Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives

  • Awards & Nominations

Millennium – Seven and One (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

Seven and One is the last episode of Millennium to be written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz.

That is a pretty big deal. Frank Spotnitz had been a vital part of Ten Thirteen since the second season of The X-Files. He had also been the only X-Files writer apart from Chris Carter, Glen Morgan and James Wong to cross over to work on Millennium. He would become one of Carter’s most trusted associates, also contributing scripts to Harsh Realm and The Lone Gunmen. When The X-Files: Fight the Future took Carter’s attention away from Millennium in its second season, he proposed Spotnitz to run the show in his stead.

Here's Frankie!

Here’s Frankie!

Chris Carter had created Millennium, and it was clearly a show that meant a lot to him. While The X-Files was populist and accessible, Millennium always felt like more of an auteur project. It was solemn, abstract, contemplative. There is a sense that he was quite disappointed when his attention was diverted away from the show in its second year. Carter has talked time and time again about how he created Millennium as an examination of evil in the world. Appropriately enough, Seven and One finds him circling back around to that idea right before the show concludes.

Seven and One might be the most overtly religious script that Carter and Spotnitz have ever written. It seems to foreshadow the closing themes of Carter’s script for The Truth, the final episode of The X-Files. It emphasises just how essential religious themes are to Carter’s work.

Eye spy...

Eye spy…

There are strong religious themes running through both The X-Files and Millennium. Although Carter is not directly credited on any of the big episodes that overtly deal with religion (Revelations, Sacrament, All Souls, Signs and Wonders), the themes are so deeply woven into the fabric of the two shows as to be inseparable. The mythology of The X-Files is implicitly religious, with Carter explicitly acknowledging the spiritual side of the colonists in scripts like Red Museum and Patient X.

Never mind that Carter’s script for Improbable casts Burt Reynolds as God and assures the audience “Dio Ti Ama.” The show has repeatedly framed Mulder’s search for “the Truth” in overtly religious terms – right down to that closing shot of Mulder in a church at the end of Conduit, the show’s fourth episode. Scully might be explicitly Catholic, but Mulder is no less faithful. He just chooses to invest his faith in aliens and conspiracies rather than divine authority. “I Want to Believe” has an obvious religious or spiritual component to it.

That's a little on the nose, doncha think?

That’s a little on the nose, doncha think?

Indeed, it is very hard to talk about Carter’s work without discussing these religious themes. Amy M. Donaldson even published I Want to Believe, a book exploring the religious themes of The X-Files. While Donaldson generally avoided Millennium in her discussions of Carter’s work, she did argue in interviews that the religious themes in The X-Files were very much ahead of their time:

I think where there is a lack of religion, or even hostility to religion, in sci-fi, it often says more about the authors/creators themselves than about the worlds and people they create. I also think that the lack of human religion I note in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Stargate SG-1 is a trend that has shifted since those shows first aired. Perhaps in that way The X-Files was simply cutting edge or trendsetting. As sci-fi has become more postmodern, there seems to be more allowance for religion and faith. But that religion itself also tends to be more postmodern, such as the syncretistic mix you find in Lost, or focused on the fact of faith (a general sense of spirituality) rather than the object of faith. The X-Files still remains somewhat unique in giving such a prominent position to a mainline tradition like Scully’s Catholic faith.

While Donaldson is right that mainstream science-fiction could occasionally seem hostile towards religion in the eighties and nineties, it should be noted that Carter was not the only writer exploring religious themes in an open-minded manner. With Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Michael Piller and Ira Steven Behr brought religion into the larger Star Trek universe at around the same time.

That is not a flattering picture...

That is not a flattering picture…

While The X-Files undoubtedly generates more discussion and debate, and has a firmer place in the popular consciousness, Carter’s religious themes spilled over into Millennium. As early as The Pilot and Gehenna, Chris Carter tied the show’s depictions of evil into overtly religious imagery and symbolism. With his script for Lamentation, Chris Carter introduced the character of Lucy Butler to the series and gave the evil facing Frank a demonic form. If Millennium is about evil at work in the world, Carter makes it clear that this evil has an overtly spiritual component to it.

Seven and One pushes these ideas to the fore. In the teaser, it is no coincidence that the clock stops at 3:10 – at once an allusion to Frank’s model as an archetypal western hero and to the time of Jesus Christ’s death. Towards the end of the episode, Boxer reveals his true demonic nature. He advises the FBI therapist that he intends “to show [her] Frank’s fear – is real. And that all [her] science and understanding and psychiatry are powerless against it.” There is a primal and mystical evil at work in the world.

"C'mon, I mean... it's not like he's a meth kingpin."

“C’mon, I mean… it’s not like he’s a meth kingpin.”

