Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Arrival" of The Prisoner--a couple of questions

After probably the 50th time I have watched this pilot episode  called "Arrival," these are my current thoughts:

Why did they tell him at first? Why didn't they pull a "Chimes of Big Ben" first or drug him into an "A., B., and C." coma until he couldn't do anything but give in?

That's always been one of my biggest questions after multiple viewings of the series. I know they did it in the show as exposition--to tell the viewer just what the heck was going on. I also now understand, only after watching episode 17 repeatedly, that they are trying to get him onto their side, with a "whole heart" as Leo McKern said.

But there's also the hopelessness of it all. Like the villain that has the hero all tied up and at his mercy, he must reveal the diabolical plan. "Go ahead and scream; we're miles from where anyone can hear you!" It reminds me of Poe's "Cask of Amontillado" where Montresor re-echoes and yells back at the screaming Fortunato. One would be resigned to one's fate of the situation. What would normally break a smart, strong-willed man upon the realization of one's own fate being completely out of one's own hands, as they probably predicted #6 would react, the situation actually strengthens our hero's resolve.

Another strong factor against this outright explanation of #6 being in the Village is because it always hinted very strongly, to me anyway, that #6's side, the British side, is the main culprit.

I love how he walks around the Pennyfarthing bicycle as #2 relates the story, himself awash with modern technologies like the egg chair or the chairs rising from the floor. The juxtaposition of the old order versus the new strikes me. There is one moment where I don't think the production came off correctly, like they filmed it anyway even though the technology wasn't working at the moment: the lava lamp beside #6 when he says, "I don't know who you are, or who you work for, and I don't care. I'm leaving." It isn't pulsating right, like they just switched it on. This would again highlight the old versus the new. #6 here is trying to denounce this new technology, or at least warn against it.

One of the highlights of the our provided by #2 is the Retirement Home. "You're looked after here, for as long as you live." Clearly, this indicates another forced reminder that this is the end of the line anyway so accept the fate now.

In the Labour Exchange are some of the best images. The sign that reads "Questions are a burden to others; Answers a prison for oneself" highlights the entire show. I really wish there would have been more screen time for that shot--maybe #6 standing next to it asking something.

The aptitude test is amazing in its vagueness and metaphor. Who is the round peg? Why does the square hole fit around it? Note that #6 holds it as if he knows it will eventually fit. Is this McGoohan speaking against typecast spy shows? Does he go to the audience or does the audience come to him?

And the Labour Exchange guy with the Tinker Toys is another remarkable piece. Playing with these people's lives as if they were toys. And it doesn't matter what he  writes on the questionnaire--he will just be spun round and round anyway.

The focus of the Admiral saying, "We're all pawns, m'dear!" has always meant a lot to me and to the focus of the show as a whole. In a way, I would like to know more about the girl's character. Clearly, she is working for the Village, yet is still somewhat rebellious. And the fact that she has played right into their hands, her credibility sacrificed like a pawn, is fantastic.

"Arrival" has to be a perfect hour of television. Vague yet it tells a complete story. The more answers it gives, the more questions we ask. After at least 50 viewings, I still find myself immersed in the rest of the show.

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