Lanegarrison_prisonbreak_240 If you thought you were having trouble following FOX’s heavily serialized Monday dramas before, get ready for a long break. This week marked the last original episodes of Prison Break and Vanished until after what’s sure to be the lowest rated baseball postseason ever. Naturally both shows signed off with cliffhangers, or at least big twists, particularly in the case of Vanished.

That means this post includes spoilers. Tread lightly.

Up first was Prison Break, which is often ludicrous, but never dull. The show managed to kill off its second least interesting character (seriously, hands up if you’re going to miss John Heard’s Gov. Tancredi). It continued and advanced the hilarious comic adventures of Haywire and his new dog in Wisconsin, which could become an absolutely brilliant spin-off if they make it to Holland. It sent Dominic Purcell’s Lincoln off on a wild goose chase to Arizona to rescue the show’s least interesting character (Marshall Allman’s Kim Bauer-esque LJ). I’d like to pause here to ask if Linc remembers that last time he predictably went to rescue LJ, he got shot and spilled a ton of blood. That was less than a week ago, right? Perhaps Linc has forgotten because the writers forgot.

With Tweener (Lane Garrison) and Agent Mahone (William Fichtner) taking their misleading truth-telling jaunt, Prison Break also resorted to the hoary Silence of the Lambs/Speed "They’re going to one location… Surprise… Wrong location!" misdirection for the second time in a month. This is a cliche that directors and editors need to stop trotting out as if it’s still suspenseful, much less as if it’s the sole reason Edwin Porter developed cross-cutting.

The episode ended with two entirely out-of-left-field semi-twists. Where the heck did Psycho Sucre come from? And the progression of Mahone from Madman Mahone to Mega-Madman Mahone was a bit abrupt. I mean, sure, we’ve all wanted to kill Tweener at some point or another, but that was a lot of bullets Mahone put in the little shoplifter, probably more than necessary.

Galeharold_vanished_240Vanished appears to open with an ending. Gale Harold’s Agent Kelton is right where we left him last week — in a remote cabin splattered with blood, blood that very quickly is linked to Sarah Collins. Woo-hoo! Mystery solved! Show over!

Alas, we’ll find out the truth later.

Much of the subsequent episode is dedicated to humanizing Agent Kelton. He has reconciliatory scenes with his ex-wife, makes a trip to his daughter’s first communion and a passionate clash with his boss. Anybody with even a rudimentary knowledge of TV thriller conventions knows one thing: The dude’s in trouble. He goes through most of the episode with a look of pain in his eyes, as if even he knows what’s coming. It takes 58 minutes before Kelton, about to give crucial information to Senator Collins, is gunned down. The little Catholic kids on the soundtrack sound very sad as the camera pulls back on the show’s lead character dying in a pool of blood.

Harold’s replacement, Eddie Cibrian, actually entered the episode at the 35-minute mark, fittingly upstaged by Rebecca Gayheart’s legs. Apparently he and Gayheart’s legs have a past (and a temporary present). And it’s just a total coincidence that Cibrian’s Agent Lucas and Agent Kelton are old buddies. In FBI terms, that means that the Collins case will now become very personal for Lucas.

I know that Gale Harold had some passionate fans from his days on Queer as Folk, but even if he isn’t a bad performer, he’s not good enough to overcome utterly pitiful material. That being said, he wasn’t the lead FBI agent who should have been whacked. Ming Na may not be the worst actress in primetime television, but she’s certainly giving the worst performance currently on primetime. To some degree, her problem is that the writers haven’t bothered to give her a single characteristic of any kind, but for a veteran of E.R. to be so incapable of delivering techno-jargon is plain sad.

Whatever the cause, Kelton’s offing is a atypically ballsy move for the normally staid non-thriller.

Thoughts on Monday’s FOX shockers? Who are you going to miss more, Tweener or Agent Kelton? Is Cibrian a good replacement for Harold?

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg