The Prisoner: It's Your Funeral   Rewatch 
August 9, 2014 5:20 PM - Season 1, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Number Six is caught up in a plot to assassinate Number Two.

Online availability:
Free streaming, with ads: Crackle
For purchase: Amazon, iTunes
posted by thesmallmachine (6 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a bad habit of making my first Prisoner post from memory, but there's no danger of that here, because I have no memory at all of "It's Your Funeral" -- save that it is muddled, repetitive, and involves a fabulous training montage. These impressions didn't change much upon rewatch, though André van Gyseghem's retiring 2 was more moving than I remember, and there are some interesting implications for the development of 6's character.

Adding to the off-model quality is the fact that most of it obviously wasn't shot in Portmeirion. It won't be the last on that ignoble list, though I think it's the first.

-Nesbitt's 2 doesn't begin to understand 6, and this is apparent from his remark about the fainting 50: "She's become a lady in distress, and he's going to be all good deeds and sympathy now." 6 is many things, but if there's anything we know he's not, it's a man who's moved by a damsel -- and whatever residual empathy he once had for such an approach has been eradicated by now.

It seems to be a part of the standard 2 briefing, however, that 6 abstains from sugar: "Here's the stick, here's the scarf, here's the oversized phone, Number 6 doesn't eat candy, turn out the lights on your way out."

-Speaking of misunderstanding, the retiring 2 has a point when he tells 6, "You've never understood us, number 6 -- we never fail!" 6 is starting to believe that by now, though, and one gets the feeling that the only reason he saves the man is to prove him wrong about that, at least for the moment.

-(Would 6 have gone so far as to help the retiring 2 escape, however, if he hadn't been so sympathetic in his anger and despair? Maybe 6 can be moved by distress after all, so long as it comes from someone he identifies with.)

-This episode's filming was apparently very troubled, and I suspect that McGoohan's performance reflects the tensions on set: we've never seen 6 less controlled, his trademark singsong becoming a cracked aria on lines like "I'll listen so long as what you say isn't too obviously phony, yes."

It makes sense in-universe, too. 6 is coming to a truly desperate point. His experiences in "Many Happy Returns" have exhausted him and destroyed his remaining hope for meaningful escape, and his initial reactions to the conspiracies range from apathy to inappropriate rage. He is a character in revolt against his storyline.

What's interesting is that this desperation leads to places 6 never expected to reach: he has begun to identify with the Village, to fight for its citizens' best interests, to think like a 2 and act as an equal member of whatever organization they represent. I am not sure if this is a stroke of genius on his part, the only remaining offensive move, or whether it just means the Village has won and only continues to torture him because it doesn't know what winning looks like.

-The Serious Business sequence predicting 6's day is brilliant, and could have run for the rest of the episode so far as I'm concerned. Most of the time, I find myself totally disinterested in the magic computers of the Village -- the anxieties they represent are so unrelated to the anxieties I feel about computers today -- and the revelation that the Village can map out its citizens' lives as if they were so many Sims is no different, but on the other hand, "Subject cooling off."

-Likewise, I know it's a joke, but I actually quite like 118's portrait of 6 (whose square-and-circle theme echoes the aptitude test from "Arrival").

-It's a pity that just about every viewing order places this lengthy and pointless Kosho sequence before the one in "Hammer Into Anvil," which is almost identical but placed in a context that renders it hilarious.

-The revelation that 6 spends most of his days in endless, mindless athleticism makes me wonder what else there is to do in the Village than Kosho, shooting, walking, water-skiing, heavy bag, and chess: do they not have any books? I'm sure we've seen a few as set dressing, and yet I find it hard to believe the Village allows anything of substance into its borders, the 2s not being great fans of imagination on a whole.
posted by thesmallmachine at 8:27 PM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I find this one's narrative of Twos confusing. In all previous episodes, we've been shown that Twos are transient; they come, they take a crack at Six, they're pressured by whatever voice is on the end of their phone, they fail, they go.

But here it's suggested that Two is a long-term position; Young-Two is the appointed successor to old-Two (and is identified by Control's staff as "the acting number two". And am I remembering the dialogue correctly that old-Two tells Six that he's been away and that all the previous Twos were "interims"?

This seems a different version of succession what has we've been shown before. It could be an act, yet another play for Six -- but the plot continues to play out for old-Two even when Six is not present to witness it. Are the two Twos being played as well?

The villagers treat the succession ceremony as entirely normal matter-of-fact. Have they seen it before? Or is this just the same going-along-with-the-act business as their participation in the "election" in Free For All?

This desperation leads to places 6 never expected to reach: he has begun to identify with the Village, to fight for its citizens' best interests, to think like a 2 and act as an equal member of whatever organization they represent.

The contrast with Free For All is interesting. In that one Six's interest in the villagers was in rousing them to revolt. In this one his interest is in maintaining the status quo.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:46 PM on August 10, 2014

Also: I love how smarmy young-Two is.

And I love how resigned old-Two is at the end. He knows full well -- and tells Six as much -- that even if he takes the helicopter he won't actually escape. But none-the-less he takes the chance; just like Six always did.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:49 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's also a contrast with Checkmate here: in that episode, it is the other conspirators who reveal Six's plan to escape to Two; here, it is Six who reveals a conspiracy to Two(s).
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:05 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's a strange episode because it does so much to evolve and darken 6's character, but it's also a strikingly superficial story that never feels fully integrated into the canon. To explain the 2s' frequent rotation is antithetical to the spirit of the series; the rather lighthearted idea of the jammers meshes oddly with the unusually tyrannical depiction of a Village prepared to punish assassination with mass killing; the plot depends on an absence of the heavy surveillance and mutual policing that is the bedrock of the series; the idea of the new 2 killing his predecessor and using the death as an excuse to violently punish the Village isn't remotely in line with the iron veneer of utopia that other 2s see as sacred; the new 2 is cluelessly out of his depth in a way that undermines the menace of the role and the omniscience of his masters. The idea of 6 collaborating to prevent a greater evil, and perhaps as a show of his own power, is a believable and logical step. It's just that this episode never fully sells it.

There's also nothing about this episode that feels as if it could be a metaphor for 6's own thought process -- all the best ones work on both levels. Someone in an earlier thread made the very sharp observation that the 2s represent things 6 has to overcome, and that has stuck with me all the way through the rewatch, but I'm at a loss to describe what Nesbitt's 2 would represent. If it's 6's confidence that his flawless spycraft will see him through, it's an episode too late.

The idea holds for the retiring 2, though: both he and 6 have to overcome the idea that, in a futile situation, one's individual actions no longer matter.
posted by thesmallmachine at 10:59 PM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would love to know more about 26 (?), the bald man in the control room, who appears to run the day-to-day operations. And what is with the black badges?
I agree, I'd watch an entire episode of surveillance footage of Our Hero. Now I can see how he manages to win those fistfights.
Doesn't the Village run on work units? Do they give an allowance?
I am totally lost with the Kosho sequence.
After the return to England and his betrayal/ditching, I think Our Hero has realized that even if he leaves, he may not get out.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:54 PM on August 15, 2014

« Older Defiance: Slouching Towards Be...   |  Aldnoah.Zero: Steel Step Suite... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments