The Prisoner episode 6 review: Checkmate

The Prisoner miniseries ends on a good note, with the final episode, Checkmate...

6. Checkmate

After innumerable puzzles, mysterious characters and quirky goings-on, the final part of The Prisoner wraps everything up with a satisfying climax.

Amazingly, Checkmate justifies the bizarre dream logic, the disappearing people, the holes and the homilies that have appeared throughout the series. Two and his wife have their own representatives in New York, meet up with Six’s alter ego (Michael) there and explain what the hell’s going on.

In the Village, Two gives Six his final ultimatum: conform or die. The obstinate Six falls ill, stricken with the dreaded Village Death. 313 wants to help him, but she’s also trying to deal with increasingly disturbing dreams of her own.

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Two’s son isn’t keen on following in his father’s footsteps, so he decides to put his mum out of her misery and make sure that Two doesn’t get his own way. This forces Two to turn to Six for help, something that was fated to happen all along. By the end of the episode we find out who One is, how the Village was created and what its purpose really is.

To understand these answers we are required to take a leap of belief in an outlandish scientific explanation. If viewers can make that leap then everything falls into place for this six-part arc plot that could easily have been told in two or three hours.

As with earlier episodes, Checkmate works best if you’re familiar with the original show, taking beloved storylines and giving them a corporate or biochemical twist. As the series started, I was motivated to go back to the ‘60s version to remind myself how good it used to be. Checkmate completes its cycle so neatly that such a revisit seems redundant.

This isn’t the kind of franchise-friendly programme that leaves you with a smile on your face, desperate to go out and grab the old DVDs. It’s too bleak for that. In fact, the 2009 series’ pervading fatalism left me feeling seriously bummed.

After all my criticisms that the show lacked excitement or impact, it finally managed to make me feel something, albeit a dark, depressing emotion.

Bill Gallagher has succeeded where many other TV scribes have failed in the past; he’s helped the audience relate to his protagonists, and feel what they feel. Does that make The Prisoner a great viewing experience? No, but it definitely makes it stand out as an oasis of creativity in a desert of dry TV.

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Read our review of episode 5 here.