Lara Means Week: Tuesday - Powers and Principalities

For Tuesday, we have Horror writer Alison Nastasi contributing her own unique perspective of the character of Lara Means. And a quick reminder to leave a message in the comments if your time allows. Kristen Cloke will be reading, I know that for a fact - quite possibly Glen Morgan and James Wong too, so if you want to leave a thanks to those guys or have a comment, this is the place to offer it - they're watching! Over to you Alison!

Lara Means: Powers and Principalities
By Alison Nastasi

She quotes 2001: A Space Odyssey, wears Ramones t-shirts, believes in poetic leaps and has charmed us with her favorite phrase, “Here’s my thing … ” Lara Means remains one of my favorite characters on Chris Carter’s Millennium, and yet as much as I feel I know her, she’s almost similar to the visions that plague her – an ephemeral being, a messenger, a foil to the prophecy of things to come who is as fleeting as the horses that ride through her mind. As she helps to guide Frank – and in turn Jordan – her role becomes quite clear (the Latin origin of her name even means “protection”), but there seems to be so much more to her that remains tantalizingly out of reach. Lara is the Alpha and the Omega – she embodies the rational and spiritual coexisting, though much more vehemently than Frank’s abilities. She sees angels and is haunted by their presence, yet she relies on them for clarity and once they abandon her she is lost.

Where Frank can see events unfolding, Lara simply feels them. The horrible sensation she experiences as a child, when her father’s business associate visits her home, marks her first encounter with the intense light that portends tragic events. From there, the visions increase and Lara’s gift becomes her guide through the investigations we watch she and Frank uncover – each one as much of a key to discovering the true intentions of the Millennium Group as they are to discovering themselves. The interplay between these characters is both elemental and monumental. While Frank sees the group providing them with cases, Lara describes them as tests or lessons. Some of these slight differences in their characters assure Lara of her own place in the series, something beyond merely serving as a mirror for Frank – though many things indicate she is more of a soulmate to him than even his own wife. This is something he professes to her in the end of season two during a raw and emotional admission: “Lara, you’re the only one … not my wife and not my family … who ever understood. Only you … ” While many have misunderstood Lara and Frank’s connection as romantic – most evident in Siren when Catherine and Lara meet for the first time and it feels as though Catherine is catching Frank “in the act” – their relationship truly is based in mutual understanding and emotional symbiosis.

The most fascinating thing about the Frank/Catherine/Lara trinity is the idea that the two closest women in Frank’s life are martyred. Lara’s martyrdom is achieved by giving the vaccination that could save her own life to Frank’s family. Catherine’s comes through the act of sacrificing herself so that her daughter can live when she offers the lone vaccination to Jordan. In many ways Lara resembles a Joan of Arc figure. Both share divine guidance and struggle against seemingly insurmountable forces.

"Anamnesis," however, provides an opportunity to see Lara’s character in a way more directly translated from the episode’s title. The term anamnesis comes from the Greek word for recollection or remembrance. In reference to Platonic philosophy it is defined as remembering things from a supposed previous existence. In terms of Christianity, it refers to the part of the Eucharist in which the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ are remembered. This is an interesting play on the connections between Lara and Mary Magdalene (and the Gnostic Ennoia), as well as Lara and Catherine’s characters, as they relate to the contradictions in the Gnostic texts, in particular, Thunder Perfect Mind. In the episode Lara and Catherine work together to investigate a case involving five girls who claim to have visions of the Virgin Mary. The two women couldn’t be more opposite in terms of belief and approach; Lara finds explanations for these events through the Gnostic gospels, but Catherine has a more real-world viewpoint and chalks the girls’ behavior up to teenage pranks. While events unfold, the friction between the temporal and spiritual characteristics of the women become intertwined and both leave the investigation with more questions than answers. Ben Fisher, who acts as Clare’s guardian and teacher, accuses Lara of being jealous because she lacked someone in her life who could help her understand her power. While this may be true, Lara subconsciously attempts to overcome this by taking on the same role for Frank and also Catherine. Catherine’s opinion isn’t completely swayed by the end of the episode, but she does begin to question some of her steadfast beliefs once she gets the proof she asks for (the file Lara gives her in the end of the episode). Once Fisher dies, Lara explains to Catherine that there had to be a sacrifice to set certain events in motion. These sacrifices are mirrored once again in the way that the two women eventually forgo the vaccinations that would save their lives (though we can only assume what happens to Lara).

An obvious influence on "Anamnesis" is Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Messianic Legacy by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln (this was pre-Da Vinci Code). In the book, the authors talk about the bloodline of Christ and Mary Magdalene, which they believe has survived to the present day and is protected by a secret society known as the Priory of Zion (similar to the group Ben Fisher belongs to – The Family). But a more compelling interpretation opens up when considering the final voiceover in the episode.

