TV discussion

TV Rewind… Millennium 1×09 – ‘Wide Open’

If ‘Wide Open’ teaches us anything, it’s to never have an open house event when putting your home on the market. This being Millennium, it’s a one way ticket to being the victim of a serial killer of the week.

Like ‘Kingdom Come’ a few weeks ago, ‘Wide Open’ feels like it’s fallen through the cracks somewhat and been forgotten about, or worse, been somewhat consigned to the realm of being regarded as a weaker entry due to its reliance on serial killer of the week tropes that the series falls into, but that’s to negate the fact that there are a lot of good ideas and themes here that Charles Holland’s teleplay (his only contribution to the series) runs with in a very entertaining fashion.

Best of all, like many great instalments of Ten Thirteen’s output, it takes a concept that many of us would take for granted, or are used to in our society, and turns it into something truly scary and frightening. In ‘Wide Open’s’ case, the concept of an open house, and our reliance on home security devices to keep us safe are used  a means for this week’s killer to find targets, and while the episode thankfully doesn’t rely on too much violence, it still hammers homes it’s disturbing and sometimes distressing themes in a brilliant and shocking manner.

Continuing from the last two weeks, ‘Wide Open’ also sees the series continuing to include Catherine in the show’s stories in a wonderful way, with her profession as a social worker once again allowing a way into a deeper exploration of being a surviving victim of a violent and distressing crime.

A survivor of the episode’s teaser sequence, Patricia Highsmith (Nevada Ash, playing a character with a wonderfully appropriate name) has been deliberately left alive by her parents’ killer, a repeating pattern within the killer’s own psychology, his psychotic urges spurned on by having witnessed his own parents being tortured and murdered as a child.

This exploration of violence begetting violence and history repeating is part of ‘Wide Open’s’ many themes and subsequently makes Holland’s teleplay and the resulting episode a very enjoyable watch. It may not have the inherent quirkiness of something like “Blood Relatives” which allows it to elevate even higher, but like ‘Kingdom Come’ it does what it does very well and runs with bigger ideas than most crime procedurals would dare touch.

There are wonderful dramas in the Seattle PD between Frank and Bletcher (Bill Smitrovich) as they somewhat butt heads over whether or not Patricia should be questioned over what she witnessed; if questioned, would it push her over the edge somewhat, and if they do so are they going to make her relive the crime in the way that this week’s antagonist, Cutter (Pablo Coffey) actually wants, a psycho-trauma he himself has repeatedly fallen into, to the point where he is inflicting a similar level of violence and damage on to other families.

Interestingly the episode keeps its antagonist at arms reach for most of the running time. We spend little bits of time with him here and there, like within the confines of his incredibly dark and disturbing apartment, to the moment where he casually preps his introductory greeting to the real estate people within the home of his next victims, but it’s the surrounding emotional chaos with which we come to see him as a real threat, and Holland’s teleplay places more of an emotional current through the people he affects, such as Patricia and the realtor from the first crime, whom he sends a chilling video of the murder to, in what is one of the more subtle moments from a show filled with crime and dread, but which terrifies because it keeps so much off camera and plays off the character’s reactions.

The inclusion of Catherine in this and ‘Blood Relatives’ has been a wonderful way to explore the deeper ramifications of the actions perpetrated by Millennium’s antagonists; ‘Blood Relatives’ saw her spend time with the relatives of the first victim, and here we get some beautiful explorations of how such crimes can impact those left behind. That she is taking care of a child makes things more emotive, and could open up the way for the episode to be somewhat manipulative in its emotions, but it amazingly manages to deal with Patricia and her plight in an intelligent way, and the emotional current is there, it just doesn’t deal with it in an obvious way.

A question mark still remains over what her fate. Frank and Catherine’s discussions over whether or not to question Patricia and whether or not she could become like Cutter when she is older are brilliantly handled and dealt with, but it never provides an easy or pat answer to its philosophical debate. All that is left is Catherine and Frank somewhat bereft as Patricia leaves the hospital to a life unknown.

It is a devastating final image in the most quiet and subtle of ways, offering very little in the way of a comforting ending, even though Cutter is caught and left in a bad way by episode’s end. No matter if a killer is caught, there is always more damage left in their wake, and with this, ‘Wide Open’ cuts deep in a very harsh way. Very underrated indeed.

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