And so we come to the series finale, “Resolution”. It’s certainly been a long road since we first began working on “The Begotten”, but the time has come to offer some insight and do a bit of rehashing of the last ever episode of Millennium.
First comes the teaser, and with this being the last episode, we knew it had to be one of the most epic, large scale and memorable teasers in the history of the show. It was basically the last chance we would ever have to do one of these, so it was an opportunity not to be missed. I had a clear image in my mind for the very first shot we see, a kind of tableaux of the night’s skyline at sunset as a helicopter cruises along to introduce us to Trepkos. There was just something about that picture that seemed to set the tone just right for the final curtain, something that made it feel like a landmark, and I imagine that would have been helped no end by the dramatic underscore. I don’t usually put in any real references to the music in my scripts unless it’s a basic source track – for one thing it’s not done in professional circles, and for another it’s usually rather pointless. But in this case I could just hear it in my mind, and felt that it was important to try and convey that since it added a lot to the idea of setting a tone and atmosphere for the finale. As I wrote it, I listened to a number of existing tracks, such as “Anakin’s Dark Deeds” from Revenge of the Sith, “Jack’s Revenge at the Docks” from 24, and “Trinity Blast” from Carnivale composed by John Williams, Sean Callery and Jeff Biel respectively. I have no doubt that Mark Snow would come up with something similar and equally effective for this.
We then launch into the voice-over from Trepkos as we see his twisted perspective on the world. The idea of point-of-view and people seeing the world differently was a big theme of the first season and an integral part of the pilot episode, so it was quite fitting to incorporate that to this sequence one more time. Only this time we push it right to the limits of plausible budget and see things to their full extreme – not just individuals and killers and such, but the whole planet and mass chaos, in short a vision of the apocalypse in real terms. This also had to match up with Trepkos’ words, such as the blood flowing through the streets when he mentions “the blood-dimmed tide”, the birds falling down from above with the words “the falcon cannot hear the falconer” and “the indignant desert birds”, and people turning on each other in mass violence as “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”. You’ll also notice that a lot of the lines in Trepkos’s soliloquy comes from the William Butler Yeats poem “The Second Coming”, which was of course the poem of significance in the pilot episode. I had originally planned to make the dialogue hear all original, but the more I read over the poem and contemplated its lines, the more appropriate it seemed for the circumstances. It was just perfect for the point of the scene and indeed Trepkos’s agenda in general.
We then round out the teaser with what would be a huge effects shot with Trepkos looking out of the window, his face reflected in the glass while nuclear explosions go off just outside. Of course, it wouldn’t be remotely possible to stand and view those explosions from such close range in real life, but that’s not the point. It’s supposed to be a vision of the apocalypse, a twisted fantasy, not reality. I had this picture in my head as the final shot of the teaser, and like I said it should hopefully come across as one of the biggest and most spectacular of the series, as it should be for the finale.
Then it’s down to earth somewhat as we head into Act One and open with a quick recap of everything that happened in part one, “Ressurection”. Then it’s the last opening quotation of the series, and it’s one from Emily Dickinson. At first I wracked my brains trying to think of something that spoke of ending and beginnings and just couldn’t quite come up with anything that worked. Then, pretty much out of nowhere, this one came floating back into my head and I just thought it was perfect of the finale and saying goodbye to Frank. It spoke of partings, the idea that we’re parting with Frank and the series, and it also invoked the notions of heaven and hell which have, of course, been a huge part of the show since the beginning. I’m pretty pleased with it, all things considered.
Then it’s straight back in on where we left off in part one, namely the aftermath of the car bomb that killed Danner but was meant for Locke. It’s a sombre note to start on, but we’re also in the middle of something here. So it’s time for Frank and Peter to get themselves back to D.C., now that they realise that the case in Seattle has been a deliberately-engineered distraction. The whole notion of two parallel stories on opposite sides of the country kind of presented a bit of a challenge in this regard, but it’s largely something that’s shied away from in both scripts. There was the issue of time difference that I just stayed away from in part one, and this time there’s the issue of getting Frank and Peter on a coast-to-coast flight and getting on with the plot without too much of a time delay. At the end of the day though, this isn’t a real-time show, so there comes a point where you just have to do what’s best for the story. No one wants to have a load of scenes of characters twiddling their thumbs waiting for a flight, and I don’t think anyone really cares. I imagine if there was a vote, it would be a landslide in favour of getting on with the story.
As we get back to the police department, there’s a degree of which we have to play a bit of catch-up, just to remind everyone what’s going on and where we are in terms of the plot. There’s a line that has to be straddled there between easing people back into the story without running away with it, but also not boring people with spending too long going over old news. I chose to put this conversation in Danner’s office, just to add that extra layer of emotion to things with empty chair and such so that there’s something more to it than just the essentials.
Frank then goes back home, more than anything so we can just touch base with Jordan and Miranda. In all honesty, they don’t have much of a story here in the finale, but you can’t give everyone something of their own in the space of just two episodes, it’s just not possible. Instead, they play more of a supporting role here, so I wanted to keep them involved and give them some scenes to play, but obviously that had to be balanced with keeping the story moving, which they themselves weren’t directly involved with. This was also a chance to, first of all, remind us about the surprise in the pipeline for Jordan and the new family unit, which gets paid off in the very last scene, and second of all to go back to the deceased characters in Frank’s subconscious (with another quick glimpse of the Mitch Albom book, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” remember, wink wink).
First to appear out of the five this time is Mike Atkins, following on from his brief scene in “Resurrection”. Much of his dialogue here is actually a bit of a red herring, subtly implying Frank’s mortality. I knew there would be a certain percentage of the audience that would be anticipating Frank’s death by the end of the episode, so I thought I might just play on that a little bit and keep you guessing as to how things might turn out. I can’t help but wonder if that actually fooled anyone or not.
We then pick up on Trepkos again to remind us exactly what he’s up to, and to show us just what weapons and technology he has at his disposal. This was basically an attempt to show how all the different strands are starting to come together, and that Terepkos is rolling it all into one big package to get the DOD contract. Again, that’s a way of upping the stakes and showing that it’s all or nothing at this point. Then we have the act-out which is back over in Seattle, with Dillon being executed by a mysterious figure in black. I mentioned this in the build-up in “Resurrection”, that Dillon was deliberately captured alive in that episode to play against expectations, and also to allow us to play this scene here which was just a bit more sinister than being conveniently shot by a cop. It also cemented the two story strands together somewhat, as I think everyone can gather than Dillon is executed by an associate of Trepkos here in order to stop him exposing what they did to him and why.
At the top of Act Two we see Emma again, following on from her appearance in part one. Again she shows us a bit of nostalgia, but also gets us and Frank thinking about Trepkos and who he is. It’s then left to Giebelhouse to interrupt and break the news of Dillon’s death. Giebs perhaps gets a bit of short shrift in this episode when compared to the others, largely because he had more screen time in part one where his side of the story was largely complete. So here he plays a much smaller role, and this scene is in fact the last time we see him. He’s probably the only one that doesn’t get a sentimental final goodbye, but in a way I think that’s no bad thing considering the rest of the episode is fairly overflowing with such things. It doesn’t hurt to have someone have a bit more of a low-key last scene.
Which brings me to Peter as we open on him in the next scene. He also presented a tricky prospect of how much story and screen time he could get. He has more than Giebs and the aforementioned Jordan and Miranda, but it was still a bit of a challenge to service him as much as he perhaps deserved to be. He’d been around the longest next to Frank, pretty much, and he’s a big part of the show. At the same time though, this is Frank’s story, and there were certain elements of the plot, with the investigation into Trepkos, that just demanded forward momentum and didn’t provide quite enough time to just linger on Peter for the sake of it. Having said that, it’s not as if he’s entirely ignored. I think, on balance, his side of things worked out okay. He had just about enough to keep him involved in things, but even so I was always looking to give him dialogue wherever possible in scenes such as this one at the FBI Analysis Centre in the aftermath of the suicide bombings.
In examining the debris, this was pretty much the last opportunity to show Frank’s internal viewpoints, of him using his facility, as it were. That’s naturally one of the hallmarks of the series, and as the plot drove things forward I found opportunities to use the stylistic device getting rarer and rarer. So I wanted to make the most of it here, really use if to its maximum degree as Frank inspects the evidence. It’s left to Peter here to really spell out the significance of everything with regard to an apocalypse of our own creation and so forth. Peter has traditionally been given these long speeches, in no small part owing to Terry O’Quinn’s fantastic delivery and articulate voice. This was one of those moments, one final chance for him to shine in the exposition mixed with quasi-religious theology.
It was at this point that I kind of had to engineer a bit of a contrivance in order to get all the characters to where they needed to be. As I mentioned before, I wanted to keep Peter in the thick of things, and pairing him up with Locke was a chance to capitalise on the conflict between them but also show them moving past it to some degree, while I also wanted Frank to have a bit more time at home with Miranda and Jordan, and of course to see some more of his past faces. So the contrivance was to make Frank a bit tired, to play on his age. I tried to make that a virtue and pass some comment on the fact that Frank is actually getting on quite a bit now, as of course he his. There has to be a point where even Frank is too old to be off chasing down killers and saving the world, so I thought I make that contrivance a virtue as best I could and comment on that, which is helped by another appearance from Cheryl Andrews.
Peter and Brad then go off in search of evidence, and it’s thanks to some gizmos of parobolic microphones that they get it. I don’t like to do too much techno-talk in the show, and what with the terrorist connection and the bombings there was a risk that this could suddenly morph in 24 at any moment. Part of this was by necessity though, as I knew they needed to get something to set them on their way. They ultimately needed to get their hands on some evidence, or they wouldn’t be able to confront the media about it all as I knew they had to later on. So, it’s a bit of a stretch at this point, perhaps one of the weaker parts of the episode. Again, it was a case of needing to move forward, and if we had taken any more time over this the script would have got dangerously bloated. I also wanted to inject a bit of action to the episode at this point, as I knew it wasn’t enough to just have character’s coming full circles and people talking about the Group and so forth. There needed to be a little energy and excitement to spice things up at this point, and what better than a good old-fashioned car chase? Again, dangerously close to 24 territory, but nevertheless it’s what I think we needed right about now – a bit of spectacle. It’s also a chance to dispose of Cain, the ever-silent right-hand-man of Trepkos. I hope we managed to make him one of those figures of menace that are more effective by staying silent, by just being there, not knowing exactly who he is and what his game is. Sometimes you want carefully crafted characters with complex backstories, and other times you just want an ominous figure. That’s what Cain is. As such, he meets his end here in what would hopefully be a fairly elaborate and cool bit of stunt work as his car plummets off the bridge and into the water. Meat and potatoes action it may be, but as I said, I think that’s what the episode needed at this point to punctuate all the intrigue and nostalgia that was going on.
That takes us out of Act Two, and when we come back in on Act Three it’s time for one last scene between Frank and Bob Bletcher. He references Mount Baker here, and “the one thing in life that will never change”. Long-term fans will of course tell you that’s an allusion to the first season episode “Lamentation”, where Bob takes Frank on a trek up Mount Baker to see the view and makes that comment on it. That’s also the episode in which Bletch dies, so it’s quite appropriate I think. Again he drops another little hint about Frank’s mortality, which is another way of keeping people guessing as to whether Frank is going to end up dead or alive. That’s also kind of the point of making a bit of a bigger deal than usual of Frank and Jordan saying goodbye.
Then it’s off to DARPA for the big exposure sequence, where Frank gets a chance to finally dish everything out to the media and the little press-conference. In a way, the idea here was for Frank to be able to blow open all the cloak and dagger stuff about the Group once and for all, to finally be able to get everything out in the open which was a way of being able to brings some sense of closure to things. Making these kinds of revelations to the press was the best way I could see of being able to beat that kind of darkness, to force it into the light and bring and end to things. This requires something of a long speech by Frank, and I was conscious of needing to make that linguistically engaging and dramatic whilst also making the sequence have some energy and be visually exciting. Originally, my take on this was to just keep intercutting with Trepkos’s escape and Brad’s pursuit of him up the stairs. There is a degree to which Frank is giving a quick potted history of the Group’s misdeeds in this sequence, and I wrestled with whether or not to put in any flashbacks right up until the last moment. Part of me felt that this was just a little too expected and standard-fare for series finales, and also that we had kind of done all this with the “previously” sequence at the beginning of “Resurrection”. Then the other part of me said that it would help to keep this visually fresh, to create a sense of pace and interest in something that could otherwise risk trying people’s patience and attention spans. Ultimately, I decided to go with the flashbacks to make this sequence it bit more elaborate and more of a full meal. Then the act-out shows us Trepkos getting away in his chopper, which sets up the final confrontation to come.
At the top of the fourth and final act, we come down from all that tension and anticipation to the aftermath of Trekos’s escape. Frank, of course, has to face this final battle alone. Again, that requires a slight stretch of the imagination and a contrivance in sending Peter and Brad away to organise back up, but it has to be done to service the story and the thematic needs of the show as a whole. It has to be Frank facing down Trepkos alone, it just has to be. And it’s the Millennium Group Headquarters that provides the crucible for that final confrontation, and again that makes thematic sense given how central the Group has been for a long time.
Before he can go in though, Frank has a moment with one final face from the past – his late wife Catherine. It wouldn’t be the last episode without Catherine, would it? I deliberately saved her until last, not appearing in part one but as the last figure in part two. At the same time, I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone to see her turn up, especially given that we’ve nailed our intensions to the mask in terms of deceased character in part one, hence why it wasn’t necessary to leave Megan Gallagher’s name out of the lengthy opening credits as we have done under different circumstances. It was important to give her and Frank their final scenes together, and I wanted to make the most of it in terms of emotion and nostalgia and such, and hopefully it was satisfying in those regards.
Then it’s on to the endgame. This was quite a challenge, as at any moment something like this can descend into melodrama and sound very much like the bad guy cackling and twirling his moustache while the good guy says he’ll get him. It’s like the final lightsabre battle of every Star Wars film or the big gunfight duel at the end of every western. Yet it has to be grounded and believable for the real world that Millennium exists in. No easy task.
There are references here to a number of names from history and such here, from the Antichrist and Lucifer to Vlad Tepes, Rasputin, and of course Yaponchik. This is of course familiar to fans from the episode “Marantha”. The idea here though wasn’t to necessarily say that this was another incarnation of the same person. This was very difficult to get across in terms of what we were really getting at here. The idea is more that Trepkos is one of those figures that is very powerful and influential, but not necessarily supernatural. We’ve already kind of wrapped up the Legion arc in “One and Many” with Lucy Butler. That was the side of things that was more about the Devil. But the Antichrist isn’t actually a supernatural being the way the Devil is. It’s more of a human figure that has apocalyptic significance. That’s kind of what Trepkos is. He’s a man, he’s not the Devil or a monster. But the power at his control and his apocalyptic intensions make him into one of those cultural myths that have endured through the ages. That’s the idea here, but it’s one that’s very difficult to put across on paper. Even now I’m not sure I’m making complete sense, so it’s even harder to do in the confines of believable and engaging dialogue whilst also getting on with the story.
Then there’s the fire element. I wanted to make this as crucial and dramatic a final confrontation as possible, but another reason for the fire was kind of to torpedo the Millennium Group once and for all, to bring that extra level of ending to things. To some extent, the Group has been around for forever and will endure as an idea no matter what, but the idea here was that the infrastructure and reputation of their current incarnation would be so damaged after all this as to effectively make them a non-entity for the foreseeable future. Again, to bring an end to things all the more. I’m not sure that part of it, regarding the big fire, ever truly came across as it should have.
Then it’s up to Frank to ultimately defeat Trepkos, but again this presented something of a challenge because Frank isn’t an action hero and has gotten pretty old by now, as is Trepkos himself. So you can’t have a massive elaborate fight sequence here, it would just be ridiculous, plus it’s not really the show. But at the same time, there has to be some drama here, not just an easy solution. Fortunately, we had set up this idea of a large glass side to the office that looked down to the street right from the very first episode in which Trepkos was introduced, so we had that bit of slight foreshadowing of sorts on the table, and had stressed it back in the teaser sequence to this episode by featuring it very prominently. So now it made sense for Frank to defeat Trepkos by forcing him out of that window and down to his death. Hopefully that provided a suitably dramatic and exciting ending to this confrontation. The spike at the bottom going through his head was really just another reference to the Antichrist legend, that it was the only vulnerability, but we don’t make a big deal out of that here.
Frank is still in a bit of trouble at this point though, since the fire has gotten completely out of control and fills the office. I wanted this to be one of those moments where his life truly hangs in the balance, where the audience really isn’t sure which way it’s going to go, whether he survives or dies a heroic death. Ultimately though, it way never my intension to kill Frank in the finale. That didn’t feel right to me. It’s sometimes the first idea people have for a series finale, for the main character to die. I didn’t want to do that though, and it didn’t feel like the right ending for Frank. He deserved to have something of a happy ending really. As bleak as the show has sometimes been, it’s never been totally downbeat like that, and to end with Jordan and Miranda grieving over Frank would be a horrible way to close the book on the series really, for my money.
So instead we take him right to the edge here as he sees those five faces one more time – Mike, Cheryl, Emma, Bob and Catherine. This is where Peter comes in and has his chance to shine, his chance to contribute to the ending and be something of a hero himself. He’s the one that goes into the building and saves Frank’s life. We don’t see that all on screen because I think there’s much more suspense in putting us in Locke’s shoes and watch the building in flames with hope running out to finally see them emerge at the last minute.
Then the action is pretty much complete and we go back to Quantico to bookend the two-parter and indeed the season by ending where both of those began. This also gave us a chance to bring Brad’s character arc to its final point and make him an FBI Agent. That’s the first thing we really learned about him, that he was once a student of Frank’s but was washed out of the Academy, so it made a neat kind of sense to bring him around and let him achieve that goal. That’s kind of true to life in way too, that you can get somewhere and achieve something, but it usually doesn’t happen in the way you think it will. SO Brad has ultimately grown and evolved over the season, and now he’s earned his position as an FBI Agent. In some ways it requires a slight stretch of the imagination, that Frank could pull that string for him and secure him a position so quickly, but I think it’s more important to pay-off that character arc in a nice, meaningful way. So it’s a happy ending for Brad, just as it’s a happy ending for Frank.
We were conscious of that though in plotting exactly how everyone was going to end, and didn’t want there to be an overload of happy endings. There needed to be something to balance that out. Not everyone can go off into the sunshine and wrap things up in a tidy package. So that brought us to Peter. Where was Peter going to end? We weren’t going to kill him off in saving Frank, because for one thing the show has already played that card back in “Goodbye to All That”. Instead, we wanted Peter to go off having not learned the lesson that Frank has spent so long learning, of letting go. Frank gets to that point and so gets happiness, but Peter doesn’t. He’s still hung up on the past and chasing evil, which will ultimately leave him alone. So we draw that parallel between him and Frank, and show them taking different paths. Peter takes the path of obsession and it leaves him isolated, alone, and unhappy. Frank takes the opposite path.
I also wanted to work in the Polaroid shot as well to reflect the way the pilot ended. That final scene way back showed us Frank receiving the Polaroid in an ominous and terrifying sense, the signal of the stalker still out there. This time though, the Polaroid is a happy one, a shot of the unified family, representing the exact opposite of what the polaroids have been as a symbol of terror over the years. It was important to me to incorporate that just on some small level, especially since the Polaroid flashes have still opened up every act this season and have been an integral signature of the series.
Then that takes us to the final scene. I knew I wanted this to the final scene for a long time, way before we even started plotting the finale. I wanted it to be an exact mirror of the first time we ever saw Frank and Jordan back in the pilot so as to bookend the series with exact symmetry. Again, I went so far as to incorporate bits of Chris Carter’s original wording in his pilot script, and of course lifted bits of dialogue. Only this time it’s Jordan who’s covering her eyes and being led to the new house. Then those final lines that say that house isn’t yellow, and that “it doesn’t have to be”. That, to me, spoke volumes about the themes of the show over all five seasons and showed how the characters had come around. Frank doesn’t feel the overbearing need to paint away the darkness anymore, he doesn’t have to make-believe. He has happiness, and he has balance. He doesn’t need to fake it with a yellow house. He can have a normal home, a home for his family, and he can be safe and happy because he’s neither chasing evil or running from it like he has been in his past.
I thought that was a nice final shot to end on, ascending up from the house like the first scene of the first act of the pilot did, and also how the final shot of the main title sequence did for the first two seasons. To me, it felt like the perfect place to end. I can only hope that people reading felt the same way.
And so that brings us to the end of “Resolution”, the end of the virtual fifth season, and indeed the end of Millennium. All things considered, I’m pretty pleased with the way the year turned out as a whole. It took us a long time to get it on the page and then to the finale, but I think it’s been worth it. It’s certainly not been perfect, there are times when we slipped and fell a little, but overall I think we can all walk away and say we did good work, never descended into “fanfic”, and turned in something with professional sensibilities that was true to the original series. I’d like to thank everyone that worked on the project at every point, you all know who you are, not least of which is Tony Black who came up with this whole idea in the first place and set the ball rolling.
Of course, I must also thank everyone who took the time to read our episodes, because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about, and reading the comments and feedback make it all worth while. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
Here we go again with some insight into episode 19, “Resurrection”, which is the first of our two-part series finale. I say that very deliberately as series finale and not season finale, because as I’ve said before we see this as the last ever season of Millennium. We’re approaching it as the last episode which closes the book on the story of Frank Black and associates.
As a result of that, we knew that this had to be a big event, a major point which touched on most of the important issues from across the entire series and weaved them together to provide a degree of closure. To set that up right from the very beginning, I decided to open this episode with a recap segment that reminded us of some important beats from right the way back to the pilot. Doing that really sets a tone from the very start and nails our intensions to the mast, as it were, by declaring that this will have significance to the complete series, and that you better sit up and take note. It also serves a more practical and specific purpose in reminding everyone about the Frenchman and who he was, which is important to the coming plot. The other moments also have their own relevance in reminding us about who the Group are and how nefarious they have become, as well as all the technologies and controversies they’ve had a hand in over the years, and finally the brain surgery that has an important connection to the story ahead.
Once we launch into that story proper, we see that is something of an echo from the pilot, which is a way of bringing the show full circle to end up where we began in a certain sense. We open on the Ruby Tip club, which is of course the same club from the pilot episode teaser, and these initial images are deliberately intended to make you think of those opening shots. I even went so far as to incorporate and reflect some of the language used in Chris Carter’s original pilot script. At the same time however, it was also important not to recycle the pilot’s teaser entirely, as it would be no good to be exactly the same. For that reason, I chose to have our antagonist here – Dillon Cole – follow a dancer exiting the club, rather than go inside the way that the Frenchman did back in the pilot. Instead, he wanders after her down the street, stopping at a payphone on the way in order to demonstrate his inner conflict. Another reason for the payphone was also to work in the dialogue exchanges that again reflect the pilot, namely the whole “tell me what you want” / “I want to see you dance on the blood-dimmed tide”. That was an important thing to work in, just to underscore the full circle effect, and then he can go off and commit his murder. In that sense, I think it works in reflecting and evoking the pilot without copying it verbatim, which is basically the overall aim of the episode as a whole.
As we head into Act One, we also get a chance to provide that bookending, full-circle effect for the season as a self-contained entity by opening on Frank giving a lecture at the FBI Academy, just as he did when we saw him for the first time back in the season premiere, “The Begotten”. He then goes off to play a scene with the newly-introduced Academy Commandant, Assistant Director Perry. He’s not intended to be a major character, just someone for Frank to report in to and essentially announce his retirement to the audience. We cast this role with Bill Duke for the gravitas, since an event like a series finale allows you to push the boat out a bit and get some bigger names than you might normally for these kinds of appearances.
Of course, there has to be more here than just nostalgia and full-circle moments, which is where Locke and Danner come in. I’m glad that they’re able to be a bit more pleasant and light-hearted with each other here, to show that they’ve grown a bit and developed since the beginning of the season. They show the first signs here of stumbling on to their side of the story, but admittedly it does take a little while longer to get going than usual since this is structured as a two-parter.
We then pick up on Frank again as he returns home to Miranda. This establishes the family setting and also gives us chance to drop in a quick reminder about the dream troubles that were mentioned back at the beginning of the season. This was just a way of bringing that back to the front of everyone’s minds in order to make sense of the appearance of deceased characters that is to come. I didn’t want people to start scratching their heads too much at that when it happened, or to start thinking they were ghosts in a literal sense. So by Miranda just touching on the topic of dreams and what had been established earlier in the season, it ought to have gone down a little easier when it occurred. We then make a brief mention of Frank and Miranda’s living arrangements and a surprise for Jordan, which is designed to set-up the new family house which I knew I wanted as the very last scene in the next and final episode. Putting an oblique reference to it now just makes sure it’s on the board and gives you something to wonder about as we go on.
You’ll also notice that we very meticulously show Jordan reading a book but don’t reveal the title, only that the author is Mitch Albom. No one has ever questioned me on this so far – either it was too obvious or so obscure that no one realised it was meant to be significant. Either way, I can tell you now that said book is meant to the “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”. I just thought that had a very nice resonance to the five deceased characters that make an appearance in various nods to the past. As you can see from the rather lengthy opening credits, we’ve got some Special Guest Stars to mark the occasion, and by the end of “Resolution” they total five, so sliding in this little reference to that book seemed rather apt, but I’ll talk more about these appearances later.
Next we cut to Dillon back in Seattle just to keep him in play and make sure you don’t forget about the danger out there before picking up on Locke at the hotel in Washington, D.C. This is where we get to something to give Locke his first breadcrumb to put him on the trail of the Millennium Group and Trepkos and what is happening in the capital. We don’t need to see what happened here or a big drawn-out build-up to the crime, we just need to come in and set Locke going. The fact that the gunshots are to the back of the ear let the audience know the Millennium Group is involved, but there doesn’t need to be too much more than that.
Peter Watts then makes his first appearance of the episode, naturally as interested in the case over in Seattle as Frank, so they prepare to head out. This is really the two strands of the episode: Frank and Peter in Seattle going back to the pilot, Locke and Danner in D.C. on the trail of Trepkos and the Group. By the time the next part comes along, “Resolution”, hopefully those two threads are fused together satisfactorily.
On the flight out, we see the first of our old characters returning in the form of Bob Bletcher. The idea here is to make the series finale an extra special event. It just wouldn’t be the last episode without people like Bletch who have made such an impact on the show over the years. However, I should stress that these aren’t really meant to be supernatural occurrences. It’s hard to make it clear just in the script, but the idea was for these characters to represent aspects of Frank’s subconscious, a mixture of memory and thought coming out through dreams. As such, you’ll notice that every time one of these characters appear it is preceded or followed by a moment of Frank opening or closing his eyes or resting his head and such.
When they arrive, we return to the Seattle Public Safety Building for the first time this season. The description of the angle and the weather here is designed to very much evoke the familiar image from many a first season episode. Hopefully that comes across. Likewise, the opening dialogue between Frank and Giebelhouse mirrors the greetings between Frank and Bletcher when they reunite in the same location in the pilot episode.
Giebelhouse was definitely someone we wanted to include at this point. He’s been in every season of the show so far, and it wouldn’t be right to do the last episode without him. That’s another reason why we hadn’t included him in an episode prior to this, since we knew this was going to be the last season, and didn’t want to just throw him in to a random standalone somewhere in the middle of the season, and instead save him for the finale to make it extra special. It’s just more logical this way too. Given the nature of the story, Frank definitely had to go back to Seattle for this one, whereas for anything else it might have felt a bit forced and contrived, especially mid-season, and it certainly wouldn’t have made any sense for Giebelhouse to just randomly appear on the East Coast. Bringing him in here just felt much more natural and logical, plus it tied in with the sentimental side of things, and it’s not often that those two are on the same side.
As we head into Act Two we get the majority of stuff happening at the Seattle Public Safety Building, whereas in Act One it was more a quick entrance and introduction before the act-out. Nailing down Giebelhouse’s dialogue was perhaps a bit of a challenging at first, but once you’ve cracked it, it kind of falls into place. It’s mostly about putting in double negatives and a lot of slang and contractions. Too much and it can get over-the-top, but in the end I think it works out well enough. He also makes mention about if he’ll live long enough to see retirement or some such, and that line is more of a little teaser because we’d already hyped the fact that someone would die in the finale, so I kind of wanted to keep people guessing about that, and maybe slip in a little red-herring to get you wondering if this is a foreshadowing of death for Giebs. Of course, we now know that that’s just a slight-of-hand, because he’s alive and well by the end of the season.
We then go back to Locke and Danner as they investigate the Defence Advance Research Projects Agency, or DARPA if you will. This is really to set up the idea of a major defence contract which served as the vehicle to suggest that the stakes were very high and that everything was about to come together in one package. That was the feeling we were generally going for with the finale, not one single piece of technology or a single shady deal, but something that would encompass every single thing that we’ve seen with the Group over the years.
When we return to Seattle, Frank drops in the idea of the brain surgery that we saw most prominently back in “Via Dolorosa” and “Goodbye to All That”. This really provided an excellent opportunity to return to the pilot and come full circle, not just a convenient copycat or a similar case, but a recreation brought to life very deliberately at this specific time to distract Frank and Peter from events in D.C. which we see from Locke’s perspective for the first of the two parts.
On the drive back, you’ll notice that Frank and Peter pass the turn off for Ezekiel Drive, which is of course where the original yellow house was back in Season 1. However, instead of going down and revisiting it, this time they drive on. There were a number of reasons for making this choice – first of all, it can get kind of predictable and mechanical to keep going back to everything from the past one after another, and after a while it becomes overkill. Second of all, that return to the yellow house had already been done really back in the third season’s “The Sound of Snow”. And thirdly, it also provided a nice opportunity to work in a resonant bit of dialogue with a trust old metaphor, the idea of having been down a road and knowing where it leads and wanting to go onward instead of back. All that works on the literal level with the car, and of course on the metaphorical level of Frank’s life.
Back at the motel, Frank has his second visitation or dream, and this time it’s Cheryl Andrews. She was another prominent recurring character that had died along the way that we wanted to work in, since she’s been in all three seasons and is quite a memorable figure, in no small part thanks to CCH Pounder’s portrayal. She’s perhaps not as big of a character as Bletcher is in terms of how familiar we are with her, but in looking back on the show and everyone who has died, she certainly seemed like one of the more important people in Frank’s life. She illuminates his subconscious processing stuff about the Group here and issues of trust and conspiracy, which fits perfectly with what we saw of her character in Season 2 and 3.
As we head into Act Three, things have to get a bit more pedestrian for a bit as we go through the investigative motions. I always say these are the hardest and least fun scenes to write, just getting the clues, the evidence, and connecting the dots. Much better to be writing a strong character scene or an action beat or something more poetic. First we pick up on Dillon cruising for boys, just to remind us he’s out there and stalking his next victim, then we go to the squad room and see Frank laying out the profile in a similar way as he did back in the pilot.
This leads on to the stake-out at the river where Frank has another dreamy encounter, this time with Mike Atkins who we know from such first season episodes as “Gehenna” and “Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions”. Again, he’s perhaps not been seen quite so often as the likes of Bletcher and Emma to come, but he always came across as a significant person in Frank’s life, and we’re told he’s the person that brought Frank to the Millennium Group in the first place. Frank’s memory of him or his subconscious projection of him here talks about family and achieving balance, and even goes so far as to repeat his dying message from “Powers Principalities, Thrones and Dominions” that was relayed to him by Peter.
Back in D.C. meanwhile, Locke is hot on the trail of Trepkos and actually gets his name and crosses paths with him for the first time. This is actually the first time that anyone except Peter has played a scene with him out of our primary “heroes”. This was a bit of means to an end really though. It had come to the point where Brad really needed to know who he was up against and have a name to track down, and also this served the function of alerting Trepkos to the investigation into him which ultimately leads to the assassination attempt at the end of the episode.
Then it’s the chase. As before, elements of this are deliberately intended to evoke the long chase sequence in the pilot episode, and as with the teaser, I took some cues from Chris Carter’s original script in order to reflect it. Also like before though, it’s important not to just replay the same sequence exactly, and to make it a bit different at the same time. So this time around, there’s not going over the bridge and causing chaos with the traffic or jumping over the side – it’s not as big of a deal of that – he just gets away by the time they emerge onto the main road and there’s one of those cool 360 camera shots to show the surrounding and that there’s no sight of him while staying on Frank’s face for the whole turn. I like those.
