Frank Black learns about the nature of evil when he and members of the Millennium Group investigate the death of a young man who was murdered after having taken LSD.
On the outskirts of San Francisco at night, two cars race under a bridge, pumping out loud music. The cars park in a wooded area where one of several young men in the lead car leaves the vehicle, hurries to meet a shadowed figure in the distance and brings back a small packet of drugs. The middle of three passengers in the vehicle's back seat seems more nervous than the other men. Once the cars are on the move again, the young man who fetched the drugs offers one of them to the nervous passenger, Eedo, who ingests it as the passenger to his right mocks him, mimicking a dog.
The cars arrive at an abandoned industrial plant, watched from above by a man wearing night-vision goggles. All the passengers exit the vehicles and many of them taunt Eedo, barking at him as he begins to hallucinate that their heads are those of dogs. As they return to the cars, one of the men, Dylan, discreetly warns him to run, but the drugged Eedo is merely confused. The cars circle Eedo, their passengers jeering at him. Still watched through the night-vision goggles, he runs inside a building in the area, finding that rustwater is sprinkling down from a broken pipe overhead. His observer jumps down on him and attacks but, through his hallucinations, Eedo sees his attacker as a vicious, winged monster.
On a sunny day, Frank Black is installing a security light on the side of his yellow house when Jack Meredith comes by. Jack correctly ascertains that Frank's wife, Catherine, got a job she had applied for, as a clinical social worker. As the two men chat, Catherine comes out of the house to tell Frank he has a phone call. She and Jack also make brief contact.
Jordan Black is excitedly chasing her pet puppy, Benny, through the house as Frank enters. When he takes the phone call, Peter Watts tells him briefly about a complex homicide case in San Francisco. Frank suggests that Watts sends him the details but Watts requests Frank's presence. Frank agrees to go and ends the call. When Catherine asks him about it, Frank implies that he plans to head to San Francisco after wiring up the safety light. He goes back outside, leaving Catherine thoughtfully standing alone.
In San Francisco, Frank meets up with Peter Watts amid a crime scene in a roadside park. Watts informs him that ashes and a severed ear have recently been unearthed in rose beds in the park. Seeing flashes of a man being terrorized, Frank realizes that the killer not only knows the victims but also wants to watch them suffer, placing importance on burning them alive for reasons that Frank admittedly does not yet know.
That night, Catherine - in mock-sternness - brings an end to Benny licking an amused Jordan's ear with wet kisses and tucks Jordan into bed. Asking for her father, Jordan wonders if he is catching "the bad man" but her mother affectively assures her that, if there is a bad man, Frank will catch him. Catherine leaves Jordan to count herself to sleep but is spooked by the new security light being momentarily active. She jumps at the noise of the phone ringing. After she answers it to receive a call from Frank, he hears her sigh in relief. Catherine tells him why she became scared but assures him she will be fine. She asks Frank if he has caught "the bad man", to which he replies that he and his colleagues will, and she confidently adds that she already knows that. Wishing her his love, he ends the call.
Frank is in an office where Watts introduces him to another investigator, Jim Penseyres, who reveals more information about the remains - including that they are those of seven adult victims - while Frank sees two brief visions of the same victim he saw before; it is Eedo, screaming behind a vertical glass plate. Pensyres says that the tissue of the severed ear contained traces of LSD and evidence that leads him to tell the others about a block of abandoned buildings formerly owned by a dry-cleaning facility in the area.
Frank and Watts head to the buildings, the same area where Eedo was attacked. As they explore the location and Watts wonders why the victims would have been there, Frank sees momentary glimpses of Eedo's attack and suggests that the victims were possibly subdued in the area. He draws Watts' attention to a murky puddle, in and near which are human teeth.
SAN FRANCISCO HALL OF JUSTICE
Telling Frank of his findings, Watts examines the teeth, noticing that one tooth shows signs of dentistry having been conducted in Russia. Just after Watts tells Frank that Pensyres is running the evidence through dental records, Pensyers himself enters, accompanied by Mike Atkins, who both Watts and Frank are acquainted with. After explaining that he has been fishing, Atkins thanks Frank for having come on such short notice, agrees with him that the current case is remarkable and beckons Frank away.
