Revisiting The Prisoner, wherein McGoohan changes his mind.

Episode 12, A Change of Mind

Patrick McGoohan himself directed this one. Using a pseudonym, one that I really really like.

“Joseph Serf.”

Give you a couple of guesses why.

This is the most Orwellian episode of the series, with scenes where Villagers are expected to confess their sins by repeating the words of an unseen announcer. McGoohan is also aggressively antisocial in this episode, mocking all that sees before him. He’s part revolutionary, part Grouch Marx.

God, I love that man.

Such behavior makes him “Public Enemy Number Six” as his behavior against The Committee (yet another reflection of the power structure of the Village) is “disharmonious” and “unmutual.”

So, this is just fiction, right? A weird SF/spy show from the sixties?

Tell ya what. Go to any social group. A bar, a business meeting, a group of friends. Start being contradictory. Speak openly and without trying to respond to the expectations of those around you. Don’t conform. Be free.

And then see what happens.

McGoohan ends up being declared, formally, “unmutual”, in this episode. He is then completely ostracized from the society he is reveling against… And his life is now truly his own. He is alone.

“The lone wolf belongs in the wilderness!” McGoohan was told in an earlier episode by a New Number 2, and in this episode he sees what that means. He is cast out, like Lucifer from Heaven… And he resists. Always, he resists.

But the system is what it is. He is beaten down by the citizens of The Village and delivered to (another) brainwashing… And, once that “medical recovery” is complete, well, the citizenry are welcoming and friendly to him once more. They have been conditioned to welcome him, and he has been conditioned to act welcoming.

Yeah, just a TV show. Pay it no mind.

While brainwashed and drugged McGoohan is interrogated by the Newest Number 2 around the “trivialities” of his resignation… Which was an overreach. The resignation is a core aspect of him, and drugs cannot bury away that core decision that was an absolute reflection of his Self.

It’s a reflection of his Core Beliefs, which you cannot defeat or tame. His life is his own.

As he fights the brainwashing, he returns… To his wilderness training area, one we see he has setup in an earlier scene in the episode. The Lone Wolf. There, he (again) fights Village thugs and this time it is a quick snap to reality… He is who he was, again.

Then, using his own brainwashing techniques, McGoohan connives to have Number 2 declared unmutual… And a small victory is achieved. One of the few that will be won against the power of society… Err, I mean, the Village.

Joseph Dickerson is a user experience professional and UX Lead for Microsoft based out of Atlanta, GA. He has implemented processes in user testing, design and ethnographic research and provided design and consulting services for many different projects and organizations.

Back to Top