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Millennium – Exegesis (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.

It is odd to think of The Innocents and Exegesis as a two parter, despite the explicit “to be continued” that bridges the two episodes.

The Innocents is very much a straightforward procedural episode, with Frank rejoining the FBI and investigating a string of mysterious occurrences that are all connected. As Frank tries to pull himself back together after the death of his wife, various parties insist that he is more lost than ever before. There is a sense that Frank needs to work though what happened to him, regardless of the doubts expressed by his embittered father-in-law or his friendly supervisor at the FBI. Of course others doubt him, and of course he works through those doubts.

"I can see it all clearly..."

“I can see it all clearly…”

It is very much a standard “lead character gets his life back together” story, complete with obligatory sequence where Frank demonstrates he has made his peace with the loss of Catherine by using his story as emotional leverage to ply a confession (or, at least, an explanation) from a person of interest in the on-going investigation. The Innocents is a very banal and paint-by-numbers episode of television. Underneath all those biohazard warnings and eerie blue-eyed siblings, there is a strong procedural element to The Innocents. It feels trite and coy.

At the very least, Exegesis is more unique. It feels like an episode of Millennium, rather than some generic dime-a-dozen procedural. This is likely down to the fact that The Innocents was written by Michael Duggan and Exegesis was written by Chip Johannessen. Michael Duggan was a writer who had a lot of experience on procedurals (Law & Order and C-16: FBI), but who had no prior experience writing Millennium. Hired to run the show in its third year, he would only write two scripts for the show before departing seven episodes into the season.

Go fly a kite...

Go fly a kite…

In contrast, Chip Johannessen had helped to define Millennium’s identity in its first year. In fact, with a group of nearly identical female sisters working towards a mysterious goal (based on vague prophecy), Exegesis owes a great deal to Johannessen’s earlier script Force Majeure. While it does illustrate how Exegesis feels like a more traditional Millennium episode than The Innocents, it is not a comparison that does Exegesis any favours. Force Majeure was one of the best episodes the show ever produced; Exegesis is… not.

As with The Innocents, Exegesis is handicapped by a lot of the clumsy production decisions made at the start of the third season. It feels curiously disconnected from what came before; it plays a little too much like a reheated leftover from The X-Files; a lot of the nuance and development given to Peter Watts and the Millennium Group over the second season is washed away. Nevertheless, it does have a clearer sense of purpose and energy than The Innocents. It feels like Johannessen knows what he wants to say, even if the show is still tripping over itself.

Welcome back, Frank.

Welcome back, Frank.

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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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