The Prisoner episode 5 review: Schizoid

Nick's impressed with the penultimate episode of the new Prisoner miniseries, which gives Ian McKellan a chance to shine...

5. Schizoid

Ths penultimate episode marks an upsurge in quality for the miniseries. This is mainly because Ian McKellen is given more to do as Two, and we’re given a clearer view of the Other World that Six comes from. Some of the show’s oddities are addressed and there are some rare moments of action and tension and action.

Six runs up to the gates of Two’s palatial home and demands that Two should come out and face him. He meets a double of himself (“2×6”) who wants to assassinate Two. We see two sides of Six – his cunning, analytical half and his dark, violent half. 313 responds to the dark half and they end up in bed together, but before things go too far she sees the original Six peeking through the window. Nosy fellow!

While Six deals with his doppelganger, Two takes a holiday from his responsibilities. He wanders the streets of the Village, disheveled and speaking of things that should not be spoken of: being numberless. Thinking for himself. Smoking cigarettes.

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Two hasn’t quite left his son the keys to the kingdom, but he has left him a key to the medicine cabinet. 11-12 wakes his mother up with a black pill, and they spend the day together. But while mum’s awake, holes appear in the ground. That’s why she must spend so much time drugged and asleep, to keep the holes at bay. 11-12 must decide whether to throw away the key to the cabinet or keep his mum doped for the sake of the greater good.

Schizoid ends with a confrontation between Six and 2×6, with Two’s life threatened. As usual, things are not as they seem, but Two is definitely prepared to risk death to ‘cure’ Six of his wanderlust.

The Prisoner commonly uses episode titles that refer to McGoohan originals, but this one has more to do with its forebear than most. In Shizoid Man, McGoohan’s Six had to deal with a murderous double; here the concept is used as a way to explore Six’s psyche in more ambiguous ways.

Jim Caviezel has the chance to play a stoic killer, and Ian McKellen is able to show a more human, vulnerable side. The supporting characters also have more to do, and David Butler gives a wonderfully credible performance in two roles – 37927, the Village shopkeeper, and The Access Man in Summakor HQ, New York.

By reining in the weird, hallucinatory shots that have muddled past segments, director Nick Hurran delivers a more straightforward slice of TV, and it’s all the better for it.

I never thought I’d be thankful for a show that adheres to traditional formulae, but with so much going on, The Prisoner needs this stability. It achieves this by going back to its roots and learning from a genuine classic.

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Read our review of episode 4 here.