This is the episode that is probably the most controversial of all of the episodes with an incredible variety of interpretations. Generally, it's seen as either he actually does finally escape, or that he never really escapes at all.
We go straight into the show without the normal long opening, reviewing what happened in the previous episode. There had been quite a time between the filming of Once Upon a Time and this episode. Leo McKern, who had to be convinced to come back to reprise his role as Number Two, had suffered a nervous breakdown or possible heart trouble as a result of Once Upon a Time's intensity.
In one of the added features in the set it's revealed that McGoohan and McKern almost literally became the characters they were playing in Once Upon a Time, putting a lot of extra pressure on them. According to one other source the two did not get along extremely well, McKern feeling he was rather mistreated, and that was another reason he was reluctant to come back to the series.
In the following I'll put my own comments in italics.
This is the only episode in the series in which Portmerion is given specific credit. That was because the owner of the resort didn't want anyone to know where filming was done until the series was over.
The Prisoner wants to see Number One. He is given back his regular clothes.
He then walks down a corridor lined by juke boxes playing the Beatle's song "All You Need is Love".
The entry into the chamber room.
The chamber with plenty of guards.
He gets a major round of applause.
The President says "the assembly is now in security."
"He has gloriously vindicated the right of the individual to be individual, and this assembly rises to you, sir."
He takes "the chair of honor" to observe the "ultimate transfer of power."
Number One's home.
The dead Number Two is removed from the barred cell and brought back to life again.
The assembly president says that revolt can take many forms and that they have three of them there, starting with Number 48. Number 48 starts singin the "Dem Bones Gonna Walk Around" song.
The assembly president notes that one form of revolt is in youth, which is to be expected, but that when society is endangered such revolts much stop.
After some running around by Number 48 and the Prisoner's interjection things start to get back to normal, sort of, but then the "Dem Bones" song starts over again.
After the song the assembly President declares Number 48 guilty, and then has the charge read, which is "the prisoner has been charged with the most serious breach of social etiquette, total defiance of the elementary laws which sustain our community, questioning the decisions of those we voted to govern us, unhealthy aspects of speech and dress not in accordance with general practice and the refusal to observe, wear or respond to his number." Remember, this was the sixties and the age of the youth rebellion, so to speak, so this speech is addressing that concern.
The former Number Two is brought back to life.
Number Two then stares at Number One's container, takes off his button and then spits on it the container. He's immediately captured and placed into the same area Number 48 went to.
The first form of rebellion was "uncoordinated youth, rebelling against nothing it can define." The second "an established secure member of the establishment turning upon and biting the hand that feeds him."
The president refers to the Prisoner as a "revolutionary of different calibre." While this is being said the Prisoner can see his apartment being made ready and his car being brought back. The assembly president goes on to say "He has revolted, resisted, fought, held fast, maintained, , destroyed resistance, overcome coercion, the right to be person, some one or individual. We applaud his private war, and concede that despite materialistic efforts, he has survived intact and secure. All that remains is recognition of a man. A man of steel. A man magnificently equipped to lead us. That is, lead us-or go."
They offer him the key to his house...
...traveler's checks...(1 million English pounds worth), his passport and some petty cash.
The assembly president tells the Prisoner that they want him to lead them, that everything around him is now his, and that he "sees all."
The Prisoner picks up the key and other items and then moves to the assembly stand to address the asssembly.
Things don't go well, though. Everytime he starts to speak his sentence starts with the word "I", and the assembly all repeat "I" over and over again.
The Prisoner prepares to meet Number One.
Number 48 and Number Two are in some type of containers.
The Prisoner approaches Number One. There are lots of globes on the table.
The Prisoner reaches up to pull the mask of Number One.
Underneath that mask is a gorilla mask.
Underneath that mask is Number One, a seemingly insane version of the Prisoner. The Prisoner chases Number One who flees up to an upper area.
The Prisoner attacks the workers in the rocket itself with the Butler helping.
Number 48 and the former Number Two apparently are freed and help to subdue the four guards outside the rocket entrance. The Prisoner then goes and starts the process for launching the rocket.
Things really get violent with lots of machine gun fire, panic and evacuation of the Village. "All You Need is Love" starts playing again while all the gunplay goes on.
Here is a rather massive lapse of logic. Let's see if I have this straight. You have a rocket in an enclosed area. You have lots of guys firing off guns with lots of bullets in that same area. Did anyone consider the possibility that a bullet might penetrate the rocket and cause it to blow up? In the much later series Babylon 5 they had the problem of not being able to use regular guns since they were on a space station, so they used something that shot out some kind of non-penetrating electrical pulse.
I would think that something different would have been made available to all the guards who were, by the way, guarding against what? The rest of the people in the Village didn't even know this place existed, so there was no threat from any of them. Who were all the heavily armed guards guarding against?
A whole fleet of helicopters takes off. Meanwhile the butler is driving a truck which has the barred room that the others are in.
Another problem with logic in this episode. Where did all the helicopters come from? Usually there is only one helicopter that comes in at a time. In this case, though, during the evacuation there are loads of helicopters taking off. This means that they must have already been there since there was no time for them to fly in, load up and then take off. There is no indication anywhere in the series that a fleet of helicopters was being kept in readiness, so this sudden appearance of the helicopters just appears out of thin air, so to speak.
Which also brings up another problem in logic. The President of the assembly ordered people to evacuate. Evacuate to where? People had tried to escape the Village before but weren't able to. Where were all the people running to? Just down the beach a ways?
Number One's rocket rises into the sky.
This raises a consideration that I don't really read about often. Number One was in a rocket. The era of space flight had already begun, so it's logical to assume that the rocket Number One was in contained a passenger module that would be able to reenter the atmosphere. Basically, then, Number One escaped and was presumably picked up by whatever power was actually behind the Village.
This is what gave me the idea for my short story Fall In.
Somehow Rover dies, even though one moment Rover is shown in the ocean and the next apparently inside somewhere.
They are now driving along the highway not very far from London, apparently.
The former Number 48 gets off to hitchhike.
The former Number Two leaves to go somewhere else. Meanwhile the Butler accompanies the Prisoner back to his house.
The former Number 48 wasn't able to get a ride going in one direction, so he crosses the highway and tries getting a ride in the other direction (which, theoretically, could take him right back to the Village).
As the Prisoner drives off in his care the butler is right outside the door when it opens, making the same sound that the door to Number Two's residence makes. This is a major point made by people who believe the Prisoner did not escape.
Then we come full circle, with the Prisoner driving off at the end of the show exactly the same way as in the start of most episodes.
The argument still goes on over whether or not The Prisoner actually escaped. The entire episode could have been an illusion projected into his mind as in the episode A, B and C. It could have been real, but some form of elaborate setup to lead to his recapture and demoralization. It could have been an actual escape. There is no definitive answer.
There's also a lot of controversy about the final episode with some people thinking it's fine, and some thinking it's just totally meaningless and crazy. It does have more dependence on gunplay than in any other episode, although don't forget that in It's Your Funeral there was a plan to literally blow up a Number Two which ranks as being fairly violent in and of itself.
The Prisoner has to rank as one of the shortest but most interesting series ever done.
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