Monday, September 30, 2019

Millennium Season 1: Episode 5: "522666"

Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong
Directed by David Nutter
Air Date November 22, 1996
Guest Stars: Sam Anderson, Hiro Kanagawa

Opening Quote: I am responsible for everything - except my very responsibility." Jean-Paul Sartre

"520666" examines the motivations of a mad bomber. A cat and mouse game between Frank Black and the terrorist creates enough suspense to sustain the episode.

More of a procedural entry in the series, the look and style are reminiscent of popular 90s thrillers like Se7en and In the Line of Fire. A series of bombings in the D.C. metro require Frank to create a profile. There's a crucial plot point calling back the Centennial Park bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. 

Working with the FBI, Frank is convinced the suspect is acting alone. A series of scenes feature Frank on the phone with the man as he tries to understand the motivations. A device used throughout is the cliche of trying to trace the phone call (these guys are always experts with the phone system). In a twist, as Frank is tipped off on the location of the next bombing, he barely escapes the building and is saved by a "good Samaritan" lauded as a hero by the media.

Recovering in the hospital with Catherine as his side (still under used at this point in the series), Frank determines the new media hero is indeed the bomber. The episodes ends with the bomber calling in a false threat, with the FBI closing in he is easily killed, but not before achieving his goal of being famous.

Mad bomber stories in the past typically involved a character with a grievance against society By the 1990s, the motivation amounted to a sick need for recognition. In a society that routinely downgrades people to losers and nobody's, the grandiose terrorist only believes they can assert themselves by hurting others and finally getting recognition. Frank's ability to understand the bomber as an unhinged existentialist speaks to mindset still very much with us. 

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