The Prisoner: Hammer into Anvil   Rewatch 
August 19, 2014 11:33 AM - Season 1, Episode 10 - Subscribe

As revenge for the death of a prisoner, Number Six turns the tables on Number Two.

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posted by thesmallmachine (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
-We've seen Patrick Cargill before, as Thorpe in "Many Happy Returns"; it would be interesting if he and this 2 were the same man, but I doubt they are (just as the multiple Alexis Kanners, Kenneth Griffiths, Georgina Cooksons, and Patrick McGoohans appear to be mutually exclusive). A shared identity would explain 6's immediate, personal anger, but not 2's obvious unfamiliarity with 6 and his capabilities.

He also seems to be a somewhat more flamboyant personality than Thorpe, but then being a 2 does seem to bring out a person's inner ham.

-The end of the episode is the starting signal of Prisoner's period of totally deranged storytelling, in which formula goes out the window in favor of stories about cowboys, mad bombers, and Nigel Stock. The Supervisor and Butler are fired; 6's house set is extravagantly trashed; 6 and 2 reverse roles; the plot devolves into farce.

-(Of which my favorite bits are the bomb tech playing with the noisemakers like they're little feet, the romantic fight music, the pigeon, and the revelation that the Supervisor is the Village's DJ.)

-Next week: Nigel Stock.
posted by thesmallmachine at 4:07 PM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

"In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about" -Orwell, Politics and the English Language.

I don't know how much Orwell or Goethe knew about blacksmithing to be able to judge. Briefly reviewing a smithing website suggests it is possible to break an anvil, but generally only through incompetence. Which works with the metaphor quite nicely, even if I'm not sure if the show intended to allude to Orwell or practical blacksmithing.

I really like this episode. It also works well with the previous episode. The portrayal of The Village is changing. In "Many Happy Returns" and "Dance of the Dead" in particular The Village (personified by Number 2) seemed almost omnipotent. In this and the previous episode we see Number 2 losing control.

This Number 2 loses it very early, striking Number 6, then his sudden change of demeanour on the red phone. It's played brilliantly. McGoohan's change of expression is subtle but it pretty much screams "gotcha". Uniquely this 2 doesn't really have any plot against 6. While 6, 6 is fucking with 2 the moment after he walks out of the green dome.

There's also something of a subversion of the Village's techno-wizardry previously on display. This 2 is constantly using gadgets, from his scanner to turn indents on paper into writing, to the oscilloscope, to relying on death rays, lab techs, and banks of computers to deal with passenger pigeons, hand mirrors, and nursery rhymes.

Random thoughts: 6's plot is worthy of the best of the 2's he finds a weak spot and he attacks it mercilessly, ultimately bending his opponent into compliance with his own will.

In the end, 6 has actually done the Village a favour. He's elegantly destroyed a violent and incompetent number 2.

The use of the snippet of music 6 was listening to at the beginning as a leitmotif was neat.

How do the other three goons feel about driver goon? I mean they have to get in a fistfight with number six while he just watches. Driver goon is number 2's right hand man. I bet driver goon is unpopular.

I wonder how many people expected the butler to be number 1 on the first viewing?
posted by Grimgrin at 9:40 PM on August 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

(on hold at the library; be seeing you soon.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:08 PM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sword Week on FanFare continues. . .

The ever-popular Sulu-with-a-sword Star Trek episode, "The Naked Time" is also up for discussion.

Here, instead of: "I'll protect you fair maiden" and "Sorry, neither".
We have: "What is going on [in your head]? Fear?” and “Diss gust.”

The same scene provides the crux of the story. The previous Number Twos were all amateurs, this Number Two proclaims himself a professional.

Number Six: “A professional sadist?”

The term wasn't well known in 1967, but this Number Two is a classic narcissistic boss. Number Six does the Village People a favour by getting rid of this dangerously incompetent leader, and he does it by forcing him to resign.

The whole point, we are told, to Six's confinement in The Village is to find out "why did you resign?" This Number Two loses track of that goal, makes the whole enterprise a personal vendetta, and in train becomes the only Number Two to turn himself in as a failure, a security risk, possibly a traitor and spy.

Who are you working for? What about Exo-4?

One of my faves, I've loved Bizet ever since.
posted by Herodios at 8:23 AM on August 20, 2014

Driver Goon is probably not very popular. Let his men get beat up a bit.
2 here shows a remarkable lack of "fieldcraft." Physically removing the papers, alienating his subordinates. Reminds me of the scene in Quantum of Solace at the Opera House, where Bond spooks the heads of the secret organization into standing up and revealing themselves, except for Mr. White, who obviously worked his way up in the trades, as it were.

I think this is the only episode where 2 is referred to as 'new' in the episode itself. We are meant to understand his newness, his subordination via the red phone.

Wow that hair - "traitor!"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:08 PM on August 21, 2014

I like to think of this episode as being ultimately part of the plot to break Number 6. "He's infested in the Village now, so let's give him a villain he can defeat and give him a sense of power. Hey, let's take that idiotic sadist we've been needing to get rid of..."
posted by happyroach at 12:50 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

The great thing about this episode is how neatly 6 uses the machinery of the Village to his advantage. We see in another episode that there are internal conspiracies and plots against number 2, so while this 2 is a paranoid narcissist, he has probably been given good reasons for it before. The line between prisoner and warden, hammer and anvil, is always blurry, at best, in the Village.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:52 PM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did see this episode as Six seizing total control; but now happyroach's comment has me wondering.

For all his "I will break you" bluster at the beginning, this Two seems very fragile, to the point of utter paranoia. "Idiotic sadist" indeed: he's not at all competent at being Two. And you would think that, by now, incoming Twos would be better briefed and better prepared for Six pushing back at them.

This Number 2 loses it very early, striking Number 6, then his sudden change of demeanour on the red phone. It's played brilliantly. McGoohan's change of expression is subtle but it pretty much screams "gotcha".

Yes, it's really nicely played. Six already dislikes Two for the patient's suicide; his observing Two's instability gives him the leverage to destroy him.

I too wonder about the Village's supply of Anonymous Henchman Goons. They're not often used -- the Village prefers psychological manipulation and the threat of Rover over blunt physical force. So do they simply laze around at Two's place most of the time, smoking and leering at the scientists and comparing notes on footwork and punches, until the call comes in for "hey you lot, go and rough up Number Six a bit"?

("Oh God not Six again.")
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:23 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

the revelation that the Supervisor is the Village's DJ.

"And this one goes out to Number Six."

I mentioned the cheery Village announcements reminding me of holiday camps back in the Arrival thread. But the Supervisor's reading of the request slip here is also reminiscent of hospital radio.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:28 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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