In the narration, Ben and Clare cite Simon Magus’ account of the First Thought, also known as the First Power or the female aspect of divinity, which the Gnostics hold in very high regard. Magus was the founder of the Gnostic sect known as the Simonians, and was often believed to be a demon disguised as a man. Different sects of Gnosticism define these ideas with slight variations (also, this is a huge subject), but I will try to provide you with this vast oversimplification. In the beginning there was a light, which desired experience of itself and split apart to create the Father, the masculine principle, and a feminine principle Magus refers to as Ennoia – the divine mind/feminine Wisdom equal to the Father. She was considered the mother of all the angels (aeons or emanations), but they rebelled against her out of jealousy and banished her to the mortal world – confining her to a female body. She was essentially reincarnated over the years, each life shaming her more than the previous. Magus saw himself as the redemptive masculine principle (the Father) and rescued her from deterioration and degradation. He found Ennoia in the form of a slave and prostitute named Helen – though some believe she was neither. Together, they became the World Soul and the World Mind. Throughout history, several figures were considered to embody this emanated pair: Faust and Helen of Troy, Dulcinea and Don Quixote de la Mancha, and so on.

Clare cites Magus’ words at the end of "Anamnesis," which describe these events: “She suffered every indignity from them and she could not return to the father. In a human body she came to be confined. And thus, from age to age, she passed from body to body…into one female body after the other. Thus, she became the lost sheep.” The references to Clare and Mary Magdalene seem fairly obvious, but it doesn’t seem like a stretch to make these connections to Lara Means as well. The suffering Lara experiences, combined with her being “cast out” at one point by the Millennium Group, and similarly by her Angel are relevant comparisons to Ennoia. Also, Lara’s relationship with Frank seems to embody the divine principles – Lara being more emotional and the one who feels (the World Soul) and Frank being the one who sees and knows (the World Mind). During a conversation with Catherine in Anamnesis, Lara tells her not to leave Frank alone because the visions they share are so isolating. Based on this Gnostic interpretation of Lara’s character, could that be because she knows salvation cannot occur through the masculine principle alone?

It should be obvious that Lara Means isn’t just some peripheral character in the continuing story of Frank Black, but is instead a vital component of not only the ongoing narrative of Millennium, but also a major part of the show’s subtext. On a lesser series, it would be all too easy to dismiss the ideas that Lara Means was potentially a modern reincarnation of Ennoia, because television shows rarely reach that level of depth. However, if we learned anything during three seasons of Carter’s darkly brilliant show, it was that the writers on Millennium were very well versed on some incredibly arcane topics and adept at creating things for the audience to ponder long after the episode had ended. Lara Means stands as one of their greatest creations – a woman who wasn’t merely a foil to the show’s focal character, but someone much more profound. We may never truly know everything that Lara Means was or represented, and even if we did, I imagine it would wind up being like the rest of the show – where answers are found but simultaneously reveal further questions. Like Alex Ventoux writes in his diary in "Luminary," “God doesn't move us by telling us the facts. He moves us by pains and contradictions. He's given me a lack of understanding: not answers, but questions … ” Sometimes these are dark lessons, but this is who we – and Lara Means – are.

Alison Nastasi writes for a variety of Horror journals including Cinematical, Horror Squad & Sci-Fi Squad.

Article images: Chris Nu's Millennium

12 Responses to "Lara Means Week: Tuesday - Powers and Principalities"

Mike B. said... June 15, 2010 at 11:33 AM

Wow. I'm absolutely blown away by this piece. I've watched every episode of Millennium and even done some reading on some of the things discussed in the show, but this is above and beyond.

A very articulate piece with some fascinating ideas. I always figured Lara was more than just a peripheral character, but you've done a great job of pointing out why that is and highlighting who she might have really been.

Great work.

Anonymous said... June 15, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Great post.

Joselyn Rojas said... June 15, 2010 at 3:00 PM

This is a monster-great piece! Muahahaha I dont think any of us can add anything more... yet I´d have to agree. Lara was a very central piece in the show. She was a key figure as to what would happen and would be the consequences of gifts (and curses). She was more than a mere colleague to Frank, I think they had a bond beyond friendship.

Alison Nastasi said... June 15, 2010 at 4:53 PM

thank you guys--glad you enjoyed the read!

Anamnesis said... June 15, 2010 at 4:55 PM

Great Article Alison, Anamnesis is still my favourite Millennium episodes (weird given that it is the only episode to not feature Frank), yet I feel it is one of the most powerful and thought provoking and I believe you have captured why perfectly! Thanks for a great read!