To be fair, this all ties back into the idea of evil as it runs through Carter’s work. Throughout The X-Files and Millennium, Carter tends to treat evil as an outside force that corrupts and erodes human decency. Donnie Pfaster from Irresistible is rendered explicitly demonic, while Grotesque proposes that evil is contagious. This is to day nothing of the black oil introduced into the mythology in Piper Maru and Apocrypha. With Seven and One, Carter and Spotnitz make that evil explicitly religious and supernatural.

This seems like an odd choice for a show about a forensic profiler. Frank Black is a man who looks at human evil. His job hinges on the assumption that these horrific actions come from a human source that can be understood and comprehended. In fact, the first season made a point to suggest that Frank Black’s “gift” was rooted in empathy – that he had the ability to place himself inside the mind of a killer, and to understand the warped (but still human) logic at work in these most heinous of crimes.

He hasn't a prayer...

He hasn’t a prayer…

Seven and One seems to reject any secular reading of Millennium. In fact, the use of actor Bob Wilde in Seven and One suggests that all the evils in the world of Millennium may be demonic in nature. Wilde skirts around the edges of the third season, playing Millennium Group assassin Mabius in episodes like Exegesis, Skull and Bones, Collateral Damage and Bardo Thodol. Mabius is tied to the more sinister aspects of the Millennium Group, so associating him with Boxer suggests that even the corruption of the Millennium Group may be supernatural in nature.

Frank seeks solace in a church, admitting his own crisis of faith. “I was in your church a long time ago,” he tells Father Yahger. “I’m not a Catholic, but my wife was.” Frank’s closing monologue suggests that he has found faith. “I have misjudged my gift. If I see in the darkness it’s because there is light. And it is the light which guides me now. The light that will not go out, that will lead us out of the dark night. If we let ourselves feel this, too. It will protect me, as it protects those around me. Even as the ancient forces try to steal out breaths.”

Dark night of the soul...

Dark night of the soul…

Interviews with Carter suggest that the writer was navigating his own spirituality during the nineties, trying to make sense of the world in any way that he could. In a 2008 interview with The Smithsonian Magazine, Carter suggested that The X-Files was always half-rooted in his religious philosophy:

But the idea itself came out of my religious background and my interest in science. My brother is a scientist. He’s a professor at MIT. He brought science fiction into my world. But I am a person of faith and so it’s the combination of those two things.

It seems that, as the show went on, the religious themes came more and more to the fore. Carter’s final scripts for both The X-Files and Millennium conclude his interaction with the shows on a strongly religious note.

It looks like Boxer's Hank-ering to catch Frank...

It looks like Boxer’s Hank-ering to catch Frank…

In earlier interviews, Carter suggested that his writing was quite divorced from his own religious outlook. Interviewed in 1995, the writer provided a soundbyte to which he would often return in discussions about the religious themes of his work:

It has a conscience, this show.

A social conscience?

Yeah, a social conscience.

I think it does. I think when people are pursuing the truth, the conscience is built-in. There’s no political message being delivered, no social message being delivered, but I think there is sort of a universal, scientific, religious message that can be extrapolated. I think that’s not a conscious decision to do that. People who see the show oftentimes they feel the show is actually a very religious show, which is funny because when I’ve thought about this, I think of myself as a non-religious person looking for religious experience, so I think that’s what the characters are sort of doing too.

Carter’s description of himself as “a non-religious person looking for a religious experience” was a quote to which the writer himself would return to in later interviews around the same subject.

"Can't we have one episode where I don't end up in a freakin' graveyard?"

“Can’t we have one episode where I don’t end up in a freakin’ graveyard?”

In later interviews around the release of The X-Files: I Want to Believe, Carter acknowledged that his own approach and attitudes towards religion and spirituality had evolved during the decade:

“I would call myself a spiritual person. I used to call myself a non-religious person looking for a religious experience. I’d say that sort of defines me, though in these five years, I’ve come closer to faith than I’ve ever been.”

As The X-Files was ending its sixth season and as Millennium was concluding, it seems like Carter was closer to the end of his journey that the beginning. That spirituality is really pushing itself to the fore.

That boy needs therapy...

That boy needs therapy…

It should be noted that Carter’s religious philosophy is not explicitly Catholic in nature. As much as Millennium draws from Christian iconography and imagery, those elements were arguably at their strongest during Carter’s absence in the second season. Episodes actually dealing with Christian dogma and artifacts were largely overseen by Glen Morgan and James Wong – 19:19, The Hand of St. Sebastian, Owls, Roosters and Anamnesis are all arguably more specifically Christian than Lamentation or Seven and One.

