months in 2005. In order to enable the event series to be set in 2017 — with Michael "dead" seven years and his son seven years old — his date of death was changed to November 4, 2010. It's possible that all of the events of the previous four seasons were changed to take place during 2010.
  • Retool: Every year the show changes. Season 1 is Escape from Alcatraz, season 2 is The Fugitive, season 3 is Midnight Express (or so the writers thought), and season 4 is Mission: Impossible.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Roland and Don Self. Michael even works a reward for anticipated treachery into his plan in the Sona escape.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: Michael and Lincoln's video message in "The Message" receives this treatment from the FBI agents examining it for clues.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Subverted. Linc and Michael are working at cross purposes during season four, and decide to go after Scylla separate from each other. But because of brotherly love, they still share information.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A few instances. There was the flashback episode showing C-Note's service in Iraq, where it's revealed that he was thrown out of the army for trying to expose the torture of inmates at Abu Ghraib. Also, the episode where his daughter becomes seriously ill while he's on the run from the law, and he's forced to take her to a hellish free clinic because he doesn't have health insurance.

  • Sacrificial Lion: Westmoreland, Veronica, Tweener, Abruzzi, Haywire, Whistler, and Bellick.
  • Sadistic Choice: In season four, Michael is offered the choice of keeping Scylla out of the General's hands or rescuing Sara. Becomes a three way Sadistic Choice when his mother then calls and offers Michael the choice of keeping Scylla out of her hands or rescuing Linc before he bleeds out from a gunshot wound.
  • Save the Villain: Michael (and Sara, especially when it's Michael about to do the killing) spend a lot of time stopping others from killing the villains, and sometimes even helping them. Noticeable since they kill plenty of minions without a thought, making this a very good example of What Measure Is a Mook?.
  • Scale Model Destruction: A major plot point throughout the first season is the Taj Mahal scale model that the warden is building for his wife for their anniversary. The roof is on the verge on collapsing and he has ceased work for the moment. He hears that one of the new prisoners (Michael Schofield, protagonist) is a structural engineer and asks for his help. Schofield initially declines to help, but later needs a favor and gets it by helping the warden. They work on it all season, but it still gets destroyed.
  • Scary Black Man: Wyatt and C-Note. Lechero in Season 3.
  • Secret Stab Wound: Charles Westmoreland.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Nick Savrinn sacrifices his life (and his father's) so Veronica can find Steadman and expose the conspiracy. Too bad she got killed two episodes later.
  • Series Continuity Error: In season one, Lincoln tells Sara that his mother died of liver cancer. In season four, it suddenly becomes a brain tumor (that Michael apparently inherited), and also it turns out that she's not actually dead after all (which was probably for the best, as the writers could never seem to decide how many years she'd been dead for either — season four has it at anywhere from 20 to 25 years, and Michael's age at the time was either six or twelve).
  • Series Fauxnale: Season 4 ends with both the General and Christina Scofield dead and the flashforward epilogue revealing that Michael Scofield has died not long after. The TV Movie, titled ‘The Final Break’ which serves as an epilogue to the series and the original Grand Finale, reveals that Michael died via Heroic Sacrifice by electrocuting himself so Sara can escape prison. He did this because his brain tumor had returned and he wasn’t going to live long anyway. Eight years later, the show was revived for a fifth season titled ‘Resurrection’ which revealed that Michael faked his death and has been working for a rogue CIA organisation who caused Sara’s arrest in the first place. He was forced to work for them so his family could have their freedom.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: For T-Bag, who ends up right back in Fox River, it can be argued the ENTIRE SERIES is this.
    • One of the main subplots in Season 2 revolved around stealing Westmoreland's stash of five million dollars. In the season finale, Agent Kim kicks the backpack into a lake and the money is never seen again.
  • Shipped in Shackles: Lincoln is usually moved around like this, but sometime subverted when the guards go easy on the shackles because he's a good prisoner.
  • Shout-Out: Sucre's subplot in "The Message", in which he has dinner with an old man in Mexico, steals a car from him that night, gets caught and brought back to him only for the man to claim that he gave him the car to begin with before giving him money for gas, is a clear reference to Les Misérables, specifically Jean Valjean's encounter with Bishop Myriel.
