What the Killer Sees: The Polaroid Stalker

What the Killer Sees explores a seminal if almost entirely absent figure from Millennium's first season for this edition, a character also utilised to set an altogether different tone at the outset of Season Two. Whilst a fascinating creation in and of himself, this is also by way of lead-in for a very special edition to mark next week's Lance Henriksen Blogathon Week. More of that in due course, as for now we explore the man who took Frank Black back into the abyss...

Killer: The Polaroid Stalker (Doug Hutchison)

Episode: “The Beginning and the End” (19 September 1997)
Writers: Glen Morgan & James Wong
Director: Thomas J. Wright

Quote: “I am the first and I am the last, I am the alpha and I am the omega, I am the beginning and I am the end. And soon he will come to understand this as he works to get inside me: with me his gift is useless. I don't fit into the serial killer profile he's come to understand. Now, I am so far beyond. I wasn't from a broken home, he’ll find no homicidal triad in my childhood, no setting of fires, no bed wetting, no cruelty to animals. I’ve had a formal education, responsibility, money. Until recently, not a loner. He’ll work on the principle that behaviour reflects personality. He’ll evaluate the criminal act itself, then the specifics of the crime scene, analyse the victim—which, of course, he knows well—before attempting the development of a profile with critical offender characteristics. This will lead him nowhere, absolutely nowhere, because until now I’ve committed no crime. This is something he’s never experienced before. Frustrated, agonised, angry even, he’ll turn to those torturous photographs I'm so fond of mailing him. He’ll consider complex theories regarding grandiose subtypes of delusional disorder or even photographic paraphilia… blah, blah, blah. Ultimately he will sense none of it applies.” --The Polaroid Stalker

Profile: For so long an unseen enigma, then—in “Paper Dove”—a briefly glimpsed collaborator or director of a serial killer, The Polaroid Stalker finally reveals himself and his motivation for having taunted Frank Black for months during “The Beginning and the End”. So far as we know, The Polaroid Stalker is not of course actually a killer and therefore arguably has no place in this column. His character is, however, one that bears closer examination.

Initial considerations might seem to indicate that The Polaroid Stalker fits a classic stalker profile. The stalker is usually motivated by some kind of underlying emotional conflict with his target, who is usually female, and psychologically can be delusional or non-delusional. The Polaroid Stalker, in spite of his evident state of mind, appears to be non-delusional in this aspect, as per the FBI Crime Classification Manual; his target is Frank Black, he is very organised in terms of luring him in and there is no sexual motive at work. His photographs of Frank’s family appear to represent a symbolic threat aimed at Catherine and Jordan, the very people that Frank holds dear above all others and seeks to protect within the sanctity of his yellow house, and are addressed explicitly to him.

Ultimately stalkers do reach a point where they act towards their victims, and The Polaroid Stalker is highly organised in this respect. His abduction of Catherine and subsequent evasion of roadblocks to his hideout required intricate planning. Any suggestions of photographic paraphilia can be quickly dispelled, revealed to be little more than a smokescreen. Frank Black is his ultimate target.

In many ways, the cited quote from the Stalker himself is key to understanding his true motive. As he talks Catherine through Frank Black’s thought processes in trying to profile him, he reveals an in-depth knowledge of his craft. Furthermore, he seems to have an understanding of The Millennium Group and their sinister agenda, taunting Catherine further at one point when he asks her, “Would you die for God, then? Would you, could you? Because I won't. No, they asked me to but I won't. They're gonna ask Frank if he's willing to give his life for you.” That, coupled with the Group’s detailed file on him, seems to imply that he may have been a previous candidate, much as Frank Black is now. The Group’s design for the ouroboros even appears on the wall in his hideout. Perhaps, then, The Polaroid Stalker is another individual broken by his former connection to the Group. A former student of theology, his knowledge of biblical prophecy is apparent, whilst his rantings to Catherine foreshadow some of those of Lara Means a matter of months later. And maybe his ultimate motive is to reveal the dangers that they pose, and finally to seek his own dramatic execution at Frank’s hands.

Kills: 0

Investigation: This investigation is borne of a scenario that has actively sought out Frank Black, rather than the other way around. After Catherine’s abduction from Seattle Tacoma Airport and having failed to halt The Polaroid Stalker’s escape from the airport or via use of roadblocks, he returns home in turmoil.

The hasty arrival of Peter Watts at the airport and his subsequent conversation with Frank at his home begin to reveal that The Millennium Group know far more about The Polaroid Stalker than they have admitted. When Watts has Roedecker and his colleagues provide Frank with a new level of access to their files, this truth becomes yet more apparent.

Frank studies the history of the stalker from the Group’s files but nothing about the Polaroid Stalker fits any established pattern. Ultimately, however, he realises the profile is really all about him. And this leads him on a personal mission, one that will change his life forever.

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