Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives

  • Awards & Nominations

Millennium – The Curse of Frank Black (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.

The Curse of Frank Black is a phenomenal piece of television, and an episode that demonstrates the raw potential of the approach that Glen Morgan and James Wong have adopted towards Millennium, making the show feel (simultaneously and paradoxically) more intimate and more epic. It is a show about the end of the world, but where the end of the world can be conveyed through the late night wandering of an old man on Halloween. It is a superb piece of work on just about every level.

The Curse of Frank Black is, in a many ways, the perfect encapsulation of many of the themes and ideas that Morgan and Wong have played with over the years. It is constructed in the style of a classic horror film, but is driven by character. As with Scully in Beyond the Sea, Mulder in One Breath, and McQueen in The Angriest Angel, Frank Black finds himself facing an existential crisis at the darkest moment of his life. What will Frank do when faced with the most horrific of possibilities?

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack22

What does anybody do when they are confronted with the end of their world? Morgan and Wong are fond of putting their characters through the metaphorical crucible, seeing what happens when the foundations are eroded and the support framework is taken away. The Curse of Frank Black suggests that there are only two possible options when the world falls to pieces: either you stand safely on your side of the line and watch it happen, or you pick up a bucket of water and start cleaning up.

It is a simple choice, an elegant metaphor, and it sits at the heart of The Curse of Frank Black.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack15

To be fair, this is the same way that Morgan and Wong have approached characterisation since they started on The X-Files. For Morgan and Wong, the biggest character beats are those which force the characters to assert their identity through action. In Beyond the Sea, Scully does not attend the execution of Luther Lee Boggs after he challenges her entire belief system. In One Breath, Mulder decides that being there for Scully is more important than some revenge fantasy. In The Angriest Angel, McQueen accepts and embraces his identity as a human weapon.

It is no surprise that Morgan and Wong are fond of the work of existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. The author was quoted in the introductory titlecard to 5-2-2-6-6-6. Here, Mister Crocell can briefly be seen reading Sartre’s L’âge de raison, his 1945 novel and the first instalment in the Roads to Freedom trilogy. (Roads to Freedom was originally planned as a tetralogy, but Sartre abandoned the final book.) L’âge de raison was a novel set in Paris shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack13

The themes of L’âge de raison should be quite familiar to any fans of Millennium – particularly fans of the second season. As Gary Cox summarises in Sartre and Fiction, Sartre’s second novel was set in the prelude to deeply troubling times:

It was not to the war that Sartre turned for inspiration for the first volume of his trilogy, but to prewar Paris of the summer of 1938. His sudden departure from his Parisian life led him to evaluate it. Writing about prewar Paris in a wartime weather station in Northern France was not, however, an act of escapism or nostalgia. Unlike many novels of the period, The Age of Reason is not nostalgic about the years between the wars. Rather it casts a detached and objective eye on a group of largely pathetic, emotionally immature characters who are too self-absorbed to really notice or care about the gathering clouds of war that will soon change their narrow little lives beyond recognition.

While it might not be the best book for a veteran coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, it does hint at the underlying themes of the second season of Millennium, as a world waits with bated breath for the apocalypse. After all, The Curse of Frank Black explicitly confirms that something very big is coming.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack19

The Curse of Frank Black presents Frank with perhaps the most literal of choices to face a Morgan and Wong character. At the climax of the episode, Frank discovers a ghost sitting in his attic. Mister Crocell is waiting for him. As with the demonic forces in The Judge or Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions, Mister Crocell wants to make a deal with Frank. However, this is a different sort of deal than those offered by the forces of darkness in episodes of the first season.

Mister Crocell does not want Frank’s allegiance. He does not want Frank’s service. Instead, he has a very simple request. “So what I’m asking of you is really simple,” Mister Crocell explains to Frank. “Sit back and do nothing. Anyone can do it. Hell, most people do.” This is perhaps a clear contrast in the philosophy of the show under Morgan and Wong, as compared to the show under Carter. Carter was quite fond of deals with the devil, but they generally required commitment – as Walter Skinner commits in Zero Sum and Fox Mulder is asked to in Redux II.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack32

However, Morgan and Wong consider inaction to be just as damning. As Adam Chamberlain notes, there is a clear difference in the offer made here as opposed to the offer made in The Judge or Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions:

This is not some hackneyed attempt to turn Frank to any “dark side” but rather to have him “sit back and hope for a happy ending.” Perhaps the demons are real; perhaps this is an honest exploration of the doubts that must weigh heavily on Frank Black given all that he has sacrificed and lost. Such sequences are the embodiment of the saying—attributed, although perhaps wrongly, to Edmund Burke— that, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” This is a central concern for the series, exemplifying two types of evil—overt and indifferent—and thus presenting the personal challenge for each of us to truly act as a force for good in the world, and in our hearts.

However, Frank’s inaction in the face of such evil would be more than just a moral failing. It would represent a very clear personal failure on his part. In the teaser to The Angriest Angel, Colonel McQueen had suggested that character is tested through action – when a person hesitates in the face of a horrible choice, they betray themselves.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack28

At one point in The Curse of Frank Black, Frank throws eggs at the front of the yellow house, expressing all the anger and bitterness welling up inside of him. Later, Mister Corcell admits that he did something similar. “You know, I threw things at my house, too. Not eggs though. I think I threw dog crap. Yeah, I threw dog crap from my back yard at my kitchen window. I never cleaned it off. Imagine that.” That is the difference between Mister Corcell and Frank Black. Frank has his long dark midnight of the soul, but almost immediately sets about picking up the pieces.

One of the most interesting aspects of the second season of Millennium is the idea that the personal and the universal are but reflections of one another – that the apocalypse might mean the end of the world, but it could also mean the end of a world. Reality is a deeply personal thing, the destruction of an individual’s reality – whether it be the home in Beware of the Dog, the community in Monster or the tribe in A Single Blade of Grass – can feel as catastrophic as the end of the world as we know it.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack6

The threat of the looming apocalypse is mirrored throughout the second season in the destruction of Frank’s hope for a peaceful family life together. The yellow house represented an ideal that has simply collapsed into itself, a dream that shattered into a thousand pieces. Frank has witnessed his own version of the apocalypse. It is no wonder that the Halloween night displayed in The Curse of Frank Black appears so abstract and so nightmarish. Frank is wandering through his personal post-apocalyptic wasteland.

However, in the face of all that, Frank does the only thing that he can do. He starts picking up the pieces. Frank allows himself his moment of doubt, his moment of anxiety. However, he does not wallow in that. He does not allow it to consume him. For one night, he opens himself to all the ghosts around him, all the horrors. “Bob, if you’re here, now’s your chance.” However, once the night has passed, Frank starts fixing things up and making them right. He returns to the yellow house the following morning and cleans it up once again.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack2

The Curse of Frank Black reinforces the sense that the second season is a gigantic character arc for Frank – that the second season is the story of a man separated from his family and trying to find the way back home in a world populated by demons and monsters. The Curse of Frank Black is an important step on that particular journey, as Glen Morgan explains:

“Frank’s journey is similar to Lara’s,” Morgan commented. “That’s where Frank could go, where he could quit and find a place for himself. He is at the brink–he goes back to his yellow house and throws eggs at it, like kids do at Halloween. He was on the brink of becoming Mr. Crocell. But he’s got to go back and clean up the mess; otherwise he would just be giving up. What I liked is that it did seem like a slip-up in his quest.”

In the first season, Frank was generally presented as an outside intruding into the world of the threat of the week. Frank was a rock, an object of moral certitude. Outside of episodes like Walkabout and Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions, Frank was stoic and certain. You could count on Lance Henriksen to anchor a scene. In contrast, the second season is much more interested in Frank himself.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack10

Across the span of the second season, Frank Black experiences his own version of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth. He becomes an iteration of the hero with a thousand faces. Campbell’s arc can be clearly charted across the twenty-three episode season, particularly in the twelve episodes written by Glen Morgan and James Wong. As popularised by George Lucas and Star Wars, Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces has become something of a stock storytelling template with considerable influence on popular culture.

As with any template, Campbell’s approach to storytelling is open to criticism. It has been observed that Campbell tended to approach narrative from a very western perspective, without a deep understanding of other narrative traditions. There is obviously no single right way to tell a story or construct a character arc. Christopher Vogler might claim that the hero’s journey represents a “universal human experience”, but the template can be interpreted a variety of ways – with critics arguing that a lot of bending and pushing is required to make certain stories fit.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack27

Of course, Campbell did not intend Hero With a Thousand Faces to serve as a storytelling model for writers going forward. Instead, he constructed it as an analysis of existing mythology and storytelling. It was writers like George Lucas and Christopher Vogler who helped to translate that template into a structure that could be used for storytelling. The idea of building a story around Campbell’s monomyth is appealing. It adds a very epic scale and structure to the narrative, as well as providing indicators that help the story to seem more mythic.

