Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the 1967 science fiction/ existential drama The Prisoner. For Part One, in which I examined the themes and concepts at play in the series click HERE
Episode Title: FREE FOR ALL … In the ongoing debate about the exact numbering of the 17 episodes of The Prisoner I place this as the 8th episode.
Our previous episode wallowed in grim, depressing realism. Free For All takes us back into the realm of allegory and metaphor. It plays like Kafka, Ionesco and Pirandello blended with science fiction.
The Story: Eric Portman plays this episode’s Number Two, the rotating series of Village executives who manage the prison-city for varying periods, sort of like Officer of the Day duty in the military but stretched out for weeks at least.
This Number Two pretends to be calling the Prisoner’s bluff, implying that if he doesn’t like the way things are done in the totalitarian atmosphere of the Village he should run for office and try to enact some changes. Nobody has come forward as a candidate in a long time, so Number Two encourages Number Six to run against him.
Needless to say our protagonist figures this election nonsense is just another experimental Head Game of the Villagekeepers. His suspicion increases when he sees that the Villagekeepers had already printed up campaign posters for him and distributed them to all the other Villagers. Despite our main character’s misgivings he gets swept along in this new cerebral duel with his captors.
NOTE: This is why I place Free For All AFTER Many Happy Returns. That episode made it clear that the Villagekeepers have too many co-conspirators in the outside world for any escape to be permanent. With that being the case the Prisoner can justifiably feel he has nothing to lose by playing along with the obviously phony “election.” If he gets lucky he might be able to at least strike some sort of defiant blow against the people who run the Village. Continue reading