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Millennium – The Sound of Snow (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.

“Our pasts are what we are,” Alice Severin explains to Emma Hollis and Bob Giebelhouse towards the climax of The Sound of Snow. It seems as if she might be talking for Millennium itself.

The Sound of Snow is a literal homecoming for Frank Black and Millennium as a television show. It is the last time that a number of crucial elements of Millennium appear in the show. It is the last appearance of Detective Bob Giebelhouse, the Seattle police officer who has been around since The Pilot. It is the last appearance of the yellow house, although it has since been painted a less striking white. It is also the last appearance of Catherine Black, who was a regular character for the show’s first two seasons.

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The Sound of Snow features Frank Black returning to Seattle. This is not a big deal of itself. After all, Frank visited Seattle during TEOTWAWKI. However, The Sound of Snow sees Frank wading through memories. He flashes back to the events of The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now, and visits the yellow house. He even takes a trip out to visit the cabin where he tried to wait out the end of the world with his wife and daughter. The Sound of Snow is about reconciliation, allowing Frank one last conversation with his beloved.

The Sound of Snow is also about reconciliation for the show itself. Since Omertà, the show has been trying to deal with the legacy of a second season that the first eight episodes of the year had tried minimise or ignore. The Sound of Snow is the culmination of that approach, with the third season finally picking up from where the second season let off.

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Millennium – Anamnesis (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.

In Arcadia Ego and Anamnesis form a strange late-season duology, exploring the roles of important female Christian icons.

In Arcadia Ego was the story of a (possibly) divine conception and birth, one evoking the story of the Virgin Mary. Initially, it seems like Anamnesis is another story about the Virgin Mary, when a bunch of high-school girls claim to have seen a religious apparition in their local church. However, after a bit of investigation, it quickly becomes clear that the religious figure at the centre of Anamnesis is not the Virgin Mary, but is instead the other major female character from the Gospels; it is Mary Magdalene.

Holy Mary...

Holy Mary…

Appropriately enough for an episode built around a female character who is often ignored and overlooked, Anamnesis is an episode largely driven by two of  the series’ three most prominent female characters. Anamnesis follows an investigation into this hysteria led by Catherine Black and assisted by Lara Means. As a matter of fact, Anamnesis is the only episode of Millennium that does not feature Frank Black. According to an interview with Back to Frank Black, writers Kay Reindl and Erin Maher had considered including him via phonecall, but quickly dropped that idea.

Anamnesis is a fascinating piece of television. It is a script written by two female writers, driven by two female regulars, investigating a case built around a mostly female guest cast. It is a testament to just how far Millennium has come in its second season that it can do a show like this. The first season had no female writers and had only Catherine Black as a prominent female character. It is the great that show can something like this, but do it so casually and effortlessly. Anamnesis is an underrated and overlooked second season script.

Going around in circles...

Going around in circles…

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Millennium – Paper Dove (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Millennium is an odd show in a number of ways.

The most obvious of these oddities is the sense that each of the three seasons feels like a different television show. The first season is markedly distinct from the second, the second is clearly delineated from the third. It is a very strange structure, one explained by the fact that the three seasons were overseen by three different creative teams with three very different visions of the show. One of the results of this approach is that each season finalé becomes a de facto series finalé, an episode bidding farewell to a particular vision of the show.

This is what it feels like... when doves cry...

This is what it feels like… when doves cry…

Paper Dove bids farewell to the “serial-killer-of-the-week” mechanics of the first season. Of course, there would be later episodes that would feature serial killers. In fact, The Mikado is possibly the best serial killer the show ever did. The Beginning and the End seems explicitly about killing off the “serial-killer-of-the-week” so that the show can invest its time and energy in other pursuits. However, stripped down to its core, Paper Dove takes the show’s approach to serial killers to its logic conclusion.

Although the show has featured serial killers with motivations that might be easily understood and perhaps even pitiable, Henry Dion is the show’s first serial killer to becomes almost sympathetic; it is one of the rare times that the show manages to capture the banality of evil, as opposed to the show’s traditional approach – one that brushes up against (and occasionally crosses over into) a sensationalist or gratuitous approach to serial killer pathology.

Picture this...

