Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Season 2: Episode 20: "A Room with No View"

Directed by Thomas J. Wright

Written by Ken Horton

Air Date: April 24, 1998

Guest Stars: Christopher Kennedy Masterson (Landon Bryce); Sarah Jane Redmond (Lucy Butler); Mariangela Pino (Teresa Poe)

An example of Millennium firing on all cylinders, "A Room with No View" is suspenseful and original in theme. Notable for the return of possibly Frank's most terrifying nemesis Lucy Butler (plus Frank throws on shades for part of the episode).

Part of the teleplay's brilliance is how the disjointed elements of the first 15 minutes come together in such a satisfying way. It begins with a harrowing escape from a farm that's quickly quashed by a mysterious figure. Then we meet two High School seniors (Bryce and Howard) meeting their guidance counselor Teresa Poe who dissuades them from applying to college because of low test scores. Bryce encourages Howard to pursue his goals in spite of what adults tell him. We next learn Howard died of a heart attack caused by a fright, while Bryce was kidnapped.

The case gets the attention of the Millennium Group. Frank has visions of Lucy Butler, the woman who murdered Detective "Bletch" in Frank's basement from the "Lamentations" first season episode. Peter reveals to Frank the group's had Lucy under surveillance and have observed no suspicious behavior (later revealed she tortured the agent to death). Lucy's been kidnapping High School kids and putting through a sort of brainwashing to convince them they are mediocre and should be subservient. Meanwhile, Peter and Frank discover a pattern in the kidnappings All the victims were ordinary and considered mediocre by the system, and Roe had worked at all the schools.

Peter observes that many great figures from the past were considered unremarkable during their youths, only did it become apparent years later their innate ability to inspire others to be better. Meanwhile at Lucy's compound she's attempting to brainwash the teens into believing they're worthless. It's an interesting dynamic of a beautiful, charismatic woman attempting to break young men, using a variety of psychological methods, acting as mother, lover, and destroyer. As Nick Lowe wrote, "you got to be cruel to be kind, in the right measure."

Once Peter and Frank make the connections, they locate the compound and free all the captives (with a SWAT team). Of course, Lucy Butler is nowhere to be found. When asked where she could, Frank replies, "Everywhere" as if speaking about Michael Myers or Hannibal Lector. They've won a victory against evil, but the battle continues.

"A Room with No View" presents a nuanced view of evil. Over 20 years later we might be a little more sophisticated on how systems and institutions can alienate and turn out a generation of cynics. So many have an untapped potential that's never realized through no fault of their own. I don't mean this in the Ayn Rand or Nietzschean sense of radical individualism. It's more in the Maslow sense of becoming a fully realized individual that places compassion first and foremost. Our society's need to quantify everything through standardized testing (alluded to in the episode) serves to stifle above all else.

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