There are a lot of wild stories to be told in the world of TV, film, comics and what-the-whatever, and not all of them can be perfectly wrapped up like an episode of Scooby-Doo.  Indeed, one of my favorite series of all time, ‘The Prisoner’, closes up its short run with an episode that delves into symbolism, analogy and trippy juxtaposition of images, music and performance, creating an avant-garde chunk of damn-near incomprehensible, yet still entertaining and compelling TV.  While many fans lean on the utterly horrible “You are, Number 6” interpretation, I find that chestnut to be not only an unsatisfying resolution to Number Six’s journey, but an answer so hackneyed and cliché that, to my mind, it simply CANNOT be the real solution to the elegant, insidious Rube Goldberg device put in motion by McGoohan and the creative team.  In short, if that is the answer, I prefer to never know what’s going on in Portmeirion.  Of course, accepting that I will never know the real story, even after multiple viewings of all 17 episodes, is kind of liberating in itself, putting me metaphorically where Six himself ends up at the end of Fall Out, and also begging a rather vexing query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) also hasn’t got any idea what was going on with ‘Twin Peaks,’ the end of Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ or most of Final Crisis, but is really kind of fine with that, asking: Are you bothered when your favorite pop-culture leaves questions unanswered?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. November 8, 2013 at 11:54 am — Reply

    Life is full of unanswered questions. We do not always know everything, and in many instances, we will never know. Quite the opposite, I dislike it when all the little plot threads are tied up very neatly giving us the unachievable expectation that we should know everything.
    I know that Stephen did not like LOST, but the fact that we never really knew what was occurring was what I liked. I also enjoyed their viral campaigns that kept me involved when the show wasn’t on the air. The constant use of symbology and theme was also fun to watch and try to guess the direction.

  2. November 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm — Reply

    A bit, but we aren’t entitled to satisfactory conclusions, as that is highly subjective. I tend to consume media on an as-is basis. They don’t owe us anything, so it is up to us to take it or leave it. Then, after we leave it, to go write angry things online! Haha.

    • November 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm — Reply

      This is exactly how I feel, they put out stuff, I enjoy it. If not, I get to complain about it online or to my friends, or online to my friends.

  3. Chux
    November 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm — Reply

    I strongly believe that, in most cases, whatever conclusions/solutions you can come up with, will be way better than what you might be presented with.

  4. Oldcomicfan
    November 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm — Reply

    Yes, but only because the majority of the time the reason we are not given any resolution is because the TV show/comic book/novel series/whatever was cancelled before it was finished. Or, in many cases, the author passed away with the work undone, which is even sadder. To counter my own argument, though,

    I really liked 2001 and Akira, both of which border on incomprehensibility – but I like them in spite of the inexplicability of the pieces, not because of it. I also am very fond of the comic “Starstruck” which is so incredibly dense that you really have to think about what you’re reading to understand what is going on. But Starstruck proves my point – it was cancelled by Marvel, by Dark Horse and just about everybody else who tried publishing it, and it never has been finished. Pardon me while I weep in my beer.

  5. November 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm — Reply

    I depends. A show like the Prisoner never really promised answers, and the themes about identity, control, freedom, etc worked with that series’ conclusion. The questions add to the show, and you contemplate what they mean in context to the thing as a whole.

    A show like Lost, in an effort to give some answers to some of the big questions from the show might have been better served to let us speculate endlessly after the fact instead of some of the silly answers we ultimately got.

    A show like the rebooted Battlestar Galactica basically promised answers to its big questions in the opening credits of every single episode. Those answers seemed to be at the core of every single thing that was happening on the show. The failure to adequately answer those questions lowered my opinion of the overall work, because they were made so important by the creators of the program.

    In each case, unanswered questions remain for very different reasons so they impact any given show in their own way. To quote Matthew, ‘Your mileage may vary…”

  6. Mike
    November 8, 2013 at 7:14 pm — Reply

    In a world where everything is over explained, sometimes the mystery’s the thing.

    For my first run of the Prisoner, it was played so late I could only record it. These were late 80s video tape days. It was often delayed so I recorded a bit extra but on the last episode, Fall Out, I missed the last few minutes. It cut out where he was [spoilers] pulling masks off the ape suit. It took years for me to finally see the ending and by then I had built the mystery up so much there was no way it could live up to what I had in my head. I still love the series though.

  7. November 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm — Reply

    Depends really.

    I can think of a few specific instances that are bugging the crap out of me because there is no real closure to the stories.
    What happened to Clan Skirata after “Imperial Commando” (not counting the brief outline on Karen Traviss official site of what she had planned to do)? What the heck happened to the crew of Destiny after the cliffhanger ending of Stargate Universe? What happened with Rembrandt Brown after his final slide at the end of Sliders? Was Buffy really the Slayer or was she just Buffy Summers in a mental institution? Why does everyone, including hardcore Trek fans, keep calling the new Star Trek movie series a reboot when it is clearly an alternate timeline since old Spock still exists and therefore not technically a reboot? What was the final fate of the SeaQuest crew?

    Other things don’t bother me quite as much. I still have questions, but otherwise I just enjoy the ride.
    How did the Red Rangers who lost their powers get them back in “Forever Red”, or the others regain their powers for the Legend War? Did the clone Tom Oliver keep his Green Ranger powers after deciding to live out his life in Colonial Angel Grove? How (insert any number of questions on Doctor Who’s contradictory history)?

    Then of course we have situations where an answer was never really promised and part of the fun is questioning what happened, what the truth actually was (such as “Was Total Recall real or his Rekall fantasy?”) and so on.

  8. comicfan1974
    November 8, 2013 at 11:49 pm — Reply

    All I ask for out of most pop-culture is a suggestive ambiguity, or at least a hauntingly direct, stark use of metaphor, as with the conclusion to The Prisoner.

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