Picture this…

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Millennium – The Well-Worn Lock (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

The Well-Worn Lock is trying to say something important.

As easy as it is to mock Chris Carter for being a little heavy-handed in his writing, he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve. There is an honesty and an earnestness to his writing that is quite endearing – a sense that he has some things that he wants to say, and that he will say them. The Well-Worn Lock is a tough and grueling episode, with some pretty harrowing things to say. It confronts the types of issues that are often overlooked or ignored, because they are so uncomfortable to examine head-on. There is a lot to admire here.

Happy families...

Happy families…

However, The Well-Worn Lock is also clumsy and ham-fisted. It is so committed to saying what it wants to say that it occasionally gets caught up in itself. It has been argued that Carter constructed Millennium as a vehicle to examine the nature of evil in the modern world, and there are points where the series feels more like a pulpet that a television show. The Well-Worn Lock is an episode about an insidious and oft-ignored evil, but there are points where it has the depth and complexity of a life-action cartoon.

The problem is not that the episode’s antagonist is a monster – after all, it is hard to describe anybody who commits this sort of abuse as anything but a “monster” – but that he seems a grotesquely exaggerated and one-dimensional caricature. Tackling a subject that requires considerable tact and grace, The Well-Worn Lock often has the emotional nuance of a sledgehammer.

The world according to Catherine Black...

The world according to Catherine Black…

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Millennium – Blood Relatives (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Blood Relatives is the best episode of Millennium to air within the first half of the first season. It is an episode that seems to recognise the potential of a show like Millennium to be more than just a formulaic procedural, acknowledging that the show needs to find its own unique narratives in the same way that The X-Files did during its first season. Blood Relatives adheres rather loosely to the serial-killer-of-the-week format, but is rather more interested in the stories of the characters around the murders than in the murders themselves.

Blood Relatives is also notable as the first Millennium script written by Chip Johannessen. Johannessen would go on to become one of the defining voices of the show’s run, writing some of the best episodes of the first two seasons and steering the show through its troubled two years. Johannessen was good to Millennium, and Millennium was good to Johannessen. It transitioned the writer from shows like Married… With Children, Beverly Hills 90210 and The Monroes towards 24, Dexter and Homeland.

Not cut out for all this...

Not cut out for all this…

As with his next script, Force Majeure, Johannesson hones in quite beautifully on the potential of Millennium. Blood Relatives is an episode of television that is almost perfectly tailored for Millennium. While it retains the elements of a procedural, it is hard to image the episode working on something like Law & Order or CSI, more rigidly-structured television shows with clearer boundaries. Indeed, it seems like Johannessen recognised Millennium as a show spun out of Irresistible, and chose to play Blood Relatives on the same sort of themes about loss and dysfunction.

Blood Relatives is a superbly constructed piece of television, one that marks Johannessen as a talent to watch going forward.

Wading in...

Wading in…

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Millennium – Gehenna (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Written by Chris Carter and directed by David Nutter, Gehenna feels very much like a continuation of The Pilot.

More to the point, it feels like a restatement of many of the key themes of The Pilot, an attempt to reinforce many of the core ideas in that first episode, and hint at something larger. In many ways, it is about ensuring that Millennium retains its identity as it transitions from a pilot that had a relatively relaxed schedule and high budget into a weekly (well, eight-day) production schedule. Gehenna is about Carter and Nutter proving that Millennium can do what it wants and needs to do week-in and week-out, while also indicating towards larger threads.

Touching (or, at least, seeing) evil...

Touching (or, at least, seeing) evil…

This isn’t a bad way to approach the first regular episode of a television series. Indeed, Carter had done something similar with The Pilot and Deep Throat on The X-Files, structuring the episodes as a one-two punch of reinforced themes and world-building. Gehenna is very much about convincing the audience that The Pilot was not just a flash in the pan, and that the series has a long clear arc ahead of it. Much like Deep Throat really sketched the outline of the alien conspiracy only hinted at in The Pilot, Gehenna features more than a few nods towards a larger evil at work in Frank’s world.

There are points where Gehenna feels a little bit too forced, and a little bit too eager to restate and repeat the themes and ideas of The Pilot. However, it is an interesting episode that does hint towards the show’s future in a number of interesting ways.

Ear today...

Ear today…

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