Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Prisoner: Episode 01 - Xexyzl's Reactions


Who am I?

I am not a fan of Television. I'm not a fanatic of Television. I don't have as big a problem with the term “fan” as some people do, and whether or not it is still an equivalent definition of “fanatic” is debatable in my eyes (possibly on this show some day?).

Regardless, I'm just not that into Western, Live-Action Television. I'm certainly a fanatic when it comes to certain Anime, however I wouldn't call myself a fan of Anime either. Even less so, actually, since I think the ratio of decent to crap is much much lower for Anime than it is for Western Television. And yet, I still will at least try to watch Anime more often than Television, which means that I miss out on a lot of great and even just good Television.

I guess I prefer to think of myself as having an affinity for media in general; I play some video games, I watch some TV, I watch some Anime, I go to the movies, I listen to music, and I rea- wait no I don't read much anymore. I'm simultaneously more interested in media than the average person and exposed to much less media (and a much narrower selection of media) than the average person. I like to pick a few things and delve deep into them, not getting a lot of variety but a lot of fulfillment regardless.

What I already know about The Prisoner

Not much. I know it's British. It's old. It's considered a short but landmark show in television history. It's a bit of a cult classic. It's science fiction. I've seen a promo picture that I think featured a globe city, kind of like the one in RahXephon (I'm sure it's a very common trope but that's my best example right now). I've also seen promotional materials featuring a very old-fashioned looking bicycle with a huge wheel.

But most of all, I know of it when it's spoken of in the same breath as Neon Genesis Evangelion. The two are often compared for their supposedly similar out-of-left-field endings which polarized audiences. I'm interested to see, then, whether this show will work for me or not, since I happened to love the ending to Eva. Then again, that was a bit of a special case, as I normally have a low tolerance for pretentious, arty “non-endings” in films.

Relationship to this genre.

Well in general I love Science Fiction, even bad Science Fiction if it's in line with aesthetics I enjoy. There's not really a cyberpunk film out there that I wouldn't try, even if I knew it was going to be terrible. Nemesis? Seen that shit at least 5 times.

If this is indeed what I think it might be: a classic science fiction, metaphorical/allegorical, psychological thriller then I'm probably going to enjoy it quite a bit. Again, the comparisons drawn to Evangelion were a big plus for me, since it's one of my favorite shows, hell, cultural phenomena of all time.

I'm a bit wary because I think it also describes 2001 A Space Odyssey, which I can't stand. I suppose based on logic and gut instinct The Prisoner could go either way for me. If it is indeed the polarizing show it seems to be, I'll probably be shouting from one side of the fence or the other.  

The Prisoner: Episode 01


Definitely not reminiscent of Evangelion at all, at least at this stage. It's not even really like other highly conceptual SciFi, it definitely feels much more like The Avengers and other British television of its time period. Although, considering how much they throw at you in the first episode, I foresee this getting incredibly twisted around by the end, to the point where it's become a very different show tonally and thematically.

The production values are adorably quaint and of their time. The lava lamps, the bowl chairs, the big projection monitors, the giant white bouncy ball of doom, the typewriter-button'd computers, the tinker toy analysis machine, it's all seemingly thrown in for kicks. Even at the time I can't imagine they thought people would take that stuff seriously, so I can only imagine (and hope) that they're red herrings and thoughtfully deployed to keep us off guard or have us underestimate what we're getting into, much like the often jarringly discordant music.

Our main character is fast-moving, smart, and very active. He's burning through information for both him and the audience at such a blazing pace, I can't imagine what they're gonna pull out to put in his path next. It seems like he exhausted most of the tricks up the Village's sleeve in the very first episode. I can see them using increasingly more psychological tactics on him. Also, names, the fact that his name is conspicuously absent (I went back and checked his ID card, no name) is going to become really significant. The whole “I am not a number” exchange is so powerful it broke out of the show and became absorbed into popular culture, because I've definitely heard it before sampled in music and other media before.

The Bicycle was also so iconic that I've seen it in other places before; it seems to be the symbol of the show. I'm not sure how it fits into the whole concept of The Prisoner yet.

I see two main driving forces for the premise of the show, and they both feed off of each other but are not necessarily inherent to each other. One, the people who captured 6 want information from him. They're trying all sorts of different tactics, slowly escalating (they even say this explicitly). Two, 6 wants to escape. That's it, he doesn't need a better reason than that to escape, however it's clear that he IS hiding some very important information, that he resigned suddenly for a very important reason, it's just that the audience has no right to expect that from him. His wanting freedom is justification enough for pretty much all of his actions, which honestly I think is a really clever conceit for the show. If the audience asks, “Why doesn't he just tell them and they'll let him go?” The audience is being stupid. 6, and by extension, the audience, realize early on that escape is the only way out. Whatever his ulterior motives, the overt motive of simply wanting to get out and ONLY having the one option: escape, allows for a lot of freedom for the show to tease things out of 6 at whatever pace they decide works best.

The first diving force could offer us some interesting commentary on the use of torture and what we as the audience/society deem “acceptable” use of force. The point that The Prisoner seems to be getting at, at least as of the first episode, is that psychological torture is a very real phenomena and much more amorphous and morally nebulous than say, water-boarding or what have you.

Themes and motifs that seem to be cropping up and will probably be consistent throughout: time, information, names, surveillance, and trust/loyalty. Also bicycles. And chess. And lava lamps, now that I think about it.


  • Number 6 will most likely break out, or seemingly break out, ~ ½ to ¾ through the show, then either be recaptured or realize he was hallucinating/going insane/MIND GAMES
  • The Ball is more than it seems to 6, it's possibly sentient and maybe even slightly out of control of the people running the Village
  • At some point 6 will have the sense to bring a knife, scissors, or a pencil to a fight with the Ball.
  • Purple room in the hospital will probably show up again later, 6 will spend some time in there.
  • The numbers labeling is going to be a contentious, recurring issue with 6 as the show goes along.

1 comment:

  1. Jesus, your episode reaction is so much saner and shorter and more rationally formatted than mine.

    Also I love that your who-I-am section translates out to: "JUDGMENTAL, BASICALLY."


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