Goodbye to All That is not a bad place to leave Millennium, truth be told.
Sure, the episode has its problems, but that is true of pretty much every third season episode. However, showrunners Chip Johannessen and Ken Horton do try to offer the show some sort of closure. While Emma betraying Frank before he rides off into the sunset might have been a nice set up for a new fourth season status quo, it also feels like a nice place to leave the show as well. Director Thomas J. Wright frames that closing shot beautifully, to the point where anything that follows does feel like a coda to the three-season show.
More than that, there’s a curious magnanimity to Goodbye to All That. The episode seems to suggest that perhaps Millennium has finally resolved all its internal conflicts about its own history. As with Borrowed Time, The Sound of Snow or Collateral Damage, there is a sense that Goodbye to All That is trying to create a cohesive theory of Millennium – suturing together three very different seasons into something approaching a singular entity. The task is impossible, but Goodbye to All That makes a valiant effort.
Yes, the actual plotting is ridiculous and Goodbye to All That tries to do too much in a single forty-five minute episode, but these are far from the worst vices of the third season. It is too much to suggest that Goodbye to All That wraps up Millennium on a high, but it does allow the show to bow out with its head held high.
There is a sense that it might have been better for Chip Johannessen and Ken Horton to write both parts of the season (and series) finalé. There is quite a bit of tonal whiplash moving from Via Dolorosa into Goodbye to All That, and it feels like the finalé might have been stronger if some of the weird sex/violence/religion stuff from Via Dolorosa had been trimmed so that the character-driven plots of Goodbye to All That could have a bit of room to breath. As it is, everything is packed so tight that there is barely room to breath.
This becomes particularly obvious at the climax, which seems almost like a laundry list of plotting requirements before the season can wrap itself up. Frank is dismissed from the FBI, but stops to confront Lucas Wayne Barr on his way to pick up Jordan before absconding with her. It is rather convoluted, and it is almost disappointing that Frank never pauses to tell Jordan that “Daddy’s got to take care of some stuff” before off-handedly confronting a serial killer as easily as other parent might pick up some milk on the way home from work.
Goodbye to All That does try to tie together a mythology for the fractured third season of the show. Frank discovers that the Millennium Group has been actively creating serial killers, a revelation that is as completely insane as anything featured in the second season. The idea that the Millennium Group can (or would want to) manufacture serial killers on a mass scale is just as eccentric as going to war over the True Cross. To be fair to those involved, the show has done a reasonable amount of groundwork to set up this revelation.
The surgical table and the holes in the skulls from Skull and Bones suggested that the Millennium Group had been conducting experimentation upon innocent victims for quite some time. Bardo Thodol suggested that “don’t change the ideals, change the people” was the fifth item on the Millennium Group’s manefesto and that the head was home to a person’s soul. Bardo Thodol and Matryoshka suggested that the Millennium Group was interested in pseudo-science. Even TEOTWAWKI tied in thematically, featuring a group claiming to solve a problem they were creating.
It is, of course, entirely debatable how much set-up is required to prepare the audience for a twist predicated on “the Millennium Group is creating serial killers.” Certainly, Goodbye to All That doesn’t feel like it ramps up to the revelation. The moment arrives with a confused “… what?” rather than an enthusiastic “… wow!” Still, it is goofy and pulpy and silly in a way that suits Millennium. Millennium is a show that can take itself far too seriously at times, so it’s nice to get a sense that the show can still run with a big crazy idea.
The revelation that the Millennium Group has pioneered a way to manipulate and control a person’s thoughts feels very much in keeping with Chip Johannessen’s interest in weird pseudo-science. After all, Force Majeure was built around the concept of “Earth changes”, Sense and Antisense explored the Human Genome Project and Bardo Thodol developed from the original idea of a bunch of hands found in a shipping container. The idea of manipulating the human brain is not a new (or even untested) scientific idea.
The idea of a surgical procedure that can change the way that people think is not a new idea by any means. It is, to a certain extent, the justification used for electro-shock therapy or even lobotomies. However, the nature of the work done by the Millennium Group here evokes the pioneering research of Jose Delgado. In 1965, Delgado was quoted in The New York Times as observing:
The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective. Man does not have the right to develop his own mind. This kind of liberal orientation has great appeal. We must electronically control the brain. Someday armies and generals will be controlled by electric stimulation of the brain.
It is a terrifying thought. Although the Millennium Group seems to find the most banal use imaginable for the procedure, it does open up all manner of possibilities. Does this experimentation explain the rather dramatic shift in Peter Watts’ personality between the second and third seasons? Was he taken away for a thorough re-education that involved slicing his head open?
