So, Prison Break will be back in a matter of hours.
And to a lot of you, that may mean nothing.
But it means a hell of a lot to me.
Prison Break first aired when I was fourteen. I don’t remember much about the night itself, but what I do remember is kicking up a real fuss when my brothers outvoted me on the choice of programming, the two of them commandeering the TV remote and forcing me to watch the pilot of this new prison show instead of the episode of House that I had apparently very much wanted to watch at the time. After that night, though, House certainly never took precedence in my schedule ever again, because I had fallen hard for Prison Break in a way that I never had with a show before (or since), my soul already eagerly sold to it before the credits were even rolling on the first episode.
For the next four years of my life, it was my obsession, my joy, my greatest love, the one thing I could talk endlessly about (particularly any part related to MiSa, my OTP of all OTPs), and the mere thought of which would always make me happy. It led me to my first fan forum, to amazing friends (who I am still in touch with to this day), and also brought me into the world of fanfiction, which in itself became (and remains) a hugely important part of my life.
As it went on, the show not only taught me life lessons like sacrifice and making difficult decisions and taking responsibility for your actions; it also taught me about myself, and what I wanted and valued and believed. And, as with any show that truly pulls you in, the characters were always far more than just actors spouting lines– they were like family to me, and I celebrated and struggled and grieved with them through four incredible and traumatising seasons. I genuinely cried more tears for them and their pain than I ever did over anything else in my own (obviously very fortunate and privileged) life.
The same year that Prison Break ended, I graduated high school and was accepted into medical school, a career that I had chosen for several very good reasons, not the least of which was because my still-forming teenage self had looked at Dr Sara Tancredi and had seen exactly the kind of woman I wanted to grow up to be. About five years after that, I was freshly graduated as a doctor, and finally got the chance to meet Went, Dom, and Sarah at my first Comic Con, and was able to thank them in person for the beautiful thing that they had helped create, and which– in Sarah’s case in particular, of course– had helped to create me.
Today, I’m exactly a month shy of my twenty-sixth birthday, and have been a doctor for almost two and a half years, having even worked briefly in the prison system during that time, among many other things. I may not have the posters hanging on my wall anymore, and the cardboard box full of memorabilia and carefully folded cranes might be tucked away in a closet out of sight, but even still, this show has never left me. It’s in the “Be the change you want to see in the world” ring that I’ve worn every day for the last nine years. It’s in the tiny origami flower that has been tattooed on the back of my left ear since I was nineteen. It’s in the crane that was tattooed on my left wrist two years ago in Chicago, with those same old forum friends beside me, all coming together for the first time in our ten-year friendship to visit the city and the prison that had been the setting for the story that had brought us into each other’s lives. But even more than the marks on my skin, its mark is still inside me, a permanent building block in the foundation of who I am.
In the last eight years, there’s only one thing about this show that I’ve always regretted, one thing that I have literally wished (on shooting stars, four-leaf clovers, birthday cakes, 11:11, dandelions– you name it, I’ve wished on it) that I could change. Of course, I know that happy endings don’t always exist; that reality is hard and cruel and whatever, so supposedly TV should be too. But that never stopped me from wishing that there could have been just one more happy ending out there to give to this story.
Then, about two years ago, something happened. Stars– both astronomical and celebrity– aligned. Whispers like ‘reboot’ and ‘season 5′ floated around, and then suddenly, startlingly, my dream had started looking like a possibility. A possibility that eventually turned into a miraculous definite, the confirmation followed by months of filming and promoting that I promptly did my very best to ignore or hide from, because I was convinced that if I thought about it too much– let myself hope too much– it would somehow all disappear again; would revert to being merely an elaborate fantasy that I’d concocted in my head, a silly fangirl’s headcanon to rectify her OTP’s heartbreak as well as her own.
But tonight, it’s all becoming real. Tonight, for the first time in eight years, I will turn on my TV and see my character-family again; will experience that old feeling afresh. And though there’s certainly always the chance that the new season will somehow be a disappointment, or will only add more pain, it’s a chance I’m so very willing to take.
A chance that I’m so, so grateful even exists.
So, if you can, tune in tonight (9/8c on Fox). Even if you’ve never watched before, even if you think that frankly I’m probably just overhyping it and it’s actually nowhere near as great as I claim. Do it anyway, and show the network and showrunners that what they have done means something to the viewers out there– to the people like me, who got far more from this show than just a fascinating story, who might have been a very different person today if they’d managed to wrestle the TV remote off of their brothers on that one night a dozen years ago. And who knows; a success for Prison Break now, like with The X-Files and Gilmore Girls before it, could mean reboots– and therefore justice– for even more beloved shows down the line, and even more opportunities for other fans to re-experience the things that helped to shape them into who they are.
And, well, this moment may have been eight long years in the making– but whatever happens, it was worth it.