Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): The Prisoner: A Conversation with Christopher Yohn

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Prisoner: A Conversation with Christopher Yohn


Now begins the final stretch of my Prisoner series, which I have really been looking forward to. With the viewing diary completed, I am initiating a series of discussions with some of the veteran viewers who have been following along. I will also be reading about The Prisoner, watching ancillary materials, listening to podcasts, and doing all the activities I avoided during my watch-through so as to preserve the freshness of the experience. However, this conversation with Christopher Yohn, was conducted a few hours after watching and reviewing the finale for the first time. So at this point I still didn't have much context for anything, and was looking for...information.

Chris was happy to oblige, providing not only a wider context but his own personal perspective, as well as (drumroll, please...) the explanation for his viewing order, which I have used for the series. That said, we left a lot of stuff off the table for now, because we're planning a second discussion in about a month, to conclude this series once and for all. Until then, there was plenty for us to discuss, and for me to learn. We spoke via chat and I mostly left the conversation formatted as it was to indicate pauses and groups of thoughts. Thanks to Chris for offering a huge hand with the editing of the text. Now, without further ado, starting with the most important question of all...

ME: First, please tell me...what are the biggest things that I completely missed?!

CHRIS: Well, I've read each of your diary entries probably 2-3 times each, and as best as I can recall I don't think you missed anything major.
There are so many small details put into this show, that it usually takes a few viewings to catch everything anyway.
And beyond that so much of it is open to interpretation.
For a first viewing, I think you did remarkably well.

Was there anything about Fall Out you wanted to address that wasn't covered - or was interpreted differently - in my write-up?
(I should say one thing, or rather two things, I stumbled across when looking up cast info, and didn't include because I didn't observe them myself: the number of Six's London door reads, as it apparently always has, "1" and the door opens automatically for the Butler, hammering home the idea that they're still, conceptually at least, in the Village.)

First, I'm glad you did some quick research on Dem Bones.
I think symbolically it says a lot about both the Youthful Rebel trying to put himself together in the face of the Powers That Be, as well as the idea of The Village's possible goals in assembling a new world. And also the idea of Individuals trying to muster the "numbers" and strength to resist corrupt authority.

Second, I was thrilled that you referenced the monkey chasing the weasel during the Six's chase around the map table with Number One.
The use of that children's song goes back as far as Arrival and is great to have that possible reference there.
So glad you caught it!

Really, I don't think you missed anything important in Fall Out. So much is symbolic, that a lot is left to one's own personal interpretation. You covered all the major story beats.
For a first watch of the entire series I think you caught a lot of details that many people might not. Of course, it helps that you are already in the practice of looking for and recognizing details and themes in film.

The number 1 on his door in London can be seen I think briefly in Many Happy Returns, but I think it cuts away before we see it in the opening of each episode.

Thanks, but I think that's mostly subconscious. I had some vague recollection of Pop Going the Weasel being somewhere in the show, but couldn't remember where.

There was also another Pop Goes The Weasel reference in Once Upon A Time with the singing of the song, then the "POP. Protect. Protect Other People..." exchange.
And there is an unused end credits sequence that was discovered that used the "POP" motif as an explosion of the Earth evolved out of the Pennyfarthing bicycle graphic. The bicycle turns into an image of the Earth as small wheel and the universe as large wheel. The Earth enlarges to fill the screen, then a red flash and the words POP!

Ah, interesting. I would love to know more about the Pennyfarthing motif, if there's more to know. Maybe it should be saved for later discussion, but to start with is there any one or two facts or interpretations about it that are good to know right off the bat?

McGoohan has said that it is a symbol of progress, that we are progressing technologically too fast to be able to keep up and that there is a risk of doing ourselves in if we are not careful.
We should understand our advances rather than be led by them to our possible destruction. Some of this is in reference to fears of "The Bomb" during the Cold War--when this was created obviously--but technology in general should be at the service of people rather than the other way around. And that potential for destruction is symbolized literally in the unused credit animation.
That is certainly one of the recurring themes of the series: Man versus technology.

