Killer: Moses Gourevitch (Andreas Katsulas)
Episode: “Forcing the End” (19 March 1999)
Writer: Marjorie David
Director: Thomas J. Wright
Quote: “We’re trying to prevent an apocalypse, not start one. That’s what Gourevitch intends. It’s called “forcing the end”. Jewish groups believe that if they rebuild the temple, the Messiah will come. Christian groups believe it’s the Antichrist but that Christ will come to refute him.” –Peter Watts
Profile: The religious fundamentalist is a very particular kind of monster, one which we are sadly much more aware of on this side of the millennium than beforehand, when this episode was broadcast. The Jewish fundamentalist movement as represented by Moses Gourevitch is, however, one of which we hear comparatively little. Nevertheless it does have a basis in fact.
The Book of Ezekiel describes a future Jewish temple—the Third Temple—on Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the most sacred site in Judaism. There is division in the faith as to how this temple can be established, however, with some claiming that anyone can construct the Third Temple but others believing that only the Messiah can do so. Any attempt by mankind to bring about the coming of the Messiah—as Moses Gourevitch and his followers seek to do in their kidnap of the heavily pregnant Jeanie Bronstein—is known in the faith as the titular “forcing the end”. Nevertheless, fundamentalist groups exist to this day that seek this very end, such as the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement and the Temple Institute.
There are certain associations that are sometimes made to hyperreligiosity as it relates to criminal behaviour, such as a tendency towards schizophrenia as a root cause of a peculiarity in thinking. As previously established in this column, however, it is important to highlight that the schizophrenic is if anything less likely to commit violent crime than the wider population. Moreover, some violent sects and various extremist religious doctrines misinterpret their parent religions to proscribe criminal behaviour—including murder—or incline their members towards such behaviour through their fervent devotion itself.
This last circumstance seems to best fit to Gourevitch’s behaviour. Further to this generic context, his actions also reveal much of his own psychological profile. He self-mutilates himself at the turn of the New Year in 1999, replacing his own fingerprints with artificial skin, clearly indicating a desire to evade capture at some point in the near future. Added to this, he arranges for Jeanie Bronstein’s kidnap, performs an elaborate ceremony at her baby’s birth and then steals the child in order to raise him as the Messiah, with unlikely necessity that his body can never touch the earth. And he goes on to command his acolytes to stone to death Rachel Levinson—formerly one of their own—for her suspected betrayal by helping Jeanie to escape and thereafter seeking to reveal all to the FBI. All of these actions represent organised preplanning and a devotion to his extremist religious beliefs that cause him to forgo the moralities that are more core to that self same belief system. His final act sees that commitment to his cause lead him to pay the ultimate price—his own life—to save that of the would-be Messianic child, even as his cause proves to be in vain.
Investigation: Frank Black and Emma Hollis are both assigned to the case of Jeanie’s disappearance, and soon identify Rachel Levinson’s recent behaviour as a potential lead. The ouroboros-laden iconography on pottery found at her home ties her to the Third Temple believers.
A complication to the case comes in the presence of Peter Watts, representing the Millennium Group’s interests. Hollis is immediately suspicious as to the Group’s potential involvement in the kidnapping, but Frank cautions her against leaping to this conclusion and Watts goes on to confirm that their intentions are purer in this instance. Their next breakthrough comes when Frank links the Bronstein’s family names to the Judaist priesthood, but sadly this comes too late to save Rachel Levinson from her fate.
Eventually the investigation traces a hot spring beneath Brooklyn and a team storms a Russian bathhouse that accesses it. Hollis finds the baby there but Gourevitch wrests him from her at gunpoint. She pursues Gourevitch to the roof of the building where he attempts to flee with the child by helicopter, but ultimately falls to his death having handed over the infant to Hollis in his moment of self-sacrifice. In a symbolic act that negates his would-be fate Hollis smears mud on the infant’s cheek, thus saving the baby from further harm at the hands of the cult.