Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Prisoner Challenge: The Schizoid Man

Anton Rodgers as Number 2.

One of the most convoluted and, in some ways, nastiest of the Village's plans to break Number 6, the very first scene of the episode plants the seeds of its undoing - the injuring of Number 6's fingernail and the photo that preserves it for Number 6 to see later.

After this - seemingly trivial for now - scene, we see a montage as their plan is set up. It only hints to us, the viewers, as to what is going on, and we become familiar with the plan only as Number 6 does.

Number 6 wakes up, supposedly just the next day, and he has a full grown mustache. He is in Number 12's house and everyone seems to recognise him as Number 12. Number 2 then briefs him - as Number 12 - on the plan for him to impersonate the 'real' Number 6.

The fake Number 6 - in a white blazer so we can tell them apart - doesn't take long to arrive.

The split-screen is very impressive as McGoohan plays against himself.

Due to the little things they've changed the real Number 6 is thrown, especially with is own handedness having been changed from right to left. Being forced to use his 'off-hand' the real Number 6 loses to his opponent at shooting and fencing. The fake Number 6 is very smug about this.

With both of them claiming to be Number 6 we find - for the first time - that Number 6 is insisting he is Number 6, when in other circumstances he has rejected a number of any sort. Could it be that this plan has a chance of succeeding against Number 6 by undermining him in this way?

After the stunt with Number 24 and her 'ESP' - clearly she is a plant by the Village and part of this plan - Number 6 begins to crack and it very much looks like their plan is having the desired effect on him.

But when he sees the bruise on his fingernail has moved up the nail Number 6 realises it cannot have been one night that passed. He begins to remember their brainwashing of him. The photo confirms his suspicions and the switched insides of the cigarettes and cigars adds further evidence.

The Village's plan unravels, and then Number 6 takes steps to cure the 'left-handed' conditioning - he deliberately electrocutes himself. Don't fuck with Number 6. Now it's time for him to turn the tables on them.

He goes to the fake Number 6 and pretends to be cracking up, but this is just a ruse to get close enough to him. Number 6 overpowers him and finds out the password and the fake Number 6's name - Curtis - so that he can take his identity.

When they encounter Rover together, Number 6 gives the password first and Curtis is too slow, so Rover pursues and smothers him, killing him. Now pretending to be Curtis, Number 6 tells Number 2 that Number 6 is dead.
"He's dead. Rover got him." (This is actually the first time 'Rover' is named as such on screen. We don't find out how Number 6 found this out.)
Number 2 responds by ordering "Control Room - deactivate Rover immediately... pending further instruction."

Number 6 plays the part of Curtis pretty coolly, doing his best not to give away the fact that he lacks knowledge of a lot of things the real Curtis would have known, but he lets a couple of things slip.

This is enough to make Number 2 suspicious, even as they head together to the helicopter that will take 'Curtis' away from the Village, and he tests Number 6 by mentioning 'Susan' and asking Curtis to give her his regards.

The helicopter takes off with Number 6 on it, but it lands back in the Village and he is met by Number 2.
"Susan died a year ago, Number 6."

This is one of my favourite episodes of The Prisoner. It is tightly plotted and very well acted by McGoohan (in both his roles) and Anton Rodgers. The Village plan is quite complex but not difficult to follow (and the two Number 6's are colour coded for our convenience WARNING: TV Tropes Wiki link), and it is a neat reversal to see Number 6 insisting for once that he is a number.

Next: The General

No comments:

Post a Comment