VIEWING ORDER

I would love to hear your rationale for the viewing order. I have to say it worked pretty well for me. What factors contributed to its assembly, and in what ways does it differ from other popular lineups?

My order has gone through several revisions over the years.
When I first saw the show in the mid-1990s--on VHS shared by a friend--the episodes were in the UK broadcast order. That is the order normally available since it was first released on home video in the late 1980s. At that time my friends and I knew nothing about order debates, but even then we could tell that some episodes felt like they could be moved around.

I didn't have my own copies of the episodes until they were released on DVD around 2000. In the US A&E Home Video used a fan club order for the arrangement of the episodes across five separate two-disc sets.
While this order was certainly an improvement over the broadcast sequence, there were still a few odd and obvious problems. In particular, A. B. and C., The General, and The Schizoid Man all have references that suggest they be in the opposite order. In Schizoid there is a conversation in which Number Two is confused by Six's comments about reporting to "the general." This may suggest that Two is actually talking about the supercomputer rather than an officer, so it makes sense that this should take place before Six and the audience learn what The General really is. The obvious reference in A. B. and C. is that Colin Gordon's Number Two says "I am Number Two" in the intro sequence instead of the usual "I am the NEW Number Two." So that suggests that this should take place after The General instead of before it. I also think it makes more sense that Gordon be stressed out after losing such an important asset in The General.

That aspect (Gordon being stressed out) really worked for me. Hard to imagine it the other way around.

The other major frustration with A&E's use of the fan club order was that while most episodes received thoughtful placement, despite some of the flaws I just mentioned, the final five episodes were just left as they were in the broadcast order, maybe because they were too weird or too much trouble to do anything else with. I don't mean Once Upon A Time and Fall Out, obviously they belong at the end, but Do Not Forsake Me..., Living In Harmony, and The Girl Who Was Death. In my opinion they should be broken up a bit, if for no other reason than to spread out three non-village episodes in a row. That's one of the reasons I like Hammer Into Anvil near the end. It isn't a very deep episode thematically, but we get to see Six roam all over the Village one last time before the end.

Ok, I see. That's one area where I might have been ok with the A&E order as I kind of liked those episodes building toward the finale. That said, I also like them building out of previous high-concept ones like The Schizoid Man or Many Happy Returns. So I guess it's kind of a toss-up (unless one placed Hammer into Anvil way at the beginning).

One of my reasons for placing Hammer so late is that after he learns about the activities of Jammers in Funeral, he basically destroys Cargill’s Number Two by using the Village’s methods of surveillance against them. So, I think that might be out of place too much earlier.

I finally reached a point where I decided to start from scratch and create an order based solely on what is in the episodes themselves and ignore the A&E set and about a half dozen other orders I found online.
My desire to rearrange them came from my need to organize or understand a story better, to see if I could even find a way to do that for myself first, and then to figure out a more effective order for introducing friends to it.
With so much pop culture and media available to people now, many may not watch a TV series or film more than once, so I wanted to create the best experience I could--kind of like a mix-tape (or playlist) of music.
And like a good mix-tape it should have a well-considered flow and take the listener (or viewer) on a journey of ideas or feelings or whatever.
After you have your audience hooked, then they might want to revisit it (and maybe even come up with their own orders).
But where to begin?

I look at the way they told the stories, what choices they made creatively—the dialogue, performances, music, production design, visuals, editing, etc.
And as a viewer, what actually comes across? What themes or messages? Are they exciting, thought-provoking, critical, funny, etc.?
As scholarly or nerdy as that may sound, I also think the show means a lot of different things beyond just being some technical exercise.
I just tried to separate what I think they intended to create from what their creation causes me to think about beyond that.

