The Prisoner: Living in Harmony   Rewatch 
August 29, 2014 1:05 PM - Season 1, Episode 14 - Subscribe

The Prisoner is now a Western.

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A unique episode whose inspirations include writer Ian Rakoff's experiences in apartheid-era South Africa, as well as his love of Marvel comics. It was never broadcast on its original U.S. run, ostensibly because of references to hallucinogens, but really because it was interpreted as a critique of the Vietnam War.
posted by thesmallmachine (4 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
-"Living in Harmony" is one of several candidates for most absurd and out-there Prisoner episode, but personally, I love every minute of it: the opening sequence, where 6 resigns in every time and place; the title superimposed over brawling men; 6 carrying his empty saddle like a cross; the elaborate recasting of the series' iconic sequences into low-tech brawls and prison breaks.

-For an episode about a man who refuses violence, it's one of the most violent of the series, short of "Fall Out": men dragging 6 behind horses, several murders, an attempted rape, a brutal lynching.

-McGoohan and Kanner famously got really, really into the quick-draw sequence, practicing and competing for the crew, which is kind of delightful given McGoohan's refusal to carry guns as Drake and 6. Obviously there was a bright line in the man's mind between not wanting to advocate for the coolness of guns and agreeing that guns are cool, at least in the hands of cowboys.

-David Bauer's 2 is the only one who's not apparently English; I appreciate this touch of internationalism, and wonder what other American presence there is in the Village (the only other American actor we've seen is the announcer from "The General").

-6 collaborates in "Harmony" more than he ever has previously: working for the Judge goes a little beyond woodcarving, or even saving a 2 from assassination. In this respect, 2 and 8 actually have one of the series' most successful plans -- previous 2s have played on 6's protectiveness and civic-mindedness, but none has brought him to the point of becoming the Village's second-in-command and compromising some of his central principles.

-But I think we can all bow our heads and quietly concede that the actual plot of this episode makes no sense, either as an attempt to interrogate 6, as a roleplay that leads to a murder-suicide, or even as a coherent plan. Even the body-swap from last week was more believable.

-Valerie French is best known for her work in Westerns. She had previously played the Desdemona role in Jubal, a Western reworking of Othello; McGoohan played the Iago role in All Night Long, a jazz working of Othello; he later directed Catch My Soul, a rock reworking of Othello.

-The Kid is Number 8, same as Nadia.
posted by thesmallmachine at 1:46 PM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

If I'm being generous I can say that the lunacy of the plan in this episode makes sense to set up the finale. The Village has gone through normal methods, past clever schemes, had a brief detour via dodgy plans, and is now barrelling hard into desperate enough try anything. I will concede though, that's the only point of view from which it makes any sense at all.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:40 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd like to think that in-universe, this elaborate Western scenario blew the budget for the quarter, and that's why the next why-not plan was a storybook.
posted by thesmallmachine at 7:06 PM on August 29, 2014

This is a fantastic episode. I love the premise and I love the execution. Especially the loving way they reinterpreted all of the little idiosyncratic touches and the iconic moments through a Western lens, like thesmallmachine said above.
posted by isthmus at 10:31 PM on September 4, 2014

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