Today we do something a little different. When we approach writers to do work for our special weeks, we want their take on a given subject – to me, that is interesting that asking writers to simply gush in some “mean”ingless (punnn!) and dishonest dedication. Our next article is by paranormal/horror writer (The Rowan Gant Investigations) MR Sellars. We approached him to do an article about Lara Means this week and to our surprise – and excitement if I was honest – it is quite the opposite of Alison Nastasi’s article on Tuesday.
We hope you enjoy Murv’s introspection into Lara Means and that it proves a talking point for yourselves – feel free to leave your comments, ideas or even counter-arguments in the blog comments. I – and I imagine Murv also – would be fascinated to see what you think of his points of view.
So without further ado, over to MR Sellars. Be warned, this is a candid opinion piece – we hope it makes you think even if you don’t necessarily agree with his analysis on Lara Means.
So, Here’s My Thing: One Author’s Profile of Lara Means
Lara Means. I absolutely hated her.
I know that sounds harsh, especially when you consider that the character was supposedly from Saint Louis, and I have lived in Saint Louis since the nineteen-cough-cough-sixties. Obviously, I should have been a cheerleader for a “home town girl” making good with the Millennium Group. But alas, I wasn’t at all. Again, harsh, but bear with me for a moment and maybe I can explain.
I suppose it’s entirely possible that I was viewing her with the jaundiced eye of an author. In fact, I’d say it’s not just possible, it was an almost certainty. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered over the years that my profession has sometimes ruined other literature and entertainment for me because I can tend to be far too analytical about it. It seems that anytime I sit down to watch something, I will seize on a moment, plot, scene, character, what-have-you, and then turn it over and over in my hands, inspecting it closely and subsequently dismantling it in order to see exactly what makes it tick, and moreover, how I would have done it were I the one doing the writing.
Case in point, Lara Means.
I immediately saw a direction she could go that wouldn’t make me particularly happy.
When first we meet Lara in the episode Monster, she is being introduced close on the heels of Frank’s separation from Catherine. Now, anyone who listens to the MGS podcast knows – and using the vernacular of today’s “Twilight Reading Tweens” – I’m a dues paying, card carrying, dyed-in-the-wool member of “Team Catherine.” At the risk of sounding overly “romantic” about the situation, the initial view I saw – as a writer – regarding Lara was that she could very easily pose a threat to Frank and Catherine’s relationship, which as we were all well aware was already on unstable ground in the first place.
I mean, let’s face it – Lara is pretty, knowledgeable, and is a forensic psychiatrist. Catherine is pretty, knowledgeable, and is a therapist. See the parallels? Then, we take an estranged Frank and place him far away from home with her. While there are personality differences that keep her from being a mirror image of his wife, she is still a seriously intense reflection of Catherine on many levels. In literary parlance – or any other for that matter – this is a setup. Also, for what it’s worth – and I personally think quite a bit – Lara is in a position to understand Frank and his situation far better than Catherine has been able to accomplish to date, no matter how hard she has tried. In fact, we later find this out from Frank’s own lips in The Fourth Horseman and The Time Is Now. In the event you don’t recall these references, Frank phones Lara for personal advice in the former, and then in the latter, literally states aloud that she is the only one who has ever understood him and his situation.
Granted, they started off on the wrong foot, having been purposely pitted against one another in a test designed by the Group, but that’s yet another literary device. Initial conflict will often give rise to romance, or even simply sexual tension. Not that sexual tension is ever really simple, mind you.
Now, I have to admit something: As season two progressed, and the friendship between Frank and Lara grew, I became less worried that they were going to introduce a new love interest for our intrepid, roving, freelance criminal profiler. Instead, I started seeing Lara as a female construct of Frank at an earlier point in his life. By that I mean the part of Frank we had only been told about, but had never seen. As in, the period of time pre-Millennium Group when he was coming into his gift, yet fearing it all the same. If you recall, in the Pilot, Frank tells Bletcher that the Millennium Group had, “helped him understand the nature of his facility.” Lara obviously did not yet understand her own, which as it turns out is colorfully illustrated in the episode Anamnesis.
Speaking of Anamnesis, this episode is one of my favorites, largely due to Catherine Black being featured prominently. However, by the same token, had the concept of Frank and Lara as an item been in the cards for those scripts, this would have presented confrontational tension between the wife and mistress. Of course, this was a non-existent thread within the episode. In fact, it was made perfectly clear that Catherine saw only the Group as “the other woman” – as she stated to Peter Watts in Monster – and while it was apparent that she held some amount of disdain for Lara Means, it was not jealousy. And, by the end, one could easily see that Catherine felt, in many ways, the same compassion for Lara she felt for Frank.
But, I digress…
Because of the development through the season, my hatred for Lara waned. I grew to like her – grudgingly – and at times, feel sorry for her just as Catherine did. And, later, as the season drew to a close, I was faced with a mix of emotions regarding her character, ranging from feelings of betrayal, to pure empathy.
In writing this particular article I once again must make an admission – my perception of Lara still wavers to this day. I say this because when I agreed to pen this analysis, one of the first things I did was park myself in my favorite rocking chair, complete with the season two DVD’s in hand, and then proceed to watch The Beginning And The End PT2, simply because it sets the tone for the season itself. That simple fact made it a moral imperative to view it first in order that I go into this project with the proper frame of mind. After that, in rapid succession, I watched every episode that featured Lara Means, reluctantly skipping those in between.
This is why my perception of the character sits on a fence. When you compress that much Lara into such a confined space, you end up seeing a fairly detailed sketch of the relationship between Frank and her, and it develops right before your eyes with nothing to distract your attention. And this brings me to the original question that was posed regarding Lara Means and this article itself.
And there, my friends, we have a bit of a quandary. Given my personal style and story preference, had I been writing the series I would have done exactly the same thing with Lara that was already done. However, if I had for some odd reason brought her into season three, I suspect it would have been in the form of a ghost. Not a white sheet wearing, ethereal, Casper clone, mind you, but a psychological ghost that haunted Frank as much as his memories of Catherine did – until, of course, he achieved closure in The Sound Of Snow.
But then… You knew there would be a “but”, right?
The “but” in this case is that in the broader analysis, I can see where Lara could have been an added obsession for Frank. He was already tightly focused on bringing down the Millennium Group, and by the same token I can imagine that he would still be seeking to rescue those he saw as friends. While his relationship with Peter Watts was no longer truly viable, his desire to rescue Lara could easily have become just as consuming as his primary obsession. And, in the hands of some writers, a deeper relationship between the two may well have formed. That’s not where I would have taken it as an author, but it is definitely a viable avenue for a dramatic work.
Of course, all of this rambling on my part simply begs a different question: Do I still hate Lara Means?
So, here’s my thing…
Besides being an avid fan of all things Millennium, M. R. Sellars is an active member of the HWA (Horror Writers Association) and author of the best selling paranormal thrillers subtitled The Rowan Gant Investigations. The series currently stands at 1 novelette and 9 novels, with the 10th to be released July 2010. He can be found at www.mrsellars.com as well as popular social networking venues on the world wide web.
Article images: Chris Nu’s Millennium