Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Oh how the mighty have fallen.  Just two weeks ago I was praising Oz as the harbinger of the great HBO dramas to follow.  Now I’m almost done with the fourth season of the show and I’m tempted to throw in the towel.  If I had two network-length seasons to go instead of a cable-style 8 episodes each, I’d have probably already walked away from it.  Maybe it’s watching so many episodes back to back, without the benefit of an off-season.  Or maybe it’s just familiarity breeding contempt.

Because all the cracks I was willing to overlook in the first three season are now practically jumping up and down begging for attention.  Prisoners can’t walk five feet without getting beat up or shanked.  Security seems to be nonexistent.  More people seem to die in the infirmary than get cured.  Any time anybody needs someplace to stay for a short period of time, somebody thinks a maximum security prison would be a good idea.  What was working as pot-boiling melodrama has just become too ridiculous.

And don’t even get me started on the aging pill.

In a subplot that actually happened, someone comes up with a pill that rapidly increases aging.  The idea is instead of having an inmate taking up space for a twenty year sentence, you simply age them twenty years and send them on their way.  Putting aside the moral and philosophical arguments — because boy are there plenty and I need to get to bed eventually — just from a scientific and medical standpoint, it’s such a gigantic piece of goofiness it almost completely undermines everything that came before it.

The middle of the fourth season also bid farewell to Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje’s character Simon Adebisi, and that’s when I really felt the air come out of the balloon.  Adebisi had been kind of aimless for a while, and when Akkinuoye-Agbaje needed free time to go film The Mummy Returns, it made sense to simply let his character die.  He gets a hell of an exit, but you can almost feel him taking what Oz had been with him.

I’ll probably finish the last two seasons out of sheer stubbornness and a desire to see what happens.  But the enthusiasm is gone.  It’s almost like I’m just doing time, waiting for parole to come.  At least I won’t get shanked on my way to the bathroom.


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