October 14, 2007

Sundays In the Village: Hammer Into Anvil

Number 2: "You shouldn't have interfered. Number 6....you will pay for this"
Number 6: "No....you will"
(Revised 01/04/2023)

Ten minutes into "Hammer Into Anvil," we have a classic setup: the suicide of a young villager due to the bullying of Number 2. Number 6 becomes more instigator than a reactor and confronts Number 2. Number 2 basically challenges Number 6 to a duel of wits. A phone call that inspires Number 6 to engage in full-out psychological warfare.

"Hammer Into Anvil" is just an intellectual bare-knuckle brawl, with Number 6 doing his best to tear down Number 2. Even though the DVD case indicates that Number 2 is not the same character as Thorpe from "Many Happy Returns"...the performances by Patrick Cargill suggest otherwise. (Plus, it gives some rationale as to why Number 6 is taking this so personally). Other reviews have called Cargill's performance hammy, but that's kind of the point - this is a professional sadist who reveals his hidden paranoia as his authority is threatened by a "conspiracy." After intercepting a note to "XO4" from "D6", Number 2 is convinced that Number 6 is a "plant,"...and Number 6 does nothing to change that perception.

If the Internet existed thirty years earlier, this episode might be accused of plagiarising "that old Angela Lansbury movie." However, it's a little more than that - it's a study of power and control. We see that, in the Village, people who die deep their number but lose their name. We see Number 6 engage in seemingly random behavior towards a malevolent end. In short, it's the kind of episode where the outcome is predictable, but getting there send chills down the viewer's spine.
"You must be hammer or anvil"
One of the more intriguing aspects of this episode is its blatant intellectualism - of all of The Prisoner episodes, this is the one that easily wears its literacy on its sleeve. For example, we hear quotes from Cervantes and Goethe (whose quote, according to Wikipedia, is misinterpreted) tossed as casually as pop culture references in contemporary conversation. Reflecting its science fiction basis, it is one of the first uses of voice print identification in popular drama. However, the use of music is key - many times, we see signs in the Village - Music begins where words lead off, Music makes a quiet mind - and several classical pieces are key to the plot. But in one key fight sequence, slow and thoughtful music is used to counterbalance a violent fight.

(One major quibble about The Prisoner is a shocking double standard - showing pleasant/romantic relationships between women and men is forbidden, but violence is OK. This subject has been touched on before - McGoohan was supposed to be a moral, very devout Catholic and wanted The Prisoner to be family-friendly. However, most of the women in the Village are either co-conspirators (remember, Number 6 stated that one should never trust women, especially the four-legged variety) or emotionally unstable. Yet, it is perfectly permissible to show two men in violent fighting and fisticuffs. Given that this happened at burgeoning movements examining violence on television and feminism, it seems rather....odd).

In the end, we see Number 2 and Number 6 in a confrontation, which is more a war of words than an all-out battle. Number 6 continues to berate the broken-spirited Number 2, mocking him by stating, "All this power at your disposal, and yet....you're alone." Further insults abound from Number 6, claiming Number 2 is "a blunderer who's lost his head...you've destroyed yourself..." The final insult - Number 2 is forced to report himself to his superiors (whom we know he fears most), and Number 6 walks off, leading to a very disturbing thought:

Number 6 would make an excellent Number 2

Coming soon: Howard Hughes' favorite episode? Cowboys and Villagers. And Number 6 versus Napoleon.

Be seeing you.

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