Unintentionally Funniest Moment in Television: Veronica Donovan, Imbecile Defense Lawyer, Gets her Fool Ass Shot
I love this show, don’t get me wrong. In fact it’s in my top five. So when you have a show where all the characters are three-dimensional and easily draw a viewer into the plot, throwing in a predictable cartoon character tends to stand out like a sore thumb.
The suspension of disbelief is shattered, and the rest of the show that night is ruined.
Although Prison Break is not a comedy, it has one of the funniest moments ever to hit the screen. Veronica Donovan, the defense lawyer of a death row inmate, Lincoln Burrows, is shot by a cabal of the Vice-President in an isolated retreat. Lincoln is the key to bringing down the corrupt administration, and was framed for the killing of the Vice-President’s brother, Terrance Steadman, a CEO for a bogus company facing federal indictments. To avoid prosecution and embarrassing his sister, whose campaign funds came from his lucrative front, Steadman faked his own death and is kept in isolation.
In uncovering all this, Veronica has scoured secret phone records and seen the illicit collusion of state and federal law enforcement with private industry, particularly the oil companies which created the sham alternative fuels research company to funnel millions to the Vice-President’s campaign coffers. She knows her life is in danger.
Earlier attempts on her life included the bombing of her apartment and an attempt by a CIA hit man; all of which she barely escapes. Although she has done a masterful job of uncovering a massive, complex conspiracy by oil industry giants, and although she has linked the mysterious trail of dead witnesses to the Vice-President herself, she doesn’t realize or care that her negligence in protecting key witnesses cost the lives of at least two of them.
Once Veronica is trapped in the Blackfoot, Montana retreat with Terrance Steadman, she makes her final mistake. Even though she knows the compound vicinity and roads are controlled by the presidential cabal and all electronic traffic is monitored by the very people who want to kill her, even though she knows that no phone can be trusted, and in fact, helps the son of Lincoln Burrows escape by advising him to dump his phone because the Secret Service was using it to track him, she suddenly doesn’t have a clue that her life is in danger when she picks up her cell.
Her fellow captive has warned her it was suicide to call 911, since all electronic transmissions in and out were monitored by The Company (CIA) and the Secret Service, but she knows better, and she dials anyway. The sheriff doesn’t get there, of course, the Secret Service does, and they bust a cap in her ass. Because the viewer knows it’s coming there is no suspense, because this is one of countless idiotic moments where she should have known better but doesn’t- inevitably costing someone their life- the shooting is not a surprise to anyone but her. And it is that look of surprise before she is riddled with bullets that should have been tragic but wasn’t. In fact, it was funny, and it got funnier inasmuch as the scene called for pathos. The character was so one-dimensional, her actions so predictably stupid and incongruous with a gifted defense lawyer, it was more like watching Wile E. Coyote getting shot in the face with his own cannon after laying a trap for the Road Runner.
On second thought, maybe I am being a little unfair. Wile E. Coyote is far less predictable than Veronica Donovan, since he has a giant ACME catalog of ingenious schemes to go after his prey. In Veronica’s case there is no such ingenuity and her only plan of attack is to trust a corrupt system she herself has uncovered, so you know that one way or another, she will lead an important witness to his or her death…or so it was until she got herself shot. Thus, I think I can speak for all witnesses, living and dead, when I offer the following on the recent passing of Ms. Donovan: