Friday, September 20, 2019

Millennium: Season 1: Episode 3: "Dead Letters"

Directed by Thomas J. Wright
Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong
Air Date: November 8, 1996
Guest Stars: Chris Ellis and James Morrison

Opening Passage: For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me. And what I dreaded has happened to me, I not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes."

Job 3:25,26

"Dead Letters" opens with a terrifying dream sequence: Jordan is being chased by a terrifying clown that's creepier than Pennywise. The dream sets the tone for an especially gruesome episode that finds Frank working with a troubled police detective to track down a serial killer in Portland. The episode allows Frank to show off his profiling skills and ability to keep his mind balanced during an investigation. More in line with the style of The Silence of the Lambs, "Dead Letters" takes the viewer inside the mind of a psychopath making the episode effective and disturbing, while at the same time allowing Frank to take on more of a Sherlock Holmes persona.

After a string of violent crimes directed towards women, the group calls in Frank to assist Detective Jim Horn (Morrison) on the investigation. Horn is preoccupied about his recent separation from his wife and is distraught about not being able to see his son. He admits to Frank the nature of his work had taken a toll on his marriage. Frank's empathetic and talks about his own struggles to keep his family life separate from his work. He also knows the group is interested in Horn as a candidate.

Literary references run through the episode, specifically Melville and Dostoevsky. Frank determined the killer feels ignored by the world and the killings are his way of acting out to get attention. Well read in Dostoevsky, Frank finds a quote etched in the victim's hair, "hair today, gone tomorrow" that's from Notes From Underground. It's also noteworthy the murder took place at a dead letter office, the setting of Bartleby the Scribner by Melville, the tale of a man reacting against his lack of status. An especially creepy scene inside the killer's house, drenched in darkness, is unsettling in that it places inside his empty world.

As the investigation proceeds Horn gets more erratic. Frank knows he's a skilled detective, but also realizes Horn gets too emotionally involved in his cases. Frank acts as a big brother welcoming Horn and his son into their home. Horn marvels at Frank's ability to keep an emotional distance, even when getting inside the minds of a killer, to which Frank replies, "You put them in your head." 

James Morrison as Detective Jim Horn

Frank and Kim discover an important lead at an eyeglasses store and are able to set a trap for the killer. Horn has grown more unhinged, seeing evil men everywhere and roughing up a suspect by mistake. Frank's ploy works in drawing the killer in, he drives one of the creepiest vans you'll ever see, but Horn almost ruins everything when he starts to beat up the suspect, putting the case and evidence they've accumulated in jeopardy, 

Frank sees in Horn something he could become if he lost his family. Catherine and Jordan mean everything to him and the episode ends with him comforting Jordan after she's had another bad dream. The visual style of "Dead Letters" was drenched in film noir and feels like a feature film. Millennium was not a typical crime show, the psychological component brought a new element to television.

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