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Why do so many people list The Sound of Snow as their favorite episode?

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Guest paranoid eyes

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Guest paranoid eyes

Except for the fact that it was obviously very powerful to see Catherine after so many episodes and for Frank to free himself from his guilt.  There are several things about this episode that seemed to ring a false tone to me:

1)    The premise: so many people complain that the Siren did not explain anything, that Human Essence crossed the ridicules line (episodes which I enjoyed) but if you ask me it was TSOS in which the mysterious, ridicules went way to far even for this show. When I saw the opening I thought that they are never going to find a convincing explanation for this and it turned out that I was right. The premise of a tape that kills was ridicules. How would that even work? There were some attempts to explain it in the conversation about white noise but they were soon drooped. We never found out who Alice Sever (was that her name, I am not sure if I wrote it correctly) was and why she made those tapes in the first place. They thrown some references to saint Peter (so she is an angel  :rock: ) suggested that it was the group (them again  :dry: ) but it was never analyzed. Those suggestions seemed to be scrapings thrown to the audience in hope that they will make sense out of them. Isn’t it the FBI, police’s job to explain such things? Why did they started this investigation in the first place? The whole idea fitted more to a horror like Ring rather than a Millennium episode. Yes, I am aware that this show is several years older then the Ring series but even with Ring, I was disappointed with the lack of explanation to the question “why and how does the tape kill”, with a show as intelligent as Millennium my disappointment was even greater. 

2)    Emma and Giebelhouse suddenly deciding to talk about Frank’s past: There was no need for that. Frank did not revel that he had visions of Catherine or that he has to re-experience her death. Nothing in his behavior suggested it. There was no need for Giebelhouse to describe all the events surrounding Catherine’s death to Emma. O.K. there was one: filling the show’s plot hole which must have been driving the fans nuts ever since the season started. I am grateful for that but shouldn’t, that be done during the first three episodes? It was artificial to explain it now, halfway through the season.

3)    The image of Catherine  :ghostface:  in this episode: the sweet, supporting angel, ghost, unreal and blunt as hell, rather a symbol of domestic happiness then a character ( and she was supposed to be one of the main characters). This episode once and for all buried my hopes to like her. Not because she was a shrew in s2 but because the authors never developed her beyond this cardboard image. Where do the writers got their idea how to write her character? Washing powder commercials, A Farewell to Arms? Jordan despite being a symbol of a happy family for Frank turned out to be an interesting, spirited and well played character. Lara could have easily become another Sleeping Beauty-like symbol of innocence, with her long, blond her, angel-like beauty, visions of angels, profession ( child psychiatrist- this already suggests sweet and serious) but thank the writers, they soon developed her beyond that role giving her sarcastic remarks, a down to earth approach and complex dilemmas. Catherine’s entire role in the show was to be Frank’s supporting angel ( with the brake for bitchy behavior in s2) and this episode sealed it.  

To sum up: it felt as thought the writers halfway thought the show realized that they forgot to explain the events surrounding Catherine’s death and that it is about time to give Frank some resolution, so they quickly invented an excuse for Catherine’s ghost to talk to Frank and filmed it without worrying about logic and character development. 

Sorry being so down-beat just after Christmas. I hope my next post will be more constructive but I really want to know what it is so great about this episode that I am missing.               

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Is a "subliminal" messaging tape any more ridiculous than angels and demons? :)

As Frank said, the group will either get her power on their side or destroy it. I don't think a point-by-point explanation is necessary, as Millennium was never a procedural cop show (thankfully) but something much more layered.

Concerning Catherine, much of Frank's grieving occurred off-screen, this was merely a chance at closure. Regardless of how one feels about the group's machinations in 3.1 and 3.2, Frank was still a bit on the angry side of the fence and less prone to contemplating on just what his wife meant to him, so I think it played a bit better later on. Just my opinion.

Whether 3.12 was written with any ulterior motive, others are far better equipped than I to say, but I think it was a very moving episode (how could you not feel for the dude when coming back to 1910 Ezekiel) and given that the MG was now the bad guy, done with restraint. I still think they should have had Watts more open (to Frank) in helping him out (you know the group held the sword of Damocles over him and his family), but that's veering into another topic. I think this episode was less about carefully plotted intrigue than one man coming to grips with the loss of 'his center.' Plus it's always cool to see Giebelhouse again.

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Guest RodimusBen

Since this is one of my favorite episodes I feel the need to debate each of your points, one at a time. Don't take any of this personally, this is completely about arguable points on the episode.

