The Prisoner, an Appreciation (pt. 3)


I’ve watched half of AMC’s The Prisoner now. Among my thoughts remain this idea that the narrative itself is playing games. I mean, obviously Two is playing games, though they seem to be primarily games of power, with no as yet clearly articulated outcome; Two seems merely interested in maintaining power over the rest of the people in The Village, and in asserting this power over Six. He does, however, seem to need Six to remain alive and vital—he instructs Six’s spy-partner that Six is to remain alive—indicating that the power games are aimed at beating Six in order to get something.

However, Six’s perspective—and ours to the degree we identify Six’s point of view as our own—remains unreliable to me. The end of episode two has Six strapped to a gurney, being wheeled off who knows where, yelling at Two. At the beginning of episode three, this all seems more or less forgotten. How does Six make these jumps from one set of events to another? It’s dream like. Is his experience in The Village a dream? Are his dreams of his conversation with the girl about Summakor memories? Dreams within a dream? Events that take place after the events in The Village?

In this episode, Six is tasked by Two with becoming a spy (is he a spy when he’s not driving a bus?) He notes that the cellular structure of the spying network means everyone is a spy, at least potentially. This is presented as if it were news, but we viewers knew this already, and Six should have as well. There are three sets of secrets in play (that Six eventually knows about), plus at least one more which is the most chilling. There’s the principal in the school. He’s sort of a MacGuffin, though. A red herring to move some of the other plot elements forward, and to allow for some exposition. (“There is no Number One.” This may be the only time the word ‘number’ is used before a number; or maybe I’m mis-remembering it.)

Six’s spying on the principal gives Six and us an opportunity to discover that the spy-partner has a secret, that the child of Two has a secret (these are the same secret), that the doctor has a secret. This discovery appears to give Six some leverage, and the opportunity to rescue the doctor. This adventure, however, proves to be possibly illusory. But possibly not.

Six rescues the doctor and a little girl, but it appears he was set up to succeed. In retrospect, the place from where they were rescued appears to have been an artificial detention area. But if Six hadn’t chosen to attempt a recue, it seems The Village (and Two in particular) would have kept them. The doctor and little girl, for different reasons (legitimate reasons from The Village’s standpoint), were actually taken away. Six was allowed to rescue them—in a dream-like sequence where the time line is compressed and the likelihood of capture is leap-frogged—possibly because the game Two plays with Six is more important than the transgressions of the doctor and the little girl. After all, they can always be sent away again. Six has to be kept off-balance, with his power ebbing and flowing at the call of Two.

But, by the end, we find that Two knows his son’s secret, the secret of the spy-partner, that he uses children possibly as young as eight as pawns and as bait (the final secret, of which Six is unaware, and for which Six bears some responsibility—I wonder if this will be a factor in the way the series winds up). We also find that Two doesn’t even let people eat their ice cream.

(Originally posted as a Facebook note December 8, 2009.)

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