Last week Number Six turned the tables on Number Two by playing some mind games of his own. That theme continues this week, with the concept of “jamming” (not in the Bob Marley sense of the word), whereby an oppressed (or terrorist) group overwhelm the authorities with constant hoaxes to keep them busy and unable to see the wood for the trees when a threat is real. To counteract this problem, the Village authorities have drawn up a list of known “jammers” so they can ignore their hoaxes. Unfortunately that can’t work as a strategy, can it. If the jammers use escape hoaxes to the extent that they are ignored, they can then simply carry out one of their plans for real. It would be a perfect “boy who cried wolf” strategy, and it was a major oversight that this wasn’t addressed in the episode.
Instead we had a very convoluted plot, with a genuine assassination attempt on the life of outgoing Number Two by the Village authorities being covered up by using Number Six as a jammer with a fake assassination hoax. To achieve that, It’s Your Funeral is by necessity an episode that is heavy on exposition. Let’s face it, it’s boring. I watch these last thing at night, which is a good test of how well an episode holds the attention, and for the first time I really struggled to stay awake throughout this one. There is a ton of padding, including an interminable game of that silly trampolining battle sport, which serves no purpose at all other than the spectacle of the thing. Apart from that, it was at least quite interesting to see Number Six’s daily routine, including confirmation that he is still playing chess at the old people’s home.
Only one thing saved this episode from being a complete dud, or should I say one person? Derren Nesbitt. I think I might just have a new favourite Number Two. He was such a character, with his outrageous hair (surely a wig?) and the outrageous contrast between his outrageous glasses and outrageous hair. Glasses are a great prop for an actor, and Nesbitt makes liberal use of his, to the extent that the director really had a bad day with this one. The continuity errors screamed out to me on first viewing, but if you didn’t spot them then here’s a fun game to play on repeat viewing: keep your eye on the position of his glasses whenever there’s a scene with Nesbitt’s Number Two. They appear and disappear when the camera shot changes, moving from head to hand in the blink of an eye depending on whether the shot is face on or behind him, and that happens on more than one occasion. But it’s not just the continuity-busting glasses that make Nesbitt such a fun Number Two. He brings an irreverent kind of confidence to the role, and every acting choice he makes is spot on, even down to little details like pushing a button on his control panel with his foot. He makes a great sparring partner with Number Six, and there’s a fascinating contrast between their relationship and that of Number Six and the outgoing Two.
“Tomorrow I hand over to my successor. I retire.”
“Perhaps they’re trying to save themselves a pension.”
There seems to be a lot of chatter on the interweb about Patrick McGoohan losing his rag during the filming of this, and at times Number Six does come across as slightly unhinged, his voice jumping up the octaves when he’s defiantly addressing the Village authorities via the hidden microphones in his house, but that only adds to the character. I still think McGoohan is magnificent in every scene he appears, and this episode is no exception.
So this is really a style-over-substance episode. Michael Cramoy delivered a pretty ropey script in my opinion, but the actors saved the day. For a series like The Prisoner, with everybody slightly on edge about where the next double-cross is coming from, perhaps some behind-the-scenes tensions are a good thing. RP
The view from across the pond:
What I love about It’s Your Funeral is that they hired that guy from Fireball XL5 to be the new #2. It’s the SAME DAMNED GUY! Don’t try to tell me I’m wrong. Look at the photographic evidence!!!
Darren Nesbitt is the new Fireball XL #2. And he’s got a ploy to end all ploys! He’s going to … wow this gets complicated. I don’t think this one is in the Book of Ploys! He’s going to frame #6 to make him look like a crazy person (ok, that’s been done; the old “you’re losing your mind” ploy) but the idea is to make it look like #6 cries wolf about assassination attempts then actually kills the resigning #2 (who is old but can’t be allowed to retire because he has too much dangerous knowledge in his head) then blame the Villagers for committing the act, even though the current #2 knows who is behind it and is letting it happen and then punish them all! The punishment might kill everyone but all #6 knows is that, as much as he hates being captive, he does not want to see a violent revolt. (Which is rather ironic considering what’s coming!) If that isn’t a mouthful, I don’t know what is!