1.) The fact that the episode leaves much to interpretation is a particular writing style that is certainly neither unintentional nor lazy as you seem to imply. Many, many episodes of Millennium from all three seasons fit this pattern. It's either to your liking or it's not, but to criticize it doesn't make any sense-- it's like criticizing the film Chinatown for being a mystery. It is what it is. Not your kind of Millennium episode? Fair enough. But that doesn't mean it was flawed at what it was trying to do. Alice Severin has a "gift," like Frank, like Lara, like many other characters in the Millennium universe. Each gift manifests itself differently. Because the gift wasn't explained scientifically by the FBI investigative team doesn't detract from the episode; in fact, I think it would have been a disservice to the show to go down that path and ruin the mystical, spiritual elements of the threats Frank faces. As early as "Gehenna," Millennium has had supernatural elements that were left unexplained by episode's end. I felt the episode did a perfect job at hinting toward scientific explanations to how white noise could contain subliminal messages, without ever spelling anything out and demystifying the threat. To me, by the conclusion, it was clear that the Millennium Group had hired Alice Severin to send a tape to Frank. The Group is attempting to destroy Frank by making him appear crazy and driving him out of the FBI, as evidenced further in Seven and One. It's likely they didn't know what sort of images the tape would conjure for Frank, and perhaps Alice didn't know either. So the inadvertent result of the tape was Frank having the ability to make some peace with the loss of his wife. As for the actual FBI investigation, because there was no evidence to link either "tape death" to Alice, they were both ruled suicides. To the audience, there was clearly more to it than that, but desk jockeys like McClaren could accept the easiest explanation and move on without a second thought.

2.) I found nothing unnatural about the insertion of the conversation between Emma and Geebs about Frank, Catherine and the Marburg virus. Emma just began working with Frank, but it's clear she is beginning to care for him as a person, and since Frank himself isn't exactly forthcoming about details from his personal life, she turns to an old friend of his to learn more about him. She naturally has to be curious about his past tragedies given his seemingly paranoid behavior and beliefs about the Millennium Group, and the firestorm of rumors and gossip that were surely circulating at the FBI about Frank. Giebelhouse, who knows Frank well and also cares about him, shares this information with her when they become concerned about his safety. It's really as simple as that. I will agree with you that the Marburg storyline and Catherine's death should have been dealt with more extensively much earlier in the season. Without a doubt, that is Season 3's single biggest flaw. While I appreciate that the writers and producers of Season 3 had been written into a creative corner by the outgoing creative team, once they figured out how they were going to retcon themselves out of it, they should have done so much sooner in order to reassure loyal viewers that they had a plan and weren't just going to pretend like The Time Is Now never happened.

3.) You say Catherine was a cardboard character meant only to support Frank, then talk about her being a shrew in Season 2. And by using words like "shrew" and "bitchy" to describe her, you're clearly indicating disapproval of her Season 2 behavior, so you're contradicting yourself by criticizing her during the period in the series in which she stepped out of the cardboard role you claim to dislike. Personally I feel that, despite some unevenness between seasons, Catherine is a remarkably well written female character. Far from being universally supportive or condemning of Frank during the series, she showed complexity of emotion that is rare for supporting characters on any show, especially in today's procedurals that pass for "drama."

Now, to respond to your question about why people like the episode, I can contribute the following points:

1.) The episode brings the character of Catherine and her relationship with Frank full circle and gives them a proper, if overdue, conclusion. The conversation between Frank and Catherine in The Sound of Snow reinforces that, despite the separation and their conflicts and difficulties in Season 2, that Catherine always loved Frank, and that she understood eventually that everything he did was out of a desire to protect her and Jordan. She knows him at the deepest level and knows the good man that he is. Not only are these poignant, important moments for the characters, but they are achieved visually with great craftsmanship. The parallel images of Frank lying alone against the tree, Frank holding Catherine as she died, and Catherin holding Frank in his vision complement the sense of symmetry I mentioned above.

2.) The episode revisits many elements of the first two seasons, creating an enjoyable mix of elements from Season 3 and giving the audience a sense that proper respect is being paid to the themes that tie together the series as a whole. This episode contains the only non-flashback appearance of the yellow house in Season 3-- no longer a yellow house, of course, outside of Frank's vision. This symbolizes the loss of that dream for a perfect life with Catherine, the death of the last throes of naivety that Frank may have possessed in Seasons 1 and 2 that led him to believe that he could escape the darkness that is an indelible part of his life. His encounter with the vision of Catherine there, while "The Dark End of the Street" plays in the background, is haunting. I recommend checking out the lyrics to that song, as some of them are quite relevant to Frank and Catherine's relationship.

3.) It is the last appearance of Giebelhouse, a major series character who unfortunately couldn't be shoehorned in too much with the change of location in Season 3. His interactions with Frank and Emma in this episode are fun ("Jeez, Frank, you never don't know!") and poignant ("Catherine was his center. He's never been the same.").

4.) The creepy and enjoyably mysterious character of Alice Severin, who seemed less like a villain and more like a force of nature, compelling people to reckon with their pasts. C'mon Alice, of course people are going to be suspicious of you if you always tilt your desk lamp like that!

