Millennium (1996) – Pilot, and Gehenna

On 25 October, 1996, the creator of The X-Files, Chris Carter (who brings along Mark Snow to deliver the score) introduced us to Frank Black, played by the incredible Lance Henriksen in Millennium, and despite the fact pilot episodes always have a lot to set up, this one gets all the pieces on the board and tells a tense, almost terrifying, story about a serial killer who is haunted by visions of the End Times.

Frank, an ex-cop and FBI profiler who suffered a breakdown, has returned to Seattle (Vancouver) with his wife, Catherine (Megan Gallagher), and daughter Jordan (Brittany Tiplady) to live in their big yellow house, while Frank does consulting work with the local PD, represented by his former colleague, Lt. Bob Bletcher (Bill Smitrovich) and a mysterious organisation known as the Millennium Group, which counts Peter Watts (Terry O’Quinn) among its members.

The Millennium Group is organised with ex-law enforcement who are looking to stem the tide of violent, murderous crime and tying it in with end of times prophecy and writings.

Attempting to keep his work and home life separate, Frank barely gets settled when he’s drawn to a case that has the killer slaying strippers, and gay prostitutes, telling Frank that the killer may be sexually confused. Or perhaps telling isn’t quite the word. Frank has a gift, a curse, he can enter the mindset of the killer, he can see the world they way they do which allows him, and the viewer a horrifying look into the things the killer sees.

On top of that, Carter plants the seed for a much longer arc, but revealing that Frank and the family returned to Seattle because he had begun receiving unmarked mail filled with polaroids of his wife and child. As the episode ends, he receives another one, with recent photos taken in Seattle.

Dark, moody, and disturbing, Millennium left a mark with its debut that hooked some, and pushed others away – and we’re going to revisit all of it!

Gehenna the ancient Hebrew word for hell, is the second episode of the series. Written by Carter and first aired on 1 November, 1996. At the Group’s behest, Frank travels to San Francisco to meet Frank to investigate a series of recovered cremated bodies.

What they find is a terrifying doomsday cult, that recruits and brainwashes teenagers who work in a telemarketing group led by a horrifying presence. Kids that aren’t making the sales are killed off, after being dosed with a large amount of LSD to help create visions of what can’t possibly be. Or can it?

We are introduced to another member of the Group, Mike (Robin Gammell) who is attempting to run down info on the polaroids that Frank has been receiving. Back in Seattle, Cathy has a dialogue with Bletcher that reveals the depths of what she knows about Frank and his work, and the front she has to keep up so that can keep working.

This is the first time that we get the hint that there is more than serial killers obsessed with revelations and the end of days here. There may be actual demons out there at work in and against humanity, and Frank will have to face them.

Mike finds his life in danger following up a lead, and gives us a chilling image of him locked in a room being doused with radiation, even as Peter and Frank race to save him, and apprehend the party responsible for the murders, the doomsday preachings, and the weapons and gases he was selling to help bring about what he believed was the End Times.

And, I am getting increasingly annoyed by the presence of Jack (Don MacKay), Frank’s neighbour, who shows up for exposition, but I think there’s something more insidious there.

Dark, and thrilling, Frank will take us further into the darkness next week with more Millennium.

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