Regardless of their original intentions, we only really have the episodes as they were completed and presented, the good ones and the lesser.
Not every viewer is going to go on to read twelve books about it and go to every fan blog and website to puzzle it all out.
And not everyone who watches the show will have a Prisoner "expert" sitting next to them as they watch it.
So I felt that I had to go with the final product as-is, flaws and contradictions and all, and make the best of it.
My approach was to examine story details and try to re-assemble it like a logic puzzle (which it was never intended to be), but when all else failed try to honor the overall spirit of the thing.

In the end I based my order on these elements of the episodes:
- The severity of The Village’s methods in attempting to seduce, coerce, manipulate, or break Six.
- Six’s degree of knowledge of The Village and his changing temperament the longer he is there.
- Behavior of the general community toward Six and his toward them.
- Six’s attempts to escape versus “settling down” and trying to beat The Village from within.
- Six’s victories versus The Village’s.
- References to time and dates, and recurring plot points and details (although this is where the contradictions and inconsistencies occur).

So my order basically evolved with a few minor shifts every few years and ended up in the form I shared with you. So in some way it was a bit of an experiment to see how/if it works. I don’t think it’s perfect—no order can be with this series. There are so many little details that will always contradict no matter what order in which they are watched, but that's also part of the fun of it. It is very interactive in that way--in a way most television is not. How many other programs allow for the viewer to create their own story?

Which details even in this viewing order seem contradictory to you?

The ones that have the most problems in my sequence coincidentally enough are Schizoid, ABC, The General, and Many Happy Returns.

I think this group works well to round out the first half of the series.
An escalation of methods in Schizoid, ABC, and Returns without being too invasive or physically threatening yet.
Six has settled down a bit and regrouped after previous setbacks and does not attempt to escape except when an opportunity presents itself (Schizoid and Returns).
In The General he isn’t even really the focus of Two’s plans or attention until he starts investigating the Professor and The General at the initial prompting of Number Twelve.
And Six starts to have some minor victories culminating in an actual “escape” back to London, however short-lived.
For me Many Happy Returns is the ideal mid-way point for the series.
Even after getting out and actually making it back to people he thinks he can trust he ends up back in The Village.
From this point forward he does not attempt to escape again until the end, even when opportunities present themselves.
And from that point forward the Village methods against him become more insidious, strange, and extreme.

However, this group, as much as I like it in this section of the series, has a lot of logic problems.
Why would Six be so chummy with and trusting of someone (Allison) right after the recent betrayal by Nadia in Chimes (in my sequence)?
In The General, Number Twelve claims to have been around a long time, but in Schizoid Six is meant to think he himself is a different Number Twelve.
These are just the kinds of things I had to let slide.

One could also argue for Schizoid to be placed right before Many Happy Returns and to move General/ABC later because the timeframe doesn't leave much room for those two episodes.
Schizoid starts on Feb. 10 according to Six's kitchen calendar, takes at least long enough for him to grow a mustache and beard and be brainwashed and conditioned (which could be explained away, knowing the Village’s advanced capabilities), but must be long enough for the bruise under Six’s nail to grow out (a couple weeks at least, right? Then again, if nails grow like hair and the hair and beard growth were accelerated...) The timeframe of Many Happy Returns puts Six at sea and traveling to London at least 18 to 25 days, puts him back in London the day before his birthday, and back in the Village on his birthday, March 19.
Even if we just say that Returns starts around March 1, that still leaves us with only three weeks in February for the events of Schizoid, General, and ABC combined. With The General seeming to take place over the course of about a week(?) and A. B. and C. taking place over three nights, that leaves only about a week and a half for The Schizoid Man.
I think it’s not really enough time, but again for the sake of the story I just went with it, because I think the idea of letting him leave The Village in Returns right after being prevented from leaving at the end of Schizoid makes less sense.

And that's just one set of episodes...

It becomes a question, in some cases, of plot logic vs. narrative momentum or thematic development.

Right--I went with thematic development over the little details that weren't planned to fit together anyway and most people won’t catch on their first viewing.