At the top of Act Four we launch straight in on the appearance on Emma Hollis. By this point I think the audience have pretty much got the idea on how this is working and aren’t so surprised anymore, so it needs less introduction and adjusting too. At this point she’s really representing Frank’s drive to put the pieces together, and also his instructional side in being a mentor figure to both her and Brad.
Then we get to the point with the terrorist suicide-bombings at the football stadium and the Washington Monument at 6pm on June 6th -- or in other words 6/6/6. This was originally born out of an idea in the writers’ room that was actually slated for 12/12/12 a the time. However, since this episode was airing much closer to June than it was to December, and given the reference to the number of the Devil, this just naturally evolved into 6/6/6. The basic idea here was firstly to up the ante on things, second to give Trepkos even more of an evil and threatening nature, and third to link in that Satanic element. Of course, in terms of the plot, it was also to raise national security concerns and to try and push the DOD further into giving it’s big contract to Trepkos. I think these sequences, as harrowing as they may be in today’s climate, succeeded in giving the finale that extra epic feel and sense of something bigger than your regular episode.
Back in Seattle things start to move a little faster as we get to Dillon’s home and find the coffins in the basement and such. Again, this was to echo the pilot but not repeat it, so the buried-alive guy is down there, but it’s not in the woods by the river, it’s in his basement. You’ll notice that we don’t spend much time at this location and actually find the leaflet for the mobile blood van a little too quickly and perhaps slightly conveniently, but that’s because all the various elements that were going into the finale had just started to balloon by now and threatened to drag on if we didn’t get moving, and there was a definite point we had to be at by the end of part one. So it’s full speed ahead at this point.
Soon enough we get to the confrontation with the blood van, which was about as original a thing as I could come up with for where Dillon could be testing the blood. With the Frenchman in the pilot, it was of course the pathology lab at the police department, so this needed to be something different and not quite so dull and obvious as a hospital. So there you have it – mobile blood van. Frank’s decision to go inside alone is pure Frank, but it’s there that he’s threatened by a hypodermic needle. It occurs to me that we’ve never really seen that kind of thing as a threatening weapon much before, not in what I’ve seen anyway, and certainly not in Millennium, so again that serves as something original. By the same token, I knew that I didn’t want to have Dillon gunned down or killed by the end of this episode. That’s kind of the clichéd, standard expected ending to these things by now, and I’m sure if you had to place a bet the sweetest odds would be on Giebelhouse charging in and putting a few rounds in him. Instead, I wanted this to play against that, and for them to actually capture him alive as they wanted for a change. As well as making that a bit of a surprise, it also allowed us to add in the far more sinister execution scene in part two which tied things back to the Millennium Group and made for extra drama. I say that now as I’m sure by this point everyone has read to the end, and there are no spoilers to be risked.
As a final twist, Frank starts putting the pieces together and begins to realise that this has been an engineered distraction to divert his and Peter’s attention away fro events in D.C. So he calls up Brad, linking up the two strands of the story, and it is this fateful call that leads him to hand his keys to Danner. And then comes the boom and the death that was promised. By taking his keys and getting in his car first, she takes the bomb that was meant for him. The idea here was that Trepkos had been alerted to the investigation and was worried when Brad showed up and crossed his path earlier in the episode, so decided to have him done away with, as indicated by his earlier call to Cain, the ever-silent muscle-man in the shadows. I’m sure some people probably saw this explosion coming, especially if you’re used to watching thrillers by now, but I like it. I think it’s a shocking enough way to go out of part one and leaving you with your jaw just ever so slightly open for the wait for part two. Nothing like a good explosion every once in a while to keep things interesting. I also quite like the way we still hear the sounds of alarms and flames after the fade to black and while the old “TO BE CONTINUED” comes up. It just kind of allows the shock to continue being absorbed, gives it some more weight and milks the moment a bit. Even if you did see it coming, I think it would look pretty good on screen.
So that’s “Resurrection” done with. This was the side of the finale which was about the full-circle effect most of all, with revisiting the pilot plot and its locations, whereas part two goes more to the side about Trepkos’s plot and the final confrontations, although there are still one or two pieces of nostalgia reserved away for “Resolution”. I’ll come to all that next time. Hope you enjoyed it.
Welcome back to the official VS5 blog. With the season now complete, I can now go back and get caught up a bit with these entries which slipped a little as the final mile of the marathon took precedence. This time around we’ll go over episode 18, “Burning Man”, which was written by Ian Austin. It’s essentially the last ever standalone for the show, the last self-contained normal episode if you will before the big finale, the two-part story of “Resurrection” and “Resolution”.
In some respects this was one of the most troubled episodes we had on the board all year. It was originally slated to air much earlier in the season and was set to be written by another staff writer, but when things changed and people departed it kept getting pushed back and back and ended up as the last thing to come to fruition. Fortunately for us, we were very lucky to get Ian Austin to come in and do two episodes for us, which I mentioned back with “Critical Mass”, which was his first, and he did the same last-minute job for us here with “Burning Man”. For that, we’ll always be very grateful. Nonetheless, there was some concern that this one was dead on arrival. In a way, it might have been a little unfair of us to lump this unfinished story onto Ian, and in retrospect it might even have turned out better if we had just gone with an entirely new, original premise. Instead though, Ian was burdened down with the unfinished threads that had been lingering around for some time, and was thus given something of an impossible task to weave them all together into a decent episode. So, ultimately, I would say that “Burning Man” was probably one of our least-successful episodes, but for the above reasons it’s entirely my fault, and no slight against Ian. After all, a chef is only as good as the ingredients he is given, and we probably gave him some rather rotten and past-their-sell-by-date ingredients for this one.
Because of all these factors, the script here went through quite a lot of changes and revisions before the final version aired. We had a few pages done by the original writer, but there was really hardly anything to work with there, so we just ended up tossing that out completely and letting Ian start over. Even after his draft was turned in it went through a few more changes right up until the last minute. The teaser that we have here though is, by and large, intact and reasonably effective. I like the fact that we get to mix in the point-of-view shots which was a particular hallmark of the show’s first season. The idea behind the story was that this man saw himself as burning with hellfire and suffering for his sins, so wanted to turn that outward onto others by starting fires, and because of that, point-of-view was very important.
As we head into Act One, the way Frank becomes involved in the case is a little different than usual, which I’ve repeatedly said is something we always strive for. He gets involved this time by seeing an article in a newspaper, which perhaps brings back memories of how Frank first got involved in the case back in the pilot episode. That’s certainly not an intentional resonance here, all that comes up in the finale. Instead, in this case, it was born from an original idea that had Frank getting an anonymous tip delivered by a newspaper with a circled article. However, as time went on, we realised that that never went anywhere, and there was no way to work in any notion of a source or a tip. It didn’t make sense at all, quite frankly, so that was dropped entirely, but we retained the part of the newspaper, only now it is just an innocent, everyday article, not a deliberate act of drawing Frank’s attention to something by an outside agent.
Still, that does raise some problems of its own. You could question why Frank chooses this particular case from this particular article on this particular day. There has to be loads of crime articles in the newspaper every morning, so why doesn’t Frank pick one to pursue every day? That’s a bit of a problem here that is never entirely reconciled. Part of the problem was that the first draft of the script painted Frank as quite an over psychic, not just profiling through instinct and intuition, but actually getting visions out of nowhere that offered clues with no basis in anything he already knew. This has been a recurring point of confusion throughout the entire history of the show, with Chris Carter’s original pilot making it very clear that Frank was definitely not psychic, but later episodes and seasons confusing this point and making his facility into supernatural ability. In VS5, we’ve always tried to stay true to the original idea that Frank was anything but psychic, but the first draft of “Burning Man” kind of flied in the face of that. So that’s one reason why a number of elements had to be rewritten as I took my pass on the script. Again, that’s not Ian’s fault, it’s a case of providing bad ingredients in the first place for him to work with.
We then go to scene featuring our primary antagonist of the episode, named Douglas Copp. As with the teaser, I’m quite happy with the point-of-view shots we get here, showing his distorted view of the world, but I’m less happy with his dialogue. He is essentially reciting encyclopaedic details about fire here, which serves the purpose of demonstrating his obsession, but at the same time it feels a little odd that he would be saying all this out loud and just to himself. It just feels a bit forced, a bit too unnatural.
The following scenes between Frank and Locke were restructured slightly to set it in the morgue to show Frank coming down onto the case of his own free will, having been prompted by the newspaper article earlier. As before, this was necessary because the original draft had Frank coming in and basically telling Locke what he had seen in a vision and wondering what it all meant. Like I said earlier though, this is essentially backwards. Frank’s flashes are meant to be him putting together the clues he has already found, not receiving clues out of the ether and then investigating because of them. Consequently, the way Frank approached the case had to be retooled somewhat. So now he is concerned that the arsonist is going to escalate, which helps explain at least a little why he’s involving himself in this case over others. There’s also a nice moment where Frank anticipates Locke’s disbelief and unwillingness to follow his lead, but instead he surprises him by trusting his judgement. That’s a good character beat, as it shows how Locke has grown and developed over the course of the season, and isn’t still a one-note objector that hasn’t changed since “The Begotten”.
When we cut back to Douglas on the streets, we hear the voice of Joan for the first time, who we learn much later is actually the voice of Joan of Arc, or at least what Douglas thinks in his mind is Joan of Arc. This was a very, very late addition to the script on m part when I was doing the final pass on it. There was a single, almost throwaway line to Joan of Arc in Ian’s draft, and that prompted me to think it would really be interesting to incorporate this further and make it a more central part of the episode, to actually have him hearing voices and think it was the voice of Joan of Arc, and for us to actually hear that voice too rather than just the standard crazy man talking. This also helped to solve one of the problems with Douglas’s talking to himself all the time, which as I mentioned above just didn’t sound right. Much of the dialogue given to the voice of Joan here is actually stuff that was originally written for Douglas by Ian, but I thought it would play much better to have this being said to Douglas by Joan, rather than just have Douglas rambling to himself around town. So, in changing it in this way, it allowed us to retain the basic essence of Ian’s work and writing, but just transplant it slightly in a way that, hopefully, improved the finished product.
The act-out here, with Douglas burning himself with the lighter, is also quite an effective one in its own way, I think. It’s more of a psychological scare, rather than a big outright “boo”. Those can sometimes be the more interesting, and I think that’s certainly the case here.
As we head into Act Two, we probably come to one of the slowest parts of the narrative. I think this is another bit of a weakness to the episode, in that not a great deal happens from beginning to end, and there is an awful lot of time spent by our protagonists just sitting around talking. People say that is the death of drama, and you could make a legitimate criticism of this episode on that score. As I said before, the problem was really that the original concept didn’t have enough flesh to it. There wasn’t enough meat on its bones in the outline stage, so it really was a tough ask to make something substantial and pacy and eventful about it. At its most basic level, it’s a story about a man who kills at the beginning and gets caught up with at the end, with very little in between.
Much of that in between is spent with Frank and Miranda profiling together. We wanted to have Miranda involved in this episode, as we wanted to keep her relationship with Frank in the audience’s minds and cement it as something serious by the time the finale came around. So that’s a plus point. It’s also kind of good to show the profiling process and return to that detailed and precise level of analysis that we take more and more for granted as the series has gone on. That’s another positive. But at the same time it can tend to drag and get a bit laborious, lacking in action and lacking in events in favour of just sitting and talking. You could also argue that it says something a bit negative about Frank and Miranda’s relationship if they spend all their time talking about work and this kind of thing over dinner. Of course, that’s not the case, but these scenes can risk making it come across that way, as if they don’t connect on a personal level beyond all that stuff. Hopefully people didn’t read that into it, because that’s not how we want them to come across.
As originally scripted, all of this profiling work took place in the restaurant, but in editing I decided to split some of it up and have a chunk of it take place back at Frank’s house, just to vary the locations and keep it fresh to some degree. It clocks up quite a number of pages, all this dialogue, so I thought it would be a good idea to move the characters around a bit and not have them stuck in the same place the whole time.
In between those scenes we go to Locke at the police department going over the reports with a junior colleague named Eddie. To some degree, this feels a bit redundant. We have Locke saying that he prefers to read stuff of paper rather than off a computer screen, which is a little kind of human beat to play, but besides that it doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than to remind us that Locke still exists and he’s still working on the case. The character of Eddie is also a little redundant. He only appears in two brief scenes and doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than to give Locke someone to bounce ideas off. There’s also the problem that Locke tells him they’re going down to look over the crime scene, but then they never do, and Eddie just disappears from the episode. In retrospect, it would have been better to either include Eddie in more of a substantial role, or else eliminate him altogether. As it stands, he straddles that line and feels like a spare part.
Act Two then ends with another immolation scene, which keeps the stakes high, and as we head into Act Three we finally get away from the sitting around talking scenes and get Frank and Brad out into the action, at least to an extent. The two of them then come across Eve, which has some of its own problems in that she just appears out of nowhere. Frank also makes quite a leap in saying that she’s a hooker that Douglas visited but couldn’t perform, all after just glancing at her. Admittedly, Frank has been known to make some leaps in his time, but this one was a bit too much. In some ways, I think what Ian might have been getting at hear is that Eve could have been stretched to represent some kind of angelic figure, and I was tempted to make more of this in my pass but ultimately decided against it. The trouble with that was that there was no hint of it earlier in the episode, and nothing of it later, so it didn’t quite match up to the story that was being told. It would have changed the tone and subject matter quite substantially to suddenly have switched to a more supernatural kind of thing just for this scene with Eve. We had talked about wanting to do more with angelology back when we first started plotting the season, and to an extent I think that’s something we didn’t quite fulfil as much as we wanted to. We had done a Sammael episode back in “Gotterdammerung”, and there had been talk about using one of the other angel characters we had seen in the series named Balthazar, but ultimately that never came to pass. I wonder now if we might have done something like that here, and if it would have improved things, or if it would have compromised the idea of a grounded standalone before the finale. It also might have suffered coming on the back of “One and Many”, which was fairly intensive in that whole the Devil vs. God stuff, so it might have been incongruous to have an angelic focus in the very next episode. Either way, there just wasn’t time to restructure the foundations of the episode so substantially, which is what would have had to have been done to make Eve into an angel character. Perhaps it’s best left as it is, but like Eddie, she does disappear from the story awfully fast.
As we head into Act Four, we start to set up the endgame at the fuel depot, which was a location I chose ahead of Ian’s call for an incinerator. One reason for that is that we had already featured one incinerator scene at the end of “Critical Mass”, albeit a small one, and another was that it just upped the ante a little bit and gave us some big tankers and oil pipes that could make for a more dramatic and risky standoff.
We wanted to keep Miranda involved at this point, and wanted to give her a chance to solve the problem as it were, rather than just Frank alone as is perhaps usually the case. That did present something of a logistical challenge though, as Miranda had to get down there but wasn’t directly involved in the case the way she was back in “Sleep of Reason”. The only real way to have her be there was for Frank to ask for her specifically. That raises the question of whether Frank would really put her in that dangerous situation. On one level, a strictly character-based level, I can’t quite buy the idea of Frank doing that, but on a story level it really is a necessity, and it is the only way to get her down there. So, this had to be one of those cases of sacrificing one thing for the sake of the story.
When they catch up with Douglas, it’s essentially a talk-down scene. These are always difficult to make work. For the sake of drama, you can’t really have the villain be talked down and give up, because that’s just not all that interesting. So, you usually have to have them get to that point where they’re almost there but then something snaps them back and the plan gets shot to hell for one reason of another. But then, because of that, these things always tend to turn out the same sort of way, and it’s very difficult to make it original and fresh.
In this case, Miranda almost gets to him, and she’s the one that instinctively figures out who Joan is during the moment, which is good, and better because we the audience aren’t clued in to what she’s happened upon just yet. I’m not sure whether anyone reading could have put two and two together by this point or not, whether they might have guessed the Joan of Arc connection, or whether they needed to wait for the payoff when Miranda tells the others about it later.
To end this standoff, which more often than not ends in a gunshot, we had something just marginally different in it being a self-immolation scene. He just plunges the lighter onto his chest and sets himself ablaze while Frank just gets Miranda out of the way in time. Hopefully that’s satisfying enough, and hopefully it’s fresh enough in the sense that Douglas doesn’t quite die but is left barely alive in the hospital by the end of the episode. That’s when Miranda spills the beans about Joan of Arc, but I’m glad that she doesn’t do it by drawing a picture and putting it in a frame, just kind of tosses it aside in mid-conversation.
So, in the end, I don’t think “Burning Man” came out as one of our better entries in the season, but then again that’s hardly surprising given the problems we had with it over time. We’re still incredibly grateful for Ian for keeping this one on life-support though, and his coming in at the last minute to do a writing job at such short notice wont be forgotten. I’m only sorry we couldn’t have provided him something a bit better to work with.
In the next entry I will be rehashing part one of the two-part series finale, “Resurrection”. That’ll get done just as soon as I can muster it. Then there’ll just be one more episode to go over, and hopefully it wont be too far after the air-date. As ever, thanks for reading.
Welcome back to the official VS5 blog. I’m making every effort to get caught up with this and stay on track, but we’ve been busy writing the finale episodes so as you can imagine it’s all hitting the fan. This entry then will rehash episode 17, “One and Many”, which is our Lucy Butler episode of the season. Once we’ve done a little bit of deconstruction of that I’ll offer a little bit of a preview/tease of the forthcoming finale, despite the fact that “Burning Man” is the next episode to get the blog treatment (because that one’s already aired and I’m a bit behind).
Anyway, on with “One and Many”. This is an episode that we’ve had on the board for a long time and had just been waiting to come around since it was always slated to go right near the end of the season. I have to say, it’s one that I’m pretty pleased with overall. I like to think I’m pretty honest in this blog, and I’ve spent enough entries pointing out the bits where we’ve gone wrong, so I hope that puts me in good stead to not sound totally self-serving and egotistical when I’ve got good things to say for a change. The idea here was, first off, to bring back Lucy Butler for her customary appearance and to make it a good one, but at the same time I thought it was also an opportunity to really bring together the story thread about Legion and its various forms and make something of a final battle about it, since we are treating this as the final season of the show.
We had also established very early on in the season that Legion’s agenda was shifting toward Jordan, and so that had to be an equally big part of this episode too. As such, it seemed to make perfect sense to bring back Lucas Sanderson too, since he had been established as something of an equivalent to Lucy, and then play out a parallel story involving the respective nemeses of Frank and Jordan. So I wanted this to be a big epic conclusion of these story threads, taking all the best parts of episodes like “Lamentation”, “Antipas”, “Saturn Dreaming of Mercury” and “Seven and One” and really giving this episode the scope it deserves if it’s going to wrap up this side of things. I also wanted to make sure to give Lucy as much screen-time as possible, and to make sure she played as many scenes opposite Frank as possible. That’s where her character really shines, in my opinion, and it’s her rivalry to Frank that is so important, so I didn’t want anyone to come away feeling cheated out of those things. To an extent, I think you could argue that was something of the case in “A Room With No View”, the second season’s Lucy Butler episode, that while it was great to have her back, it was a shame she didn’t really have any scenes with Frank. I was determined not to have that be the case here.
The teaser begins in the Church we saw back in “Seven and One”, and with Father Yahger of the same episode. This set up a lot of things of what was to come later, including the thematic idea of Lucy/Satan trying to sew seeds of hatred towards organised religion, as well as the place that would serve as the crucible for the final battle between Frank and Lucy. Opening on the stained-glass window was also very deliberate to set-up the tool of Lucy’s demise, that of the lightning bolt that would shatter the glass and impale her, specifically featuring images of angels to convey the idea of the hand of God at work. I think’s it’s Chekov’s principals of drama that say if you have a gun being fired in the fourth act, you have to show that gun on the wall in the first. That’s what’s going on here with that opening shot.
The essence of the scene between Lucy and Father Yahger is all about temptation, of sin vs. faith, chaos vs. order, and ultimately the Devil vs. God. That’s what you have here with Lucy attempting to tempt Father Yahger away from God with her sensual ways. It’s also as much about atmosphere as it is about content, with the dark Church, the storm outside, the lightning, Lucy wet from the rain and all that. Classic gothic visuals really, which is what an episode like this calls for. I also wanted to make as much use of the Long-Haired Man as possible, since that dichotomy has always fascinated me since I first saw “Lamentation”, and the idea of the two sides in one being was particularly scary, especially in a visual sense – so he appears right from the beginning here. When Lucy is ultimately rejected by Father Yahger, he is instantly punished by her powers as the police come knocking on the door to accuse him of rape and murder. And of course, Lucy is nowhere to be seen. I had all those pieces of the teaser in my mind for a long time, and I think they came together pretty well in the end.
Act One then opens in stark contrast to all this with the bright sunshine and happy family home. I might also take this opportunity to mention the opening quotation/epigram, which I don’t normally comment on much, but in this case I think we were very lucky to find this one from Walt Whitman, since it just seems to fit absolutely perfectly with what I had in mind for this episode and where it ultimately ends up, especially with the idea of evil “merging itself”, which was just perfect for the final morphs when Lucy meets her demise.
Back to the matter at hand, the opening of the first act is essentially just to provide that contrast and place of happiness, and also to set up the idea of Jordan working as a volunteer for the weekend, since she needed a place of her own to be interacting with Lucas, and I didn’t want to make it another school setting. For one thing, we had already kind of done that in “Gotterdammerung”, and for another I’m also looking to get away from the typical high-school teen soap opera feel wherever possible when it comes to Jordan’s storylines. Anyone who knows me will know that I hate those kinds of shows, so I wanted a completely different location where Jordan would be forced into interacting with Lucas and where he could torment her and have his showdown with her.
We then go over to the police station to have Frank’s reunion with Father Yahger. I didn’t want to go too over-the-top in referencing “Seven and One” at this point, as I didn’t want it to feel like that kind of fanboy-ish bringing back of an old character just for the sake of it. That wasn’t the intension here. The idea of the priest character was always very important to this episode and its conclusion long before I thought of Father Yahger, and using him came later as a way of just tying the case to Frank in a more plausible manner, and having it be a character with an existing relationship rather than a new one which would have been less effective.
Locke comes in for the first time here, and he’s perhaps not as central to the narrative as he has been in the past. In a way, that’s a necessity for this episode. The conflict with Lucy is a very personal one for Frank, plus we also have the parallel story with Lucas and Jordan, so there’s not really all that much room to give Locke his own side-story too, and doing so would just have been overkill anyway I think. Instead, he serves his purpose as an investigator alongside Frank, and is also on hand when needed to go and check on Jordan later in the fourth act when Frank is busy at the Church.
After a brief bit to establish Jordan at the convalescent home, we then go to Lucy’s spiritual circle and her first scene with Frank. The idea of the spiritual circle and its atheist, anti-religious beliefs was really born out of the thematic idea mentioned earlier. The Church was an important setting for the conclusion, out of the idea that only a strike from God could possibly kill Lucy, so I didn’t want that just to be a convenient location, it had to be tied in thematically to the rest of the episode. From that, the logical idea came that Lucy, or the Devil if you will, would naturally be trying to foster a resentment toward organised religion and be discouraging any belief in a God of any kind. She wants to kill faith and goodness, and part of that involves trying to kill off organised religion. As a result, you could possibly consider this the other side to the message being put out by “Golgotha” which I wrote earlier in the season. In that episode, a pretty damning picture is painted of the Church and the priests abusing the choir boys, whereas in this episode the Church comes out much more favourably as a force of goodness being targeted by the Devil. I should just make it clear that that wasn’t a deliberate attempt to do some reverse-angle on “Golgotha”, or trying to make up for the way the Church was depicted in that episode. As I’ve said before, there’s no social or political agenda to the episodes, so “One and Many” isn’t an attempt to even the scales by any means. It just so happens that the implications are on the other side this time around.
When Lucy and Frank talk again for the first time, I wanted to capture the essence of Lucy and how she addressed Frank in both “Lamentation” and “Antipas”, the way she is in command of the situation, the way she knows everything there is to know, and the way she is able to precisely articulate the legal side of things to exploit the specifics of everything to her own ends. Hopefully that came across just the same here.
The act-out then re-introduces us to Lucas Sanderson for the first time in the episode as he comes face to face with Jordan. In a way, this was a bit more challenging that the other side of things, since the last time we saw Lucas he was just an eight-year-old boy. There wasn’t really any point in trying to cast the same kid only older, so we needed to bring in a new face which in this case was envisioned as Zac Efron to be Lucas, the kind of teenage male equivalent to Lucy. As such, you don’t have the advantage of an existing character and chemistry to play with the way you do with Sarah-Jane Redmond, so in a way the scenes can’t work on quite the same level. Consequently, a little flashback scene was needed here just to remind us of who this was, and to make it clear that we are now dealing with an older version of the same character who has aged just the same as Jordan has.
At the top of Act Two, Jordan and Lucas get their first bit of proper interaction. The idea for Lucas was to play him as a kind of smarmy, manipulative kid who would ingratiate himself to the adults around him and Jordan in the same way that Lucy comes across as all sweetness and light. He would then torment Jordan as much as tempt her over the course of the episode, leading up to the final showdown in parallel to Frank and Lucy.
Frank then fills Locke in on a few of the gaps about Lucy, which might be reminiscent of how he has to do the same for Emma back in “Antipas”. He feels he has to get away from this, and is also eager to warn Locke away so he doesn’t end up getting sucked into her trap of a lifetime of torment the same we he was. We then go to another scene with Lucy at her spiritual circle which was actually added in quite late on, just to give her a bit more presence at the beginning of the second act instead of being absent until the end of it, and also to maximise her screen time as I said before. There’s no point in bringing Lucy in and wasting her, after all, so I decided to add in another little scene for her here, which also made the most of the spiritual circle which otherwise have gone unseen hereafter too.
The following scene between Frank and Miranda is a bit of a slower one. On the one hand it was necessary to re-establish everything that Frank has to lose, and it also served a function of making it clear that Miranda was returning to her own apartment for the night in order to facilitate the later scenes where both Frank and Miranda are visited in the night by Lucy and the Long-Haired Man respectively. Back at the top of Act One, you had Miranda washing breakfast dishes, and in a way that kind of implies that she spent the night there. We want to be moving their relationship on to that kind of point by this stage in the season, but at the same time it’s not something we want to make a big deal of. We don’t want to descend into soap-opera territory. So, having them be breakfast dishes she is washing just makes that tiny implication without coming out and saying it. However, in order to have the parallel scenes of the night visitations, she had to be in a different location, so this scene just served to make it clear that they’re still living in separate places most of the time.
Having said that, it was also a chance to explore some of the more theological ideas about Evil and its nature in a more open and discursive way. In part, this was inspired by the scene between Frank and Catherine back in “Gehenna” where they discuss a similar subject over an open Bible. In some ways, you could criticise it in that regard and for being a bit too on-the-nose and not subtle enough, plus it’s quite a still, static scene, so maybe you could regard this as one of the weaker parts of the episode. However, I do think it serves its purposes, and provides a bit of a respite for both Frank and the audience given all the stuff that is to come.
Back with Jordan and Lucas, we see that he’s moving between torment and seduction in much the same way that Lucy does, and this also played on the idea of Jordan and boyfriends which you could never really do back in previous seasons where she was just a six/seve/eight-year-old. Of course, every time she rejects his advances, he punishes her with a bit more torment in just the same way that Lucy did to Father Yahger back in the teaser.
The act-out then shows us the beginnings of the night visitations for Frank and Miranda. This kind of took bits from “Antipas” in terms of the sex/rape, and bits from “Lamentation” in terms of when Catherine finds the Lucy/Long-Haired Man in the darkened house. As I said before, I wanted to give the Long-Haired Man a bit more to do than he had before, even to the extent of giving him just a little bit of dialogue here. This then takes us over into Act Three as the scenes play out in full. The basic idea here is the old myth of the Succubus (female) and the Incubus (male) which I had done some reading about, as well as the psychological idea of the anima/animus which explores a similar dichotomy. I felt it was important that Lucy, in the Succubus role, didn’t have all that much contact with Frank as to avoid a repeat of what happened in “Antipas”. Instead, they have more dialogue than in that scene. It is Miranda who gets more of the rape nightmare with the Long-Haired Man, in the Incubus role. All this just amps up the terror even further and allows us to play with some more gothic visuals in the dark houses and apartments when the power goes out and the storm rages outsisde.
After this peak of action/horror, it’s then time to cool things down a bit as the calm before the big endgame to come. So Father Yahger is released, since he was always innocent and the male hairs thus came from the Long-Haired Man, and Lucas torments Jordan a little further by engineering a bit of a medical emergency with one of the old women. Of course, he makes her out to be at fault, and makes himself look just perfect, and this sets up the location for their final confrontation in the staff room at the end. Frank then gets the call of distress from Father Yahger at his Church which takes us out of Act Three and sets up the endgame that awaits.
Act Four is then all about the final showdown that things have been leading to: Frank trapped in the Church opposite Lucy, and Jordan trapped at the convalescent home opposite Lucas. Again, the Church setting and the stormy weather provided ample opportunities for gothic horror images, and I wanted to play them up as much as possible. Risks of overkill, perhaps, but I thought it was worth it to make this as epic and memorable as it deserved to be for the last Lucy Butler/Legion episode.
It was important to keep Father Yahger present but just out of the way and in the background for these scenes, as he was vital to the final act in defeating Lucy. So he is knocked out and thrown aside by the Long-Haired Man, since I thought it was always very interesting the way the Long-Haired Man came out whenever there was violence to be done as we saw most clearly in “A Room With No View”. Just as she does in that episode, Lucy refers to him in the third person in stating “He made him angry… you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry”. That little bit is of course also a little nod and wink to The Incredible Hulk.
Lucy then makes it clear that it is Jordan who is the ultimate goal at stake here, and that she is the one coveted by Evil now. It’s not Frank anymore, he’s long since rejected Legion’s temptations and it’s thus given that up as a lost cause and moved on to the new generation – Jordan. That’s the key here, and that’s another reason for the parallel story. Frank of course would do anything to save her, even offer himself freely and willingly, which is a huge moment since he’s never done that before. But it’s not enough, because Legion thinks it has Jordan in its grasp.
We then get a big visual sequence that I’d had in mind for a long time, where the customary lightning-flash cuts that we’ve seen ever since “Lamentation” comes to incorporate all the facets of Legion that have tormented Frank over the years, in reverse order through Mabius, Del Boxer, Al Pepper, the Judge, and even Ed Cuffle (since he was pretty much Frank’s first ever nemesis). This would be the money-shot, as they say, and I think it would be a memorable one and one that cement the episode as a suitably epic final occasion.
Meanwhile, back with Jordan, Lucas is attempting his final seduction of Jordan over to the dark side, so to speak. The kiss here is important, as it could well be Jordan’s first kiss which allows us to again touch on those issues of her as an older girl, and it also ties back to the general undercurrents of the episode – from the rape that Father Yahger is accused of to kick-start the story, to the Incubus visitation of Miranda and now to Lucas forcing himself on Jordan.
Both scenes then get even bigger as water starts filling the Church, calling back to Frank’s fear of water/drowning established back in “Seven and One”, and also snakes which spontaneously start appearing at both locations. Snakes are obviously a big symbol for Satan, and it was another case of just making this as huge and epic as possible. Again, you could accuse it of being too much, but I think the occasion calls for it.
Lucas then morphs into Paul Leonard and the Janitor from a VS4 episode in the same way that Lucy appears as the faces of torment from the past. This used a morph instead of those machine-gun cuts just to provide some variety. In a way, it’s a shame there weren’t some more of Jordan’s nemeses to use like there are for Frank, but that can’t be helped.