One of the more interesting aspects of Delgado’s research is the fact that it has been all but forgotten. There was a time when it was at the cutting edge of neuroscience, before quickly fading from view:
He implanted radio-equipped electrode arrays, which he called “stimoceivers,” in cats, monkeys, chimpanzees, gibbons, bulls and even humans, and he showed that he could control subjects’ minds and bodies with the push of a button. Yet after Delgado moved to Spain in 1974, his reputation in the U.S. faded, not only from public memory but from the minds and citation lists of other scientists. He described his results in more than 500 peer-reviewed papers and in a widely reviewed 1969 book, but these are seldom cited by modern researchers. In fact, some familiar with his early work assume he died. But Delgado, who recently moved with his wife, Caroline, from Spain to San Diego, Calif., is very much alive and well, and he has a unique perspective on modern efforts to treat various disorders by stimulating specific areas of the brain.
Delgado’s research (and even his successes) are a delightfully odd piece of scientific history that fit quite comfortably with the “weird science” vibe of third season episodes like Matryoshka or Bardo Thodol.
Of course, this is not the only influence at work on Goodbye to All That. It is understandable that Horton and Johannessen should want to include a serial killer narrative, given how Millennium began its life as a show about a man hunting serial killers. Even if Lucas Wayne Barr feels like one subplot too many in an over-stuffed episode, it only seems right that Frank should be afforded the opportunity to take down one last serial killer before driving off into the sunset with Jordan.
Appropriately enough, both Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That frame Lucas Wayne Barr as a gigantic homage to the work of Thomas Harris. His night vision goggles recall the climax of The Silence of the Lambs, while the sequences that feature Barr moving in with Cheryl recall Francis Dolarhyde’s relationship with Reba in Manhunter. Goodbye to All That is not even subtle about that. We get a serial killer watching his home movies (with the volume down low) alongside a blind woman who starts making out with him.
It makes sense for Millennium to acknowledge the influence of the work of Thomas Harris on the show. Thomas Harris’ books have been a massive influence on the serial killer genre in particular and on the work of Chris Carter in general. On a very fundamental level, Fox Mulder and Frank Black are very consciously modeled on Will Graham from Red Dragon, right down to their nervous breakdowns; Dana Scully owes a lot to Clarice Starling, even to the point of her introductory sequence from The Pilot.
(That is to say nothing of specific episodes that owe conscious debts to the work of Thomas Harris. Beyond the Sea feels like a riff on The Silence of the Lambs, while Paper Hearts even brings back Tom Noonan to complete a narrative homage to Red Dragon. The first season of Millennium also contains its fair share of references and acknowledgements. The Thin White Line cannot help but evoke Red Dragon, while Lamentation plays Doctor Ephraim Fabricant as a bargain-basement Hannibal Lecter.)
Thomas Harris’ influence extends even beyond the use of serial killers. Harris is a notoriously slow writer, one who conducts a lot of careful research into his subjects before ever setting pen to paper. His novels are among the earliest works of fiction to push forensic profiling into the public consciousness. He is meticulous in crafting psychopaths like Francis Dolarhype and Jame Gumb, working hard to ensure that their pathology makes a great deal of sense given all the surrounding biological or environmental factors.
At the same time, it is clear that Thomas Harris believes in a form of evil that extends beyond the psychological or rational. Although Hannibal and Hannibal Rising would strip away a lot of the intriguing mystery surrounding his most famous creation, Harris frequently presents Hannibal Lecter as a force that exists beyond rationalisation or understanding. Harris might anchor his work in psychology and science, but his novels also suggest that the world cannot be defined exclusively in those terms.
In The Silence of the Lambs, Lecter stubbornly refuses to reduce himself to a logical pattern of cause and effect. He tells Clarice Starling:
Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviorism, Officer Starling. You’ve got everybody in moral dignity pants – nothing is ever anybody’s fault. Look at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil? Am I evil, Officer Starling?
Although Hannibal and Hannibal Rising offer Freudian justifications for his actions, Harris presents Lecter as something beyond human.
The work of Thomas Harris arguably inspired a whole new genre of work. Harris pushed serial killer stories into the mainstream, and helped to codify the heroic forensic profiler. Without Harris, it seems unlikely that shows like CSI or Criminal Minds or Profiler could exist. His work spawned a whole host of imitators like Kiss the Girls or se7en. A lot of those works tended to lean into the more rational and logical side of Harris’ writing, his fascination with the factors the produced (and enabled) these sociopaths.
