Images courtesy of FOX and Netflix
I love Money Heist.
Up until season four, I would’ve told you that Money Heist beats Prison Break as a show.
But then season four happened.
In a flash I saw all the flaws of Money Heist as if someone pulled the wool from my eyes. These flaws were there since the very beginning, I just never saw them.
Shortly after Season four dropped, I saw Prison Break trending in the Philippines. I saw people having debates over whether Michael Scofield is smarter than the Professor. I saw Prison Break trending #4 on Netflix just yesterday.
As I watch Season Five right now, I must say that while Prison Break’s seasons run a bit long, they managed to captivate a global audience consistently over a long 15 year period.
I remember Prison Break being all the rage when I was 12 years old. I’m now 27, and just became obsessed with the show.
To top it all off, I recently put a status up on Facebook:
It got 89 likes in one hour. My phone started blowing up with notifications. I realized right then and there that so many shared my same point of view. I also realized that I needed to explain myself.
Why is Prison Break better than Money Heist?
Well, here it goes.
1. Michael Scofield Is A Better Main Character Than The Professor
Remember in Season 2 of MH when the Professor tried to poison his girlfriend’s mother?
Yeah. I still remember that.
Has Michael Scofield ever had a diabolical moment like that happen before with an innocent bystander?
Never. I think most of the reason why people love Prison Break more than Money Heist is because of the main character.
Michael Scofield is one of the greatest characters ever written in television history.
Past Michael Scofield, the list of interesting characters in Prison Break — when compared to Money Heist — admittedly falls off a cliff a little.
But you see, that’s exactly what proves this point even more.
Michael Scofield is such a great character that we really only need him to keep watching.
I could watch Scofield explain his strategy for painting a wall to someone for an entire episode and not be bored.
It’s sort of like having a deck of Basketball Cards. Imagine having 10–15 really great cards of all your favorite modern players.
But imagine having a mint condition Michael Jordan rookie card. Which is more valuable? MJ, hands down.
To me, Scofield is that MJ card.
He’s more composed than the Professor. To beat the professor, all you got to do is get him to fall in love with someone.
Scofield will go in the rabbit hole with you, unlike the Professor who remains on the outside.
And quite honestly Michael’s plans feel much more secure than the Professor’s plans. There is always something going wrong in Money Heist. Stuff goes wrong in Prison Break as well, but the confidence I have in Scofield to improvise while sh*t hits the fan is much higher than the waning confidence I have in the Professor, who looks like he just got hit by a bus whenever something goes wrong in Season 3+4.
With Michael, I always feel like he is under control of the situation.
But I think the real reason we love Scofield is because of the love he has for his brother. Which leads me to my next point.
2. There Is More At Stake In Prison Break
Prison Break is about a guy trying to save his brother from death. Money Heist is about a bunch of cons who want to steal a bunch of money. They’re also trying to start a revolution.. or something?
Ultimately the cons in Money Heist are in control of their own destiny. If they die, they knew what they were signing up for, which makes us feel more at ease as viewers.
Scofield has no control over his brother’s situation. Lincoln was framed for murder and has a date with the electric chair. He did not choose to die. Everybody in Money Heist did.
Because Lincoln’s fate is out of the main character’s hands, the show becomes much more intense.
The episode where Lincoln goes to the electric chair in Season 1 is probably the most powerful episode of either show. I remember how sad it was when Lincoln tried to enjoy his last moments with Michael in the waiting room.
For anybody who has a sibling, it’s a terribly sad episode and one where I actually cried as a viewer.
Suddenly realizing what’s happening, Lincoln gets up and screams “I didn’t do it! This isn’t fair!” which drives the knife even further into our stomach.
It’s something that’s somewhat relatable to the audience. If you’ve ever had someone on their deathbed, you understand what it feels like to know you only have a few moments left.
Money Heist doesn’t come anywhere close to that for me as a viewer. These people are all strangers to each other. Granted, over time they become more like family, but if they’re family why is everybody pointing a gun at each other every third episode?
3. I Watch Prison Break For The Characters. I Watch Money Heist To See A Chess Match.
My favorite parts of Money Heist have nothing to do with the characters. I don’t give a f*ck that the Professor fell in love with the Inspector.
I do care about the chess match, though. I enjoy watching the Professor & Co. outmaneuver the government. I enjoy seeing a great plan come together — sort of like with Ocean’s Eleven.
I think audiences as obsessed with Money Heist as I am can agree the parts where this show really sings are when we’re deep in the chess game — not when we’re messing around with flashbacks, watching Tokyo get drunk, or getting some 5-minute soliloquy from Berlin about how we need to enjoy life more.
