The Prisoner (2009): Please Release Me…

Sadly, AMC’s version of THE PRISONER lived down (way down) to my very low expectations. I can honestly say this was not your grandfather’s PRISONER — and that’
s not a good thing. The series was as dry as the desert that surrounded the new Village on all sides.

Caviezel and McKellen

It’s important to start out by noting that a remake was doomed from the moment it was greenlit — there was no way to improve on the original and a straight frame-for-frame remake would be pointless, so the only place to go was down. But I did not think it would stoop this low. The 2009 version used the 1967-’68, 17-part series as a jumping-off point only. P2009 left behind almost everything that made the original such bracing television — especially the tension, and a definite sense of time and place. Both series are superficially the same: Each concerns a man who wakes up to find himself living in a mysterious Village with a strangely placid population. But the man’s name has been replaced by a number — 6 —

and he cannot leave, due to the rugged terrain and unique security system: a giant white balloon. A man known only as No. 2 appears to be in charge. So far, so good. But the bungling comes in tone and treatment.

The original was all about alienation and rebellion in the face of conformity. The Village itself represented the rigid social system of Britain, and 6’s struggle to resist mirrored the counter-culture movement of the late ’60s. This PRISONER, however, clearly has been filtered through the refracting lens of LOST, and the result is a distorted version of the modern touchstone, rather than a reflection of the social dreads of the early 21st century. The initial two hours of P2009 were obsessed with piling up “mysteries” instead of story elements, and the middle chapters served purely as bald-faced filler to mask a few sequences that would “justify”

the addle-minded finale. The elements that were retained only serve to heighten the differences. 6 still meets a taxi driver first, and then goes to a shop to buy a map, but in the modern version, the encounter with the shopkeeper is an excuse for a sight gag about the map unfolding to unwieldy size.
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