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December 21, 2014

The Prisoner: Fall Out (series finale)

by Michael Sciannamea, posted Sep 6th 2006 5:36PM

Patrick McGoohan as (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!

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slugman

Personally, I think No. 6 is still in the village as a prisoner. I think that the events in the previous episode(Once Upon A Time) culminating with the death of No. 2 has caused No. 6's mind to snap and that "Fall Out" is his delusion. At the end of "Once Upon a Time" right after No. 2 has died, No. 6 slams down his brandy snifter, shattering not just the glass but also his connection to reality. Think about it: No. 2 is brought back to life(not necessarily impossible but not very likely). Also, there is a character named No. 48 which is played by an actor who played another character who died during the course of the series(No. 8 in "Living in Harmony). What do you get when you cross(multiply) 8 with 6? 48. Also, at the end of the episode, when No. 6 arrives back at his old flat in "London", if I remember correctly, the door closes on its own just like the door to his flat in the village. I think that it was the "Brazil" ending 18 years before "Brazil".

February 03 2012 at 10:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SausageMahoney

I'd like you to consider that the allegory involved in this show goes waaaay deeper than you ever imagined and to really understand what's going on requires you to put yourself in McGoohan's shoes at the time he made the series. I'll just lay it out on the table then; McGoohan, the man, inexplicably 'resigned' from Danger Man/Secret Agent Man, the 'Village' that wants to keep him pigeonholed in that role and doesn't understand why he'd leave it is us, the television viewers, or at least the tv viewers of that time. The 'Number 1' who controls said villagers, *is* Patrick McGoohan, in that he is the creative force behind the show, and the creative force behind a show manipulates it's viewers. 'Lost' manipulates us each week...it makes us curious, excited, sad, etc. This is a very direct and clear allegory, the showing of McGoohan in the control room as Number 1. The problems we run into trying to figure it all out is we are assuming the allegory is in the context of the shows narrative, rather than the context of McGoohan himself and his experience and interaction with the world as a popular tv star, labeled, stamped, kept 'imprisoned', and watched. We are watching an Actor struggling against a comformity being pushed upon him by society.

January 16 2009 at 6:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DevourAcid

I think that Patrick intended for the Prisoner to have a non-ending; that Number Six's struggle for freedom was never-ending, he could be free of the "Village" but the world he inhabited was itself just another "Village".

As for Number One I think he was Number Six.

Although the Prisoner was canceled and when a series is canceled, the finale usually is unsatisfying and leaving the audience with something to be desired, usually because of the anti-climatic ending.

Look at other series finales: In St. Elsewhere it turned out be the autistic boy's fantasy; The Soprano's Made in America finale had the fade to black in the middle of the scene, leaving us with a possible implication that Tony was gonna get whacked;Twins Peaks ended with Dale Cooper possibly being possessed by BOB or trapped within the Lodge; and Angel ended at the start of a seemingly one sided battle.

I think in general that Series Finales just plain suck.

May 09 2008 at 6:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vkrippen

Haven't watched this episode yet but I read that co-creator George Markstein had mapped out an explanation for the Village. A young Number Six had once submitted a proposal for how to deal with retired secret agents who posed a security risk. Six's idea was to create a comfortable retirement centre where former agents could live out their final years, enduring firm but unintrusive surveillance.

Years later, Six discovered that his idea had been put into practice, and not as a benign means of retirement, but as an interrogation centre and a prison camp. Outraged, Six staged his own resignation, knowing he would be brought to the Village, hoping he could learn everything he could of how his idea had been implemented and expanded upon and find a way to destroy it. However, due to the range of nationalities and agents present in the Village, Six realised he was not sure whose Village he was in - the one brought about by his own people, or by the other side. Presumably, Markstein intended this revelation to follow Once Upon A Time. However, Markstein's falling out with McGoohan resulted in Markstein's departure, and his original intent was discarded.

According to Markstein: "The Prisoner was going to leave the Village and he was going to have adventures in many parts of the world, but ultimately he would always be a prisoner. By that I don't mean he would always go back to the Village. He would always be a prisoner of his circumstances, his situation, his secret, his background... and 'they' would always be there to ensure that his captivity continues."

I think it would have been a better ending than the current one I've read.

May 06 2008 at 4:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andrew

I found a lot more answers in the finale than it seems a lot of people did. Right from 'All You Need is Love' (an attack on both the Village, obviously lacking in love, but also Number Six, love is the one thing "an individual can't have on its own) to the rocket (a missile. the village/big brother is about massing power - knowledge, people, weapons) to revealing of Number One as our greatest enemy (first, animal instinct, and then, of course, ourselves). There's tons more, but only so much blog space :-)

March 16 2008 at 11:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Will Mathieson

Frankly, I think LSD has a lot to do with it. Such as McGoohan exploring the effects of LSD on someone totally immersed in the paranoid world of politics and covert intelligence. All You Need Is Love was the anthem of the trippy hippy Peace and Love movement of the time. Anyway it stands as a classic, all the more for leaving the viewer's mental muscles exhausted.

August 21 2007 at 8:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bart Stewart

I'm glad someone posted the bit about the opening sequence saying that Number 6 is Number 1. As in: "Who is Number 1?"
"You are, Number 6."
I always thought that Fall Out was intended to be total madness and nothing more. There is no meaning to it, except to say that the uppermost reaches of the Prisoner's world are utterly unfathomable. I do not find that unsatisfying. It is surreal and mysterious, and it will never be made coherent at all. This TV show was a gutsy, amazing, creative breakthrough.
I think that the overall meaning of the series was McGoohan making a commentary on his own life and career. I think he felt trapped by his career, a prisoner of it all.

November 30 2006 at 10:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Devon

The Identity of Number One was not important. Number one, who represents supreme authority can adopt many identities throughout numerous times and places in history. The role of number one is more important than the identity.

The theme that I picked up on was the theme of "The Outsider" where an alien element is bent on overthrowing a society. Is number six this alien trying to overthrow the village or is the village the alien element that threatens the normalcy of number six's world?

October 25 2006 at 11:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
KAR120C

Always interested in some good Prisoner chat. Is there any news of a possible Prisoner movie? It's been rumored for quite some time, but I'd love to see a great director, a great cast and a great script put into production so we can see an updated Prisoner... featuring Patrick McGoohan as Number One.

September 24 2006 at 12:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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