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Millennium – Beware of the Dog (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Beware of the Dog opens with the shot of the same comet discussed at the start of The Beginning and the End, just in case viewers thought that The Beginning and the End was somehow a fluke or a deviation. The Beginning and the End was not a freak occurrence, it was not some random divergence from the rest of Millennium. It was very much a new beginning for the series, harking in a bold new direction utterly unlike that marked out by The Pilot. The second season of Millennium was a new breed of animal.

And so a lot of Beware of the Dog is devoted to reinforcing this new direction – convincing the viewers at home that Millennium had reinvented itself from the ground up. Part of what is interesting about Beware of the Dog is the way that the basic structure and beats of the episode hark back to the formula and themes of the first season, but in a way that makes it quite clear that things have changed. Beware of the Dog embraces the pulpy absurdity of a show about millennial fears and anxieties, about the nature of good and evil in the world.

Call of the wild...

Call of the wild…

Beware of the Dog is a very weird piece of television. It is resoundingly and unapologetically odd. It is nowhere near as quirky and eccentric as the second season would become in episodes like The Curse of Frank Black or Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” or The Time is Now, but decidedly more surreal than the first season had allowed itself to be – even in episodes like Force Majeure or Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions. This is an episode which takes the first season’s “serial killer of the week” format, and substitutes in packs of wild dog.

The result is a piece of television that is quite difficult to classify and quantify, but which feels fresh and exciting. As with The Beginning and the End, there is a playfulness and fun to Beware the Dog that was sorely lacking from extended stretches of the first season. Indeed, it seemed unlikely during the first season that Millennium would ever be classed as “playful” or “fun.” That sense of energy and vibrance imbues the second season with life, helping to carry the show across some admittedly rough episodes later in the year.

Circle of trust...

Circle of trust…

For all the sense of madcap mayhem and absurdity in these early second-season episodes, there is also a very clear sense of purpose at work. New executive producers Glen Morgan and James Wong devote the first third of the season to outlining their agenda and laying the necessary foundations for what is to follow. Part of the joy of the second season is how it almost seems like free-form jazz – a free-association of apocalyptic imagery and secret historical conspiracies. However, there is a plan at work.

There is a sense that Glen Morgan and James Wong are carefully and meticulously arranging the pieces. The duo are credited as writers on six of the first eight episodes of the season, and it seems likely that they were also very heavily involved in rewrites on scripts like Sense and Antisense and A Single Blade of Grass. That is a much stronger level of involvement than Chris Carter typically had in managing either The X-Files or Millennium, a very direct and hands-on approach to the series.

A biting little episode...

A biting little episode…

Each of these early second-season episodes have a clear purpose in the larger scheme of things. The Beginning and the End is a bold opening salvo, a mission statement that clearly outlines the difference between the new show and what came before. After Beware of the Dog, the script to Sense and Antisense seems to acknowledge and nod towards The X-Files, with a character even lamenting, “The truth’s not out there!” Then Monster introduces the character of Lara Means, who would become a vital player over the course of the second season.

Beware of the Dog contributes quite a bit to the season ahead. Most obviously, it builds on the mystery that The Beginning and the End built about the Millennium Group. Frank Black identifies the Groups’ ouroboros as a secret symbol that dates back to early Christian burials and beyond – although episodes like Gehenna and Lamentation have tied Millennium into a very Christian theology, this is the first time that the show has suggested an explicitly religious component to the Millennium Group itself.

Keeping him awake at night...

Keeping him awake at night…

More than that, Beware of the Dog suggests that the Millennium Group is not just rooted in historical religion, but that there remains a very spiritual component to their modern-day behaviour. The Beginning and the End introduced the idea of religion into the back story of Peter Watts, as the character reflected on his own faith. Peter barely appears in Beware of the Dog, but the episode solidifies that impression of Peter as religious and almost zealous in his faith. It is an aspect of his character never suggested in the first season, but which becomes more important here on out.

Peter is very much possessive and aggravated towards Frank, almost demanding that Frank devote more and more of himself to the Group. “You’re finally looking at the file,” Peter complains when Frank finally gets around to responding to his page. “I paged you half-a-dozen times.” Frank, looking downright angry, replies, “I was with my daughter.” Peter offers a vague and almost spiritual pseudo-justification. “Well, what we do affects our children’s lives, Frank.” It is perhaps a little trite, but it establishes Peter quickly and efficiently.