  • Smug Snake: Bellick and Falzone in season 1, Agent Kim in season 2, Gretchen and Lechero in season 3, Self in season 4.
    • Pretty much all of whom make the mistake of mocking Michael Scofield. This is not a good idea.
    • Michael starts out as this; his first few days of prison — which include seeing someone knifed and being tortured — cuts into his bravado considerably.
    • Sucre's cousin Hector, in a minor character example.
  • Softer and Slower Cover: Season 3 ends with a slower, Spanish-language cover of Roy Orbison 's "Crying."
  • So Much for Stealth: Michael attempts to surveil a guard tower from his cell while in Sona, but a glare from his binoculars alerts the guard to his presence and he immediately opens fire on the cell.
  • Spanner in the Works: Michael has plotted this entire escape out brilliantly and perfectly...only to find out the hard way that life has a habit of throwing wrinkles into things.
    • Michael assumed he could just win over Abruzzi by offering the location of a witness against him after they escape. He doesn't expect Abruzzi to simply order his goons to torture Michael for the information.
    • A major part of the plan is how Michael is convinced Westmoreland is legendary hijacker D.B. Cooper and his hidden money is key to the escape. Too bad Westmoreland has a perfect alibi for when Cooper's hijacking took place. subverted as a dying Westmoreland does confess he was indeed Cooper.
    • The initial escape looks to be going great and just like Michael planned...until he discovers that the water pipe that he weakened to create the escape tunnel has been replaced by a new and stronger pipe that's impossible to break through.
    • Michael had planned just a minor distraction for the initial escape...only for it to turn into a full-blown prison riot. During which, T-Bag stumbles onto the plot and forces his way on the team which creates numerous spanners down the road.
    • The gang track down the money Westmoreland/Cooper buried long ago...only to find the area is now a housing development. And to top it off, the house the money is buried under belongs to a woman whose police office daughter drops by for a visit while the gang are holding her hostage.
    • A constant spanner in season two is Mahone, the one FBI agent whose mind is quirky enough to figure out what Michael is up to and be on his tail far faster than Michael expected the FBI to be.
    • The biggest spanner is that Michael had no idea he was going up against a powerful conspiracy. He lampshades he had planned a simple breakout for a man wrongly imprisoned, not taking on a force who have the Vice-President on their side and being hunted by their ruthless agents.
    • Really, about half the series is all about Michael's "perfect" plans going awry.
  • Spiteful Spit: How Michael makes his opinion of President Reynolds'... devotion... to her brother known.
  • Spotting the Thread: Lincoln of all people does this a number of times, proving that Michael isn't the only one in the family with brains.
  • Squat's in a Name: Scylla.
  • Stay with Me Until I Die: Michael won't let Roland die alone. Luckily he goes quickly so Michael can get out of there before the cops pull up.
  • The Stoic: Wyatt.
    • Gretchen. She doesn't have enough of a reaction to being tortured, so General Zavala figures out she's been tortured before and leads credence to Michael's claims.
    • Michael wants to be, and can pull it off nine times out of ten, but he does emote — usually yell or bang his fists — and get visibly stressed out when something really screws with his plans.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Used to very great effect by Michael on a few occasions, with one of the most memorable occasions being the scene where he's blackmailing the president and he begins chewing the scenery out of nowhere.
  • Suicide by Cop: John Abruzzi.
  • Swallow the Key:
    • In the first season finale, T-Bag handcuffs himself to Michael so that Abruzzi and the other escapees can't get rid of him. He even swallows the key before it can be taken from him. In the end, Abruzzi frees Michael simply by cutting T-Bag's handcuffed hand off with an ax.
    • In Rendezvous, when Bellick and Geary are about to get the key to the locker where T-Bag has hidden Charles Westmoreland's five million dollars, he swallows the key. They end up getting the key anyway by tying up T-Bag on a toilet and feeding him laxatives.
  • Take a Third Option: Caught between a rock and a hard place with the threat of blackmail from Michael and the very real threat of what The Company will do if she complies with his demands, President Reynolds decides to announce her retirement and step down from the public spotlight.
  • The Syndicate: The Company.
  • Tattooed Crook: Justified in Michael, who does have tattoos and is a criminal, but got the tattoos as a way of smuggling information about his plan and the prison blueprints into Fox River. The tattoos are removed at the beginning of season four to allow him to assume a fake identity (and to allow Wentworth to wear short-sleeves again), and he has a new set of tattoos in season five.
