The Prisoner episode 4 review: Darling

Is The Prisoner being written with the long term in mind? Nick still isn't sure...

4. Darling

The fourth episode of The Prisoner could be called ‘Whispers And Mumblings’. Several lines of dialogue are incomprehensible. But this is a visually driven show, with looks and actions telling us as much as words, so it’s still possible to follow the plot.

Throughout the series, we’ve been cutting to scenes in Six’s New York apartment where he’s been getting to know an attractive young woman called Lucy (Hayley Atwell). She knows about his resignation, works for the same company and wants to know why he quit. It’s not clear whether these are true memories or ones that have been tampered with by Two.

In the Village, Six is out of a job again. Like any unemployed slob who spends too much time home alone, he joins a dating agency. The Love Bureau uses Blinkmatch technology, bringing couples together by videotaping their eyes and comparing their reflexive impulses. Six is matched with 4-15, a blind girl who’s the spitting image of Lucy.

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While Six falls for 4-15 and 313 gets jealous, large holes start appearing in Village gardens. Two’s wife is still bedridden, an aging sleeping beauty. Her son wants to know why. He steals the pills that Two always gives her and tries to find out what they’re for. Pigs are distributed to villagers to promote stability; 4-15’s dad is proud to be head of a “two pig family”.

Six knows that 4-15 could distract him from his truth-seeking, but he can’t help himself. He’s head over heels in love. Two hopes that 4-15 will break his heart so that he can find out what makes Six tick, but 313 doesn’t approve.

In Darling, technology tells Six who he should be with. His head dictates his relationships and his heart follows. 313 wants him to have freedom of choice (so he can choose her).

Writer/exec producer Bill Gallagher uses the situation to take a wry look at the way we use computers to find our soulmates. In the Village, there’s no such thing as a perfect match, but it’s the humans who err, not the machines.

This promising (if nihilistic) premise devolves into a group of underdeveloped set pieces that lack emotional punch, because they’re too unlikely or too short. Six inhabits a world where explosions have little impact and love potions can be nixed with a kiss.

This is the least coherent episode so far, which makes us wonder whether this series is being written with the long term in mind. It will take repeated viewings to catch all the nuances and drawled dialogue.

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Is Gallagher assuming that people will examine his show over subsequent decades, as happened with the original series? If so, he needs to add more depth to his storytelling.

Read our review of episode 3 here.