Dog gone.

Dog gone.

The first season tended to treat Peter as something of a cypher – an efficient exposition machine who could help provide Frank with whatever information the plot required, while listening to Frank articulate his own psychological profiles and theories. The Beginning and the End imbued Peter with a personality, and the second season builds on it quite quickly. Sense and Antisense builds on Peter’s newly-revealed religiosity, as he decides that he wants Frank to commit more thoroughly to the group and what they do.

This is, of course, one of the most controversial elements of the second season. It effectively transforms the Millennium Group into a religious cult. Peter has already drank the Kool Aid, but he wants Frank to share in his experience. It is a rather dramatic reworking of the Group from its appearances in the first season, where they were a slightly mysterious consultancy firm of former FBI agents. The decision to turn the Millennium Group into a vaguely Christian cult was hinted at in The Beginning and the End, but becomes more obvious here.

They were like wild animals...

They were like wild animals…

This characterisation of the Millennium Group remains divisive and polarising. Lance Henriksen has been quite critical of the direction in which the Millennium Group developed. “How can you call the Academy Group evil?” he wondered in his autobiography, Not Bad for a Human. In an interview after the show ended, Henriksen suggested that this reworking of the Millennium Group contributed to the show’s decline. “I think that once the Millennium Group was found out to be a group of bad people, the guy producing it didn’t know where to go with it.”

There are also arguments to be had in how this change to the Millennium Group impacted Frank Black as a character. After all, it made sense for a no-nonsense do-gooder like Frank to sign up with a bunch of roving freelance forensic profilers, but it made less sense for the character to remain involved with the organisation as it developed into an apocalyptic cult. There are some fans and critics who have a great deal of difficulty with Frank’s arc across the second season because of how it chips away at the idea of Frank as an incorruptible hero.

Sitting on the sidelines...

Sitting on the sidelines…

However, one of the interesting aspects of the decision to recast the Millennium Group as a religious institution is that it provided Frank with an organisation that was more obviously a surrogate family. As Gordon Robert notes in Secret Society and Family Redefined, the Millennium group has certain similarities to other iconic surrogate families:

The Millennium Group family’s role as a secret society becomes increasingly evident during Millennium’s second season. The American Mafia or Cosa Nostra is defined as “our thing” or “this thing of ours.” The loosely structured, secret organisation comprised of families and non-family members lives by a strict code of conduct. This code of secrecy or silence is dubbed omertà. Both the Cosa Nostra and the Millennium Group keep their share of secrets. It is ironic the two should prove to be so comparable considering Carter’s original intention was to model the Group after the Academy Group, a criminal-profiling entity. Nevertheless, though features taken from various secret societies are notable in the Millennium Group, included Freemasons, the Mafia offers a fascinating point of comparison.

In light of the larger arc of the second season, the Millennium Group are clearly and consciously set up as an alternative family for Frank. While Frank is trying to get back to Catherine and Jordan, he is also courted by the Millennium Group – people with similar gifts, who offer understanding and support instead of anxiety and fear.

A-paul-ing conduct...

A-paul-ing conduct…

Beware of the Dog reinforces this sense of the Millennium Group as a family. The Old Man is introduced, a mysterious central figure who seems to vet and appraise potential members. The Old Man is presented as something of a distant patriarch to the Millennium Group. He might be disconnected from the day-to-day running of the organisation, and his literal position might be hard to place in an organisational flow chart, but he is still a source of advice and insight.

The Old Man seems to broadly reject the narrative of the Millennium Group as a force in some larger battle between good and evil. Instead, the Old Man suggests that the Millennium Group is an organisation of people bound together against the outside world. The image of the ouroboros becomes a powerful metaphor for the group itself – a circle which provides a clear delineation between those on the inside looking out and those on the outside looking in. The Millennium Group sits within the middle of that iconic circular image.

We all have our crosses to bear...