For the final defeat of Lucy by Father Yahger’s constant prayer and appeal to God, I decided to use some dual-dialogue which would again help sell the idea of a significant moment, both in the way that you would hear it and indeed in the way that it appears on the page. Father Yahger recites Psalm 23 while Lucy has her final speech, and they both end of the word “forever” in unison as a huge lightning bolt comes crashing through the stained glass window and impales Lucy with the flying shards. We all know that Lucy will never die, as Frank tells us as much in “Antipas”, since you can’t kill the Devil, but the idea here was that only an act of God could ultimately defeat her, and that while the hand of man couldn’t kill her, the hand of God could. Naturally, a lightning bolt is the prototypical act of God that we imagine in God striking someone down, plus that lied in to the storm which had been virtually omnipresent since the beginning. The angels on the stained-glass, as we saw from the very first shot, was just to try and make that clear. I had worried that people might be confused and say that Lucy shouldn’t be able to be killed, but I think in the end the idea of being defeated by God ultimately came across clearly enough. Lucy then morphs through a sequence of faces for one final time as she lays dying, which would have been more of a quick set of struggling morphs just to underscore the idea that she is dying, and that, as Walt Whitman said, Evil has “merged itself and become lost and dead”.
Likewise, Jordan is able to defeat Lucas by being strong and not being afraid, by standing up to him and looking him right in the eyes and telling him to go back to hell. As we’ve seen, Evil has no hold if you’re not afraid, and that faith and strength of belief ultimately wins out, thanks to Father Yahger clinging to his crucifix, the symbol of his faith, and praying out loud with the 23rd Psalm (which always sounds good).
So that’s “One and Many”. I hope it came across as the epic last hurrah for Lucy Butler that it was intended to be. Like I said, I’m pretty satisfied with the end result, and I think we used Lucy to her full potential and didn’t waste her. Lucas coming back also kept things fresh and gave us a nice parallel story. In the next blog entry I’ll go over “Burning Man”, but this Friday sees the first of our two-part series finale, entitled “Resurrection”. As I said before, we’re approaching this as the last ever season, so this isn’t just a season finale but a series finale, and hopefully we’ll deliver on the levels of nostalgia, drama, and poignancy that such an occasion demands. Take a look at the print ad:
Now I have a question to answer… and to quote Jose Chung, “it’s about time!”
Will any other characters be appearing in the 2-part series finale besides Geibelhouse? Lara Means (even though she is in that one hospital)? Will we see more of Ardis Cohen? Will we see a copycat protégé of the Frenchman from "Pilot?" Avatar? More Owls Vs. Roosters action? Another viral outbreak? Another visit from the ghostly Catherine Black?
Darn, that's alot of questions for the blog.
It sure is. I can tell you that you will be seeing a few more familiar faces in the finale besides Giebs. Like I said, we’re aiming to give the last two episodes that proper sense of occasion, so it felt right to touch on more than just our isolated VS5 people. Who might show up and when and why is just something you’ll have to wait and see. I can tell you that you wont be seeing Avatar though – that’s a story that I think was followed up in VS4. No Owls and Roosters shenanigans either – that was very much a S2 idea that I think is best left there.
I should probably say that, while to some extent the finale is going to be something of a “kitchen sink” episode, it’s not gonna get totally overrun by cramming in everything and anything just for the sake of it. There’s a story to tell here as well as an occasion to mark, and hopefully we’ll be able to strike a balance between the two that will be satisfying to most people.
I believe that was it, so I will just round out with a sneak peak of dialogue from “Resurrection”. Until next time.
I just stopped by to follow up on what we
talked about last week.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR PERRY
Let me guess. You’ve had a few days to think
it over and you’ve changed your mind?
I’m afraid not. I’ve certainly enjoyed lecturing,
it’s given me a chance to give something back,
pass on my experience...
But it’s time for me to collect a pension. Have a
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR PERRY
Well, I’ll be sorry to lose you. Running this Academy
seemed like an easy job when I took it, but it’s harder
work that I ever thought. You’re certainly a big draw.
Nothing fills seats like a Behavioural Science legend.
Something tells me you’ll do just fine without me.
Okay, time to get back up to speed again with this here blog business. This time we shall have a look at episode 16, “Critical Mass”, which was written by Ian Austin. Ian essentially came in at the last minute on a freelance basis to pick this one up as things changed in terms of staff, and we’re very grateful for him to be doing that at such short notice and for turning in what I think became a pretty decent episode. What we have here is a return to the kind of mythology themes in terms of the Millennium Group and the science they’ve been dabbling in. This time around it’s nuclear physics and biology that perhaps evokes such past episodes as “Sense and Antisense”, “Matryoshka”, and “Bardo Thodol”. That was the kind of target in terms of a tone to evoke, and I think it succeeds in that regard, by and large.
The idea basically began in the writers’ room with the teaser of Peter Watts standing and shooting someone in what would turn out to be a type of mercy killing before we cut back with a “48 Hours Earlier” thing and play out the story leading up to it. I think I mentioned back in the blog for “Muse” that we chose not to use a similar structural device there because of later episodes that would be using it, and one of those was “Parturition”, and another was this episode.
One thing that changed about the teaser, and indeed the episode overall, was that the victim of the mercy killing, the scientist, was originally named Seymour Holmes. That was then changed to an Asian man named Shiro Ishikawa. The reason for that was partly because it we had already had a character with the surname of Holmes back in “Ondraedan Ende”, and partly because there was a certain image that we wanted to evoke that would be kind of reminiscent of episodes like “Bardo Thodol”, or even episodes of The X-Files like “Nisei” and “731”. In some ways that’s a bit shallow, but it all helps to convey a sense of visual style and atmosphere which is always something we’re in search of given that the episodes aren’t ultimately shot and produced.
When we pick up with Act One, there is a deleted scene that originally opened the act where Peter sat in a bar and drank a bottle of beer. This got cut, largely because it didn’t quite seem in character for Peter to me, and partly because it was a little redundant. Instead, we pick up on Peter exiting his apartment and go straight to the moment where Cain arrives in the car to get hold of Peter. It’s then that we se Trepkos sitting in the back waiting for him. This always seems like a nice place to play out a scene between a villainous character and someone like Peter, in the back of an expensive car in motion. I think that’s a very good choice of location.
The following scene, meanwhile, where Peter approaches Frank in the Quantico parking garage, was originally scripted to take place in a bar with Frank sipping a scotch rocks. Again, that wasn’t the kind of thing I thought we should be seeing Frank doing, and wouldn’t feel right, so it was switched to the dark subterranean parking lot of all good conspiracy thrillers. It’s what Frank then notices in the photo which leads us on to the angle about nuclear research. The subsequent scene in the library is thus a means to an end, a way of getting Frank and Peter onto the next step of the investigation in as painless and least laborious way possible.
When we eventually get to the nuclear plant itself, it’s perhaps one of the weaker parts of the episode. You could argue that the guard just seems to let them in a little too easily and then fills them in on stuff that, by all rights, he shouldn’t really know. He’s a bit of a plot device in that regard, and the whole scene requires just a little stretch of the imagination overall. The act out then picks up on Ishikawa from the teaser for the first time, running through the woods and being pursued by the two Trenchcoat Man. Originally these were scripted as twins wearing white suits, but that would have taken away a level of believability to some degree, would certainly have made for difficult casting, and felt overall a bit too Matrix like for Millennium. So we just gave them matching trenchcoats and matching guns, which retained the flavour of menace of twins without overdoing it.
Act Two then brings us up on Locke and introduces him to the narrative for the first time. I always say that these scenes where one character or another is brought on to the case are the hardest to sell and the hardest to make interesting and new, and that’s the case here again where it’s just another phone call. Fortunately we move on pretty quick so you don’t get much time to notice.
After a bit of exposition, we get to another weak point in the episodes, which is Locke’s source named Walmak. This was probably the most difficult thing to make work in the story. There needed to be a way for Locke to get a bit closer to some answers and further the investigation, so you just kind of have to accept that he’s one of the ones who’s been experimented on and that he also happens to be an existing street source of Locke’s.
After the morgue scene, there is then a scene that was added in late on just to show Peter going back to his apartment and picking up his gun. That just allowed us to touch on the teaser a bit and remind us where this is going, and also served to explain the point where Peter got hold of his weapon, and that he hadn’t just been carrying it around with him the whole time as a matter of routine.
Trepkos then gets a chance to make a fairly long speech, and although some people could criticise this for showing and telling a bit too much, I quite like the idea of him testing Peter, and the idea that he’s putting him through this to see which way he will ultimately turn, and whether Trepkos will thus be able to trust him to be a part of his more shady side of the Millennium Group. That does well to explain why he keeps involving Peter but giving him so little to go on, which explains bits about past episodes such as “Forty Days and Forty Nights” and “Who We Are” by extension.
The act-out then contains another little reference to Danny, who X-Files fans will remember as the forever unseen guy who would always get Mulder and Scully whatever they needed in terms of phone traces, addresses and license plates etc. It’s a neat little touch to just use the name again, just as a treat to those that recognise it.
At the top of Act Three we meet Susan Dellinger who is kind of the overlord at the power plant. I had kind of been looking for a role to put Wendie Malick in for some time, because I think she’s one of those strong, slightly older female figures that never come in wrong, so the character of Dellinger just seemed a perfect opportunity to use her. She’s an authority figure, slightly on the wrong side of things, but also a match for people like Locke who come to quiz her. She then grudgingly takes Frank and Peter to see Ishikawa’s lab, and it’s then that we play a scene that was originally scripted to occur much earlier, back when Peter first showed Frank the photo of Ishikawa to bring him onto the case. It’s the part about these residues on Ishiakwa’s lab coat, which I believe Ian bases at least in part on genuine research, which originally occurred when Frank spotted it in the photo. I just found that very hard to believe though, that Frank could detect something like that just from looking at a photo, but it was a strong scene with interesting background, so I wanted to keep it in the episode. Moving it to this point allowed us to do that by virtue of the lab setting and the microscopes and so forth contained therein.
As the investigation then progresses, Locke talks with Frank and Peter about the executions in the woods. These of course involve gunshots to the back of the ear, which is a reference to Season 3 where this was the execution method of choice for the Millennium Group. I think it’s nice to bring that back in here, not as some huge revelation of massive significance, just as a little bit of consistency.
Locke then goes off to re-questions Dellinger, while Frank and Peter finally catch up with Ishikawa at his cabin in the forest. Originally, the act ended when Peter and Frank where standing outside at the door, but I decided to stay with this for a bit longer because, for one thing, Act Four was coming in a bit long while Act Three was a bit short, and for another it allowed us to maintain a level of tension and give Ishikawa some more substantial dialogue slightly earlier, rather than confining him almost exclusively to the last act. Also, the arrival of the Trenchcoat Men outside cocking their guns was also provided a slightly more threatening act-out.
At the top of Act Four we get a fairly heavy chunk of exposition, so you could criticise it in that regard, but we keep up tension by cutting back outside to Locke and the Trenchcoat Men as they edge closer. The endgame in terms of action is then the pursuit through the forest, with Frank and Peter trying to get the dying Ishikawa away, while the Trenchcoat Men pursue them and Locke in turn pursues the Trenchcoat Men. I think that provided for a suitably dramatic ending. That eventually takes us back to the point of the teaser, which is made just fresh enough by intercutting it with shots of the pursuing men in between parts of what we’ve already seen. Then, by the time Peter comes to shoot Ishikawa, hopefully we know understand it in way we didn’t back in the teaser. That’s always the aim with structures such as this, and I think it achieves that goal in this episode, which I’m pleased about. I also like the way the Trenchcoat Men just see that they’ve not been successful and walk calmly away, rather than ending with some big shootout or something. I think, in a way, it’s even more sinister that they say nothing and walk back into the night.
There were then just a couple of scenes added at the end of the episode. Instead of ending in the forest, we go away to Peter and Frank taking the body off to the incinerator, while Trepkos and Cain resolve their side of things. The Trenchcoat Men then get their first little bits of dialogue, but Trepkos ultimately hasn’t gotten what he wants. He wanted Peter to want to give Ishikawa over to his cause, but he ended up choosing what most of us would consider the path of righteousness. So he tells Cain to give the Trenchcoat Men what they’re owed, and we all know what that means. I like that little ending, with Cain calmly taking them out and shooting them.
We then end with Frank and Peter overlooking the incinerator as Ishikawa’s body burns within. I thought we were owed that final location, since we’ve been told it’s the necessary final step, and it just allowed us to linger on the emotional impact this has had on Peter, with the final lines suggesting that ultimately, while it might weigh on his conscience, it’s something that he can live with.
Overall, I think “Critical Mass” thus achieves most of the things it sets out to. You could perhaps say that the actual plot of nuclear research could have been made slightly more central, but it’s a difficult balance to strike, and I think this does well to focus it down on an individual character in the form of Ishikawa as a kind of Oppenheimer-like scientist. I touches on all the things about the Group, Peter and Trepkos as well, so overall I consider it a success for the mythology style episodes. I’m also very grateful to Ian once again for coming in at such short notice to pen this one for us, and I think he did a great job with it.
Next up will be “One and Many”, this season’s Lucy Butler episode, and we’ll rehash that a little bit before going on to just one more episode before the two-part finale. Until then, thanks for reading and sticking with us.
Welcome back to the official VS5 blog. This time we’re rehashing episode 15, “Atonement”, which was written by myself. It’s basically a standalone episode but one that isn’t about an isolated killer. Instead, it attempts to strike a balance between more global issues and the individual plot of the spree killings.
That’s something that sparked off the first ideas for the episode, that of spree killings. In that sense, it can be considered a deliberate attempt to get away from the serial killer narrative that people sometimes accuse Millennium of relying to heavily on. I’ve often said that I don’t think that’s ever truly been the case, and I think we’ve done well for it not to be the case in VS5 so far, but nonetheless I thought this would be a good opportunity to do an episode that is quite clearly a spree killer and not a serial killer. At this point I ought to mention that this is not in any way associated with the recent Virginia Tech massacre. I imagine it has a natural resonance given recent events and the similar location, but “Atonement” was conceived a long time ago and was neither changed nor influenced as a result.
In actuality, if there is any kind of real-world inspiration for the plot, it’s more the Washington Sniper case of 2002. This led to the first real image that formed the basis of the ideas behind the story was, and that was the gatling gun. I thought that kind of amped up the scale of the threat somewhat from the marauding sniper to a much larger weapon that sprayed out bullets at an even greater rate.
That led on to the military angle that picks up right from the teaser, and allows us to feed in some contemporary social and political issues about war in Iraq and so forth. However, none of this is designed to come down to a specific “message” or “moral”. It’s not a polemic. It’s not serving or preaching a political agenda. I don’t want to get into too many issues of personal politics, but I guess you could say that I would come down more on the liberal side of things (which is a trend that seems to run through a lot of writers’ rooms for some reason), but even so the episode is not necessarily meant to reflect that.
The teaser itself begins in Iraq during the second Gulf War in the 90s, which I thought was a good way to kick off with a bit of heavy action that has a nice symmetry with the later, present day shootings. That’s emphasised by the recurring visual motif of the shell casings falling to the ground in slow-motion. I think that was one of the more effective elements of the episode, in a visual sense, and I think the teaser in general, with its voice-over and parallels between the stuff in 90s Iraq and present day Washington, is quite a success. One small little reference too - the principal antagonists here of Mitchell and Walsh have their first names chosen after Biblical prophets, namely Joel and Daniel.
Act One opens up at the FBI Academy, just to touch base with that as Frank’s occupation, though I chose to set it at a slightly different area that the usual lecture theatre. It’s then that we’re introduced to Special Agent Julian Beresford who is designed as another profiler character to contrast with Frank in perhaps a similar way that the character of Jim Horn did way back in “Dead Letters”. Beresford, of course, is an entirely different character with his own unique flaws. He’s a bit of a hot-shot, but he’s also a media hound. I thought it was important that he still be portrayed to know his stuff and be an effective profiler, but he’s not the best of leaders and he’s a little overly-concerned with appearances and portraying the Bureau in a positive light.
When he comes to Frank here, he switches on the TV and we get the first of several snippets of news reports which becomes a background point of thematic focus. I thought it would be interesting here to present that as something to think about without knocking it over the head, how the media represent these things and how their attention switches from domestic events to stuff going on in Iraq. Again, there’s not a message being hammered home here, just something to think about. At the end of this news report there’s also a little reference in the scrolling text banner that identifies the location as the Craddock Marine Bank. This is taken from the X-Files episode “Monday” which had its events take place at a bank called Craddock Marine. You either got that or you didn’t.
When Beresford and Frank arrive on the scene, I tried to make sure to divide up the profiler dialogue between the evenly to show that this guy isn’t just completely useless. That’s not the idea here. He’s not meant to be inept, just that he has a few issues which mean he’s not Frank Black either. Locke on the other hand is shoved to the outside somewhat by this, and from here the conflict between the FBI and the police naturally evolved out of the script. That kind of divide and competition between local and Federal authorities is a long-standing undercurrent of pretty much all police procedural shows, and while Millennium doesn’t exactly fit into that category, it’s true of the show as well. This time around though, I chose to make more of it and make it a more significant part of the story than it usually is.
We then go to a scene between Mitchell and Walsh which was really just designed to flesh out their relationship a little more. This is perhaps an area of weakness in the episode, that the relationship between the two antagonists is never quite given the attention and development it deserves.
The scene at the situation room where Beresford gives his briefing was designed to partially evoke the set design in the first season episode “Lamentation”. That’s in the description of the two stairways and the windowless area which basically comes from me having that room from “Lamentation “in mind when I wrote it. We never come out and say that it’s meant to be the same room, but it just gives you a frame of reference to picture it.
This is then intercut with a similar briefing over at the police department, and this is deliberately structure to draw on points of comparison and points of contrast with the concurrent FBI and PD investigations. The FBI have their huge conference tables while the cops just pull up their chairs, the FBI have their big projection screen, while Danner holds up a few photos, that kind of thing. This then takes us into the act out where Mitchell and Walsh deliver their manifesto in a video message broadcast on the news. This will naturally feel evocative of such tapes we’ve seen of extremists and terrorists, and that’s a parallel that is just bubbling under the surface throughout the episode given the military connection and service in Iraq and so forth.
Act Two then brings us back up on the investigation and Frank bringing Peter in on it to help them out given the religious and Biblical overtones of the video message. This then allows us to touch on some of the idea we set up way back in “Chrysalis”, that the turn of the millennium could be seen by some to represent the beginning of the end. I also thought it would be interesting to point out here that such a notion is not without precedent, which is vocalised by Peter in stating that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the final days began with the outbreak of World War One in 1914.
The basic viewpoint of Mitchell and Walsh stems from that idea. We’re always asking ourselves what kinds of things in the modern world could be interpreted in these millennial ways, and the whole Biblical prophecy of armies marching into the Middle East and so forth seemed like a particularly striking one given the situation in the region today. It didn’t seem like much of a stretch to imagine how some people could see this as a portend of the apocalypse, and thus something that could be reversed by withdrawing troops. That was essentially the basic idea from which the episode stemmed, with the antagonists being former military men themselves evolving naturally from those issues.
Locke’s investigation leads him to track down some of the ammunition and such and the store it came from. I chose to make the owner of this store a bit of a jerk, and thought it would be interesting to play him as a guy who is just excited by the idea of getting his face on TV. That feeds in to the constant undercurrent here of crime, war and the media, and how people can be obsessed with a spotlight and how what we know of war is only really what we are told through the media. Again, I thought that was something interesting to put out there, not as the central theme of the episode, but just as something to be thinking about in the background.
The part where we have Frank, Peter and Beresford in a trace van is perhaps a bit of a lift from “5-2-2-6-6-6”. This is an element that is arguably a bit more cumbersome, but essentially I just needed a way of getting them on the road and coming face to face with Mitchell and Walsh sooner rather than later. I think you could argue that this part is a bit rushed, and that they get to them a bit too quickly and easily, but it was really just a case of not wanting to labour the point and let the episode get dragged down and boring as a result. So you have to take a small leap of faith, but it’s for the greater good.
Act Three continues this, and the conversation over the phone again requires a bit of a stretch. The basic idea here was that the trace van was linked in to any calls they were expecting to come in to TV or radio stations, and that they were then transferred into the van where the agents could talk to the shooters while tracing the call. I’m not sure they ever really came across clearly enough. When you’ve got a big technical situation like that to deal with, sometimes it’s best not to spend too much time over-explaining it, because that just becomes boring and laborious, and instead just to hope people follows and get on with it. That’s the case here, and I just hope people got enough of the idea to follow it and embrace the entertainment over the technical details.
Meanwhile, Locke gets the details on the shooters through more old-fashioned detective work. Again, you could question that this all comes together a bit quickly and easily, but again it’s in the interests of moving the story forward. Even so, I think you could make a legitimate criticism that it becomes a little too convenient when Locke and Danner end up on the same street tracking Mitchell and Walsh just as the trace vehicle catches up with their van.
However, I’m more pleased with the chase scene here. I think the idea of having one van in motion firing back a gatling gun at another on a busy highway is pretty high in scope and would be a big budget sequence. I like the concept of scale and action, and it seems at least a reasonably original take on the car chase by having the gatling gun in there and the effect of the recoil.
They then of course storm into the mall, which is a point I wanted to get to in order to play out something of a more traditional hostage drama. I thought it was perhaps time to tackle that kind of staple and make the most of it, having done the supernatural stuff in “Gotterdammerung”, the mythology angle in “Forty Days and Forty Nights”, and the serial killer narrative in “Golgotha”. This was a chance to play out another different note and combine the spree killer with the hostage drama. I hope that variety comes out instead of people falling back on the standard moans about glorification of gun culture and so forth.
The act-out here is designed to set up that hostage drama to come, but I do think it has a bit of a problem logistically. The problem is that I needed to set up the location of the shopping mall with its multiple layers at the top of the escalator, but I also needed to get the message out to the cops on the ground that they had hostages. In the end, that just resulted in them shouting out of the windows which isn’t the most elegant or cool way of doing it. Ultimately it was just a means to an end, so not quite the most effective of act-outs in that sense.
Act Four uses the TV news device just to set the scene again, then we’re right back in on the police forces, both local and Federal, which are starting to cooperate but still debating how to manage the situation. Frank then makes the decision the he has to be one of the ones to go inside are start talking to these guys, which is just classic Frank Black really. He’s always the sort to do that and just leap in without concern for himself as we’ve seen in such episodes as “Kingdom Come” and “Wide Open”, so it just made sense that he’d do that again in this situation.
When he confronts them face to face for the first time, he is able to get into their heads like never before and come to the truth. This is where he’s able to figure out that this is actually about the guilt they feel for the crime’s they committed as soldiers in Iraq, and I like the way this shows their original profile to be flawed. This adds a bit of a twist to the tale, that it’s not actually the customary Biblical prophecy obsession that’s truly driving them but a desire to atone for their mistakes which they’re channelling into this belief. Frank is able to talk them ‘round to an extent because of his skill in psychology and empathy, and this allows the situation to be resolved in a slightly unexpected way. Instead of having the police storm in and take down the shooters, we see Mitchell and Walsh turn their guns on each other and fire simultaneously in front of all the hostages. I don’t really recall something like that being done before, at least not exactly, so hopefully that adds a degree of originality. We then return to the image of shell casings falling to the ground in slow motion to have that thematic sense of full-circle.
While Frank is just content to walk away and leave it behind, Beresford shows how different he is by immediately approaching the media and courting the cameras. That allows us to conclude with the news reporters for one final time as they soon lose interest with the domestic mall siege and move on to report on counter-insurgency operations in Iraq. That shows that the situation goes on in spite of these events which will ultimately be forgotten more quickly.
That about wraps up “Atonement”. I think it’s a reasonably successful entry that could have crafted some of its elements a little more skilfully, but ultimately does its job as a slightly different episode that provides a bit of variety and strikes a balance between global themes and a self-contained story. It’s perhaps reminiscent of such episode as “19:19” or “T.E.O.T.W.A.W.K.I.”, which is no bad thing for the season as a whole.
Next we enter the final five episodes which aim to wrap up the season, starting with “Critical Mass”. Thank you, and goodnight.
Greetings from the official VS5 blog. In this entry we’ll be going over episode 14, “Flew”, which was written by Angelo Shrine. It’s more of Millennium Group type episode, coming on the back of a number of more standalone episodes in recent weeks. I think it mostly works, and I’m fairly pleased with it, although there are just a few elements which could perhaps have achieved their goals a little better.
The idea behind this episode came out of the writers’ room by and large. I wanted to do an episode that dealt with avian flu, because it seemed like one of those obvious elements in today’s world that speaks to that kind of unease about a coming apocalypse. It’s not hard to hear stories about the spread of this disease and link it to things we’ve seen in the series in the past, most notably in “The Fourth Horseman”. So, it seemed like good subject matter for us do be dealing with and how the Millennium Group had an interest in it. Some of the elements that underpin the story structure came from Jeremy Daniels in the early planning phases, but after he parted company with the season it was really Angelo who fleshed out everything from the bare bones and turned it into the script you see now.
The teaser begins with a dream sequence for Jordan which was in the initial concept that Jeremy started working on. At that time though, we talked about having Catherine appear in the dream, but we decided that wasn’t really the route we wanted to go down, and instead brought in Peter when we realise we could use this episode to explore more of the relationship between him and Jordan which had never really been touched on in the series. The imagery at work here, with the beach and the birds and the blood is all really effective I think, and ultimately adds up to one of the more interesting teasers we’ve done so far. I very much like the way this dream underpins the episode and recurs at certain points, and I think it’s a very nice way to open this episode that makes it a bit out of the ordinary.
Act One then brings us up on the image of the birds in flight, which is just really another bit of visual iconography to underscore the thematic level before we move on to the action in Turkey. This was an element from the original concept that we perhaps weren’t fully sure how to use to the best effect. I think it began as an idea of where the bird flu itself could originate from, the idea that it was spread from abroad, but as we went on it really just became more cumbersome and slightly redundant, so we minimised that and only really go to Turkey as a location in this one scene.
We then cut across to the school to feature Jordan more heavily, probably the most we have since “Gotterdammerung”. I also like the way that Angelo chose to bring back Bethany who appeared in that episode and debuted all the way back in the season premiere. I think that a nice touch of continuity to keep bringing back Jordan’s best friend in what is a small but pleasant little recurring role that has been carved out. They also mention a boy that Jordan is interested here, which I think was originally scripted as Jimmy, but I changed it to Aaron just to touch on another small element from “Gotterdammerung” in which the same was mentioned in the teaser. So, it’s a tiny little thing, but I thought why not keep that from before given the option.
A little bit later on we have the first scene between Frank and Peter, which kind of plays out a bit more like their more acrimonious meetings of Season 3. That’s not really an inconsistency though, I think it’s just an example of how Frank is reluctant to mix the world that Peter represents with the life of his daughter. He really wants to keep the two apart as much as possible, which dates all the way back to him keeping his work locked away in the basement of the yellow house.
This introduces the element of the kidnapped daughter which Frank goes on to bring Locke into. It serves a purpose in giving them something more concrete to be investigation, but I do think this is an element that could have done with more clarity. There’s just something slightly overly-complicated about this old family from Seattle and the abduction of the girl there while the father is over here in Washington D.C.
Then the act our for Act One introduces us to Trepkos again, who makes his third appearance following “Who We Are” and “Forty Days and Forty Nights”. That was a requirement I gave Angelo, that we wanted to use him again, since he’s developing into an important recurring character, plus we just love Clancy Brown. He adds a wonderful extra layer of villainy to the piece. A nice and sinister appearance to take us out of Act One.
At the top of Act Two, Frank meets Tyler for the first time and they start getting into the background of their two daughters. Again, this is an element that I think could have used a bit more clarity, but it does do something that I’m more fond of in that it touches on the theme of the season premiere story of the significance of children and their role as a driving force for the story and the motivation of the fathers. That’s a more positive side of it.
As we go back to Frank and Tyler, we have our first of several flashbacks to previous point in the series. This one takes us back to “The Fourth Horseman” and the parakeet that Frank bought for Jordan in that episode. That’s a nice resonance from the past. In some ways I’m not sure now, in retrospect, whether or not it was a good idea to put in these little flashbacks. It’s not something we’ve really ever done before, and I’m not sure whether it comes across as interesting or a little overly keen to go back to clips from the show’s history.
We then see Locke and Peter clash again, which is the antagonistic relationship we’ve established between the two from “Forty Days and Forty Nights”. I’m glad that’s still an element at work here, as it’s a good source of conflict. A more problematic part of this scene though is that it perhaps risks painting Peter in more of a negative light, and it could be read to imply that he’s complicit in the more sinister side of things going on with the Group. That’s never something that we’ve really wanted to do with Peter’s character this season. He’s more meant to be a part of the Group, but not part of the bad stuff being done by Trepkos’s side of it.
Jordan and Frank then play a scene together, and there’s a line here on page 30 that I changed slightly purely for a little in-joke. It’s when Frank shows Jordan the drawing of the parakeet that he retrieved earlier, and originally Jordan said “I drew this”, but I changed it to “I made this” simply because it’s the line that was always spoken over the Ten Thirteen Productions logo. So you can put that one down as a pointless joke/reference that probably didn’t even register with anyone when reading.
Act Three then brings us up on another moment of conflict between Peter and Locke as they talk over the investigation with Frank before we go a more crucial scene between Peter and Jordan. As I mentioned before, this is one of the themes of the episode that we set out to touch on, the relationship between these two characters that don’t often speak, so this is an important scene in that regard. There are some more flashbacks here to Jordan’s dream which highlights Jordan’s mistrust of Peter and uncertainty about his role in her father’s life, and by extension her own life. I then added in another flashback to a previous episode that wasn’t in the first draft in order to highlight a scene from the episode “Walkabout” when Peter enters the yellow house on his way to the basement with Catherine and exchanges a long glance with Jordan. That kind of stuck in my mind when thinking about the general feeling between Jordan and Peter throughout the series. I also added in another from “Roosters” just after which does the same thing. Angelo originally had this conversation between the two ending with an affirmation of friendship and a handshake, but I didn’t want to go quite that far, and wanted to preserve a little bit of uncertainty, so cut that.
At the top of Act Four we have a scene where the tests are gone over by a doctor with Trepkos and Peter. Again, I think this part risks painting Peter in a bit of a negative light, and connects him to the bad side of the Group in a way that we perhaps shouldn’t have. We then cut to events as the kids’ party which I was tempted to cut for a long time. I’ve never really been interested in exploring this side of Jordan’s life, which while it inevitably would be, doesn’t quite feel like the stuff we want to be focusing on. These sorts of things have often been the first thing I’ve looked to cut throughout the season, but in this case I ultimately decided that it does serve a purpose in getting Jordan and Tyler together.
There’s then a longer flashback to a moment with Jordan and Megan. For anyone who’s not as familiar with the show’s past as long-time fans will be, this is not from a previous episode the way others have been, but is in fact new material. Tyler then explains that the experiments in the episode have in fact not used the bird flu virus directly, but have instead been about brain engineering the way the plot of the Season 3 episode “Goodbye to All That” did. This was Angelo’s desire to pick up on that thread, which is something I’m interested in keeping alive too, but at the same time I think it did ultimately detract from the bird flu plot somewhat and slightly confused what the episode was ultimately about. You could argue that we’ve spent a lot of time in the episode setting up this stuff about bird flu, and have ended up undercutting that here by saying it was more about the brain surgery stuff. I don’t think it’s a huge flaw, but it’s another element that just adds a bit more confusion that we would have liked.
The same could perhaps be said of Locke’s pursuit of the Millennium Group vehicles and then finding the girl at the beach. On the one hand this has a nice symmetry with Jordan’s dream sequence, but on the other it seems a bit fortuitous and not as clear tas it could have been. Again, not a huge problem, just a bit of an issue that meant the episode could have been improved slightly, perhaps with a bit more time and redrafting. Of course, time is a commodity that we’re all constantly in need of.
One final change I made was to insert Peter into the final scene at the Eunlaith residence. Originally this was not the case, but I thought Peter had somewhat disappeared from the episode and needed to touch base with us at the final moments. This also gave us chance to reaffirm Peter’s innocent and show him to not be complicit in the sinister agenda after all. Tyler’s last remarks about his daughter being more important than any of the work he was involved in also has a nice resonance to Peter’s character and the way he’s separated from his family this season as a result of his unending pursuit of evil and so forth. Putting Peter in the scene allowed that to be underlined a little more. We then end of the tender moment between Jordan and Megan which I cut back ever so slightly just to pare it down to the essentials.