    • Lincoln has at least one visible tattoo in the first season, but by the end of the show much of his forearms and biceps are covered in tattoos. Which is... strange, as the first four seasons take place within about six months, and the tattoos just kind of appeared in early season four with no explanation. note 
  • Technical Pacifist: Michael fluctuates between this and Thou Shalt Not Kill.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Michael's silent reaction to the first death he deliberately caused. Only Mahone seems to notice or understand what's going on, but all he can say is that It Never Gets Any Easier.
  • Third Act Stupidity
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Michael resigns himself to receiving a beating from Agent Kim in 'Sweet Caroline', but this trope pretty much sums up the look on his face while waiting for the man to shut up and get on with it.
  • The Three Certainties in Life: Referenced twice.
    Sucre: Three sure things in life: death, taxes, and count.
    Agent Mahone:
    ' Three things in life are certain ... death, taxes, and the fact that a man on the run will make a mistake sometime in the first 72 hours.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Michael fluctuates on this. In the beginning he wouldn't kill anyone. In season four he'd attempt to kill a number of people, but wasn't very good at it. He subverts this in season three, when he deliberately caused someone's death by removing a pin that was supporting the escape tunnel, allowing it to collapse on top of the man.
    • People tend to consider Linc this, ignoring his Back Story, like the flashback to him ramming his car into someone and the number of Mooks he'd killed.
      Mahone: (to Michael about Linc) When it comes right down to it, he's just like you. He has a heart that won't kill a man.
    • Stupidly subverted with some of the other characters. They'll kill any number of Mooks, but will refrain from killing people like the General when they have the chance because Thou Shalt Not Kill, seemingly forgetting they've already killed. What Measure Is a Mook?, indeed.
    • Subverted with Sara. She is the reason Michael refrains from killing, on separate occasions, T-Bag, Christina Rose and the General. Then she kills Christina Rose. And let's not forget in season two she also killed Agent Kim and tried to kill Kellerman.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Sara, starting at the Fox River prison riot, when she deals with the many inmates who want to get to her. She escapes while being tortured twice and from the bad guys in general more than once. She also sews up her own arm. In Season 4, she graduates into Action Girl.
    • Lincoln was basically a petty thug before he got to Fox River.
    • Michael forces himself to take a level in badass pre-season 1, when he goes from structural engineer/office jockey to criminal mastermind. He also learns how to steal cars.
    • Sucre might be the most impressive - he's a car thief who becomes a bad convenience store stick-up artist to make enough money to take Maricruz out in style, and at first just takes a few bucks. Four months later, he's taking on a global conspiracy with the best of them.
      Sara: (watching Michael jimmy a car lock open) I see Fernando has been a great influence on you.
      Michael: And me on him.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Season 2 cleans up the gene pool: Veronica Donovan, Tweener, Haywire.
    • In Season 4, Roland, believes he would receive $1 million in exchange for Michael and Lincoln, only to get shot down by Wyatt.
    • He doesn't end up getting killed for it, but at times Sucre's persistent unwillingness to understand that everyone in Maricruz's family dislikes him approaches this.
    • Mrs. Hollander. So, a psychotic killer who has promised that he will hunt you down if he ever gets out of jail has broken out of prison. Do you think you maybe want to see who it is BEFORE opening the front door?
    • In addition, a lot of characters going up against the brothers (or one brother and Sucre) seem to spontaneously forget that there are TWO of them — while actively chasing/being chased by both. Witness someone outrunning one and pausing for breath, only to be caught by the other, or knocking out one, and pausing to gloat or call someone only to be attacked by the other.
  • To the Pain: While holding Gretchen in captivity, Wyatt would occasionally visit her to explain how she was going to be tortured next.
    • T-Bag is strung upside down by C-Note, who tells him his eyeballs would pop out of his skull if he spent two more minutes in that position.
  • True Companions: Both subverted and played straight.
    • Subverted with the original group that broke out of prison in season one, as seen during season one and two a number of times, including but not limited to T-Bag's hand being cut off, Tweener and Haywire being left behind, and Michael trying to steal the money out from everyone except Sucre.
