THE UNMUTUAL PRISONER ARTICLE ARCHIVE
"IMPRESSIONS OF FREE FOR ALL", By Steve Yarde
'Free For All' is an intriguing episode. There is much allegory and a parallel appears to be drawn with the election process in England in the 1960s.
The dialogue at The Town Hall as the Prisoner questions the Village Council, is excellent. To my mind it is some of the best in the entire series. His outrage at what is seemingly a brainwashed council, is extremely well conveyed.
Eric Portman plays a Number Two. I think he was quite good in the part. His Number Two was more versatile than some of the others.
Number Two tells The Prisoner: 'If you win, Number 1 will no longer be a mystery to you, if you know what I mean'. When The Prisoner wins the election and enters Number 2's residence, there is no sign of anybody claiming to be Number 1. Had Number Two told him the identity of Number 1 in that earlier scene. In light of what happens later, had he hinted that The Prisoner was in fact, Number 1?
The Labour Exchange Manager comes across as an amiable fellow. However, underneath the pleasant exterior is a person with a sinister side. The truth test is memorable and makes you wonder what would happen to someone who had been subjected to more of the process.
I assume the reason the Village Authorities wanted The Prisoner to stand for election, was to integrate him into Village life and to quell his rebellious attitude. Their prize inmate spends a lot of the time brainwashed, even though the effects are shaken off temporarily and an unsuccessful attempt is made to escape The Village by boat. That particular escape bid was an exciting moment.
It's interesting to note that after The Prisoner is elected the New Number 2, the Village inhabitants take no notice as he yells over the intercom, urging them to obey him and be free. Perhaps Patrick McGoohan was implying that even when people have an opportunity to escape from their condition or situation, they would rather remain prisoners.
'Free For All' is imaginative. It's impressive that Patrick McGoohan wrote and directed this episode, besides appearing. It has many excellent scenes and in my opinion is a strong entry in the series.
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