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Steven Kiley - Killing with Kindness.

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Guest ModernDayMoriarty

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Guest ModernDayMoriarty

On this thread, I'd like to take you through my opinions of what this episode was about and answer the all important question of where Steven Kiley's loyalties lay.

Well, for a start, it is my belief that Kiley is 'from Hell' - that is I believe he was acting on the orders of an evil force. That in itself is symplifying a complex issue (as part of the whole point of Season 2 is that despite what the Group insist, Good and Evil are not so easy to classify).

But I'll get on to that in a bit. For now, let's just stick with the idea that Kiley is acting on behalf of the Devil, some kind of demonic master etc. How do we come to that conclusion and what is the episode trying to say here?

I believe that this episode is a meditation on the fact that even if Good and Evil do exist, it is difficult to definitively catergorise people as one or the other. And that despite this difficulty, life demands people make such judgements and act on them. Lastly, it is not only helpful, but mandatory that people have a mechanism in place to allow them to accept these judgements.

As with all the best episodes, Kiley and Frank have a connection, due to their similar circumstances in this regard. This is namely that they are essentially decent hearted people, who happen to currently be serving an evil master. Kiley is doing 'the devil's work' and Frank is working for the morally dubious Millennium Group.

The episode seeks to show us that a moral framework or code is essential when you are compelled to commit questionable acts. Kiley is a man (or is he?) who is at once hands on in his work, but also removed slightly from the reality of what he does. His very name is an affectation, a means by which he can reconstruct what he does as something good and necessary.

Required to prey on the sick and convince them to commit suicide, he has a very sinister job. But by adopting the role of a nurse or confidante (at the crisis center), he constructs himself as the patient's friend; someone who cares. He does not identify himself as the doctor, the person giving the prescription (i.e God or the Devil), but simply as the person who carries out the orders written on the chart.

And it's obvious that he really does care. From his tearful manner in the lift, alone with the corpse and when he reflects on the pain of the first patient he 'saved' by allowing her to go, Kiley is shown to have genuine compassion for those he is helping along to their unwitting damnation.

Not that I think he allows himself to think of it like that. He lamentation that the man in the lift 'could have gone to God' with his help, suggests that Kiley must believe, must tell himself that they are going to a better place - and that he is not in fact damning them (which I think he knows is true in his heart of hearts).

The episode keeps us guessing at first. As Kiley sings 'Think of me and I'll be there' at the start, his outline is shadowy against the sinister dripping of the deadly IV fluid. We cannot see if he is sincere. But at the end, as he sings the same line to the dying people, we see the sincerity in his face.

In what is to follow, they only have to shout and he'll find some way to come running (which also indicates by the concern he shows, that he knows there is a possiblity that they will not be going on to a happy ever after).

He values the choice that people have, because it is something he does not have. Though he began by choosing to help, he now must fulfill his duty. The note 'Semper Fi' tells us this. There is no such thing as an ex-Marine, Lara comments. He has a duty and commitment to a cause that cannot be broken.

His final note confirms this. Lara is perplexed, sure that if Kiley cared as much as he obviously did, that he didn't accompany them. His note 'It wasn't my choice' tells them that for all he has managed to convince himself of the rectitude of what he's doing, it's mere window dressing, because his hands were tied, just as theirs were too.

He has to do this, he has no choice. Even if he'd wanted to, he couldn't have done any different than he did. All he do is hope that he is doing the right thing, feel good about it, because there is nothing else he can do about it.

Kiley's real name is suggestive of this role,(though he disavows it as part of his mental defence mechanism). Ellsworth Beadle (I think, the spelling may be a bit off...) Ellsworth obviously brings to mind Hellsworth - worthwhile to Hell. For Beadle, read Beagle - a dog. Hell's hound stalking its victims and dragging them to the Inferno.

And like a broken dog, his master took his choice away from him and this is his warning to Frank. Let them in and they've got you - you'll be justifying what you do to yourself, but you'll still be doing the work.