HISTORY OF THE PRISONER

To step back and look at the bigger picture...

That's the real trick isn't it?!

What are some of the basic things you think viewers should know about the show, that they won't just get from watching it? Context of its making, reception, presentation, etc.
For someone (like me, at present, although that will change in a matter of hours or days!) who hasn't read much of anything about it, really doesn't know too much about what's presented except for little details gleaned here & there from comments or info stumbled upon, etc.

I think one of the things for viewers to keep in mind is the time in which the show was made--especially since the show has not aged too badly. It helps that it was shot on 35mm color film. And at the time, most homes still did not even have a color television. They were very forward-thinking in producing this show.

A fun bit of trivia about the times in which The Prisoner was made--while shooting the show at MGM studios in Borehamwood they were working in studios next to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Most of the basic info about the genesis of The Prisoner has been summarized on Wikipedia, fan sites, IMDB, etc.
The main story has always focused on Patrick McGoohan.
He was a pretty successful stage actor, did some film work, and was eventually asked to play James Bond in Dr. No. He turned it down due to his objections about the character of Bond, then he did a long run as agent John Drake on Danger Man (Secret Agent in the US). Drake was originally meant to be sort of like a Bond character, but McGoohan got them to change the character more to his liking. The show was very successful and ran for several years. McGoohan was at the time the highest paid television actor in the UK. He eventually tired of the show, feeling that they were repeating themselves and it was maybe time for something else. Upon quitting, the head of the production company asked him if he had any ideas for another show. He pitched The Prisoner.
Many of the crew of Danger Man continued working by following them to The Prisoner.

What does "more to his liking" mean in the context of Danger Man/Secret Agent?

Patrick had some personal objections to both Bond and the original Drake characters being needlessly violent, overly sexual, basically brutes who bed a different woman every chance they got. Sensational wish-fulfillment-type characters for adolescents.
He saw television at the time as a guest in people's homes. So he felt that viewers shouldn't be subjected to gratuitous sex or violence.
He wanted Drake to use his wits to get out of a jam rather than a hail of bullets every time.
Though he obviously could be a very physical actor, he seemed much more interested in brains over bullets. (I originally said “fists” here, but in fact he’s thrown a LOT of punches between the two series!)

Out of curiosity have you watched all/most/any of Danger Man & do you have a perspective on that relating to Prisoner?

I've seen some, but not all of Danger Man.
I finally got the complete series last year. Before that I only had a few of the older DVD sets.
I've watched some of the episodes that often are referred to by Prisoner fans, and some others including the only ones in color--the two final episodes, which oddly enough I think were aired for a week or two during The Prisoner's run after Girl aired and before Once Upon A Time and Fall Out were aired.
I think they did that because they were behind in production of the finale.
So, you know, that certainly doesn't lead to any more confusion about the "Is Six actually John Drake" debate.
In my opinion Six is not Drake, but it does add to the fun in a meta sort of way.
I think they have more differences than similarities, but I find it interesting from the perspective of McGoohan's career and mindset in creating The Prisoner.

Who were the other people involved in The Prisoner's creation, and what is the controversy surrounding them? I think I've heard whispers about tension between McGoohan and David Tomblin, if not someone else.

The main players in the creation of The Prisoner were Patrick McGoohan and his production partner David Tomblin. In the early 1960s they formed a production company called Everyman Films. While Patrick was working on Danger Man throughout the 60s they tried to find projects for the company, one of the recurring hopefuls being a film version of the Ibsen play "Brand", a stage and televised performance for which McGoohan had received much praise. Even after The Prisoner ended they tried for a while to produce that one, but eventually could not secure the funds and dissolved the company. The Prisoner became Everyman's first project.

And last?

Yeah, I think The Prisoner was the last--I'd have to look into that, but I think so.

