Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dear Patrick McGoohan...

... star, head-writer and executive producer of The Prisoner.

That was your ending?

Must have been some really good weed, dude.

For years I've read how great your program was and I knew how much fanboy attention had been focused on it. What I couldn't understand was how the secret of the show's ending hadn't been spoiled for me. It seemed like any secret that big would have long since become part of the nerd collective unconscious and would have filtered down to me at some point. However, it had not. I even read the unofficial The Prisoner comic book sequel by Dead Motter, before watching even one episode, and still had no idea how the original series ended.

I thought, Could it be that the international sonofabitch community is, for once, actually being cool and not attempting to spoil the ending for everyone? Or does everyone simply assume that the ending was spoiled nearly 40 years ago, so why bother?

Then I watched the final episode and realized that the real reason no one bothered to spoil it is that people have to be able to understand it first before they can explain it enough to spoil.

Okay, sure, there was some lovely subtext... I think. But what the hell, man? I understand the need to keep things a little vague and mysterious, but give me something I can at least work with. Throw me a crumb! Not monkey-masks, beard-shaving, rockets to nowhere, allegiance-shifting midgets and a song and dance number on the back of a moving flatbed. I guess I can at least respect the left-field approach to wrapping up a series with so many secrets, but dammit, David Lynch only wishes he was as weird as all that.

Bewildered, semi-unsatisfied and more than a little annoyed,



tiny robot said...

I know your pain. A friend got me hooked on The Prisoner 3 years ago. I watched every episode with increasing curiosity of how it would end, only to be "rewarded" with an ending designed to obfuscate and pile on even more mystery.

Sigh...it's like the number of licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. The world may never know.

Jeff Scott said...

DUDE YOU ARE NUMBER 1! That is the secret. You hold the power to control your life. When Number 6 wanted to know who number 1 was, he found himself. It is a metaphor for life.

You can also watch Killing Zoe with Eric Stolz. Great movie, ending is explained in the car scene the night before the bank robbery :)

Juice S. Aaron said...


While that’s one interpretation of the ending--and I have no trouble seeing its Metaphor For Life Itself point as part of the subtext of both the final episode and the entire Prisoner series--in the end it is only subtext and should have remained only subtext.

The Prisoner always worked on different levels with layers of interpretation, but there was always the solidity of the Village itself to shore that up and keep the stories grounded in reality—albeit a shifting and twisted reality. We were given reason to care about the character of Number 6 and were invested in his story, the mystery of why he resigned, who exactly it was that had brought him to the Village, how he dealt with being in the village and, ultimately, how he would eventually escape. Don’t forget, this was a character that, despite McGoohan’s protests otherwise, was essentially the John Drake character he played in Danger Man for three plus seasons beforehand. The audience of the time KNEW this guy as a character in an existing fictional universe who suddenly finds himself in a strange new set of circumstances and setting.

Yes, the Village was a weird and often surreal place for sure, (Rover, anyone?), but even in the episodes where the events presented turned out to be part of a dream-sequence or mental experiment run against Number 6, the rules of reality were only suspended until Number 6 came out of it. Then we were returned to the grounding of the Village. Sometimes Number 6 won the day, sometimes Number 2, but here he was again, still trapped but a little wiser for the effort.

Even in the episode where he meets a doppelganger of himself and we the viewers were treated to a fantastic little story about the nature of identity (not to mention some amazingly good split screen dialogue sessions), what we were shown wasn’t so far off the map that we couldn’t suspend our disbelief. And the very ending of that episode further strengthened the solid nature of the Village itself. This wasn’t all just metaphor.

If McGoohan’s intention for the final episode was to bring the subtext to the forefront as the main thrust, then to me that makes the episode a far worse ending to the series than just the weird vagueness I was assuming. It’s great to have the subtext there, but it’s unsatisfying to leave off a proper ending to the surface story.

An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.