So that’s “Flew”. As I said, works on some levels, but room for improvement in others. Not a bad episode by any means, and overall a success, a worthy entry in the season. I’m glad we got the chance to explore bird flu and touch on the threads with the Millennium Group and Trepkos once again, and also to explore the previously untapped relationship between Jordan and Peter. So, time well spent in those regards. Now a quick bit of Q&A:
I'm a big fan of Detective Giebelhouse, and even though he is in the Seattle PD, do you think you might be adding him to any of your future scripts?
Yes. Giebelhouse will indeed be appearing this season. We’re all fans of his too, and it wouldn’t be Millennium if we was absent from a whole season for the first time ever. You’re going to have to wait until part one of the series finale though, “Resurrection”, when events take Frank back out to Seattle.
That’s the only question, so keep ‘em coming people. The more the merrier. That just leaves me to thank you for reading, and to promise you I’ll try to be more efficient and gets these entries back to their regular rhythm!
Welcome back to the official VS5 blog. In this time around we’ll be rehashing episode 13, “Golgotha”, which was written by myself. This aired on Good Friday, and although we never set out to consciously do a themed episode to coincide with the Easter season, when we noticed that there would be an episode on this date anyway, it made sense to earmark it for “Golgotha” given the subject matter of the episode which was already established.
The idea behind this one was to do a really kind of graphic, mature and intense episode that dealt with some strong themes and really pushed the boundaries of what could be done with the medium and with the series. I envisioned it as something perhaps slightly akin to the first season episode “The Well-Worn Lock”, in the sense that it’s a very adult story that doesn’t shy away from dealing with a difficult subject, and also an episode that would really focus on the character of Brad Locke in much more depth than we had ever done before, explaining the true complexities of him as a person and his motivation and backstory. On some levels I think it achieves those objectives, and on other levels I think it falls a little short, and I’ll get into the specifics of each of those as we go on.
The teaser begins with our introduction to the Church setting by opening on the image of a crucifix, which also closes the episode in a neat kind of way, and that’s very much the symbol that is the overarching presence throughout the entire episode. It’s laden with so many values about the Christian religion, about sin and forgiveness and faith and so forth, and of course it also ties in very specifically to the physical act of a crucifixion which is the method of murder in the episode. So, focusing on that visual as the first shot establishes all those themes from the get go.
We’re then introduced to some of the main players of the drama, with Leon, Jody, Father Reed, Father McClintock and Alex. I toyed with the idea of just opening on the first crucifixion scene on the streets, which would perhaps be the more succinct and conventional route, but I also realised it was important to establish these characters and the fact that the story was going to be about more than just an extreme murder. That’s not really what this story’s about – it’s not about murder. What it’s really about is the abuse of the children at the hands of the priests, and the murders are really secondary. By starting with a scene at the Church, that statement is kind of made, and it also establishes something of a threat to the younger boy, Alex.
The murder scene and the real hook comes when we get out of the Church an onto the backstreets of New York City. That’s one of the first images I had in my head when approaching this episode, the idea of a crucifixion on the streets of a modern, built-up city. There was deliciously macabre juxtaposition to that in my mind, the ancient torture and execution method paired with the quintessential modern metropolis that is New York. What I didn’t want though was to actually see the actions here. That would really be too graphic, and it’s an extreme enough scenario as it is. The series uses Frank’s internalisations to get around this to some degree, and that’s the only time I ever wanted to see the actual graphic actions of nails going through the palms and stuff – only in the rapidly-edited and blurred visions.
Act One brings us up on the Church once again, this time from the outside, and I tried my best to convey one of those grey, rain-filled and gritty images that are such a hallmark of the exteriors on Millennium thanks to the Vancouver climate. Then, as we move inside, I chose to have the choir singing “Abide With Me”, for one thing because I really like it’s melody in general as something simultaneously sombre and hopeful (its regular performance at FA Cup finals probably contributing too), and for another because some of the lyrics are particularly resonant to things going on in the episode if you care to look them up.
We then play the first scene with just Locke on his own, no Frank, because as I said this was envisioned as a real Locke episode. Having him on his own to start out with was one obvious way of foregrounding his character. It’s Father Reed who he has the opening conversation with, and Father Reed was intended to be the good Priest amongst all these abusive ones. He was always entirely innocent, and I felt it was important to have someone to represent that side of things, rather than have all the Priests be guilty. Father McClintock, by contrast, is the really guilty one, and I think that pretty much comes across from his entrance here and the way he is around the police.
We then cut back to Leon and Jody where they talk about Alex, and that’s always to reassert the threat to him. There needed to be some sort of extra tension here, like a time limit, which is essentially why Alex is part of the narrative. Without that, there wouldn’t be much of a reason why these boys were reacting now, instead of at anything other time, whereas the imminence of the threat to Alex gives it a reason.
The first scene over at the Black family home serves as a contrast to the darkness of what’s happening with the children at the Church. That’s what Jordan provides here, the counterpoint of a life on the right tracks as opposed to the lives of the kids in New York. Then I wanted to play something a bit different where Frank gets the phone call, or slightly different anyway, since usually it’s either him or Brad asking for help and things progress very straightforwardly from there. This time around I wanted to show Locke being a lot more hesitant to get Frank involved, bringing himself to dial then stopping, calling then hanging up, not quite deciding what to do. Originally, I wanted to spread this out a little longer, so that he would hang up then carry on and not go back and make the call for real until a bit later, but the demands of pacing the story really forced me to move that along a bit quicker.
We then cut back to Jody and Leon arguing again, and you could argue that this scene is essentially a repetition of their earlier scenes together. That’s true really, and that’s an element of the story structure that you really could criticise. Like I said before, it served a purpose of keeping an imminent sense of threat and tension around, which was required to give us some kind of vested interest in what was happening at the shelter, but there’s no avoiding the fact that it is a bit of a repetition.
When we go back to Frank, it’s the first scene between him and Miranda since they kissed at the end of “Sleep of Reason”. In some ways I wish I could have played on this a bit more than we ultimately did, and make a bit more of their scenes together and go a bit deeper into the nature of their relationship at this point, but the problem was there just wasn’t time to get sidetracked on all that. There were certain beats that the story needed to hit, point to get to, and Frank needed to be up in New York with Brad for most of the time, which meant he’d be separated from Miranda. Also, it’s not really a Miranda episode in the same way that “Sleep of Reason” was, so this had to give way in order to allow the main story of Locke and the crucifixions to play out.
Then we have the act-out which is a fairly disturbing one as act-outs go. It’s much more low-key than what we usually go for, it’s not a murder or a kidnapping or anything else that ends with a bang, it’s just a psychological thing. There’s only so much you can do and show in this kind of situation, and only so much you would want to write in all honesty, so it’s just enough to give you the key ingredients of what add up to something very disturbing in your own mind – the old man, the young boy, and the bed. That’s pretty much all you need to go out of the act on a pretty creepy note.
At the top of Act Two we get Locke and Frank together which is really a chance to start putting the investigation together. They don’t go in to the police department for two reasons here – for one thing Locke’s not really supposed to be up there, because he works in Washington not NYPD, and for another thing I had kind of had enough of police station scenes at this point. After a while they all tend to wind up the same, so I was happy that this was a chance to get past all that. Getting to the crime scene was always going to be an important point too, and in some ways it might have been better to get there a little sooner, perhaps in the first act. This is the point where Frank’s internalisations really show all the gory stuff, and it goes pretty far in showing everything. If it were to be filmed I imagine it would probably turn out to be one of the most gruesome parts of anything in Millennium.
The next step was to get Frank and Locke to talk with the main abuse victims, firstly Leon. This is probably another weak part of the episode, in that the way they get together is a little clumsy – it’s another example of just needing to move the story forward in order to not let it get too slow or boring or laborious. The subsequent interview scene is probably the hardest scene I’ve ever had to write from an emotional perspective. There have been harder scenes in terms of figuring out plot or figuring out how to stage things, but never has something been as much of a struggle in terms of the feelings it stirs and how to treat the material appropriately. Much of the story that Leon recounts is based on stuff I remember hearing in the news a few years back, so it is rooted in that kind of reality, not just entirely made up. I didn’t want to exploit that and I didn’t want to try and invent a load of crap that was just to be sensational, so I just stuck to what I remember of hearing real victims’ statements and being true to the emotion of the scene. Again, this calls back to “The Well-Worn Lock” in terms of tone, so that gave me something to cling to in terms of how to approach this kind of story. There’s an element of having to walk a fine line between being subtle and making implications that get their points across without straying beyond the confines of what would realistically make it on network television. Also, I probably wouldn’t want to write anything more explicit that wouldn’t make it on network television anyway, so that suited me just fine. The goal here is to not really say anything outright, but to say enough so that everyone knows exactly what’s being said and feels appropriately uncomfortable, as you really should from a scene like this.
The act-out for Act Two is another crucifixion, which is similar to the teaser but not quite the same approach. In the teaser, we just saw the aftermath, whereas this time we would see more of the event yet still not the really graphic impacts. Instead, I decided to use a technique of cutting back and forth between the crucifixion and the choir back at the Church, and have them singing a really upbeat hymn to work as the maximum possible counterpoint to the murder. We have plenty of scenes in the past that combine music and murder in Millennium, and I’ve always thought this was most effective when there’s a strong degree of contrast. Hopefully this scene would stand up to them, and it’s one of the elements of the episode that I’m more proud of and hope would be quite memorable.
Act Three is then probably the weakest part of the episode. Most of it is just the setting up of pieces for what’s to come and there’s a bit of a back and forth in terms of the logistics of who is where and at what time. Frank and Locke go back to talk with Father Reed, which doesn’t really show us much more than we already knew, and Leon is then quickly back at the Church before confronting Father McClintock. It’s a bit clumsy in that regard, and could have done better. The scene in the vestry, with McClintock secretly watching the boys getting changed is another disturbing one, and again a little difficult in terms of making it clear about the various perspectives and character positioning. Some might say that the action itself here is in poor taste, but there’s plenty of precedent for it in the series in such episodes as “Nostalgia” and “5-2-2-6-6-6”.
As Locke and Frank continue to talk with Father Reed, Locke gives something of an outburst of anger which is designed to show that there’s more going on for his character than just an average investigation. This had been something that was put in the Writers’ Bible since the beginning of the season, that Locke had a background of being raised in care and suffered abuse, and we’d put in some slight hints to it in such episodes as “Gotterdammerung” and “Ondraeden Ende”, but you really wouldn’t pick up on those to much of a degree without knowing what you ultimately find out in this episode. So, putting in a few more outbursts from Locke as the episode progresses was another attempt to build that up, both in Frank’s mind and in the minds of the audience.
We then go back to Jordan and Miranda who are getting on pretty well with each other by this point, and growing increasingly familiar. The answer to the crossword clue they are working on is “contrition” by the way, in case anyone was wondering. Just a little something that fits the themes of the episode. The main point of the scene though, of course, is to get to the conversation between Frank and Miranda over the phone. I wanted this to be really reminiscent of some of the conversations Frank and Catherine used to have in the first season of the show, as this was really the kind of episode that would have worked well for that relationship, and I also wanted Frank to get that familiar feeling until the point where Miranda finally has to point out that she’s not Catherine. I liked that idea, and always wanted it to be a part of the episode, as it fits the story and works in a bit about these two characters and their relationship at the same time. This also serves the purpose of Frank having it all but confirmed that Locke is a victim too, given the stuff Miranda tells him about trying to fix other people’s problems while we cut across to Locke. That really leads on to their more revealing conversation that fills in some more character details for Brad, but first we have the act-out McClintock getting hit over the head with a candlestick by Leon and dragged away which sets up the endgame.
Unfortunately, that means we have to wait until the top of Act Four before we get to the crucial scene where Brad bears his soul to Frank. In a way, this really should have come earlier in the story, but it was just a case of the events of the plot running away from me and needing to get to certain points that meant this scene kept getting further and further away. That’s one of the biggest weaknesses of the episode I think. On some level, the whole episode is meant to be about Locke’s character history and has been building to this moment for quite some time, but when we finally get there I don’t think it quite delivers. I wanted to this to be a really big scene where Locke gets to show himself as a real human being more than he ever has before in the season, not as a detective but as a person with a deep background and more going on that we previously knew. To some degree, I don’t think the resultant scene ever quite achieves that.
I said before that there are point that I’m very happy with about the episode and points that I think could have been better, and this is it. I think the underlying story about the abuse at the Church and the crucifixion works, I think it manages to be that kind of emotional and disturbing episode on the same kind of level as the likes of “The Well-Worn Lock” or “Monster” in the past, and I think it manages to achieve that balance of being graphically extreme and mature but also appropriate and non-sensational. However, what I don’t think it manages to do is to be that real character episode for Locke that it was meant to be. I think we end up learning about his background too late in the day, and I think the ultimate scene itself wasn’t quite the crucial moment it should have been. Even after this scene with Frank, I don’t come out of it thinking we’ve spent a whole episode devoted to Brad, and I don’t think people will look back on this and remember it as “the Locke episode” which is how I wanted it to be.
After that, Father Reed interrupts them to say that McClintock is missing, and from here to then end it’s a case of a hunt for the killer and victim. They find the bits of evidence they need, the candlestick, the hiding space and the stains that come with it, but it’s the arrival of Jody that gives them the final bits they need. Again, I think Jody’s character could have been worked into the episode better, and Alex too. Originally I had intended to have another interview scene with Jody recounting his experiences, but there just wasn’t time for this. Instead, he just kind of shows up at the end and you have to forget about any questions you might have as to the logic of him turning up at that point.
When we learn that there is an old wine cellar under the Church that’s no longer used, and that Father Reed has never gone down there, and that it’s one of the places Father McClintock used to take the boys, it’s more than a bit of a contrivance I suppose. This was a last-minute addition, as I knew we had to have Frank and Locke catch up with Leon and McClintock before he kills him, and there would be no time to get to that point without a long drawn-out hunt unless there was something a bit convenient close by. So I came up with this door that is always locked which leads down to the wine cellar. Nitpicks aside, the final moments of the episode are more successful, I think. Leon’s final line here of “consummatum est” were of course Christ’s final words, meaning “it is accomplished”. All these religious overtones I imagine could be quite controversial with some, but it’s important to remember that it is just a story. It’s not a message against the Catholic Church and it has no secret agenda in those terms. It’s just another episode that uses some real-world truths that we just have to accept as its inspiration. These things really do happen, so we’ve got to remember that and not try and take it personally or as any kind of slur on people’s religious faith.
We then have a short time dissolve to see McClintock being taken off into an ambulance, still alive, and Leon being taken away in handcuffs. I like the irony that Locke gets to vocalise at the end here, which also speaks to the complexity of the situation, that they ended up charging off to save the life of a man who was really the guilty party, the bad guy, and that you wonder whether he was really worthy of being saved. Conversely, Leon, as one of the victims who has suffered terrible abuse, ends up as the one they capture and lead away to prison. Of course, he’s not entirely innocent either, as he’s crucified three men. I like the way that this isn’t very straightforward in the way that some episodes can be, where you just end up saving the victim and capturing the killer. Instead, it’s more complicated. It’s also very downbeat, which is what Millennium generally tends to be.
That is balanced out somewhat with our final scenes with Frank and Jordan having a much happier time at their local Church on Easter Sunday. Of course, it’s all bright sunshine here to reflect that contrast. They’re also joined by Miranda, which originally wasn’t the case, but I eventually decided that she should be involved at this point too and show them all being happy together. We then go back to New York to end on the more sombre tones of Locke sitting alone in the Church looking down at a photograph of his younger self and crying a little. I liked this image and always had it in my mind as the final scene, and also decided to put it to a piece of Phillip Glass music. There’s just something about his minimalist piano melodies that fit this kind of emotional moment just perfectly. We then push in on the carving of the crucifix to bookend the episode and end on the same shot we opened with.
So that’s “Golgotha”. It works in some ways, and not so much in others. I’m satisfied with the episode as a story, and for its themes and images, but I just wish it could have achieved its goal as a Brad Locke character episode a little better. Now a short bit of Q&A:
So i was talking about the horror genre with someone and that the purpose of it is to unsettle the viewer. i thought i would explain the plot of golgotha to this person, and for thirty minutes i got nothing but, "that is sick, demented garbage." " the guy who would write such garbage is demented." " and that stuff is not good for your heath, it disturbs me that you read such trash." "and you need to find more healthy material to read." You probably get the point. how do you feel when people criticise your writing and work like that ?
Well, that kind of reaction is unfortunate, but I guess it's not entirely unexpected after this episode. It is a difficult subject, and some people are going to be put off by it, by I think it's an important issue to tackle and I tried to do that as honestly and appropriately as possible in "Golgotha". Unfortunately, we live in a world where this kind of thing happens, and I think it's already an established part of the series to explore that. If you look at Millennium, and indeed almost anything on television, you'll see a whole load of murders, shootings, death and so forth. Yet when a sexual abuse story comes up it's suddenly "sick" and "demented". I'm not going to spend a long time defending the episode, but you can see that disparity there. If some people only want their entertainment to deal with happy issues, than I'd advise those people to stick with The Waltons or The Brady Bunch. Millennium is a little more adult, a little more dark, and a little more sombre. That's not going to change.
will Lucy Butler be appearing in the virtual fifth season, or can't you say?
I can confirm that Lucy Butler will definitely be appearing later in the season. You can look forward to an episode that will act as a kind of last hurrah for Lucy and the Legion theme in general, which will also incorporate a similar kind of character from Jordan's past.
And that’s all folks. Thank you for reading, and I hope you continue to stick with us.
Hello, and welcome back to the official VS5 blog. This time around we’re going to be deconstructing episode 12, “Ondrædan Ende”, which was written by Angelo Shrine. This one was actually moved forward quite significantly from its original place in the schedule because we’ve been let down quite badly in recent times by some writers here and there. Fortunately, we also have Angelo who’s a wonderfully efficient writer, and had this one done ahead of time despite it originally being slated for about episode 18.
This one was an original idea pitched to us by Angelo, and it was envisioned as a very dark and graphic standalone episode. That’s ultimately what it turned out as, with a disturbing storyline and twisted set of characters in a very odd family dynamic. It works well in that respect, gets us away from your run-of-the-mill murders once again (which is something I think we’ve done very well with in the last few weeks), and might be evocative of such past episodes as “Loin Like a Hunting Flame”, or even the X-Files episode “Home” which we talked about in discussing the tone of this episode.
The teaser here introduces us to the principal antagonist of Darien Graunger, whose last name was deliberately chosen and researched by Angelo to be quite old in order to explain the desire of the family to preserve it. This might also be a good time to explain the title, “Ondrædan Ende”, which is a kind of old English that literally translates as “Fear of the End”, which is of course the fear these characters have of the end of their family, wile also tying in to the show’s overall theme.
As we see Darien at the bar in the teaser, I particularly like the way we get to see some unusual point-of-view shots, demonstrating Darien’s twisted perspective on the world. This is a nice nod to the tradition of the show right back to the first season, as far as the pilot, and was also employed to good effect later in such episodes as “Weeds” and “Covenant”. That was kind of the thematic hallmark of the first season, ways of seeing the world, and it was good to return to that to a degree here.
While Darien’s actions are disturbing enough here, the real tease or psychological scare comes from what we see of the characters of Mellie and Janice. When we first see them you’re naturally expecting them to be innocent and unaware of what Darien is up to, but the fact that they come down and just tell him to keep the noise down and carry on is really disturbing.
We’re then into Act One where we have a briefing scene with Danner on the unrelated matter of the mob case. On the one hand, it’s good to see Danner again here, as we haven’t used her much recently and she could do with a bit more of an effective outing, but on the other this is really only one of two scenes she has in the episode and it doesn’t quite justify her inclusion.
We’re later introduced to Janice and her job at the hospital, which hints at things to be developed later and establishes her relationship to the family. None of this really went through any changes, as it all seems to do its job pretty well, all things considered. We also learn at this point about the death of the father and of the Graunger family, and that it occurred at a New Year’s Eve party at the turn of the millennium. I think this is a really nice touch, tying in the date of the apparent end-of-the-world with the end of the family’s personal world with the death of the patriarch. That’s a very effective way of mirroring the larger world events with the very personal level.
At the top of Act Two, we get so see Frank’s at Quantico again which I’m quite pleased about. It seems like a while since we’ve seen him here, and it’s the position we set him up with at the beginning of the season, so it’s good to touch on that once again. I perhaps envisaged seeing him a bit more often than we have done, so it’s good to bring this in again. He is a lecturer now, after all, and that’s the root of his relationship with Brad, so it something that’s more than welcome for this scene.
It’s later in the second act that we’re introduced to the character of Yelena Holmes who is investigating the case on her home turf. Angelo felt it was important to have a strong female character to act as a counterpoint to the twisted couple of Mellie and Janice, which was certainly the right call. We have Mellie, the blind old woman masterminding these abductions and rapes, and we Janice, her lesbian partner doing the same, so we really need another female character to stand in opposition of that and show the other side. That’s what Yelena provides, and she’s got a strength of character in her own right who you could very much believe would have investigated and possibly solved the case by herself whether Frank and Locke had shown up or not.
We then go to the cemetery scene which is an important one in fleshing out more of the motives of this family, and showing us some of its history. Having Mellie talk to Darien and give him a bit of a dressing down in front of the gravestone of his dead father and brothers makes the point in a more visual way, with the iconic image of the tombstones working well in conveying the ideas of death and family and lineage and continuance. That then takes us out of the act when they learn that none of the latest victims are pregnant and that Darien is going to have to go out and “try again”. In keeping with the episode in general, that’s another psychological and disturbing scare, and while it’s perhaps not the most striking of act-outs, it’s very much in keeping with the established tone.
Act Three is where some slight changes took place from the original draft, whereas the first two were pretty much untouched. Once we’re told of the latest girl to be kidnapped, Samantha Brazentide, we move on to her brother Jesse who was with her when she was taken. As originally scripted, this was in fact a sister named Theresa, but I decided to change this to a brother in order to facilitate something else that we changed later in Act Four, and I’ll get to that later. The actual dialogue in these scenes didn’t really change much though, as for the most part we could just stick with everything that was given to Theresa and make it come out of Jesse’s mouth. There’s also another added few lines a bit further on where Frank questions Locke on his empathy with Jesse and his determination on the case in general, and that’s never answered in this episode, instead left over as something about Locke’s character that will be explored in more detail in “Golgotha”.
The act then ends with a fairly bold choice in having Janice kill Darien because he almost got them caught. This is very unexpected, as most of the plot so far has been built around Darien as the primary, or at least one of the primary antagonists. So to kill him before we even get into the final act is quite surprising. I was initially opposed to this, since I felt it would undercut the idea that both Mellie and Janice were equally determined to carry on the family name, and it wouldn’t entirely make sense that they were prepared to kill the last surviving son when the death of the others effects them so much as to motivate them to such extremes of action. I think you could still argue that to some extent, but it helps that it’s only Janice committing this act, not Mellie, as Mellie is the only one who is actually Darien’s felsh and blood. Janice is more in it out of allegiance to Mellie, rather than an allegiance to the family as a whole.
That then leads us on to Janice’s plan to still continue the family name in Act Four. She suggests that Mellie could have a child, and that even though it wouldn’t be a continuance of the Graunger bloodline, it could still technically keep the name alive. This is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but I think it works in taking us in to the final act of drama in the episode. Originally, this involved having Locke as the one who was abducted in place of the women in order for him to be forced to impregnate Mellie. However, I felt it was necessary to change this as I didn’t want to place one of our lead characters in jeopardy again. We’ve done that a few times already this season, most recently in “Sleep of Reason” with Miranda which now became the directly preceding episode due to us moving this one up, and I didn’t want to do that to Locke again. Angelo actually made a very good case for why this wasn’t quite your standard jeopardy situation, since Locke wasn’t in danger of death but instead in danger of what was essentially a rape, and even suggested that we could go through with that and actually have it happen. I was almost convinced by that, although I really didn’t want to have Locke actually suffer that fate.
There was also another issue in that, as originally scripted, Locke was captured by having the previously kidnapped girls, including Samantha, be released in the ambulance with instructions to bring Locke back. I knew this part would have to change though, as I couldn’t really buy the idea of the girls going along with this, and that their instinct would just be to run once they got free. So, in order to solve both of these problems, I decided that it would be a different male character that was taken for the final endgame. One option was to make it the guest detective, and have Yelena Homes be changed into a male character, but as mentioned before we needed to preserve that strong female character. So, the best option was to give Samantha a brother, which is why we changed Theresa into Jesse as I talked about before.
So, Jesse was now the one that Janice turned her attention to in an attempt to impregnate Mellie – yet another sickeningly disturbing element to this story, which is exactly the kind of thing I love in Millennium! For the scene where she gets a hold of him, we made this into a simple exchange, where Samantha is swapped for Jesse. We dropped in a few hints about the cell phones in order to give you the idea as to where Janice learned about Samantha’s brother from, and this put it across without having to go into too much laborious detail. Having Janice actually there and making the exchange also made it a lot more believable to me too.
Fortunately for Jesse, the trio of Frank, Locke, and Yelena are able to get there in time, or it might be more appropriate to say that Mellie dies just at the right time. I think it could perhaps have been a bit clearer as to how the detectives figured things out and knew to charge off to the house, which would probably have improved the climax a bit, but I still think it works. What’s better though, at least for me, is the code in which Samantha learns she is pregnant. I think this was an excellent choice by Angelo, as it takes us out on a haunting note, as all the best episodes do, and shows that Darien was actually successful after all, and that the Graunger bloodline is going to continue. I think that’s a very effective irony, that despite the apparent triumph, the villains actually got what they wanted in the end, and it wraps up the theme of the story in a nice, downbeat way.
So, overall, I think “Ondrædan Ende” was a success as a good, middle-of-the-road standalone. It’s perhaps not the greatest of the season, but it’s nowhere near one of the worst either – a good middle-ground. I think it’s the darkness and the daringly disturbing ideas behind the episode that it will be remembered for, and that’s no bad thing at all.
Next up is “Golgotha” which is another of my scripts that airs on Good Friday. It wasn’t really designed this way, or ever meant to be “an Easter episode” – not that there’s really such thing – just a serendipitous kind of thing. I always had the idea of wanted to do one of the more extreme episodes of the season based around modern-day crucifixions and sexual abuse at a Catholic Church, and when we noticed that it’s place on the schedule was very close to Good Friday, we decided that the kind of resonance it had to that date was too good an opportunity to pass up, so made sure it would air for the occasion. It aims to be very extreme in all senses, extremes of violence and extremes of content – not just for the sake of it, but because the kind of story really demands it, and it’s not something that you can shy away from. Not for the squeamish, shall we say. I should preface it in general that it doesn’t reflect any wider agenda or view of Catholicism or religion in any way, it’s not intended to cause offence or be against the Church, it’s just a story. If you’re of a strong religious conviction and are wanting to enjoy your Easter without any controversy, this might be one to skip. Here’s the print ad:
And that’s all for this entry. Still no questions, so you’re leaving me with no fun in that regard. No fair. I’ll just give you a slight peak at a bit of dialogue from “Golgotha”, and say thanks for reading.
This is where they found him. Whoever did this dragged
it out, made it last. You would have been able to hear the
screams a block away, but thanks to the way we live now,
nobody got involved. He died one of the slowest and most
painful deaths imaginable before the police showed up.
Any initial thoughts?
I’ve witnessed a lot of violent murders. Horrible crimes.
Depravity…but this is extreme.
Here we go again with a slightly belated entry in the VS5 blog. It’s high time we rehashed episode 11, “Sleep of Reason”, which went through a bit of a troubled process. Recently I’ve been singing a lot of praises in the blog, which is always genuine and never just blowing smoke – I was rather gushing about “Parturition” and pretty pleased with “Forty Days and Forty Nights”. But I’m not going to do that this week.
I always aim to be honest in providing these insights into our production process, and I have to say that I wasn’t entirely happy with “Sleep of Reason”. We’ve talked about areas that didn’t quite come off in the past, and I’ll reiterate once again that these things are never a slant on the individual writer. I’m the showrunner, and it’s ultimately my responsibility when things don’t go quite according to plan. I ended up doing fairly extensive rewrites on this episode anyway, and I’ll freely admit that it’s not one of our most successful episodes. Part of that owes to the fact that we pushed this one right up to the wire and had it completed very late on, just barely making its air date. We had it on the board quite far in advance, but for one reason or another it just never quite came together and didn’t take shape until the last minute. That’s no way to be doing an episode, and again I’ll shoulder responsibility for that.
The basic idea of the episode was to focus on the character of Miranda Graff who we created for VS5. We wanted to base a story around her in order to flesh out her identity and make her role a bit more substantial, and also to move on her relationship with Frank which had been kind of bubbling slowly for a few episodes. Those were our goals, and I think we achieved some of them, but there also had to be a full and entertaining story, which I don’t think we quite delivered.
Given that Miranda had been established as a therapist, it made sense that any story centred around her would have something to do with that world, and more generally the theme of madness and what it means. That gave us a starting point, but it was the idea of returning to the polaroids that came much later, and that led on to the photographic element that was pretty much added at the last minute. That gave us fuller and more coherent theme, but it still wasn’t quite everything.
The teaser is something that didn’t change all that much from the first draft, where we have Miranda leaving work late at night and feeling a little jumpy at some of the potential stalkers she sees around her. Then the final ‘boo’, as it were, is a psychological one where we see her open the envelope and find polaroids of herself. In this respect, the teaser works fairly well, and is probably one of the more successful parts of the episode. It’s a chilling moment, has that extra level of meaning to fans of the show who know about the previous plots with the polaroids, plus it isn’t a murder, which is something I’ve been keen to get away from wherever possible. That’s another element of the episode that I’m more pleased with, the fact that it’s not a story that hinges on murder, and we don’t even have a single death until the third or fourth act.
As we head in to Act One, Frank comes straight into the story which saves us any tedious introductory scenes which I’ve always said we try to avoid. The fact that this is personal, something happening to Miranda, allows us to get away from the standard “franchise” of “what’s the case?” That’s always a fairly standard opening, a bit of a cliché, and we like to avoid that kind of formulaic approach wherever possible. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that, it can work perfectly well for some shows, it’s just a personal standpoint of wanting to be out of that template wherever possible. The same can be said of Locke’s introduction into the episode – we have Frank needing him for a change, not him needing Frank’s help on the latest police case. We show him making the call, then cut right ahead to the next scenes, skipping out the laborious stuff of filling him in on the details and asking him to come down, which we’ve all seen so many times before and really don’t need or want to see again.
So that’s the plus points to be taken. For the negative though, there’s a certain low-key nature to events at this point. As I mentioned, it’s good that we don’t have yet another murder and another hunt-the-killer job, but the flip side of that is that the story is thus somewhat less urgent and less tense and less threatening. After all, when you boil it all down, Miranda has just had a few photos slipped under her door, and had it not been for the existing backstory of the polaroids in the show’s history, it wouldn’t be all that much of a big deal. Also, you could make the argument that the relationship between Frank and Miranda isn’t quite as it should be. On the one hand they’re suddenly on the level where Frank is the first person she calls in the morning to confront this situation, but on the other hand, they’re exactly dealing with each other in a familiar and affectionate way. It’s a tricky line to walk, and I’m not sure the scenes between them ever really hit the right balance or achieve the right tone.
We’d talked about Miranda and Frank at length at the beginning of the season, and we had decided that we wanted to build something of a relationship between them that grew into the romantic as the season progressed. We wanted it to be slow and gradual, but we wanted to play it out. It’s a difficult area to tackle, since there is always going to be a sector of the audience that will be very hostile to any romantic involvement for Frank, and who will always cling steadfast to the memory of Catherine and what an important element she once was in his life and indeed the show. I myself was quite opposed to the growing distance between them in Season 2, and indeed the introduction of Lara Means who seemed to be something of a usurping force in this respect, especially in such episodes as “Midnight of the Century” which had much stronger relationship subtext.
