After defeating Number Two (Leo McKern) at the battle of wills in the previous episode, Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) asks to see Number One. He is taken by the Supervisor (Peter Swanwick) to a huge chamber housing a British assembly hall of masked delegates. The Supervisor sits among them. There is a great metallic cylinder with a mechanical eye labelled with a big red number one. Number Six is seated on a throne to watch the proceedings.
The President (Kenneth Griffith), a kind of master of ceremonies, announces that Number Six has passed the ultimate test and won the right to be an individual, but they must first transfer the ultimate power. The caged room containing the body of Number Two is brought in. Medical personnel recover the body and resuscitate Number Two. He, along with a young dandy called Forty-Eight (Alexis Kanner) are presented as two kinds of rebels to the assembly. Number Forty-Eight refuses to co-operate and leads the assembly in singing Dem Bones before he is restrained. Number Two says he too was abducted to the Village and spits in the mechanical eye of Number One. Both are taken away.
The President presents Number Six as the third form of rebel, a revolutionary of a different calibre to be treated with respect. He is shown that his home in London is being prepared for his return and is given a million pounds in traveller’s checks, petty cash, a passport, and the keys to his home and car. He is free to leave at any time but the President asks him to stay and lead them. He asks Number Six to speak to the assembly, but when he begins by saying, “I…” he is drowned out by chants of Aye, Aye, Aye…
He is shown the metallic cylinder, where there are transparent tubes. One is un-numbered but the others are labelled Two and Six. They are called Orbits. He climbs a stairway and finds a robed and masked man watching surveillance videos of Six. He pulls off the mask to find a gorilla mask underneath. And under that is a man who looks exactly like Six. The robed figure escapes through a hatch above. Six locks the hatch and sees that the cylinder is a rocket. He begins a countdown and the President and Assembly panic. Evacuation of the Village ensues.
Number Six frees Number Two and Number Forty-Eight and, together with the butler (Angelo Muscat), they gun down a bunch of armed guards and free the caged room, which turns out to be the back of a truck. They drive away from the Village as the rocket is launched. Rover is destroyed, terminally deflated, in the rocket’s blast, as is the Village.
The four of them drive toward London. As they near the city, Number Forty-Eight drops off and begins to hitch-hike. Near the Palace of Westminster, the truck is stopped by police and the passengers abandon it. Number Two enters the Palace by the Peers’ entrance, and the butler escorts Six back to his house, with the Lotus Seven car waiting outside. He drives off as the butler enters Six’s home, and the door shuts automatically behind him like they do in the Village. The episode ends with the thunderclap which begins every episode and Six driving on the open road, seemingly back to resigning.
This was the final episode and instead of answering our questions, it took a sharp left turn into Theatre of the Absurd. It was written and directed by Patrick McGoohan himself. The usual opening was replaced by a recap of the previous episode. The name of Portmeirion, the setting of the Village, was mentioned for the first time in the opening credits. It was kept secret until the end, though not very well, by agreement with its architect, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. McGoohan explained why Number One turns out to be a double of Number Six: Because each man is a prisoner unto himself and Six is still not free. Freedom is in fact a myth and we continue to be prisoners. But the fact is: Sir Lew Grade decided that the series was going on too long and costing too much, so they closed it as fast as they could and the last episode was written on the fly in one week, some of the actors writing their own dialogue.
The last two episodes were filmed a year apart and McKern’s look had changed. This was the only episode to contain a modern pop-song—All You Need is Love by the Beatles. McGoohan had almost no dialogue. His speech is drowned out by the shouting of the jury. Patrick McGoohan received no on-screen acting credit. Fans were so angry about the last episode not answering any questions and involving gunfire in conflict with the anti-gun philosophy of the rest of the series that viewers stormed McGoohan’s house and he went into hiding, but he said he was delighted by their response. The Press raked him over the coals. It is not true that he never worked in Britain again. He was in Mary Queen of Scots with Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson. But he did a lot of work in the US afterwards, starring and/or directing on Columbo four times. He won two Emmys and was a favorite foil of Peter Falk.
A 1969 novel by Thomas Disch had Six in London with the butler and the Village was just a hallucination. A 1988 comic book, Shattered Visage, suggests that it was a drug-induced psychodrama because Number Six had been broken by the Degree Absolute trauma. A 2018 comic takes place in the present day and Number Six is not actually in it. George Harrison’s son stated that the Beatles were supposed to be in a film similar to the Prisoner, written and directed by Patrick McGoohan, but the plans fell through.
It's really hard to end a story. Basically, you have to choose a happy ending, a tragic ending, or no ending at all, like The Sopranos. No matter what you do, you can’t please everybody. For me, three things in this mess of an ending stand out: 1) Number Six wins the fight and is given his freedom, but when he begins his speech, he is drowned out by the cheers of his own supporters. 2) He finally unmasks Number One, his tormentor, and it is himself. 3) He returns home but it seems he has brought the Village with him. Patrick McGoohan said we are all the jailers of our own prison and we cannot escape. We could take his word for it. If Jean-Paul Sartre said something like that, and I think he did, we would nod sagely.