    • Played straight in that Michael, Linc and Sucre form a small gang of True Companions in season one, which LJ and Sara are added to in season two. Subverted again in season three, as Mahone and Michael (much less the rest of the group) have no problem backstabbing each other while trying to break out of Sona. Played straight in early season four (as they're on their way to becoming one) and then subverted when the group splinters in the later part of the season. The direct-to-DVD gives us the basic group, seen in the season four finale at Michael's funeral, of Linc, Michael, Sara, Sucre, and Mahone.
    • The Michael/Linc/Sucre crew is the most stable, which other characters frequently ignore. Basically any time Sucre actively betrays the brothers, you can reasonably bet that he's actually about to pull a double-cross on someone else.
  • Truth in Television: A rather sad example, as Lane Garrison, the actor who played Tweener, went to prison for vehicular manslaughter not long after his run on the show ended. Despite committing a far more serious offence than his character, Garrison received a lighter sentence; he was sentenced to just over three years, and served about two and a half.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The entire first and second season is one long eleventh-hour-revealed plan of Michael's.
  • Unwitting Pawn: T-Bag, more often than not. He learns to hate Michael more than anyone for this reason.
  • Villain Decay: Bellick. The General, too. The Company as a whole.
  • The Voiceless: The General during season two, who delivers instructions to his underlings by writing them on a notepad, apparently to avoid being overheard or recorded. Later seasons drop this completely.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Lincoln seems to be incapable of buttoning his shirt during season two.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Subverted in Fox River, where the warden Henry Pope is more of a reasonable authority figure who genuinely believes in reforming the prisoners. A straighter example would be the skull-cracking captain of the guards, Brad Bellick.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Sara, most notably, with regards to Michael's feelings for her.
  • We Need a Distraction: Early in season four the team needs to break into a home with a very sophisticated security system, so Lincoln and Sucre set off the alarm at the house across the street while Michael and Mahone wait for their target to disengage his own security system to find out what's causing the disturbance.
  • We've Got Company: Sucre is frequently the "We've Got Company" guy in Season 1, when he spends a lot of time as Michael's lookout, and pretty much everyone in the initial break-out gang but Michael and Lincoln plays this role from time to time.
    • Lincoln uses this trope by name when Bellick first catches up to them in 2x04.
  • Wham Shot: "Killing Your Number" ends with a lingering shot on Michael's tombstone with no explanation as to how he died, which wouldn't be explained until "The Final Break."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Sara's reaction to Michael's attempt to either scald or drown his mother in a bathtub after she hit his Berserk Button (it's unclear which he was intending to do, and he himself may not have really been sure). This is his own reaction once he snaps out of it.
  • Wild Card: Kellerman in season two, Mahone in seasons two and three, Gretchen in season four, T-Bag... constantly.
  • With or Without You:
    Michael Scofield: As soon as the lights go out, I'm gone. With or without you.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Season one's "Brother's Keeper" is an excellent example of this done well.
  • World of Badass
  • Worthy Opponent: Mahone to Michael in season two. Michael actually uses this to his advantage in season four after they become allies by sending in Mahone to outsmart Christina Scofield, who prided herself on being able to outsmart Michael.
    • T-Bag thinks he's a worthy opponent to Michael. He does get some moments over Michael (like stealing the money in season two) but overall loses to him.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Philly Falzone threatens to harm Abruzzi's children.
    • Wyatt kills Mahone's son.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child:
    • Abruzzi is horrified when he hears that one of his henchmen killed T-Bag's four year old cousin.
    • C-Note is also disgusted when Abruzzi briefly holds a hunter's daughter as hostage for them to proceed with the escape.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Michael, especially in seasons one and four.
  • You ALL Share My Story: Season two, the most decentralized of the series, had the characters running around America individually or in small groups, teaming up on a few occasions before (almost) everyone met up first in Utah, and then later in Panama for the big season finale.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: The gang are all cleared with twenty minutes to go in the last episode. Later, Michael and Sara are walking along the beach and talking about their future, when Michael's nose starts bleeding. The Distant Finale reveals that everyone believes him to be dead, although the rebooted fifth season reveals that he's Not Quite Dead.
    • Happens often throughout the series. Another example is the brothers coming within inches of receiving a presidential pardon in 'Sweet Caroline', only to end up being double crossed and on the run again.
