Friday, July 30, 2021

Millennium Season One: Episode 18: "Lamentation"

Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Written by Chris Carter

Airdate: April 18, 1997

Guest Stars: Bill Smitrovich (Detective Bletcher); Alex Diakun (Dr. Ephraim Fabricant); Sarah-Jane Redmond (Lucy Butler)

"Lamentation" was a crucial episode in the mythology of Millennium, reshaping the trajectory of the series. Written by Chris Carter, the episode is fast paced and delivers a gut punch with the terrifying death of a favorite character. "Lamentation" also suggests the supernatural in a pivot away from true crime focus of the first season.

The placid opening belies the dark narrative of the teleplay with Frank and Bletch on a mountain hike until Frank is contacted by the FBI. A serial killer (Dr. Ephraim Fabricant) Frank had once profiled had escaped from a hospital after a kidney transplant. It's revealed Frank had argued against the death penalty for Fabricant so criminologists could study his mind. Frank and Peter Watts pursue a lead to the killer's wife Lucy Butler, a woman he married over the internet. When questioned Lucy denies knowledge of the escape, but Frank finds a reference to his home address on her email. Alarmed, Frank calls Catherine to make sure everything is ok.

Upon further investigation, it's revealed Lucy was acquitted of poisoning of her son, but the judge who tried her case was also poisoned. Later we see Fabricant's kidney being removed by a nurse and he subsequently dies at a hospital. Fabricant warns Frank "the sum of all evils" did it to him and that same evil is targeting Frank and his family, even more ominous is Frank's phone number on Fabricant's hospital bracelet.

Meanwhile back at the Black household the power goes out and Catherine finds a human kidney in the refrigerator. With the phone lines cut, Frank calls Bletch and dispatches him to the house. Catherine finds a man standing at the top of her staircase, terrified for Jordan's safety she finds Bletch outside with Jordan. Aware there's an assailant inside the house, Bletch investigates and finds Lucy Mercer in the house as she transforms into a demon. In a shocking reveal, Bletch is found murdered in the basement, hanging with his throat cut.

Not only have Frank and Catherine lost a trusted friend and ally in Bletch, but the home invasion has also driven a wedge into their marriage. The sanctity of the yellow house, a beacon of hope and comfort throughout the first season, has been violated. Butler is questioned, but there's no evidence to link her to the murder. The episode ends on a bittersweet note with Frank and Jordan hiking together up the same mountain, suggesting a continuity in the face of loss and terror.

The Pilot episode suggested all acts of evil may not be random, and the structure of "Lamentation" moves toward such a conclusion. Not only is it all connected, but Frank Black appears to be a central figure in a drama that's been going on for ages. If the bogeymen of the 90s were serial killers who might live in your neighborhood, today there's a sense your neighbors are armed to the teeth and ready to get violent. The mass psychosis fueled by nationalism and xenophobia brings out the worst in humanity in the past and present.

It would be easy to conclude serial killers and terrorism were a symptom of a much deeper ill in society at the millennium, but it's metastasized. Millennium continually suggests civilization is edging closer to a cataclysm and those with the knowledge may have their own interests. Such a conspiratorial way of thinking is attractive, but ultimately hollow. Frank continuing Bletch's tradition of climbing the mountain and passing it on to Jordan, is a brave act and a defiant method of living in a corrupt world. We live the best we can with the specter of terror always hovering. 

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