Adam Chamberlain said... June 15, 2010 at 5:04 PM

A very interesting and thought-provoking piece on one of the very finest character creations and portrayals from the entire run of Millennium.

Certainly Lara Means provided a great companion to Frank in Season Two, although I do have to disagree slightly with the notion that she was more of a soulmate to Frank than Catherine was, just as I think that for me it seems to underestimate the deep bond that Frank and Catherine had, even when apart. That said, the timing of Lara's arrival - whilst Frank and Catherine were separated - and the experiences they shared in relation to the Millennium Group clearly led to that level of mutual understanding that Frank speaks of and Alison writes about here.

Kristen Cloke blew me away when she guested in The X-Files' "The Field Where I Died" and so I welcomed her recurring role on Millennium from the off. Lara Means was such a strong character too - in the writing, performance and the way she helped shape the new direction of the show - that she really was instrumental as a vital ingredient that helps make Season Two my favourite.

Good to see mention of "Anamnesis" here too, as that's an episode I thought was often under-rated. The opportunity of seeing Lara and Catherine thrown into that investigation together made for a great hour of drama.

And what a character arc Lara / Kristen enjoyed too! I still maintain that I've never seen anything in the television medium quite as bold or as breathtaking as the "Horses" act in "The Time Is Now", before or since. It felt like a fitting, if tragic, end to what Lara had endured over the course of the season, but if - or rather WHEN! - we see a Millennium movie she would most definitely be a character on my wish list to see return. Given where she was pushed to, I'm sure there are any number of interesting directions her character might have taken over the past decade - whether still mentally broken or perhaps recovered from and stronger for her experiences - and I'd love to see Kristen and the character of Lara Means back on screen once more.

Sean Stubblefield said... June 15, 2010 at 6:24 PM

the magnificent portrayal Kristen Cloke gave to Lara Means made me an instant fan of her (both Kristen & Lara). I was impressed and giddy with her work in The Others, SPACE, and Final Destination.
Lara became one in a triumvirate of favorite characters of mine, along with Frank & Peter Watts.
I'm a fan of, and am familiar with, gnosticism--- but I never saw the fantastic connections elaborated by Alison's very insightful &
wonderful analysis. Clearly, Lara is quite a substantial persona. To me, in addition to everything Alison mentions, Lara Means also represents another example of Millennium's high caliber material-- the fact
that a woman such as Lara existed. By which, I mean that she wasn't incidentally designed to serve Frank or move plot, nor simply "The Woman" playing into a cliched female role.
Kristen significantly contributed in defining not only a real(istic) person, but also a fascinating one who was an excellent companion and equal to Frank. The depth of Lara is indicative of the Depth in Millennium, and Lara could be seen as a symbolic figure representing the essence of season 2.
In my mind, Lara Means is still alive-- even if not quite well, and would love to see her return.

ps- I write sci-fi short fiction (not Millennium), and one of the characters-- a brilliant scientist-- I envision being played by the marvelous Kristen Cloke.

coughcool said... June 15, 2010 at 7:22 PM

I enjoyed your piece very much. Thank You

Alison Nastasi said... June 15, 2010 at 8:04 PM

I really appreciate all of your comments -- thank you. Adam & Sean, I couldn't agree more. WHEN the 'Millennium' movie hits, I would love to see Kristen return. And Adam, the 'Horses' scene is great. Every time I see it, I feel the same intensity as I did that very first time.

Anonymous said... June 15, 2010 at 11:48 PM

Hey guys
Fantastic article, its great to hear people talking passionately about one of the coolest characters on TV. I love all 3 seasons of Millennium, but Season 2 is my personal favourite, and Lara Means, with her dry wit, cool sci-fi references, and troubled visions, was a huge part of that. ALthough I wasn't a huge fan of her initial appearance in Monster, I came to hotly anticipate every episode she appeared in the second half of the season, as her vulnerability and sense of isolation became more apparent. That final insanity sequence still stands as one of the coolest, freakiest and bravest TV sequences on network TV, right up there with Twin Peaks Black Lodge sequences. I'd definately like to see her return in a Millennium movie

James McLean said... June 18, 2010 at 4:35 AM

We need more from you Alison - much more. Just how much of your life can we carve out into smart, well constructed analysis such as this? I hope there's more of this cake going! Had some great feedback on this article. Totally deserved!

Alison Nastasi said... June 21, 2010 at 12:45 PM

James I just saw your comment here, which mirrors your lovely email. Thank you so much and (you already know this but ... ) count me in for whatever else you guys are dishing up!

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