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Always wondered why Number 6 didn't resort to violence

I'm always surprised why 6 "played along" so much and continued with futile escape attempts.

Presumably he's a secret agent of sorts, why not resort to sabotage or violence? At best he's a permanent prisoner, why not torch a building or hold #2 hostage? Presumably #2 is a person of actual importance and he might gain some kind of concession.


I think partly because McGoohan envisioned Number Six as an intelligent, focused, determined man who preferred to avoid violence whenever possible, even in his Secret Agent days. There he reflects McGoohan's own strongly held beliefs.

But even more to the point, Number Six could see that violence wouldn't secure him much of anything in the Village, other than severe punishment—perhaps resulting in permanent physical or brain damage—or else outright death. He realized that early on.

The real battle was one of intelligence & perseverance, as demonstrated with the "Hammer Into Anvil" episode—he takes the measure of the latest Number Two & systematically, ruthlessly destroys him by psychological means. And there's also probably a certain amount of grim satisfaction in using the Village's own methods of psychological manipulation against it.

In the real world, where one might well feel a prisoner (one of the primary themes of the series), the use of violence always ends badly for the individual. What matters is maintaining one's own individuality & authenticity—as Camus put it, in the midst of winter, finding inside of yourself an invincible summer. McGoohan, of course, would have been quite familiar with Camus, existentialism, and the philosophical emphasis on personal authenticity during the late 1950s through the early 1970s.


Yeah, brain damage would be a problem. They might just lobotomize him. That would be worse than execution, I would think.


He had seen it happen to others in the Village, including people had had known from his previous life, after all. And he had no way of knowing that the Village wanted him as a convert, or that there were orders against any permanent damage. So he had to walk a very fine line.

After all these decades, it's still the most intelligent, thought-provoking TV series ever made, to my mind.


It was an incredible show. I can't imagine the remake (with Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen) could have lived up to the original, although I am curious... Have you seen it, by any chance?

My only two problems with the show are, first, that I do wonder sometimes if they were being deliberately elusive with no real answers. I don't think that's the case. But every now and then it would be so strange that I'd think, "Oh, come off it, that's not symbolism, you're just making that up!" Only for brief moments, mind you.

Second, I thought the "powers that be" were a little too omniscient. I like it best when I feel like the hero *can* escape, but isn't. In The Prisoner, it doesn't matter what he does, the little munchikins in charge of the Village just whip out the, "Oh, we had a device..." thing, and it's a bit like that playground chum always going, "Nuh-uh, you didn't hit me, I have a force shield!"

Still, those are minor distractions and they weren't omnipresent or anything. Just once in awhile they'd irritate me a bit. But since it was more philosophical than literal, they weren't deal-breakers.

Certain episodes of other shows reach The Prisoner's high-water mark for thought-provoking, but it's rare to find one that is consistently this thought-provoking the whole way through. Like, for instance, Midnight or Dalek from Doctor Who are brilliant and boggle the mind, but that show has plenty of duds, too.


The remake isn't bad if taken as a completely different series, dealing with more Philip K. Dick-type scenarios than anything else. But as a sequel/reboot of The Prisoner, it fails miserably if you ask me. They should have eliminated any connection to McGoohan's classic & let their story stand on its own ... though perhaps it would never have been greenlighted in the first place, would it?

I agree that not every episode was as good as the best ones, which were brilliant. But even the ones that were more filler at least had an interesting idea or two in them, even so. If McGoohan had gotten his wish, there would have been fewer episodes to begin with, as you know. Still, if that had been the case, we might not have gotten the wonderful Surreal, Theater of the Absurd final episode, made all the powerful by having to completed in a couple of days & causing the creative team to dig deep for an ending that worked on a visceral, dreamlike, depths-of-the-Unconscious-spilling-out-in-a-flood way. To me, that final episode is TV's finest hour.


Oh the last couple episodes are the weirdest and possibly the best.

I'm remembering this right, I think, that the penultimate show was Number 6 v. Number 2 in that loopy, psychological cat-and-mouse trip, yes? Or was there one episode between that and the finale?

Either way...yes. The final episode was bonkers, gangbusters, and pretty much perfect. I love that the show, more-or-less frees the Prisoner. The ending could really only be freedom, death, or No.6 broken and falling in line. I'm glad they gave him the win there. It kinda made up for that "omniscient/omnipotent bad guy" thing I was talking about. And yet, if you're a fan of the twisty-logic, you can still imagine that Number 6's freedom is just another illusion or trap. (Maybe it is, since the Village is a commentary on Society, maybe you can't escape this stuff in the outside world, since that's just a macrocosm, anyway).

And "Dem Bones" will never be the same again (in the best way).


Alexis Kanner was just so wonderful in that scene! :)

"And hear the word of the Lord." (tinkles bell)


So, so wonderful, yes!


A more simple explanation might be that the type of espionage symbolized by number 6 wasn't the kind of modern, silenced-pistols, martial arts and special forces combat training, but the suave, stealing of secrets by deception kind of espionage.

Part of the argument against serious harm occurring to Number Six is that if they wanted to harm him, they already would have. They wanted information from him and assumed that by containing him in a "pleasant" prison they could lull and deceive him into revealing his secrets. If they were willing to work that hard, what he knows is valuable enough to not kill him.

Mostly I think this show is kind of a dive into surrealism and psychology vs. a literal prison representing a means of extracting information from intelligence agents. Number Six's status as a secret agent and the secrets he holds mean more as metaphors than their literal meaning, along with the Village and his captors.


No argument there, I agree. The surrealism & psychological aspects of the show are what make it so darkly poetic, enduring, and timeless. It's about nothing less than the often embattled & precarious state of each one of us in this modern world, and all the more relevant today, when people willingly outsource their humanity to devices, and eagerly seek to become "brands" & commodities rather than fully realized individual human beings.


For one thing a lot of people thought this show should be banned because it was very violent. They wanted it taken off the air. It is nothing compared to today, but the them of the show really got to a lot of people at the time. I have to say, I used to watch this show, but I did not like it, it was usually the only thing on when I did.


I always assumed that if Number 6 resisted too much he'd be killed, so he kind of played along and gave only non-violent resistance.