We all have our crosses to bear…

The Old Man dismisses the idea of clearly defined “sides” locked in opposition as part of some epic battle. “Neither good nor evil can be destroyed. Both will always be here.” Instead, the only “sides” that matter are “inside” and “outside.” Frank must eventually decide where he stands. Discussing the ouroboros with Frank, the Old Man observes, “The circle is about as good as it’s gonna get. No beginning, no end, no boundaries. Yet nothing but what lies inside the circle and what lies outside.”

As such, Beware of the Dog presents the Millennium Group as another family unit, one not too dissimilar from the infamous yellow house that Frank spent the first season trying to defend and protect. For all the cult imagery and freemasonry symbolism, the second season of Millennium seems to extrapolate the Millennium Group as an extension of Frank’s own family facing down its own apocalypse. Owls and Roosters almost plays as a metaphor about divorce told through a secret religious society.

Around in circles...

Around in circles…

The Beginning and the End laid out the big themes of the season. The second season of Millennium is fascinated by the idea that the apocalypse must be a deeply personal experience – that these larger cosmological events only reflect back on our own personal anxieties and uncertainties. If that is the case, then the dissolution of Frank Black’s family represents his own personal apocalypse, one mirrored through the way that the Millennium Group approaches the looming global apocalypse.

After all, the dissolution of the Black family is the narrative spine of the second season, even if it is understandably overshadowed by all that apocalyptic imagery and wonderfully crazy plotting. Even in Beware of the Dog, the disagreement between Frank and Catherine about the fate of the big yellow house is mirrored through the destruction of Michael Beebe’s house and larger issues of territoriality. It is no coincidence that Beware of the Dog cuts from Michael Beebe’s burning house to Frank returning to find the big yellow house on sale.

Guard dog.

Guard dog.

Indeed, Beware of the Dog invites the audience to wonder about Frank’s own issues with the loss of his family. Late in the episode, he advises Michael Beebe to abandon his home to the chaos of the outside world. “You’re standing on the deck of a sinking ship – you don’t try to figure out why, you get off.” However, he seems unable to follow his own advice with Catherine and Jordan. Even after the events of The Beginning and the End, knowing the harm he indirectly caused, Frank refuses to give up. “We can’t run away after all that’s happened.”

It is a perfectly understandable response – one that is sympathetic to anybody who has lived through family turmoil. Asking somebody to give up on the idea of “home” and “family” is a very tough thing to do, and Frank’s reluctance to give up on the big yellow house makes perfect sense. At the same time, the show suggests that all of Frank’s hope and optimism cannot change reality. Beware of the Dog suggests that Frank’s very presence is harmful to Catherine and Jordan, and it might be better for all involved that he accept that.

A thin line...

A thin line…

It makes a great deal of sense that a narrative of family dissolution should run through the second season of Millennium. After all, divorce had been a recurring motif for writers Glen Morgan and James Wong since their work on Space: Above and Beyond. Scripts like Never No More, The Angriest Angel, Dead Letters and Never Again were all centred around damaged and dysfunctional romantic male-female relationships – with divorce itself serving as a recurring motif in The Angriest AngelDead Letters and Never Again.

The second season takes this recurring motif and places it at the very heart of a larger story. The biggest apocalypse in the second season has nothing to do with the Marberg virus or anything like that; it concerns the death of the Black family unit. It is telling that Frank’s first unpleasant encounter with a canine in Beware of the Dog comes long before he meets the pack of wild dogs. Returning to the house with Jordan, it seems her dog no longer recognises him. “Benny, it’s me. Save that tough-dog stuff for guys you don’t know.”

All good things come(t) to an end...

All good things come(t) to an end…

Beware of the Dog emphasises the changes between the first and second season of Millennium. This is most obvious in the way that emphasises the changes in the Millennium Group and the Black family unit. However, that change is also evident in the way that Beware of the Dog plays with a variety of familiar Millennium storytelling tropes, executing them in an unfamiliar way. A lot of the smaller beats and elements of Beware of the Dog might have worked in a first season episode, but the script brilliant and cheekily skews them all.

After all, Beware of the Dog is built around a quiet little community that finds evil encroaching. Beware of the Dog makes a big deal of all sorts of arbitrary boundaries, suggesting a small town that believes it can wall itself away from the evil in the outside world. “What did we do?” one resident asks as the dog attacks escalate. “We left them alone, we stayed in the boundary. No-one I know went past the town sign after sunset.” There is a sense that the townspeople believe that “evil” is a thing that happens far away, outside their little world.

