Detective David Mills is the new guy in town. He's a bright-eyed idealist who wanted to be transferred into the gritty city with hopes of changing it. "I thought I could do some good," he says when his new partner, Detective Somerset, asks him why anyone would want to move to this god-awful city. But, after five years in homicide upstate (whatever state we're in), he wants a change.
Mills is a guy's guy who likes beer and serves wine in a tumbler instead of a wine glass. He likes to come home after a long day of trying to find a serial killer and spend time with his wife, Tracy, and play with his dogs. He has a good head on his shoulders, although he's definitely more street smart than book smart. He's never heard of Paradise Lost or Of Human Bondage. And no, Mills, the Marquis de Sade did not sing "Smooth Operator."
But, then again, the dude is a cop. He knows what he needs to know to be good at his job … and had no idea that a well-rounded knowledge of literature would ever come into play. He knows the law. He knows right from wrong. Mills' heart is in the right place.
What sets Mills apart from the rest of the cops on the force is the fact that he actually cares. Somerset used to care, but he's given up. And, when Somerset mopes about how apathetic everyone is, Mills vehemently disagrees with him in one of his most compelling monologues:
"You want me to agree with you, and you want me to say, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, you're right. It's all f***ed up. It's a f***ing mess. We should all go live in a f***ing log cabin.' But I won't. I won't say that. I don't agree with you. I do not. I can't."
This detective wears his heart on his sleeve and his badge on his chest.
All the Feels
Some of the other cops call Mills "hotshot" because they think he's a little cocky and overconfident. We're more apt to call him hot under the collar.
Mills might be more caring and compassionate than most other cops, but he's also much more liable to get worked up, and being controlled by his emotions ends up being his downfall.
Somerset, with his cool Morgan Freeman voice, tries to lecture Mills multiple times to calm down. "We have to divorce ourselves from emotion here," he says. "No matter how hard it is, we have to focus on the details, okay?"
"Man, I feed off my emotions, how's that?"
We see him feeding off his emotions when he yells his name at a reporter: "Detective Mills. M-I-L-L-S. F*** off!" Somerset slyly comments, "It's impressive to see a man feeding off his emotions."
Unfortunately, the reporter is just John Doe, the killer, posing as a reporter. While Doe would have likely learned Mills' name soon enough, Mills giving it to him in this manner makes him a target, setting him up for the film's final scene in which Doe convinces Mills to "become wrath."
Doe is right when he says that Mills would enjoy beating him but probably wouldn't do it because of the consequences. "How happy would it make you to hurt me with impunity?" he taunts. So, he has to make the action outweigh the consequences. Doe does this by murdering Mills' pregnant wife. If Mills couldn't control his emotions before, he definitely can't do it after this gruesome act, and he shoots Doe multiple times, executing him in the desert.
Seven treats its protagonist in a very cynical way. The one guy who actually cares in this movie is the one who has the worst fate (besides, you know, the people who got murdered). Does that mean policemen are better off not caring?