Patrick and David didn't really have problems that I'm aware of beyond typical issues during any production. They seemed to complement each other well, and as you've probably read Tomblin went on to be involved with some of the biggest films of the last 40+ years.

The whispers you may be referring to are about the script editor George Markstein.
And as behind-the-scenes debates go, Markstein is at the center of the biggest: Who created The Prisoner? Whose idea was it?

There are a few subjects that became big debates for fans of the show. Most of this is due to many conflicting accounts from the people involved.
- Who came up with the idea?
- How many episodes were planned? Was the show canceled or did it run out of steam?
- What is the correct order for the episodes? IS there a correct order?
- Who is Number Six? Who is Number One?
- What's it all about?

As far as the questions related to the content of the episodes, that's basically all up for debate by design.
There were no specific puzzle piece answers intended. If something wasn't specifically answered in an episode, then it is probably something left for the viewer’s own interpretation. The Prisoner was meant to provoke thought and debate.

Regarding who came up with the idea, my own opinion is that it was a combination of McGoohan and Markstein.
Over the years they both claimed credit.
Markstein had the knowledge and research into British Intelligence.
McGoohan had a lifelong interest in the struggle of the individual against authority, society, technology, etc.
The idea of a place where agents reside in security after retirement seems to have come from Markstein's research and the more dramatic and allegorical elements from McGoohan.
It's not exactly the same, but I relate it a little to the Lynch/Frost relationship on Twin Peaks.
Markstein was research and structure, and McGoohan was the driving force and directed the spirit of the show.

And this is what eventually led to the tension. Markstein thought of himself as "story editor" not just script editor. He was responsible for finding and guiding the writers through most of the first 13 episodes--the first production run. But he thought of the show as an adventure/thriller and was not really interested in the symbolic or allegorical. He also saw it as an extension of Danger Man. Eventually he and McGoohan could not see eye to eye and he left, as McGoohan was clearly the dominant force of the production.

For McGoohan, Number Six was not Drake, and I've read that initially they thought someone else would play Six. Set in the familiar framework of the spy genre, the goals of the show were something bigger than a continuation of Danger Man or just another hip spy show alongside The Avengers, Man In A Suitcase, etc. Shows McGoohan saw as maybe more disposable entertainment, something he wanted to move beyond.
His Prisoner was about getting out a lot of ideas that he'd been carrying for a long time, that only now with his popularity and clout he would be able to do without interference from anyone (mostly).
His biggest challenges were time and money and probably a lack of a really clear plan.
He knew what he wanted to say, but by also working like a standard mystery/adventure show, he had to balance the literal and symbolic. I think they mostly succeeded, but he felt he failed to really break out of that genre's mold. But I think any failures are part of what makes the show work and what has made it endure in pop culture.
They tried for more than they could easily achieve, and despite the show's missteps, they achieved more than most programs ever have.
This was McGoohan's show, but Markstein helped the writers build a strong structure for McGoohan to express his specific vision.

That's pretty interesting - for some reason I thought they would be contesting over who came up with the "big ideas" - didn't realize there were two very different visions at work.
Which episodes are more Markstein, and at what point did he leave?

The only episode Markstein co-wrote was Arrival with David Tomblin after they and McGoohan worked out the premise, show bible, etc.
He served as script editor for the first 13-episode production block which is everything except Darling, Harmony, Girl, and Fall Out. Those four were from the second production schedule. And as you already know Patrick was not there for Darling except the end, and only there for about half of the filming of Girl, much of which was shot with his double.

As far as which episodes were "more" Markstein, I think it was more about his guiding influence with the writers of those 13, except the ones McGoohan wrote. But it is probably safe to say that the episodes that felt more like spycraft and less like Wonderland were more to his liking. In the end McGoohan influenced so much of what those scripts became through production that his touches are in all of them. McGoohan was also writing, re-writing, directing, and editing. Markstein seemed to be a very good script editor and kept the writers on track, at least for as much as any of them understood what they were writing for. The writers themselves had a lot of freedom to write the stories they wanted. Again, Markstein found good people to write for the show and seemed to just let them get on with it with little interference. He was a strong advocate for the writers.

