Friday, March 12, 2021

Season One: Episode 11 "Weeds"

Written by Frank Spotnitz

Directed by Michael Pattinson

Air Date: January 24, 1997

Guest stars: Ryan Cutrona (Sheriff Geriach); CCH Pounder (Cheryl Andrews)

Opening Quote: "But know ye for certain . . .  Ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city.

 - Jeremiah 26:13

A rash of old testament justice going down in a gated community requires the assistance of Frank Black. In "Weeds." a sort of John Updike story on acid, portrays suburbia as a place where people people flee (white flight) dangerous cities only to create stranger nightmares of their own. The episode is reminiscent of the Fritz Lang masterpiece M and arcane Gothic Americana of The Town That Dreaded Sundown. 

In the Vista Verde neighborhood, a place surrounded by walls, teenage boys are being abducted from their homes by someone who living amongst them. Sheriff Geriach relates to Frank how he can't understand how such awful things can happen when "mostly professional people" are the residents. A boy is abducted on his motorcycle and taken away only to have another murdered boy placed in his bed. 

With no leads, Frank hopes to "weed" the killer out at a community meeting (very M in its presentation). Frank states he believes the suspect has not motive except evil. But the ritualistic nature of the murders, forcing victims to drink blood, convinces Frank there's underlying cause driving the killer. Frank's ploy successfully draws out the killer who wants to show there is a moral purpose behind the kidnappings and murders.

It's discovered all the kidnapped boys have fathers hiding a secret (having affairs and financial malfeasance). It's old testament idea of invoking the sins of the father upon the sons. A skillful whodunnit, the sketchy swim coach is a prime suspect, but his connection to the crimes is peripheral. When the real culprit (we never learn much about him) is found out we discover he's appointed himself as a bizarro vigilante. 

The concept of cultish religious practices going down in suburbia was a staple of the Paperbacks from Hell era of books. The premise of old testament justice taking hold among white men in these communities is not too hard to imagine considering what online conspiracy communities do to people's psyche these days. Even those not involved form "community patrol" groups like they are law enforcement experts. "Weeds" does a great job making the rows of houses on boulevards strange and ominous. Like many of the first season episodes, the pacing feels a bit off at times and the humorless tone tends to draw out the story. But the sociological approach to the material singles out Millennium from other shows of its type. 

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