How many people honestly could have imagined updating The Prisoner in a modern-day context could work? Patrick McGoohan’s iconic series seemed so deep-rooted in surreal 1960’s brio that trying to imagine Number Six and the quaint, out of time The Village was almost impossible. The Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen-starring mini-series around a decade ago unsuccessfully attempted to update the concept with a modern aesthetic, but that was a reboot. Titan Comics went for a sequel, some fifty years on, and with the final part of The Uncertainty Machine they have truly achieved the unimaginable: a truly great follow-up to McGoohan’s opus.
Peter Milligan’s mini-series, based on a story by David Leach, drawn by Colin Lorimer, has been consistently strong in all departments. A narrative which manages to retain all of the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the 60’s series while updating itself to be relevant in our current climate, artwork which has by degrees been vibrant, striking and deeply absurdist—not to mention creepy—and finally a script which created another strong protagonist in MI5 agent Breen, the new Number Six, as he plunges down a rabbit hole of lost love, haunting past missions, and twisted lies. Each part has plunged the knife and twisted it, successfully throwing Breen—and us—into the uncertainty of the title.
This final part is no different. It is the culmination, in fact, of everything Milligan has set out to achieve with this sequel series. From the beginning, you knew everyone involved in this comic truly *understood* The Prisoner. Not just as fans of the show itself, aware of the oddities and very specific tropes it would employ, but thematically in what McGoohan—as he became more and more of an auteur as show runner—was trying to say. Milligan acutely understands that the ‘big surveillance’ idea of The Village, and how The Prisoner wanted us to understand that *we* are as much The Village as the strange location itself, has only grown more relevant over these past decades. McGoohan was a visionary, even through his surrealistic lens. The Uncertainty Machine, as a result, serves as a more fitting finale than the 1960’s show gave us.
In some ways, this isn’t hard. For every fan of Fall Out, the last episode of The Prisoner, there is likely to be a baffled detractor who thinks Number Six riding a London bus singing ‘Dem Bones’ was not the most apt conclusion to such a powerful, mythological story. The point, however, was always that The Prisoner was supposed to *have* no conclusion. There was no Number One. There was no answer as to who was behind The Village or truly why. We never even knew definitively who Number Six was. Milligan gave us more with this sequel when it came to our main character, but his conclusion renders the same smoke and mirrors as McGoohan’s, yet they are rooted far more in the psychological rather than the absurd. The Uncertainty Machine offers more questions than answers but you will understand why it ends the way it does – and likely smile at the deliciousness of it.
To say any more would be to ruin what is an incredibly involving, exciting and thrilling 28 pages of skilled mystery storytelling, backed up with consistently gorgeous artwork. The Uncertainty Machine, as a piece, will serve as a terrific, memorable and perhaps even definitive sequel to The Prisoner, and this finale is just the icing on a splendid cake.
Many may scream out for a follow-up once they have read this but hopefully everyone at Titan, to preserve what could be a perfect ending, will less shout ‘be seeing you’ and more bellow ‘you won’t get it!’.
The Prisoner #4: The Uncertainty Machine Pt 4 is now available from Titan Comics.