And this is what the Group are doing here. They know the intense stress and trouble that afflicts their members, when they are asked to deal with Evil and more pointedly, to 'deal' with a threat that they are being told is Evil. They need their candidates to see firsthand, how difficult it is to distinguish sometimes between Good and Evil, but (and this is the important part) that regardless of this, action must be taken.

Because regardless of what Kiley's motives are, if you sympathise, if he was genuine or whatever - he still has to be stopped in Frank's opinion. There is a crime taking place here that requires action to be taken. So despite Kiley's winning words in the interrogation and sincere affection for his prey, the 'Evil' must be stopped.

This is what the Group want their candidates to see - that underneath all the details, a decision will always have to be made and sometimes that may seem morally wrong. But it has to be done and the candidates must learn to trust that those above them are making the right decisions - that they can see through the kinds of complications presented in this case and make the 'right' decision that candidates must enforce.

Because Frank and Lara never find out to their own satisfaction if Kiley is Evil or not. They just don't know. As Frank says, it's not a question tney wanted answered. They just wanted them to see that it's complicated and it doesn't need to matter - they just need to know if the person before them is Good or Evil to know what to do.

And worryingly, we see that Frank is able to tune all the complications out, when he comments that regardless of how it was conceived,'Goodbye Charlie' is a great song and he likes listening to it.

Say what? Well, it's the principle that Kiley puts forward about suffering and why it is never acceptable. Frank's position is that you can't end a life like he is doing, because it is morally wrong. Faced with Kiley's insistence that Bobby Darin chose such a fate, he points out that Darin led a worthwhile life first, by not giving in immediately.

But worthwhile to who? Kiley's comments are intended to show that Frank (and everyone else who likes the songs) are complicit in not caring about Darin's suffering. We are happy to accept that he soldiered on and perservered against illness to give us these masterpieces. We are not thinking about him - we are thinking of what we got out of the deal.

So when Frank shrugs at the end and plays the song, we see that in some regard, he can accept the Millennium Group's philosophy that 'the ends justify the means', even if he doesn't realise it. He can be okay with the idea of someone having to suffer, so that everyone can receive something good.

It's something the Group can work with, preparing the way for the time when Frank will no longer have the luxury of the choice they offered him in this episode.

And Kiley's comments on suffering don't end there. He is someone who has a grievance against God, for how life is in general. This is much like Frank's troubles with God, finding it hard to give praise to someone who would let people suffer horrors with no apparent cause.

Both are(or were in Kiley's case)therefore open to an alternate way of doing things. Why should people be put into this world and suffer such indignities? There's the example of the man in the elevator of course, but also much simpler ones.

Kiley advises the woman on the phone that she must take a stand against her husband, because if she doesn't he'll abuse her again. Just like God does to us. We take the deaths and injuries and setbacks he doles out to us and we keep coming back for more, keep loving him when on a daily basis, he attacks us.

This is also interesting, considering that he is dying himself. Gibelhaus' comments suggests that he doesn't think it's fair what is happening to Kiley - because he's such a good man. And regardless of what else he may have to do, he has helped many people in his jobs. But there again, it may actually be a blessing - a chance for him to finally lay his burden down (though his master will not let him go in the manner he wished).

Also, we see at the end that the master he now serves will not (or perhaps can not) help him. He would have liked to ddie with the group members, but his master doesn't let him, even though he is suffering. They still have work for him to do or else simply don't wish to let him go with his charges.

This is something Frank should particular attention to, because it mirrors the Millennium Group's empty promises of help and support. When you need them, they'll say they'll be there, but it's the work that matters to them. Peter Watts also finds this out to his cost. Lara is not cured of her madness, the Poloroid Stalker was not cured of his madness etc etc.

So ultimately we must in my view, see Kiley as something of a victim, but still an agent of Hell (or whatever). He suffers constantly, unable to make the choice he offers his victims. He has to find a way to carry on, to believe that in some way, he is helping people (as Frank correctly profiles). But as Frank also correctly states, under all of that, he is still basically murdering them.

