Episode: “Gehenna” (1 November 1996)
Writer: Chris Carter
Director: David Nutter
Quote: “Something happened down in San Francisco.” –Frank Black
“Anything you want to talk about?” –Catherine Black
“I’m just confused about something I thought I understood about evil. What it is, exactly.” –Frank Black
“You mean, what causes it?” –Catherine Black
“It seems that the old biblical concept of the devil’s influence has lost any currency.” –Frank Black
“I just think the language has changed. I think science and psychology have given us a clearer idea of why people commit evil acts. I see it every day – abused kids become abusive adults.” –Catherine Black
“So the true source of evil is us.” –Frank Black
“You mean, are we all capable of it?” –Catherine Black
“Or is there something out there – a force or a presence – waiting until it can create another murder, another rape, another holocaust.” –Frank Black
“I think it’s something that everyone who looks deeply at life wonders.” –Catherine Black
“What would you tell a child? What would I tell Jordan?” –Frank Black
“Maybe you should just tell her goodnight.” –Catherine Black
Profile: Ricardo Clement is perhaps even more of a mystery at the end of his encounter with Frank Black than he at first appeared. What we do learn of him for sure, however, is his position as a sinister cult leader with a deadly agenda.
The cult leader tends towards a dictatorial regime, controlling his subjects through manipulation and often by preying on the weak. It is for this reason that former member become victim Eedo writes to his family with such genuine conviction about the beliefs of the cult to which he has fallen victim. We see evidence of this manipulation from Clement as he brainwashes his telemarketers with a series of slogans continually projected onto their gloomy office wall.
A cult leader’s inflated ego nearly always co-exists alongside a flagrant disregard for his subjects couched behind a veneer of charm and guile. This psychopathology is theorised to often stem from deep rooted feelings of anger such that other people become objectified to the extent that the cult leader experiences no feelings of guilt over their fates. This theory of suppressed rage may also explain Clement’s incredibly sadistic means of dispatching his victims; as Frank notes, he wants to watch them suffer and specifically wishes to see them burn alive. This is perhaps another thematic link to Gehenna since followers of Moloch, one of the false gods worshipped at the original site as referenced in the Hebrew Bible, used to sacrifice their children by fire. Furthermore Clement is another example of a highly organised killer, having his victims lured into his clutches whilst he looks on with night vision goggles before murdering them and disposing of their remains in a very specific and carefully orchestrated fashion.
Furthermore, the cult behind Gehenna International would be classified as a “destructive cult” in that it knowingly inflicts emotional and physical harm upon its own members, in this instance in a particularly violent fashion. It is a term sometimes extended in this new millennium to also include certain terrorist groups. Whilst the reference during the investigation by Mike Atkins to sarin attacks in Japan directly links to Aum Shinrikyo, practices of harm towards its own members are perhaps better exemplified by the history of the Branch Davidians. The belief in end of the world prophecies is common to both and another well-known attribute of such cults, exemplified here by Gehenna International’s ultimate design.
There is one further theme explored in this episode that is particularly pertinent to this column: that of the very source of evil itself. Brian A. Dixon recently discussed the introduction of the notion of Legion in his consideration of this episode in his Second Sight column, whilst the age old argument of nature or nurture was a point of discussion in the comments prompted by the very first edition of this column, witnessing the “birth” of a serial killer in “Broken World”. The brief representations of Clement as a demon and his eerie and knowing glares towards Frank even when he is hidden via one-way glass hint at the manifestation of some deeper evil power at work, a possibility Frank speaks of in the conversation with Catherine quoted at the top of this column. Catherine’s view is one more rooted in the developing field of psychology alongside science to explain such actions, whilst acknowledging that the debate on the subject continues. It is of course a dichotomy so superbly dramatised throughout Millennium and here personified in the enigma that is Ricardo Clement.
Investigation: The investigation into Ricardo Clement and Gehenna International begins when quantities of ash dumped in the rose beds at a San Francisco public park are found to contain a human ear and then on further examination revealed to contain the remains of at least seven people. Traces of the gas phosgene lead to an abandoned dry-cleaning facility that suffered an accident some years previously, and a tooth found at this scene linking to a missing Russian first makes the connection to the cult via a letter sent by the missing man to his family six months previously.
Frank makes the connection to Gehenna International after consulting The Bible (and not for the last time in his work connected to The Millennium Group) back at home in Seattle. Sharing this with his mentor Mike Atkins, Frank unwittingly leads him into danger when Atkins decides to follow up this potential lead by investigating their facility alone. He barely escapes with his life but Frank’s hunch is proven correct, the cult is revealed and its leader, Ricardo Clement, is finally brought into custody.