  • You Will Know What to Do: While attempting to break LJ out of lockup, Lincoln tells him "On the third, look out for otis right." LJ responds with confusion, and Linc answers with the You Will Know What to Do. He figures it out, but so does Mahone.

     Tropes referring to the 2017 revival 
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Episode 5 reveals that Poseidon delivered one of these to Michael. Since Kellerman was not qualified to exonerate Michael's team, Michael had to join 21-Void as refusing to do so would spell life without parole for Michael's family and friends. It was later revealed Poseidon had Sara incarcerated for Christina Scofield's murder when Michael initially refused, meaning Poseidon's directly responsible for the events of The Final Break.
  • Atrocious Alias: More than one review has commented on the rather lame aliases of A&W, Van Gogh, and Cyclops.
  • Back from the Dead: Michael (the First Law of Resurrection applies).
  • Big Bad: Poseidon is a rogue CIA agent who will do anything it takes to control America's foreign policy. He is also responsible for the events of The Final Break movie as well as Michael's disappearance.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Interestingly enough, Michael has become this for Whip.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Jacob seems to be a loving husband dedicated to his family. It turns out, however, that he is Poseidon, meaning that he's directly responsible for everything bad to happen to Michael and Sara during the end of Season 4 and all of Season 5.
  • Bury Your Gays: Sid and A&W.
  • The Charmer: As a sociopath, Jacob is a master of psychological control over his henchmen and Sara and Mike. It's no wonder he was able to get away with murdering Gaines by the time the 5th season begins.
  • The Chase: Much of Episode 6 is taken up by Michael's group being pursued by Cyclops.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Lincoln mentions that he and Sophia broke up offscreen, but his son LJ doesn't even get a mention for some reason, and LJ himself never appears. Mahone suffers a similar fate despite being a main character in the original run.
  • Determinator: Cyclops is an evil example of this. Even after his ISIL superiors tell him to forget Michael's group, he still decides to steal a truck and pursue them through the desert!
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Jacob Ness. Yep, turns out he is Poseidon after all, even though it seemed too obvious.
  • Doomed Hometown: Sana'a is this for Sheba. By the time she, her family, and C-Note take off from the airport, Yemen's government has utterly collapsed and the capital has fallen to ISIL's insurgents.
  • Dwindling Party: The group fleeing Yemen is full of new characters who seem to exist mainly so that people other than Michael and Lincoln can die. They receive enough development to avoid being Red Shirts, but most of them are still dead by the end of the season.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After all the trauma endured over the course of the entire series, the finale sees Michael finally reunited with his family and Lincoln is in a relationship with Sheba. Even T-Bag, back in prison, at least gets to beat up Jacob on the regular.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • T-Bag and Kellerman are disgusted and horrified by Poseidon and Abu Ramal. Kellerman lampshades this, as he admits that he and T-Bag are angels in comparison.
    • Van Gogh expresses his reservations over Poseidon's actions as Season 5 progresses. He eventually has a Heel Realization when Poseidon plans to kidnap Mike and unlawfully imprison Sara.
  • Evil Former Friend: Cyclops is one to Sheba. They were childhood friends until the former joined the ISIL insurgency. It is later revealed that their friendship ended even earlier when Cyclops tried to rape her.
  • Faking the Dead: Michael, of course. He had to, as refusing to do so would've seen Sara, Lincoln, and all of his friends and accomplices imprisoned for life.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Michael's ultimate goal is framing Poseidon for the murder that Poseidon framed him for, by planting evidence in his office and recreating the pictures that Poseidon deleted of the crime being committed. From the issues he raises about the evidence, it's pretty obvious that the Director of the CIA is aware this is what Michael is doing, but he still lets him go free after the plot to implicate Michael is confirmed by Poseidon's own accomplice.
  • Gaslighting: Throughout Season 5, Poseidon pulls this on Sara and later Mike. The latter got so bad that in the finale Mike is convinced that Jacob (aka Poseidon) is his father and screams at Michael to go away.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The Grand Finale has this right at the end. Once Jacob realizes T-Bag is his cellmate, we get a wide shot of the prison as we hear prisoners cheer, Jacob screaming, and T-Bag cackling. It's safe to assume whatever happened to Jacob... wasn't pretty to say the least.
  • Happy Ending Override: This season is this for Lincoln, who was happily living with Sofia in Panama. They broke up, and he returned to his old life as a crook in Chicago.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Realizing how monstrous Poseidon is, Van Gogh attempts to stop his partner A&W from killing Michael in front of his son. A&W shoots him in the chest, leaving Van Gogh mortally wounded.
  • Heel–Face Turn: After four seasons of being a Token Evil Teammate for Michael, T-Bag finally turns Face in season 5. He's the first to break the news that Michael is still alive to Lincoln and willingly helps Sara find out Poseidon's identity. Still, as A&W and Jacob learn the hard way, T-Bag's turn doesn't mean he won't savagely kill those in his way.
  • Heel Realization: Van Gogh realizes to his horror that Poseidon is not a nice person when he finds out Poseidon plans to lock up Sara and kidnap Mike.
  • Idiot Ball: Savvy agent/assassin A&W has a gun pointed at T-Bag in the finale, but when agents storm the compound, she somehow forgets she's keeping an eye on an extremely dangerous enemy (whose son she just killed) and lets herself stare off at the commotion for more than a few seconds, letting the enraged T-Bag get the drop on her and kill her.
  • Killed Off for Real: In a season that proved even the main character can come back from his apparently permanent death, Kellerman, who also faked his death in an earlier season, is killed by Poseidon's agents.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: T-Bag turns out to be Whip's long lost father. This is justified since the former was on the run during the time he had an affair with a West Virginian waitress.
  • The Man Behind the Man: You can thank Poseidon (aka Jacob Anton Ness) for every horrible thing that happens to Sara in The Final Break as well as the series' original Bittersweet Ending.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Jacob frames Michael and has him imprisoned because he wanted Sara. He also brainwashes Michael's own son against him.
  • Multinational Team: Here, Michael leads one consisting of a West Virginian, a Korean, and a Yemeni.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: In addition to resenting and fearing Michael's intelligence, Poseidon is also unhealthily obsessed with Sara. This turns out to be a major reason why he double-crosses Michael and Whip in Yemen.
  • Neck Snap: How T-Bag dispatches A&W.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: A simply beautiful example of this trope occurs between Michael and Lincoln in their final scene. It's quite appropriate as an ending, considering the love between the two brothers was often the driving force behind the entire show.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": Jacob does this in the Grand Finale once he finds out his Fox River cellmate is none other than T-Bag.
  • Rogue Agent: Poseidon is a CIA deep-cover agent who went rogue after being frustrated by America's foreign policy. The 21-Void cell he runs allows him to shape foreign affairs in his image, and he goes as far as supporting Abu Ramal and the ISIL rebels in Yemen to get what he wants.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Sid gives up his life protecting Michael and Lincoln from Cyclops.
  • Say My Name: Just try to count the times Lincoln shouts MICHAEL!!! in the first couple of episodes.
  • Smug Snake: Poseidon. His utter lack of empathy and desire for power means he has no qualms acting like a little shit especially when he's in front of Michael.
  • The Sociopath: Oh god, Jacob (aka Poseidon). His ego and his obsession with game theory drive him to pursue his own ideology. Moreover, his idea of "love" for Sara and Mike boils down to selfish desire to brainwash them and dominate every aspect of their lives.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Played with in season five. Poseidon knows what a captive Sara wouldn't say (such as calling MJ "Junior") but Michael willingly takes the bait to rescue her.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Kellerman appears in only two episodes of the 5th season. Just when he's revealing Poseidon's conspiracy to T-Bag, Poseidon's henchmen show up and kill him.
  • The Theocracy: Abu Ramal is a commander of ISIL insurgents in Yemen. ISIL (aka the Islamic State, ISIS, or Daesh) is a Wahhabist extremist group that seeks to create a caliphate where homosexuals and non-Muslims are brutally executed, women are banned from getting an education, and Sharia law is imposed on citizens.
  • Unstoppable Rage: T-Bag shows this in the Grand Finale after A&W kills his son in front of his eyes.
  • Villain Decay: T-Bag started the series as Michael's self-described mortal enemy, but by the end of this season he's somewhere between a very dark Anti-Hero and Villain Protagonist.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: This season is one to the The Odyssey.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Jacob has this reaction in the finale after he brutally hits Sara for spilling the truth of his despicable nature.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Jacob has his own agents shoot him nonfatally to throw Sara off of his trail.