Everyday Semiotics

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dem bones, dem bones

A short supplement to the last entry:

“The Prisoner” always seemed to me preoccupied also with death. While Foucault provides the critical tools with which to parse the series as it relates to power, I’m at a bit of a loss to decipher the show’s morbid undertones.

Each episode begins with the summary of how No. 6 was whisked away to the Village. He tenders, angrily, his resignation, and later is gassed. The men who anaesthetize No. 6 in his London flat drive a Hearse (with the license plate designation TLH 858 – significance?). When he wakes up, No. 6 quite literally arrived at his “home from home.” He has not been simply relocated, he’s been severed from his life and forced into a new existence.

Across the series, No. 6 makes occasional forays into the world of the living, such as in the “The Chimes of Big Ben” (here it is purely Their illusion) and “Many Happy Returns” (where it is actual but completely contrived and regulated by Them). In “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling,” No. 6's mind is swapped into another body. He is reincarnated, but Death trails close behind him. When at last it seems he really has returned to London, in “Fall Out,” it is both real and an illusion – a synthesis; and yet, he is unquestionably still in the realm of the Village.

It is never revealed which “side” controls the Village; nor is it revealed whether the “sides” in play are the ones they’re implied to be: i.e., the capitalist and communist hemispheres. Other characters who die and are resurrected – Cobb, Dutton, Leo McKern’s No. 2 – seem to switch sides in the process. So: is the Village on the side of life or of death?
‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.”’
(Ezekiel 37)

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