My emotional connection to characters like Tokyo, Rio, Monica, and Helsinki are not all that strong.
My emotional connection to Scofield and Lincoln though? It’s through the roof. Money Heist certainly has a lot of cartoonish characters who are fun and wild in all types of ways, however outside of Nairobi, the Professor, and Denver, I don’t really care about these characters that much.
Prison Break does a good job with making the characters more likable. In Season 2 when T-Bag went back to his old house, I found myself feeling for him. We understood why he turned out the way he did. He wasn’t just a villain. It’s not really his fault.
Money Heist doesn’t always do a great job in this department.
Which brings me to my next point.
4. Money Heist’s Characters Aren’t All That Lovable
I don’t like Tokyo as a character. I find her incredibly annoying and childish. Monica is useless. She became useless after season 2. I loved her in season 1+2, but she’s not a stone cold con like the rest of them, so whenever she points a gun at anyone it makes me want to laugh.
Rio is useless also. If he died I wouldn’t care.
Denver was a lovable, gentle character in Season 1+2 but in Season 3 + 4 the writers assassinated his character, opting to make him an angry, violent mascot for Toxic Masculinity instead. More on that later.
Nairobi is probably my favorite character in Money Heist.
There’s so much unnecessary drama in this show that leads to all the main characters staging hostile takeovers and pointing guns at each other every three episodes.
What’s likable about that?
Sure, it adds drama and looks cool in the trailers but it ends up dehumanizing everyone and boils them down to cartoon characters.
Don’t even get me started on Palermo. He helped a stone cold killer get out of handcuffs because he knew it would get him back into power.
Because..that would….work? ….Somehow?
Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense.
The writers of Money Heist infuriate me..
5. The Writing In Money Heist Has So Many Inconsistencies
Prison Break has a lot of “filler episodes” in Season 1+4. And there’s a lot of manufactured B.S. that happens in the show just to get all the main characters together in the same room. I get that.
However, the sins that Money Heist continually commit over and over again are too much to ignore.
It seems like, time after time, what happened in previous episodes is completely ignored for whatever new plot they want to push.
One example of the atrocious writing begins with Tokyo. At the end of Season 3 she gets blackout drunk. She cannot even stand up straight and sabotages the whole mission. Everybody is furious with her. Five minutes later Nairobi gets shot, and all of a sudden the writers forget Tokyo is drunk.
Tokyo picks up a rocket launcher, descends a bunch of stairs flawlessly with a heavy briefcase that’s as big as she is, and fires a perfect rocket shot at the approaching armored tank with Rio.
Then ten more minutes later she performs flawless surgery on Nairobi with millimeter precision while Skyping a Doctor in Pakistan. Oh and that’s not all. She also somehow convinces all the cons inside that this is the perfect time to make her the new leader of the gang.
And they agree!
You can’t make this stuff up.
While watching the Money Heist documentary on Netflix, it was revealed that the Money Heist producers write the show WHILE they film. They don’t even have a script sometimes and looking back on Seasons 3 + 4, it SHOWED!
That explains why Tokyo is drunk one episode, then performing immensely complicated surgery that seasoned surgeons wouldn’t even be able to do in the next one.
It’s because the writers don’t even know where they’re going. And if they get backed into a wall too much, they decide to throw one of two things at us..
Either it was all part of the plan all along, OR there’s another backup plan that will fix everything that the writers DEFINITELY DIDN’T just make up five minutes ago.
I mean, the writers would never do that.
In Money Heist, they have a formula where the plan works, then something happens that throws EVERYTHING out of order and everybody panics, then we find out in the next episode that it’s all part of the plan.
Why the heck was everybody panicking then?
After about the fifth time that happens, it takes all the drama out of it as a viewer. You know there’s PLAN “BAIL ME OUT BECAUSE I WROTE MYSELF INTO A CORNER” in the next episode that will fix everything. That takes the drama away.
In Prison Break, Michael faces real obstacles, but at least it seems like he’s making it up as he goes and that it’s not all part of the plan. That justifies the panic as a viewer. In Season 1, he gets part of the map he tattooed onto his body burned off.
He then has to go get the map from the memory of a psychopath with a photographic memory who used to be his roommate. There is no plan B. He finds a workaround, and that justifies the suspense, making it fun.
6. The Social Issues Are Not Jammed Down Our Throat In Prison Break
Prison Break is a show about two brothers. But what makes it extra powerful is that it’s naturally set against a backdrop of prison reform, government corruption, global manipulation by America, and how corporations have more power than politicians.
