Preventing is only postponing
Watching The Prisoner in a post 9/11 world is... interesting, to say the least - its themes of individualism vs. collectivism seem at odds with current societal trends. Cameras scrutinizing our every move, once a great evil, are now a staple of reality television. Episodes which seemed cutting edge in the late 1960s, like The General, seem almost curiously outdated. But like many works of the art, The Prisoner seems to develop different facets with the onset of years.
As a result, episodes which might have seemed almost preachy in then-contemporaneous times take on a ripped-from-the-headlines nature in the dawning years in the 21st century. "It's Your Funeral", which may have seemed almost prescient in terms of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, now takes on greater dimensions...especially since, pre-9/11, our president once remarked that there was "too much freedom". From page to stage, this is easily one of the most relevant - and allegorical - episodes in our times.
The episode begins with a woman finding her way into Number 6's apartment, and immediately, he suspects a trap. As she relates her tale - her father planning the assassination of a young Number 2 - Number 6 assures her that he'll "listen...as long as what (she) say(s) isn't too obviously phony." In an interesting montage, we see the Young Number 2 listen to a computer-recited itinerary, revealing Number 6's daily agenda. (Which mostly consists of clips from other episodes, in a nice cost-cutting measure). However, we learn that the Young Number 2 is involved with "Plan Division Q", a strategy advised by the pink-jacketed Number 1-0-0 (Not one hundred, but "one-zero-zero"). As Number 6 confronts the Young Number 2 with the plot, we learn about "Jammers", troublemakers who make plans...but who are relatively ineffectual, play pranks, and then ignored. As Number 6 leaves, Number 2 calls his assistant, Number 22 (or "Number 2's number 2) with a plan to discredit Number 6...and take care of a nagging detail....
Older Number 2: "I can think of better ways to die"In the midst of the episode, we are introduced to the sport of kosho - the major pastime of the Village which seems to involve trampolines, a wading pool, orange jumpsuits, and motorcycle helmets. An unusual martial art, it seems like the kind of game that two well-known comics bloggers would invent...and just seems more of a diversion.
Number 6: "...and better causes...to die for"
However, when we next encounter Number 6, he meets with another Number 2 - an older gentleman who seems to share a mutual respect with Number 6. The elder Number 2 shows Number 6 a series of films basically discrediting his "assassination plot", and revealing a possible motive - the elimination of the Elder Number 2. (Given that both men seem to have a healthy respect - and with rumors that the series had been conceived of two 13 episode "seasons" - perhaps this elder Number 2 did not consider the rationale behind Number 6's resignation important...hence, the need to eliminate the Elder Number 2).
This is an episode that is hard to explain in a summary, mostly because it hits on many themes - we begin to learn that Number 6 has an aversion for innocents being harmed, as well as a distaste for lethal violence. (More on this later...) With its examination of the use of violence in politics, this takes a much stronger stance on the subject than the later "Fall Out". It's move-and-countermove plotting is reminiscent of Checkmate without being derivative, and a slowly creeping paranoia builds throughout the episode. (Chris Carter must have analyzed this episode frame-by-frame) And the greatest call-out of a traitor, the Elder Number 2 stating to this person that "The fact that you won't explain...explains everything" is possibly the best one- line summary of the show ever written.
For the longest time, this was one of my ok-but-not-quite-great episodes. Now, in these troubled times, it looks much more like the masterpiece that it is.
Coming soon: Number 6 quotes Goethe. On being unmutual. Number 6 escapes the Village....and the infamous "lost" episode.
Be seeing you.