What fascinates me about this story is that, up to a point, it follows a rule of Alfred Hitchcock: it shows us the bomb under the table (so to speak) but we just don’t know when it’s going to go off. And the crazy thing is that we’re trained to think it will go off! But it doesn’t!!!! How weird is this episode? In that way, #6’s victory is almost counterintuitive, because as the audience, we are waiting for the bomb to go off. We want the bad guy, in this case Fireball 2, to get blown up, but not only does he fail in his plan, he fails to even detonate the explosive.
Further interesting things abound. This is the third episode to feature more than one #2. Arrival introduced us to 2 of them, as did Free for All when the outvoted one was replaced by Tick-tick girl. Now we see another incoming and outgoing #2. But wait, there’s more! In the footage #2 uses to prove to #6 that he’s a “wolf crier”, we see a number of other #2s that we’ve never seen on screen before. One suspects this episode takes place after #6 has been in the Village for a while!
Let’s talk about the watchmaker. He says he hasn’t met anyone in the Village who has committed a crime. Yet he’s planning an assassination. Seems a bit excessive. And one has to wonder about the efficacy of the bomb if #6 is willing to stand so close to the new #2 while the old one escapes. Did he think the explosion would just kill the bomb-wearer? Or does he assume that even the outgoing #2 will appreciate the significance he’s played and not press the button? Had the old #2 decided to, he could have blown up at least a few of his would-be hunters. It’s a crazy risk for #6 to take. But it’s a wonderful one since we get to thwart the plans of the Fireball.
Speaking of inconsistencies, the computer seems to be able to see the future which makes the computer in The General seem obsolete. How could it possibly predict #6 would buy an old woman her sweets? If this computer is so damned good, how did it not see what was coming? What about that knockout drug that they can time to within minutes? Seems like they have a lot of tech in this story that makes those in charge invincible, and yet they lose! The knockout drug does give #2 a chance to prove that #6 does look after damsels in distress but that’s not a victory for them; we all knew it. And with all the caution #6 takes, does he really fail to notice that his watch was replaced during that awesome game of Koshi? And what about the watchmaker? Doesn’t he notice the watch isn’t real? Or did the Village just happen to have a replica around. (Take careful note, in the next episode, he wears an entirely different style of watch! Must have learned a lesson!) Oh and on the subject of attire, those XL glasses, huh?! He has the affectation of putting them on and removing them down to a science. I comment on them every time I’ve seen this episode and always forget they have a microphone built in. But how does no one notice he’s talking to himself when he uses them? And for the love of Rover, what is Plan Division Q?!
So many questions, so few answers. But as we all know, questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… The Prisoner: A Change of Mind
It’s an interesting point in retrospect of many such examples, particularly in SF, when a bomb is set to go off which spikes up our excitement and then doesn’t go off for whatever reason. On occasion, for the tradition of the heroes like Dr. Who in The Power Of Kroll and Terminus, we know he’ll find a way to make sure that this will be one explosion that won’t happen. Because of the unconventional nature of The Prisoner as a series, our astonishment at a bomb that’s expected to go off but doesn’t can indeed be even more profound. Because if we’re not intended to expect such a surprise, it’s an admirable testament to how brave The Prisoner was in turning television upside down.
Thank you, ML.
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Episodes that are heavy on exposition and consequently boring, unless you can still find a place in your heart for one or two for whatever reason, may still be worthy of our words on the Junkyard. It reminds me of a lot of TV episodes and films I grew up with that can now make wonder why I bothered to see them to begin with. But not with regret. They may in all fairness have had something I needed to learn as a TV or movie viewer at the time. In regards to such a story being the center of something important like an assassination plot or the potential for a violent revolt, it’s at least something that Micheal Cramoy felt was an opportunity worth exploring in The Prisoner.
Actually it just reminds me of how this episode’s title was quoted by Peter Falk at the end of McGoohan’s last guest stint as the murderer in Columbo. That may say a lot.
Thank you, RP.
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