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"Parturition"

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ZeusFaber

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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:

printad2x10.jpg

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.

LOCKE

This is my investigation. I don’t remember asking for

help from this Millennium Group. Or you for that matter.

FRANK

We’re here in an unofficial capacity.

LOCKE

Well, unofficial or otherwise, I need to contain a flow of

information here.

FRANK

How did you find out about this in the first place?

LOCKE

My department got an anonymous tip. This is a potential

murder investigation and I need to protect my source.

FRANK

I can understand that, Brad, but we’re only here to solve this.

Same as you.

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Awesome comments, JJ! I know this is more of a behind-the-scenes look at the episode from a production standpoint, but I'm also reading it as a distinct critical critique of my work, and as a writer, this is the kind of in-depth review that'll keep me writing long into the future.

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