The Curse of Frank Black: Ghosts and Personal Demons

“The Curse of Frank Black” (31 October 1997)

Writer: Glen Morgan & James Wong

Director: Ralph Hemecker

Halloween is believed to have been started by the ancient druids, who believed that on this evening, Saman, the Lord of the Dead, summoned evil spirits.  For the Celts it was the last evening of the year and an especially propitious time for examining portents of the future.  And the devils and witches were free to roam the earth.  And on this night the spirits of the dead returned to visit past family and acquaintances from this life.  So, kid, for your trick, I want you to tell me: is it true?  Is it possible that the dead can return?” –Mr. Crocell

The Curse of Frank Black” is a unique production in the annals of Millennium, following the haunted, lonely figure of Frank on a bleak, storm-laden Halloween night.  His only solace—the only moments during the episode in which he smiles—stems from the trappings of the season when he has two hours with spend with Jordan trick-or-treating.  Even then, however, a demon seems to follow him wherever he goes, waiting in the shadows.  A cascade of alphanumerical coincidences leads him to a passage in the Bible that references the raising of the dead, whilst flashbacks to his previously unseen childhood foreshadow an encounter with the complicated character of Mr. Crocell, potentially an agent of the Devil seeking to tempt Frank to give up his struggle.

Here’s the deal, kid.  Give up the fight.  Sit it out.  Forget about this Millennium Group. Go back to your wife and to your daughter and to your puppy and to your yellow house and just live out a nice, happy, normal life and there’s going to be a place for all three of you afterwards…  So what I’m asking of you is really simple: sit back and do nothing.” –Mr. Crocell

The offer made by Crocell’s apparition to Frank is something of a recurring theme in Millennium.  Recognising the significance of Frank’s gift and his ability to tip the balance for good, the unseen forces of evil seem to offer him a way out from peering into the heart of darkness and to a happier, more self-fulfilled life.  This is not some hackneyed attempt to turn Frank to any “dark side” but rather to have him “sit back and hope for a happy ending.”  Perhaps the demons are real, perhaps this is an honest exploration of the doubts that must weigh heavily on Frank Black given all that he has sacrificed and lost.  Such sequences are the embodiment of the saying—attributed, although perhaps wrongly, to Edmund Burke— that, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  This is arguably a central concern for the series, exemplifying two types of evil—overt and indifferent—and thus presenting the personal challenge to each of us to truly act as a force for good.

The house is often portrayed in fiction or drama as a metaphor for the mind, and as is well documented this would certainly seem to be true of the Blacks’ yellow house in general.  Its relevance in “The Curse of Frank Black” is not to be underestimated.  Both Frank and Catherine have deserted their refuge from the darkness in the world, and it is a picture of neglect.  It is in disarray, unkempt and insecure to the extent that a few libidinous teenagers eager to tell ghost stories to one another have been able to break in and take up residence in the basement, the same dark basement within which Frank kept the darkness of his work for the Group and from which Bob Bletcher’s brutal murder still haunts him.  Frank’s own frustrations boil over such that, stranded outside on Halloween night, he follows the lead of two passing children and hurls a couple of eggs at his former home.  He is shortly thereafter haunted by images of when he, Catherine and Jordan first moved in, the family bliss a polar opposite to his act of desecration.  It is an act of self-loathing.

Crucially, though, Frank’s encounter with Crocell later that night leads him to a turning point.  In the light of day, he revisits the yellow house and washes the remnants of the eggs off the windows, seeking to begin the renewal of this symbol of his hopefulness.  As he does so the devil that lurks inside, still taunting him, disappears from view.  Frank Black has passed another test and emerges from his crisis of self-doubt with a new resolve, even as it curses him to a yet unhappier future.


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