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Jane After Dark: Pondering The Prisoner

by Jane Boursaw, posted Nov 29th 2009 10:02AM
The Prisoner: Jim Caviezel, Hayley Atwell
I finished watching The Prisoner this week, and while I had to watch the final episodes a few times, I think I sort of get it. As I mentioned in my post a couple of weeks ago, I haven't seen the original 1960s series, so I'm just basing my thoughts on the current version that just aired on AMC. I'm guessing they'll air the series again sometime soon.

First of all, I was riveted to the series from start to finish. Not only are the characters and storyline intriguing and mysterious, but the musical score by Rupert Gregso-Williams is phenomenal. So hypnotic and evocative. More of my thoughts on The Prisoner -- including possible spoilers -- after the jump.

I won't even attempt to try and explain everything in the series, as I know complete books and Web sites are devoted to this topic. Plus there's the fact that it would take at least a year for me to figure it all out. I'm sure all of the little details and nuances have their specific meaning, but for me, the series is a social commentary on fear, guilt, conformity, and control. When Six finds himself in this mysterious Village seemingly in the middle of nowhere, I had no idea where the story was headed -- and didn't until the last few episodes.

My Take: I get that The Village is somehow wired to Two's wife's brain. And by keeping her in a coma, it allows The Village to continue. Most everyone in The Village is somehow damaged in their life on the outside -- their real life. And The Village allows them to live without pain and suffering. We see that in 4-15 and her flashbacks to the mental illness she suffers with in her real life. When Two and his wife decide to cut the cord with The Village, 4-15 willingly steps up and agrees to be the brainforce behind The Village, with Six -- the new Two -- running the show.

I'm guessing the spooky holes that open up in the sand are due to The Village's core beginning to break down. So when the little girl rides her bike into one, does that mean her real self on the outside has died? Or, like 11-12, does she just not exist on the outside? Since her dad had a picture of her in his cab on the outside, I'm thinking she must have died. And by the way, those holes are just plain frightening to me, much as the holes in our damaged psyche are frightening and often out of our control. A big, gaping black hole of consciousness.

The big moral and ethical question is this: Is it ok to take damaged people and put them (or their psyche, as the case may be) somewhere where they don't hurt any more? Are we all prisoners of something, one way or another? Are we all striving to break free of the social norms that confine and shackle us?

I'll do some more reading on The Prisoner at some point, including reading back through Jason's reviews. I also plan to watch the original series as soon as humanly possible. But I would love for any in-the-know readers to answer at least this one question: Why did the numbers start at Two? Who was One?

I look forward to your thoughts on The Prisoner. Did you watch it, and if so, find it as intriguing as I did? Am I way off base on my theories?

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I was riveted to until the end and then I was deeply confused.

What I got from it was that there was no #1, #6 is the new #2, the son was a manifestation of the wife and #2 and did not really exist outside the village, the son's lover was "killed" but then was happy walking down the street in real life. So maybe his self sacrifice allowed him to return to the real world and be happy. The cab driver said in the real world he daughter was in foster care. So perhaps she did not "die" in the holes but was just taking away in the real world. As he became better, he had a chance to get her back. (Remember he was an angry, screaming person on the computer surveillance screens).

At the end, #6 believed he could make a better village then #2 did, thus truly becoming the thing he had tried to escape.

November 30 2009 at 9:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joanna's comment

Seems you got it... what were you confused by?

November 30 2009 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah, my guess is that the wife is #1 as she was never given a different designation.

You can't take that, "nobody is number 1" stuff on face value, as in the same lecture we were told about other 2's and even the first female 2... all fabrications.

As for the daughter, she was fine... As her dad pointed out in the cab, she's just not with him because he's having to reconstruct his life... before going to the Village he was dangerous, angry, violent... and had lost his daughter. The Village has changed him, made him more stable, and he's working toward getting his daughter back.

She's not dead... as death in the Village clearly doesn't indicate death in the real world... The wife was alive at the end, 2 was alive after blowing his head off... there's no reason to believe the little girl was dead because she fell into a hole... dead within the context of the Village? Sure... but that's true of others, and they're not really dead either.

