Reviewed: Goodbye Charlie
Contributor: The Polaroid Stalker
Synopsis: Frank and Lara are dispatched by the Millennium Group to investigate a series of what appear to be murders-suicides committed by a man who believes he is helping the terminally-ill victims ease their suffering, while wrestling with the question: "Is he from heaven... or hell?"
The Stalker's Review: "Goodbye Charlie" is probably the most difficult episode I have had to review. Yet it poses a question that still many "MillenniuM" fans wrestle with: Are all the suspects and villains of "MillenniuM" truly evil? Things are not quite what they seem in this show. First, it was Danielle Barbakow in "Monster." Then, it was Matthew Prine in "19:19." And now, Steven Kiley in this episode.
The first time I watched "Goodbye, Charlie," I felt that the man helping the patients commit suicide, Steven Kiley, was more than he appeared to be. I felt that, because he was trying to do good for the terminally-ill, he was an angelic figure. But, after thinking about it, I begin to wonder: could Kiley have been a pawn of a larger--and darker--force, convincing him that he was doing right by his "victims" but in actuality, the powers behind it were leading him to murder and damning them to hell.
"Do we assist to arrest? Or do we assist to protect?" This question is posed by the Group when it contacts Lara Means. And that is what the viewer will wonder throughout the episode.
"Goodbye Charlie" begins with an unnerving death scene, tinged with some dark comedy. Dr. Steven Kiley (played by Tucker Smallwood, aka Commodore Ross on "Space: Above and Beyond" and the sheriff in the X-Files episode "Home") stands over a man, restrained to a bed with his mouth duct-taped. The man looks around nervously as Kiley delivers a speech to the man in which he reassures him that he will soon be free of his pain and will pass to a higher form of existence, then begins a karaoke-like version of Terry Jack's "Seasons in the Sun" as the terminally-ill guy is injected with enough poison to induce a quick--and relatively painless--coronary. So... is it a murder? A suicide? You be the judge of that.
Enter Frank and Lara, who have received the same enigmatic message from the Millennium Group. The two of them have different views on this question throughout the outing: Frank suspects that Steven secretly enjoys the feeling of power and control over those he helps kill themselves, and he opines that the Group functions in a similar manner with their manipulative methods.
Lara, on the other hand, defends Steven, on the grounds that he may be sparing them needless pain. It is fascinating that this is somewhat opposite their own personal positions on assisted suicide. Lara proclaims she would never even consider it for herself, while Frank simply states that he doesn't know what he'd decide if faced with such a terminal illness.
Throughout the episode, Frank and Lara contemplate choices about life and death, while their quarry suggests death is merely a doorway to another stage of life beyond our imagining. Kiley seems to be a nice individual, but like I said before, not everything is as it seems to be.
Frank and Lara trade some interesting dialogue along the way, and often manage to be witty and amusing while still in-character. But the focus of the episode is really on Steven. Frank speculates that what the Group really wants to know is whether Kiley is from heaven or hell. He is clearly a compassionate guy who seems to think he's doing a good deed, as he speaks of the pain that many terminal patients endure and of the neglects of the health care system, and he even works a second job answering phone calls at a Seattle crisis center.
At the same time, it seems as though there may be something to Frank's profile. Some of those whom he convinces to take their own lives, while maybe inflicted with terminal disease, do not yet seem to be in a great deal of pain, and the fact that they are restrained and gagged when they pass away doesn't exactly allow them to change their minds at the last minute.
The in-joke is used in this episode. Richard Whitley, who scripted this outing, wrote two memorable "Space: Above and Beyond" episodes, "Dear Earth" and "Pearly." Here, suicide note reads "Hoo-yah. Semper Fi," leading a local detective to identify the deceased as an ex-Marine. "No such thing as an ex-Marine," Lara remarks. Kristen Cloke played Lieutenant Shane Vansen on Space: Above and Beyond.
The ending to this episode was austere, ambiguous, and by far, very confusing. It seems that Kiley has disappeared into the "higher plane" of which he has spoken, leaving behind the enigmatic message, "It wasn't my choice" at the scene of the latest suicides. And then Frank sees Kiley's likeness in a painting nearby? Now, this is REALLY confusing. If he is from Hell, I can't really imagine Legion letting one of his minions escape into a watercolor of Greeks eating walnuts. Can you imagine Lucy Butler doing that? I don't think so. But, if he's from Heaven, then I'd still be confused, for the same reasons.
Overall, "Goodbye Charlie" is still a resonatingly good episode. The major quibble I had was Ken Fink's direction: Was anybody bothered by his constant zooming in and out? But in writing terms, this episode ranks on my "MillenniuM" top ten.
Best scene: The final scene where Kiley vanishes. Even though I was confused, I still thought the dialogue was pretty good. The note left me mulling this episode for weeks: "It wasn't my choice." Whose choice was it? God's? Satan's?
My rating: Four suicide machines out of five.
Next up in the ratings: "Luminary," "The Pest House," and "The Mikado." Tune in next time...
-- The Stalker