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.