However, it seems like Chris Carter responded more to the moral dimension of Harris’ work. Millennium might be a show about a forensic profiler who hunts serial killers, but Carter himself argued that the series was “actually about the limits of psychology.” This view is supported by Seven and One, the last script that Carter wrote for the series. In that episode, a demonic entity shows up specifically to prove that evil exists beyond the terms of psychological profiling and forensic pathology. (The demon even boasts about that while murdering a guest star.)
As Davide Mana argued in This Is the Blind Leading the Blind, one of the shrewdest twists that Thomas Harris employed when defining this new serial killer fiction was the decision to blend the police procedural with a more existential horror:
In this sense, the deranged killer is not a new feature of mystery novels – being a distinctive element, for instance, of many plots of Ellery Queen novels in which the game played by the authors with the reader consists in decoding the personal set of rules by which the killer navigates reality in order to identify the murderer himself. The serial killer goes one step beyond – for one thing, upping the ante, piling bodies on bodies, widening the area of menace to the whole city, state or nation, and secondly by adding the element of true horror, almost in a Lovecraftian sense. What are H.P. Lovecraft’s faceless, indifferent deities whose essentially random acts against humanity lack any true hostility, if not serial killes on a cosmic scale? And what is a serial killer, down in his deepest core, but a man who has cast himself in the role of indifferent deity, in a very Lovecraftian sense?
As such, the serial killer genre that is being established as Red Dragon hits the shelves in the early eighties is a true cross-genre character, straddling the line that separates mystery and horror fiction, crossing Black Mask with Weird Tales.
Millennium was very much founded on this union. It is much more of a horror story than any of the later shows that would find greater success exploring similar themes or ideas. The serial killers in Millennium seem more like monsters than human beings.
In fact, the climax of Goodbye to All That explicitly references the fact that it is possible to know too much about evil and serial killers – that to stare into the nature of evil is to stare into an abyss. “I know everything now,” Barr rants and raves. “Too much: why Ed Cuffle did what he did; why he drilled holes in people’s heads.” It is suggested that such insanity and violence is a Lovecraftian horror; to even contemplate it is to risk insanity or worse. For a show about a profiler, Millennium really stressed the limits of profiling.
Then again, this is not a bad thing. The more impressionistic and abstract themes of Harris’ work have inspired their own imitators. Millennium might resemble CSI or Criminal Minds in a rather superficial manner, but its core themes and ideas are closer to those of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal or Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective. It doesn’t necessarily work as consistently as either of those two shows, but it exists at a point in history quite far removed from either. It is hard to imagine Hannibal or True Detective as a network show in the late nineties.
This more impressionistic style makes it a little grating when – during the final confrontation – Frank and Barr reflect on the decisions that brought Barr to this point. “I always had it in me, didn’t I?” Barr asks. Frank sagely replies, “We do. We all do.” It feels like a totally unearned moment, particularly when the only reason that Barr “had it in [him]” is because the Millennium Group put it there. That logic might have worked in the second season, but it feels like a half-hearted grasp for profundity in a season that has spent so much time on external evil.
While the continuity of Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That is inconsistent with that of Seven and One, the themes remained the same. In their last script for Millennium, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz suggested that the battle between good and evil in Millennium was explicitly spiritual and religious in nature. Seven and One featured Frank connecting with his wife’s faith while fighting a shape-shifting demon. Carter would suggest something similar in The Truth, his last script for The X-Files.
Goodbye to All That ends on a similarly religious note. “Which side wins, Daddy?” Jordan asks. Frank replies, “That’s what I’m saying. It’s up to us.” Jordan sums up, “We are all shepherds.” Frank agrees, “Yes, honey. Yes, we are.” The two drive over a hill towards a nice pastoral scene with a beam of sunlight piercing the cloud cover as if beckoning them on. Sadly, Frank never assures his daughter, “But I’m tryin’, Jordan. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.” If only because Lance Henriksen would knock it out of the park.
The decision to tie Barr into the Millennium Group is a little awkward, even it is an efficient way to tie various strands of the show together. The shift to Millennium Group conspiracy theories in Goodbye to All That after a string of mysterious murders in Via Dolorosa provides a nice sense of symmetry to the season. The opener did something similar, starting with a mystery in The Innocents before tying it back to the Millennium Group in Exegesis. Still, it feels like Goodbye to All That never has room to develop these theories as much as it would like.
