I've had acid trips more linear than The Prisoner
, a three-night, six-hour series that makes Lost
look simple and comprehensible. At the end of the first two hours, I asked my wife if she could explain what we'd just watched. "No," she said with a sarcastic laugh.
We had the same exchange at the end of the series too.
Maybe it would have helped if we'd seen the original Prisoner
from 1968. But probably not.
AMC describes this version as a "reinterpretation" of the original. I would use different adjectives, starting with utterly, completely confounding. The only reason I watched all six hours (aside from the need to see it to write this review) was to find out how it ended. I now know, but I'm still not sure what it all meant. And when it was over, I felt like my time could have been better spent.
The story, essentially, is this: A man (Jim Caviezel) wakes up in a bizarre town called The Village, where everyone is known by a number rather than a name. (They call him Six.) He has no idea how he got there or why he can't leave, and the people around him have no memory of ever being anywhere else.
Everyone there serves a leader called Two (Ian McKellen). They see him and their setting as benign, and if they didn't all seem to be spying on each other and holding back secrets, you'd swear The Village was an idyllic setting not unlike The Truman Show
. But Six thinks something is wrong, and he's determined to escape.
How he navigates the situation is the rest of the story. I'd tell you more, but I don't want to be a spoiler. Besides, it's entirely possible that I'd explain it wrong since The Prisoner
jumps around, leaping from vision to vision and leaving the viewer as confused as Six is. From the creepy yet sing-song soundtrack to funhouse photography, the whole thing feels like a giant hallucination.
The concept behind this series brings to mind a variety of fiction and fantasy works, from Kafka's The Trial
to Twin Peaks
. The difference is, those weaved character development and traces of humor into their intrigue. The Prisoner
is dominated by Caviezel's relentless anguish. McKellen presents a fuller range of emotions, but he's so maddeningly inscrutable that you end up not caring.