In production order, Markstein left after Many Happy Returns, also coincidentally the episode in which he reprises his role as the man behind the desk whom Six sees at his old office.

How many episodes?
7, 13, 26, 30 or more?
How did they arrive at 17?
There are various versions of why they ended up with only 17 episodes.
McGoohan has said that he only wanted a short focused run of 7 episodes.
His financier, Lew Grade of ITC and ATV, insisted that he needed more episodes in order to sell the series, especially overseas in North America. He wanted McGoohan to produce something closer to 26--two production runs of 13, which seems to be a standard back then.
Some tales end with Grade and McGoohan agreeing on 17 at the outset of production, and others that the 26 plan was started but abandoned when they ran out of money and ideas to extend the concept for that many episodes.
And 17 was also the number used by CBS in the US for their summer replacement schedule.
McGoohan already felt that 13-17 was stretching it thin, and that only 7 were essential.
It has been written several places about what these 7 should be, but none that I’ve seen have been confirmed by McGoohan himself.

Another bit of production trivia: After Pat shot Ice Station Zebra in the US during the production hiatus and the filming of Darling, he used his payment to put money back into production to help fund the remaining episodes of The Prisoner.
As far as the reception to the show, from what I have read it seems that it did fine but not great, leading some to think the show was cut short due to cancellation rather than the production winding down due to internal decisions.
It may have been more successful with some critics and viewers, but was not as well-received by audiences who loved him as Drake and wanted more of the same.
It did benefit over the years from several re-airings in the UK and North America. And due to its unusual nature it certainly stuck in people's minds fr years, achieving cult status.

PERSONAL OUTLOOK

What is your reading of the show and its point of view, based either on your own interpretations or McGoohan's (or others') statements about it?

My outlook on the show...
yeah, still tough.
It is challenging and frivolous.
Existentialism and fisticuffs.
And when do we talk about the guardian, Rover?

As a twenty-something seeing the show for the first time, I was already someone who questioned a lot of things we are supposed to just accept in life.
That makes life difficult at times.
And you cannot rebel and reject all the time.
Who has the energy?
That's the way of Number Forty-Eight.

Now being around the same age as Patrick when he made The Prisoner, I think I understand a lot more of what he saw in the world and was trying to say about Rebellion and Individuality, and part of that is understanding that you cannot rage against every machine all the time--you'd explode, implode, disintegrate...or worse, be crushed by outside forces.

I think my own personal view of the show has changed over the years and with every new viewing.
I think there is so much to enjoy and also examine.
I love that it is a TV show with something to say, and that it finds a way to say it with every aspect of production: the scripts of course, the design, the music, cinematography.
Everything is done with care by very talented people.
Pat and David wanted feature film quality and for the most part they got it--as they say about the large budget, you see it all on the screen.
As a creative person, that is one of the things that impressed me from my very first viewing.

One of the things I think people tend not to write about is the humor.
I know this is a heavy and symbolic program at times, and I love deep symbolic stuff, but it is very funny, very witty. There is a lot of very clever and quotable dialogue.
And McGoohan's and many of the Number Two's performances are just so good, weird, funny, and compelling.

This really is my favorite show.
I love that it can make viewers think about so many things, not just about individuality or society or living in a surveillance state, but it makes me think about story and creativity and expressing strong ideas. Abstract ideas. Telling an exciting, witty, compelling story, and at the same time examining very real, very human struggles.
And the themes of the Prisoner are just as relevant today as ever.

It may be an adventure/mystery/sci-fi thriller, and in that it succeeds even if it is at times strange and surreal (which I also really enjoy).
But it does give the viewer an opportunity to consider the nature of freedom, individuality, identity, privacy, patriotism, morality, community, technology, and society.
I like a lot of television and films, but this is unlike most of what I've seen in my life.
The Prisoner may be my favorite show, but I don't know if it's the best.
I am terrible at trying to pick favorites of anything.
For me The Prisoner and Twin Peaks are worth 20 Breaking Bads, and I love Breaking Bad.

