Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Prisoner: Change of Mind

Don’t think for a moment that because I kid a lot about mind control and the credits that I don’t squeal with anticipation at every new episode. Don’t think I wasn’t filled with dread when I realized “Change of Mind” is the first of the last seven episodes of The Prisoner I will ever see; the ‘back half’ of our course in fine, trans-Atlantic broadcasting from years now gone. I really like this show, but only these last episodes will tell me, truly, if to know this series is to love it and if knowing it is loving it.

And I want to love it.

Me: "'Change of Mind’ ho-ho-ho, someone isn’t afraid of letting me know when an episode is about mind control?,” launches into a Seinfeld impersonation at least fifteen years after it’s funny, “But the jokes on them; we already know it’s about mind control. Who are these people?”

The Prisoner episode, “Change of Mind”: “And that’s exactly what he’ll expect too.”

I’m also 75% sure this guy was in Total Recall.

In this episode, The Keepers use the anticipation of mind control to get information from The Prisoner. It backfires and The Prisoner uses their game to his advantage. On a scale of one to ten, where one is Successful Escape Attempt, but is Returned to the Island[1] and ten is Crashes a Million Dollar Supercomputer with Kirk Logic, “Change of Mind” is a seven: Topples Existing Power Structure Until Next Episode.

On the face scale of :| to :D, it's a solid :P.

The premise is cunning, and the execution is top-notch. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything for you, though I supposed I am depriving you of the pleasure of realizing it yourself. Less so if you’ve seen Hard Candy (though now I suppose I’ve spoiled Hard Candy for you, but if you haven’t seen it, you’ve either never heard of it or you just don’t realize how great Karen Page is in everything ever.).


The greatness of this episode is perhaps in how The Prisoner is obviously off-balance for most of it (all the difference between ‘fake surgery with drugs’ and ‘mostly faked surgery with drugs.’), but still manages to fight The Keepers with a kind of hard subtleness. Even more, when they realize something is awry, they don’t change tactics at all; they simply push forward with their plan all the harder in an impressive display that’s just as much commentary on administrative ritualism as it is a necessary part of the plot.

This is that plan.

That’s just one part of how The Keepers’ monolithic façade continues to fade as we inspect it ever closer. Random ‘gangs’ of youths are roughing up people who don’t conform to The Village’s pacifist lifestyle and clearly operating without the approval (or knowledge!) of Number Two. A drugged doctor integral to the plan is allowed to roam The Village without any oversight, giving rise to impressive--what I can only express as “Prisoneriness”--which in turn gives me certainty on the topic of just who The Prisoner really is.

"Prisoneriness" involves getting pwned by ladies with umbrellas.

It’s also interesting that while The Prisoner doesn’t really like the villagers, he is accustomed to their friendliness and they are, like it or not, his social contact. While I don’t think they did a great job of it, they did a good job of showing the effects of his shunning and the transition of his usually condescending attitude into outright hostility and mirrored rejection.

There are other really good screen caps from this episode, but who &@*#ing cares?

It’s a fun episode and it’s good, but for some reason it just didn’t get me as high as the other episodes. It’s rare that The Prisoner comes across as lukewarm. Usually it’s either laughably terrible with good parts or just amazing. However, if “Change of Mind” is the self-aware middle of the road episode, I think I can live with that. Here’s to “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling,” which probably involves injecting The Prisoner with a serum that will fool his biochemistry into making him love a woman, because his “water-proof” qualities have been an obstacle to them in the past.

[1] With cake.

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