1996 Reed, Kent, and Kirby Meyer. Last Modified: 21 February 2022.
Advice: If you're a first-time viewer, read the following suggestions about each episode in particular either before or directly after you watch the episode. The following points should help clarify a few confusing events in each episode. These notes are not to summarize the episodes, nor will they spoil any of the endings. Arrival The Woman at the end of the story (Virginia Maskell) does want No.6 to escape, but she has to do her duty (take heed of the ex-admiral's quote at the end of the episode). Dance of the Dead This story is better read as an allegory than as an ‘actual’ situation. For example, it is obvious that the costumes each person wear at the party represent that person's personality. Free For All A confusing part about this episode is that in this episode, No.2 drugs No.6 throughout the story, but the viewer doesn't really know when No.6 is fully doped or when he starts to regain some independent thinking (e.g, the boat/helicopter chase and the Cat and Mouse nightclub). Just remember that there are incidences (after the mind-test) when he is drugged and also instances when the drugs are wearing off. T he Chimes of Big Ben This episode was an edited version of the original “Chimes of Big Ben.” The original version is now called “The Alternate Chimes of Big Ben,” which had a different music score (much to my dislike) and a few extra scenes in it. One of the scenes, the ‘Triquetrum’ scene, was removed because McGoohan later thought that the Village would not allow such a device. And the ‘pop’ sequence in the credits was just plain ‘corny.’ Checkmate The whole episode is based on sorting the ‘prisoners’ from the ‘warders.’ A decent explanation on why the doctor brainwashes the Queen (Rosalie Crutchley) into loving No.6 is because they want her to coerce No.6 to stay in the Village (rather than escape it), where the two could be ‘happy’ together. Other scholars believe it is nothing more than a ‘low’ attempt to try to track No.6; i.e., mind-bending a woman into ‘loving’ No.6 so that they can try and keep tabs on him! The general populace of the Village (including the Queen) are ‘zombies,’ anyway, so they can be manipulated like this. Either they brain-wash the Queen to coerce No.6 to stay or to keep an eye out for No.6. (In either case, the necessity for this experiment is so moronic, I had to reach for the ‘popcorn’ bowl.) The Schizoid Man Our scholars failed to shock themselves when they tried holding their one hand on a lamppole and another on an electric outlet. Hence, this may be considered a loophole in the plot, but we will let it slide. No.24 knows that the person leaving is No.6 and not Curtis. She's just talking to him about how she wants him to forgive her for being a traitor. (Remember, she has a ‘rapport’ with No.6). The General The instance at the beginning of the episode where the Professor runs away (on the beach) and complains how the General must be destroyed should be taken with a grain of salt. Later in the episode, he seems to have forgotten that he ever ran away. So, consider that little sequence something just to get action started and nothing else. ( One of the reasons why some don't like the episode is when No.2 thought The General can answer “any question, given the basic number of facts.” Yet, No.2 graciously allows No.6 to pose the General a question without looking to see if it has the “basic number of facts!”) A.B. and C. There is much debate over which episode with Colin Gordon (No.2) comes first -- “A.B. and C” or “The General.” It's presumed to be “The General” that comes first because of the intro since he says, “I am Number Two,” not “The new Number Two” (like he says in “The General”). Many Happy Returns Research maintains that a few bands of Gypsies did reside in England in the 1960s. However, chances are extremely rare that No.6 would run across them (ANOTHER plot hole!) Living in Harmony In this story, the Judge wants No.6 to become Sheriff. Some consider it an allegory of No.2 wanting the info from No.6. (But, I personally don't see the analogy). Our researchers believe that another way to see the entire story is from the viewpoint of No.2 trying to coerce No.6 to stay in the Village, even though No.2 specifically stats he wants to break him. There is no hint of No.6 being ‘cracked’ anywhere throughout the episode! A Change of Mind There is nothing confusing in this episode, but there are many plot holes in it (again!). Hammer Into Anvil The plot was very simple, so there are no confusing moments in this episode. The idea of bringing in a No.2 that is so obviously less intelligent than No.6 still boggles some scholars' minds to this date. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling The Village needs Saltzman so that they could learn the ‘reversal’ process (i.e., putting two minds back into their original bodies). Also note that Patrick McGoohan was off acting in Ice Station Zebra and couldn't help produce the episode (as if you didn't notice). It's Your Funeral This episode is not centered around No.6 at all. Instead, it is focused on No.2. The new No.2 wanted to set up an assassination of the old No.2 and make the Villagers look like they were the ones who did it and suffer reprisals for the action. He wants to pique No.6's interest in the plot so No.6 could become a major suspect, supposedly so No.6 would get grilled for his ‘actions.’ -- For the advanced Kents Notes reader (one who has watched the episode): I thought the plot bricked! The idea of bringing No.6 into the plot was risky at best for the new No.2 (because No.6 has a knack of finding out what's really going on and thwarting the plan), especially since No.6 was playing the role of only an ‘innocent pawn.’ And the incident at the beginning of the episode where the Watchmaker's daughter falls unconscious in order to make No.6 more interested in the plot (and thus more suspect) was poor(for the same reason as above). Why would she want to go to HIS house for help? Number 6 doesn't like helping Villagers! (She must have been coerced or brainwashed to go there ... she did look like she was in a trance at the beginning of the episode.) The Girl Who Was Death The first half of the entire episode should be taken as it looks: a spyish adventure with No.6 trying to chase down ‘Death.’ After the car chasing sequence, though, everything becomes more allegorical. Think of that little town with “the Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker” as an allegory of No.6 ‘thwarting’ the Village and you'll better appreciate this part of the story. The lighthouse sequence could shed some light on “Fall Out,” the last (and FINAL) episode of the series. Once Upon A Time Two parts to get confused on here are: 1) what's the connection between No.6 and that green flashing lamp at the beginning? 2) when does No.6 become his true self again? 1) No.6 is sort of ‘brain wiped,’ i.e. a Descartes' ‘tabula rasa.’ Think of No.6 as basically someone who just lost all prejudices and ideals, and No.2 wants to install new personality traits into No.6. Weird. If anyone else can come up with a better explanation, contact me. 2) Listen carefully. When No.6 says “six,” by then he's back to his original self. Note that “Once Upon a Time” was not originally intended to be the prequel to “Fall Out.” Once it was decided that it was to be the next-to-last episode, they had to change the ending somewhat to ‘fit the bill.’ Fall Out The “All you Need is Love” sequence was designed by McGoohan as a twisted ‘irony.’ Towards the end, the song is replayed, and the message is more clear: If we all have ‘love’ then the Village and death (The Prisoner) won't exist. When No.6 gets his old suit back, the swinging hangers point out that the Committee (other Villagers?) has just gotten dressed also. The people clapping represent different governments, ideals, people, etc. of the world and are supposedly the Committee. They wear masks because they're supposed to be abstract ideals (personification). Think of the Butler like the U.S. Postal service: ‘Rain, sleet, snow, or hail,’ he does his job. He desires no allegiances and only sides with one when he knows it's for his own benefit. During the end sequence, No.6 talks to a policeman in the background. It has been conjectured that this is the ‘euphoria’ sequence. No.6 is glad to be back in London. Our researchers don't think this is the case. The series ends just how the series began. Note the number of unanswered questions about The Prisoner. That's the trouble with television series: too many loopholes (I better just stick to Shakespeare!) Review Questions 1 . In “Dance of the Dead”, why is No. 2 in a Peter Pan costume? Describe the irony of Mary Morris wearing a Peter Pan costume. Cite two examples, both equally irrelevant. 2 . “Fall Out” was written in haste, and it shows. Why did McGoohan wait until the last moment to release the script? 3 . In “A Change of Mind”, No .2 declares, “Stupid woman!” Find other examples of redundancy in classic literature (black and white television). 4 . “‘Hammer into Anvil’ sucks.” Defend or refute this statement. 5 . Compare and contrast “Living in Harmony” with H.R. Pufnstuf . 6 . Why is the first season of MacGyver often considered the best?
Kents Notes on the Prisoner