November 29 2009 at 1:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

To call it "the Prisoner" was an insult to the great original series. The new one just sucked big time.

November 29 2009 at 1:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There was a scene in which the number 1 business was given an official explanation: there is no number 1; the leader calls himself number 2 in order to emphasize that they are all in this together.

On the other hand, I think the real answer is that his wife is number 1 since she apparently keeps the village going.

November 29 2009 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


"We see that in 4-15 and her flashbacks to the mental illness she suffers with in her real life. When Two and his wife decide to cut the cord with The Village, 4-15 willingly steps up and agrees to be the brainforce behind The Village, with Six -- the new Two -- running the show."

My god, it's 313, as played by Ruth Wilson. I don't know who 415 might be.

November 29 2009 at 12:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Who is Number One?" was the question Six asked throughout the original. In AMC's version, it didn't really seem to matter.

November 29 2009 at 10:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Misty's comment

there is a 'sort of' reveal of who is #1 in the final episode of the original series (and unless you want it spoiled, stop reading this post. spoilers are about to follow.)

alright...the final episode of the original prisoner has long been a source of fascination for me. at the end of the previous episode, #6 has bested #2 in a contest of wills and asks to meet #1. at the beginning of the last episode, he's brought before what looks like a properly british court (judicial, not royal) and is treated with a pride of place seat and a lengthy lecture by the judge. the lecture is about the three forms of rebellion. what was fascinating to me is that this whole lecture is essentially a summation of machiavelli's 'discourses' (which, if one ever reads it, stands in stark contrast to what he wrote about in his much more famous 'the prince'. anyway...i digress.)

#6 is heralded as a 'just' rebel and ultimately is lead to a chamber where a robbed figure is identified as #1. #6 removes '1's mask and it reveals...a chimpanzee mask.

he removes that mask and now sees his own face.

subsequently he chases '1' and winds starting a launch sequence for a rocket, which upon take off apparently obliterates the village. #6 helps #2 and the third 'rebel' from his court room scene (the 'rebellious youth' if memory serves right) as well as the ever-present butler from the series into a cage on the back of a flatbed.

the truck makes its way to london, where the youth leaves and presumably makes his way to the nearest pub. #2 is dropped off at the house of parliament and finally, the they arrive at #6's old apartment. the butler steps off and walks into his apartment, with the front door making
the same signature sound as all the doors in the village.

#6 steps off to find his car (a lotus 7) at the curb and jumps in and the series concludes the same way it started n episode 1 -- with #6 driving his car at speed.


what does it all mean?

well, the simplest solution would be to say that you can interpret it as you see fit.

to me personally, it comes back to machiavelli. in the 'discourses', machiavelli effectively creates a manual for those who are not in power to ascertain power at the expense of those in power (nominally, a prototypical machiavellian prince.) the end of 'the prisoner' effectively describes such a trajectory -- having withstood every attempt of those in power over him to break him, he has instead broken those set above him. now #6 has ascended to a position of leadership and has a sort of moment akin to robert redfords character in the last scene of 'the candidate.'

whether he likes it or not, he now *IS* number 1. the question he now faces is the one he faced at the beginning of the first episode -- does he want this job? to do so, it will require for #6 to finally accept that he is in fact a number (i.e. become 'the prince'...)

does he do so in the end? who knows.

(the comic book sequel from the '80s suggests that he doesn't and the decision fractures his mind.)

again, this is all *MY* interpretation of the finale -- i suspect if you get 10 people to view it, they'll have 10 different takes on it.

November 29 2009 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In the original Prisoner, the show was about conformity versus individual freedom. So in the end, where the Prisoner confronts #1, it is himself, intended as a metaphor that we are all in control of our own reality. We are our own #1s and it is only others that convince us otherwise. #6 was never convinced and thusly, broke the system.

That seems to be the only connection between these shows, making active choices in your own destiny.

November 30 2009 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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