The X-Files #100: Gehenna

"I smell blood and an era of prominent madmen." - W.H. Auden
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Frank investigates a death cult that's been cremating its members alive.

REVIEW: So they're going to do that apocalyptic literature epigram thing every episode? Might as well use it here. Chris Carter has always been a literate writer, to the point of pretentiousness sometimes, but that helps put Millennium in focus. It IS far less about the crime of the week than it is a more philosophical concern. When I reviewed The X-Files' "Revelations", I expressed interest in the war between Heaven and Hell as presented, that there was a whole other track to follow there that didn't have anything to do with UFOs, another mytharc, if you will. Looks like Millennium is pursuing it. The end times are coming (or since we know they didn't happen, let's use the word "threatened"), and SOMEthing - Frank call it Evil - is causing the human race to go crazy. The implication is that he intercepts these demonic transmissions and translates them into visions. It's how he seems to get into the killer's head - he's connected through this intense evilnet. When they eventually catch the cult leader, there's a connection there, and Frank is, for the most part, a deer caught in the headlights, somewhat unresponsive, as if he's always being bombarded by a feeling of dread.

Catherine is not coincidentally, I think, a clinical social worker, and it looks like she has to brings her work home. She's Scully to his Mulder after all, bringing science and psychology to philosophical discussions, and as we discover in her chat with Bletch, actively assuaging Frank's fears. Keeping the madness out is his goal, and it's hers too, though it's the madness he's infected with she's concerned about, not the one outside her door. Though that's a concern too, and the emblematic yellow house is truly represented as a safe haven for the family, one that's under siege from people unknown. Inside, it's bright and sunny. Outside, it's dark and spooky. Catherine's paranoia mounts when Frank's not at home as so does ours. A security light turns on, a shadow appears at the door, the nosy neighbor with the Canadian accent comes snooping by... All of which could be red herrings, but it's enough to evoke that sense of a dangerous world. It's true whether those specific elements are harmless or not. Frank is powerless to prevent whatever's happening at his house while he's away, and his impotence is actually a theme - that's the reason Jordan is supposed to have been a miracle baby, or so I'm thinking.

The cast is stabilizing, I see. In addition to Bletch, Frank's local cop friend, Terry O'Quinn returns as Peter Watts, a military-minded Millennium Group operative. He calls Frank down to San Francisco on a case, which shows how the episodic format might work without filling Seattle with serial murderers. We also meet a couple of other operatives, Jim Penseyres and Mike Atkins, who may or may not show up again. The latter did some forensic work for Frank on the Polaroids taken of his family, and is saved from the killer's industrial microwave by Frank's last-minute gut feeling, so he's likely to return. None of the operatives have much of a personality at this point; they just seem competent and knowledgeable. As you can see, the crime story itself is what I've discussed the least, because that's not really where the action is at. It's just something to hang the rest on. Something is turning people into mad prophets/apocalyptic poets; this is about accumulating evidence of that. With the requisite suspense, action and detective work, of course. It's well done, the image is a lot crisper than The X-Files' softer look (at least on DVD), the score is haunting, and the the diagetic use of music finds all the best tunes about our society's decay (now if they don't use a Pixies tune at some point, I'm going to be disappointed, hopefully you know why).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Add a crime plot that actually seems important to support the intensely intriguing themes and character work, and you'd have everything.



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