Legendary British actor Patrick McGoohan created a cult classic when he first thought of the premise of the 1960s series The Prisoner. An intriguing, mysterious, and outrageous (in a great way) adventure thriller with real-world parallels.
The Prisoner, both versions, tell the story of a man who wakes up in a strange isolated community known only as The Village, where the people are known only by numbers and are seemingly surveilled and under “rule” of a man (or people) known as Number 2. The series and miniseries follow the man, known as Number 6, and his attempts at escaping The Village to return home and to find out who or what is behind The Village.
The series was ripe for a modern retelling in a world that serves the premise even more now than it did 50 years ago. And so AMC and ITV decided to give it a go even though it didn’t quite live up to the original.
The Prisoner 2009 was interesting in its own way, creating its own random quirks and placing the story firmer on, yet still slightly off, the ground. (Actually thinking about it now, The Prisoner 2009 makes a lot more sense than Lost but that may be for another post.)
But in an otherwise uneven and almost too-ambitious miniseries, Ian McKellen gave a commanding performance as Number Two.
Sir Ian McKellen gave the weight needed to sustain the believability of Number Two’s control over the enigmatic Village. The deviations in the character from the original allowed for a deeper look at Number 2 and allowed for Ian McKellen’s talents to be used to their full potential.
He was a husband, a father, a leader, a controller. He was an enigma in the most compelling way possible. There were times when he had to play loving and caring, and other times frightening and menacing. There was even an episode where he had to be aloof and carefree. He delivered the most random of lines with ease and authority.
McKellen helped carry The Prisoner farther than it would have gone without him or Patrick McGoohan himself in the role.
That alone deserves some recognition, but his performance was truly engaging, a brilliant casting move, that helped the viewing experience of the miniseries incredibly. Keeping your attention every second he was on the screen, no one else could’ve done the character of Number Two justice like Sir Ian McKellen.
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