Instead, Carter seems to us Christian imagery to suggest a more humanist philosophy. When Emma Hollis consults with Father Yahger about Frank’s crisis of faith, Father Yagher does not suggest that God will protect Frank. Instead, he suggests that Frank needs to find his strength in his connection to others. He advises, “God, love, goodness. Those things reside in our connections with other people. Those ties must be strong, or evil takes root. It is those who feel the strongest that evil wants most.”

Smile!

Smile!

John Kenneth Muir has suggested that this is a recurring theme in Carter’s writing, perhaps reflecting the larger sense of cultural listlessness that defined the nineties. One of the great paradoxes of globalisation is the way that connecting everything has left so many people feeling disconnected. It seems like many of Carter’s protagonists find themselves struggling to connect with the world in a meaningful way:

I might add, this “connectedness” to the world seems to be the great challenge of the archetypal Chris Carter male, so far as The X-Files and Millennium are concerned.  Both Mulder and Frank Black are extremely intelligent men who go to great lengths to help others; but always seem to refuse help themselves, even from their loved ones.  They demand emotional clarity from others, but themselves are emotionally remote; distant.

This is not limited to Frank Black and Fox Mulder. Carter’s script for Milagro suggested the same was true of writer Phillip Padgett. (Asked to account for what he had done, Padgett offers, “I want to feel love.”) Even Three of a Kind closes its teaser with Byers watching the dream of idealised family life transform to barren desert.

Stop the clock!

Stop the clock!

As such, Seven and One feels like an appropriate last script for Chris Carter. It feels like a suitable note upon which to conclude his involvement with Millennium. Of course, nobody knew for sure that the third season would be the last year of Millennium, but it was quite clear that the prognosis for the show was not great. Ultimately, Fox would cancel Millennium to make room for Harsh Realm. If Carter and Spotnitz wanted to wrap a bow around their vision of the show, Seven and One feels like an appropriate point at which to do that.

At the same time, Seven and One feels like the third season of Millennium is still struggling to reconcile itself with what came before.  It seems like so much of the third season has been spent arguing about how much (or how little) the second season does (or should) influence this iteration of Millennium. It is a matter that really should have been laid to rest by The Sound of Snow at the latest. Instead, it feels like the production team are still trying to untie the Gordian Knot, when they should have already just cut through it, one way or another.

"My Millennium sense is tingling!"

“My Millennium sense is tingling!”

Seven and One is an episode very much fixated on the past. The title, Seven and One, refers to the prophecies that Frank uncovers about the new millennium. However, it also refers to Jordan’s birthday at the start of the episode. It is a way of acknowledging Jordan’s growth and development, even as it diminishes the passage of time. “Seven and one” somehow sounds smaller than “eight.” It seems to arrest the passage of time, to slow the ticking of the clock. This is only the most obvious example.

Within the episode, Frank finds himself facing the fact that Jordan is growing up – the same anxieties that he grappled with in Saturn Dreaming of Mercury. When he offers to help his mother-in-law with the dishes at the party, she won’t hear of it. “Oh, that’s all right, Frank. You enjoy this. It doesn’t last forever.” Later in the episode, Frank and Jordan discuss the process of growing up. In an adorable sequence, Jordan promises to give Frank a key to her house whenever she gets one.

Boxed in...

Boxed in…

Even more than Seven and One is concerned about the future, the script is fixated on the past. Much of the episode is built around a secret history of Frank Black. Explaining the polaroids sent by the mysterious villain, Frank recounts a previously untold story from his childhood. The story even introduces at least one previously unmentioned brother. Sacrament and Midnight of the Century seemed to suggest that Frank only had a single brother, Thomas. All of a sudden, Seven and One suggests that there were more. Seven and One is fascinated with history.

It is particularly fascinated with first season history. As with The Innocents, Catherine’s parents appear to provide a clear continuity between Paper Dove and the third season. Once again, Frank finds himself stalked by a villain mailing polaroids to his home. When Frank is searching through the records, Seven and One even offers us a picture of Bob Bletcher. This is the first time that the character has actually appeared since Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions and the first time he has been referenced since The Curse of Frank Black.

Waiting for Frank to snap...

Waiting for Frank to snap…

In interviews during the third season, Chris Carter admitted that one of the struggles on returning from the show had been discovering how much it had changed in his absence:

“It’s got a magnificent fan base, but that’s never translated into big ratings,” admits Carter. “Man, I’ve worked hard on Millennium this year. I’ve written and rewritten several shows. It’s not like it was in the first year, but I’ve certainly paid a lot more attention to it this year than last. There are some really good episodes coming up. Really scary episodes. I took the lessons from the things [Morgan and Wong] did but moved the show in a new direction.”

One of the biggest struggles within the third season as been the sense that Millennium is trapped between its attempts to return to the first season and the necessity to push forward towards new ground.

That future DEA agent is about to make her DOA.

That future DEA agent is about to make her DOA.