If you go down to the woods today...

If you go down to the woods today…

In fact, Michael Beebe moved to this small town because he believed something similar. He lived in Los Angeles, was horrified by the evil around him, and ultimately decided to escape it. Beebe’s complaints are explicitly white and middle-class. He recalls seeing “Blood and Crips” graffiti on his gas pumps, remembers having his car stereo stolen and seeing a “police helicopters”, “cop cars” and “battering rams” as police raid his neighbour’s “crack house condo.” It seems like Beware of the Dog is having a bit of fun at how white and middle-class Millennium is.

“I just thought to myself, my God, this is what the west side is coming to, then screw it,” he tells Frank. “I got the money, I’m outta here. And I moved to a place where it was safe, where you don’t have to lock your doors at night.” Beebe is retreating into a fantasy about evil and violence that should be familiar to Millennium fans. This sort of attitude was at the heart of first season stories like The Well-Worn Lock, Wide Open and Weeds – stories about how it was impossible for suburbanites to really protect themselves and their homes from evil.

The Old Man of the forest...

The Old Man of the forest…

Of course, in this case, the evil turns out to be “a pick of wild roving dogs” instead of a generic “serial killer of the week.” There is a sense that Morgan and Wong are affectionately riffing on the absurdity of the show’s first season premise, making good on their promise of “98% less serial killers” by substituting out sensationalist human monsters and replacing them with more traditional horror movie monsters. Wild dogs are not explicitly supernatural, so Beware of the Dog avoids treading too heavily on The X-Files, but feel more honestly monstrous.

This admittedly all a little ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than the strange supernatural attraction that Seattle seemed to hold for gimmick-driven serial killers during the first season. (Even allowing for those episodes set outside Seattle, it still seemed a little disproportionate.) Beware of the Dog seems to have a bit of fun with these very familiar and very standard Millennium tropes by executing them in a rather off-kilter fashion. It is an approach that jars with the rather self-important and self-serious attitude of the first season, but that seems to be the point.

Raising the roof...

Raising the roof…

A large part of the joy of Beware of the Dog is that Frank spends a significant portion of the episode looking bemused and befuddled; perhaps Lance Henriksen’s skepticism is showing through, or perhaps Frank is honestly wondering “what fresh hell is this?” when he finds a dog standing on his car. Whatever the reason, Frank’s delightfully confused response to everything going on around him helps to reinforce the idea that this is a very surreal adventure. Frank is used to dealing with more human expressions of evil, so this is quite outside his wheelhouse.

Through the Old Man, Morgan and Wong express their own dissatisfaction with the first season’s episodic “serial killer of the week” format. Ironically, turning evil into a grotesque caricature has the effect of diminishing it and rendering it almost banal or passé. “Serial killers, spree killers, mass murderers, it’s all just societal, genetic, inevitability,” the Old Man reflects, dismissing a significant portion of the first season in a rather off-hand fashion. “You have no idea about true evil.”

A small town with a dark secret.

A small town with a dark secret.

In fact, the Old Man seems positively contemptuous of the actual story that is happening around him. When Frank asks about the locals, the Old Man replies, “It’s over their damn heads, Frank. Their fear shrinks the world to the size of nothing but their own lives. It blinds them to anything beyond their own houses.” Later, he reflects, “My neighbor did nothing to help his or our situation but run away, and from crime of all things. Crime is not evil. Any of us would steal if we were hungry. And any of us might even kill if we were without hope.”

This plays into the recurring theme of the second season that evil is not an external force in the world; evil is something rooted deeply in the self. The first season tended to treat evil as an invading force, something external and corrupting – arguably a theme reflected in the mythology of The X-Files. In contrast, the second season seems to adopt the opposite approach, anchoring evil in people. Both Beware of the Dog and Sense and Antisense obliquely remind Frank that he killed a man with his own hands in a moment of desperation.

There's (not) a new sheriff in town...

There’s (not) a new sheriff in town…

Beware of the Dog plays on other aspects of Millennium‘s iconography and imagery. Carter has talked about how he conceived as Frank Black as an old-fashioned western hero. Beware of the Dog has a great deal of fun with that as Frank wanders into “the middle of hell’s half-acre.” He is immediately welcomed by the locals. When he asks if there is room for him, the waitress replies, “We’ve got plenty of rooms for our new sheriff.” Frank spends a significant portion of the episode assuring the locals, “I’m not your new sheriff.” He just happens to exude that authority.

