Review: The Prisoner - Part One: Arrival
by Jason Hughes, posted Nov 15th 2009 10:00PM
(E01) I can't help but feel tempted to compare this to the Patrick McGoohan classic from the '60s, but that wouldn't be fair. Attitudes, technologies and even our expectations of TV programming have changed so much in the intervening time. And yet, as an homage to the original, there are many elements to this new AMC mini-series that nod back to the classic paranoia suspense saga.
While The Village has been updated to be a much larger and more vibrant desert oasis (think kitschy Las Vegas) than the original's sleepy seaside villas, it's still as much an enigma, even in this first hour. And while Jim Caviezel doesn't command the role of Number 6 as powerfully as McGoohan, really who could? So I give him a pass, and enjoy him for what he brings, and try not to hear McGoohan's booming defiance when Caviezel shouts: "I am not a number! I am a free man!"
Things are a lot less direct this time around, as well. In the original, Number 6 woke up in the Village and Number 2 got to it pretty quickly in trying to figure out what he knew and why he'd quit his government job. It seemed a bit risky to drop the new Number 6 in the desert, quite a bit away from the Village. How could they be sure he'd stumble in the right direction? And was it just coincidence that he happened to stumble into 93's escape attempt? It's important to note, for those who are new to The Prisoner world, that everyone in the Village is a number, rather than a name.
Rumor has it that they're also all prisoners of some sort, from something. Number 6 comes to us after having resigned from whatever work he did before. He's also one of the few people, as far as we know, who has dreams of their former life before waking up in (or near) the Village. 93 was another, as was 554, a waitress 93 pointed him to. This appears to be another variation, as in the original, the villagers were more playing along for their own sake than genuinely believing there is no world outside its walls.
Only before 6 and 554 could coordinate any more information about what they perceived to be reality, she was shot down. 6 also befriended a nurse, 313, who doesn't seem to have his best interests at heart, and in fact appears to be a mole for 2, as well as 147. 147 is the first Villager he met, a "friendly" cab driver played by Lennie James (Jericho) doing another American accent, for some reason. If McKellan was allowed his normal accent, why not James?
There's some unrest in the Village, though, as 147 and his wife seem genuinely afraid of Number 2. And within 2's own inner circle, his young aide 1112 is being set up like a possible sympathizer with and potential future ally of Number 6. As it stands right now, with 554 blown up when her diner exploded (Destruction in the Village? That can't be by accident!), 6 is all alone with his attempts to remember who he was and get away from the Village.
I did enjoy the updates to the new Village design. It still manages to capture many of the styles of the '60s in both the dress of the citizens, as well as the design of the houses and buildings, while at the same time looking stylish and modern in other places like 2's manor and the club Caviezel briefly visited. Other parts of the Village seem more like a bustling city, minus the bustle, more than a small village. It makes the notion of this all being one giant prison even more outlandishly intriguing.
Much of the first several episodes of the original version of this story had McGoohan's Number 6 attempting to escape by every method possible, and it introduced a bizarre giant white bouncing ball that would capture him and bring him back. Man, was I happy to see it take down the new Number 6 at the end of this first episode, and it looked just as big and goofy as I remembered.
We need Caviezel to get over his attempts to get away. With only six hours in this tale, we need him to focus on taking down Number 2 from the inside sooner rather than later. After that, he's got Number 1 to get through and who knows what else to try and get back to his regular life. Plus, as a fan of the original, I can't help but be curious how this re-interpretation will end the saga, and if I'll understand it.