Over on The X-Files, David Duchovny was very fond of the monomyth. “I would like to see Fox Mulder take on a life of his own, and actually have a Joseph Campbell journey, rather than have him merely play through a series of unrelated experiences,” he told Playboy. A profile piece in Cosmopolitan revealed that Duchovny kept a Joseph Campbell Companion in his trailer on the set. He has claimed that Campbell influences his own writing, and his early story work on The X-Files reflects this – episodes like Colony and Anasazi propose a hero’s journey for Mulder.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack18

However, The X-Files never quite committed to Mulder’s big hero’s journey. running nine season, character arcs tended to get lost in the shuffle. With six or seven years of continuity, The X-Files had a great deal of difficulty wrapping up story threads like the conspiracy or the abduction of Samantha Mulder with any real consistency – let alone imposing a logical storytelling structure on top of them. While Mulder and Scully remained consistent characters across the run, their development seemed haphazard and convenient, rather than logical and organic.

In contrast, Morgan and Wong are plotting the character development of Frank Black across a single season of television. They have a much more manageable amount of space, and clear objective to reach. Already, the second season has seen Frank Black check off a number of stops on his journey. The Beginning and the End was the call to adventure, removing Frank from the ordinary world of the yellow house established in the first season. Beware of the Dog had him meeting the Old Man, a trickster mentor figure.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack33

However, six episodes into the second season, Frank Black is ready to actually embark on his journey. In many ways, The Curse of Frank Black represents what Campbell described as “the road of trials”, but is perhaps best summarised as “the inmost cave.” It is an internal hurdle that must be crossed:

Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials. This is a favorite phase of the myth-adventure. It has produced a world literature of miraculous tests and ordeals.

As Campbell notes, this marks the beginning of the real journey. It makes sense that it should come about a quarter of the way into the season, before Frank begins his proper initiation into the Millennium Group. As Campbell notes, many mythical examples include trips to the land of the dead. The Curse of Frank Black has the dead come to Frank.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack14

As this focus on the journey of Frank Black suggests, the second season of Millennium is much more interested in the idea of Frank as a dynamic force than a static presence. The first season never delved too deeply into Frank’s back story or history. Occasionally, episodes would reference his professional history – stories like The Thin White Line or Lamentation – but the show would seldom delve into Frank’s personal history. In Sacrament, it was suggested that Frank was always as reliable and decent as he was right now.

In contrast, the second season is just as interested in who Frank is as what Frank does. There are already little details that have been suggested. Unsurprisingly for a character written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, the second season sees Frank Black discovering (or just expressing) a surprising affinity for the music of artist Bobby Darin. The Morgan family were big fans of Bobby Darin. Indeed, Glen’s brother Darin was actually named in honour of the classic crooner.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack8

In The Turning of the Tide, composer Mark Snow suggested that the use of Bobby Darin in the second season was simply the producers’ own fandom shining through:

Frank Black and Bobby Darin. I think it was a vehicle simply to make him, you know, as much of everyman as possible, to ground him, to make him seem normal.  I think that Morgan and Wong just love Bobby Darin, period. And I think that they said, “He’s gonna like it too. We like it, he likes it.”

Regardless of the motivation of the decision, it does help to give the second season of Millennium its own distinctive aural landscape.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack4

“Lance doesn’t quite understand, but it actually makes some upcoming scenes creepy,” Glen Morgan explained at the time – perhaps alluding to Goodbye Charlie later in the season. Frank’s interest in the work of Bobby Darin has become an endearing throughline in the early episodes of the second season. He was listening to As Long as I’m Singing in Beware of the Dog, Gyp the Cat in Sense and Antisense and Goodbye Charlie in Monster. One of the more endearing little scenes in A Single Blade of Grass had Frank trying to sell a New York coroner on Darin’s music.

On paper, making Frank Black into a fan of Bobby Darin seems a little trite. It is hard to imagine the version of Frank presented in the first season listening so enthusiastically to the artist. More than any of the more substantial (and subtle) changes to Frank Black as a character, his new-found fandom of Bobby Darin serves as an obvious delineation between the character as overseen by Chris Carter and the character as overseen by Glen Morgan and James Wong. It is a very clear aesthetic divide between the first and second seasons.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack30

Then again, ever since Space: Above and Beyond, Morgan and Wong have been writers who rather playfully incorporate music into their scripts. It is a style that feels very much their own. The use of Wonderful in Home or of Doesn’t Somebody Want to be Wanted? in Never Again stand out, but there are lots of other examples. There is the use of Patsy Cline in Never No More, or of the BeeGees in The Thin White Line, or of Johnny Cash in Ray Butts. Morgan and Wong are quite distinctive in their use of classic music on television.

Some of the most memorable sequences in the second season of Millennium rely on the clever incorporation of music. The use of Patti Smith’s Horses in The Time is Now stands out, but so does the clever diegetic use of A Horse With No Name in Owls. There are a number of effective examples within The Curse of Frank Black alone. Dean Martin’s Memories Are Made of This helps to sell one of Frank’s flashbacks, but it is not the only piece of memorable music. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ Little Demon is an infectiously silly (and – in context – downright creepy) bit of nonsense.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack17

Still, while it is a very familiar tool employed by Morgan and Wong, Frank Black’s fascination with Bobby Darin does help to humanise him a great deal. It suggests a playfulness and joy that was largely absent from the character in the first season – understandably, of course; it would be worrying if Frank were happy while trawling brutal crime scenes. The recurring presence of Bobby Darrin helps to soften the character somewhat, making it easier to accept moments like Frank singing along with Little Demon in the care, or freaking out the neighbourhood kids. “Leave the suds.”

Of course, the use of Bobby Darin is just one small way of humanising Frank. Giving the character a very clear arc also helps to make him more relatable, as the story juxtaposes his own personal apocalypse with the larger sense of millennial dread. However, the second season also makes a point to engage with Frank’s personal history in a manner more probing than the stories told by Thomas Black in Sacrament. Episodes like The Curse of Frank Black and Midnight of the Century take the time to focus their attention inwards.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack20

Indeed, according to an interview with Back to Frank Black, the plan had been to construct a trilogy of seasonal stories focusing on Frank Black. As writer Kay Reindl explained, only two of those episodes came to fruition:

Really, when Morgan and Wong decided to do the Halloween episode – The Curse of Frank Black – it was supposed to be three holiday episodes for Frank. Then, of course, Easter didn’t happen because I think everybody went, “Oh God, we can’t let them do an Easter episode – it could be a disaster!” We said, “No, come on – it’ll be a great idea!” So that was really the idea, and having watched the Halloween episode again recently, it’s just one of the best hours of TV I’ve ever seen.

It is a bit of a shame that the show did not get to complete the holiday triptych. Nevertheless, The Curse of Frank Black and Midnight of the Century do stand out as two of the best episodes of Millennium ever produced.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack21

It is interesting to wonder what the Easter episode might have looked like. Mirroring The Curse of Frank Black, it would have aired around three-quarters of the way through the season, in the slot for In Arcadia Ego or Anamnesis. Would it have adhered to the pattern of Frank’s journey through Joseph Campbell’s monomyth? In keeping with the themes of Easter and rebirth, it might have marked the perfect point for Frank to make “the crossing of the return threshold” – perhaps serving as the point of reconciliation with Catherine and Jordan.

That said, it should be noted that the episode of Millennium to air directly after Easter 1998 was Erin Maher and Kay Reindl’s Anamnesis. That late-season episode has rather overt theological themes, with Catherine Black and Lara Means investigating a school girl who may be distantly related to Jesus Christ. While Anamnesis is not really an “Easter episode”, it is interesting to note that it is the only episode in the entire run of Millennium not to feature Frank Black in any capacity.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack12

The Curse of Frank Black takes the audience back to Frank Black’s childhood. This serves two purposes. The most obvious – and superficial – is to assure viewers that Frank Black was young at one point. Frank Black seems so world-weary and cynical that it is hard to imagine a younger version of Frank that is not simply a smaller-but-to-scale model. (“Millennium Babies” practically writes itself.) However, it also reinforces the idea that Frank has been living with this darkness all of his life. No wonder the guy is on the cusp of a breakdown. It’s been half a century.