The first season had played with the idea of Frank Black as a character who would wander around the country and solve crimes. Episodes like The Wild and the Innocent, Covenant and Broken World had presented Frank Black as the spiritual successor to the wandering law man – a character who travelled down dirt roads exposing evil and solving problems. Think of it like Kung Fu, but with psychopaths. Beware of the Dog plays with this trope, but executes it in a rather eccentric manner.

Yep, not THAT dog.

Yep, not THAT dog.

The episode proceeds to commit to this western vibe by casting veteran character actor R.G. Armstrong as the Old Man, a hermit living in the wilderness. Armstrong was a veteran character actor who came out of semi-retirement to play the role. Reflecting Morgan and Wong’s affection for classic cinema, Armstrong was a frequent collaborator of director Sam Pekinpah. The two worked together on a number of classic westerns. It is a delightfully esoteric touch, one that makes it clear that Morgan and Wong are consciously tailoring the show towards their own interests.

These changes are reflected in the changes that Frank is undergoing himself. Beware of the Dog suggests that Frank has lost his gift – as a result of The Beginning and the End, Frank is no longer able to stare at evil so intently. However, the Old Man reassures him that the change is not so radical. “You have a gift, Frank,” the Old Man assures him. “It’ll come back. And when it does you’ll think it’s diminished but actually it’ll be greater than before. You’re moving to a new plane, Franklin.”

Have gun, will travel.

Have gun, will travel.

According to Glen Morgan, this was an attempt to reclaim and rework a core part of the show’s mythology:

What we were trying to do this year was to elevate Frank’s visions to a dream-like state, so he would have to interpret what he’s seeing. There would be more mystical, symbolic imagery that might give him more of a sense of what’s going on. I had wanted to strip away the gift for a long time and see if the show really played well without it. But we got back into that. The Old Man in Beware of the Dog was trying to tell Frank, ‘Your gift isn’t gone; it’s going to be different.’

“It’s going to be different” is an attitude that could be applied to most of the second season.

"Ain't no problem a shotgun can't fix!"

“Ain’t no problem a shotgun can’t fix!”

Beware of the Dog is a surprising fun piece of television. It is very consciously rooted in horror storytelling sensibilities. Michael Beebe has quite clearly transgressed by building his house in the wrong place. The local town is so small that the characters in the teaser cannot find it on their map. When Beebe stalks through the woods with Frank, thunder crackles in the background. As Frank goes exploring, the locals warn him to be back in half-and-hour. When he asks why, he is told, “The sun’ll be down.”

There is something playful about Beware of the Dog. The teaser offers an affectionate riff on The Shining, as a wild dog burst through the wooden panels of a bathroom door. When the couple arrive at the town during the teaser, they find themselves greeted by the local chef. “Is that blood?” one asks. Her partner replies, “I think it’s ketchup.” It is not always easy to make animals appear vicious on a television budget and shooting schedule; the fact that Beware of the Dog has a sense of humour means it doesn’t rely as much on the dogs themselves to sell the horror.

Man about town...

Man about town…

In fact, even though the dogs are not explicitly supernatural, their use helps to tie the second season of Millennium into a rich strain of classic gothic horror. It is impossible to feature dogs in a horror story without conjuring images of The Hound of the Baskervilles. As Catherine Johns explains in Dogs: History, Myth, Art, monstrous dogs have a long a rich association with death in European folklore:

In northern European folklore, supernatural dogs from the ghostly realms were inclined to put in unwelcome appearances in this world, and there are many fabled packs of hunting hounds and of individual, often gigantic, glowing-eyed, spectral Black Dogs which portend no good at all to the man or woman who sees or hears them. The Gabriel Hounds and the Cwn Annwn (Dogs ol Annwn) are just two of the hunting packs from the Underworld whose appearance or baying may signal a forthcoming death; the hounds of Annwin are not black, but white with red ears, a colouration regularly associated with supernatural status in Welsh myth. Throughout, and beyond, the British Isles such myths connect monstrous dogs with messages from the life beyond this one.