What's your favorite episode(s), and why?

As far as episodes are concerned, I tried to think about this during my recent refresher re-watch.
If we just agree up front that I cannot have a single favorite, maybe I can say that my favorite today is Dance Of The Dead. Or Free For All. Or...
I think for those episodes along with several others, what makes them great in my opinion is when they achieve a good balance of the theme and execution. Dance Of The Dead apparently had issues during production and was all over the place story-wise, but in the end a good edit finally wrangled it into something special.
I think the earlier scripts are stronger, but all of them have something good or clever or profound.

What are your least favorites, and why?

I think it's easy to pick on the troubled episodes of the later production.
Darling barely has McGoohan in it, and it has some plot details that make it harder to reconcile with other episodes, but I think there is something very melancholy and sweet and troubling about that episode.
The Girl Who Was Death is a silly diversion, but not the worst. I think it's fun, and potentially very telling about the series overall. It also pokes fun at the very genre McGoohan was trying to get away from by creating The Prisoner.
I guess maybe my least favorite today would be either It's Your Funeral or A Change Of Mind, if only because I think they could have been better. It's Your Funeral was another production nightmare. And both have concepts that seem to lack the stronger execution of the earlier filmed episodes. Their endings were maybe a bit cheaper than others.

I don't know if a show like this could be made now.
I don't know that a production company would give a creator so much freedom to make something as they see fit--or enough rope to hang themselves. (Maybe we’ll find out with Twin Peaks Season 3?)

Specifically as to Fall Out, one thing I forgot to explore in my review, but considered while watching, is the extent to which Six may actually be "wrong" and we may be prompted to question him rather than simply accepting him as a sympathetic audience surrogate. "Checkmate" in particular seemed to hint in this direction - that maybe he's too stubborn, so individual that at times he falls into a trap of perpetuating what he tries to stop (either by being unable to reach out to other villagers, or unwittingly achieving the authorities' desires because they can predict his behavior). It's especially notable in Fall Out because they invite him to be their leader on the basis of his unique individuality. Or do you think Six is more face-value than that, more unambiguously a hero?

I think Six is a hero because he does not give up. He does not give in.
He may be fighting an impossible battle.
He also illustrates the futility of rejecting and resisting everything.
In his mind he is still fighting for his freedom and individuality, he always questions, he always resists.
It isn't a model for living life.
But maybe it is something we should never forget about.
We exist in society, in a community.
In order for civilization to survive we must play our parts.
(I’m sounding like Number Two!)
But McGoohan would say that we shouldn't do so blindly following our "leaders" or ad companies or gadgetry. Or the cult of celebrity.

He has said that in the end it IS a failure, Six and the others resort to violence to break free, the "regrettable bullet".
But some times call for revolution.
And the wicked in power will not give up that power willingly.

I do have several thoughts about Fall Out, and even had more new ideas during this recent re-watch.
And that is the beauty of this ending(?), kind of like the (former) finale of Twin Peaks.
A lot of things happen. A lot of strange things.
And they can mean a lot of different things to different viewers.
And that is the point.

Taken literally, maybe following Six is not in the best interest of other Villagers.
He does tend to get other people in trouble and even killed in a few instances.
But being the so-called hero doesn't necessarily mean that he wins in the end.
In the case of Six, to me it means that his spirit and integrity are inspiring, though his goals may not be possible for him, or for any of us.
He's not quite tilting at windmills--his demons are all too real for all of us--but despite his failures he remains himself.

Previous week: "Fall Out"

Originally I had many more entries planned. However, this weekly series came to an abrupt and long-lasting pause following this post. In July I returned with one more conversation, with one concluding post to follow.

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