Friday, August 18, 2006

Diana's Adventures in TV Land: The Prisoner

Forget head trips, this was like watching Alzheimer's in fast-forward.

"The Prisoner" turned out to be of the type of surrealism I don't enjoy: very odd things happen and many mysteries are built up, but no explanations are ever given. Indeed, no one ever intended to answer any questions. I have difficulty appreciating that kind of abstractism; it leaves me feeling like there's no anchor, no starting point through which I can interpret the weirder aspects of the story. I also find it to be a bit sloppy: anyone can just throw out inexplicable plot devices with the vague assurance that really, it'll make sense if you think about it.

But if I'm expected to devote so much time and energy to achieve basic comprehension, there has to be some kind of hook. And what "The Prisoner" does is create the opposite effect: complete detachment. Number Six isn't a particularly sympathetic protagonist - he might have been, if we knew a little bit more about him, but he's basically a cipher throughout the series. The viewer is basically put in a position where you know nothing and understand nothing... in which case, there's not much reason to keep watching.

To make things worse, the level of incoherence gradually increases, with the final episode resembling a twisted brainchild of David Lynch and Chris Claremont. I must have paused and rewinded five or six times trying to understand what the hell was going on, and why everyone suddenly contracted Tourette's and started dancing in circles. Maybe someone pulled a Brandon Lee and put real nerve gas in the canisters or something, I don't know.

Just not for me, then. I don't mind a bit of work when being confronted with an unorthodox story, so long as I'm given a valid reason to press on. Sadly, "The Prisoner" offers none.