The Crime Procedural That Flipped The Script Deserves Your Attention

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

Procedurals have become the go-to format for broadcast television, typically featuring some law enforcement agency that solves a case each week while, on the outside of the episode, dealing with character drama. This has been the case for decades, but every now and then, a series comes along and tries to do something different. And by different, I mean adding a bizarre new wrinkle to the formula, as was the case with Breakout Kings, a short-lived A&E series about convicts capturing convicts that escaped prison.

Breakout Kings Took A Different Angle

Compared to other shows of the time, such as The Mentalist, about a fake psychic capturing criminals, or Castle, which is about a mystery writer capturing criminals, Breakout Kings tried to make its heroes different. The team of convicts, under the supervision of the U.S. Marshalls, all did bad things, including murder, but the series pulled its punches and had all of them do horrible things for the right reasons.

What it gets right, though, is the treatment and attitude towards the convicts, as none of them can carry guns, they still live in prison, and throughout the series, there are basic things they simply can’t do because they’re criminals.

The Convicts

One step forward and one step back, as despite some commentary on the American prison system, Breakout Kings loses points with the team consisting of Shea (Malcolm Goodwin), the street-smart black guy, Erica (Serinda Swan), the tough female bounty hunter always wearing one less layer of clothing than everyone else, and Dr. Lloyd (Jimmi Simpson), a disgraced psychologist that sold illegal drugs to cover a gambling debt.

Despite the actors giving it their all, each character starts out as a complete stereotype, and as the series goes on, they grow and change in all the ways you expect.

The Feds

Two Marshalls are in charge of the convicts, Charlie (Laz Alonso), the boss, and Ray (Domenick Lombardozzi), the hot-headed disgraced Marshall. Alongside Julianna (Brook Nevins), a former FBI prospect who washed out due to anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, as the support, you cover every single procedural character archetype. As reductive as Breakout Kings is, though, there’s a reason procedurals use these tropes: they work.

The Fugitives

The other half of Breakout Kings is the escaped fugitives, and this is where the show really differentiates itself from the mountain of other procedurals out there. In every episode, there’s a prison escape, and if that sounds like an unsustainable premise, you’d be right. While they start normal, by the end of Season 1, the team is hunting a drug kingpin who arranged for her son to be killed so she could escape custody during his funeral.

Same Universe As Prison Break

Other fugitives in Breakout Kings hid in laundry baskets, leaped from prison vans, orchestrated prison riots, and faked medical emergencies. If you’re like me and you watch an unhealthy amount of procedurals, you likely recognize most of the fugitives from other shows, including the always-underrated Mark Pellegrino (Being Human, Dexter, almost every show you can think of), Zack Ward (Revolution), Kevin Alejandro (Lucifer), and Lauren Velez (Dexter).

One fugitive, T-Bag, connects Breakout Kings to the hit Fox series Prison Break. Robert Knepper reprises his role as the one-armed psychopath who, yes, escapes from Fox River.

A Fun Procedural Available Through Video On Demand


The truth with most procedurals is that despite the rote nature of each episode, they’re great comfort food and fun to watch. Especially when, like Breakout Kings, they push a thin concept to absurdity and are fun to laugh with and at simultaneously. The series is only available via Video on Demand, which is disappointing, but there are a few sites to choose from, including AppleTV, Google Play, and Vudu.