Second Sight: "The Well-Worn Lock"

“The Well-Worn Lock” (20 December 1996)

Writer: Chris Carter
Director: Ralph Hemecker
Editor: Steve Mark

Quote: “You’re doing the right thing. I have a strong feeling about it.” --Frank Black

Overview: And so, we come to “The Well-Worn Lock.” This episode is well-known for being unique in the series, presenting a glimpse down the road not taken by Millennium. Here is a powerful and sobering installment concerned not with apocalyptic conspiracies or sadistic serial killers but with child abuse and the structures of power and lies that protect abusers. The story prompted author Andy Lane to suggest that “Millennium is so realistic it tears away the last vestiges of the lies we try to tell ourselves about the way the world works.” The hero of this hour is not the dauntless forensic profiler but his wife the social worker, Catherine Black. With “The Well-Worn Lock,” Chris Carter explores the untapped potential of Millennium’s characters, format, and central premise.

Given the set-up, it is perhaps surprising that the episode features any of Frank Black’s trademark visions at all. In this installment there is no “mind of the killer” for the profiler to inhabit. We do, however, witness a single visualization lasting all of four seconds, a brief experience that reveals the true purpose behind the titular well-worn lock. The rest of the episode is peppered with similar sporadic sequences conveying disturbing memories of a painful history of sexual abuse. While previous episodes such as “Pilot” or “522666” have relied on Millennium’s fleeting, stochastic displays of aggression and gore to convey the fantasies of killers, “The Well-Worn Lock” utilizes the same affecting cinematic techniques to represent the traumatic experiences of victims. The functional purpose of these sequences remains the same in spite of the shift in storyline: horrifying, painful imagery is conveyed rapidly, forcefully, in a fashion that does not allow the viewer to dwell on any one image but does nothing to lessen the overall emotional impact of the experience. In the end, the visions of “The Well-Worn Lock” force us to assimilate the sort of memories that are usually repressed, compel us to feel the uncommon compassion possessed by the likes of Frank and Catherine Black, and, once again, reinforce Chris Carter’s overarching philosophy that the profiler’s gift is, above all else, empathic.

Connections: Though the visions of Millennium are predominantly used to represent the mindset of murderers, visions from the point of view of a victim were previously seen in “Gehenna,” also scripted by Chris Carter.

Trances in Total: 1 (0:04)

Gore Score: 1/10

2 Responses to "Second Sight: "The Well-Worn Lock""

Cain said... January 24, 2011 at 10:38 PM

I feel that Frank gift to see through the eyes of the killer, is more about his understanding of the nature of evil and thus giving him keen insight in any mindset that could commit any acts of extreme evil. On the point about seeing from the victims viewpoint, may just suggest a background in victimology. Besides victims are the footprints of evil understanding this is to understand evil and where it will strike next. In any case, I loved the series and watched it religiously every Fridays and this episode was just one of its many high points. I own and love it to this day.

Brian A. Dixon said... January 28, 2011 at 11:24 AM

Thanks so much for your comments, Cain! They're very insightful, especially on an installment that focuses predominately on victims.

"Victims are the footprints of evil." That's a rather profound statement and one that I think is key to understanding the mythology of Millennium and the unique skills of its hero. The visions of Millennium, which we examine here in Second Sight, are clearly just as concerned with the victims as they are with killers--or, in this case, rapists--and with good reason.

And yes, "The Well-Worn Lock" is an exceptional episode. Even after three seasons and myriad myth-arcs, it really stands out.

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