It deals with heavy stuff. Most of all, though, it deals with these topics organically. It doesn’t feel preachy. It feels natural to the show. When Lincoln is going to the electric chair, and when they strap him in, put the sponge on his head, and ask him to wear a diaper, it makes you wonder whether the death penalty is even moral.
No characters really talk about it. The creators let us experience it alongside Michael and Lincoln, and they let us decide for ourselves.
In Money Heist season 3+4, it seemed that all the social issues of today were tacked on and shoved down our throats.
They made Helsinki gay all of a sudden. They made Denver a mascot for Toxic Masculinity. We had a transgender character. WHICH WAS FINE, but after a while it seemed like Money Heist was more interested in tackling social issues than doing what it does best..
GIVING US THE CHESS MATCH.
I thought one of the best scenes of Season 4 was when Palermo and Berlin finally admitted their feelings for each other. They embrace. They kiss. Sparks fly. It’s a triumph of television, for me, and it’s a good payoff that the creators were building up for two seasons.
But the creators took way too much time out of each episode to explore these topics, for me. They assassinated characters, created strife within the group, and made the show boring and uninteresting in the process.
GIVE US THE CHESS MATCH.
For instance, Denver is not an angry, violent person. He was the one of the kindest, gentlest characters in the first part of the series.
Then they decided to make him a mascot for Toxic Masculinity on a dime — sort of how they decided to make Tokyo a world-class doctor on a dime. Make Arturito the mascot for Toxic Masculinity and call it a day. They didn’t need to assassinate Denver’s character to have a commentary on it.
It was just so obvious what they were doing, and it took me out of the experience of watching the show.
In Prison Break Season 5, the show has an organic commentary on how homosexuals are persecuted by radical Islamic terror groups. In the show they try to hang someone for being gay. It’s a horrible moment and thankfully Michael saves the man from death.
There is no 5 minute explanation later by this character about how much his life has been a living hell and how the world needs to change. They didn’t need to do that. They showed it in a really gripping scene.
Money Heist tends to take copious amounts of time ramming social issues down our throat, and while I don’t mind a good social commentary in TV shows, too much can render it boring and take the viewers out of the experience — especially when it gets preachy and the audience becomes aware that certain scenes are in there solely to jam sh*t down our throat.
7. Prison Break Has Better Villains
Who is the villain of Money Heist season 1+2? I’ll wait.
The closest thing I can imagine is Arturito.
In Prison Break, we were blessed with one of the greatest TV villains of all time.. T-Bag. T-Bag is one of those characters that you love to hate. His wit, the way he minces words, and his troubled backstory make you like him in a weird, twisted way.
When was the last time you liked a villain in Money Heist? All the villains are one dimensional. They’re BAD. They’re NOT GOOD. VILLAIN: BAD.
But in Prison Break, we manage to see another side to almost all the villains, whether that’s Agent Mahone, T-Bag, Brad Bellick, or Agent Kellerman.
Agent Kellerman is one of the best characters in Prison Break, for me. I mentioned that Money Heist has a bevy of interesting characters, but it’s hard for me to name any character from Money Heist that I like more than Agent Mahone or T-Bag — and they’re mostly villains!
I like Alicia Sierra, and I like Gandia, but who even is Gandia past the plot armor? He’s just a prototypical bad guy. The only thing that makes us hate him is the fact that he’s so damn hard to kill. He should’ve been shot in the head about 4 times in the show but managed to escape every time.
The best villains, for me, are the ones who you sort of like a little bit. You can sort of see their point of view. Prison Break does a better job developing their villains than Money Heist.
8. Prison Break Has The Best Season
Prison Break Season 2 buries any other season of both shows by a long-shot. I think Season 1 of Prison Break is better than any season of Money Heist as well.
Prison Break is not a perfect show. I have MAJOR qualms with a lot of the writing and decision making — particularly in season 4. For instance, Lincoln is largely a useless character after Season 2. He just doesn’t need to be there. I also find it ridiculous how T-Bag and Brad Bellick happened to get into the same prison that Michael did in Panama. The writers did that to have these characters in the show, though. I get that. But still.
Despite Prison Break’s flaws, the strength of its main character, its villains, the longevity its had over 15 years, the way it handles social commentary, the stakes, and the lack of gigantic plot holes like Money Heist has is what makes it my favorite over Money Heist.
I still love Money Heist. I still really enjoy the cat-and-mouse chess match that is the Professor vs. Spain. And by the way, the Professor is the best character in the series. However, there is just too many mistakes for me to ignore with Money Heist, and that makes it the lesser show in my opinion.