Everyone who watches “Lost” and whines, “Ugh, but nothing ever happens, or gets resolved, it’s so frustrating…” needs to be strapped to a chair and forced to watch “The Prisoner.”
After 17 hours, they will be released. And they will whimper their thanks that a show like “Lost,” however vaguely or obtusely or slowly, at least moves forward and provides answers.Ask resolution of “The Prisoner,” and the show will spit back, “FUCK YOU AND YOUR RESOLUTION! STRAIGHT UP THE ARSE!” Because despite the bright costumes and props, and the lovely provincial setting, this is a show fully formed by the dark, mean little charcoal heart of Patrick McGoohan.
McGoohan wears an expression of barely concealed contempt for virtually everything he encounters. The fact that he’s in an open prison, full of generally pleasant people who have adapted to a generally pleasant existence in The Village seems to be the biggest insult of all to him.
If he were in a standard prison, interrogated in the usual manner, he’d probably be…well, not “happy,” obviously, but it would be a situation he could accept as par for the course. But being surrounded by cheerfulness and cordiality…for McGoohan’s No. 6, Hell really is other people.
(McGoohan’s death last month prompted the AV Club’s Zack Handlen to pen a really lovely obit titled, “Patrick McGoohan: Son of a Bitch,” which covers this in exceptional detail.)
This profoundly angry man – though dressed like he’s going to take the yacht out for a little RnR (if you need an equivalent…picture Jack Bauer in a Hawaiian shirt) - attempts to glean information from the other prisoners through the following interrogation technique:
- 1) Ask question with a derisive sneer of contempt for the interviewee.
- 2) Ask half-heartedly rephrased question, louder, with less “charm.”
- 3) Ask third variation of question, more loudly and angrily, while shaking the interviewee.
Shockingly, this technique has a 100% failure rate. But nevertheless, No. 6 attempts to gain allies, uncover truths about The Village, and escape. Once again, with a 100% failure rate. At the end of each episode, for 16 episodes, he is thwarted, everything he learned about The Village is revealed as a lie, and he’s knocked out, usually by the giant white balloon sentry.
That is, until the last episode, where he makes some serious headway. Even though that may be mostly a hallucination.
Imagine dealing with a “Lost” where, say, Jack is absolutely on his own and everyone else’s motivations are secret from the audience. In fact, we don’t even know how Jack ended up on the island, or if he’s even really a surgeon. And Ben taunts and tricks him – even though it’s a different actor in the Ben role every week. Oh, and every time it looks like Jack’s gonna get off the island, the smoke monster comes down and knocks him out. And he wakes up again in the exact sames spot, week after week.
Compared to “The Prisoner” (which “Lost” does credit as an influence), “Lost” is an open damn book, isn’t it?
So trust me, twitchy fans – you could have it so much worse.
But that said, it’s one of the greatest science fiction series of all time.
(PS - By way of promotion for an upcoming “Prisoner” remake/miniseries starring Jim Caviezel and Sir Ian McKellan, AMC is streaming the entire series on its website, and if you’ve got the proper capabilties, I offer them with my compliments.)