Second Sight: "Gehenna"

“Gehenna” (1 November 1996)

Chris Carter
Director: David Nutter
Editor: Stephen Mark

Quote: “You've seen it, haven't you? Seen the hideous face... Seen the red rain falling in the face of the beast. I’ve seen it too. I know why you’re afraid.” --Frank Black

While the visions of “Pilot” focused exclusively on victims, offering us strobe-lit portraits of immolated men and blood-soaked women, the rapid-fire visuals of “Gehenna” are clearly more concerned with examining the episode’s demonic killer. Given the storyline, nothing could be more appropriate. An admittedly confused Frank Black spends much of this episode grappling with uncertainty regarding the true nature of evil and the profiler’s dilemma is represented in his trademark flashes of insight. When Frank imagines the face of cult leader Ricardo Clement, clenched teeth and unblinking night-vision goggles are at once swapped for the gaping maw and doglike snout of a winged demon. For the first time in the series, Millennium offers the viewer a tantalizing glimpse at the snarling, bestial face of the demonic presence that would come to be known as Legion. This single, perfectly realized blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visual is so distinctive, so disturbing, so unshakably memorable that it would come to be used throughout the series to identify the presence of true evil.

While these hellish visuals could be tied to Frank’s mounting uncertainty, they also serve to heighten our own uncertainty regarding the true nature of his unique abilities. Does Frank see the face of Clement as that of a demon because his personal understanding of evil is changing, or is the cult leader truly acting as the embodiment of otherworldly forces? The riddle is furthered somewhat in “Gehenna” by Frank’s professional colleagues, the trio of Millennium Group operatives who aid him throughout his investigation into the activities of Gehenna International. Silently, in sidelong glances or quizzical stares heavy with meaning, Peter Watts and Mike Atkins tell us a great deal about Frank’s exceptional talents. Without the issue ever being raised aloud, we are left with the distinct impression that the intuitive faculty that Frank Black possesses--whatever its origin or purpose might be--is entirely unique, far beyond the talents and training of even his esteemed mentor. The Millennium Group, it is subtly implied, may understand or appreciate Frank Black’s keen perceptive talents better than he does.

Connections: Bob Bletcher recalls the detailed description Frank gave for his gift in “Pilot.” Frank discovers an apt identification for the winged, bestial figure that dominates his visions by consulting a biblical passage, Matthew 25:41: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.’”

Trances in Total: 7 (0:20)

Gore Score: 8/10

2 Responses to "Second Sight: "Gehenna""

Adam Chamberlain said... October 19, 2010 at 5:34 AM

I actually recall seeing this demonic imagery for the very first time, and considering all the questions that it raised about the nature of evil in Millennium as well as Frank's gift. Was it merely a glimpse at the true nature of a killer that Frank could discern, or was it something more tangible?

I was never a big subscriber to the Legion arc at the time, but it's certainly a fascinating angle to consider further.

Brian A. Dixon said... October 21, 2010 at 12:53 PM

I would argue that the "Legion arc," as both you and James have referred to it in the past, is simply undeniable. Chris Carter created Millennium in order to explore an "unscientific" understanding of evil, and Legion's presence is strong in this second episode of the series. Whatever questions we may have regarding the nature of the face glimpsed in this episode are addressed unequivocally by the time that "Lamentation" rolls around.

How much can we read into these visions, symbolically speaking? Let's just say I don't subscribe to the theory that Frank Black is simply a man with an overactive imagination.

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