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October 9, 2015

The Prisoner: Checkmate

by Michael Sciannamea, posted Jun 21st 2006 6:31PM

(S01E04) "Checkmate" is probably my favorite single episode of The Prisoner. It's a very tight story about how Number 6 thinks he has gained the upper hand on his captors in the Village but ends up being double-crossed by those he thought he could trust.

The chess game using humans as pieces with instructions being shouted out by "the masters" carries with it quite a few allegories, doesn't it? I guess that if you don't have the power, you're just a pawn in their game. (Listen to Bob Dylan's song for that.)

Number 6 still is planning his escape from the Village, and he is on the prowl searching for others to join him. After being persuaded to function as a pawn in the giant chess game, he makes contact with the Queen who, in response to his questions, attempts to steer him to concentrate on the game. Afterwards, they both discuss escape, but he doesn't seem to trust her.

Later on we see the Rook being "treated" at the hospital and he and Number 6 make plans for their escape. The Rook is an electronics expert, so he would be a a natural ally for Number 6. However, as one might have suspected, the Queen is hypnotized to fall in love with Number 6 and is given a locket that also serves as a tracking device.

The Queen professes her love for Number 6, but he's not buying it and he continues to plan with the Rook. A bit later, Number 6 acts a bit nicer to the Queen, and he asks for her locket, which he suspects is being used to keep tabs on him.

The Rook and Number 6 work diligently to build a raft with a transmitter that will help contact someone to pick them, along with some other Villagers, up. As any viewer would surmise, Number 6's plans go awry when Number 2's image appears on the rescuing ship's television screen with the Rook standing beside him, who says he thought Number 6 was one of the "management" and admitted his activities to the authorities. At the end, we see a thwarted Number 6 on the boat taking him back to the Village, escorted by the omniprescent Rover.

"Checkmate" is a fascinating episode as it has many plot twists and turns and really has you believing that Number 6 will prevail. Even though you know ahead of time that Number 6 will still remain a prisoner, you can't help but hope that somehow he will emerge victorious. All in due time...

Until next time

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