Reviewed: The Thin White Line
Well, I broke sequence in my latest journey through season one and skipped to The Thin White Line. I guess I just needed to sink my teeth into a nice juicy 5 star episode last night. It's funny that, with the 6 or 7 year absence of this series before the DVD set was released, this is one of those great episodes that stuck in my head, and one that I included in my favorite episode list, even before receiving my box set in the mail and re watching season one. When I think of Morgan & Wong, I automatically think of season two, but these guys were around in season one as well, and it's no surprise that they were responsible for some of my very favorite episodes right from the beginning, including this one.
I have always wondered about the meaning of the title The Thin White Line and, although it might seem obvious to some, and someone will probably come along soon to offer a different opinion, in watching it last night, I wonder if they are talking about that thin line that law enforcement officers have to walk while enforcing the law and protecting the public. On one hand, when Frank apprehends Hance, who has just killed his partner and two other FBI agents, you can't help but think that it would have been wrong for Frank to shoot Hance when he clearly was posing no immediate threat to Frank, as he was injured and his ammo was spent. On the other hand, if he did shoot and kill him, there would have been no questions about his decision, and Hance would not have been able to continue to kill, while in custody, or to influence Jacob Tyler to pick up where he left off. This decision haunts Frank, but in the end, he tries to reason with Tyler and save his life. At the conclusion, of course, Bob Bletcher takes no chances, and takes out Jacob Tyler, saying something to Frank along the lines of "Couldn't take any chances, now or in the future". I guess this is a dilemma that people in law enforcement will always have to deal with. Is there justification in taking a person's life to protect the innocent, even when that person does not present an immediate threat? If Frank had pulled the trigger and killed Hance, three more people, including a guard would have been alive, and Jacob Tyler would not have been transformed by Hance into a killer, and the lives taken by Tyler would have been spared as well. But then again, where do you draw the line between law officer and executioner. Regardless of the circumstances, there have to be vigorously enforced laws in place preventing such action because the judgement of the law enforcement officer can't always be trusted.
As mentioned, the episode is brilliantly written, and Jeremy Roberts does a phenomenal job in the role of Richard Alan Hance, playing his ominous and menacing character to perfection. When we see the fear in the guards and the caution that is taken with Hance in the prison, Roberts finds a way to make it completely believable, and you get that same feeling from him that you get from Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs. At the same time, and I know I have mentioned this before, the part of the killer is written with great depth and complexity, and is not the type of one dimensional killer you see in slasher films. This delving into the dark and realistic side of human nature is one of the things that has always drawn me to Millennium. While being menacing and downright frightening, the killer also shows vulnerability in speaking about the humiliation he felt as a young man and later, in speaking about his relationship with Tyler, and even mentioning the word love. You can't help but wonder if it could have all been different with Hance had he been given a different upbringing and avoided the early setbacks that led him down the wrong path.
The story also has much more to offer, including a look back on Frank's days with the FBI, a fascinating M.O. by the killer(s), and one of the very best performances by Lance Henriksen. The episode grabs you from the very beginning and never lets go.