In an interview with Back to Frank Black, Chip Johannessen conceded that the Millennium Group mythology might have become an albatross around the show’s next in it final year:
What probably would have made more sense would have been to get rid of the Millennium Group mythology entirely and do a heightened, sometimes speculative crime show. That probably would have been closer to what Chris had originally envisioned and, who knows, it might still be on today.
This is not entirely convincing. The Millennium Group were among the most interesting aspects of the second season, so they could be handled well. More to the point, some of the worst season three episodes had nothing to do with the Millennium Group.
Still, it does not help matters that Goodbye to All That essentially turns the Millennium Group into the Legion of Doom. Over the course of Millennium, the Millennium Group was many different things. In the first season, they were simply a stand-in for the Academy Group. In the second season, they were the Knights Templar and the Freemasons. In the third, they were the diet version of the conspirators from The X-Files. In the show’s last episode, they find themselves transformed into a cabal of super villains.
For some reason, the Millennium Group is creating serial killers. More than that, they are creating serial killers modeled on past serial killers. More than that, their latest serial killer is modeled on the polaroid stalker who drove Frank to his nervous breakdown. Coupled with the reveal that the Millennium Group has nefarious plans for Jordan Black, they seem more and more like they are being directed by Lex Luthor. Sending a brainwashed villain on a killing spree to mess with your opponent’s head is something from a comic book.
“I mean, who even has the capabilities to turn some guy into Ed Cuffle?” Baldwin wonders in Via Dolorosa. “And of the billions of people on the planet, why would you choose Ed Cuffle as your model?” It is a rather strange plan with a somewhat nebulous end game. Is this just an act of psychological warfare against Frank? Is this all part of a convoluted scheme to give him another nervous breakdown? There are more direct routes to get the Millennium Group what they want, but Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That seem to admire the contrivances and contortions.
In true comic book form, Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That suggest that the Millennium Group is simply an evil mirror to Frank. They are also skilled profilers – they just use their powers for evil. “We have to first ask ourselves how they found their subject,” Frank assures Barry. “When they found him, he was a potential killer, sufficiently like Cuffle to adopt his MO.” While Frank uses his gift to catch brutal serial murders, the Millennium Group uses their gifts to create them. Frank gets inside their heads, the Millennium Group puts stuff inside their heads.
There is nothing wrong with this, beyond the fact that it feels like the show is cheating the audience out a glimpse of the Millennium Group’s top secret swamp headquarters. In all seriousness, it might be the most ridiculous appearance of the Millennium Group to date, but it is still more interesting than all the nonsense about fallout shelters in Exegesis or Gulf War shenanigans in Collateral Damage or secret histories in Matryoshka. There is a sense of goofy pulpy dynamism to all of this. It is simplistic and inelegant, but it is fun.
At the same time, Goodbye to All That does offer more of an insight into the motivation of the Millennium Group than any other episode since The Time is Now. “You’ve always seen the Group through clouded eyes,” Peter advises Frank. “Man has made a mess of Eden. Our greed is only eclipsed by our tribal stupidity and our brutality. We are rushing toward an apocalypse of our own creation.” It is a justification that explains a lot about what Peter has done (and has allowed to be done) over the course of the year.
“Maybe not the end of the physical world, but the end of a world that is worthy of human life,” he insists. “And that’s not that something that the Group invented, that’s what the Group is trying to prevent.” Frank and Peter have a disagreement in Goodbye to All That which feels like it has been a long time coming. It feels like the culmination of the argument that began in Owls, and bubbled through to The Fourth Horseman. It was the point at which the relationship between Frank and Peter should have began this season, not where it needed to end.
There is something rather interesting about Goodbye to All That. The finalé doesn’t just try to integrate the various strands of mythology seeded across the third season; it doesn’t just hark back to the Thomas Harris serial killers of the first season. Goodbye to All That seems to make a genuine effort to integrate the whole of Millennium, including the second season that caused so many headaches to the production team. It is an ambitious effort, given how frequently Millennium could feel like three different shows linked by their lead character.
There is a genuine sense that Horton and Johannessen’s attitudes towards the second season evolved dramatically across the third season. Initially, the show tried to pretend that it never happened. Johannessen’s script for Exegesis and his collaboration with Horton on Skull and Bones suggested that the second season had unfolded in a manner rather different than had been depicted on-screen. However, Johannessen seemed to grow more accepting of the second season towards the middle of the season, with episodes like Borrowed Time.
