Episode 4--"Free For All"
"You are free to go! FREE TO GO! FREE TO GO!"
Ostensibly. and indeed for part of the running time of the episode, "Free For All" is an attack on the sham nature of political elections. It also, soon enough, evolves (or devolves) into a surrealistic nightmare, up to and including, No. 6 going nuts and shouting at everyone else, being drugged and subjected to wacky hypnotic science and getting slapped a lot and oh yeah there are guys worshiping a glowing Rover and no I don't know what any of it's about. Those who say that the completely batshit-crazy final episode just kinda leapt out of nowhere, must either ignore this episode, or make very little note of the fact that it just explodes into crazy-go-nuts territory really early on.
Let's approach the lot, as best as we can: No. 2 suggests to No. 6 that he run for "office"--in other words, become No. 2. That it's all of a sudden an elected position when it's always been casually assumed it was an appointed position and later on we find out it's an excessive title and . . .y'know what? Dwelling on the continuity minutiae of The Prisoner is a great way to go insane, and really, let's not.
Anyways, as No. 6 begins his campaign (with venomous contempt for pretty much every iota of the process--he considers it compromised, corrupt and in service less to any ideals than to itself and, of course, he's right) Somehow, No. 6 being assigned a hyperactive maid who can't speak English works into the plan, but it's not really apparent why until the end. The plan, so far as No. 6 is concerned is to break through to the higher echelons of the Village's order, free everyone and destroy the village--not necessarily in that order.
Well, an escape attempt and a fistfight on a speedboat puts paid to that. No. 6 gets drugged and hypnotised with a Powerpoint presentation (oh man, we've all been there) and proceeds to run as a model Village candidate, albeit one prone to sweating, looking anxious and yelling at people (just like Richard Nixon, really) has a meet-cute and a drink with No. 2, wins the election, gets bitchslapped around a little (literally) and realises that the whole business has just been a shell game, with him as the mark . . .just like the whole electoral process.
"Free For All," despite being one of the most blatantly overt political statements, doesn't really gel as much for me. I like the political stuff and I like the mind-control stuff, but oh lord the two don't really sit comfortably in the same episode right next to each other and the join is so apparent it all feels a bit arbitrary and Frankenstein-y. It's still good and worth a look (Like pizza, even when The Prisoner is kinda bad, it's pretty good) but it's not exactly a personal favourite if mine.
Next time, we will look at an episode that is a favourite of mine--in fact, it's near the top of the list for my favourite Prisoner episodes of all time. It was described on one site as "No. 2 tries to break No. 6 by making him grow a nasty mustache," which is completely accurate and also really damn funny. Join us next time for an episode people who I have watched it with have called "genuinely disturbing." The password is "The Schizoid Man"