However, on the other side of this, Frank has been alone now for a very long time. We’re in 2007, present day, so that means Catherine has been gone for almost ten years. That’s a long time for anyone, even for the solitary and internal man that Frank is. I don’t think it would be entirely right to say that Frank would be so hung up on Catherine’s death and her memory as to spend the rest of his life entirely detached from other human relationships. Of course it’s going to be an issue, and it’s not going to be something that he’d just launch into, but I think it’s a possibility under the right circumstances, and hopefully we’ve crafted Miranda and her association with Frank as someone who fits into those circumstances. It also gives us something else to play with Frank’s character. We all know Frank as a profiler and a problem-solver, but you can get board if that’s the only beat that you play with him over the entire season. This way, it gives us an extra range of possibilities to explore with his character beyond a one-note role. I think if Lance Henirksen was actually performing these scripts, or indeed any actor, that would be something they would push for and be interested in doing, to stretch their muscles beyond just one level. You might draw comparisons with 24, since I think Jack Bauer and Frank Black are very similar people in many ways (although not in others). They’re both very internal, lone-ranger types who both lost their wives, and Jack has since been involved with Audrey Raines from the fourth season, and that can be accepted despite the lingering memories of Teri Bauer, so I think Miranda can also be accepted on the same terms.
Back to the specifics of this episode, you’ll see that we intersperse this element of the story in Act One with brief snippets of action in a photographic darkroom, with an unidentified photographer. This was something that I added in my pass at the last minute when the photography element was taking shape as a more prominent part of the episode. On the one hand it’s a means to an end, to break up the reactionary stuff between our main characters and insert something more sinister brewing in the background, whilst also expanding and lengthening the act. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s entirely just a tool, as it also creates a bit more tension and an atmosphere, while fleshing out the thematic level of the episode in terms of photography and the sinister connotations of a darkroom – what with all the red lighting, the chemicals, the solitary nature of it, and the somewhat voyeuristic level of developing photos of other people and hanging them up. I was hoping to evoke the kinds of scenes you see in the typical serial killer narrative, of the faceless antagonist pursuing his own obsession in the dark, and was trying to bring to mind things you might have seen in such episodes as “Dead Letters”, or indeed the movie Se7en. It’s certainly very basic on that level, the meat and potatoes of Millennium territory, but at the same time it’s always good to return to those bare-bones roots and not get whisked away with the overly-elaborate for a change. A return to the ground if you will, this allowing us to go off further into the deep end in future episodes without seeming totally unstable.
We then spend a fair amount of time going over video footage and filling in backstory of Miranda’s past patients, which can get fairly laborious in all honesty. We eventually get to see Ellis emerge from his darkroom, once we’ve been told who he is, and that takes us out in the fictitious Lucky Mart and the rather dull nine-to-five job that he seems to have taking family portraits. Again, this was an attempt to be very grounded, and to do the kind of Millennium staples of an ordinary-looking guy working somewhere everyday that seems innocent but in fact feeds his obsession. You might think of such characters as the man in “Loin Like a Hunting Flame”, for a similar example. Again, it’s good to just do a standard story covering all the staples once in a while, but that inevitably makes it rather pedestrian and by-the-numbers.
The act out is also a bit of a problem here. It does its job well enough in isolation, but it suffers a couple of problems. For one thing, it introduces us to a location that is fairly redundant in he grand scheme of things – Ellis’ trailer. Originally this was an apartment, but the problem with that was making it distinct from Miranda’s place and her office, so a trailer seemed more unique and in character. Nevertheless, it never really pays for itself as a location, and isn’t seen all that often. The other problem here is that the ‘boo’ is essentially the same as the teaser, with the photographs of Miranda. It does the job, but it’s a bit of a repetition.
Act Two opens with some fairly plodding police investigation, the necessary evil of connecting the clues and doing the legwork – nothing particularly interesting. These kind of scenes need to be in every episode to some extent, so it’s not a unique criticism of this episode, but it’s one that we didn’t avoid either.
We then move back to Miranda and watch one of her own videotapes of a session with Ellis from many years back. This is slightly more engaging, but it did present a challenge in conveying the sense of watching a tape, since we have Miranda watching herself in the same room, so getting that across on paper and avoiding confusion needed some thought. In the end, we just put a parenthetical in, which hopefully did the job.
When we return to Ellis, we get to see a bit more of the Fedora Man, which also became problematic as the episode went on. The main things is, really, that we probably don’t see enough of him. We’re asked to accept that he’s significant and the key to Ellis’ psychosis, but we only ever see tiny bits of him with small pieces of dialogue. The basic idea with the Fedora Man was that he represented the physical manifestation of Madness. He was never real, never supernatural or anything like that, never meant to be connected to things we’ve seen of Legion in the past. Only Ellis could see him, and he was essentially a projection of his psychosis. I’m not sure that ever truly came across very well or with any clarity, and that’s doubtless due to the fact the we don’t see enough of him through the episode.
Then we have Frank showing Miranda some of the polaroids that have been sent to him over the years. On one level it might seem odd that Frank has actually kept these, and you could question why that is, but on the other it serves the purpose of tying this story in to the existing trauma of the past, which in turn makes it a bit more significant. It also gives us more of an emotional beat to play, rather than just the investigation. However, this also presents another problem in that it can bring up the suggestion that this is somehow connected to Frank’s stalkers over the years, that it’s deliberately meant to be the same thing. That was never the idea here – it’s just meant to be a totally different and isolated occurrence that just happened to use the same tactic. You could criticise this for being overly coincidental, which is fair, but you could also defend it since it probably is a fairly common stalker’s device, and that it only seems like a coincidence because it has a resonance to Frank’s past. In either case, it’s still a problem area that again is never quite made clear enough.
Then when we get to the act out, we have the same problem that it’s a repeat of the same thing from the teaser and the end of Act One. It’s playing the same scare for a third time, and in an ideal world you would have something different for each act out. Instead, it’s just a repetition, and the more times you play it the less shocking or scary it becomes. We’ve already seen the polaroids of Miranda, so we get that already, it doesn’t add anything new.
In Act Three we also become a bit incoherent, zig-zagging a little between Locke at the station, Locke at the Lucky Mart, then back at the station again after bringing Ellis in. It’s a bit messy in that respect. Miranda’s scenes with Frank are a little better, since it builds on the emotional level and helps develop the relationship, but again I don’t think it does that to the extent it really should in order to drive us to the point we get to by the end of the episode.
When Locke goes on to suggest using Miranda as bait to draw Ellis out, I very deliberately added in a line for Frank where he says he’s seen how these things can go wrong too many times. That’s a very self-conscious acknowledgement of the fact that this scenario has indeed been played out in every cop show under the sun at least once or twice, and that everyone in the audience is bound to know where it’s basically heading. That’s another element of the episode that I’m not really pleased with, and again that’s down to me since it was my invention in the rewriting process. The act out is a little better here though, with Ellis entering the security room. It’s not another repetition, and it’s not overt, it’s an implication of what’s to come, and I’m more happy with that.
Act Four is all about the final confrontation between Ellis and Miranda, and in some ways it’s been an awful long time coming. It’s the only bit of action we ever really get, and the fact that we’ve had to wait all the way until the final act is another problem. When Miranda first catches sight of Ellis in her office, we use a machine-gun cutting device to flash between Ellis and the Fedora Man, which I think would look pretty good and kind of scary on screen, and it’s designed to show the merging identities of the two, which on an implicit level signifies the growing madness in Ellis’ mind. It is very ambiguous though, and I don’t think it helps the clarity of exactly what we meant to get across with the Fedora Man.
It’s not until after this that we pay off what we saw with the act out, when Frank enters the security room to find the guard killed. I think this part works better, as it explains what Ellis got up to and how he’s managed to get in the building. Hopefully people can make that connection with the last thing we saw in Act Three. Unfortunately, what Frank ultimately finds is that the surveillance equipment has been rigged to show the playback of an old tape rather than the current feed. Yes, we pulled the Speed gag. It’s a bit unforgivable, but it was the only real way around this set-up. We had to give Ellis a confrontation scene with Miranda, and we needed some drama and excitement, so he needed to fool the surveillance. So we did Speed, but there you have it.
The scene between Ellis and Miranda, as it plays out, is better. It touches on the relevant issues and forces Miranda to use her knowledge and professional skills to talk him ‘round and prevent him from doing anything terrible to her. You could criticise this for reducing Miranda to a damsel-in-distress, another piece of standard jeopardy for a recurring character, but I don’t think it’s too bad on that level. All those things are true, but then again Miranda is a recurring character, not a show regular, and we just killed off Emma Hollis in the previous episode, so it’s not as if everyone is definitely safe. Also, we show Miranda helping herself really, using psychology to confront Ellis rather than just screaming and getting rescued by Frank.
Frank does enter the scene in the climax, but he doesn’t really ride to the rescue. Miranda has already gotten into his head to a degree, but she hasn’t exactly solved the problem. Instead, Ellis has actually gone further over the edge, if anything, and the Fedora Man or his own madness has basically convinced him to throw in the towel and kill himself.
For that moment though, I wanted to do something that might make you jump a bit if you saw it on screen, and wasn’t just a standard jump-out-the-window. So I decided we’d cut back to Locke in the surveillance van, and just have the body smash onto the windshield out of nowhere in a very sudden impact. There’s a moment in The Departed where a body just falls from the roof right into the path of either Matt Damon or Leonardo Di Caprio’s character, I forget which, and I would envision the same kind of sudden shock at this point. This also gave us a chance to pay off the shattered-glass image in Frank’s mental images that were always in the first draft, but never really went anywhere. Instead, I made sure that the shattering glass of the windshield from Ellis’ fall tied into that. In a way, it’s more of a neat bit of foreshadowing than anything of substance, as we never want to make out that Frank can see the future or anything ridiculous like that. I’m not sure if this ever even registered with anyone in the audience, but I liked the image from the first draft and so wanted to make something of it, and I like the way that the shattering of the windshield does that. I also like the way that the situation is resolved in some way other than a police arrest, or a shoot-out, or a chase – instead the antagonist just promptly jumps out of the window and incapacitates himself. There’s something marginally refreshing about that.
Then the action is essentially over, but there’s a bit more business to take care of as we cut to the psychiatric hospital. That gives us the chance to see Ellis who is recovering physically, but is as mentally unstable as he ever was as he sees the Fedora Man once again. More important though is the final scene between Frank and Miranda. This was meant to be the point where they’ve got through their trial and have come out the other side, and that going through that together has supposedly made the bond between them stronger. I’m not sure that ever truly comes across, but the idea was that confronting this situation would make them confront their feelings for each other and convince them to seize the day, which ultimately results in a kiss. I image that this would be hugely divisive amongst audiences, especially long-term fans. As I said, we wanted to move this relationship forward, and for better or for worse that’s now been done, but it is only a small step. They’ve shared an intimate moment, but it’s not as if they’re suddenly a couple. We’re going to keep this slow and building for the time being and see where it goes. Whether or not the kiss was the right thing to do here is something that everyone will have to decide for themselves. The last bit of dialogue reflects that, echoing Ellis’ idea that we’re all mad, and using that to convey the subtext of the potential “madness” of the romantic development between Frank and Miranda. I think it’s a nice enough way to go out of the episode.
So, ultimately it’s not all bad. There are parts of the episode I like, things that are done which I’m pleased with, but as an overall whole I don’t think it’s entirely satisfying. It’s probably fair to say that it’s one of our weaker episodes so far. Like I said though, I’m the showrunner, it’s my responsibility to keep tings to time and to keep the show on track, plus I did a lot of rewriting on this episode, so any criticism is a criticism of myself. But, no show can hit it out of the park every time, and we’ve had a lot of strong episodes that I have been very pleased with so far, so we can take the rough with the smooth.
This Friday we were supposed to air “Burning Man”, and due to more of the pressures of time and such things we weren’t able to deliver on that. We’re all very sorry about that, and it’s not something we take lightly. It’s very unfortunate, and we pulled out all the stops to make sure “Sleep of Reason” would still go out according to plan, but this time we just couldn’t do that again. It will now air at a later date instead. We’re probably going through our most difficult time of the season right now as some staff depart and others suffer illness and others have to devote time to other commitments. It’s all starting to mount up at the midpoint, but we just have to get on with it and hope we can keep up the standard that everyone has established so far. We’re probably going to be asking for your patience more than ever, so I hope you’ll stick with us.
Remember that the blog is still here for you and your questions. I’d be delighted to answer anything from specific moments in individual episodes to overarching issues of style and execution. Anything at all, ask it on the boards and I’ll address it.
That just leaves me to thank you for reading. Goodnight and good luck.
Welcome back to the VS5 blog. This week we’re going to be rehashing episode 10, “Forty Days and Forty Nights”, then tease the next episode which will be “Sleep of Reason”, airing on Friday.
This episode was written by myself, and it was essentially an attempt to do one of the Group-centric thrillers that have been peppered throughout the show now and again. So far, this has more been Tony’s turf with episodes such as “Laicite”, which is more in the style of the Season 2 episodes where this sub-genre of Millennium episode was really born. My approach was more to reflect the slightly different tone that was created in such Season 3 episodes as “Collateral Damage” and “Bardo Thodol”. As such, we’re looking at a blended total that in turn creates our own unique style for VS5.
With that in mind, the general spark for this episode was the Asian Tsunami disaster that occurred on Boxing Day 2004. That really tied in very well to our thematic assertion that the apocalypse as a concept began in 2001 and has been an unfolding process ever since. Peter even mentions it in dialogue in “Chrysalis”. It’s all about those kinds of natural disasters that can be interpreted as another step towards the end of the world, and also about asking who might potentially have an interest in these sorts of things and gaining control over them. That, of course, would be the Millennium Group.
Having said that, we’re always conscious of not wanting to portray the Group as entirely Evil this season. That’s something we’ve said since the inception of VS5, and that’s why there are quite a lot of points in the dialogue that go out of their way to stress that the Group as a whole is not up-to-no-good as a unified force of villainy. Instead, we’re suggesting that there may be something else that is just using the Group and their influence as a conduit for their own agenda. That’s what this episode ultimately leads up to portraying, and it’s something that will be built upon in future episodes.
That basic premise of Tsunami disasters and the engineering of technology to control them leads us to the teaser sequence, which takes place aboard a navy ship docked at port. I really wanted that to be the focal point of this episode, and the stand-out image, and I think that’s what it ultimately is. It’s a location that hasn’t really been used much in Millennium, aside for a brief sequence in “Bardo Thodol”, and as such it’s an ominous object that hangs over the majority of the narrative – a fulcrum point for mystery within and without.
As such, water in general is the overriding piece of imagery in this episode, and I wanted to foreground water whenever I could. That’s why I chose to open on the ocean itself, and the reflection of the USS Arizona in its waters. We then go on to the drowning sequence which sets up a general enigma in terms of what these officers are doing, and hopefully depicts a fairly harrowing event. The idea of the test chamber and that it’s designed to fill with water is a bit of a conceit in this sense, as you could question what practical value a chamber like that would actually serve, but it was important to me that the initial death be a drowning, and not just a shooting or stabbing or poisoning or whatever aboard ship. Again, that’s because of the water theme that runs throughout the episode, so it really demanded that all the deaths be by drowning. To facilitate that, I invented this water chamber contraption, rather than just have the two officers fiddling with random computers.
At the top of Act One, we have Frank alphabetising his book collection with three very specifically chosen novels. First we have ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ by Charles Dickens, which I chose because there’s a fairly strong drowning motif in it; then ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky, not only because it’s title has an obvious resonance to Frank’s wok, but also because there is also a woman who tries to drown herself; and finally ‘A Lap Full of Severed Tongues’, which has no thematic relevance but is instead a reference to the episode “Jose Chung’s Doomsday Defense” in which it is revealed that Frank read this book by the fictional writer twelve times in college (to which Chung replies: “that’s the worst book I ever wrote!”).
Frank is of course interrupted though by Peter Watts who brings him the case/story. In some ways, this is a bit of a generic method of kicking-off the investigation, with character X saying “I need your help on this, Frank”, so you could criticise it for that. I agree with that, to an extent, but then again you can’t have something unique and wonderful every week. Last time we had “Parturition”, by Angelo Shrine, which I mentioned did very well to paint a new way of Frank getting on the case, so having that allows this episode to be a little less imaginative! Even so, this is an episode about the multiple agendas of our main characters, and how those agendas collide, so having Peter bring the case before Frank (whilst keeping it off the Millennium Group’s radar), serves a legitimate purpose and isn’t entirely “franchise TV”.
When we cut to the crime scene, we first go to Brad Locke, who is someone we haven’t seen interact with this kind of world before. In previous Group-centric episodes, he hasn’t been around, such as in “Laicite” and “Who We Are”, so this was a chance to explore his point-of-view on all of this and bring him into more direct contact with Peter. As we soon see, this allowed us to pay off more of the antagonistic side of Brad’s relationship with Frank. We’ve seen him grow a little beyond that in recent weeks, but it’s still something central to his character which we set out in the Writers’ Bible at the beginning of the year, and this scenario allowed that to come to the surface once again. It’s a good source of conflict, and we all know that conflict makes for good drama, so I was pleased to be able to play that here and develop something of a triangle between him, Peter and Frank, which soon becomes a square when Emma resurfaces.
Speaking of which, now might be a good time to talk about Emma. We’d talked about her character when setting up the season, and pretty much agreed that we didn’t want to use her again as a show regular. We were seven years later, Frank had something of a new life, and it would be a little implausible to have them reunited coincidentally. However, we did say that we might have her crop up somewhere down the line, possibly in a recurring role, depending on the demands of the story. The last time we saw her she was a Millennium Group member, although fighting for a good cause not the bad, so this story was a logical point to bring her back and explore her character in this new age. That only added to the dramatic potential and the conflict, so there was a lot of ripe character moments to exploit here, and hopefully they were capitalised on.
We first have her off-screen, being talked to by Trepkos. This is a nice little device to build up a level of mystery, essentially manipulating the audience into question who it is. I make no apologies really for doing that. Yes, it’s manipulative, but the craft of writing is all about directing audience reactions, in a way, so it’s not exactly underhand. I think it makes Emma’s entrance more interesting, builds it up a bit more, and hopefully it comes as a surprise. That’s why her name isn’t in the opening credits, it’s at the end, because I really wanted this to be a surprise and a strong act-out.
Trepkos himself, who actually appeared in “Who We Are”, originally made his debut here. As I think I mentioned in the blog for that episode, “Forty Days and Forty Nights” was actually written first, but we decided to insert Trepkos into “Who We Are” just to capitalise on the character. He gets more screen-time in this episode though, which isn’t all that surprising given that fact, and he’s designed as someone we’re going to see more of as the season goes on. In some ways, it’s not exactly surprising that he turns out to be a villain, or at least what seems to be a villain for the time being, but as I’ve said before, that isn’t really the point. It doesn’t always have to be a huge surprise as to who’s behind it, so to speak. If it’s crafted as a whodunit, then yes, it should be a surprise, but that isn’t really Millennium.
As we head into Act Two, Emma’s first contact is with Brad Locke, someone she of course has never met before. When I approached this scene, I never intended there to be much of anything going on between them, but when I came to write the dialogue I found them being almost a little flirtatious with each other. This was really a case of the characters just dictating their own dialogue to me really, it was by no means a conscious attempt to try and pair up the two younger characters. I don’t know if it really plays that way to anyone, but I did think it was a curious instance of something coming in to the scene that wasn’t entirely conscious or intentional, so it would be interesting to see how that comes across with different people.
Emma’s first meeting with Frank though is of course what everyone is waiting to see. When they cross paths at the docks, I chose to hold back on n actual proper meeting for a bit. It would be the obvious thing to just dive in as soon as possible and answer all the questions that are on the tips of everyone’s tongues, and it can get kind of overwhelming to rush in and start babbling dialogue straight away. Not only that but it would be a diversion from the main story. Instead, I find it far more effective to hold back for a moment and just play the initial shock and surprise and seeing each other again, then save the longer, more drawn-out dialogue for later.
So, Emma and Locke make contact with Terry Pressman, then we go to the reunion scene with Frank. This was probably the most challenging scene to write, as there are so many issues bubbling under the surface and so much that you could get caught up in dwelling on the past and recapping what’s happened between now and then. To avoid getting totally swamped, I pared it down as far as possible and stayed rooted in the emotion. It couldn’t just be all exposition, but on the other hand it needed a bit of exposition to explain where Emma is in her life and what’s going on with the present case, so it’s a tricky tightrope to walk.
We then end the act on the second murder, the death of Terry Pressman. Again, this was designed to capitalise on the water motif, so that makes it another drowning, and there’s also a moment where Terry looks into the reflection in the waters before he is attacked. Water, water, everywhere.
Act Three is really the point where all four of these personalities start interacting and working as a unit for the first time. That creates a bit of a problem as there are a lot of characters that need servicing in the dialogue, so that nobody is redundant or under-used, so that’s a constant juggling act. We get around it at times by dividing off the characters, such as when Frank takes Brad aside and they have another little confrontation. In this scene, I was conscious of not wanting to show Brad as just the spoilt brat, so it’s important that he has a legitimate point, and that’s that Frank can be quite reticent at times and wont take the time to explain his logic to people. That’s completely true, I think, of Frank’s character throughout the series, and it’s not hard to understand why colleagues such as Brad can get frustrated. So this scene kind of strikes that balance as a point of conflict that is a legitimate one, and not just characters arguing for the sake of arguing.
As a result of having these four characters working together on the case though, something is inevitably going to fall by the wayside, and in this case I would say that’s it’s probably Emma’s relationship with Peter. Last time they were together, in “Goodbye to All That”, a distinctly adversarial relationship took shape between them, with Emma accusing Peter and the Group of manufacturing her father’s illness in order to manipulate her with the offer of a cure. This episode can’t really touch on all that though, given everything else that is going on, plus it’s not really part of this story, so it’s probably the element that has to be sacrificed and, to a certain extent, swept to the sidelines. That’s unfortunate, and a part of the episode that you could really criticise, but I’d just have to take that criticism as a legitimate one, but one that nevertheless I wouldn’t go back and change because it’s the part that needs to be sacrificed.
That takes us to one of the more tricky scenes in the episode, and that’s the drive-by where the four attempt to hack in to the Arizona’s wireless network. This requires a big stretch of logic I suppose, and I really can’t say to what extent it is technically viable or not. I imagine there are probably some tech-heads out there that could pick this all apart and leave it in shreds, but there comes a point where you just have to move past that kind of technical detail nitpicking and do what needs doing for the story. Despite that flaw, I do think it’s a tense and thus entertaining scene, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in film or TV so far. There probably is something now that everyone’s screaming about in their minds, now I’ve said that, but I can’t think of anything else that has done a kind of wireless-network hack scene. There was something kind of cool about the car driving around in laps, trying not to get noticed while using the proximity to get into the navy computer system aboard ship. I guess you either buy it or you don’t, but I like the tension in it all nonetheless.
Then we have Act Four which is really the endgame, where everything hits the fan, so to speak. We begin with Emma departing for the Group headquarters so she can track down the money-trail, and given her ultimate fate, I knew this would be the last scene between her and Frank. Again, this meant treading a tightrope in making it poignant, emotional, and a fitting farewell between them, whilst also not telegraphing the fact that she’s going to be dead by the end of the episode. Does that work, or not? It’s probably something that will be different for every audience member, but I think it ultimately strikes that balance fairly well. We get to share a positive final moment between Frank and Emma, while not showing our hand too early.
Then we have the two scenes that we cut between, the action aboard the Arizona, and Emma’s investigation. Having two locations helped to drive the ending forward and keep the pace up, and matched up unexplained events and some answers. On the ship, we soon see that everyone has left, and it’s now deserted. Why? Because it’s about to get blown sky high. When Frank and Peter finally realise this, noticing the C4 and detonator pin, I like the way they just have to look at each other and not say anything to get the hell out of there. In the aftermath of the explosion, we see Cain, the wordless character we see introduced a little earlier with Trepkos. I didn’t give him any dialogue at all in this because I wanted him to remain very enigmatic, something of a mystery figure. We’re not entirely sure who (or what) he is at any point in the episode, and that’s largely how I want it to stay. Obviously the name has clear Biblical connotations, but whether or not that is just a coincidence or something more sinister remains to be seen. He’ll probably appear again somewhere down the line, I can say that much.
This brings us to Emma’s death. We talked about this when we were thinking of having her back for a guest spot, and largely agreed that she had become expendable, since she wasn’t one of our main characters, and as such we would be open to killing her off should the story fit. In this case, I think it did, and I hope it comes as a least a half-surprise (as, let’s face it, some people must have suspected it could be coming) and I’m ultimately pleased with her coming back and having a last story and involvement in the series before getting her own exit scene. The actual moment itself was one that I wanted to make significant, yet not operatic. It’s not the final scene, which it could be in some shows, and that makes it less operatic, so to give it the dose of significance I chose to do something rather out of the ordinary for Millennium, and that’s so have a slow-motion CGI bullet effect come out of the gun. That takes us out the very gritty and realistic nature of the show, and as such I imagine it could be a little divisive amongst audience reaction. Normally the show has quite a high level of verisimilitude, but in this case I think it’s justified in breaking that in order to make Emma’s shooting more weighty and her exit more significant.
In the final scene we have Frank examining his minor injuries in the mirror, and of course, splashing water on his face, just to get the water in there once again. It’s left to Peter to break the news to Frank, that Emma’s body was found washed up in the Potomac (water, again) and he’s characteristically quiet for it. Another option would be to go over it in minute detail with long speeches and laments for poor Emma, but instead I thought it was more in-character and more effective to just keep Frank’s words to short, one-word questions. We then go out on the final image of the photograph, just as a kind of final tribute to Emma, and the tear landing on it (yes, water again!). So that’s “Forty Days and Forty Nights”.
Next up we have “Sleep of Reason”, despite having a few tricky issues with which episode is going in the eleventh slot. We had talked about switching it around with “Burning Man”, but it looks like now we’re sticking with the original plan. Sorry to confuse anyone. This episode is going to focus on the character of Miranda Graff, who we created for VS5, and is going to thrust her into the limelight a little more than she has been in the past. Hopefully we will be able to flesh out her character while telling an interesting story at the same time. Since she’s a psychiatrist, the plot is going to focus on the issue of madness and what that means, but it’s also going to build on her relationship with Frank and where exactly the two of them are heading. Take a look at the new print ad:
Until then. Thank you for continuing to read, and goodnight.
Here we go with another entry for the VS5 blog. Apologies for the slight delay this week, but better late than never, right? This time around we’ll have a quick digest of “Parturition”, written by Angelo Shrine, which we’re all very pleased with, then tease the next episode, “Forty Days and Forty Nights”, which airs this Friday.
The basic concept that underpins this episode was originally pitched to us by Joe McBrayer, who worked on staff in the early phases of pre-production when we were based at TIWWA. That was just the bare-bones idea about a man planning to take his daughter to a ritual baptism in order to purge the inherited sin he perceives inside of her. This was later took up by Angelo Shrine who developed it out further, worked out the beats of the plot, made it his own, and then came to write the script, which I think he did a great job with.
It’s quite refreshing really in that it’s not a run-of-the-mill murder case which standalones can often fall into the trap of being. Sometimes the show can get accused of just being “serial-killer-of-the-week”, and while I don’t think that’s ever really been accurate in describing Millennium, it’s a legitimate danger that we’ve tried hard to avoid, and I think by and large we’ve succeeded in that. “Parturition” helps no end, because it’s more about ex-offenders on parole, and the idea of baptism and what it means to inherit certain traits, and whether Evil itself can be inherited.
The teaser here opens on a scene from later in the narrative, which is a structural device that can work very well under the right circumstances and when used sparingly. I mentioned in the blog entry for “Muse” that it was originally employed in that episode, but we already had this one completed, and it worked much better for “Parturition” than it did for “Muse”, which is why we opted to change things around. “Parturition”, because it doesn’t rely on the standard murder to kick things off, needs some other kind of teaser besides a death, so it makes perfect sense to show us a glimpse of the story before cutting back and working back towards that moment.
Angelo was very keen on using some Bobby Darin music to underpin the teaser and indeed recur throughout the episode, and he chose “Lazy River” which of course fits perfectly with the image of the lake and the idea of baptism. Bobby Darin is of course an established part of Millennium already, with Frank being portrayed as a fan in the second season where Bobby’s music featured quite prominently. On the one hand, I didn’t want that to be going on all the time in VS5, because I’ll freely admit that the second season is my least favourite, but also we want to make sure we have our own identity. Nevertheless, I think “Lazy River” worked just perfectly for this episode, and since we haven’t really used a whole lot of Bobby Darin in the other episodes, it’s not overkill.
Towards the end of this sequence, we have a brief line where Kemp recites Frank’s address form his drivers’ licence back to him, as a kind of threat, and we had a big long discussion about exactly what it would be. It’s such a small part of the episode, but Angelo brought it up as something that really ought to have some kind of resonance and/or significance, in the same way that the famous yellow house at 1910 Ezekiel Drive did. It was a good point, and we all racked out brains for quite a while to come up with something cool. We talked about Damascus Road, but that was a bit too on the nose; I think Acts Crescent was mentioned; Angelo suggested 2223 Samuel Drive, but we ended up amalgamating that (which is a reference to a specific Bible passage which you can all look up) with Canaan Road, which was another Bible reference, but not to a specific passage, just the location of Canaan. That sounded best out of the options to me, so we went with that in the end.
When we get into Act One, we see two similar scenes of two contrastive prisoners being released on parole – first Vernon Macosian Kemp, our principal antagonist, then Mike Allan Marshall, who ultimately ends up shooting Kemp. This was originally scripted in a different way, in that it played with the linear narrative and put things slightly out of sequence. Originally, we played the scenes with Kempt from his point of view, then went back at some point in Act Two to show the scenes from Marshall’s point of view, thus revisiting this point from a new angle. It was kind of like some of the crosses we’ve seen on Lost from two different perspectives at different times. I like that idea of playing with time and using a non-linear narrative, I think it can be very effective and very cool, but in this particular case I didn’t think it really brought anything significant to the story, and it also turned out that Act One had come in a little short and Act Two a little long. As a result, both problems were easily solved by just making it a standard linear narrative, and showing the two prisoners being released at the same time and in the conventional way, so Angelo was very accommodating in changing that around.
I also like the way Frank gets on the case, so to speak, in this episode, as it’s a little different to the standard approach. We play a scene with Frank at the computer, hacking away at search engines, which we haven’t really done all season and calls back to the traditions of the first season and Frank’s basement hideaway. I like Angelo’s choice in doing that. It’s also kind of neat that he sees the face on the TV as a demon. In a way, it’s a bit of a stretch, and pushes the idea that Frank isn’t psychic, but I think you can just about buy it as an expression of his experience and instincts regarding released prisoners and such. On some level you just have to enjoy the image and move on. I think it’s better than going through the old motions of having Locke come up to Frank with a new case, which is the standard, lazy approach, and we’ve often tried to avoid that wherever possible. In actuality, I don’t think we have ended up falling back on that very often, and I’m pleased that we’ve done pretty well to have a nice variety of ways to bring Frank and/or Locke onto a case.
In Act Two we have a conversation between Frank and a retired District Attorney named Ellenor Chemanski which goes over the case history and fills in some of the blanks. I like the way this speaks to an established relationship, and the way the two interact. I believe it was originally scripted to use the VS4 character of Ryan Frost in this scene, just like we talked about using him before back in “Laicite”, but again I wasn’t keen. Just like in the previous case, I felt it would be a little incongruous and outside our identity to bring back this character out of nowhere, plus the fact that he isn’t our creation but the work of our predecessors. Besides, it wasn’t really required of the story, it would just have been a footnote, so I do think it was better to just create a one-off character here. The scene is a means to an end, essentially, so I think it’s best that we don’t attach too much undue significance to the person doing the talking. Also, I think it successfully manages to create its own little relationship in a very short amount of time.
This is also intercut with another scene between Locke and another prisoner called Yeng-Son, which I also think works nicely. Yeng-Son is a good character that is, again, not exactly what you would expect. The standard thing might just be to trot out a cell-mate who has nothing very much interesting about him, but Angelo has created this Yeng-Son as someone with a sage-like quality to him, with an interest in many different religions, and a certain spiritual enigma to him. I think that works very nicely, and again makes for something a bit more interesting than just standard fare.
