The Prisoner: Free For All
Do not adjust your web browser. You are now entering the Retro Squad, where we are reviewing past episodes of your favorite shows, in order, every week.
(S01E02) Before we go any further, I just want to say those of you who would ask why am I reviewing this episode of The Prisoner (which was the fourth episode aired in the series) but appearing here as the second. First, in both the VCR and DVD compilations, this episode is listed second. (In addition, it was the second episode filmed.) Plus, I think this episode fits in better in the second slot anyway, because we get to see how Number 2 "by hook or by crook" tries to get Number 6 to tell why he resigned his post as a spy.
In this episode, Number 2 convinces Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan) to run for office as the new Number 2. Number 2 says that an election is held every 12 months, and so far there is no other candidate besides him that is running. Of course, being a new "resident" of the Village, Number 6 is quite skeptical over the whole thing. Plus, as he reiterates from the first episode, "I am not a number. I am a person."
Number 6 is then assigned an assistant, an attractive woman dressed as a French maid who offers to drive him everywhere and serve his needs, all while speaking in a foreign language. The episode is especially interesting as it "parodies" political campaigns where you have canned speeches and planned photo opportunities, ie, "rehearsed spontaniety."
Through a series of scenes where Number 6 is given a "test" and then is placed under mind control, he begins to campaign fervently for the position of Number 2 and is featured in a commercial where he promises his supporters that if they obey the "rules" they will be taken good care of. He seems to be gaining more support, and it looks like Number 6 is going to be the new Number 2.
However, things get to be too much for him, and then he steals a boat and is looking to escape from the Village. Rover (the big white balloon) reels him in. Later on, Number 6 and his assistant are sitting at the Cat and Mouse Club, and in a fit of anger he accuses her of spying on him. He then finds himself in the basement of the club, where Number 2 is in a drunken stupor and the both of them speak "honestly" about the phoniness of the "election." Of course, Number 6 is double-crossed and is knocked unconscious.
On election day, Number 6 seems to be winning in a landslide, but there is no joy from the residents. They are so mind-numbed and controlled that they will obey ANY Number 2, which makes this "election" a sham to begin with. Number 6, being the victor, is taken to the control room where Number 2 works, and he begins to play with the control board and almost becomes drunk with power. Suddenly, his assistant begins slapping him and asking him questions in her language, and then security overtakes him. The episode ends with the old Number 2 leaving the Village, and the new Number 2 is the assistant, who was in on the plot the entire time.
This is a very weird and disturbing episode. It advances the idea that all elections in a free and democratic society are not very free or democratic, and no matter what a candidate promises, things will basically be the same and citizens will be in the same boat no matter what. In addition, the scene where Number 6 says "No comment" to questions and then having quotes made up for the Tally Ho newspaper was chilling. It's amazing how many of the concepts depicted in this episode have become part and parcel of today's political campaigns--the rehearsed speeches, the photo ops, the pandering to supporters, etc.
Until next week, we shall say
"Be seeing you!"