Reviewed: The Mikado
Contributor: The Polaroid Stalker
Synopsis: The notorious serial murderer Avatar reemerges, this time broadcasting the executions of his victims live over the Internet. Frank, who hunted Avatar in the '80s, enlists the aid of Peter Watts and Brian Roedecker in a race against time to locate Avatar before his next murder.
The Stalker's Review: One of the most common criticisms leveled against the first season of the show was its "Serial Killer of the Week" mentality. It was insipid, bland, and predictable. But, after I watched "The Mikado," I believed that if all those first season outings had the formula for this one, it would have been a match for Season Two.
Michael R. Perry freelanced this script, having worked on television series such as "American Gothic." He also won an Emmy Award for something (I think it was "NYPD Blue," but I could be wrong.). And he wrote an episode better than a lot of the stuff the "MillenniuM" first season staff writers came up with.
"The Mikado" grabbed me with the masterful opening sequence, and I couldn't turn away from the TV. When it began, with the three teens cruising the World Wide Web, before coming upon the "100-percent free" adult web site, I was wondering where this was going... until we saw the number of "hits" reach 37,122, before the killer came on screen and murder the woman bound to the chair. I tell you, I couldn't use the Internet for weeks after that, not knowing what I might find on a seemingly-innocent site...
This episode is a fantastic study of modern-day technology, with Frank and his Group friends using high-tech digital equipment to track down Avatar (Does that name sound familiar?!). I have once commented on some episodes that Mulder and Scully could have popped up at any time, but "The Mikado" shows a really unorthodox method of investigation that would make it *extremely* difficult for the world's favorite FBI agents.
In the final (sniff!) episode with him in it, Brian Roedecker came in with a tour de force performance that actually recreated his whole personality for me. Here he is an important part of the story, not just a device thrown in to lighten the mood as he can be in some episodes, like "The Hand of Saint Sebastian." No, he emerges with a real personality in his final appearance, and his character provides a nice counterpoint to Frank and Peter, because he reacts to the events. It was also neat to see him actually involved in the investigation, playing a major role in hunting Avatar. And I was also pleased to see he did have feelings, because he was honestly horrified by the murder he witnesses.
It seems that Frank's "gift" is not just limited to visions. No, he gets into Avatar's mind verbally. In the cemetery, Frank starts speaking in the second person, and before long, he's speaking in the first person. Really, REALLY creepy. Probably one of the best uses of his gift ever (surpassed only by "The Curse of Frank Black" and the final static vision in "The Time is Now").
This episode explores more than just that with his "gift," as we also see that Frank has a slight phobia with technology. This is weird, 'cause Frank's got that Macintosh and the accessories (like a scanner) at his house. Maybe he doesn't like them because he can't use his gift with computers?
As for Peter Watts, he actually has a fairly minimal role in "The Mikado." While he displays an advanced comprehension of the case and the factors involved, he is surprisingly ineffectual in the investigation, contributing little other than getting Roedecker access. But I digress...
The weirdest thing about "The Mikado" was that it had a reliance on Frank to pull answers out of midair. We've seen this before, but jeez, there's no way he could figure out such elaborate and difficult clues off the top of his head. I realize Frank is skilled at what he does, but figuring out that the number in Avatar's Mystery Room, 3-7-1-2-2, is actually the coordinates for San Francisco is a bit strange for someone to figure out. But it's just a minor quibble...
What a horrifying moment when the trio realize their attempt to contact the killer via the online newsgroup had resulted in a grisly mutilation of the next victim? That accurately struck on something that has always unnerved me about profilers and the jobs they have, the risks they take trying to play on the same level as their quarry. They were shooting for a positive link to the killer... and only resulted in causing the death of the victim. The Zodiac Killer (loosely the basis for the Avatar) is a good example of this; he toyed with the cops for years before simply disappearing.
When the outing really switches into high gear towards the end, it does so in such a way, the act itself should get an award. Frank finally locates an opera house where he believes Avatar is waiting to take his next victim. Meanwhile the police are following up a lead at a mobile home. But once again, the killer is ready and waiting with more tricks up his sleeve. The door to the mobile home is booby-trapped with a shotgun, resulting in the death of one officer, and when they launch tear gas into the trailer, they quickly discover that it's rigged to detonate.
At the same time, Frank walks through the opera house, unsure what to expect next, when a recording of the Gilbert & Sullivan opera "The Mikado" warns, "Defer, defer, to the Lord High Executioner." The climax of this scene, in which a horrified Peter and Roedecker watch as Avatar appears behind Frank on the Internet broadcast, Peter desperately tries to reach Frank on his cell, and finally Frank and Avatar exchange gunfire. And Avatar gets away with the upper hand.
Frank manages to rescue the most recent kidnapping victim by detecting Avatar's trick of placing her under his executioner's hood with a gun pointed at him, but the killer himself escapes once again. Stunning.
Overall, "The Mikado" is the best standalone episode of "MillenniuM" of all time, and listing fourth on my favorite episodes. It's a fast-paced thriller episode, that spawned the best episode of the Virtual Fourth Season, "The Dawn of Nothing."
My rating: SIX "Defer, Defer..."s out of five! Wonderful!
-- The Stalker