Although there are obvious examples of death hounds in American folklore – the “black dog” of the Hanging Hills in Connecticut, to pick one example – the use of monstrous dogs helps to tie Millennium into a richer international context. The conspiracy in The X-Files is rooted in North America, with particular emphasis on the Second World War. The second season of Millennium provides a contrast by reaching further and farther back.



Dogs have a long-standing association with death, appearing in mythology and folklore from across the world stretchign back millennia:

There are numerous mythological references to  ‘hellhounds’ in Greek, Indic, Celtic, Germanic, Latin, Armenian and Iranian sources. As scavengers and carrion-eaters, dogs came to be associated with death, in both the classical and Celtic religious traditions.

The cult is older than that of Osiris, and can be traced to the Sumerian goddess Bau who was also dog-headed. Her name may well be onomatopoeic, little removed from ‘bow-wow’. Anubis himself, written in early heiroglyphs as ‘An-pu’, may be a direct continuation of Bau’s father, the Sumerian god An.

In the early stages of Egyptian religion, at least, Anubis was linked with the star Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, known in most mythologies throughout the world as the ‘Dog Star’ and the central consideration of the Egyptian calendar – although Sirius was later most closely linked with Isis, of course.

As with the renewed interest in the ouroboros itself, this helps to create a sense that Frank is exploring something much older and weirder than a government conspiracy. This is myth and legend and history, rolled into one.

"We don't like your kind around here."

Not the locals’ cup of tea…

As John Kenneth Muir points out in Snakes in the Grass and Snakes in the Open, the second season of Millennium treats animal imagery as a recurring motif – particularly when discussing the Millennium Group:

Animal symbols are truly crucial to a deeper understanding of this season of Millennium in another important respect: the explanation and definition of the Group’s nature. The “conspiracy” episodes of Millennium – those involving the Group – almost all involve animals of some variety. From the introduction of the old man in Beware the Dog to the Group’s civil war in Owls and Roosters to the fruition of the Group’s secret agenda to force the end in The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now, animal mythology and symbols pervade the narrative.

The link between the supernatural and the animal provides an almost magical or fairytale subtext to the season; a sense that there are forces at work in the world even beyond those of human reason and logic.

Black heart.

Black heart.

Beware of the Dog confronts Frank with the possibility that he is facing something more unsettling and primal than anything he has encountered before. Even the demonic threats in Gehenna, The Judge and Lamentation provided him with a human form. It does create a sense that Frank is off-balance and uncertain, that the world is not as clear as he would like it to be. The second season does a lot to flesh out Frank Black as a character, making him seem more human and relatable than he had been. A large part of that is pushing him out of his comfort zone.

There is an edge to Frank that is present in the second season – one that extends beyond the obvious edge cases of The Beginning and the End and Owls. Frank seems genuinely uncomfortable and uneasy for large stretches of the year. When Peter calls him early in Beware of the Dog, Frank seems legitimately frustrated. There is more emotion in that short exchange than there was in any interaction between Frank and Peter in the first season – outside of their disagreement in Walkabout.

... as it was written...

… as it was written…

Lance Henriksen does great work in the role. He plays frank as a character who increasing frustrated with the world as it exists around him. When the Old Man lays some good old-fashioned spiritual guidance on him, Frank is having none of it. “My name is not Franklin,” he mutters angrily to himself as he wanders off – trying vaguely to make some sort of sense out of everything happening around him. Rank Black has transformed from a stoic stone-faced hero into a character who seems increasingly grumpy. It gives the character a lot more texture.

There is also a clear sense that Morgan and Wong are sending Frank on the archetypal hero’s journey. Barring episodes like Walkabout, Frank spent most of the first season as a rather static figure. It is great to see the show actually giving him a trajectory and a target. The Old Man is very much a typical trickster mentor – a vaguely comedic figure who offers mystical insight and guidance to a hero who is preparing to confront a much larger threat. It is a very compelling approach to the character and the show.

Dogged determination...

Dogged determination…

Yet – even as the show provides Frank Black with the familiar “hero’s journey” – the second season of Millennium is a wonderfully odd and bizarre piece of television. Beware of the Dog helps to set a suitable mood.