While Seven and One makes lots of loving references to the first season, it seems a bit less enthused about the developments of the second. Although the polaroid stalker from The Beginning and the End is acknowledged, much greater emphasis is put on the polaroid stalker who haunted Frank before the show began. When he is informed about the death of Catherine Black, Boxer openly questions the development. “To a viral outbreak? Has it ever been proven or corroborated?”

As much as the episode seems to suggest that Frank would want to literally stop the clock to spend more time with his daughter, it feels like Seven and One would want to reset the show’s continuity back to the first season. Even the themes of the episode feel inherited from the first season, with the show once again emphasising the home as a place of sanctity and security for Frank. “I sent my daughter to her grandparents for a couple of days,” Frank explains. “I think you should leave too, Frank,” Boxer suggests. “I won’t be driven out of my house,” Frank states.

They'll crucify Frank for this...

They’ll crucify Frank for this…

This makes a great deal more sense in the context of the first season than it does at this point in time. Frank’s emotional attachment to the yellow house from the first season was very carefully and meticulously established. However, the dream of the yellow house died with Catherine, with The Sound of Snow confirming that the new owner of the house had painted it white. The new home shared by Frank and Jordan in the third season has not been so firmly established. Indeed, the final scenes of Goodbye to All That suggest that the house is incidental.

Of course, Frank’s refusal to be scared out of his home makes a certain amount of sense. There is an instinctive fight or flight response in these situations. However, it seems like Frank should have learned by now that a home is more than just a structure; home is his family. It seems strange that Frank would choose to remain alone in his new house rather than stay with (and protect) Jordan at her grandparents. It is a decision that would make a lot more sense if it applied to the yellow house rather than Frank’s relatively new house in Virginia.

Falling down...

Falling down…

As with a lot of third season episodes, Seven and One almost feels like a first-season episode of an entirely new show. In particular, the episode goes back over themes and ideas that are baked into the premise of the show. Seven and One spends a lot of time revisiting the basics of what Frank does and how it works, ground covered in his rather sombre conversation with Bob Bletcher in the car park during The Pilot. It feels a little unsatisfying that Seven and One feels the need to lay out exposition that is pretty much the premise of the show.

“I have a gift,” Frank explains at one point. “I see what the killer sees. I imagine what he thinks. I put myself in his head.”  When trying to indict Frank, Boxer falls back on the old “he who fights monsters…” cliché. “We’re talking about a man who’s made a career out of hunting down violent criminals, getting inside their heads,” Boxer narrates. “Who, to be successful, has to live with the knowledge of the most base and horrible acts and the unthinkable human impulses that drive them.”

Having its cake and eating it too...

Having its cake and eating it too…

It sounds like Boxer is auditioning to read some narration that can play over the opening title sequence. Boxer continues by suggesting that these visions are “so horrible as to become… unreal. But when reality itself becomes subjective, when the connection between who you are and what you know commingle and confuse to the point where the hunter so identifies with the hunted, he becomes him.” This is an idea that was hardly novel when Thomas Harris played with it in Red Dragon. It feels rather over-ripe near the end of the final season.

After all, this seems like something that should have been laid to rest when Frank gutted the polaroid stalker at the climax of The Beginning and the End. While it is not exactly clear what happened in the wake of that incident, it seems like a more damning indictment of Frank than his therapy video from The Innocents. It feels somewhat disappointing that Carter and Spotnitz’s last script for Millennium falls back on the overly-familiar “so, when is the psychological profiler going to go psycho?” trope.

"This is familiar..."

“This is familiar…”

Then again, this feels no stranger than the decision to give Frank a never-before-mentioned fear of drowning in Seven and One – a character development that feels akin to Fox Mulder’s never-again-mentioned fear of fire in Fire. Both feel like clumsy attempts at characterisation that do not fit with anything else we know about the characters. Mulder was never afraid of fire in later episodes, and Frank never demonstrated any fear of water in episodes like The Pilot or Blood Relatives, both of which featured heavy water symbolism.

Once again, there is a sense that Mulder’s sudden fear of fire could be excused because it suddenly appeared in (and quickly disappeared after) an episode broadcast as part of the first season. The decision to give Frank a deep-seated fear of drowning four episodes from the end of the third season (and of the show) feels like a poor choice. It reinforces the sense that Seven and One is a first season episode that somehow ended up scripted and broadcast towards the end of the show’s life-cycle.

Buried by her work...

Buried by her work…

Seven and One is the last episode of Millennium written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz. It works quite well as a last-minute restatement of some of the things that Carter was trying to say with the show. At the same time, it demonstrates that Millennium might not ever get past the schism between the first and second seasons, with Frank Black’s anxieties about the passage of time reflected in the show’s uncertainties facing its past or engaging a future that was looking darker and darker by the minute.

Advertisements

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: