For many fans of The Prisoner, the remake has been decades in the making.
The Prisoner 2009 is sure to illicit many different reactions and it largely depends on your knowledge of the original. You either went into the three night miniseries knowing what you were getting yourself into or not. The confusing, bizarre, randomness of the Village and these strange numbered people. For those who’ve never heard of The Prisoner or Patrick McGoohan, this might already be too much to handle.
TV viewers get confused with shows like Lost or Kings, what more with a show like The Prisoner. But that is exactly what gives The Prisoner its mystique. This air of mystery and adventure like none other on television.
There’s two ways to judge the miniseries, as its own personal entity and as a remake/reimagination of the cult classic.
As a remake/reimagination, it definitely falls short. The Prisoner 2009 lacks the social commentary that made the original unique and relevant. The whimsy and wit of the original is also absent in favor of a more serious and sometimes dark tone with bursts of light-heartedness here and there.
There is so much in 2009 America that can be discussed in a Prisoner remake, but since Six in this version is from a large data collection company and not a secret agent of some kind, some of that possibility is lost. But The Prisoner 2009 really isn’t about making statements on today’s political and social problems. It is meant to be a mysterious adventure.
With the various re-imaginations in recent years, the main goal aside from nostalgia is to update what once may have been considered cheesy, corny, or low-brow and turn it into a modern and more mature version of itself.
“Pop Goes the Weasel” and colorful umbrellas and beach balls are gone in favor of a desert landscape, dotted with palm trees and a certain quaintness of A-framed homes and khaki, which does provide a more exotic atmosphere contrary to the visually trippy atmosphere of Portmeirion, Wales.
Not setting the series in Portmeirion already lessened what some would point out made the original sort of silly.
Also without the wit of the original, this Prisoner takes on that darker, more ominous tone, with lots of help from a commanding performance from Sir Ian McKellen as Two.
On its own merits, The Prisoner delivers an intricate mystery that more or less really is explained away by the end of the 6th hour. Do questions linger? Sure. But this version at least attempts to explain (reasonably I must say) the Village and how Six came to arrive there.
Unlike the original, this version introduces us to more characters other than just Two and Six, and having only one actor as Two also helps to flesh out him and the other characters more fully. We get more of a sense of how the Village itself works, how the people go about their daily lives. The premise presents potential for more hours, but the miniseries doesn’t adequately set it up.
Ian McKellen is excellent with what he is given, but Two could’ve definitely been expanded on especially with the introduction of a family. Jim Caviezel was okay as Six. He doesn’t have the charm or is as suave as Patrick McGoohan was, but for this Prisoner I think Caviezel’s reserved performance works, though still leaves you wishing he’d give something more to the role.
Overall, it was an intriguing six hours. Plenty of interesting twists that actually make sense when they have to and random anomalies that are fun to watch though not necessarily in our realm of logic.
Does it live up to the original’s legacy? No. But on it’s own, how is it? Okay. An enjoyable ride while it lasts, but there is no urge to clamor for more. An ‘A’ for effort.
The Prisoner: A Schizoid Deconstruction
Some The Prisoner 2009 callbacks to the original:
“Be seeing you!”
“I just do local destinations.”
Slamming the table with the cup and saucer jumping.
The classic scene of Six asking for a map at the village shop.
The classic scene of Six walking down the dark hallway.
6 to Lucy harkening back to Six announcing to the Village in the original episode “Free For All” – “FREE TO GO! FREE TO GO!! FREE, FREE, FREE TO GO!”
“I am not a number!!! I am a FREE MAN!!!”
Pennyfarthings hanging in the More Club.
And of course, Rover.
And some original The Prisoner 2009 tidbits:
The Village’s original soap opera WONKERS (That spin-off could actually work!)
2: “You think I believe all this therapy babble do you? My mommy slapped me sideways while I was on the potty, now I want to sleep with her? Oh grow up man! Have you had sex with your mother 70?”
70: “No, never.”
2: “Well, don’t!”
unTwo: “Smoking is a kind of suicide.”
Shopkeeper: “That’s a bit philosophical… for a Thursday.”
unTwo: “Thank you.”