Outside the building, they enter a small public park. Atkins confides in Frank about Polaroids that Frank recently received; the images, taken by a stalker, feature Catherine and Jordan in unwitting poses in Seattle. Frank implies that the reason he has confided exclusively in Atkins is because he enabled Frank to return to work and become a member of the Millennium Group. Atkins allays Frank's fears about the photographer and asks for Frank to stay with the current case, rather than take the easy option of returning to his family. Both men agree that the case involves an unusually strong sense of evil.
In a call center, row upon row of young men repeat the same phone introduction as each other, each introducing himself as Bob Smith and attempting to convince customers to try free hair care products. One of these men is Dylan, the same man who warned Eedo to run. After he is approached by another man - who asks in disbelief if there has been no orders written - he confirms there has been none yet. As the other man walks away, Dylan continues work, reciting the typical sales pitch.
In a car driven by Watts, Pensyres tells Frank that the dental evidence matched Eedo Bolow, who was reported missing six months ago. Frank reads from a report that the Bolow family emigrated from Chechnya in 1990 and that Eedo was guilty of petty crime.
Upon being visited by Frank and Watts, Eedo's father initially mistakes them as being from the same police department that failed to find his son in all of six months. He soon starts to talk about his son, saying that Eedo had become strongly influenced by salesmen who had worked with him. Eedo's father gives the investigators a letter that Eedo sent to his parents, six months ago.
Frank, Watts and Atkins - later joined by Pensyres - analyze the letter, finding that it contains obscure, apocalyptic text and refers to "Gehenna", which Atkins translates as being the Hebrew word for Hell. At one point, Frank sees a vision of a man covered in blood. Frank and his colleagues conclude from the letter that Eedo had become deeply affected by someone or something.
Catherine parks outside the yellow house and takes a sleeping Jordan from her car, unknowingly being watched by a mysterious observer outside. In the house, Catherine notices Benny barking at the front door and assumes he wants to go out. Moments after becoming distracted by mail on the ground, she is shocked to see a person's silhouette looming over the front door.
Catherine's silhouetted visitor is none other than Bob Bletcher, who explains that Frank called him with a request that he check on Catherine and Jordan. Catherine apologizes to Bletcher and tells him she is fine, despite admittedly having at first been scared by his unannounced arrival. Although Bletcher expects her to be busy putting Jordan to bed, she invites him inside.
They are later sitting at the kitchen table, where they discuss Frank's breakdown. The incident involved Polaroids of Catherine that severely shocked Frank, and a paralyzing understanding pertaining to the development of his facility to see what a killer sees. Although Catherine claims that Frank's work is part of who he is and likens him to the Catcher in the Rye, she also insists that she can never let him think that his family isn't perfectly safe in the yellow house, because she is certain that - if he ever thought differently - he would never be able to leave, the next time he is faced with something akin to his breakdown.
At the abandoned industrial plant, young men exit two cars and mingle, taunting Dylan. Like Eedo before him, Dylan is watched by the observer wearing night-vision goggles and rushes into one of the buildings. However, he runs straight into Frank Black, who assures him he is safe.
Watts and Pensyres are questioning Dylan while Atkins watches from an anteroom through a one-way mirror. Frank enters the anteroom and Atkins informs him that Dylan has been unforthcoming with information, repeatedly having given his name as Bob Smith. Frank explains that the reason he himself had returned to the abandoned industrial plant was because he had wanted to satisfy a curiosity about what had happened there. When Frank begins to voice an understanding of what Dylan is afraid of, Atkins advises Frank to speak with Dylan.
In the questioning room, Frank talks with Dylan alone and relates to Dylan's monstrous visions of a beast. Frank sees visions himself - of a man covered in blood and Eedo's torture - while he continues to quiz Dylan, who says that the beast reduces everyone to the numbers related to each person. Dylan obscurely claims that the beast wants obedience and control, in return for a share of power when the apocalypse comes. According to Dylan, the beast killed Eedo because he had lost his discipline, just like the previous victims and Dylan himself. He says that no-one can be saved from the beast and then starts to shake violently, his blood ceasing to circulate. Frank takes a moment to realize what is happening to Dylan but then becomes desperate to save him, pumping on his heart even after Watts realizes that Dylan is dead.
