Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Prisoner: Free for All

I recently purchased--at the unspoken behest of the geek hivemind--the classic BBC series The Prisoner. I'm watching it offshore to pass the time and sharing spoiler-free responses/reviews with the internet without provocation, cause, or request because that's what the internet is for. Enjoy.

Let's be honest. I gave "The Arrival" a lot of benefit of the doubt. Reason one, obviously, was the reputation. Reason two was the fact that it was the first episode, and first episodes have to get busy establishing the premise, creating hooks, and introducing people. I'd usually give the whole first season of a show some slack because it does take a while for a show to get into the swing of things, but again...only seventeen episodes. Whether the creators knew it or not, this show is on a clock.

You trippin' yet?

Judging from the second episode, that clock was painted by Salvador Dali. I don't mean that in a "how artistic" way, I mean that in a "don't ask Dali to fix your watch" way. I know, artless, but if I'm going to rip on episode two of The Prisoner, entitled "Free for All," I better get tasteless fast just so I can bring up the tone later.

The voters were ambivalent about the election of a new Number Two, but they showed unanimous support for the ordinance on oral sex.

I hate saying something doesn't make sense, especially something that's supposed to be as mind-blowingly awesome/mature/intelligent as The Prisoner. It does make me think that maybe I'm broadcasting to the world that I just don't get it and I'm oblivious enough to that fact to do so quite loudly. I get what happened; The Keepers made The Prisoner buy into thier faux democracy only to crush his illusion of progress at the end. Yes, yes, fantastic view of modern democracy where a culture is led more by it's inertia and the ruthless forces waiting in the wings than by any sort of democratic game. I get that.

They're running against each other in public, but they're drinking together in private. Get it? Get it?!

What I don't get is the narrative that this metaphor fucking idea rides on. Mind control that isn't mind control? Penetrating his mind with the truths and falsehoods of his own subconsciousness? Implanting 'truth' and 'lie' into his brain to coincide with certain ideas? A "Potion of Greater Tool-tality"? Was he running a game on them at the end? Why drug him then? Where they just impairing his judgment enough so that he thought the election wasn't a waste of time and his natural abilities led him to win while the opposition backed away to give him room?

And The Hater shall lead them.

Was he actually operating under the illusion that the farcial shit that happens in this totally controlled environment could somehow affect the world which circumscribes it? After seeing no less than three Number Twos in two episodes, did he really think that it was something you could run for? Did they really think that tricking him into winning a worthless office then beating him up would somehow entice him to give them their answers? Are they trying to beat him with despair? Was it just punishment for trying to get out? For playing their game? For letting his guard down? Why punish him for any of those things? Did he ever at any point realize that of course the chick that can't speak English can totally speak English because everything in The Village is a lie!

No, you won't. Not even close, buddy.

I'm still not seeing where he's some kind of hardcase. Decides to run as The Keepers always intended. Mops up the competition as The Keepers always intended. Engineers a mass escape which The Keepers knew and knew was completely impossible. Refuses to give them what they want after they have dudes punch him a lot. To paraphrase Jim Kirk, "I'm laughing at the superior sense of individuality."
Wrong again. If you can't lie better newbie, you're never going to be a good politician.

Seriously, it's like they're just trolling the guy. Or worse yet, it's like the time they put Harvey Birdman into jail as a prank to surprise him for his birthday. I need my former boss Juanita to express my true incredulity over all of this because I just can't.

Maybe I'm being too harsh. I learned a lot too, here. At least I'm now certain that The Keepers aren't his own government. Though it might still be a possiblity, at least it's now a remote one. That loses a lot of the themes I kinda thought I saw and liked in "The Arrival," but it does open up new potential if giving in actually means treason. It would explain all of their turncoats.

"No, my good fellow; this coat is simply reversible. It's quite different."

Apparently the people of The Village as a whole aren't going to be major players, though I'm certain individuals later will be important (I'm dubious about this show's ability to work with just The Prisoner plus a few Keepers.). Maybe I can put this under "boundaries established" and just chalk it up to still being an early episode.

"What did you do on your weekend?"
"Not much. Got mind controlled with the shadows of shapes."

It wasn't bad mind you, it was just loose and a bit unfocused. That's unfocused for a series where the concept that putting valuable intelligence personnel in a quiet village in perpetuity as an intelligence-gathering operation (whose third step I'm ever more certain is entitled "Profit") is a thing that people of some weath and influence do. I can abide impossibility as a framework (Superman, QED), but I need that framework to hold something, people.

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