In Act Three we start getting closer to the truth about the plot, which isn’t apparent right away and thus isn’t predictable or expected. There’s also a nice scene between Frank and Locke where they talk about baptism and family history, which is a great way of playing something more for them besides just investigation and exposition. It’s interesting to say that Frank was baptised by his mother while his father was away – which fits perfectly with what we know of Frank’s parents as characters from such episodes as “Midnight of the Century” – while Locke was not baptised. We don’t quite know if that’s as simple an issue as it appears, or if there’s more of a reason to that owing to Locke’s childhood and upbringing, and that’s something we’re going to explore further in a few episodes time. We haven’t come out and done a big amount of backstory for Locke, beyond his Academy days, but we have weaved in a couple of little things, such as here and in “Gotterdammerung”, that are going to make more sense further down the line when he have a more in-depth character episode for Locke, which will be episode 14.
Back with “Parturition” though, and we head toward the point where Kemp gets into the ice-cream van from the teaser with his daughter Annie. I thought the choice of the ice-cream van as a setting was another terrific one form Angelo, as it’s so perfectly creepy in juxtaposing the child-like happy associations with the darker edge of what is going on between Kemp and Annie. We also compare and contrast the lives of Kemp and his fellow parolee Marshall throughout the episode, and that’s something that we played up as much as possible in the drafting process in order to make the ending work as best it could – namely the point where Marshall shoots Kemp.
There’s also a moment where Marshall retrieves his old gun, finding just one bullet, and attempts to use it to shoot himself, but nothing happens. The basic idea here is, at least on an implicit level, that there is some kind of divine intervention or signification here, or at least that’s how Marshall interprets it. I like this, and it kind of reminds me of certain elements from the episode “In Arcadia Ego”, and I just hope that the idea behind what was happening comes across clearly enough. This also helps to clarify his motivation and purpose in going after Kemp, who he hears about on the news.
In the endgame, we have the final revelation that it was in fact Annie who was responsible for the death of Brent McCoser, and not Kemp himself. I think this is really unexpected and never telegraphed earlier in the episode, as we are initially led to believe that Annie is entirely a victim. Instead, we kind of come to see that maybe Kemp has a point in seeing a thread of Evil passed on through birth to Annie, and that maybe she does need to be baptised after all. That’s really interesting, as it’s not just the bad guy who’s crazy and obsessed. He is kind of obsessed, but maybe there’s a good reason for that that we should be thinking about beyond our initial prejudices.
Angelo was quite keen not to replay the teaser sequence at any point, as he felt that it wasn’t necessary and wouldn’t add anything to the final moments. I myself didn’t have a strong opinion on this either way, as there was time in the script to put some bits in if it was wanted, but Angelo made good points about his reasons for not needing it, and I was happy to go along with that.
After Kemp is shot and killed by Marshall, and it’s up to you to decide if that’s an act of good or bad, we go back to the contrastive happiness of the Black family home and Jordan’s birthday, with a reprise of “Lazy River”. Originally, this was the final scene of the episode, but in revisions we added a final coda which shows Annie in her institution, and a demonic vision of her little tea-party. I like going out like this, as it’s more of a spooky ending, and shows that the Evil is still out there. It’s a disturbing, chilling final idea to be placed in your mind, and I think it’s a particularly effective
So that’s “Parturition”, and I think it’s one of our stronger standalones so far. On Friday, or I should say tomorrow now since this entry was so late, we have our new episode entitled “Forty Days and Forty Nights”. It’s a return to the kind of Millennium Group focused genre, as opposed to the standalone, and it’s the first time we really see Brad Locke confronting that world that Frank is associated with. In previous episodes such as “Laicite” and “Who We Are” which dealt with this kind of stuff (the former more so than the latter), Locke’s been sidelined and out of the story, so this time we’re going to see him confront that world and see how he gets on with it. He’s going to clash with Peter somewhat, and by extension Frank, and hopefully some good drama will come out of that point of conflict. The plot itself focuses on the engineering of technology to do with detecting Tsunami, which comes on the back of the disaster in Asia on Boxing Day a couple of years back. That’s something that’s been quite resonant with out general take on the millennium as a concept, that it was a process that began in 2001 and is still ongoing, so this will explore that in terms or water and its various connotations. Here’s the the print ad:
Still no questions, I’m sorry to say. I can only assume that things in our episodes are so clear that we don’t need anything clarifying! Okay the, time to close with a sneak peak of dialogue from “Forty Days and Forty Night”. Goodnight, and good luck.
This is my investigation. I don’t remember asking for
help from this Millennium Group. Or you for that matter.
We’re here in an unofficial capacity.
Well, unofficial or otherwise, I need to contain a flow of
How did you find out about this in the first place?
My department got an anonymous tip. This is a potential
murder investigation and I need to protect my source.
I can understand that, Brad, but we’re only here to solve this.
Same as you.
Hello, and welcome back to the VS5 blog. In this entry we’re taking a look at “Who We Are”, written by Anthony J. Black, before rounding out with a bit of a preview of “Parturition” which airs this Friday.
We pushed it right up to the wire with this episode, having it completed pretty late on Friday, but fortunately we still made our air date, and so all is right in the world. It was always conceived as a real Peter Watts episode, a chance for him to take centre stage and for us to showcase his character as never before. Tony is certainly a big Terry O’Quinn fan (but then who in their right mind isn’t, right?), and he wanted to have this story where Peter really gets to carry an episode for pretty much the first time in Millennium, even more so than the only real antecedent, the third season’s “Collateral Damage”. Taylor Watts from that episode also returns here, as does most of the rest of the Watts family that we have met before in such episodes as “Goodbye to All That” and “Luminary”. Of those, only Chelsea was recast (with Leighton Meester here), since she never really had much of a speaking role before.
The crux of the episode is flashing back to the events we alluded to back in “Chrysalis”, that Erin Watts was murdered in order to draw her father out of hiding and back into the fight, just as Jordan was targeted for the same reasons to get to Frank in the season premiere episodes. However, the primary focus is really on the effect this had on the family, rather than the murder itself, because if we were to do that we’d just be rehashing the plot of the premiere really. Instead, Tony wisely focuses on how this impacted on the family dynamic, and most of all how it changed Peter and his life, to bring him to this point in time.
Back when we were first planning the season, Tony and I talked about the various character arcs and what we wanted to do with both Frank and Peter over the course of the year, and we originally intended to keep the close parallel between Frank and Peter and what’s been happening to their respective daughters alive in a very big way past the premiere. We went into considerably more detail about the children, and we even talked about giving Erin or Chelsea some kind supernatural significance in the same way that Jordan is kind of special given her connection to Frank’s facility. However, as we went on this kind of fell by the wayside as some plans and arcs inevitably do in the plotting of a season. I was never entirely convinced by the notion of making Chelsea gifted in some way and bringing her in as a more significant character, as it kind of felt a little contrived and in my mind I was worried about the risk of becoming a bit too teenager-centric like such WB (or CW now) shows as Smallville, which I’m just not keen on. I don’t think it would necessarily have played out that way, as I think our writing staff is talented enough to avoid the clichés and pitfalls, but for whatever reason we just never ended up making this thread part of the season. I for one am not too disappointed to see it go, in all honesty, and I think what’s basically happened, on a subconscious level, is that we’ve realised it would be one story-thread too many, one that we couldn’t really service what with everything else going on for our principal characters and also telling other self-contained stories as we go along, and one that isn’t really all that necessary for servicing Peter’s character. It probably would have come in as a story point a little bit in “Chrysalis”, and much more so in this episode, but as it is I think it’s best left as a footnote rather than something we’re actually pursuing.
The teaser we have here opens in the flashback, and it’s to events some time prior to the start of VS5, but we never really pin down the exact date because I don’t think it’s all that important, and just bogs you down in continuity when you don’t need to be thinking about all that. If you’re really curious, I’d probably say it’s about 18 months ago, maybe a year or so before our season begins. The opening shots are well chosen, I think, as they use a lot of great imagery to convey a safe and happy life, sunshine and white-picket fences that then stand in stark contrast to Peter’s life now – drab, spartan, and alone. That works really well as we cut back to the present day, and does very well to juxtapose the one with the other, thus conveying the overall themes of what Peter had and what he’s now lost very succinctly and visually.
We then go on to introduce who will be a new recurring character, that of Millennium Group executive Trepkos. He’s actually a character that I first wrote into the season in what is now episode 10, “Forty Days and Forty Nights”, which was actually written before this particular episode. That was where he originally made his debut, but as Tony was pressing on with writing “Who We Are”, and as it began to feature more of the Millennium Group, it seemed like a good idea to bring Trepkos in early and thus give him an extra episode to become familiar to us all. The episode needed a kind of Group Executive anyway, so we had the option of either going down the same route we did in Tony’s previous episode, “Laicite”, and just throw in a generic, one-off character to say a few lines, or take Trepkos from episode 10 and introduce him a couple of episodes earlier. The latter seems far more logical, and I’m glad we did so as it’s always nice to build up recurring characters rather than just one-timers that we quickly forget about.
As we continue with the flashback structure, we might be reminded a little of Lost, but that show certainly didn’t invent, nor does it own, said device. Nevertheless, there are quite a few little Lost references peppered through the script, giving a nudge and a wink to Terry O’Quinn’s current role on that show, such as the item marked ‘DH/108’ (108 of course being the total of “the numbers”, as well as the flight that crashed, etc., and DH = “Dharma” anyone?), the Scott/Steve name confusion, and events taking place in Portland like the title of a recent Lost episode. Tony’s certainly a big Lost fan, so it’s up to you whether the allusions raise a smile or something else.
I guess one of the criticism you could make of this episode is that it is rather slow-paced, and that the actual plot in Portland takes something of a back-seat compared to the flashbacks. I think that’s valid, to an extent, but it’s also worth bearing in mind that an episode like this is always going to need to devote a lot of its time to the character moments and the emotional angles rather than the conspiracy de joure. I think you could probably say that a little more balance on this front could have turned a good episode into a great episode, whereas as it stands it’s prevented from joining those ranks because the story with Atticus Bloom isn’t as clear as it might have been.
One thing that concerned me was that there was a bit of an absence of Frank for a big chunk of the episode. Like I mentioned before, this was the one that was going to give Peter’s character chance to carry an episode, so naturally he need to have most of the limelight, but I do think we could stand to have a bit more Frank. As it is, he only comes in at the very end of Act One, which kind of reflects the way Peter tends to crop up at such times as the first act-out of “Laicite”. On the one hand, I like that inversion and the symmetry of it, but on the other I think it’s always a risk to marginalise Frank on this show given how he’s such a powerful anchor. This episode is also the second one not to feature Brad Locke (the first being the aforementioned “Laicite”), which again could be a concern, since it risks suggesting to some of the audience that we perhaps don’t have confidence in our original creation and second-lead. Of course, that’s not the case at all, and fortunately I don’t think anyone in the audience has raised any such point so far. In the case of episodes like this, it would probably feel more contrived to just shoehorn Locke in, which is why we didn’t do it. On the other hand, it might be nice to see Frank, Peter and Brad all interacting together for once, but we’re going to get to that in episode 10, so just have patience.
It’s not really until Act Three that we get to more of the meat as to what Bloom is up to, and again I feel that this side of the story could stand to be stronger. Bloom in particular had the potential to be more of a well-defined character, but he doesn’t quite reach it. That’s not to say he’s a bad character, far from it, he’s in fact pretty intriguing from what we see of him – unrealised potential is more the term, which could perhaps be extended to the episode in general. I think what I’m getting at is that there are lots of seeds of good things and ideas and areas to go to, but that sometimes we just don’t get to them, even though they’re there and brimming with potential, as opposed to an episode that is just unsuccessful or uninteresting (which “Who We Are” is anything but). Most of that is the demands of the time we’ve got in a one-hour drama to tell the story though.
As an aside, there’s a little in-joke at the bottom of page 31 that you may or may not have spotted: Metcalf identifies two of the victims as Angela and John Gillnitz, the latter of which is the amalgamation of writers John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, and Frank Spotnitz that was often inserted into the episode of The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen that they penned together.
When we get into Act Four and the endgame plays out, it works well enough. To an extent, you could argue that we never quite buy that Frank is going to shoot Peter, and the comment that Frank was inoculated off-screen can be a little unsatisfying, but I think there’s enough drama to sustain us through the ending. One thing you could say is that Bloom’s ultimate explanation of his activities is a little bit megalomaniacal, but even so it fits with established themes. As I said before, I think this part is like the episode as a whole, good but not quite fully realising all the potential that it could to be great. So that’s not a criticism, I do believe this episode stands up well and explores character in a strong way, and I would by no means say it’s amongst the weaker episode we’ve produced so far.
The final twist in the tale is where we see Taylor morph into a face of Legion, which I think is a great choice that Tony had plotted right from the start. The idea here is that Legion is trying to fool Peter by appearing in the guise of his daughter in an attempt to convince him to sit out the fight against Evil. We’ve seen Legion do this before with regard to Frank, many a time in fact, and I think it’s great that it’s doing it to Peter here. Again, this perhaps ties back to our original plans involving Chelsea, but even without that it makes perfect sense and has a powerful impact. In doing so, we get to highlight the parallels between Peter and Frank even more, but also see how their lives have unfolded differently because of the choices they’ve made. Frank has lost his wife, but he’s still got his daughter and a happy home. Peter, on the other hand, has lost a daughter, but while his wife and surviving children are still alive, he’s lost that level of happiness because of his choice to go off and hunt down the Evil responsible for Erin’s death. Now he and Frank are on a similar mission in life, but for different reasons, and we’re going to see that play out through the season right through to the finale.
So that’s “Who We Are”. Coming up this Friday we have a new episode entitled “Parturition”, which is the first to be written by Angelo Shrine, from a story idea by Joe McBrayer. We’re all really pleased with it as a strong standalone with some interesting characters. It’s particularly refreshing as it’s not the standard plot of investigating a murder and following the clues. Instead, you’re going to see a couple of parolees and how their lives contrast, with one of them convinced he needs to forcibly baptise his daughter so that she wont follow in his criminal footsteps. It’s a tightly-plotted story and turns out in a way that I don’t think people will see coming, so it ought to go down well. Take a look at the print ad:
No questions again, unfortunately. Remember to throw them in if there’s anything you want an answer on folks – doesn’t have to be all broad and high-brow, it can just be clarifications on confusing plot points if you like. Throw me a bone. We’ll just round out with a sneak peak of dialogue from “Parturition” then:
Were you baptized, Frank?
My mother baptized my brother and I when we were young.
When my father was away.
Your father wasn’t religious?
Not like my mother.
I never was. And frankly, I don’t see the purpose now.
But Kemp does. He’s been led to believe if he doesn’t baptize her,
and now, that she’ll follow in his footsteps.
He thinks his very bloodline gave birth to evil.
Here we go again with another VS5 blog. This time around we’re rehashing “Muse”, written by Jeremy Daniels, and teasing “Who We Are” which is coming up this Friday.
This episode was a return to a standalone story coming on the back of things we’d done with the Millennium Group and Legion, and it’s one that I think works very well in some parts and doesn’t in others. I like the way that this is less focused on murder than the typical Millennium “franchise”, and even though there is a murder at one point down the line, it’s not the be-all and end-all of the plot like many others can tend to be. Instead we’re focussed more on the concept of blood-paintings, which is a great idea that Jeremy pitched to us way back, and the relationship between this artist character and his titular muse. That’s also another part of the episode that I really like, that of the Beautiful Woman and her true nature, including the way we flash onto her in a devil image similar to what happened at the end of “Lamentation” (whereas the stuff last week in “Gotterdammerung” was more through implication). We cast Kate Vernon in this role, and I think she fits the image perfectly. Having mentioned those plus points, I think there are some structural flaws that could be identified later in the episode, and also some issues with having Frank in jeopardy, but I’ll get to that later.
The teaser sequence here is actually one that I decide to re-write. It’s always a challenge being in the position of showrunner, having to make these hard choices without wanting to undermine the work of the particular scriptwriter or lose their individual voice, while also doing what’s best for the episode and for the season in a wider context. It’s never an easy thing to do, and it’s never without a good reason, but sometimes it just needs doing. It’s not meant as anything against the writer either, since in this case Jeremy wrote a perfectly good teaser, it’s just that it used a structural device of showing us a glimpse from later in the narrative before returning to the beginning so many hours earlier. The problem here was that there’s another episode coming up fairly close to this where we’re using the same technique, and doing another one in such close proximity would be ill-advised, and added to that was that it showed Frank dead, only to explain that later by revealing it to be the way our central character, Blake, imagined things would turn out. That all made sense in light of the theme of artistic imagination, and the way people picture life unfolding, but I felt it would be a bit of a cheat to show Frank dead like this at the beginning and then come back to the end of the episode and do it differently. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and no one likes to see their work changed, but it’s part of the process and just a question of judgement, and I only hope Jeremy isn’t too offended by my overwriting at this point. On the other hand, if everyone hates the teaser as it stands and wishes they could have seen the original version unfold, Jeremy can sit back in the knowledge that his was better.
My take on the teaser was really very different. It was fairly unique and out of the ordinary in the sense that we have absolutely no dialogue, and it’s kind of a non-linear montage that shows our antagonist of Blake doing one of his blood paintings at one point in time and also being seduced by his muse, the Beautiful Woman, somewhere else and some time later. I was quite taken with this sort of impressionistic approach that had been done on Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica in such episodes as “Kobol’s Last Gleaming, Part 1”, and this was an attempt to recreate that kind of tone and style on the page. This is the idea that you have these contrastive and disparate scenes glued together by fluid editing and music, and in this case the music I chose was a piece by the Shangri-Las called “Past, Present and Future” which uses the piano sounds of the Moonlight Sonata as its base for a quite sombre and hypnotic non-melodic vocals. I came across it by chance a while back, and hearing it reminded me very much of the kind of music sequences we’ve seen before in Millennium, and there was just something about it that suggested this kind of montage to me. I’d recommend everyone get a hold of it for a listen (easily done in this digital age) while reading the teaser.
As I’ve mentioned before in other blog entries, this is another instance of something that would almost certainly work much better on screen than it does on the page, given that it’s virtually based entirely around images, visual movements and a continuous audio – none of which you get from reading a script! As such, you might say it was foolish to attempt such a thing in this non-produced medium, which is part of the reason why I chose to put in snippets of the song lyrics. Normally I don’t favour this approach, especially when it’s just background music, and you certainly wouldn’t do it for a script that was actually going to get taken to a stage and shot, but in this case I felt it was necessary given the fact that we have zero dialogue to break up the action descriptions, and given that it was such a pivotal thing that held together the disparate montage scenes. So, worst teaser ever? Blame me. Like I said, it was to remove the “X Hours Later” structural ploy, and also to introduce the blood-painting concept from the get go instead of waiting until later, which I felt was important to do since it was the main idea that acted as the foundation for the story.
As we get into Act One, there’s a really great scene that Jeremy wrote between Frank and Miranda, commenting on the nature of Frank’s facility. I think he did a terrific job here of reflecting our overall take on the subject, succinctly getting across the idea that he’s definitely not psychic, and returning us to the original roots of what Chris Carter established when he wrote the pilot. It also does well to poke slightly on the way that this has been quite a confused issue in the show over the seasons, with different writers approaching it differently and sending out mixed messages on what exactly Frank’s “gift” was all about. This really nails our colours to the mast as to how we approach it on VS5, while also managing not to hammer it over the head or remove the levels to which it is open to interpretation. That’s a hard middle ground to write in a short scene, but Jeremy really pulled it off.
Frank and Locke also have some good interaction in the following scenes. Here they demonstrate the antagonistic side of their relationship, which has always been the angle we want to have between them more often that not, and this does well to paint that (no pun intended) whereas in recent weeks we might have scaled back on it a bit. I don’t want to really lose that side of their relationship, because it provides a nice level of conflict and is more evocative of the previous relationship with Bob Bletcher rather than the one with Emma Hollis.
When we get back to Blake and the Beautiful Woman in bed together, there’s a slight change from what was originally scripted, but nothing major this time. The original version called for them to both be in bed with another woman lying sleeping in the background, seemingly suggesting a threesome of sorts, and while this underscored the twisted, care-free nature of these two characters and the path they were on, it really didn’t have any connection to the rest of the story, and I thought as a result it was perhaps a risqué step over the line that was only for the sake of it. So it was just made to be just the two of them, and the rest of the scene played out just the same.
At the end of Act One we have the first and only actual murder of the episode. It’s done on a bus, which is a nice setting for it, not the standard approach, but it is another knife-attack which it seems we’ve had a surfeit of recently (“The Begotten”, “The Eye of the Needle”, “Word for Word”, “Gotterdammerung”). I desperately want to get away from doing too many of these in quick succession, but as in all the above cases it was the only thing that fitted the demands of the story. As I said before though, I think it’s great that this episode doesn’t just hinge on murder. This is the only one, and it’s not the central focus, it’s more about the paintings and what goes on between Blake and his muse.
Act Two picks up the investigation and flows pretty well all in all. Locke eats humble pie at the beginning, and shows that he’s not just a giant ego. He knows when he’s wrong and can admit that, even if he’s not always convinced that Frank’s way is the right way. That’s all very well written I think. Same for the stuff in the restaurant where the Beautiful Woman comments on the decadence of high-society with Blake. Fits the themes that are going on perfectly. These parts all seem to move along at a nice pace and just draw you in without making you too aware that time is passing and your reading on. That’s always how you want it to be.
In Act Three we have Frank in a captive situation, which as I mentioned is probably one of the things I’m most unsure of in the episode. We’ve tried not to throw our main characters in jeopardy too often, because it’s a bit of a standard TV cliché and we always know that they’re not going to die. We did this with Jordan in the premiere, but in that case it fitted with the demands of the story and the place we needed to get Frank back to, but even so, in doing it that once we kind of have a responsibility not to do it again any time soon. You could also say that Locke gets himself in a bit of peril at the end of “Word for Word”, so in some ways we’ve had three in seven episodes, and that’s something which invites criticism.
Nevertheless, this does go on to give us some good scenes between Frank, Blake, and the Beautiful Woman, and putting the characters together allows us to explore the underlying themes in more detail. The robbery that they undertake was originally scripted to be a bank, but I decided to have this changed to the art museum that we had already been introduced to because it was much more appropriate the art theme of the episode. A bank would have served just the same purpose, but by having it be the art museum I felt it would have a much greater thematic resonance.
We had a few problems at this point in that Acts Three and Four both came in rather short, so the robbery scenario needed to be expanded quite significantly. Originally, it wasn’t long after they got inside that the cops had arrived and the situation was resolved, so in order to expand the second half of the episode I added in some extra scenes in the museum. One of these was the confrontation with the curator, as I felt it was important to pay off the line where Blake instructs Frank to kill someone inside the building when they’re sitting outside in the car. Originally, this was just a random person inside what was then the bank, but I thought it would be better to make this the curator since we had introduced him already and he had an established prior relationship with Blake.
Another added scene, was where Frank gets to talk directly with the Beautiful Woman, which just expanded slightly on the idea of Frank getting into the minds of evil, and what that means in terms of the more demonic characters like the Beautiful Woman. Another involved Locke debating with the lead cop outside the museum, and then inside where Blake shoots the guard in the leg and uses his blood to create one final painting on the walls. I felt it was important to return to the concept of the blood-paintings at this point, as it’s what underpins the episode, and needed to escalate to a final point. You could argue that the image of Blake throwing this human blood around the room is a step too far, and again I take responsibility for that if it comes across as distasteful.
After this particular siege is resolved, we don’t just end the episode, which I think is another strength of the episode, but we instead return to the police department and see some of the aftermath. In this case, it’s not just the standard interrogation, but the murder of Blake by his friend Ronny – directed by the supernatural nature of the Beautiful Woman. You could argue that it’s a bit of a stretch for Ronny to get through into the police department with a knife and kill a prisoner, and again it’s another knife attack, but I think you can get past these things, and to dwell on them too much is to nitpick and take away from the strong thematic message and the power of the Beautiful Woman. I think Blake’s final death sequence is a good one, and I’m particularly fond of the way he looks across at her and we see his point-of-view with a devil figure standing there before cutting back to the human female. Nicely done by Jeremy, and it’s also a good choice to then go away to a final scene between Miranda and Frank that does well to bookend the episode with the opening of Act One. The dialogue between them is very good, and takes us out on a poignant note.
This Friday our new episode is called “Who We Are”, and it’s another one from Anthony J. Black. The focus is very much on Peter Watts as never before, and this is his turn to take centre stage. When we brought him back at the beginning of the season, we chose not to rush into too many explanations too quickly, but hold back on a couple of points to keep an enigma alive to a degree. We’ve established the broad strokes of what he did to fake his death at the end of “Goodbye to All That” and go into hiding before emerging as a result of the death of his daughter Erin, enough to make it plausible, but didn’t go into the specific details in order to not get sidetracked or bogged down in exposition. This episode goes back and explores this though, what Peter’s been up to in the seven year gap and more specifically what happened to his daughter. So those of you who are fans of his character ought to find this one pretty interesting. Here’s the print ad:
That’s all folks, so I will say thank you for reading and goodnight.
Hello, and welcome back to the VS5 blog, for those of you that are reading regularly anyway. This time around I’m going to be rehashing “Gotterdammerung” before going into a slight preview of this Friday’s new episode, which is called “Muse”.
This episode was actually written by myself for the first time since the opening two-parter, and it was designed as the first one to re-introduce the figure of Legion for the new season. This was always on our minds from the conception of VS5, and it has always been one of my favourite running themes of the show. Structuring the opening batch of episodes had this in mind, kicking off with a general two-part premiere that covers the big events and brings the characters back up to date, then coming back down to Earth with a more standalone story before re-introducing the Millennium Group as one of the big through-lines of the show, with another standalone for variety and then “Gotterdammerung” to re-introduce Legion. That way we’ve got all of the big themes and story types visited in the opening six episodes without it being an overload. At least we like to think so, anyway!
I guess I ought to say a quick word on the title itself, as it can connote quite a wide array of concepts, but the general idea here with “Gotterdammerung” – which pretty much translates as “Twilight of the Gods” – is just to evoke the idea of the battle between the metaphysical manifestations of Good and Evil. There’s a Wagner opera with the same title with similar ideas, and there are also associations with Milton’s Paradise Lost, which is of course where the opening quotation from this episode comes from. So it’s not meant to be taken too far, just to be suggestive of those ideas of Good vs. Evil, or Legion vs. Angels, or more specifically in this case Sammael vs. Leonard.
As for the story itself, the idea is to show this battle coming more towards Jordan than Frank. After all the years we’ve seen Legion going after Frank and tempting him to either give up the fight or cross over to its side altogether in such episodes as “Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions”, “The Curse of Frank Black”, “The Judge” et cetera, I felt it was time that Legion abandoned that plan and moved on to Jordan. We’ve seen over the years that she has the potential to be as gifted and pivotal a person as her father, and as a child that is just coming into her own at around 16 years of age, she’s still potentially impressionable and perhaps more easily influenced than her father.
Following this line of logical also meant that this could be one of the most Jordan-centric episodes in the show’s history, and the teaser reflects that in the sense that I believe it’s the first one to just feature Jordan alone. You might think of “Saturn Dreaming of Mercury” as the closest antecedent, but at least Frank was also present in that case. This time, it’s more about her stepping out on her own without the father figure standing over her all the time. Of course, with Frank still around as the great father that he is, that’s always going to be a factor and he’s never going to just leave her to it, but this is perhaps Jordan’s show more than ever before. Having said that, I’m probably the last person to be wanting to write about teenage girls for an entire episode, and you’ll probably see from the script that there’s not a great deal about that anywhere. I tried to approach Jordan simply as a character in her own right, and didn’t want to fall into the kind of stuff we might be more accustomed to on teen-soapy shows like Smallville or Buffy (really not keen on them, if you hadn’t already guessed).
Instead, I wanted to keep this an adult show that is as dark and frightening as ever, and I think you see that from the last shot of the teaser – a human face with its eyes gouged out. But we also see something else in the teaser, and that’s what the script refers to as the Dark-Haired Boy who is always dressed in black. I’m sure everyone gathered that this is meant to be Sammael, the angelic character we have met twice before in “Borrowed Time” and “Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions”. Originally, the script came right out and reffered to him as Sammael in his dialogue-headers, but I changed this later on in an attempt to preserve some of the subtlety we have in those previous episodes. They never came out and said exactly what he was, you were left to work it out for yourself, in some cases needing some repeat viewings to properly appreciate it. I wanted people to get the same sort of feeling when reading this episode for the first time, the sense that you’re not entirely sure who these people are and what’s going on, and that you might have to go back and look at it again.
I’m not sure whether that came off or not, to be perfectly honest. It’s quite a big gamble really, as there’s not only one way it can go wrong but two. First, people could see straight through the so-called “subtlety” right off and know exactly what the idea is and not get that enigmatic feeling at all, or second, it could be too oblique for its own good, not making sense to people and alienating them with its lack of explanations. I can only hope that the episode managed to walk that fine line in between and achieve the desired middle ground, and only the audience as individuals will really be able to say whether or not it did.
As we head into Act One, we’re soon introduced to one of the key characters of Paul Leonard, Jordan’s school counsellor. He’s the one meant to represent the Legion figure here, the one who deliberately insinuates himself into Jordan’s life by engineering this case of a body at the school, and again I hope that wasn’t all too obvious right off the bat. As usual, it’s not entirely meant to be a total whodunit mystery, so you’re not meant to be caught totally by surprise when you learn that he’s evil, but I just mean that I hope while people are questioning his motives they haven’t quite got the whole story figured out right away. That’s a real challenge trying to balance that, especially given the fact that most readers will be very familiar with a back-catalogue of three full seasons of Millennium and are thus very well trained to see where things are heading.
Leonard’s dialogue is all structured to be very pleasant and extremely polite, that idea that the Devil is one of the most persuasive and seductive and convincing people. In Millennium, Evil or Legion or whatever you want to call it never comes to you at face value as a snarling villain, always as a clever-talking tempter, like the serpent in Eden. As such, Leonard is depicted to be very understanding and very nice to Jordan and everyone in these opening scenes, while still being a little shifty given his note-taking and smiling façade. In many ways, he’s something of a mirror to the Al Pepper character in “Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions”, which was in itself a significant inspiration for this episode, and the intent here was to create an equal character for Jordan as Pepper was to Frank. I guess you could criticise this for being too similar to Pepper, and they are quite alike in their dialogue, but in a way that’s the point, the idea that what you have seen tempting Frank in the past is now tempting Jordan. The same can be said of this episode’s relationship to “Powers…” itself, not as a sequel but more as a mirror, with that episode for Frank being what this episode is for Jordan. The line for the act-out, where Frank is taken aback by Leonard saying it’s nice to meet him again is probably the most direct nod to “Powers…”, in that it mirrors Al Pepper inexplicably saying he’d see Frank when he got back at the end of one of its acts. Perhaps some people felt that was a lift too far, but there you have it.
We’re also introduced to a pathologist named Simon Nathans in Act One, who conducts the autopsy and gives Frank and Locke some of the evidence and such. Some readers might have been a little confused as to why he’s made to be so over-enthusiastic, and why Frank narrows his eyes at him, but really this was just meant to be a red-herring. I chose to call him Nathans as it’s Satan backwards if you drop the n and the h, again just as a bit of a subliminal red-herring, to plant the idea in people’s minds that maybe there’s something going on there that they haven’t quite figured out yet. That probably fell completely flat, but never mind.
Speaking of subliminal suggestions, there are also two other such things that ought to be commented on. The first is when Frank meets Leonard for the first time, and gets his name wrong in calling him Mr. Lennon, before being corrected by Leonard who brushes it off by quoting a bit of Shakespeare and saying “what’s in a name?”. The point here was to foreground Leonard’s name a bit, to make you think about it more than you ordinarily would, because in doing a little research I found it’s actually the name of a certain demon. I was trying to decide what to name this character, and ideally wanted something that was both normal and everyday but also had some kind of Satanic history or allusion to it, and in coming across Leonard amongst names of demons it fitted that category.
