The Prisoner, an appreciation (pt. 4)

Kim,

I’ve just watched Schizoid. I didn’t give up on AMC’s The Prisoner. There’s one episode left, and I want to think a bit about where things seem to be going before we get there. I want to make my wrong guesses honestly, I think.

So… The Prisoner seems to have turned pretty firmly in the direction of Mystery Show—the sort of show with a Central Mystery, the sort of show which doesn’t typically survive the Big Reveal. Of course, we went into this show knowing that it’s a six-part miniseries, so it doesn’t have to survive. But it would be nice if the show, after it’s over, sustains further consideration. I’m not sure that’s going to happen.
Anyway. In Schizoid we see two people who look like Six running around the Village. Is this a double? Is this an illusion in Six’s mind? If so, which Six is the real one? One cuts the other in a fist fight, and the implication in that scene is that the one with the cut is the real one, and the cut was caused by the figment who I’ll call Cold Six. Cold Six is on a mission to kill Two (in cold blood), because he’s fed up with Six making threats which are essentially impotent.

Is Cold Six really a figment? Other people seem to see both Sixes in too rapid succession for them to be anything other than both real. But these sightings are only through glass—though windows or in reflections. But in the climax of the kill Two plot, Cold Six appears to vanish rather than merely leave the scene. The kill Two plot is intimately tied to a significant subplot about Two taking a day off. As the UnTwo, he’s jovial, friendly, yet still irritatingly cryptic.

Two has an extended scene with the shop proprietor. They smoke cigarettes, and they talk. In Six’s other life, the one where he wanders around New York and suffers the indignities of corporate America’s national security state, he has an extended scene with an “access guy” played by the same actor as the shop proprietor. There are echoes in the scene with the access guy of an earlier scene with the proprietor, leading us to wonder if these two characters are the same person, and that the access guy has been sent to the Village. In any event, things don’t go so well for the proprietor—it’s never a good idea to interact with Two.

Because of their extended interaction with UnTwo, I’m worried about the cab driver and his wife. I don’t trust them, of course. As viewers we make a serious mistake when we trust anyone in this show. Even Six isn’t trustworthy—at the least, as our point-of-view character, he’s an unreliable narrator. But, in fact, Six is special within the context of the Village. This means we cannot discount the possibility that he’s One of Them, even if he doesn’t currently know it.

And speaking of family, there was another subplot in this episode. While Two is out and about, his son (11-12) wakens the sleeping woman—Two’s wife, 11-12’s mother. They have a day together, she assures him there is someplace else, that it’s not a place for people born in the Village, and 11-12 gets pissed off. She goes back to sleep. So far, I’m not very interested in the sleeping woman subplot. On the one hand it seems like an unnecessary addition to the central story. On the other hand, it seems like it’s possibly an interesting counterpoint—if there’s something in this show that will sustain further contemplation, it may actually be the sleeping woman subplot.

One of the mysteries of the show seems to have been addressed, if not definitively resolved. The gleaming towers Six chases like ghosts in the desert appear to be where he works in New York. At the very end, well after the conclusion of the kill Two plot, Six appears to see the Village from an unlikely vantage, and in the Village he sees an unlikely character.

Ahhhhnnnd…. Speaking of unlikely characters, there’s one more subplot—the question of what’s up with the doctor. She has a brief scene with the UnTwo. She’s been having dreams over the last few episodes, and these are dreams of Someplace Else. UnTwo assures her that there actually is someplace else, and she makes an abortive attempt to go there, or, at least, someplace that’s not the Village. If there is any trustworthy character in the Village at all, I think the doctor is probably that person. She really does seem to have her own problems driving her own agenda. She’s been messed with by Six (apparently mainly inadvertently), and she’s been messed with in a pretty rough way by Two.

There are a lot questions. Will Six escape? Will Two’s son? Will the doctor discover whatever truth she’s suffering for? What is the Village? Where is it? What is its relationship with Six’s other life? Is Six’s ‘real name’ really Michael? Who will survive? Will the Village survive?

This last question is inspired in part by the finale of the McGoohan series and in part by the fact that in this show, the Village seems literally to be falling apart. The ground is falling away from beneath the Village—is this ‘merely’ an engineering problem, or is this something of a psychological problem with the underpinnings of the Village? UnTwo makes the point in his various conversations that the real struggle in the Village is on of the mind—and that it largely takes place in the minds of the individuals within the Village. While true, in its own way, from the perspective of Two, this is only a distraction from the fact that people aren’t allowed to leave the Village, and that they only have individual liberty to the extent that what they want doesn’t conflict with what Two asserts is good for the Village. Can the Village survive if Two doesn’t?

That’s a lot of questions for one episode to resolve. I don’t expect that they all will be. And, in fact, I expect that mainly very little will be definitively answered, and much of what is answered will probably be questions I didn’t even know I had.

(Originally posted as a Facebook note February 5, 2010)