The Prisoner episode 3 review: Anvil

Things get better in the world of the new take on The Prisoner...

3. Anvil

The Prisoner continues to improve with the third episode, Anvil. Apparently, Six (Jim Caviezel) has quit the bus driving position he held in the previous installment; he’s given a new job in surveillance. His mentor is 909 (Vincent Regan), Two’s long serving lieutenant.

Six and 909 clamber on rooftops looking for ‘dreamers’, people who recall fragments of their lives before they came to the Village. When love interest 313 (Ruth Wilson) is suspected of being a dreamer, Six has to act to help her. But 313 isn’t the only one under threat. Six is also being monitored, and even 909 is not beyond reproof.

As the Village’s video observation techniques are unveiled, writer Bill Gallagher has lots of opportunities to reference 1984, Philip K. Dick-style paranoia and the ‘nanny state’ fears of our society. “Let’s keep an eye on him,” Two says of his son 11-12 (Jamie Campbell-Bower), “for his own sake.”

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Part of Six’s job is to teach surveillance at a school. The kids get spy toys as birthday presents and report on any anomalies in the behavior of their parents. Six decides to use these little Hitler youth wannabes to investigate his captors.

Things do not go as planned, particularly when Six learns that 909 has an illicit relationship with a major character. The desperate Six uses this information to try to force 909 to help him keep 313 safe. But how much does Two already know about the affair?

If you’re expecting Six to be in jeopardy, get into fights or try to defeat Two, you’ll be disappointed. We’re presented with a fairly passive prisoner who is starting to question whether he ever had a life outside the Village.

Nevertheless, this is the episode where Six really starts to fight back within the system instead of just trying to run away. Meanwhile, Two steps up his manipulation of Six and everyone else around him. McKellen and Caviezel obviously enjoy their scenes together, but ultimately they can’t save a story that’s too big for its running time. The ending is rushed, confused and lacks any excitement.

Gallagher needs to go back to school and remind himself how to structure a story. With this series, he exhibits a strange desire to wrap up the main plot every hour, leading to hasty endings like this one.

We’d understand it if the programme makers planned to syndicate the series and show the episodes out of sequence, but this is a self contained six-parter and there’s a subplot that wouldn’t take kindly to being screened in a different order. So why take an unorthodox concept like this one and shoehorn it into a traditional US TV format? Only the Number Twos of ITV and AMC know the answer.

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Read our review of  episode 2 here.