At the same time, The Curse of Frank Black plays into the show’s apocalyptic themes. The second season has repeatedly suggested that the end of the world is a story that people tell themselves in order to work through their own issues. Prophecy is storytelling, the act of transforming the mundane and the grounded into the mythic. There has been a storytelling motif running through the season, from Frank’s monologue in The Beginning and the End to the bookending narration in Monster to the engagement with conspiracy theory in Sense and Antisense.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack1

The Curse of Frank Black suggests that Frank has already lived through his own personal apocalypse, that his life and times have already been mythologised. Teens in the basement of the yellow house tell each other Frank Black stories. They offer streamlined versions of Lamentation, glossing over the story thread involving Doctor Fabricant by putting Bob Bletcher’s kidney in the fridge. It is a very nice (and very clever) way of demonstrating how stories tend to change and evolve in the telling – adapted so as to suit the larger narrative being constructed.

“They say he can see them,” one storyteller assures his young colleagues. “They say he can’t escape them. That they follow him everywhere. And it is believed that the Devil uses the souls of the dead to get at people. To drive them insane. So to keep from losing to the Devil and even though he knows his friend is eternally trapped in his house, Frank Black has left and gone to… nobody knows where. And he will never be seen again.” The audience misses the start of the story, but it could easily begin with “once upon a time, there was a man named Frank Black.”

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack31

Nevertheless, while stories and fables might be constructed around them, The Curse of Frank Black suggests that these spiritual experiences are innately personal and private. Frank’s apocalypse is deeply personal in nature. Crocell claims that hell is similarly tailored to its residents. “I’ll tell you this – all that stuff you hear about the fire and the brimstone and the rats and the excrement and the demons tormenting you for all of eternity – there’s none of that stuff. It’s worse. It is so much worse. It is for me at least. Imagine having to suck on this for all of eternity.”

The implication is hell is not so much other people as the complete absence of other people. Crocell makes it sound like hell is an eternal echo chamber, a place where the dead are locked up with nothing but their own thoughts for company – no change, no growth, no contact. Hell is a self-catering vacation for eternity, an empty space with nothing but what the guest brings with them. Crocell suggests a personal hell tailor-made for each and every person down there. In a way, it mirrors the second season’s idea of the apocalypse as an individual experience.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack9

Crocell explicitly brings the mythology suggested by Lamentation and Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions into the second season, making it clear that there is a biblical apocalypse coming. Crocell presents himself as an ambassador, offering fair warning of a pending war. “Because the time is near and he will win,” Crocell assures Frank. “There’s no way he can lose.” There is something big coming. The words “the time is near” in the opening credits suddenly become a lot more ominous.

This is important, because this is the first time the second season explicitly acknowledges that there will be a massive looming apocalypse. It had been suggested by Lara’s visions of angels in Monster or the crazy rhetoric of the Polaroid Stalker in The Beginning and the End, but the possibility had been offset against the idea that the apocalypse was a subjective experience in scripts like Monster or The Beginning and the End. As such, The Curse of Frank Black makes it clear that the apocalypse can be both intimate and epic at the same time.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack24

The Curse of Frank Black also reinforces the idea that recurs throughout Millennium that God might not necessarily have humanity’s best interests at heart. When Sammael interfered on the mortal plane in Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions, he was quick to assure Frank that he was not acting out of beneficence. Instead, the forces of heaven play on a completely different level. Sammael made it quite clear that even manifesting himself in the human world caused him great discomfort.

Here, it is suggested that both sides want Frank out of the conflict. While Crocell is clearly a representative from the demonic camp, he seems to offer Frank a place in heaven. “Go back to your wife and to your daughter and to your puppy and to your yellow house and just live out a nice, happy, normal life and there’s going to be a place for all three of you afterwards. A place, believe me, where a lot of souls wish they could be.” That would seem to suggest that heaven is a party to this deal. (Or perhaps that Lucifer plans to annex heaven and run it as a holiday resort.)

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack7

While The Curse of Frank Black suggests that the devil is sending the souls of the dead to torment Frank Black, the episode also makes it quite clear that there are other forces at work as well. Frank is directed, repeatedly, to The Acts of the Apostles. He is advised, “Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” It suggests an equivalence – the only explicit mention of “God” (let alone “heaven”) in the entire episode. In the context of The Curse of Frank Black, it is hardly reassuring.