Lara will eventually break completely under the strain of this, unable to sanely live with what she is forced to do for the Group, blackmailed with the knowledge of what will happen if she doesn't comply. She cannot construct a similar framework to Kiley (although it is suggested in S3 that Frank could and did, that his recollections of the events of S2 are false memories covering over his deeds whilst in the Group).

So ultimately, I believe Kiley's loyalties are simply to his 'patients', to those he tries to help. But that even with all his good intentions (and they do pave the way, they say), he is damning them, because he let himself become a servant of a sinister and controlling master.

And so when Frank accepts the song as acceptable recompense for another man's suffering, we must worry that perhaps he could be made to see that Man's eventual survival would be worth the suffering of a 'few' lives now.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest byron lomax

It gets a mixed reaction from fans, but "Goodbye Charlie" is in my opinion a great episode. The ending was really perplexing, and left me thinking for hours afterwards. It's clear that in viewing the episode the Kiley believes he is doing good work by quickening the terminally ill towards death, but on the other end, it's clear that some of his patients are being pushed in that direction - to such an extent that it's questionable if all of their deaths could really be ruled "assisted suicide". Another intriguing aspect of the episode is the true nature of Kiley - exactly how long has this guy been around? Does he keep coming back, carrying out his mission on new generations?

Anyway I enjoyed reading your essay.

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Guest ModernDayMoriarty

Good day to you, Mr Lomax.

Well, as I said in the essay, I don't think Kiley has any choice - these people have to die. The props they wear echo his lack of choice in what he is doing to them/coercing them to do. Their hands are tied, their mouths are taped closed.

And underneath that tape, they have the walnut - the 'gift' of prophecy which fills their mouths. It mirrors Kiley and characters like Peter Watts - that when they open their mouths, all that will come forth is prophecy and propaganda to justify themselves.

Both Kiley and Watts have to believe that they are doing the right thing, despite the things they are being asked to do. And both feel the need to justify their actions to Frank, because he is a man whose opinion matters to good and evil characters alike.

As to how long he has been around... that's more difficult. I think Ellsworth really was just a man, until this demonic force took an interest in him. Whether he is actually possesed in some fashion or simply doing the bidding of such a creature is unclear though.

I happen to think he is a human who has been (elevated isn't really the right word) to something more by a maleficent force. The picture on the wall depicts a Dionysian scene and people worshipped that figure as a kind of alternative God, in return for gifts and visions.

I think Kiley's disaffection with God and the unfairness of life, led him into the clutches of one such substitute God figure (which is what Legion basically is).

But as I say, that does not make him evil himself. No more than being with the Millennium Group, makes Frank evil.

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I really like this episode. The concept of Physician Assisted Suicide is one I touch upon frequently in my professional life and what I respect about the episode is the fact that it doesn't lawyer a morality to the viewer. It isn't just Kiley who believes in his mission, you are given the impression that Lara comes to sympathise with the stance he is taking if not the finer details of his actions. That made perfect sense to me. Lara isn't afraid of death, that isn't the inevitability she speaks of, she's afraid of the loss of control, of insanity, of having someone in control of her image and not being able "to bitch about it".

I'm constantly impressed by the scene during the interrogation when you see the two characters treating Kiley very differently. For Frank, this is a man who must be stopped and his approach to Kiley is to elicit a confession and bring him down. Lara, on the other hand, sees an individual who understands his raison d'être and is at ease with the supernatural element of his existence: for her it's an opportunity to acquire the understanding that she lacks.

I'm still never sure if there is a Legion mythology in Season Two of Millennium but my feeling is that if Glen and James did carry that aspect of the show forward then Kiley is a candidate for inclusion. I think the message behind Goodybe Charlie is that good and evil are ambiguous. In nature, a mother cat will kill an ailing kitten in order to ensure the survival of her brood. It is an act devoid of good or evil, it is a case of instinct and the need to survive. In humanity we attach morality to our actions and the killing of ailing humans is not acceptable but assisted suicide is that grey area when killing can be perceived as an act of goodness.