In the park outside the San Francisco Hall of Justice, Atkins advises Frank to go home and rest. Frank insists that Dylan died of fear of something inescapable, although the official cause of death is and will remain a mystery due to the excess of LSD in Dylan's body. Frank also claims he himself saw the face of the beast when he first arrived in San Francisco but Atkins argues that, in his own experience, the face of evil has always been a human's face.
Having later returned to the yellow house, Frank adjusts the safety light and is again approached by a curious Jack Meredith. Frank tells Jack only the bare minimum about his work but does say, of the problem he was most recently working on, that he neither managed to solve nor understand it.
Frank later ponders over the nature of evil, consulting first a Bible then Catherine. Essentially, he considers whether the devil exists. When Frank wonders what he should tell Jordan, Catherine suggests that he simply tell their daughter "goodnight."
In Jordan's bedroom, he finds his daughter asleep already but disheveled, so he tucks her into bed.
Frank is later researching the word "Gehenna", in his downstairs office, when he answers a call from Mike Atkins, who has recently learned that Dylan had some involvement with a murderous cult leader with international connections and the motive of trying to cause Armageddon. Frank recalls that the cult leader was rumored to have disposed of his victims in an industrial-scale microwave, explaining the glass plate in some of Frank's recent visions, of which he witnesses more. He learns of a chemical company called Gehenna, which has a plant in San Francisco. Frank relays this news to Atkins, who immediately leaves his own office. After finding that Atkins has already left, Frank starts to panic, telling Catherine - as she lies in bed - that he has a very ominous feeling.
Meanwhile, Atkins explores the Gehenna plant in San Francisco, finding the formerly bustling call center, now empty and darkened. Through a camera in the room, the observer watches Atkins, who subsequently finds a stash of weapons. As a group of cars speed through the night, Atkins discovers the industrial-sized microwave and walks inside, allowing the observing cult leader to lock the door on him. He falls to the ground, just as the other investigators, led by Watts and Pensyres, hurry to his location.
Later at the San Francisco Police Department facility, Frank watches a televised news report about the capture of the cult leader, Ricardo Clement. Frank witnesses Watts lose his temper with the mass murderer and, seeing more brief visions, he tells Watts that he recognizes the prisoner, before leaving.
Frank is later in a hospital room where Atkins is recovering. Pensyres brings Catherine to the room. While both later stand together in a corridor, she assures Frank that he did good and caught "the bad man." He is unsure, however, about whether "the bad man" can actually be caught.
- As is established in this episode, Gehenna is the Hebrew word for Hell. Writer Chris Carter felt that the term was "an interesting word that had some type of strange, mysterious, historical significance." (Millennium UK Video Boxset (Pilot and Gehenna) Documentary)
- This is the first of many Millennium episodes that start with a quote.
- The shot of Frank Black tucking Jordan into bed was used to introduce Lance Henriksen in the main title sequence of each episode.
- David Nutter directed this episode, having directed the series' pilot episode. He was aware that, as is often the case for a director of a pilot who then continues by directing the following episode, there was a chance that he would be slightly let down by the fact that there were less time, less resources to create a great episode and the possibility that the follow-up episode would have a weaker story. He was, however, impressed by the intricacies of both the story and the relationships between the characters in this episode but found that it challenged him to bring the story to the screen.
Story & Script
- Since this episode would be used as an outline for subsequent episodes and the writers wanted the series to not only have a serial-killer-of-the-week format but also develop a sense of mythology - similar to how The X-Files had its own Mythology - this episode was seen as an opportunity to extend and enlarge the base upon which the Millennium Group had been introduced, in respect to the people that Frank Black would be able to connect with.
- Like many members of the Millennium Group, Jim Penseyres and Mike Atkins were based upon a group of former FBI agents from Washington, many of whom were very experienced, extremely serious and intense conversationalists.
- While the investigators are analyzing the letter that Eedo sent his parents, Mike Atkins states - in reference to a number in the letter - that there is a deliberately erroneous architectural anomaly in the Great Pyramid in Giza and that some prophets have claimed it sets the date of the apocalypse as 1998. This was the topic of one of several instances when David Nutter asked Chris Carter where he got such in-depth information but Carter merely looked at the director with a smirk, without divulging his source of information.
- In this episode, cult leader Ricardo Clement is established as being suspected of having been responsible for a gas attack on the subway in Japan. This attack actually took place in reality and was committed by a murderous cult that loosely provided the basis for the cult in this episode.
