I mentioned in my last post that the first two standout episodes of Millenium I had chosen to review, I had a personal connection with. "The Wild and the Innocent" is another very well written and acted episode of this greatly underrated series.
The connection - I'll start with Charlie Starkweather. Caril Ann Fugate was a 14 year old girl in 1958, who's 19 year old boyfriend, Charlie Starkweather, murdered her family and then took her and set off on a midwest killing spree. To this day, there are many unanswered questions about both of these kids. That's what they were, kids. My Mother's cousin lived the next farm over from Caril Ann Fugate. I've always been fascinated with the story, and have seen "Badlands" and "Murder in the Heartland" several times. I've never seen any of the Starkweather related films with my film loving Mother however, as it was just too close to home for her. She talked to me about how much the story bothered her, and how she followed the story when it happen so closely because she knew some of the people involved. I kept thinking about all of this as I watched "The Wild and the Innocent".
The truly great thing about this episode of Millennium is the choice to lay out the narrative in an epistolary style. Maddie Haskell is a troubled young girl living in an abusive household. Maddie's letters to the innocent in this episode, her "Angel", are the framework for an analysis of what makes disenfranchised kids do the bad things they do. Maddie's Mother has been murdered by her abusive Stepfather, and Maddie and her very wild boyfriend Bobby are forced to deal with him.
"Hell Maddie, what did you think he was coming up here to do, read you Winnie the Pooh?..." No, Maddie's Stepdad was not going to read her Winnie the Pooh, and in fact gets knocked out and placed in a car trunk by Bobby. Bobby is the catalyst for Maddie's reluctant search for answers to why bad things happen to good people. The sad part is that, when your choices dwindle, you often have to make hard choice from bad ones. The least bad. Once Maddie chooses her path, her options dwindle even further. She decides to find her Angel, the one good thing she has in life, and this where she and Frank Black will cross paths.
As soon as Frank sets his hands on the pages of Maddie's inner dialogue, well...There aren't many actors that can convey deep emotion with just a look, no dialogue. Mr. Henrikson is one of them. Frank finds Maddies personal missives, and the sequence where he reads them is handled perfectly. It's impressive acting, and I was completely knocked out.
There is that, and there is the scene where Frank Black confront's Maddie's abusive Stepdad. The abuser is complaining of his treatment at the hands of the kids, and says "I want to help you, I really do, they beat me and left me in the truck. If it wasn't for that air pocket, I'd be dead. You ever think of that?" Frank levels that steely gaze at him and says "Yeah, but not the way you do". The look speaks volumes with that one line. Frank has to do his job for this girl, and no one will ultimately get in his way.
There is an incredible script here. Maddie's words, how she talks about her mother and her child, that's the true innocence that makes this episode so very poignant. She talks about Faith, using the words of her pastor. "Though none of us saw the miracle in the Lord's Tomb that day, All's you have to do is believe in it hard enough and it would come true. That's what faith was. We can't be weak, we can't dismiss the miracle, You have to be strong enough to make mysteries real." Frank Black knows about Faith. It's obvious that Frank feels for her, and this is brought home when Maddie and Bobby's story comes to it's inevitable violent end. I was pleased that she made the right choice, the best choice from her very limited options and that Frank appreciates that about her as well.
"You saved me that day, only man in my life that ever did anything nice for me." This is what Maddie tells Frank in the final scene. Frank visits Maddie, and again, Mr. Henriksen doesn't have a lot of dialog. Frank is there supporting Maddie in the only way he can, and that is all over his face, in every shot, as well as the connection he feels for this girl, so different from his own. Heather McComb is terrific as Maddie and I was once again very moved by the entire episode.