Goodbye to All That acknowledges the second season in a number of ways. When Seven and One brought up the polaroid stalker, it was careful to distance the character from the version who appeared in The Beginning and the End. While Goodbye to All That never explicitly acknowledges that version either, it is telling that Lucas Wayne Barr is given a military service record and tied into the Millennium Group. This suggests a thematic connection between the stalker played by Doug Hutchinson and the character appearing here.
The episode also makes a point to return to Peter Watts’ second season characterisation. His Millennium Group voice print is revealed to be “my God, it’s full of stars” – a line of dialogue that appeared in Arthur C. Clarke’s book of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the film of 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Not only is the return of the voice print a nod to the second season, but a very specific nod to Lara Means’ own voice print. (“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”) It is a small acknowledgement, but an acknowledgement nonetheless.
More than that, Goodbye to All That essentially has Peter reenact his character arc from the end of the second season. Frank convinces him to think critically about the Millennium Group and to begin his own investigation. As Peter begins to have doubts about the organisation, he feeds information to Frank. In the end, it appears that he is murdered by the Group for attempting to help a friend. This is basically Peter’s arc across The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now, albeit with Frank in the place of Lara and with a little more success.
Again, it is debatable whether or not it is a good thing to effectively play out a character arc that was already played out at the end of the second year. However, it seems like Goodbye to All That is a belated attempt at reconciliation for the third season. Tellingly, a lot of the characters wind up in situations that parallel their position at the end of the second season. Frank and Jordan are alone in the world; Peter Watts is presumed murdered by the Group. It almost seems like an acknowledgement that maybe the third season did not handle those arcs as well as it might have.
With all of this going on, Goodbye to All That seldom has time to deal with the threads unique to the sixth season. Emma Hollis’ defection to the Millennium Group ultimately feels rushed, and a victim of the contradictory impulses of the third season. Episodes like Matryoshka, Forcing the End and even Saturn Dreaming of Mercury suggested that the Millennium Group held a great deal of interest for Emma. After all, she felt excluded from Frank’s gift. However, episodes like Skull and Bones, Human Essence and Bardo Thodol demonstrated to her that the Group was evil.
As a result, Emma’s eventual betrayal of Frank feels somewhat heavy-handed. Still, at least there is some internal logic to the decision. Emma was never as developed as Peter or Lara were during the second season, and there is a sense that the production team only figured out what they wanted to do with the character in the final stretch of the season. The introduction of James Hollis in Darwin’s Eye was one of the better decisions concerning Emma’s third season arc, even if it felt a little cliché and predictable. It worked better than anything in Closure or Human Essence.
The whole arc is rushed. Emma’s arc in Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That really should have played across at least the second half of the season. The decision to have Emma grow suspicious of Frank after the death of Baldwin in Via Dolorosa is a rather lazy attempt at justification, just like the sudden escalation of her father’s condition feels like a transparent attempt to railroad the character into making the decisions to that are necessary for the season to end where the production team wants it to end.
Nevertheless, it does end with Emma in an interesting position. There is a lot of potential there. As actress Klea Scott confessed to Back to Frank Black, she had a host of ideas about where that thread might go:
“Lance and I had a million ideas for the next season,” she elaborates. “We had this whole thing that we were going to come back and Emma’s on the inside. You’re going to think she’s total Millennium Group and they’re going to be meeting and she’s just trying to break them down from the inside, she’s just posing for the Millennium Group.
“I just didn’t feel like she could be that completely disloyal to Frank, ultimately. That’s too strong a relationship for her to just jump wholeheartedly into, and I thought she was too smart as well. I thought, ‘she’s going to figure out a way to work this system’, and that would have been a really rewarding moment of revelation, to assume they were adversaries and then suddenly realise they’re on the same side again. And who knows how long her father would have lived? Perhaps his demise would have released her from any contract she felt too.”
Of course, all of the potential in the world means nothing if the production team cannot follow through. Had Millennium not been cancelled, it is interesting to wonder if they would have handled Emma better than Peter.
All of this is ultimately irrelevant. Goodbye to All That was more than just a season finalé, it was a series finalé. While it lacks the sheer technical skill of Paper Dove or the bold ambition of The Time is Now, Goodbye to All That does an excellent job encapsulating the weird disjointed mess that was the third season. It is not always good, but it is interesting. In the end, that counts for a lot.
Filed under: Millennium | Tagged: cancelled, Chip Johannessen, continuity, frank black, goodbye to all that, ken horton, last episode, millennium, millennium group, Season finale, series finalé, Television |