What the Killer Sees: Brant Carmody

In the early days of a New Year in which the news has been characterised by the unexplained mass deaths of not one, not even two but three flocks of birds as well as no fewer than two million fish, I feel as if I should be writing about “The Fourth Horseman” / “The Time Is Now”. Instead and over two instalments I shall be exploring the events of another episode concerned with potentially apocalyptic events at the turn of a year, one expertly crafted by none other than Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz.

Killer: Brant Carmody (Jeremy Guilbaut)

Episode: “TEOTWAWKI” (16 October 1998)

Writers: Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz

Director: Thomas J. Wright

Quote: “I think that Brant Carmody did in fact kill those kids. I think that his rage was driven by his absolute conviction that the end of the world was coming and that nothing—not even the taking of his classmates’ lives—mattered any more. But his death was not a suicide.” --Frank Black

Profile: High school killing sprees are always particularly shocking. That a student such as Brant Carmody should take up arms and indiscriminately shoot his classmates betrays not just friends and peers but also the very roots of an institution based on growth and learning, robbing young adults of the future for which they are being so diligently prepared.

Such spree killings so often appear to come out of the blue, and frequently the perpetrator is soon characterised as an outcast or loner type. This can be the case, but often is merely a means by which to distance the killer from “normal” human behaviour, to try to separate their actions from what we know to be within the capability of our fellow man. Beneath the surface, however, there are of course often underlying tensions and motives that burst to the surface in dramatic fashion in these instances. Details that can, at least to some degree, deem to explain the seemingly inexplicable.

Spree killers are often desperately seeking to make a statement when they rampage in this fashion. Feeling disconnected from their environment or society as a whole, they are making a last ditch stand, externalising angry or violent thoughts that they can no longer restrain themselves from acting out. Whilst the spree is often premeditated there is nearly always a trigger to this shift. This is very much the case with Brant Carmody as he struggles to make sense of his new foreknowledge of a world his father reveals that, according to his beliefs, is set to go to hell at the turn of the upcoming millennium. As a result and as Frank notes in the selected quote, Carmody’s world is shattered and human life ceases to hold any value to him.

Brant Carmody’s apparent suicide is not wholly out of character with many spree killers, who would take their own lives rather than risk capture, and perhaps hence Barry Baldwin’s swift conclusion that this is what happened. Frank expresses his conviction from the outset, however, that this was not the case in this instance. Brant Carmody evades capture at the scene of the shootings in the chaos that follows and has resumed his regular routine, both signs of his intent to continue living his life. Thus his sudden death doesn’t quite fit the pattern and this leaves loose ends that hint at a whole other level to the mystery.

Kills: 3

Investigation: Emma Hollis is amongst the first investigators from the FBI to arrive at the scene of the school shooting, and her fledgling instincts soon pick out two disturbed youths amongst the crowds of children being reunited with frantic families. A conversation with Carmody’s girlfriend then reveals his preoccupation with the end of the world. It is Frank Black, however, who first calls out Barry Baldwin on his presumptuous conclusion that Brant Carmody killed himself without having taken the time to methodically rule out any other possibilities.

It turns out that Frank’s instincts are correct. Whilst Baldwin was quick to dismiss the police investigation, Giebelhouse also goes on to note certain aspects of the circumstances surrounding Brant’s death that do not fit with a suicide. But what could possibly drive a father to commit filicide? The beliefs and motives underlying Chris Carmody’s actions will be the subject of the next edition of What the Killer Sees, in a fortnight’s time…

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