Reviewed: The Beginning and the End
Contributor: The Polaroid Stalker
Synopsis: As Frank pursues the mysterious Polaroid Stalker who had abducted Catherine, he finds himself at odds with the Millennium Group, which has known the stalker's identity all along.
The Stalker's Review: With the premier of the second season of "MillenniuM" and the addition of Glen Morgan and James Wong as the series' executive producers, I will review this episode to tell you why I call myself "The Polaroid Stalker."
"And tonight as I look into the sky and it looks back on me, I want to know -- which am I? I need to know. Is this the beginning of a journey, or the end?" Frank Black whispers over the scene during the opening scene. This quote foreshadows the events that are to follow in this episode, concerning Catherine Black's kidnapping by the malevolent force that is the Polaroid Stalker.
This episode marks the first of Season Two, the conclusion to last season's finale, "Paper Dove." But while "Paper Dove" was at best a mundane, Serial-Killer-of-the-Week outing, "The Beginning and the End" is a fast-paced, riveting roller-coaster that was just not possible in Season One.
From what I understand it, Glen Morgan and James Wong, who last season were co-executive producers who wrote three memorable scripts for it ("Dead Letters," "522666," "The Thin White Line"), wanted to focus more on the Millennium Group. But now, with them taking over the show, they craft a story that shows that there is more to "MillenniuM" than meets the eye. No, there's something mysterious about the Millennium Group, which was once believed by Frank to be a law enforcement consulting firm. But we'll get back to that...
The episode opens with the final scene from "Paper Dove," with the Black family returning from their visit to Catherine's parents. While Frank takes his sleeping daughter to the car, Catherine stands in Seattle-Tacoma Airport, waiting for their luggage when she is accosted by the Polaroid Stalker himself.
When I saw this scene, I was floored when I saw who it was. The actor who played the stalker in "Paper Dove" has been replaced by actor Doug Hutchison, who played the liver-eating Eugene Tooms in the "X-Files" episodes "Squeeze" and "Tooms," not to mention sadistic android Elroy-L in "Space: Above and Beyond." Hutchison is, in my opinion, one of the greatest actors out there, tied with Lance Henriksen!
Anyway, the stalker drugs Catherine via means of a hypodermic needle, and he escorts her from the airport, making solicitors think she is drunk when he drops an empty beer bottle to the ground. He then takes her to his own car, and stashes her in a cage underneath the vehicle.
Frank gets a little frantic when he learns his wife has disappeared. But who should show up right when he's about to panic but Peter Watts and a crew of Group members, who show up unexpectedly at the airport. Frank's not sure how Watts knew he'd be here, but he's more concerned with finding Catherine.
Let's talk about Peter Watts for a moment. Peter, who was mostly acting as just Frank's sidekick throughout Season One, shows the first stages of development into a main character, not just a guy who goes around in an investigation and says, "Gee, Frank, you're right" after Frank makes a discovery crucial to it. No, he's got more complexity than that.
For example, he's on a personal crusade. He's trying to understand the evil that drives people to commit horrible deeds, like the mutilation of a four-month-old boy whose body was found in a water cooler back in Peter's FBI days. We also learn that he has kept secrets from Frank, but at the same time he delivers important and genuine advice to Frank throughout the episode.
The Polaroid Stalker, meanwhile, has taken Catherine to his lair, where he ties her up to low-hanging rafters in a basement somewhere, while tormenting her by reciting meandering Biblical passages (blended with rhymes from Dr. Seuss). I counted five times he actually referred to Catherine as "Cathy."
He then tells Catherine that he was once a past Millennium Group candidate who, in the process of his initiation as a full member, was asked if he was willing to "die for God." The Polaroid Stalker had declined, and eventually he had been driven into madness. So, he's not a stalker with a fixation on Frank -- he's a more dangerous man, intelligent but unhinged.
This episode also marks the introduction of a character who will recur throughout the season -- Brian Roedecker! He's a new, Lone Gunman-like techno-geek who seems to be added to mix a little humor in with the grim storyline. When I saw him, it took me a minute before I realized it was yet another 1013 alum: Allan Zinyk, who played Blaine Faulkner in the "X-Files" episode "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space.'" Remember: he's the guy who kept going, "Roswell! Roswell!"
The best scene in this episode, however, has got to be its climactic final act. Frank Black has finally found the location of the Polaroid Stalker's hideout, so he's gone off to find Catherine -- armed. He locates Catherine, before the stalker ambushes him with a flash from his trademark camera, telling him, "You think you know me, Frank. But you don't know them." Does he mean the Millennium Group?
Anyway, the Polaroid Stalker lunges at Frank, with a knife. He actually stabs Frank, as the Polaroid camera flashes again and again, documenting the struggle. Finally, Frank wrestles the knife from the attacker and brutally and savagely stabs him repeatedly, killing the Stalker. Gasp! Frank has killed somebody! Somehow, I didn't really think Frank was capable of murder, but he has been consumed by darkness now so much that he has finally been pushed over the edge.
But while I am mourning the thought that Polaroid Man could actually be a kind of recurring character on the show, Catherine condemns Frank's actions, telling him he's lost a part of himself by taking a life, and they go their separate ways, until he can find what he has lost and bring their family back. Absolutely incredible.
The final shot of the house occurs just before dawn and is cast in an unusual light, which is appropriate since, at this point in the story, the idea behind it has been a failure. Not only has evil actually set foot inside the Yellow House in the form of Lucy Butler's murder of Frank's best friend, Bob Bletcher, in "Lamentation," but now it has, however momentarily, found its way into Frank as well. The idyll that he sought to create for his family has been destroyed.
Well, aside from the casting of Doug Hutchison as the Polaroid Stalker, there was another "Space: Above and Beyond" reference. The millennial comet that streaks across the sky in the opening scene and later when the Polaroid Stalker explains its meaning to that patrolman is the "P1997 Vansen-West." Shane Vansen and Nathan West were two of the main characters on that series.
Overall, "The Beginning and the End" is a wonderful Season Two opener, and a masterpiece of a conclusion to the Polaroid Stalker story. I felt that this episode is one of the best ever, and the only problem I had with it was that it wasn't a two-parter. And, as I am eagerly awaiting Libby's transcripts, which hopefully include this one, I can't wait to see it (or read it).
My rating: SIX angels in the room out of five!
Thank you, readers. Would you, could you... post this entire episode on a video bit?
-- The Polaroid Stalker