'Breakout Kings' Review: A&E Series Shatters Cop Show Cliches

The A&E original series “Breakout Kings” is three episodes into its second season, and fans are being treated to more of the same action and suspense from season one - following a surprise ending in the season premiere.

Breakout Kings,” which airs at 10 p.m. EST Sunday nights, follows a task force comprised of U.S. Marshals teamed with a group of convicts to recover escaped prisoners. In return for their assistance, each convict was transferred to a minimum security prison and is rewarded with one month off their prison sentence for each escapee they help capture. If any of the convicts ever tries to escape while out of prison on an assignment, they will all be returned to their original prisons with their sentences doubled.

SPOILER AHEAD:

The team was originally led by Deputy U.S. Marshal Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonso), a by-the-book guy who didn’t allow the convicts to get out of line. Charlie had spent the six years before the formation of the Task Force behind a desk due to a congenital heart defect. At the end of the second season premiere, Charlie was killed by one of the fugitives the team was chasing. That fugitive escaped, creating a running theme for season two.

Replacing Charlie is U.S. Marshal Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi). Ray originally came up with the idea for the Task Force, but was not able to officially lead it because he had lost his job with the Marshals after being convicted for stealing money from a crime scene. Now off parole and no longer living in a half-way house, Ray was promoted from Special Deputy and is officially leading the team he helped create.

The second official member of the Task Force is Julianne Simms (Brooke Nevin). “Jules” is a former Marshal hopeful who was expelled from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center due to social anxiety, panic disorder and depression. Jules serves as the team’s researcher and computer analyst.

There are three convict members of the Task Force. Sean “Shea” Daniels (Malcolm Goodwin) is a street-smart former gang leader who helps the team by providing insight into how the criminal escapee thinks and will try to evade law enforcement.

Erica Reed (Serinda Swan) is a former bounty hunter who was convicted after hunting down and killing five of the six gang members involved in the murder of her father. Erica is motivated by the fact that each captured escapee brings her one month closer to being with her daughter.

Dr. Lloyd Lowery (Jimmi Simpson) is a politically incorrect former child prodigy and behaviorist who provides the team with psychological evaluations of the escapees and helps predict their next moves. Lloyd was convicted of illegally selling prescriptions to fund a gambling habit and was stripped of his medical license.

“Breakout Kings” avoids falling into the just-another-cop-show trap due to the unusual makeup of the task force. Having convicts as members of the team, the show avoids the usual cop show stereotype storylines of good-cop, bad-cop and the overbearing supervisor.

While the storylines are entertaining, the interaction between the characters really drives the series. The cast members are very believable in their roles and interact extremely well together. Though the cast is mostly newcomers, Lombardozzi has overcome one of the most annoying character runs in “Entourage” to really find his place in the role of a take-no-crap U.S. Marshal.

If there is a standout character among the ensemble, it would be Lloyd. His own neuroses provide the basis for an excellent comic-relief role, perfectly executed by Simpson. Lloyd tries to use Shea as his own encyclopedia of prison knowledge in order to survive life in the Big House, while continually pining for Jules.

If you would like to catch up with "Breakout Kings," season one is available on DVD and streaming on Netflix.


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