You might be interested in our other reviews of the second season of Millennium:

5 Responses

  1. The Old Man’s speech here along with the Polaroid Stalker’s “profile” voiceover in the premiere serve as a mission statement for season two. The Polaroid stalker talked about how it would “become about him (Frank),” emphasizing the character focus and now the Old Man deconstructs the season one view of evil. Season one teased the idea of true evil being alive in the world, implying how much scarier that might make the world. The Old Man both wholeheartedly accepts that evil is real in the world and dismisses it as not all that threatening by itself. It’s effectively communicated visually when he tells Frank, “They ain’t my dogs” and casually walks back to his house even though he acknowledges his life is in danger near the end of the episode. Instead of fearing them, he has accepted his role and lack of control over certain things. He acts like, “maybe the dogs are going to maul me to death, or maybe not, but I’m walking back to my house because I have important things to do.”
    While accepting he has no control over his own individual fate, he does indicate that the Group’s concern has a much larger scope than “one ignorant man.” This idea is repeated in the “responsibility” speech from the finale. There is also a parallel between the Old Man’s cabin and Frank’s final destination in The Time is Now but the reason for Frank ultimately being there is nearly opposite.

  2. There is stylistic variance between the three seasons of the show, but I don’t believe the shifts are quite as chaotic as if might seem at first glance. The show definitely broadens in tone and embraces a different visual style after season one, but each season runs with various threads seeded in the previous year.

    In season one, Frank joins up with the group to continue his hunt for sick and damaged people who cause harm to others. In his investigation he discovers a true evil exists in the world, and that it primarily works certain angles of a diseased society in order to weaken it further.

    Season two does not change that basic concept, but rather shifts focus. It goes from examining issues in society at large to examining the group itself in order to illuminate more personal truths. The Millennium Group’s interest in esoterica, their association with people like Dennis Hoffman, and the implication they hold some form of eschatological belief is all established in season one, and provides the basis for the weaknesses the group is revealed to have. The season premiere sets everything up, but this episode is the first to voice the Group’s core philosophy: good vs. evil matters less than inside vs. outside the circle. We have a tendency to convince ourselves of the rectitude of our actions, and knowing evil exists in the world as an atavistic abstract force would have an effect on our understanding of the term (as explored in the season one episode Lamentation) so one can see how the Group arrived at this position. It is, however, a very dangerous position to take. This season explores that danger, how radicalizing and self-defeating it is.

    Season three picks up from the fallout of the Group’s actions at the end of season two, and the irreversible effect those actions had on “the circle.” It also, maybe more than anything else Carter has done, truly captures how it feels to live in the world of conspiracy theory. Season three forsakes the serialized propulsion of the second season in order to sink deeply into the unnerving discombobulation of knowing your life has been profoundly affected by events you will never understand. Lance Henriksen does really great work in this season. Frank will never have all the pieces. There will be conflicting accounts and narratives of important events he will never be able to make gel, no matter how much he needs them to. His suspicions about these hidden histories alienates him from others and makes him feel unmoored. There’s this repeated motif in season three about eyes. Frank can’t look away, the only thing he has left is to bear witness to these things everyone else would happily ignore even as he learns very little and it threatens to destroy him. You see the ground just continually fall out from under him as the season goes on.

    Obviously this draws comparisons with Fox Mulder in The X-Files, but that show generally afforded Mulder and the audience a certainty Frank never had. I’ve wondered if, when crafting the 10th and 11th seasons of The X-Files, Carter took inspiration from the final year of Millennium in this regard. In those seasons he throws everything both the characters and the audience thought they knew into a thresher and almost dares us to make sense of it. The most unremittingly trolly he’s ever been as a creator.

    • I think that the fact that most of the major creative talent worked on the show before taking over eases that transition. Morgan and Wong both wrote for the first season before running the second, so it isn’t as jarring as it might have been – even if, ironically, I think that Chip Johansson’s scripts for the first season are closer to the mood of the second. And Johansson himself wrote for both the first and second, so his leaps in the third didn’t come entirely out of nowhere. (I think the second half of the third season is much stronger than the first half of the season.)

      • I think, due to these stylistic shifts, each season of Millennium takes the first half to build before coming on strong in the second half. The first half of season three might be the only truly bad stretch of the show but even it pulls out of the ditch.

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