5.) For many, it represented a re-energizing of the show after a lackluster first half of season 3. Ironically, your assessment that the resolution of Catherine's death and the Marburg Virus plot came too late in the season, with which I agree, may have paved the way for people's fondness for this episode. It was a kind of catharsis at the time. As someone who only watched these episodes a little over a year ago, I can tell you that The Sound of Snow and Borrowed Time were the episodes that convinced me to buy the series. I was underwhelmed by the first half of Season 3, but not altogether displeased by it; however, from these episodes onward, it became my favorite season of the three.

Those are just my opinions on the points you bring up in your post, and my own feelings on why the episode is so loved. Naturally, not everyone is going to feel the same way about it, so I don't think your opinions on the episode are altogether invalid. I hope I've suitably presented an alternative point of view.

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Guest Jim McLean

Personally I love the Sound of Snow. But I love it when people post with confidence and detail as this.

In regards to the first issue - if this was a technological miracle - like some crafty scientist or alien race, I could feel the need for a more detailed explanation. The inference is this woman is unworldly. We're talking beyond our realm. As such, how she does things is not an issue - any more than scientifically explaining what an angel actually is.

As for Emma, I never saw an issue here either. People who have gone through horrific circumstance, and those around them don't often open up easily to the details. When a city has gone through an ordeal I don't think people pry too closely into others affairs. Nor do they gossip about them.

As for Catherine, I'm not sure you ever clearly define your issue with her. I think you might be presuming too much on what Catherine is representing here. Less his angel per se, but more forgiveness and love. The burden of guilt from Frank is lifted, and their love is emphasised - to me that's the key attributes of Catherine's appearance in SoS. It's about Frank finding forgiveness in himself and an expression of her devotion to him as his devotion to her - even from beyond (if we presume that this wasn't a hallucination). I found her character throughout the seasons fine. My only qualm in season two was the accusation Catherine would put that Frank was putting the Group before his family which to me didn't seem to ally with season one, nor his actions in season two where from the start his actions were very much for his family than Group. But at the same time, even if we take these characters as real, one can see why Catherine might feel that way when Frank's work (he choose to return back to work after his breakdown) has brought such evils and terrors into his home and threaten his daughter as much as her. Actually from that angle, Catherines motivations in season two, even turning away from Frank after he saved her, make a lot of sense. Simply he's need to fight evil (in this case, with and then against the Millennium Group) is endangering Jordan more than protecting them - as was his original reason for returning to active status.

So no, I don't agree with your points, but I thank you for sharing them nonetheless!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can say that there is one big reason that Sound of Snow is one of my favorites and that's Lance's fantastic acting throughout the whole episode. I don't consider myself an overly emotional guy,but the way his shoulder sag in the scene were his Yellow House changes back to the white house ending the dream sequence(vision) always causes a bit of dampness in my eyes.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest ModernDayMoriarty

I think the episode is excellent, particularly for how it reinforces the S3 idea that S2's events should not be taken as gospel truth - because they are Frank's memories, which he may not be able to trust. The yellow house with Catherine was perfect to his eyes, but it may have just been a happy dream, a vivid fantasy he created in his mind to cover over what he was doing for the group.

Many S3 episodes and Mabius' resemblance to Frank, suggest he may have committed seriously questionable acts during his time in the group, which he his mind has blocked out and rearranged to fit a version of the facts that he can live with.

Alice Severin is an interesting character, because the season is so preoccupied with listening and talking and how people don't want to listen to the truth, or listen to the wrong people. Alice is someone who can hear the important things under all the extranous noise we throw up. She hears the soul, she can hear the end of the world, heralded in the falling ashes.

Nobody wants to hear about the coming evil. Andy Maclaren won't listen to Frank, eventually driving him away, nobody listened to the prophets who foretold destruction, Chris Carter explains in Frank's speech at the end of TEOTWAWKI. Faced with losing Jordan in 'Borrowed Time', Frank demands that God listen to him, because he has something to say and doesn't deserve this treatment.

Emma wants Frank to talk to her and tell her the truth, and when he doesn't, she goes to someone who will (or claims they will). Tom Payne wants someone to tell him that he isn't guilty, trying to force the hand of God (in this case Peter) to speak to him and answer his questions.

The message is that we need each other and we need to listen to each other and talk to each other. Frank saves the soul of the killer in 'Nostalgia' by allowing him to work through his guilt until he confesses, for example.

Because if we don't, then the wrong people will do it instead. If we listen to evil, we give it power. This is something Frank realises in 'Bardo Thodol'.

But in 'The Sound of Snow', Frank is able to hear the message from Catherine, can hear the right notes, just as later realises that there is still goodness in Peter. And his revelation would do him no good if Gibelhaus and Emma weren't there to save his body from dying - further proof that we need to talk to each other and trust each other.

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  • 2 months later...

It may have been a little late in coming, but The Sound of Snow brings some conclusion to events of season 2 that fans needed to wait....12 episodes to see! It does create about as many questions as it answers, like the nature of Alice, and I think they are justifiable questions that leave some secondary issues open to further possible "study." Frank presents as being enlightened at the end and letting others (Emma, and us!) know about it, while tying up some plot threads that were hanging prior to this episode.

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