The second I speak of occurs at the top of Act Two, when there is a quick dream-sequence for Jordan. I enjoyed throwing I a few appropriate clips from past episodes of time’s Jordan has felt threatened or unsafe, and one of these was the upside down clown from “Dead Letters”. That was in her dream in that episode, so I felt it would be nice to make it a recurring image for her, and this time I thought I would give it some creepy foreshadowing dialogue. Maybe you got this straight away and maybe you didn’t, but it’s actually a bit of reverse-speak there, a bit like Michael J. Anderson’s character in Twin Peaks. It doesn’t really affect your enjoyment or understanding of the episode one way or the other, just me trying to be cool really. If you didn’t get it, go back and read it backwards, letter by letter, to find out what the clown’s message was.
We then get to the chessboard image which is a recurring metaphor throughout the episode, and much more obvious. Jordan at first sits at the centre of the board, neither controlling black nor white, and you could say that she’s perhaps playing against herself. Later, with Miranda, she can’t decide if she wants to be black or white, and it doesn’t need me to tell you that’s all about reflecting the idea of Jordan being pulled to take side for Evil or Good. A bit too on the nose? Maybe, but I thought it would give the episode that extra visual motif to explore the issues in something other than dialogue.
When we get to the part about the groundskeeper, I hope the idea of a controlling force came across satisfactorily enough. It’s perhaps a bit of a stretch that Frank and Locke match the boot-print so easily and fortuitously, probably the greatest area for nitpicking in the episode, but it was just another case of having to get from A to B without getting bogged down in the boring stuff. The idea here was that Legion, exerting its controlling influence, was giving the police an easy and obvious perpetrator who kills himself and thus wraps up the case in a nice neat package, so that they will go away and leave Leonard alone to work his charms on Jordan without Frank’s interference. That probably didn’t come across as clearly as I would have liked to, but that was the idea. In any case, his hanging himself from a basketball hoop in the school gym of all things – in front of a whole load of kids no less – is a horribly macabre image, and one that I quite like as the act out despite the fact that the build-up to it may have been a little weak.
As the investigation continues, we intercut with a couple of scenes of Sammael coming before Leonard in an attempt to warn him away. These were added in after the first draft because I wanted to keep Sammael as much involved as possible. When I first set out with the script, it was my intension to focus on Sammael as never before, even make it something of a character study, but to an extent that’s just not possible given the enigmatic nature of his identity. I wanted to really play up what it would be like for him on Earth, what his life would be like, while keeping it as grounded as possible in the same way that “Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions” kept it very grounded by having this guy just be a scrawny kid that walks amongst men in a very everyday fashion. But again, focusing on him so much just wasn’t possible, as there isn’t really anyone for him to play off or have much dialogue with. When I looked at the first draft and realised that Sammael didn’t have nearly as much “screen time” as I originally wanted, I added in these extra scenes of him warning Leonard off and giving him three chances to depart. That’s a very Biblical kind of thing, like Christ telling Peter he will deny him three times before the cock crows and so forth, whilst the dialogue here went for an almost Shakespearean touch in the way that Sammael delivers his warnings. There’s even a direct Shakespeare quote in there with “firm and irrevocable is my doom”, and I even thought about writing his lines in iambics, but felt that would be too over-the-top. There’s also the “extreme prejudice” quote from Apocalypse Now, which was unfortunately undercut by Bill Buchanan quoting it in the 24 season premiere just a few weeks before this one could get out – goddamnit. Can’t win ‘em all, but I was done with “Gotterdammerung” well before that, honest.
The final confrontation between Leonard and Sammael in the gym was originally scripted to be witnessed by Frank, not Jordan, who was back playing chess with Miranda in the first draft. However, as I went back over it, I realised that the story was about Jordan, so it had to be her that had this experience at the end, and it had to be her that saw the flashes of light from her “unique perspective”, as Frank had done in “Powers”. Again, this is a mirror of that, not a rip-off, at least that’s how I defend it. When it was Frank seeing this, it probably was more of a rip-off, but again this is about bringing it around to Jordan, so I’m glad I made this change for both of those reasons. Unfortunately though, this meant I had to loose something I was intercutting with at this point, which was the chess game. This had two things going for it, I felt, first that it provided a different approach to your standard endgame action-scene, by cutting away to something as often as possible, and second it really played up the metaphor by literally seeing Jordan moving pieces around the board as Leonard and Sammael moved around the school – since they are both essentially pawns in the giant game of Good vs. Evil. So, I was sad to loose that, but it was worth it to put Jordan directly in this situation, and most of it could be salvaged and moved up to early in the episode and this still get the point across, just without the extra significance of the intercutting.
Moving on, we have another brand new episode on Friday called “Muse”, written by Jeremy Daniels. This one is kind of half standalone and half another look at the devilish side of things. We have a case involving some rather sickening paintings in blood, which eventually leads to an escalation putting Frank directly in danger. It really takes the kind of link we’ve seen between art and horror that we’ve seen since the beginning of the show (e.g. the dancing in blood in the pilot) and pushes it to extremes. At the same time though, we also see the influence of a twisted upper-class woman, and we have another kind of look at Legion – only this case it’s in a different way to “Gotterdammerung”, not with figures like Leonard and Al Pepper, but with some direct images of the kind of Devil figure we have seen in the likes of “Lamentation”. Take a look at the print ad:
I’ve got a question to cover this week, so the Q&A section is officially back!
This is such a pivotal theme in the series. Sammael’s motivations blurred in each season. And again, here, he morphs into a clown in Jordan’s nightmare. So it might follow that she’s not sure of him either. I’m glad you did, but what made you tackle such a complicated subject. I’d like to know your personal opinion of Sammael’s role.
Yes, it certainly is a complicated subject, and I’d say you’re right in saying Jordan isn’t quite sure what to make of it all just yet. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the Clown was meant to be a representation of Sammael, more an image of being threatened and confused, but I’d certainly not want to stop things being open to interpretation, so that is an interesting one.
As for why I wanted to tackle it, it basically comes down to being very interested in the Sammael character and the way he was represented so ambiguously in the two episodes he appeared in. I very much like the way he was shown to walk amongst men and be very grounded, with not the slightest hint of ethereal qualities or wings or halos or anything like that. I much prefer the subtle image of a boy dressed in black. Then, as discussed above, there was the desire to bring the Legion threat back around to Jordan, so those things combined resulted in “Gotterdammerung”.
And my personal opinion of Sammael’s role? Well, in this case, he’s a servant of God’s will, a pawn for the forces of Good. According to angelic lore, he’s the angel of death, and that’s his role here, to take out the manifestations of Evil such as Leonard and Al Pepper. You might ask yourself what this means to him as an individual, if he has free will or not, and to what extent his Earthly suffering is fair or not – that’s what the final scene of this episode is all about.
Finally then, as ever, a quick inside look at some dialogue from “Muse”:
This is a waste of time. I checked this kid out, I'm done.
This isn't though.
I have people to answer to, Frank, and I can't be wasting
time chasing down every hunch you have.
I don't expect you to. But I'm getting tired of waiting until
the bodies start piling up to act. Those paintings are a
statement of a man getting ready to act.
If he hasn't already.
Greetings from another blog entry. This week we’re rehashing “Word for Word", written by Brendan M. Leonard, and offering a little sneak preview of the forthcoming “Gotterdammerung” which airs on Friday.
This is a story that was pitched to us by Brendan when he joined the writing staff, and I think I’d be right in saying that it was always conceived as another standalone episode to give us that variation again coming on the back of what was a fairly big Millennium Group intensive story in “Laicite”. The main concept didn’t really change much from that initial pitch, which is the basic premise of a set of murders being inspired by some fictional crime novels, but some of the beats of the script did change quite a bit, particularly in the second half. I’ll get to all that later.
The teaser is something of a mix of the conventional and the unconventional. First, the conventional in that we have a murder depicted on screen, a young college girl running away from a pursuer but nonetheless ending up brutally murdered. Nothing out of the ordinary so far there for Millennium. But then we also have the unconventional in that all of this is guided by a voice-over from an as yet unseen character called Jimmy Roran. Everything he says here, and most of his dialogue, is all in a very hard-boiled style that matches his writing, and I think a lot of that comes from Brendan’s voice and the things he’s read and so forth. I might be in need of some correction there, but the general tone of the piece tends to match the concept of hardboiled detective fiction.
In that respect, there might be some parts of the audience that might reach for comparisons here to the second season episode “Jose Chung’s Doomsday Defense”, but I really don’t think “Word for Word” bears any genuine comparisons to that beyond the surface similarity of fiction writers as central characters. I really don’t think the two stories are very much alike, and the tones of each are certainly in marked contrast. “Jose Chung’s Doomsday Defense” is pretty much an out and out comedy as only Darin Morgan can write, whereas “Word for Word” is played much more straight and not for laughs or comedy. I think in some ways, if you really want to search for an antecedent, then this episode is more similar to “…Thirteen Years Later” from Season 3, in the sense that murders are inspired by something from pop culture. In that case it was horror movies, and in this case it’s detective novels, but again the tone of that one was very comedic whereas “Word for Word” is more down-the-line.
As we head into Act One, we’re introduced to another one of our novelist characters in the form of Russell Langford, who ultimately turns out to be our killer. I’m not sure if that was too obvious to anyone, or if it felt like he was always bound to turn out to be the killer. In some ways, it’s not the most important thing, because this isn’t just a mystery show, it’s as much about motive and the exploration of these actions as it is simply a question of whodunit. Nevertheless, in taking a pass on this I tried to make it as ambiguous as possible as to why we’re being introduced to this character, and I think you can maintain a degree of uncertainty because there’s always a question of if Roran himself could be the killer. That’s a theme we’ve seen explored a lot in the past, the idea of a man – be that a writer or a profiler – who gets so obsessed with the darkness of his work that he becomes it himself. That’s quite an old story now, so I hope that by playing up that possibility every now and then in the dialogue, at least some of the audience might have been fooled into thinking we were dragging that old one out again, and thus not identify Langford as the villain right off the bat. I don’t know if that worked or not, but I can only hope that it did.
There’s one scene I added which wasn’t in the original draft where we cut back to the bookstore late at night, just after Frank has left Jordan at home to go meet with Locke. This is where Langford is a bit over-eager in asking Roran for advice on his latest manuscript. This was to serve two purposes really, the first being the aforementioned diversion of suspicion onto Roran, when Langford suggests that he’s “too caught up in his own books”, and the second is to sew some seeds of motivation for Langford in being the pale imitator to Roran, the student who doesn’t match up to the master. That also gave us the rather nice thematic parallel to Locke and Frank, which gets underscored later.
Langford himself is, as I think Brendan would tell you, pretty much inspired by Dan Brown, or if not Dan Brown specifically someone of similar ilk. I particularly like the little joke of having his pulp thriller be entitled “The Michelangelo Mysteries”, which is a pretty on–the-nose dig at “The Da Vinci Code”. I’m sure everyone got that one.
The act out a little further on is really when the story starts proper, in discovering that the crime scene matches up to the cover illustration of Roran’s novel “Bed of Coals”. I think that’s a pretty good image and a pretty good act out, and it’s from there on in that we start seeing what this case is really all about.
When we go into Act Two, we have a medical examination scene which reveals some numbers mutilated into the victim. Originally, the script later revealed that this was Langford just messing with the heads of his pursuers, and had no deeper meaning beyond that. The intent here was, I think, for the episode itself to mirror some of the clichés and stereotypes of the kind of fiction that Roran and Langford write, and in that sense it would have had an extra satirical level. That was also why Langford didn’t originally enter the narrative until much later on. However, I felt that this kind of extra meaning wouldn’t really come across on just the page alone, and that we’d risk people thinking it was just flaws in the episode, so we went back and added in some extra scenes for Langford, and eventually wound up explaining the mutilations as page numbers. I don’t know if that still works better or not, as we’ve all too often had convenient number mutilations of crime scene markings explaining the case on Millennium, and I’d specifically written in the Show Bible for the season that we were going to stay away from that as often as possible (so in making them page numbers I guess I’ve broken that), and Locke even makes a sly dig at it by theorizing that they could be Bible references later on. I think it’s one of those moments that’s just going to come down to each audience member’s personal reaction.
I really like the interplay between Frank and Locke in this scene though, and indeed the entire episode, as it really shows them behaving as teacher and student. The medical examiner asks about why it isn’t yet a serial murderer, and Frank makes sure Brad is the one to answer, as if checking off an exam question. That’s a really good touch from Brendan there.
As we move into the steakhouse, there’s another added line where Langford says he tried to call Roran the previous night but got no answer, and this is another attempt to get you thinking whether or not Roran could have been out committing the murders. It’s not so much meant to point the finger directly at Roran, because that would just be too much, and I don’t think anyone is ever going to stop wondering if Langford is the killer, but just by suggesting the possibility that it’s the other guy prevents it from being entirely predictable. At least we hope that’s the case! Brendan also did very well with Roran’s dialogue in this scene, showing a mark contrast with Frank, and how the two similarly aged men have very different lives and mannerisms. That in itself though draws back that thematic parallel, in the sense that Roran gets inside the head of criminals in order to write about them, while Frank gets inside the heads of criminal in order to catch them. The idea that the profiler and the author are very similar sorts of jobs, on one level, is an interesting one that is very underplayed and subtle throughout the episode, but it gets you thinking, especially given where Roran ends up by the end of the episode.
Act Three begins with the investigators attending the latest crime scene, and this was one that was added in by Brendan after the first draft when it came in a little short, plus it would have felt a little incongruous to depict another crime scene at the end of Act Two and then never return to it. Again, all the characters behave with an interesting dynamic here, with the Frank/Roran and Locke/Langford parallels just bubbling under the surface.
There’s another scene here in Act Three that I added in late on, and that’s the one at the police department with Frank and Locke which comes just after Roran has introduced Frank to Langford at the college. The reason for this was partly to lengthen the act slightly, but more importantly it was to break up the two scenes involving Langford. Originally, we had Frank meeting with him for the first time, the in the very next scene discovering that he’s the killer, and that felt a little to quick and sudden for me. So, by adding in a couple of pages of dialogue of what is mostly down-the-line investigative work, we get to break up those two moments and make it feel a little less sudden. It might not be the most exciting scene to read, but it serves its purpose. It was also important to keep Locke active and in play, especially given how he’s targeted by the end of the episode, as otherwise it would risk being the Frank/Roran show and do a disservice to Brad’s character.
That takes us to the endgame in Act Four which changed quite substantially from the first draft. At that point, it was Jordan who Langford came after, and this final scene played out in a similar fashion at the Black residence. However, I wanted Brendan to change this because we wanted to avoid Jordan becoming the damsel-in-distress of the season, since she had already played the target in “Chrysalis”, and next Friday in “Gotterdammerung” she is threatened somewhat, although not in captive victim sense. So, basically, I didn’t want people to think we were playing Frank riding to the rescue of his daughter all the time, so we switched this to a confrontation between Langford and Locke instead of Langford and Jordan. As the situation plays out, we eventually get to a point where Langford has Locke at gunpoint, and there was a slight change here as it was originally scripted to be a knife. However, since we had already established that Locke left his gun outside, I felt it only made sense for Langford to take advantage of that and use it.
Another reason for using the gun is that it facilitated another change that I made to the ending, that of the gun falling to Roran who shoots Langford. I can’t remember exactly how the scene originally resolved itself, but it basically ended with Langford knocked out somehow, and Roran was largely a spectator. However, I felt that Roran had been established as a fairly central player in this drama, and that it was important for him to be more involved in the resolution and commit to some sort of action that would change and affect him. So, as a result, I put the gun into Roran’s hand and have him be the one to pull the trigger and incapacitate Roran. This also helped have a stronger emotional impact on him, and made a bit more sense of him going off and burning his books at the end, which was always the final scene. I only hope Brendan forgives me for doctoring his work at this point!
This Friday we have a brand new episode called “Gotterdammerung”, as I mentioned, which is my first full script since the premiere, and it’s going to be the first episode of the season that really brings Legion back into things. We centre on Jordan’s character more than we’ve done in any of the episodes so far, following the idea that she’s the one to be targeted by this force of Evil. We’ve seen Legion going after Frank countless times in the history of the show, offering him deals, asking him to work for him, messing with his head. The idea here is that after all that, Legion has moved on and has now turned it’s attentions toward the younger member of the Black family as a source of untapped potential that could swing either way in the eternal Good vs. Evil battle. However, at the same time we don’t want to overplay this or throw it in your face too much, so hopefully there is a level of subtlety to this one that the episode could very well stand or fall on. Oh, and for any of you fans familiar enough with the character, Sammael’s back. Take a look at the print ad:
People seem to have run out of questions they want answering, so the Q&A section of the blog is fast becoming a thing of the past I’m sorry to say. I’ll just round things out in solitude with a sneak-peek of dialogue from “Gotterdammerung” then:
Most of what we have here is virtually meaningless.
Surface signs of things with no substance. No real
That fits with the Lucifer symbol scratched into the
forehead. It serves no purpose other than to act as a
giant neon sign for Satanism.
Maybe that’s what this whole thing is.
Welcome back to the VS5 blog, and apologies for this one being a little late in the week. This time it’s “Laïcité” up for deconstruction, and a quick preview of “Word for Word” which airs on Friday.
The core of this episode began with the basic idea of the space programme and orbital weapons platforms, the kind of things that have often been discussed by a number of US administrations. It’s nothing new, and has been around for a while, the idea of missile defence systems mounted on orbital satellites capable of shooting down incoming ballistic missiles from space. The more fantastical elements involve just how powerful these things might be, and how much destruction they could cause from above, but its certainly a legitimate question and an interesting one in terms of Millennium’s themes of “an apocalypse of our own creation”.
That led on to the other spark for this episode, that we wanted to reintroduce the Millennium Group for the first time of the new season. This is the first time we see them since the passing of the millennium seven years ago, and we had a lot of new ideas we wanted to bring to them. When mapping the tone of the season in general, Tony and I both agreed that we didn’t want to make the Group outright villains in the way they had sometimes been depicted in the past. In a way, we wanted to get them back to something like they were in the first season, but at the same time we couldn’t completely ignore the way they had developed subsequently, so what we’re trying to do here is strike something of a balance in showing them to be a group with interests in these kinds of issues of global importance but a legitimate group that isn’t illegal or cult-like in any way.
The title, “Laïcité”, is a French terms meaning the separation of religion from the State, and that basically refers to how we’re trying to depict the Millennium Group in the twenty-first century. They’ve moved to a more secular position, shriven of the religious hocus-pocus of the past and are now much more like a large corporation or Fortune 500 company. That’s what we’re trying to get across here, and in some ways I don’t think there’s really enough time to go into all that in much detail in this episode, which is a shame, but it also has to focus on the story it’s telling, which always has to come first.
It’s quite a tense thriller in that respect, and it’s perhaps one of the more Season 2-like episodes we’ve done so far. Tony Black, who of course wrote this episode, is much more of a fan of that year of the show that I am, so it’s perhaps not so surprising to see that kind of tone come into his writing. But it’s not just that one note, it’s also quite evocative of some of the third season Group-centric episodes. Striking that balance allows it to create a unique identity which is what VS5 should always be, so in that respect I consider it to be a success.
The action beats of the teaser, with the Black Coat Man and such all come across very nicely, and it continues throughout. Then we come to the part where Ardis Cohen returns from Season One’s “Kingdom Come”, which was an interesting idea and gave Frank someone a bit different to play off. Original discussions talked about bringing back the VS4 character of Ryan Frost at this point, by I was never keen on that myself. On thing was that he wasn’t our creation, so it felt a bit strange to be taking him, and another was that we wanted to stay true and firm to our own identity and not be overly interweaving with everything that our predecessors did. Ultimately, I think it works better with Ardis, and we never got to the stage where Frost was actually put into the script.
Something that was a bit of a gamble though was not featuring the character of Brad Locke this week. I had concerns about that, since it’s relatively early on in the season and Locke is supposed to be our second lead character that we’re trying to establish. So, some parts of the audience might find him conspicuous by his absence. Nevertheless, it still would have been foolish to shoehorn him in when he wasn’t part of the story, and it would have bundled down the story with too many redundant characters.
Then there is the subplot to this episode, which is the part where Jordan acts as a kind of matchmaker between Miranda and Frank, attempting to keep her in his life. I think this part works really well, serves as a nice tonic to the intense conspiracy going on in Texas, and advances both characters in a positive way.
As for Peter Watts’ character, we knew we wanted to get him into a position by the end of the episode to renew his association with the Group, so that he could have that kind of access and point of interest for the future. I like the setting of his first scene here, where he receives a call from Frank and is in a very Spartan and almost empty apartment. That says a lot about where he is now, away from his family and ruined to a degree by the events of his daughter’s murder. That’s something we don’t know the full details of just yet, but is going to be addressed in depth in a later episode. For now, it’s more of a semi-enigma that works quite nicely in that mysterious sort of way.
Later, we see his conversations with the new Group hierarchy that eventually get him back to a position similar to the one he used to have. The thing I insisted on for these scenes was a certain design aesthetic to the sets, which obviously never get built but you can still imagine. The main motif was glass and transparency, to create that sense that the Group themselves are not as dark and obscured as they used to be. I wanted lots of glass everywhere, the glass table, glass doors, large glass windows overlooking the city. That’s a design scheme that you’re going to see again when it comes to the new Millennium Group.
For the concluding sequence, where the police move in on the warehouse, the original draft of the script called for Frank and Ardis to be carrying guns and going in armed with the other troops. We changed this though in the process, as I didn’t want to really see Frank with a gun at any time this season, the way he would always shy away from it in the first and third seasons. Frank isn’t an action hero, and he’s usually not a man of violence, despite what we sometimes see lurking deep within him in such episodes as “The Beginning and the End”, “Goodbye to All That”, and our own virtual episode “Chrysalis”. Tony was also very quick to agree with this way of thinking.
The final shot, where we move around to see the logo on Peter’s computer screen saying 2216 days have passed, is one I’m very fond of. It mirrors the desktop icon of the past, turns it around to the new age, and provides an open ending for Peter and the Group. That’s what we can probably say of the episode as a whole, which simultaneously manages to tell a tight story about what might be going on with NASA and the orbital weapons platforms.
This Friday our new episode is called “Word for Word” and is the first script from Brendan M. Leonard. It’s more of a standalone episode, to give us that variation, and returns to the idea of a killer that is out there somewhere committing some of the most detestable acts a human is capable of. However, it’s not the same kind of tone that we saw in “The Eye of the Needle”, as it’s ever so slightly more off-beat in the way that it centres on a novelist who’s work seems to be the inspiration for the murders. You might instantly be thinking of something like “Jose Chung’s Doomsday Defense”, but it’s certainly not a comedy by any means, and really doesn’t share much in common with that episode at all. In some ways, it’s more evocative of “…Thirteen Years Later”, but again not a comedy, so if you imagine what that episode might have been if not played for laughs but played darker and more intense, you might be approaching something close to “Word for Word”. Here’s the print ad:
Again there are no questions this week, so it just leaves me to give you sneak-peek of dialogue from “Word for Word”:
So, what do you know?
I don’t know anything yet.
I though you were, you know, the guy.
I don’t work that way. I can’t tell you what I can’t see,
Brad. Right now, I haven’t seen enough.
Here we go again with another VS5 blog entry. This week we’re looking at “The Eye of the Needle”, written by Anthony J. Black, before previewing “Laïcité” which airs on Friday.
This episode has a genesis that goes quite far back to the early ideas that were knocking around our first writers’ room back when the project was in its infancy, and back then it was just the basic premise of a killer putting up severed heads on an internet auction site in order to deliver a message about greed and capitalism. In that respect, it’s a very traditional kind of story, which is exactly what we wanted for our first standalone of the season. Tony and I both wanted to come out of the premiere with its broad strokes and large canvas into something smaller and much more self-contained, something very dark and striking that would return us to that Season 1 kind of tone. It’s back to basics in many respects. It’s also a premise that’s kind of evocative of the movie Se7en, which as everyone knows was very much an inspiration for the series right from the pilot, in terms of narrative approach and cinematography.
So we had this on the board for a long time, but didn’t get a writer attached for a while. Initially, and I think Tony would echo this, he and I wanted someone other than either one of us to be writing this first standalone, in order to provide a different voice and just some variation. As time went on, writers got attached to other episodes, some came in for this one then had to pull out, and ultimately Tony agreed to be the one to pick it up and handle it on its own, which I’m very grateful for -- and a very fine job he did of it too.
We begin the Teaser with who will become our first victim, and Tony made a good choice here of setting it amongst some very rich corporate-types, stock-brokers or whatever. Their dialogue is very stuck-up and materialistic, they’re not very nice people, and they’re obsessed with money and what it can buy. When Walters is murdered, we might almost be feeling that he gets what he deserves, but he’s not the only victim here as we see – Colleen Aubrey gets the image of the severed head on her online auction site. That’s the big “boo” of the episode really, and I think it makes a very effective way of going out of the teaser. You might also notice the in-joke of “lot 1013” there, Ten Thirteen of course being Chris Carter’s production company and birth date.
That’s part of the fear that is created in this episode – not just the killer but the idea that he can get to us over the internet. It expands on the fear of technology element which has been a part of many Ten Thirteen shows, and might make you think of such past Millennium episodes as “T.E.O.T.W.A.W.K.I.” and “The Mikado”. It’s the idea of hitting you where you live, taking the everyday and turning it into a tool of terror, and that helps make it scary. Hopefully, if we can frighten you slightly next time you’re bidding on eBay, it’s been effective.
The other element is of course the judgemental message from the killer about money, and that’s echoed quite effectively by the opening quotation, which this week comes from the Bible once again. Hopefully people didn’t think it was too on the nose, but it’s just too perfect to resist for this episode. We the see Locke and Frank leap right into the investigation, which is something I’m very pleased about. There can be a tendency to fall into the trap of showing people get on the case with a lot of exposition and asking for help et cetera, so I think Tony’s done well here to get us away from that right away.
We then go into some of the technical pursuit of the killer and his internet roots, which is something of a necessary evil for this kind of story. That’s kind of the downside to playing on people’s fears about technology, in that you then have to use that technology as the obvious point of investigation, and try to make that interesting. There’s some technobabble that you have to deal with, maybe it’s believable and maybe it isn’t, I wouldn’t really know about stuff like that, but either way it’s another example of something you just have to accept and move on so that the story can do the same. Frank’s dealings with the Aubreys then serve as a parallel to what we see later with the Mangolds. One couple is week, intimidated, the other is stronger and arrogant. Both, however, come under the same threat for the same underlying reasons.
In taking us out of Act Two, however, there was a change from what was originally scripted to move things up slightly so that we go out on Clara Mangold receiving her online auction message, instead of the murder of Daniel Aubrey. Originally, Tony wanted the act-out to be the image of Daniel’s head being scanned into the killer’s computer, and we still have that, but now we move on to a scene which originally opened Act Three between Frank and Locke before cutting to a scene of Clara receiving her message, which originally we didn’t see. The reason for this was only really to balance out the weights of each act, since Act Two had come in a bit short while Act Three had come in a bit long. Tony would probably have rather kept things that way, which is certainly a legitimate option, but I thought it would be better to even things out. In some ways, these are the kind of decisions you’d make in the editing room in cutting the episode for real, on film, but it’s also something we have to think about in our “virtual editing room” if you like. So, now you know who to blame if you think Act Two ended oddly. There’s also another in-joke to spot near the beginning of Act Three, with Locke talking to the unseen “Danny” over the phone, which often occurred in The X-Files when Mulder or Scully needed a phone number tracing and stuff like that. Good old, reliable, never-seen Danny.
Another slight change came at the top of Act Four. In this case, it originally opened at the police department, with Locke briefing his fellow cops on the case and how they were going to track the abducted Clara. This suffered from being so close to “Chrysalis” though, the previous episode, in which we have a very similar scene with Locke giving a briefing about the abduction of Jordan. So, essentially, this was playing the same kind of scene over again, and there just wasn’t any real need for it, so it got cut. The following scene between Edward Mangold and Frank, which now opens Act Four, originally took place at the police department just after the briefing, but now that was gone it got moved back to the Mangold house. This was probably for the best too, since there was now no need to bring Edward to the police station, and it was kind of more effective to see him in his home worrying about his wife instead of taking him out of there.
This takes us on to the scene between Clara and the killer. Yes, it’s another case of a victim tied up in a basement, but really that’s very much called for by the type of story we have. This is also the point where the killer gets the chance to vocalise his motivation and his world view, which is a chunk of dialogue that Tony fought to keep in when I wondered about cutting it. I thought it might be good to minimise it, again a case of not wanting to repeat stuff we’d done with the Disciple in “Chrysalis”, to make him a bit more like the killer in “The Mikado”, but Tony was right to fight for this as it really gives the killer a chance to flesh out his motives and become more than just a tool of violence. It was also a good choice of music from Tony, “Money for Nothing”, and he also did well to incorporate a few quotes of lyrics into the killer’s dialogue in a couple of oblique ways. I took a pass at this and added in one more, because it was a great idea to do, and just tried to naturalise his phrasing ever so slightly. So none of the words really changed, just the way one or two of the sentences were constructed.
Then we have the final gambit of Edward staking his wife on the hope that the police will get there in time. This is the ultimate point of the episode really, whether someone would really give up all their worldly possessions, and I think deep down a lot of people wouldn’t be able to bring themselves to do it, just as Edward can’t. You could argue here that maybe the killer doesn’t give Edward enough time, or that he wouldn’t really be able to see whether Edward had given everything away or not. Some of that’s fair to say, you just have to run with it, but then again Clara was abducted the previous night, and maybe it would have made the financial news if Mangold had suddenly given away all his companies and such. In any case, the point is that he doesn’t do it, and he pays the price for it by losing Clara, and the image of her severed head is again a great one to go out on. Hopefully it will linger in your minds long after you’ve put the script down.
This Friday our new episode is called “Laïcité” (that’s French, people), it’s again written by Anthony J. Black, and it’s a good one. It’s the first time we really get to see the Millennium Group back in the show, and it’s our first chance to touch on what they’ve become now and how things have changed since the year 2000 passed. In many ways, they’re something very different now, no longer cult-like and much more above board. They’ve still got their fingers in a few curious pies though, so to speak, one of which we’ll see this week in the form of the space programme, something which the show has never really touched on before. Also, Peter Watts is back again, after being re-introduced in “Chrysalis”, so we’ll see some of what he’s up to, and we’ve also got another familiar face returning form the show’s history. You could maybe classify this as one of the more thriller-like episodes, not a standalone killer like last week, something slightly more conspiratorial. While stuff like “The Judge” and “The Mikado” might be last week’s reference points, now we’re heading more into the ballpark of “Collateral Damage” and such. Hopefully people will enjoy the variation. Take a look at the print ad:
No questions this week, I’m sorry to say, so we’re about done. Treating you with a snippet of dialogue from “Laïcité” anyway:
I know what Haulier meant by that reference.
One of them? He was talking about the Millennium
Group. Some people believe they disbanded...
Are you still working with them?
No. No... I got out as soon as the Roosters started
crowing and monopolising their position of power.
I never wanted anything to do with their fanatical
idealogy. I signed up with the Group for the same
reason you did. To consult with law enforcement.
Welcome back. This time around we’re rehashing “Chrysalis”, the concluding part of our season premiere, and it seems to have been reasonably well-received again, which is pleasing. Later I’ll give a little bit of a preview of this Friday’s new episode, “The Eye of the Needle”, and do some Q&A, but first the matter at hand..
As I said last week, making the premiere a two-part story allowed us to spread around some of the shopping-list items that needed covering, and specifically the second part took us to some of the things we’d been thinking about in terms of modern-day millennial thinking in much more detail. There’s always the risk that Part Twos never quite live up to the set up of Part One, and I don’t know if you could say that about “Chrysalis” or not. The story is just as it was developed by Tony Black and I way back, but because of his time commitments to other projects and such, I ended up writing most of the script for this one, although he still had a hand in it. My hope is that it remains consistent with “The Begotten” in spite of this.
I wanted to open “Chrysalis” with a voice-over montage that the show had done on occasion in the past, but it’s really more inspired by the more numerous instances in which this was done on The X-Files in such Part Twos as “One Son”, “Without”, and “Providence”. I liked this stylistic device, and felt it was a more effective way of bringing the audience back into the story and setting up its themes, rather than jumping straight in with a “Previously…” recap and charging ahead. In some ways, it's another case of something that would play better on film than it does on the page, but I hope readers are able to visualise the kind of montage images of disaster, war, famine, and of course 9/11 which you can’t help but mention given its significance to doomsday thinking. You might like to think of these as the four horsemen of the apocalypse – war, pestilence, famine and death – which is what I had in mind when I was choosing the montage images. Hopefully Frank’s monologue gets you thinking about this kind of stuff too before we resume the story proper.
