The Prisoner

I am not a number…I am also not interesting and am slightly derivative.

On December 13, 2009, in The Prisoner, by Brian Huberd

So it aired a few weeks back, but it’s taken me a bit to try to digest it and try not to immediately dismiss it out of hand or rant against it out of spite or bitterness. ┬áThat said, I’m disappointed in it. Once again our new Number Six resigns from his position and suddenly finds himself in the Village. The problem is, where Patrick McGoohan was a walking caldron of rage and defiance to find himself in the Village, James Caviezel looks befuddled, confused and generally disinterested.

Visually, the show looks great. It also has all the nods to the classic series – Rover, the endless dark hallway in certain scenes, a Penny Farthing bicycle, and the clearest indications that this is meant to be an extension to the original series; the old man who is clearly meant to be the McGoohan Number Six and when the new Number Six and Number Two visit the old man’s apartment and we see it’s the McGoohan apartment from the original series. The new Village, instead of a potpourri of architecture types and endless streams of marching band music designed to keep you off balance is replaced with a charming oasis in a desert and Villagers now finally get to drive on their own as there are a variety of classic and classic looking vehicles moving along carefully groomed streets in the Village now.

Unlike the original show, we are also only dealing with one Number Two in this iteration as well, played by Ian McKellen. We also deal with the backstory of Number Two’s whole family on top of this to apparently add some depth to Two and not make him the cypher that the various Twos were in the original series. This family also ties into the conclusion of this new series and while McKellen does his usual fine job, he can’t elevate the production to something inherently interesting. This whole production from top to bottom shows care and attention to detail and every ingredient for success. So why did I hate it?

Well, James Caviezel comes across as a lost office worker who goes into work in his Subaru (one of the sponsors) and resigns – and even his act of resignation (spray painting “RESIGN” in large red letters on the wall) looks half hearted and it almost looks as if he’s about to apologize for the vandalism and volunteer to clean it all up for them. Patrick McGoohan tears into wherever it was that he worked in his Lotus Super 7 and quits dramatically and you knew he meant business in every frame of those scenes. The mind games that the original Prisoner were known for are spun through the new series, but don’t start at the intense level of the original series until around episode 5 and by that time I was already checked out from boredom. There were some good and interesting ideas in there, but they get lost in the shuffle and endless flashbacks to right after his resignation and capture to the Village.

The worst problem I had with this was that in this era of Lost that every mystery must have an answer and the Prisoner here doesn’t fail in spelling everything out for the viewer and practically spoon feeding it to them. This is in direct opposition to the spirit of the original series. Here Number Six really is an office worker and everything you wanted to know about the creation of the Village, why it is there, who runs it, why you can’t escape, everything is explained. In the Patrick McGoohan version, while it is strongly implied that this was a sequel series to Danger Man/Secret Agent Man and Number Six is a resigned secret agent, no questions were answered and the viewer was asked to draw their own conclusions. Having given everything away with pat explanations brings down the original mystique of The Prisoner. Even if you happen to agree with the conclusions drawn by this series, why would they want to do anything to take away from the legitimacy of someone else’s opinions of what the show was about and the meaning behind the Village, Six’s escape attempts, his defiance, etc.?

So, for me it was a letdown, more so since I was feeling fairly enthusiastic about it before broadcast. I wanted it to be good, everyone involved clearly wanted it to be good and to be The Prisoner for the 21st Century, but it’s just going to be a footnote in history. Not New Monkees bad, just…disinteresting and actually a bit full of itself and ┬áhaving a healthy dose of self-importance, but lacking any strong guidance and vision and clearly no trust for its audience.

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