The Prisoner in the Asylum: Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling
The introduction and master post to this series of posts about The Prisoner can be found here.
As I suspected, the later episodes of the show are giving me more trouble to apply a psychiatric explanation, despite being increasingly off the wall, and in fact this one is probably going to be the most difficult of the entire series.
The reason for that is that there are several different things going on and it is possibly they're not all real, so I'll make a few suggestions about the episode and let you think about it rather than being my normal dogmatic self.
The first possibility is that there is a warning about the perceived power of psychiatry in the Amnesia Room. It remains the stuff of conspiracy theories but no doubt there are some people somewhere who think psychiatrists have the technology to wipe your brain completely and let you go off as a happy robot.
The second possibility is a therapeutic allegory about being who you are and not being other people. Despite what he thinks the Village does genuinely want Smith to be himself and that is the aim of his therapy.
The third possibility is inspired by the fact that the events of the episode are basically impossible, while of course they could also include elements of reality. The fact they are impossible would suggest that we are seeing parts of Smith's delusional network, which like all delusional networks is built into reality of our lives, but you start getting beliefs that aren't real mixed up.
I want to avoid too much detail in teasing out what is real from what is unreal, but the scene in London where Smith is saying who he is and they don't believe him reminds me of another frequent occurence in psychiatry. If you are psychotic enough it is an incredibly frightening experience that you have delusional beliefs which your nearest and dearest can't see and may try to persuade you aren't true. I don't think the show was specifically intended to have this interpretation of course, so it will never be that specific, but nonetheless it is strikingly similar. To give an example of what I mean, many many years ago my mother nursed a woman who thought she was Queen Victoria. That is she knew she was Queen Victoria ans everyone else was having her on. She was in the hospital my mother worked in for DECADES and imagine spending years of your life telling people you are one person and them refusing to believe you. It must have been a daily trauma.
I always find this episode quite confusing (I would say that it makes literally no sense, but I am not sure whether it's just me being slow that gets confused by it), and I think the confusing nature of it may also be seen to be characteristic of a psychotic illness - what the person thinks isn't real and doesn't have to comply to the normal rules of life, and this along with the way people's thinking gets jumbled up, becomes very confusing for the onlooker.
Finally as you know I have written Seltzman into my theory that Smith has possibly killed him. Certainly I would suggest he is preoccupied with Seltzman to an extent which could be called paranoid or obsessed, and certainly there is a preoccupation with everyone else about where he is, whether hiding away abroad or something else. Given that what happens to Seltzman at the end of the episode is impossible, by the end of the episode neither the Village authorities or the viewer actually know for certain what has happened to him at Smith's hands.
I am genuinely undecided about this and every time I try to drive myself into a conclusion I end up tying myself up in way too much detail. For this reason I am not going to post (at least not in this post lol) about the questions I have about this episode that I just can't find possible answers to. Really chewing at me this one! I'm also thinking of doing a whole series of posts about everything that's wrong with it because I'm really noticing on this viewing that the show is actually a bit of a mess when you look closely.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic some of the most historic television ever is being made in the form of the January 6th Committee hearings. I am fascinated by the way they are being done in such a stark and simple way as to make the truth abundantly clear to anyone not getting their news on Fox News. I really hope that justice can be carried out to the full extent of the law and your democracy preserved without another revolution. I have reached the point where I actually want the Tories to stay in power until the next election because I want them to screw up the country so badly we never have another Conservative government in my lifetime. Boris is on the record as saying the only thing which would get him out of Downing Street would be a tank and that would definitely be some classic TV.
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