The Future Is Here
We may earn a commission from links on this page

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

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

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.)

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.

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.