There’s definitely something jubilant about watching a character make a break for freedom. Whether it’s the result of a carefully planned strategy, or simply an impulse of the moment, we find that finally seeing a familiar face running for it is pure joy. Isn’t it? Now, if only we could sometimes do the same from our desks. Only kidding. With Narcos and the impossible-to-capture Pablo Escobar back for a second season on Netflix, we take a look at the very best of television’s prison escapes.
(Warning: spoilers ahead).
1. Pablo Escobar, Narcos
You’re quite something when you’ve got to escape your own prison. As part of a deal with the Colombian government, drug lord Pablo Escobar agrees to be locked up in his own compound, La Catedral. It is after all, a perfect place to run his operations from, somewhere where he can be under the protection of his men. But after a while (and several murders on Escobar’s part) the government get tired of his antics and sends in special forces in to kill him and his supporters. Naturally, Escobar manages to get away from his own prison without too many problems and breaks the perimeter just by walking through it: the Colombian army is too frightened to touch him.
Narcos Season 2 is available to watch now on Netflix
2. Spartacus & friends, Spartacus
Okay, so we think it’s fair to consider a Ludus (gladiatorial training school) the Ancient Roman equivalent of a penitentiary establishment. Sold into slavery after being defeated in battle, Spartacus carefully builds up his strength and reputation as a gladiator while and planning his escape from his Machiavellian owner, Batiatus. When the day comes, he manages to rally fellow slaves, his former rival, Crixus, and his trainer Dotore. And he starts the fight for his freedom (and a slave revolt) by a spectacular jump onto his masters’ balcony. Epic stuff.
3. All of Lichfield Penitentiary, Orange is the New Black
This is probably the silliest and weirdest prison escape we’ve seen. As Lichfield Penitentiary comes under new management, things security-wise go, ahem, a bit slack. Which is awkward when you’re running in a prison. In this instance, workmen remove a large chunk of the prison’s fence during repairs and don’t think to tell anyone. Naturally, all of the inmates run off, though strangely only to go straight to the lake next door for a swim. Sure, they’d probably get caught again if they ran, but we think it’s still a bit weird no one even gives it a try.
Orange Is The New Black Seasons 1 – 4 are available to watch now on Netflix
4. Michael Scofield & Co, Prison Break (Round 1)
It goes without question that Prison Break has its place in the escapee hall of fame. Michael Scofield’s elaborate plan to save his brother from an unjust death sentence, involving an intricate tattoo, disguising as psychiatric patients and a suspension cable, is still the stuff of TV legend. So much so that the series has earned a revival, in which Michael will break out of yet another prison. It’s showing in the US this autumn, with a UK airdate TBC.
5. Michael Scofield & Co, Prison Break (Round 2)
After a season on the run, Scofield finds himself back behind bars, this time in Panama, with no pre-planning to rely on. This makes his second great escape is all the more daring. Adding to that, Sona prison is run by its inmates and brutally guarded from the outside. Yeah, we know, it makes prison #1 sound like quite mild stuff in comparison. In the end, Michael’s second glorious escapade involves a cunning combination of an electricity shortage, oxygen capsules and a get-away boat. You’d think our leading man would have deserved a break after all that, but hey, as we mentioned above, it looks like he’s gotten himself locked up somewhere in the Middle East now.
Prison Break Seasons 1 - 4 are available to watch now on Netflix
6. Rosa, Orange is the New Black
Serial bank robber Rosa wins the award hands down for Most Exhilarating Escape. Dying of cancer, she decides to seize the day (and Lorna’s help) and nabs the prison van. She drives off the grounds into the sunset with barely a hiccup. Then, for good measure, she runs down also-on-the-run prisoner Vee on the way, thus liberating Lichfield from its gang leader tyrant. Sure, it wasn’t a masterminded plan, but we do admire her spirit of enterprise.
7. Honourable mention: Olivia Pope, Scandal
This one is not prison, but it’s so good that it deserves an honourable mention. What happens when scandal fixer Olivia Pope is held hostage? She handles it, obviously. Soon after her kidnapping, she convinces her captors to double-cross their employer and arrange an online bidding war for her captivity instead. Then, she directs the sales, and when conveyed off to a group she doesn’t want to be bought by, starts negotiating with them directly (yup, speaking Farsi is rather useful in some instances). When her friends finally get to her, she barely even needs their help. Ms Pope, we raise our White Hats to you.
Narcos season 2 is now available to watch on Netflix
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