- Chris Carter also based the cult's motives on greed and evil, influenced by technological means - such as phrases that appear on a screen in the call center. He explains, "I came up with this idea to have these boys, these telemarketers who were driven by greed, to have them motivated by these words that flash up on this screen. There were many different sins expressed up on that screen. The idea that evil could be carried out over the telephone is also a very scary idea and one that I think is all too real and common these days. People can reach right into your homes in so many ways now, by fax, over the telephone, through your computer and I think this is one of the ways that we're scared, these days. This is something I was trying to communicate." (Millennium UK Video Boxset (Pilot and Gehenna) Documentary)
- The plot thread involving the Polaroids, harkening back to the pilot episode, was included in this episode because, as is usual in the first episode following a pilot, there was a need to clarify some story points from the pilot and explain some issues that had been left unexplained but needed to be enhanced or further discussed, so that the series' audience had a better idea of the story and where its character arcs were heading.
- As was often the case with the writing of Millennium, attempts were made to provide Megan Gallagher with opportunities to demonstrate her acting capabilities, such as the scene wherein Catherine Black talks with Bletcher about how she dealt with the Polaroids that were involved in Frank's breakdown.
- Because David Nutter repeatedly insisted that actor Bob Wilde be cast in the role of Ricardo Clement for this episode, Chris Carter actually took the extremely rare step of typing the actor's name into the script, on a page that detailed this episode's penultimate scene, wherein Frank encounters the cult leader. Carter did this by constantly, directly referring to the cult leader as Bob Wilde.
- The teleplay of this episode was later novelized by writer Lewis Gannett and was released as the second of only two books in an aborted series of Millennium novelizations.
Cast and Characters
- The young male actors who play the cult members in this episode were found in Vancouver. Their hair was cut short and restyled into a sensibility of tone that was almost Eastern German.
- David Nutter was pleased to witness an economy of performance delivered by Pensyres actor Chris Ellis, in regard to his interactions with Lance Henriksen. Nutter recalls, "It was great kinda watching and seeing how Chris had, with respect to their dialogue with each other, not a wasted word." ("Gehenna" audio commentary)
- Mr. Bolow was played by George Josef, a renowned stuntman who rarely acted. When Josef came into read for the role, David Nutter was impressed with his performance and thought that Josef could make the character as real as possible.
- For the scene wherein Catherine takes a sleeping Jordan out of her own car, the crew ran out of time to use Brittany Tiplady on the day they were filming and instead had to use a double, as the period in which film crews are allowed to work with young performers is usually very limited. As a result, Jordan's face is not shown in the scene.
- In searching for actors to fill the roles of not only Watts and Bletcher but also Atkins and Pensyres, it was important to the crew that they find actors who worked alongside Lance Henriksen and were performers who both Nutter and Henriksen considered to be the latter's equal, in terms of the quality of their performances.
- David Nutter's insistence that Bob Wilde be cast as Ricardo Clement was due to Nutter's belief that Wilde would be someone the audience could believe would scare Frank Black, purely by looking at Frank. The actor thought the fact that his own name had been typed into a page of the script was very special and David Nutter, who had never seen an actor's name written into a script in such a way, repeatedly advised Wilde to frame the page.
- Chris Ellis (Jim Penseyres) previously played Sheriff Lance Hindt in The X-Files episode "Quagmire".
- Since the residence that had been used for the yellow house in Millennium's pilot episode could not be reused, the crew were tasked with searching for another filming location to use as the yellow house in this episode. This proved to be a difficult trek, since the yellow house in the story is imbued with so much symbolism and would continue to feature heavily in the series. After they decided upon a building that had previously been used in "Deep Throat" - the first regular episode of The X-Files after its own pilot - the crew also had to paint the house yellow.
- The abandoned industrial plant in this episode was actually filmed at the Britannia shipping yards in Vancouver. The location was repeatedly used throughout the course of many years but was no longer in existence by 2004. The crew found that they were hardly required to change the set at all, except for spraying it down and adding a rain effect for the dripping water.
- Gehenna headquarters, including its call center, was another location found in Vancouver. The crew found that they did not have to do a lot of work to the location, besides adding some extra boxes and other minute details.
