Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Prisoner: The General

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.

Hoo, buddy. "The General" was not a good one. It was exactly what I was worried about when I saw "Checkmate"; the worst fusion of psychedelia and regular old television. It tries to be somewhere between sci-five thirty and freak-o'clock, but ends up half past dead on arrival. It is not encouraging.

This happens.

The story is that there's a revolutionary new teaching method, Speed Learn, involving The General and The Professor. The Prisoner gets involved even though it's almost always a trap whenever he does. He meets someone who seems to be sympathetic and interested in destroying Speed Learn and The General. Things are done, The Prisoner is thrown into the belly of the beast, but then Number Two monologues and introduces him to...The General.

"Another mind control episode, Number 12?"

The largest, most legitimate mind-screwing part of this episode is that Number Two is back. I know that these aren't the order that they were made, so maybe some of the other Number Twos come back. Or maybe it was the simple fact that after "A. B. & C.", this was the Number Two we least expected to get back and got back because screw you and your tiny expectations. But seriously, if a well-thought-out combo breaker is the best mind screw an episode of The Prisoner can dish out, you are on deadly ground.

"Oh, of course more mind control, Number 6."

Then there's the plot itself. There's no flight attempt, no fury at what the village is doing; not even a half-assed flight of fury; it's just The Prisoner sleepwalking through the episode while being a bit of an ass. I was willing myself to consider the possibility that everything was not exactly as it seemed, because everything seemed to be a poorly-pieced together series of coincidences and plot holes designed to push the the narrative to trudge forward. Whenever The Prisoner finally decides to help his ally in this episode take down Speed Learn, we get some vague details about a plan, then the next scene is all about the execution of that plan.

A plan involving Ska.

That's fine. It's a common trick; the characters know what's going on, but the viewers don't. It manages to surprise the viewer while the characters have wheels within wheels running. It works because the characters know something the audience doesn't. It doesn't work here because aside from playing dress up at a semi-formal event where everyone is only dressed oddly so that The Prisoner can infiltrate their base and stumble around inside because he doesn't know where he's going, it becomes immediately apparent he doesn't know anything we don't. When he's caught we expect something--anything--surprising.

Okay, it surprises me that they're still asking him questions.

They continue with the charade that somehow The Prisoner isn't above the law of The Village when it's been quite apparent for some time that he his. It's frustrating because it's obvious, but everyone acts like something serious is going on here. The only tension is your expectation of the twist, but there isn't any change of direction here, unless you consider the very end, which I don't want to spoil, though I don't know if I have to. It's like, "Oh, this whole thing is exactly what I expected, but on a slightly larger scale." 

I'm just saying that I've seen Star Trek and this episode didn't go anywere Kirk hadn't been already, and it didn't even do it boldly. The menaces The Prisoner faces should be massive concepts or ideas that are impossible to destroy or kill (or at the very least hard to kill), and that wasn't the case here at all. Number Two says something to the effect of, "I'm invincible now, Number 6, you can't beat me. Take your best shot." The Prisoner then does so and beats The General (and thusly, Number Two) with an Animaniacs routine.

That's "The General."


skiltao said...

"The menaces The Prisoner faces should be massive concepts or ideas that are impossible to destroy or kill." --- Did you happen to see the 2009 remake miniseries?

VanVelding said...

No, actually, I didn't. I like The Prisoner(obviously) and Ian McKellan, but...I dunno...remake?

Was it any good?