It is a terrific episode, neatly reversing the show's premise, and with a fine performance from Cargill ( known mainly for comedy roles ) as the 'Queeg'-like No.2. So effective is 6's campaign - including the placing of a cuckoo clock outside No.2's house, which the latter thinks must be a bomb - that you almost feel sorry for him. Even the cuckoo clock chimes appear to mock 2's sanity!
This marks the first appearance of the bizarre 'Kosho' game ( in which 6 and an opponent jump about on trampolines over a pool of water! ), but fortunately, it gets less air-time here than in 'Its Your Funeral'. Alongside Cargill is another familiar face from the world of sitcom - Victor Maddern, cast as the 'Bandleader'. We get to see quite a bit of new Village technology, such as the 'Beam', a device that emerges from a flag-pole and shoots down a pigeon! McGoohan is also on good form; had he not been 'No.6' he would have made a great 'No.2'!
It is a pity that the recent remake of 'The Prisoner' had nothing to offer of this calibre. After two promising episodes, it shrivelled away to nothing, rather like 'Rover' at the end of 'Fall Out'.
This has probably been my 2nd favorite episode of the series thus far (behind "Many Happy Returns"). I don't think it is coincidental that both of these episodes stray from an episodes typical formula of Number Two trying to escape. This episode doesn't even contain an escape attempt. Instead, the tables have turned and the psychological head games are coming from Number Six in Number Two's direction. His use of codes and misdirection soon causes severe paranoia to overtake Number Two.
This Number Two is interesting. He's definitely the most sadistic, emotional of any we've seen so far. He cracks fairly easily. His facade of being a spiteful torturer to the lady we briefly meet in the beginning is just to mask all the insecurities laying dormant underneath. It's not hard for Number Two to pull these to the surface and just annihilate this man. Everything for this episode really works: the plan, the execution, the direction. It's all just really solid.
. . .
"No. You will."
'Hammer Into Anvil" is proof positive that Number Six is not one to be messed with. Enraged over the apparent suicide of Number Seventy- Three, Six wages a war of nerves on this week's Number Two, sowing seeds of doubt and mistrust, methodically driving him mad. It's thoroughly entertaining in how Number Two is owned at every turn; and with his self-satisfied air, you can't help but want to see him taken down a peg or three. And all the while, Six is fully displaying what made him a good secret agent to begin with. This is pure standoff, mano a mano. You get the sense that the gloves are off and our hero is out for revenge. There's resounding defeat at the end of this tunnel and seeing the switch inside Number Six flip is dramatic perfection.