The Prisoner: Fall Out (series finale)
(S01E17) The final episode of The Prisoner is arguably the most controversial and confusing finale to a television series ever filmed. If you've been watching the episodes over time and think you're going to get some sort of resolution with this final portion of the story, think again. I've viewed this series a number of times over the years and, frankly, I still don't totally get what Fall Out was all about.
There are a number of stories surrounding the filming of this particular episode. I won't go into all of them, but suffice to say it was a finale that was rushed into production because the series was not originally intended to go this far. Apparently, one story that is considered to be the most plausible is that Patrick McGoohan was told that the series was canceled after the episode The Girl Who Was Death and was given only a week to write a finale, which began with the preceding episode Once Upon a Time which had been filmed a year earlier.
Obviously, McGoohan had to come up with something to bring the series to an end, but many Prisoner fans/experts say that he did not want to produce a definitive ending with a definitive solution. He certainly succeeded here.
Anyway, after Number 6 triumphs over Number 2 during the week of "Degree Absolute," he requests to be taken to Number 1. He is then walked through a corridor where the strains of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" is played from a jukebox. Number 6 is then taken to a large room where a jurybox is filled with people in black and white masks and wearing white hooded robes. He then comes before "The President," who is dressed as an English judge in powdered wig and red robe. ("The President" is actually the former Number 2 from The Girl Who Was Death episode.)
The President makes a speech where he states that Number 6 has survived the ultimate test and announces that he will no longer be referred to as Number 6 but will be addressed as "Sir." Number 6/Sir is then requested to have a seat at the "Chair of Honor" and watches the proceedings whereby Number 48 ("The Kid" from Living in Harmony) is brought back and is scolded by the President for his behavior. Number 48 then breaks out in song to the old Negro spiritual "Dem Bones" and runs around the place with nearly the entire room chasing after them. He's then found guilty of revolt and is transported down through the floor.
Then, incredibly, the recently deceased Number 2 is brought back to life, complete with a shave and a haircut. The story surrounding this was that actor Leo McKern was already acting in another production when he was asked to come back for Fall Out and this was his "natural" appearance. So, Patrick McGoohan had to concoct something to compensate for this situation.
Number 2 then expresses anger at how he was treated and then confronts Number 1, which is represented by a door with the number 1 on it and a green mechanical eye. Number 2 is then sent downstairs to join Number 48.
Number 6 is then tributed by the President, and is then offered one million pounds in travelers cheques, his passport, the keys to his home and his car. He then is asked to make a decision--he can leave freely or he can become their leader. As he is being asked to make this choice, Number 6 keeps asking "Why?", but gets no firm answer.
He is then giving the opportunity to make a speech, but as soon as he begins speaking beginning with the word "I," the robed audience behind him drowns him out by chanting "I, I, I." Number 6 then goes on with a speech, but you can see that he is incredibly angry at not being given the chance to be heard.
The time has come for him to meet Number 1. He's transported down a shaft, walks down a corridor, and sees Numbers 48 and 2 standing in glass cases. He then encounters the Butler, who then takes him into a room filled with globes. Number 6 then climbs a spiral staircase, and he sees a hooded person. The person turns around, and it's Number 1--in a gorilla mask!?! Number 6 then unmasks him, and then incredibly, it's Number 6! Or, someone purporting to be Number 6, but he is laughing demonically! What the hell is going here? Is he under the influence of mind-altering drugs again? Or, did he die after "Degree Absolute" and these are his last moments flashing before his eyes?
In any case, Number 6 chases after Number 1, but Number 1 climbs up a ladder through an escape hatch in the ceiling. Number 6 then races downstairs and plays around with a bunch of controls in the room which apparently activates something. He and the Butler release Numbers 2 and 48 and then return to the big room and a gun battle takes place to "All You Need Is Love." The four of them make it to the cell that was used in the previous episode which is actully part of a truck. Meanwhile, alarms sound and panic ensues around the Village, with warnings to evacuate. We see villagers running away on the beach and then, suddenly, a rocket launches from the grounds.
What is confounding is what is the meaning of the rocket? There was never a hint during the entire series of there being aliens from another planet or anything science fiction-related, so the launch of the rocket really doesn't make any sense here.
We then see Numbers 6, 2, 48, and the Butler in the truck on a highway heading for London. As the Butler drives, the other three dance around in glee to "Dem Bones." Number 48 then jumps off and is seen hitchhiking. Upon arriving in London, Number 2 gets off near Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Number 6 and the Butler then abandon the truck and scramble onto a double-decker bus. Number 6 then arrives at his old home and gets into his old car. A very interesting scene occurs when we see the Butler walk up to Number 6's door which opens by itself with the Number 1 on it. The obvious question is was Number 6 really Number 1 all along? I guess we'll never really know, or was it something concocted by McGoohan to confuse the audience?
The story ends with the exact opening sequence of music and Number 6 driving in his car as has been done during the opening credits of virtually every episode.
It goes without saying that the ending of The Prisoner is bound to make you feel as if you've missed something along the way and that the joke really is on you. After this episode was originally aired, Patrick McGoohan was vilified by series fans for this apparently unsatisfying ending. There are so many theories about the final episode, especially the one where "we all are prisoners of ourselves" or something to that effect.
Of course, if Patrick McGoohan had been given more time to flesh out the storyline, we probably would have seen a little more sense (if that was possible) to the episode but, in a way, the sheer "bizarre-ness" of Fall Out is what makes it so appealing, and adds to the legendary status of The Prisoner.
It's been an absolute pleasure being given the opportunity to watch and blog about The Prisoner for TV Squad. I haven't seen the episodes for a number of years, and it was fun watching it and being fascinated by it again. I implore you to take the time to get a hold of the DVDs, and see them for yourself. I'm confident you will find The Prisoner as fascinating as I, and many others, do.
Until we meet again.
Be seeing you!