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The Prisoner: All You Need Is... Wha?

Like last year's Life On Mars remake, AMC's The Prisoner remake both gained and lost points by having a totally insane ending. And let's be honest: nobody's going to miss that guy singing "Dem Dry Bones." Spoilers below.

So like Sam Tyler's 1973 head trip, it turned out The Village was all in Number 6's head. Except that The Village was a shared head trip, and everyone inside it was also awake in the real world. Because The Village took place on another level of consciousness — not the subconscious, but one of the many other levels that Number 2's wife discovered. So in fact, the Village was a dream, and the dreams people were having were of the real world. Whoa! (This was pretty telegraphed in the episode where 2's wife wakes up, and holes start appearing in the Village.)

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And all of the people in The Village were damaged in the real world, and going to this idyllic, old-fashioned place in their heads was making them more conformist and well-behaved in reality. Oh, and Number 2's son was sort of a figment of WTFery.

So I guess all those scenes of Number 6 in New York, which we thought were flashbacks, were actually all happening at the same time as the main action — Michael really was running around trying to find out the truth about SummaKor at the same time as he was in the Village, and his behavior in the "real" world changed as his other self got changed by the Village. And the whole thing took place over the course of less than a day. And even while he was fighting the Village, he was being co-opted by it. Or something.

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And then we get the shocking twist that, in order to redeem Sarah, the mentally ill girl in the church who's also Number 313 in the Village, Number 6 is willing to take Number 2's place and keep the Village going. Number 2 wins in the end.

As endings go, it's actually not bad — I like it slightly better than Harvey Keitel striding down onto the surface of Mars in his white shoes. It has a similar feeling to the Life On Mars ending, a sense that the producers were sitting around going, "Well, we can't serve up the same ending as the original, so let's shake things up." But it's gutsy, and it does put a different spin on what's come before. This wasn't just an evil surveillance system, spying on people — it was more akin to a pharmaceutical company, putting everyone on anti-depressants. Or something.

It's a neat concept, on paper. And a good ending, in theory. I don't think the show earned it — if I'd ever, even for a moment, felt invested in the struggle between Number 2 and Number 6, I would have been shocked to see Number 2 win. Instead, I felt a vague sense of, "Oh, that's interesting." If the show had wanted me to buy into the idea of The Village as a kind of institutionalized environment where people's individuality is suppressed in order to make them more well-adjusted, then Number 6's arrival should have been in a cloyingly comforting institutional setting, not the "running through the desert" thing that made no sense but looked vaguely cool.

In the end, like the American Life On Mars, this is going to wind up being a curious footnote to discussions of the original, not something people talk about in its own right.

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DISCUSSION

DISCLAIMER: I have yet to see the final two episodes (and didn't read this entire article), but I did want to make a comment or two, so I chose to do so in this section as opposed to one of the older ones.

Personally, so far I really like it (through the first four episodes), but I find the general reaction, especially here at io9, quite hilarious. When news of this whole thing first came in (and as the show got closer to it's premiere) people here were constantly screaming "YARM!" and crying out in hysterics about how they didn't want to see the same story re-hashed over and over again. Fair enough, and a sentiment that I can honestly say I echo, but the funny thing is that (at least in my mind), this isn't yet another remake.

It's different, it shows us how the Village has evolved from it's original state to something that, in some ways, is far scarier. I mean, they went WELL out of their way in the beginning of the first episode to prove that this was most certainly not a re-hash of the old Village, but a modern version thereof. And despite this evolution of the settings, characters, and in some ways motivations, people are now crying that...Number 6 isn't like the original Number 6. Oh, and the Village is totally different now too. How the fuck are producers, writers, and actors meant to please you guys when all they hear is "Give us something different!" and when they do, the response is "No, actually, what we meant was we wanted something that's exactly the same as it was before, but we're going to bitch if you do that too."

I'll definitely try to post another, more in-depth comment later once I've seen the final two episodes (who knows, maybe I'll change my mind), because there were a few other things I wanted to touch on as well. In any case, it just seems like there's no pleasing you guys. This mini-series certainly isn't flawless, but I think it's far more better than most posters here seem to think. Comparing it to the original was your first mistake...