Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dean Winters happens to be one of my favorite actors. I first saw him on the HBO prison drama Oz. But he made one of my all-time favorite TV series, in one of my all-time favorite episodes............................

The episode was "The Curse of Frank Black", the sixth episode of the second season of Millennium. This Halloween-themed episode, written by showrunners Glen Morgan and James Wong, aired on October 31, 1997.

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The series is about Frank Black, a former FBI agent who has a psychic gift that allows him to see flashing images of what the killer saw. He had a massive nervous breakdown some years ago and left the bureau. He and his social worker wife, Catherine, have since had a little girl, Jordan, and moved to Seattle. Frank now acts as a consultant with various law enforcement agencies. A group of former FBI agents, convinced society is getting too sick to survive, have banded together as The Millennium Group to both try to hold back the onrush of evil as well as keep together a remnant of society during what they believe will be a worldwide disaster when the new millennium begins. Frank joins The Millennium Group. Although he doesn't share their Christian end-times philosophy, he increasingly comes to believe that some evil force -- a demonic force -- is stalking him.

The set-up: Serial killer Lucy Butler murdered Frank's friend, Seattle Police Detective Bob Bletcher, late in season one -- hanging his corpse from a nail in Frank's basement. Butler escape. Frank's wife was then kidnapped by a serial killer and his assistant (really, the man controlling him) at the end of season one. Frank tracked the killer down and killed him at the start of season two. It was ruled self-defense, but Catherine and Frank have separated. Catherine is living with her mother in Seattle, while Frank has taken up residence in a rented home -- leaving "The Yellow House" (their dream home) empty.

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On Halloween, Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) is carving a jack-o'-lantern while preparing to take his daughter Jordan (Brittany Tiplady) trick-or-treating. The candle he uses cost $2.68. The matches he uses come from the 268 Club. Seeing a note to himself ("Jordan - trick or treating - 6 to 8 pm") Frank blows out the candle, and leaves. But the candle flickers back to life...

As they trick-or-treat, Jordan (who shares a little of Frank's psychic powers) becomes frightened of a house (number 268), telling Frank it is haunted. Frank momentarily sees a demon sitting in an upstairs window. But he blinks..... and it is gone. Frank remembers an incident from his childhood, back in 1946 when he was five years old. His older friends dare him to knock the door of a man named Crocell (Dean Winters), a World War II vet who is allegedly a pedophile and insane. When the frightened Frank knocks and asks for a trick-or-treat, Crocell pulls him inside and says, "Give me a trick, I'll find a treat for you." Crocell explains that Halloween is the one night of the year when ghosts walk among the living. Trick-or-treating is supposed to remind us of these ghosts. Crocell, overcome with survivor's guilt, wants to speak with the friends he lost in the war. But little Frank avers that "there's no such thing as ghosts."

Flash-forward to the present: Frank has dropped Jordan off at her mother's, and is headed home. The mileage on his SUV reads "268000". Suddenly, Frank's portable CD player starts blinking "268" and will only play "Little Demon" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Finally, the car breaks down.

Frank walks along the lonely, foggy street, seeking help. He passes two 'tween boy s out trick-or-treating -- one is dressed as a football player with the number 26 on his back, the other dressed as hockey player with the number 8 on his back. They pass by Frank without acknowledging his pleas for help. Frank sees some kids egging a house and rushes to stop them. They leave behind a half-empty carton of eggs. Frank realizes he's in front of the Yellow House. He goes inside to phone for help, and overhears some teenagers gathered in the basement. The boys are trying to scare the girls, and one tells the story of Bletcher's murder. Black scares the youths off, then sits in his basement and wishes Bob were still alive. In a flashback, a teenaged Frank watches the police leave the Crocell house with a body. The other boys make up extreme stories about how Crocell died, but Frank's psychic gift tells him that Crocell committed suicide.

Back in the present, Frank leaves the Yellow House. Angry at how his life is turning out, he picks up the egg carton discarded by the teenagers and throws the remaining eggs at the house's windows. One egg hits the main window, leaving behind an eerie, demonic image in the yolk...

Frank gets back in his SUV, and discovers it now works just fine. He drives home, where heleafs through the day's mail. Every piece of mail comes from an organization with the acronym "ACTS", and every one has the numbers "268" somehow in the address or on the envelope. Frank also notices that the candle in the jack-o-lantern never went out, and now it has completely melted and run out through the mouth of the pumpkin like blood.

Frank turns on the TV, and watches some news. The sports scores all involve the numbers "268" and every team or league has the letters "ACTS" in them. Suspicioius, Frank turns off the TV. It turns on again -- showing a laughing devil puppet from the 1933 film The Mascot (aka The Devil's Ball). Frank turns the TV off, and it turns on again. He has to remove the remote control's batteries to stop the television from turning on again.

The doorbell rings. Frank forgot to turn off the house's burglar alarm, and the security company -- Allied Central Total Security -- is investigating. Frank assures the men that he's fine. As they leave, he notices that their license plate reads "ACTS 268".

Something is very wrong.... Frank looks up a Bible verse: Acts 26:8. It reads, "Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?"

Frank scoffs, and goes to bed. As he sleeps, a thunderstorm passes by. His alarm clocks blinks "268".

Frank wakes, and hears something moving in his attic. Going up there, he sees Crocell's ghost sitting at one end of the empty space, dressed as he was in 1946, smoking a cigarette. Crocell says he's been "sent back" to warn Frank to stop his work with The Millennium Group, or else something so evil and so vicious will come after him, his wife, and his child that he will wish he had never been born. Crocell warns Frank that what lies ahead is loneliness and suicide; he himself threw dog shit at his own house. He warns Frank to mind his own business.

Frank turns away, as if to go back downstairs. Then he looks back, adn begins to ask Crocell a question. But the ghost is gone. Only the smoke from the cigarette is still in the air.

The following day, Black returns to the Yellow House with a bucket, soap, and sponge. He turns on an outdoor faucet, and cleans up the eggs he had thrown at his own house. He sees the demonic image in the egg yolk, but does not pause as he lavishes soap on the glass. As he wipes down the window, he glimpses a demon inside the house. The soap drips over the image. He pauses, and continues wiping. The figure is gone. Frank continues his work: He won't mind his own business.

Winters' few minutes of screen time is ASTONISHINGLY GOOD. His monologue in the attic is nothing short of outstanding. SUPERB. WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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