This takes us back to where we left off with “The Begotten” – Peter Watts emerging from the shadows alive and well. Like I said last week, in many ways this is the biggest thing we’re asking the audience to accept and not think we’ve descended into trite fanfiction. I’d defend this from anyone who’d see it that way, as we’re not bringing him back from the dead really, we’re not re-writing history. The end of “Goodbye to All That” was very, very ambiguous, and we sure as hell never saw or were told that Peter Watts was dead. Indeed, there are many fans that never believed for a second that the body we saw at the end of Season 3 was his. The Virtual Fourth Season, which we are treating as “fanon” and are trying to respect in every way we can, intimated that Peter was in fact dead, but we still never saw a corpse. As a result, I don’t think it’s all that much of a stretch to bring him back, because he’s one of the greatest characters the show produced, and will be very useful and enjoyable to write for in Virtual Season Five.
The scene that opens Act One was actually written by Tony, from the Polaroid flash to the top of Page 9. I think he does a good job here of capturing the shock and disbelief that would come over Frank, and wisely resists trying to explain everything as quickly as possible. In cases like this, it’s always best to play the confusion and to hold back on too much exposition, otherwise it would just drag all the life and emotion out of the scene and would become about selling this idea to the audience, which is not what we’re wanting to do. So much more effective to hold stuff back, to keep the enigma going, and let Peter’s return play out across the episode rather than cram it into the first scene. Tony also chose to drop in the name “Ogmios”, which is a reference to VS4, but not something you really need to know anything about. More of a cool little extra for those who read our predecessor’s work, so you can either go back and revisit their episodes or ask Tony about it. Pretty much the only thing I added in here was the dolly-zoom, because it’s one of my favourite shots you can do, looks very cool, and really emphasises the impact of the news Frank has just received.
We then move on to the crime scene in the aftermath of Jordan’s abduction, which is a scene I enjoyed writing. I wanted to play it out with as little dialogue as possible, and tell it all visually. This gives us a chance to really focus on Frank’s internal facility, and let those images tell the story of what he sees and what it means. In some way, this is another X-Files nod back to “Ascention”, where Mulder does something similar in Scully’s apartment after she has been taken by Duane Barry. Again, you could say that this would come across better on film, because it’s so visual, but I still think it works on the page and gives us a change of rhythm for the constant dialogue, since Frank would naturally be very quiet and internal given what’s happened, and not really in the mood to talk.
The captivity scenes between Jordan and the Disciple that take us out of Act One and kick off Act Two are inevitably going to be evocative of the Season 2 episode “The Beginning and the End” amongst fans, when Catherine was in a similar situation at the mercy of the Polaroid Man. This was less an attempt to repeat that, but there’s only so much variation you can bring to a scenario where you’ve got a kidnapper and a captive victim. Maybe people felt they had seen this all before, substituting Jordan for Catherine, and I guess you can make that criticism, but I hope it still manages to create a frightening situation and give you an insight into some of the religious ideology at work.
Next we go back to the investigation with Locke briefing the troops, and in some cases these are the less-interesting scenes to write and to read. The danger is for it to become all exposition and plodding-investigation, putting the pieces together one by one, and that can be a necessary evil from time to time, so in this case I tried to break that up by going to a more emotional scene between Locke and Danner. This was also a chance to flesh out some of Brad’s backstory and his history with Frank, and also to re-affirm a certain antagonistic relationship with Danner as the police chief. It was good to keep her involved, as I think she’s a type of boss we haven’t really had on Millennium before, not least of which because she’s female, and that female presence is also something we had to make sure we had in the episode and indeed the season, given that our show leads of Frank and Brad are both male. Jordan gives us one female voice, and Miranda gives us another, but since she isn’t in this episode and since Jordan is shown in a distinctly intimidated position as a victim, it’s important to show the other side with Danner in a position of strength and authority.
That then takes us to one of my favourite scenes of the episode, Frank and Peter laying their emotions bare to one another. In some ways this could really risk turning off the audience, since it’s essentially five-and-a-half pages of dialogue between two men sitting in a room talking, but in this case I think it’s justified and even demanded given the weight of the situation and the amount of history between these two men. This was the chance for Peter to really tell his story, to explain how he’s alive and why he’s come back. That could again run the risk of becoming all exposition, so hopefully the emotional angle of his daughter’s murder – which now so closely parallel’s Frank’s situation – makes it stronger and more interesting. It’s also the point where we really make it clear about the message these killers are trying to get across, which is pretty much the message about the millennium in our present day which we are trying to get across. This is where it’s spelled out, if you like, the idea that a conceptual Armageddon got underway in 2001, with the events of 9/11 the first blade of grass, and that it’s in progress and building even as we speak.
When Act Three begins, we really shift into a different gear, and the story becomes less about ideology and character and more about tension and suspense. This comes in the form of the Disciple contacting Frank and forcing him to do his bidding because he has Jordan as his bargaining chip. In some ways this is more like 24 territory, which is no bad thing in my book, and sees Frank in a compromised position that he has to keep secret from those around him or risk losing his daughter. There is a natural tension that comes out of that, which is essentially the beat we’re playing all through Act Three as Frank engineers the escape of the Raincoat Man. This provided a few practical challenges in the writing, mostly in making sure that the cell-phone on speaker was a believable device in facilitating the manipulation, ensuring that the Disciple could hear everything Frank was doing. In some ways it’s a bit of a stretch, but it just about works.
Similarly, in engineering Frank’s escape with the Raincoat Man, we’re always treading a fine line between getting the characters where we need them to be and making the rest of the department look foolish. It’s tough to do, because we know for the sake of the story that Frank has to get away with the Raincoat Man, but it’s always going to be hard to believe that one man could do this. In this case it’s a little easier to accept because Frank is so experienced and respected, and that his trick in distracting the guard and pocketing the key might just work. Is it believable? Maybe, maybe not. I think it’s just one of those things you have to run with and move on.
Then we have Act Four which is really all about the exchange. Yes, you’ve seen this sort of thing before in a thousand other shows and movies, but then again it hasn’t really been done on Millennium before. Most of the time we just track down the killer and confront him at his location. I can’t recall any other episode of the show that had this kind of voluntary exchange. Also, we try to make it more interesting in that the prisoner, the Raincoat Man, doesn’t want to be exchanged. He thinks his Disciple should hang on to Jordan, and so that adds an extra little layer. Also, I hope his act of stopping mid-exchange and grabbing his fellow-exchangee, in this case Jordan, is something a bit unexpected. This was one of those cases where the character just spoke to me and told me what he was going to do. It was his belief that his own life was unimportant, and that Jordan was the one they needed, so it would just be the thing for him to do.
Having the SWAT team then appear from nowhere and bring the curtain down is also an attempt at the unexpected. In some ways, you could legitimately criticise this for being a convenient solution out of the blue, which is a fair thing to say, but I just didn’t want to go through the old motions of showing Peter, Locke and Danner tracing their phone calls and studying the map, blah blah blah. I didn’t see anything interesting in going through all that again, so I hope people can accept that all that happened off screen while our attention stays with the more interesting stuff between Frank and his prisoner. Besides, the real drama here comes with Frank holding the Disciple down the barrel of a gun. This is deliberately an echo of what happened in “The Beginning and the End”, when Frank executed the man who had kidnapped his wife. In that case, Frank chose the violent route of retribution, and he paid for it over the course of the season. I wanted the audience to genuinely question whether or not Frank was going to pull the trigger at this point, which is why we linger on it for a long time, and is why I wrote in some very specific camera angles that cut back and forth between Frank, the Disciple, and the gun. We know Frank has it in him, so I think readers can genuinely be undecided as to which way Frank is going to go, just as Frank himself is undecided until the very last moment.
This time, he doesn’t do it, because he’s learnt from his past and is in a new place. He also learns from this experience, which is what sets up the rest of the season in his willingness to help out Brad Locke in the future. It’s true what Frank realises at the end, that if he hadn’t have accepted Locke’s offer to join the investigation, the Disciple would still have come for Jordan only he would be in no position to make a prisoner exchange. This delivers the message that Frank needs to be willing to do his part, or he’ll suffer anyway, and that staying out of it isn’t the answer. This is played out back at the Quantico lecture theatre, which is where I knew we’d end up when writing “The Begotten”. It’s a good way of bookending the two-parter, and it’s a structural device I often like to use. It gives us that sense of symmetry, and it ties up this story on a reasonably happy note, while giving us our entry into the regular episodes that are going to follow.
Speaking of which, this Friday we have our first standalone episode called “The Eye of the Needle”. It’s a much more traditional Millennium tale that calls back to the style of the first season, which is what we’ve constantly been saying we want to do. It’s scary, it’s gruesome, and it’s got a message to it. It also taps into our fears about modern technology, in the sense that we have a severed head appear on an internet auction site. Dark enough for you? I like to think of it as a cross between “The Judge” from Season 1, and “The Mikado”, which was one of the most Season 1-like episodes from Season 2. Here we go with the print ad:
Finally, a bit of Q&A. Be sure to keep your questions rolling in, specific or general, they’re all good:
As a writer, what's the hardest part about scripting a Millennium episode? The tone? Making sure the characters stay true to form? Sustaining suspense? Story continuity?
All of the above, probably! I’d say the hardest part for me personally is dealing with the investigative parts, in the sense that I’m always trying to make sure it isn’t mechanical or plodding. There’s always things you need to have to get the characters from A to B, usually in finding clues and deducing motives, and sometimes it can be difficult to make sure that doesn’t seem contrived or boring. It should always flow organically, and never just seem like there’s a handy clue to get them to the next scene, but sometimes the story just needs to move ahead already, and negotiating the two is probably the part that always worries me most.
Will there be any characters returning from seasons 1-3, and if so, was it a conscious decision to bring them back for the fans or for servicing the story?
That’s a possibility. We’ve also been thinking about some of the original characters form VS4, but we’re probably not going to involving any of them. There is the chance of seeing some of the old faces from the real show, and right now there are one or two specific names on our minds, and whether they’ll recur or not and how much, but obviously I can’t reveal who they are. Doing so will inevitably be a treat for the fans, and it would be foolish to ignore that part of it, but they should always be servicing the story at the same time. If we do it, it’ll have to strike that balance, and also make sense of where they are as people after these seven years.
That about wraps it up, folks. As is fast become traditional, I’ll leave you with a sneak peak of dialogue from “The Eye of the Needle”. Thank you, and goodnight.
Servers were picking it up on other networks.
People were finding out a severed head was
being sold online. There was a disturbing amount
of bids coming in before eBid removed the lot.
Who would want such a thing?
The world we live in today, Brad, is one of intense
voyeurism. Nothing is sacrosanct, or private.
Not even death.
Greetings again, and it’s time that this blog got started proper and begins looking into some of the actual scripts now that the first one is on-line and “airing”. As you know, the new virtual season premiered on Friday with “The Begotten”, and we couldn’t be happier with how it seems to have gone down. In the next few paragraphs or so, I’ll give you a bit of an inside look into the making of the first episode (with spoilers, so read it first), then a little bit of a preview of what you can expect this coming Friday, before rounding out with some Q&A.
First, what can I say about the genesis of “The Begotten”? It feels like an eternity ago now that fellow executive producer Tony Black and I started working on this together, forming our ideas about what the season’s identity should be and breaking down the challenge of how to approach Frank Black after so much time has passed. Working out what kind of story should kick things off was high on the agenda, and in some ways it was formed out of the demands of what needed establishing and where certain characters needed to be positioned. In that respect, writing the premiere was something of a shopping-list of things that needed doing – we needed to establish what Frank had been doing with his life the past few years, we needed to introduce a new lead character for him to play off, and we needed to build it all around a plot that would genuinely and convincingly motivate Frank to return to an investigative role after all he’s been through. Doing all that while telling an entertaining story in its own right was quite a challenge.
Tony and I also knew that we wanted to make this dark. We wanted to make it gruesome and frightening in a way that called back to the first season, instead of perhaps the lighter or less grounded style that you can find later in the show’s history. That informs much of the teaser really, set at night in the pouring rain to give you that Vancouver image, and ending with a quite graphic and brutal stabbing of a young boy with plenty of blood. After that, I hope most people chose to download and play our new main title sequence which was skilfully tweaked by JT Vaughn to give us a few new images, and incorporated our new taglines – “watch… wonder… who decides?”. They’re quite reminiscent of the first season’s taglines, but they’re also unique, prompting you to watch the world around you and the things that are happening, wonder about their significance and what it could be building to, and ask yourself who decides on where we’re going, on all the invisible things that seems to happened every day, on the things that just seem to be naturally accepted without question.
When we begin Act One, it’s the logical time to go to Frank Black and find out what he’s up to. Lecturing at the FBI Academy seemed so perfectly natural and obvious to us right when we first started planning VS5, and it was also a good way of introducing some of the themes of the episode in Frank’s dialogue, and also of introducing Brad Locke as an ex-cadet by putting him in that setting that would once have been so familiar. There’s also a little in-joke in this scene if anybody spotted it – we see the next lecturer come in and start replacing Frank’s blackboard notes with her own as he talks with Locke, and she writes “Honesty, Containment, Conciliation, Resolution”. These were the four steps of hostage negotiation given by Agent Kazden in the X-Files episode “Duane Barry”, and Agent Kazden was of course played by CCH Pounder who had the recurring role of Cheryl Andrews in Millennium. Whether you choose to imagine Agent Kazden as this lecturer, or maybe a look-alike, is up to you.
We felt it was important that Frank reject Brad’s offer in this scene, as we were conscious of that fact that it would take a really big deal to get Frank drawn back into crime investigating and consulting. To an extent, he’d left all that behind, and it would be a bit of an insult to the character and the audience for him to be willing to just dive back in immediately. Tony and I both agreed that the only thing that would even remotely get Frank to even consider this would be a threat to Jordan, and indeed that is what demanded the story be about a threat to children in an attempt to gain the attention of the parents.
As such, the following scenes re-introduce Jordan, now a significant bit older, and they also establish the status-quo of happy family life at the Black residence. I remember that Tony wrote these scenes, and I think he did really well to capture the voice of a new, older Jordan that I myself would have found very difficult. He also did a great job of painting the picture of life at the Black family home, which is very important to establish in order to threaten it later on. This sequence used to be a fair bit longer, in fact, but we found that Act One was coming in very long compared to the others and needed trimming down, so unfortunately some of it had to be cut. I remember that the character of Bethany certainly had more lines, which it’s a shame to lose, and that perhaps explains why she seems a bigger character in my mind than she now comes across in the final draft.
We also introduce Frank’s therapist, Miranda Graff, in Act One, and she’s a character we talked about for a recurring role in the season and wanted to get involved fairly quickly. She’s not central to the plot here, but she establishes a new relationship for us to explore with Frank and also helps vocalise where Frank is emotionally. This scene was again Tony’s work, and again I think he nailed it and gave us some great dialogue.
Act Two opens with a flashback to the turn of the millennium itself, and I quite like using this as a way of breaking the linear narrative and bringing us in on an unexpected scene. This is an idea that came out of the writers’ room back when we were in the early stages of development, and I forget exactly who it was that came up with it, but it was certainly a good call. It was important that we address the millennium itself, given the show’s title, and it provides us with a way of linking our modern-day plot to that all-important event seven years ago. In some ways, we don’t get to the heart of the matter in explaining our take on how the millennium, as a concept, is still relevant to today until “Chrysalis”, so this hopefully serves to tide-over the audience and ask for patience until then.
Speaking of patience, you might be getting a little tired of reading this rambling diatribe by now, but I’ve got the script open with me now and I’m commenting as I go through it, so hopefully you’ll find it at least partially interesting to stick with. This brings me to perhaps one of the weakest parts of the episode, that being the discovery of the etched symbols of alpha and omega that Frank finds at the crime scene. In some ways, this is too easy and too much of a leap, and the whole ancient-symbols conveniently giving away the motives of the killer is something I wanted to get away from, but there was just so much other stuff to cover in the episode that we just needed to move things along already before it gets slow and confusing. So, it’s a stretch, which I take all the blame for since it was a concept I introduced and a scene I wrote, but hopefully it doesn’t stick out too badly. What I’m more proud of is the act-out that follows, with something of a montage set to a piece of opera, with the villain painting in red in one location while a murder spills the red of blood at another. In some ways it would work better on film than on the page, but I ‘m still fond of the combination of art and violence which has been a hallmark of Millennium since the pilot.
We then move ahead pretty quickly to capture the Raincoat Man, which allows us to bring part of this story to an end while moving on to another. Yes, we capture the main killer, but his disciples are still out there and they’re the ones that are moving on to phase two. Doing this allows us to get a certain sense of satisfaction with “The Begotten” as part one of two, while still keeping the events of “Chrysalis” closely linked. When we were breaking the story, I was the one who wanted to make it a two-parter to capitalise on the scope of a new season and spread around the shopping-list items, so if it doesn’t work structurally blame me.
Making it a two-parter also allowed us to end on what is hopefully a jaw-dropping double-barrelled cliffhanger, which is something I love to do, and I think this quickly sold Tony on the idea of doing a two-part premiere as opposed to just one episode. We have Jordan abducted by the Disciple (who we cast as John Fleck, who fans might remember form the first season episode “Blood Relatives”) which sets up the plot for “Chrysalis”, and then a big surprise which should come as a bolt out of the blue with the appearance of Peter Watts. That’s the pay-off for who had been watching and phoning Frank throughout the episode, by the way, in case that slipped off the radar. What exactly is going on with him and how he’s alive is something you’ll have to wait to see this coming Friday. It’s probably the biggest thing we’re asking the audience to roll with, but hopefully you were struck by the reveal rather than left cold. Tony wrote a version of it, and then I wrote a version, and I think we went with mine in the end, but it might be interesting for some of you to read the original if we can dig it up some day.
Now, what can you expect to see in “Chrysalis” this Friday? I’ll keep this very brief as this has become much longer than I expected. In short – what’s happened to Jordan? What’s the deal with Peter Watts? Answers on the way. We’ll also see Frank in a very compromised position, forced to do things he’d never consider doing. Find out what and why on Friday. Speaking of which, print-ad ahoy…
Now, some quickfire questions (actually, there’s only one this week):
Music was a big part of Millennium and I noticed a bit was referenced in The Begotten. I was wondering if there was any discussion of including musical references in forthcoming episodes. The raincoat man was listening to opera while painting but it wasn't identified as which one.
You’re right, we didn’t specifically reference the opera piece, and it’s mainly because I don’t have a great knowledge of opera I’m afraid! Maybe Mark Snow could have composed an original piece for that sequence – if this were real – but I think you get the kind of sound in your head anyway. We’ll try and pick out specific pieces in future, and forthcoming artists on our minds at the moment are Bobby Darin (but of course), Dire Straits, Philip Glass, and even the Shangri-Lars.
And so this marathon session comes to an end. Hope you’re still awake. I’ll leave you with a sneak peak of dialogue from “Chrysalis”:
You’re saying this is about the millennium?
Nothing has changed since then. It’s only managed
to convince you that you can blind yourself to it.
Are you saying that the millennium wasn’t the end?
Only the end of the beginning.
Happy New Year to everyone. As well as the beginning of 2007, today also marks the grand opening of the new BVC network where Millennium VS5 will air every Friday.
It’s an exciting time as everything starts coming together, and we can start sharing what we’ve all been working on for what feels like a very long time now. Things kick off with an original James Bond movie called SilverKnight, then an original comedy series entitled Desperate Screenwriters airs on Thursday. That of course serves as the lead-in to the fifth season premiere of Millennium with “The Begotten” this Friday. Speaking of which, I should also take this opportunity to flash the print ad for Episode 1 in your direction, which you may already have seen in the VS5 forum here at TIWWA.
Now, I should direct you to the two main websites you need to start enjoying the world of BVC. The first is the central hub for all the shows and related news and so forth. Have a look around in your own time and be sure to keep dipping in to stay up to date. Bear in mind that much of it is still under construction, so there will be more to enjoy in good time.
The BVC Website
Then there are the forum discussion pages which have a section for every show where you can read the latest news and discuss every aspect of what you read. I really hope people will be as vocal about VS5 as they are about the real show, giving their own reviews and opinions and about the new episodes and characters, debating with each other on the negatives as well as the positives, and generally having as much fun with it as we have done with Millennium for so long.
These forums will also provide you with places to discuss more general stuff about the rest of the world, and exists as its own community, but of course that doesn’t mean you can’t still discuss the VS5 episodes at TIWWA. The sub-board here has been pretty quiet, but I hope that will change once we premiere. Feel free to sound off in both forums in equal measure, and don’t forget to post any questions you want answering in the blog, that way this weekly activity will be a much more interesting read. Speaking of Q&A…
so will you modify the music for the vs5 opening credits?
The music wont change. We’re using Mark Snow’s opening theme as normal, specifically the updated variation he did for Season 3. We could never change the Millennium theme, that would be sacrilegious. The visuals in the main title sequence do change a little, however. We’re not talking major changes here, just a few little tweaks to reflect the way the real show touched it up slightly to make it unique for each year. We’ve got our own taglines too, so you wont see “wait… worry… the time is near” anymore. Needless to say, this was again the work of art director JT Vaughn who did a fantastic job in spite of me constantly asking him to do this and change that. Puts up with me wonderfully, bless him.
and one more question, what music will you have in the vs5, well in the virtual sense as in you cant hear the song but the lyrics are in the script , any Nirvana ? ok that was a cheap plug.
Well, we don’t necessarily type in the lyrics every time we feature a piece of music in the show. That’s one approach, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. Most of the time it’s not necessary, and you’d only really type out the lyrics if you had a specific point to make or effect to achieve. Otherwise it would just needlessly eat up script pages.
In terms of the music we’re invoking though, we’ve got a good mix that reflects the style of the real show. So far, we’ve had mention of N*E*R*D, Avril Lavigne, and of course a bit of Bobby Darin. In fact, there’s one episode in particular a short way down the line that features a specific Bobby Darin song quite prominently. No Nirvana, at least not so far.
Not too many questions for the blog once again. I really hope that will change after the premiere. After all, the whole point of this is to be conversant with the audience (that’s if we get an audience and you’re not all bored already!)
I’ll leave you with a sneak peak of dialogue from “The Begotten”:
You never knew me when I was part of that world,
Brad. I’ve told many people just the same as I’m
telling you now – I wont go back there. It’s been a
long time. Things change. I’ve changed.
Okay, I never knew you before the Academy, fine.
But I know who you are, Frank. I know what you can
do. I’m not asking for me, I’m asking for the victim.
This is what I do now. I teach at the Academy. That’s
as far as I go. That’s as far as I want to go.
Don’t forget, VS5 premieres this Friday on BVC. A new blog entry will be up each week from now on to rehash the episode gone and preview the one to come. Until then.
Don’t watch it alone.
Time for another pre-premiere look inside the workings of VS5. Before I launch into a sneak-peek introduction of one of our new main characters, I’ll bring you up to speed on what the crew have been working on recently.
We actually had a bit of a crisis when one of our staff writers, who was attached to write two episodes of the season, had to pull out of the project to focus on other commitments. That, as you can imagine, had us in a bit of a panic at this stage of production. But does that mean there’s gonna be two less episodes in VS5? (I hear you cry). No, don’t worry, we’re still going to have a full 22-episode order, just like the real thing. Fortunately for us all, one of our writers – Angelo Shrine – has taken on a second assignment (which I’m very pleased about after reading his first draft of Episode 9), and fellow executive producer Tony Black will carry the other one.
As for myself, having finished up work on Episode 10, I’ve turned my eye towards Episode 14, although I admit I’ve been looking further ahead to a big Lucy Butler episode that I’m going to pen late-on in the season. There’s going to be a few other familiar faces cropping up there, so it should be a lot of fun. Coming back to the not-so-distant future, I can now reveal that the title of the second episode is “Chrysalis”, and it’s essentially part two of the premiere story. That will air on Friday, January 12th, the week after “The Begotten”.
Now, as promised, a little bit of advance information on our new lead character, besides Frank Black. Some of you may have seen the image of James Badge Dale on one of the BVC ads, and he’s going to be the face of one Detective Brad Locke. He’s a young but talented guy in the Washington D.C. police department, and has the distinction of being one of Frank’s former students from the FBI Academy at Quanitco. Frank has been lecturing there part-time in the past few years, and Brad was one of the more promising cadets to attend his classes, but he was ultimately washed out by Frank because of his impatience and bull-headedness despite his talent. That’s going to be a source of tension you’re going to see between them as they come into contact again, and we think we’ve managed to create a relationship that you haven’t exactly seen before in the show’s past. You can consider him the second star of the show, with VS5 starring Lance Henriksen and James Badge Dale (although not for real, of course, just in the virtual sense!).
We're less than four weeks away now from our premiere, so it’s time to get down to work. As before, the blog will become a more regular thing when we’ve actually got episodes to talk about on a week-by-week basis, but you might get one more before the grand kick-off if you’re good (even if you’re not ). There are only a couple of questions posted in the forum for me to answer this time around, so if you’ve got any more, be sure to get them in and it will make this whole shebang a lot more interesting I’m sure.
heres one, it's kind of off the handle, but will you have episode trailers?
We’re looking into this at the moment, and the various options that are open to us. This kind of work will all be done by our art director, JT Vaughn, so we have to take into account his availability and workload. However, I can say that we will definitely have banner ads for every new episode, and possibly a few full-page print ads here and there. What we wont have is video trailers for the episodes, since we don’t have any filmed material to add in. The trailer you saw earlier for VS5 as a whole is probably all you’ll get in terms of video, because it’s just not practical to put out something like that on a regular basis. We are working on our own variation of the main title sequence though, so that might be something to savour in terms of video material.
this one is in regards to the bvc. how will it be different , or set itself apart from other from other vs sites?
What’s important to realise about BVC is that it’s so much more than what you would normally call “fan fiction”. Everything is treated seriously and as much like real TV production as possible, minus the shooting part. Every show on there has a definitive running length and air day established, so it’s never just people putting out stuff if and when they feel like it in an endless string of fantasy scenarios. Every show is written in a professional format using professional software, and every show has its own virtual “cast” and set of artwork. This isn’t to say that there aren’t any VS sites out there at the moment that cling to these ideals, because there are a number of them. Monster Zero Productions, or MZP, is a well-known one which BVC is closely affiliated with. You can check that out to get a sense of how BVC is going to work.
That’s it for now. I said there weren’t many questions, so get some more rolling in next time. Stay tuned in the coming festive period for more tidbits of casting news and episode titles as they get rationed out, and keep up the chatter in the VS5 forum.
Welcome to the inaugural entry of the all-new Virtual Season 5 blog.
This will be the place to get an inside look at the production of the VS5, what we’re working on and how it’s going. Needless to say, there will be a lot more updates once we’re actually airing episodes from January, at which point I will make every effort to do a weekly entry that digests the episode just gone and looks ahead at the one to come. Until then, there will probably be just a few sporadic posts that keep you informed of our progress in the lead-up to the big premiere event on January 5th. Comments will be more than welcome, but please refrain from posting general thoughts about the VS5 – keep that for the forum. Comments should be about the content of the blog, not the content of the show.
Right now’s a good time to kick this off, since the BVC network which we’ll be airing on has just been officially announced. If you haven’t seen the links in the forum, go check them out to get the low-down on the new network that promises to be a terrific platform for a number of great virtual shows. There’s been a string of other recent releases marking some of Millennium’s landmark dates, including the poster which you see to your right on 10/13 (Chris Carter’s birthday and production company), and the video promo which debuted on the massive tenth anniversary last week. I should take this opportunity to lavish praise on our fantastically talented art director, JT Vaughn, who was responsible for both of those. If you see a new VS5 image or video in the coming months, chances are Vaughn’s behind it. He really is a gifted and invaluable guy, and I’m constantly grateful for – and jealous of – his skills.
At present, all the VS5 staff are hard at work on their first writing assignments. We know what we’re going to be doing for each entry of the season, and now we’re starting to turn them into scripts. Our two-part premiere which Tony Black and I collaborated on, the first of which entitled “The Begotten” is due to air on Friday January 5th, is pretty much in the can now, but might take a few more last edits before it’s done and dusted. For my part, I’ve since pressed on with my draft of Episode 6, and am now well into the scripting of Episode 10. Other staff-members’ first drafts are due to start rolling in fairly soon, so it’s an exciting time.
I’ll move on to address some of the board-members’ questions, which I’ve asked for in the forum and hope will continue to get filled out with queries that can get put into the blog:
heres a question what got you guys to think about doing vs5?
It was fellow Executive Producer Anthony J. Black who first came up with the idea, and when he mooted the subject on TIWWA, I was interested in getting on board. I write scripts anyway, so being a huge Millennium fan it wasn’t hard to get tempted by this project. I think there’s plenty of ground left to cover in the show’s universe, and plenty more tales to tell in the life of Frank Black, plus I feel the show’s style of storytelling is still very relevant to today’s world. Some of our episodes and concepts are almost ripped form the headlines the way things are these days, so that’s one source of constant inspiration, but there’s also a lot of other things that really get us thinking about doing more Millennium. Some may feel it’s an old show long dead, but the community of fans here has kept it alive, so there’s always a desire for more.
What it is, when it is set, who its written by, how it fits in with existing seasons and vs 4, where the episodes can be accessed and when
I’ll take this one step at a time. I think you get what it is by now, so moving on...
2. When it is set
It’s set in the present day, so that’s 2007 when we kick off. We thought about this when we first started, whether to literally follow on from the VS4 and go into the year 2000, but there was really no way to make that work with everything we know about the world in the present year. Also, that would have made us a bit less relevant to current events, which is something we touch on now and again but isn’t the thrust of every episode by any means. Instead, we’re bringing Frank and those around him up to the present day, and we’ll explore how his life has changed in those intervening years, and what someone like Frank would be doing in the here and now.
3. Who its written by
We’ve got a good-sized staff of writers who will each write a varying number of episodes for the season. In this respect, just as in virtually every other, it’s just like a real TV show. Tony and I worked on “The Begotten” together, and that essentially carried over into part two (although I ended up writing the majority of the script pages for that one). Elsewhere we’ve got Jeremy Daniels, who is also known to TIWWA as “A Stranger”, Brendan M. Leonard, Paul Robinson, Robert L. Torres, and Angelo Shrine. Originally, we had more TIWWA members on staff, but in the end we couldn’t get that organised in a way that was going to produce results, so had to broaden out. Those contributors in the early phases were still very much appreciated though, so I should take the time to thank the likes of JoeM, Walkabout, MaxFenig, RavenWolf and others.
4. How it fits in with existing seasons and VS4
We’re definitely treating ourselves as the fifth consecutive season following on from all those before. Ideally, we would have wanted to do this back in 2000 to be as much like a real TV show as possible, but we have to compromise on that because the idea to keep going came later. As for VS4, we’re treating it as canon (or “fanon” if you will), but we’re not looking to emulate their style of directly pick up on their stories. We’re going for our own unique approach, in much the same way that you can feel the unique approach of Season 3 when juxtaposed with Season 2, and likewise Season 2 when juxtaposed with Season 1. Each brought in a new creative control to take charge from one to the next, and that’s what’s happening again, so you’re going to feel that same kind of transition from VS4 to VS5.
5. Where the episodes can be accessed and when
If you’ve read up on BVC by now, you’ll know that it all goes live and on-line from New Year’s Day, January 1st 2007. When that happens, there’ll be a website where all the shows including VS5 will be showcased and episodes in PDF format can be downloaded. There will also be a big set of forums, with sub-boards devoted to each show, so you can discuss everything you see and read in there in addition to the forum here at TIWWA. Come January, those website URLs will be flashed about all over the place, so you need not worry about missing out. More promotional material will be coming out about BVC and its shows in the mean time, so just keep your eyes on the VS5 forum for updates.
That about wraps it up for the first blog entry, so I hope it hasn’t been too much of a long haul. Things will get going into a proper rhythm in January when we’ve actually got episodes to deconstruct and preview, but until then I will try and remember to blog... honest.