Prison Break

Prison Break: Why Sarah Wayne Callies Wasn’t In Season 3, Explained

Sarah Wayne Callies was missing from Prison Break season 3, and even though she had been killed off, the show ended up bringing Sara Tancredi back.

Only a couple of seasons of Prison Break feature an actual prison break, but when season 3 of the show saw a return to the original formula, Sarah Wayne Callies was missing from the cast. Callies played Dr. Sara Tancredi in the show’s first two seasons, being Michael Scofield’s love interest in season 1 and having a more action-based role in season 2. Sara was one of the doctors working at Fox River State Penitentiary’s hospital, and she was one of the few with an on-point moral compass, holding herself to a strict ethical standard — that is, until she met Michael.

In season 1, Sara looked the other way when it came to Michael’s antics, even though she knew he was planning a prison break, and season 2 saw her completely desensitized to crime. And whether the show was so entertaining because Prison Break is a modern Homer’s Odyssey or simply because of the thrilling escapes, Michael and Sara’s will-they, won’t-they relationship had huge appeal. As Sara was easily the most likable character on the show, her off-screen death caused a huge upset, and it didn’t help that it was reportedly due to tension between Callies and the producers.

Why Sarah Wayne Callies Wasn’t In Season 3 Of Prison Break, Explained

Sara Tancredi Prison Break

The show was leading to a happily-ever-after ending where Michael and Sara settle down together and put their sordid history behind them. However, that all ended when Sara was suddenly killed off-screen, which is revealed when Lincoln Burrows finds her head in a box in season 3, episode 4, “Good Fences.” According to producer Matt Olmstead, it wasn’t always the plan for Sara to die, but the network rejected the original pitch for season 3 (via TV Guide). In order to “really jolt the series“, the next idea was for Sara to be killed off.

Prison Break’s plans have changed many times over its run, as it was originally planned to be a limited miniseries, so it’s hardly surprising that Sara’s death was a result of Fox not being happy with a previous pitch. However, just because the producers had settled on the decision to kill Sara doesn’t mean they didn’t want Callies to return. Olmstead explained that they initially asked Callies to be in a handful of episodes instead of a full season. Callies was contracted to return, but only if it was for the entire 22 episodes, which meant that the producers and Callies would have to renegotiate.

Being pregnant and living in a remote area of Canada may have kept Callies from wanting to return, but according to Olmstead, he suggested bringing a camera crew to her. Contract negotiations ruined so many potentially great ideas, as it’s what caused a rift between Henry Cavill and Warner Bros., and Fox spokesperson Chris Alexander thinks that’s exactly what kept Callies from reprising the roleHe explained that after she wouldn’t agree to 13 episodes, “We whittled it down to 11 episodes, then 10 episodes, then nine episodes, then four episodes. Then we suggested flying to her.

How Sara Tancredi Was Brought Back From The Dead In Season 4

Sara and Gretchen in Prison in Prison Break

Following the negative reception of Sara’s absence in season 3, the producers realized that it’d be easy to bring her back because her death was off-screen. Callies never said much about being killed off the show or about the negotiations other than that she was “shocked,” but luckily enough, neither the producers nor the actors burned their bridges. Olmstead put it best himself, noting, “She’s a very smart lady, and we’re all adults here. It was never personal. It was a business and creative decision, and we’re absolutely moving on.” (via TV Guide). And Callies was back as a main character in season 4.

Prison Break characters coming back from the dead became a common occurrence in the show. And in season 4, Sara returned with her head fully attached to her body. While the season 3 pitch saw the producers succumbing to pressure from the studio, season 4’s approach ended up being the opposite, as it was reactionary and based on the negative reception from the audience. But while some suspension of disbelief is required, it was fairly easy to bring Sara back, as Lincoln never inspected Sara’s “head” when he found it in the box in season 3.

Lincoln simply assumed the head was Sara because both the head and Sara shared the same hair color. The death was retconned when Gretchen, who supposedly killed Sara, explained to Michael that Sara escaped. Gretchen lied about killing Sara so she could keep leverage over Michael. Since the actual escape in Prison Break season 1, the show had gotten increasingly confusing. However, it was worth it, as bringing back Callies was the best decision the producers made. Ironically, it’s lucky that Callies didn’t return for season 3, because if the character had an on-screen death scene, it would have been impossible to bring her back.

The Impact Sarah Wayne Callies’ Sara Had On The Story

Michael and Sara kiss in Prison Break

The series has had two definitive endings, and the first would have been completely different if Callies never came back. Her return in Prison Break season 4 worked out great outside of a few timeline continuity errors. A major story arc in season 4 is all about the mystery of what actually happened to her and what she was doing during the season 3 timeline. She’s even the lead character in the TV movie, Prison Break: The Final Break, which sees Sara performing a prison break of her own, and it fills in the gaps of season 4.

Prison Break was even revived for season 5 and producers had to come up with another way to have all these characters once again break out of yet another secure compound. Callies returned for the season, only this time it was Michael who was brought back from the dead. However, though season 4 didn’t see Sara and Michael have the happily-ever-after ending that was set up in the first season, as Michael sacrificed himself to help Sara escape, they get it in the season 5 finale. 12 years after the characters were first introduced, they finally get their happy ending and settle down with their son, Mike.

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