Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Prisoner: Free for All

Drake's investigation of what has become of his brainchild, a home for security personnel holding secrets, is increasingly becoming a game of cat & mouse, only with the roles of cat & mouse alternating. Perhaps the recurring chess game motif in the series reflects this better, though.
I think perhaps this episode is the one so far where the powers that run The Village are treating Drake most like a cat treats a captive mouse. He is of course right to be very suspicious of the purported democracy in The Village. I love this exchange:
Number 2: 'Are you going to run?'
Drake: 'Like blazes, the first chance I get.'
Of course we know that Drake knows that the democracy is a sham. The power behind The Village would be very naïve if they didn't know that Drake knew that. Drake would also be very naïve if he allowed himself to forget even for a moment that The Village knows this.  They actually - apparently - give him an opportunity to subvert the status quo.
Of course Drake has to go through with it, his only real alternative is to announce he will have nothing to do with it & stay in his cottage - if he did that he would lose an opportunity to learn further about the workings of The Village. In fact it is hard to see how this charade can be intended to get the reason for Drake's resignation from him!
Rather, it seems The Village's motivation for herding him into standing for election is to alter his behaviour, to make him one of the villagers. This is almost stated explicitly when Number 2 tells him off for his behaviour in front of the council. Where he turns this on its head is in his apparent going along with the election process when he comes out of the labour exchange.
Overtones of Bond in his escape attempt: the music sounds like Bond, it looks for a moment like a Bond film with the struggle on the boat. Don't forget I'm reading this on the principle that The Village is actually Drake's brain child gone bad, & he is the distressed parent who is forever an outsider. The Village allows him a moment to act like an outsider - another spy in this case - but the fact his escape attempt is foiled by Rover, an archetypal image of The Village, shows that The Village will bring him back to heel.
There's just one thing terribly wrong with this episode: the mass hysteria for democracy that suddenly springs up one morning. It would have to be planned carefully, although I suppose it could be explained that the villagers are mostly so passive they'll cheer anything. Another apparent weakness is the obvious suspiciousness of Number 58 right from the start. However since she isn't apparently a key figure at the beginning, the fact Drake doesn't kick her out of the house could be put down to the monumental distraction of the 'election'.
I love where Drake is interviewed for the Tally Ho, where he's rude to the reporter, who translates his rudeness into platitudes! I also love that the members of The Village council all wear top hats. And you've got to love that the personal assistant he I'd given for the election doesn't speak a word of English!
This episode is frequently described as being about the vacuity of the democratic process, but in my opinion it has a major undercurrent of group mind, society's expectations & the effect of groups & society on human behaviour. This is reflected in the encounter between Drake & Number 2 in the cave, at least on the surface; of course it is really another new technique to try to get Drake to open up.
It is also about the ways society makes us behave in a particular way & the penalties for not conforming. This could mean making a person Number 2 & then making his life a living hell. When it comes down to it, this episode is all about power & its various expressions. Once again it may seem like Drake is no nearer to concluding his investigation, but the cat & mouse game The Village plays with him allows him a developing understanding of what The Village is capable of. It is almost as if he has to do it: 'Won't you ever learn? This is just the beginning,' says the new Number 2 to him, before assuring the old Number 2 that it will be alright 'eventually'. This is definitely going to be a long haul...
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