Second Sight: “Force Majeure”


“Force Majeure” (7 February 1997)

Writer: Chip Johannessen
Director:
Winrich Kolbe
Editor: G. Richard Potter

Quote: “You’re the one who knew where she’d be… [You’re] one of them.” –Lillian Mather singles out Frank Black


Overview:
Revisiting “Force Majeure” so soon after the Tōhoku megathrust earthquake that recently devastated Japan lends this strange episode’s apocalyptic paranoia extra edge, even if we have to chuckle at any reference to the supposed worldwide cataclysm of May 5, 2000. Indeed, this is a somewhat jarring installment of Millennium, and not simply because the human tendency to seek out connections prompts each viewer to think of the myriad natural disasters in recent memory that might be reconsidered as “Earth Changes.” Amid the grim murder investigations of the show’s first season, Chip Johannessen’s bizarre tale of cloning and astronomical obsession sticks out as awkwardly as guest star Brad Dourif’s Dennis Hoffman might at a New Year’s Eve party. Yes, “Force Majeure” signals that change is in the wind. In subsequent episodes Millennium would begin to transform, rapidly expanding its thematic scope and sometimes reinventing its approach to televisual storytelling.

As the series begins to change, so too does our understanding of Frank Black’s visionary talents. A simple glance above at our usual graphic collage, made-up of screen grabs from this episode’s visions, suggests that our hero’s inner eye has been opened wider, so to speak. In “Force Majeure,” Frank’s flashes of insight feature the sort of imaginings we might expect from an astronomer or astrophysicist, not a forensic profiler. Serial killers and their vivisected victims have been swapped out for burning, fast-moving images of celestial bodies juxtaposed with microscopic examinations of a woman’s ova. Outer space and inner space collide before our eyes. The show’s perceptual canvas could not have possibly been expanded more dramatically. As these visions are paired with the rantings of Dennis Hoffman, we’re prompted once more to question whether or not there is prophecy in what Frank Black sees. It seems well-timed that Peter Watts, in the midst of pursuing a very grounded investigation into these almost Fortean events, should joke that he doesn’t believe in telepathy. Frank is now seeing patterns on an unimaginably grand scale and this surprising imagery suggests either an escalating shift in his understanding of the world or that there is some hint of omniscience in his astonishing gift.

Connections: In addition to the books of Genesis and Exodus, Dennis Hoffman cites the writings of Nostradamus, the sixteenth-century apothecary now famous for his apocalyptic prophecies. References to Nostradamus can also be found in “Pilot,” in which the Frenchman first suggested that Frank Black’s visions showed him glimpses of some future cataclysm.

Trances in Total: 2 (0:03)

Gore Score: 1/10

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