There will always be Frank's and there will always be Lara's who perceive men like Kiley as killers or saviours and that's why the subject is so damn difficult, especially in terms of legislation.

Great article Moriarty - very enjoyable.

Eth

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This is one of those episodes in which your view point can change greatly as your own life changes. For me, with the changes of my life circumstances [post stroke] I now find it difficult to watch. :ouro:

We seem to have a veil in our minds that partitions knowledge in this way...

We know that we are going to die. That knowledge is far different than a doctor telling us we have a severe medical condition and a short time left. Changes do affect how we process information.

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Guest ModernDayMoriarty

The question of whether the ailing should be put out of their misery is precisely the stance that the Millennium Group have adopted in their present incarnation. Watts (amongst various others), makes it clear that the Group believe that Man has become a debased and corrupted version of himself and that a 'weeding out' will have to be done.

Indeed, in Season 3, the Group appear to be pursuing research into remaking Man into a more acceptable form (as their various control and bio-experiments show).

But like Kiley, you still get the feeling that it started out coming from a good place. They genuinely wanted the world to be a better, happier place, where people weren't so evil to each other and people didn't have to suffer like they do.

But along the way, they have decided that they know better than God, what Man should be and how he should live. And these are the standards that Kiley applies - that he knows better than an uncaring God, what people need and that only he can help them.

That is exactly what Legion's story in 'The Judge' and 'Powers...' is. Someone who sees a purer, more 'right' way of existence. And as the Group know, as Peter knows and as Legion knows, Frank is someone who can sympathise with this on a certain level.

The Group's difficulty is that it believes in absolutes of Good and Evil, which prevent it from seeing that they are now acting in the same manner as beings like Legion and other agents of malovolent forces. So it comes back to the necessity of labelling people as Good and Evil - do that and you can proceed and not be burdened with doubt.

Stop to consider the various permutations (as Lara does) and you'll go crazy, because you'll be second guessing and fretting over your actions. It takes an enormous strength of will to do what the Group do, married with the ability to have absolute conviction in the actions you take.

If you have to lie to yourself to achieve this, then so be it. Watts does it, Kiley does it and Season 3's interpretation of Season 2 as a kind of misremembered defence mechanism by Frank, indicates that he does too.

But because he's the hero, he sees the light eventually.

Incidentally, a word about the quality of 'Goodbye Charlie' itself. Yes, okay it isn't the greatest episode going, but a very interesting one I think nonetheless. As one of very few episodes not written by Morgan and Wong, it's always interesting to see what other writers were making of Millennium and the new season.

And I think ultimately it's a failing on the director's part that seals its fate. The death scenes with the kareoke, should be alternately sinister and truly joyful as Kiley is trying to sing them off with all his heart.

And yet, they do end up being just silly really. It's a shame, but there it is. Particularly as in other parts of the episode (the interrogation for example), the director is canny enough to realise he should shut up and man the camera whilst Lance and Tucker do their thing.

Edited by ModernDayMoriarty
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  • 6 months later...

Given the lack of a clear cut ending as well as ambiguous issues before the ending, this is still a good episode. I guess part of the intensity of this episode is thinking that you will know the answer at the end. Well....you do get an answer, but it's still ambiguous! Unlike "Somehow Satan," I haven't found a CS Lewis book, or anybody else's book for that matter, to pair this episode up with regarding good and evil! There's definitely a different "flavor" of evil in this one, and I think that's one of the things that makes it so mysterious and captivating. Sometimes Kiley sounds totally merciful, and other times, he's pressing the "kill button." I guess this could be interpreted as disjointed, but I prefer to look at it as a further, deeper deception. I think even Frank Black made the comment in one episode about the people looking for the devil with horns and a tail, when the deception here is really much deeper than that.

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