Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Back from an evening screening of the final two episodes of The Prisoner, the classic '60s TV series starring Patrick McGoohan. Two highly theatrical hours of television worthy, I think, of Beckett—whose plays on film I now have a chance of seeing because my friend Sam is an inveterate and indefatigable collector of cool media (in addition to the Beckett he has the entire first season of Twin Peaks on DVD, and he also has a vintage low-res Nintendo unit with a stack of classic games like the original Legend of Zelda). I had the pleasure of introducing Sam to The Prisoner and was gratified and slightly alarmed when he proceeded to collect all seventeen episodes. So Sam and his wife Maryam and their enormous and enthusiastic yellow Lab Blünchen (spelling, Sam?) sat and watched the show deconstruct itself. My take on the bizarre final episode, "Fall Out," is that No. 6's quest for individuality has literally gone as far as it can go. He has utterly rejected the coercive community of the Village but at the price of internalizing it into himself (as indicated by his retention of the Butler's services). The Prisoner cries out for a Lacanian interpretation: No. 2, standing in for le nom du père attempts by hook or crook to get No. 6 to admit that he's castrated ("Why did you resign?") and No. 6 simply won't do it, arguing from either the perverse position, as he seems to do in most of the episodes (there is no natural "no," no bar he will recognize to his desire) or the psychotic, as in "Fall Out." In that episode the mysterious No. 1 is "revealed" as a man wearing a black-and-white mask, under which is an ape mask, under which is No. 6's own face, and language breaks down into either incoherent laughter or the mindlessly repeated lyrics of three intersectings songs: "Dem Bones," "Pop Goes the Weasel," and the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love."

What a great show. I've been hooked on it since I watched the entire run at a friend's house (Andy Plotkin, are you still out there?) on bootleg VHS tapes when I was in college.

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