What the Killer Sees: Edward Petey

For this edition, What the Killer Sees considers the antagonist from a Season One episode that I would argue is oft under-rated. One of just two instalments to have been scripted solely from the masterful pen of Frank Spotnitz, “Weeds” boasts concepts and imagery that linger long in the mind, whilst also tapping into something of a semi-recurring theme from Millennium’s first season. Enter through the tall gates of Vista Verde and bear witness to the horrors committed within the would-be haven of security that its inhabitants live within…

Killer: Edward Petey (Josh Clark)

Episode: “Weeds” (24 January 1997)
Writer: Frank Spotnitz
Director: Michael Pattinson

Quote: “I'm their only hope. The fathers of these boys were all liars; they tried to hide their sins… You've seen what these men look like. You see what they'll do to their children. They'll make them just the way they are: sick and corrupt… I tried to help them. I care about these boys. Why am I the only one?” --Edward Petey

Profile: From its teaser onwards, this episode offers the viewer a rare insight into no less than “what the killer sees”, both in terms of his environment and the people within it. This is a warped vision of his actual surroundings, with dark, foreboding clouds scudding across a sky under which the people are “ugly, decaying” as Frank Black puts it. We first see Edward Petey sobbing at the wheel of his car from their effect, clearly deeply disturbed by the world he perceives around him.

Petey also exhibits behaviours in his modus operandi that speak to how he views himself. Even as he seeks to expose the originating wrongdoing with obtuse clues, he looks to “cleanse” his victims from the sins of their fathers by having them drink his blood. The religious overtones of such a ritual cannot and should not be ignored for they represent a God Complex or, more accurately, a severe narcissistic personality disorder. He claims a moral high ground over everyone within the community, exaggerated to the extent that he believes his blood carries the holy power to literally cure his victims of the poisonous influence of their forebears.

Edward Petey is one of a number of killers from Millennium’s first season — alongside those in such as episodes as “Pilot”, “The Judge” and “Kingdom Come” — who are driven to kill as a form of meting out moral judgment on what they perceive as a corrupt and broken world. As a result, none of them see what they do as wrong but quite the opposite. In Petey’s case, deeply affected by the hit-and-run that resulted in the death of Coach Burke’s son, he has become so outraged and disillusioned at the community around him that he seeks to “root out sin, expose hypocrisy” in a most violent and perverse fashion. Whilst extremely rare in real life, with serial killers more often motivated by their own internal desires and pathologies, by their actions these types of murderers serve to reflect the darkness of the world they inhabit outwards again, even as they act to reinforce it.

Kills: 2

Investigation: Faced with a pedestrian investigative police presence and the fumbled efforts of an outraged community, Frank takes a big risk in this case, namely his memorable, half-truthful claim at the meeting of Vista Verde’s inhabitants that that killer “doesn’t want anything — he’s insane.”

Frank knows this to be untrue but seeks to draw the killer out by prompting him into hasty action as a response to the taunt. Initially this seems to have been counter-productive when another victim is taken, but from the background noise on tape sent to Bob Birckenbuehl featuring the voice of his son, Frank Black and Cheryl Andrews are able to track the killer to his hideout beneath the high school swimming pool. They bring Petey into custody but too late to save Bob Birckenbuehl, who has heeded the warning that as a killer his life must be forfeit in order to save his son. Petey’s final act, then, is to indirectly deprive Charlie Birckenbuehl of his “sinful” father altogether.

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