In Beware of the Dog, the Old Man dismissed the idea that the Millennium Group was caught up in some romanticised conflict between good and evil. Instead, the Old Man suggested that the only “sides” worth worrying about were “inside” or “outside.” That becomes a recurring theme of the second season, as Frank is invited to stand inside certain circles with certain groups as the end of the world bears down on humanity. It appears that groups can only be counted upon to protect their own interests.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack11

The second season of Millennium goes on to suggest that the forces of heaven are just as unsettling and uncomfortable as the other side in this gigantic theological conflict. The angels presented in Monster do not wear white robes and carry trumpets; they dress in black and wear hoods over their heads. Lara Means is in contact with the forces of heaven – she sees angels – but that ultimately does her no good. There is no divine mercy or intervention for Lara Means when doomsday arrives.

There is something quite harrowing and unsettling in this idea – in the sense that God is fundamentally unknowable and so impossibly beyond our comprehension that he is unconcerned with our individual lives in any way that we could possibly fathom. Millennium hints at this idea over the course of the second season, suggesting that the central conflict in Millennium is not between “good” and “evil”; instead, it is a conflict so impossibly vast and beyond human understanding that we are little more than insects caught in thunderstorm.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack23

As such, it makes sense that the only thing that Frank Black can do when confronted with such powerful forces is to just get on with his life – to pick up the pieces and put them together as best he can. It is interesting that one the demonic pieces of pop culture glimpsed in the episode is Ladislas Starewicz’s 1933 short film The Mascot. Discussing The Mascot in Entomology and Animation, Eric Schneider summarised:

A homeless drunk who tosses his liquor bottle into an alley introduces the night to us. The dark puddle of spilled alcohol mutates into a caricature of the devil, laughing and scheming. This transformation sets the tone for the rest of the night, as creatures of darkness begin to lurk and create mischief. The puppy doll, unfortunately, finds himself caught in the middle of this mayhem. He soon meets up with the dolls he had traveled with, though now they’ve been seduced by the machinations of the devil and take part in the mischief.

Eventually, the puppy doll escapes the turmoil and finds his way back to the doll maker’s house, where he tosses pieces of orange into the surprised girl’s mouth.

Even though The Mascot loses its focus, it isn’t difficult to discern where its heart lies: in the simple theme of a search for goodness and generosity in the modern world.

Not only does The Mascot provide a pretty effective and distinctive visual, it also plays quite neatly into the broader themes of the episode around it. The Curse of Frank Black is a story about demons – whether supernatural or simply constructed by our own psyche. It seems like the best that anybody can do in a situation like this is simply to try to do the best they can. Frank Black’s world might be ending, but that doesn’t mean he gives up on it.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack25

It goes without saying that the production of The Curse of Frank Black is absolutely stunning. There is very little dialogue over the course of the hour – harking back to Morgan and Wong’s script for Who Monitors the Birds? With that in mind, Lance Henriksen finds himself carrying the episode almost single-handedly. It is up to Henriksen to convey so much without recourse to dialogue or exposition. The actor turns in some of his finest work in the episode, making Frank seem more approachable and understandable than he has been in the past.

The script is also very well directed by Ralph Hemecker. Hemecker would direct three episodes of Millennium – one from each season. Unfortunately, he never got a script of comparable quality to The Curse of Frank Black. Hemecker is a veteran television director, but he also has a very strong sense of visual style. He designed a number of opening title sequences in the early nineties – for Stephen J. Cannell shows like Silk Stalkings, Renegade and Booker. As such, he has a very clear ability to convey information non-verbally.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack5

The Curse of Frank Black is a beautiful piece of television. It is an episode that never rushes to where it is going, one comfortable enough to savour its atmosphere and mood. It has a very understated and haunted quality, as Frank seems to walk through a world that is curiously dark and alien and empty. Despite a lack of “jump” scares, there is something almost nightmarish about Frank’s lonely journey. Mark Snow provides some of his best work for the episode’s distinctive (and effective) soundtrack.

The Curse of Frank Black is an astonishingly simple and effective fable. It is perhaps the most succinct (and endearing) summary of Millennium‘s central moral thesis. It is a fantastic episode of television, and proof that Millennium is a worthy part of the nineties television landscape.

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

Advertisements

2 Responses

  1. I have to confess: I am planning on watching DS9 only after I FINALLY watch both TLG and Millennium. Is that OK? 😉

    • Of course that’s okay! Although it might be worth skipping the first twelve episodes and entire last season of Millennium.

      I’m looking forward to covering The Lone Gunmen and Harsh Realm as part of the blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: