Ahh, the long awaited return of everyone's favorite over-the-top, unrealistic, yet incredibly entertaining television series. No, we're not talking about "24" folks (although Jack will be back soon enough), but rather its erstwhile Monday night partner in crime, the incomparable "Prison Break."

Last season ended abruptly thanks to that pesky strike, but those clever writers still managed to lay the groundwork for another spectacularly unrealistic year. What followed was a wildly uneven, yet ultimately entertaining premiere, which began as a muddled mess and by its conclusion had completely reinvented the series (yet again).

The obligatory reintroduction

The two-hour premiere begins with a nice little recap that has Michael (Wentworth Miller) explaining to new and returning viewers alike the abridged version of what happened over the first three seasons. See, Michael is planning on going after Gretchen (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) and Whistler (Chris Vance) and is writing a letter to no one in particular in order to tell his story should he die. It was a valiant (but futile) attempt to make the show friendly for new viewers, although it did succeed in giving us all a brief glimpse of the king of the smirk; the long departed Special Agent Bill Kim. We miss you Billy Boy!

The New Adventures of the Old Gang

Ok, enough about the past. What about the future? Things start out with Michael going on his vigilante mission. He tracks down Gretchen and Whistler, along with Mahone (William Fichtner) who is apparently also working for the company. They are attempting to procure a very important data card (has there ever been an unimportant data card?), and Michael wants to use the opportunity to get revenge for Sara's death. After ambushing Gretchen at gunpoint, he discovers (in the first of many occurrences that are hard to believe even by "Prison Break" standards) that Sara is, in fact, alive. Turns out she escaped, and Gretchen faked the murder by decapitating a corpse. Points for ingenuity?

Speaking of Gretchen, she finds herself in some early trouble. After being threatened by Michael, she is called to a meeting with the mysterious Pad Man (now referred to as "General") who seems to be running The Company these days. The General is pretty upset because the data card contains secret Company info (like the password to get into their awesome treehouse) and Whistler, ever the chameleon, kept a copy of the data for himself. The General then leaves, but not before ordering Wyatt (Cress Williams), his new muscle, to take care of Gretchen. Wyatt raises his gun and the scene cuts away. Could that be the end of our beloved, lipstick loving villain?

No, of course not. Gretch was kept alive by Wyatt, for both information and torture purposes. Who wants to bet that despite the fact that she is bound and gagged in a windowless cell, she still finds time to make utilize hundreds of dollars of cosmetics each day?

The Confusion Continues

Michael is then contacted by Mahone, who tells him that he and Whistler are actually working to sabotage The Company. Whistler then comes to join in the fun, and asks Michael for his help in breaking into a Company facility in order to decode a data card. Then he gets shot in the head by new villain Wyatt, who has a Terminator-like efficiency about him. Plus he really seems to like killing people. Could this be the set-up for a crossover with "The Sarah Connor Chronicles?"

So poor Whistler dies, and Michael and Mahone take flight. What follows is a ten minute segment which sees most of the main characters, including Michael, Lincoln (Dominic Purcell), Mahone, Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) and Bellick (Wade Williams) all conveniently get arrested for various reasons.

Michael Rapaport alert!

After being arrested in Chicago (while looking for Sara), Michael is approached by Special Agent Don Self of Homeland Security (Michael Rapaport). Self explains how he has been chasing The Company for years, and says that Whistler was his inside man. Now that Whissy-Poo is history, he needs some new recruits to help him fight his own personal war on terror. So naturally he turns to Michael and the rest of the gang. Who else? In exchange for agreeing to find the data card and take down The Company, Michael and friends will all get out of their jail sentences.

The New Mission

So Michael, Lincoln, Sucre, Bellick and Mahone are assembled as the crack team that will take down The Company. Oh, and Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies) too. That's because Michael tracks down his damaged love, who he still has little to no chemistry with. She is clearly unstable, but quickly signs on to join the team anyway. Agent Self also introduces them to one more team member, identity thief Roland, who adds the much needed stereotypical "tech guy" to the team.

The team is then given a mission: to gain access to six top-secret data cards that together will bring down The Company. It is actually a very interesting and brilliant reinvention of the series, although the transition was handled rather sloppily.

What About T-Bag?

When we last left the infamous T-Bag (Robert Knepper) at the end of season three, he was pumping up the Sona prisoners with a rousing speech. But the writers were posed with a problem. How could they abandon the Sona storyline as quickly as possible, thus allowing them to integrate T-Bag, Sucre and Bellick into the action this season? Simple. Add one throw-away line about some riot in Sona, which makes absolutely no sense since the facility was established as an inescapable fortress last season. Presto! T-Bag, Sucre and Bellick are all free men. Sucre and Bellick of course made their way back to the U.S. and joined up with Michael and Lincoln, but what about T-Bag?

T-Bag is a free man and his new goal in life is to hunt down Michael to settle their "blood feud." He also is in possession of Whistler's famous bird book, which gives him some nice clues about Whistler's identity and work. His subsequent story for the episode can be summed up as follows: long, grueling journey to America, victim of not one but two double crosses, needing to cannibalize a fat friend for sustenance, and eventually making friends with a couple of San Diego surfer dudes. The end result to that odyssey is that T-Bag is now back in the U.S., and has found a couple of clues left by Whistler, which will invariably cause his path to cross with Michael once again. Oh, and he has some new facial hair now, which makes him look creepier than ever.

New beginnings

So much happened in the two hour season premiere that it would take thousands of words to barely scratch the surface of it. The first half of the premiere was incredibly sloppy, even for "Prison Break" standards, as the writers were rushing to completely reinvent the show on the fly. What resulted was an hour of huge jumps in logic, quickly abandoned characters, convenient coincidences, and a couple of WTF moments.

The second hour was better though. The new direction that the series is taking is interesting and promises to be entertaining. The addition of Michael Rapaport was very welcome, as was the subtraction of Chris Vance and Danay Garcia's Sofia. And The Terminator, while not quite as lovable as Kellerman or Bill Kim, looks to be the most effective and menacing villain yet, as he actually manages to accomplish his goals. Should be an interesting season.

What are your thoughts on the season premiere of "Prison Break?" Like the new direction of the series? What about T-Bag's new facial hair? Leave a comment!

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Story by Derek Krebs
Starpulse contributing writer