- Although this episode was filmed in Seattle, the crew were required to make it look like San Francisco. One way in which they did this was by stamping a landmark building from San Francisco into the skyline, such as when the skyline appears at the very start of the teaser and at the beginning of the scene where Frank meets Watts in a rose garden.
- The lab at the San Francisco Hall of Justice was a set that the crew built and was one of many floating sets used for Millennium, sets that were so frequently used due to Frank's travels to different cities. Likewise, both the location used for the scene wherein Frank and Watts visit the Bolow residence, and the questioning room with its adjacent anteroom were also sets. In fact, the area used as the interrogation room was actually a very small room on stage.
- The same location was used as the park outside the San Francisco Hall of Justice, when the park appears both in Act Three and at the start of Act Four as, typically, the crew had insufficient time to find a different location for every scene.
- Jordan's bedroom and Frank's basement office are two examples of sets that had to be rebuilt for this episode and the series of Millennium in general, following its pilot.
- This episode was produced at a time when the general public had not viewed the pilot episode, since it had not had its first airing yet. The crew were consequently unsure of whether they were doing the right thing.
- Having worked on the pilot, director David Nutter found it fascinatingly easy to find and form an extremely competent production crew that would work first on this episode and then remain for subsequent episodes. Despite this, he was unfamiliar with the crew as they ultimately formed for this episode, so he developed a shorthand.
- Despite the newness of much of the crew, editor Stephen Mark remained with the series on this episode, having worked on the pilot. David Nutter's relationship with him was very respectful and trustful.
- This episode was the first of sixty-five Millennium episodes that Director of Photography Robert McLachlan worked on. David Nutter found that McLachlan was excellent at being able to establish a look in this episode that gave Millennium its own visual signature.
- McLachlan put together a second-unit crew that filmed not only close-ups that would later be inserted into the episode (of such things as the computer monitor in Frank's basement office) but also spearheaded the filming of Frank's visions.
- As this is the first episode of the series following its pilot, David Nutter was faced with trying to establish the same tone, look, sensibility and sense of richness of the pilot episode but with half the time and a third of the money, especially since this episode was filmed extensively on nights.
- A flash-cut sequence is used in this episode's teaser, to represent a drugged Eedo seeing his attacker as a monstrous beast. The same effect had been used by David Nutter before, for a low-budget movie called Trancers wherein a creature similarly jumps straight down on a man.
- The scene in which Frank and Atkins discuss the Polaroids sent to Frank is one of many wherein David Nutter tried to film the close-ups as stacked as much as possible, with the actors' eyelines as close as possible to the lens; his intention with these scenes was to create a sense that the camera was part of the action and involved in the story - capturing the feelings and sensibilities of the characters' experiences - rather than merely recording the events and observing the goings-on from more of an uninvolved distance.
- The scene in which Frank and Watts visit the Bolow residence was filmed on a day when David Nutter's wife was in her birthplace of Austria and had to have minor back surgery, so - although he was trying to concentrate on filming the scene - he was meanwhile worrying about his wife and checking on her condition by making calls to Austria.
- At one point during the production of the scene wherein Frank and Dylan talk, David Nutter - who admittedly doesn't like to get angry or lose his temper - blew everybody else out of the small room they were filming in and told them to shut up because it was otherwise too loud.
- The scenes set at the Gehenna headquarters were filmed while the crew did not have much time but David Nutter was intent on creating something interesting.
- When Atkins enters the call center, he is carrying a xenon flashlight. David Nutter had introduced such lights to The X-Files, having been introduced to it himself while working on the pilot episode of the 1990s television series M.A.N.T.I.S..
- The source music used in this episode is comprised solely of songs by Cypress Hill. These are "Insane in the Brain", "I Wanna Get High" and "Hits from the Bong". All three songs are played by the young cult members. The first two songs are used during the teaser and the third can be heard during the scene in which the young men taunt Dylan.
- Lance Henriksen as Frank Black
- Megan Gallagher as Catherine Black
- Terry O'Quinn as Peter Watts
- Brittany Tiplady as Jordan Black
- Bill Smitrovich as Lieutenant Bob Bletcher
- Don MacKay as Jack Meredith
- George Josef as Mr. Bolow
- Stephen Holmes as Eedo Bolow
- Chris Bradford as Driver
- Henry Watson as Detective
- Don McWilliams as Park Guy