Directed by: Patrick McGoohan
Starring: Patrick McGoohan, Leo McKern, Kenneth Griffith, Alexis Kanner, Angelo Muscat
The last two episodes of The Prisoner are so interconnected that they play almost as one long episode, though the second, “Fall Out,” recaps “Once Upon a Time” sufficiently to make itself comprehensible as a stand-alone offering. Perhaps I should say that the recap makes “Fall Out” as comprehensible as it can be, which, for many, is a separate issue altogether.
“Once Upon a Time” depicts the final battle of wills between Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) and a returning Number Two (Leo McKern)—a battle that “could result only in the death of either one or the other of us,” notes a resuscitated Number Two in “Fall Out.” It’s essentially a mind game that takes Number Six through a recreation of his life, leading up to his resignation and the reason behind it. It’s all done with minimal sets so that it becomes almost an abstraction—an abstraction that leads not to the revelation of why Number Six resigned, but to a vindication of his tenacity and his ultimate desire to find out who Number One is. That’s the central issue of “Fall Out,” though it’s strongly suggested that Number Six’s accomplishment of having “gloriously vindicated the right of the individual to be individual” is merely part of the overall plan to break him.
The crux of it all for the viewer is much the same as it is for Number Six—to learn the identity of Number One. And it’s actually fair to say that the show delivers, but it does so in such a way that 41 years ago viewers in the UK were so outraged that McGoohan briefly went into hiding. (How much of that is PR is another matter.) The fact is that the answer is there. (Pay particular attention to the word “I” in all its uses throughout the episode, even to the use of the Carmen Miranda song “I,Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much)”) But it raises as many questions as it answers, and leaves the interpretation of what the answer means to the viewer. Depending on your feelings on the matter, it’s either brilliant or baffling. But either way, it’s not apt to leave you indifferent, nor is McGoohan’s direction of “Fall Out,” which is as fresh and exciting today as ever. (Note: When CBS ran the episode in the US, the scene where Number Six and his newfound allies blast away guards with machine guns to the strains of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” was censored.)
Two episodes of The Prisoner, part of a series of Classic Cinema From Around the World, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St. in downtown Asheville. Info: 273-3332.