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Millennium – The Time is Now (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 second season of Millennium holds together very well as a season of television.

It is arguably more cohesive in terms of plotting and theme than any individual season of The X-Files, with the possible exception of the eighth season. Ideas, characters and themes are all set up early in the season so that they might pay-off at the climax. Watching The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now, it is very hard to believe that the season could have ended any other way. That is a tremendous accomplishment on the part of Glen Morgan and James Wong, who steered the second season as Chris Carter brought his focus back to The X-Files.

Dicey proposition...

Dicey proposition…

The attention to detail is staggering. There are lots of little touches, from the way that the use of chickens in The Fourth Horseman calls back to the story that bookends Monster to the reference to the fate of Brian Roedecker to the quick shot of Frank placing the statue of the angel on his father’s grave. Glen Morgan has repeatedly stated that the character of Lara Means was introduced in Monster knowing her fate in The Time is Now, and that seems to be true of most of the character and plot arcs over the stretch of the second season.

However, what is truly touching about the second season of Millennium is the way that the show manages to remain deeply personal and emotional, despite the scale of what is unfolding.

Shattered mirror...

Shattered mirror…

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The X-Files – Patient X (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.

This should not work.

There are lots of reasons why Patient X and The Red and the Black should simply implode under their own weight. Most obviously, they are scripts that are rather blatantly just piling more and more back story and convolution onto a framework that is already overloaded and over-stretched. They are introducing new characters at a late stage of the game. They rely on contrivance and sketchy character development. They seem to exist at odds with the script for The X-Files: Fight the Future, which had been written and shot, but was awaiting release.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

However, despite all this, Patient X and The Red and the Black work very well together. They are the strongest story-driven mythology two-parter since Nisei and 731 at the start of the third season. There is an energy and drive to Patient X and The Red and the Black that has been largely absent from the show’s big blockbuster two-parters since Herrenvolk at the start of the fourth season. After a year-and-a-half treading water as the release date of the movie draws ever closer, it is nice to see Chris Carter cut completely loose.

Patient X and The Red and the Black form a story which doesn’t seem at all worried about what any of this means for the summer realise of Fight the Future. Parts of it become quite difficult to reconcile with the film as released. However, the two-parter is all the stronger for it.

Fog of war...

Fog of war…

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Millennium – Midnight of the Century (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.

Midnight of the Century is a Millennium Christmas episode, as strange as that might sound.

In hindsight, it really should not seem so strange. After all, The X-Files had just done a big two-part Christmas episode with Christmas Carol and Emily. More than that, executive producers Glen Morgan and James Wong had demonstrated an affinity for holiday-themed episodes. The duo had written the Christmas-themed Beyond the Sea for the first season of The X-Files, and had commissioned The River of Stars while they were running Space: Above and Beyond. They had also written The Curse of Frank Black, a Halloween-themed Millennium episode.

Angels in America...

Angels in America…

Midnight of the Century is the second Millennium script credited to writers Kay Reindl and Erin Maher. The duo had been recruited by Morgan and Wong at the start of the second season, and had already produced A Single Blade of Grass. It was a messy episode, albeit one with flashes of genius. Midnight of the Century gives the two writers a much cleaner brief and a lot more room to work. As with The Curse of Frank Black, there is a wonderfully relaxed pace to Midnight of the Century, a sense it knows both where it’s going and how it wants to get there.

On paper, the idea of “a Millennium Christmas episode” sounds like the bleakest thing ever. However, while there are elements of melancholy involved, it is to the credit of everybody involved that Midnight of the Century feels so damn bittersweet.

A Black (family) Christmas...

A Black (family) Christmas…

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Non-Review Review: Exodus – Gods and Kings

Exodus: Gods and Kings might be more traditional in structure and execution than the year’s other big biblical epic, but it shares a lot of the same core sentiments of Noah. Both films posit the Old Testament God as a primordial and almost unfathomable force, transforming biblical parables in epic horror stories. Both accept the divine as inhuman, almost by definition; both offer harrowing and unsettling depictions of stories that many viewers will know from childhood or have heard dozens of times before.

Exodus: Gods and Kings suffers a bit with its pacing, trying to boil the core Moses stories down into a single two-and-a-half hour narrative. The film runs through a check list of iconic moments, struggling to squeeze so much in that the story of the reed basket is mentioned only in passing. Instead, the film moves from Moses’ relationship with Ramses II through to his exile through to his epiphany through to his military rebellion through to the plagues through to the exodus.

"Well, I got back to Gotham in six days, I think I can get us to the Promised Land."

“Well, I got back to Gotham in six days, I think I can get us to the Promised Land.”

It is an epic story in almost every sense of the word, and Exodus: Gods and Kings struggles to contain it all. Often key elements are only present for moments before the film has to hurry along – the burning bush lingers in the background; the golden calf is glimpsed only from the distance. So much ground is covered that it is occasionally difficult to maintain focus, as Moses seems to lose and gain families with each passing act break. Exodus: Gods and Kings holds itself together under the pressure, but the strain can be felt.

Nevertheless, Exodus: Gods and Kings largely works. Feeling more like Kingdom of Heaven than Gladiator, the movie does a wonderful job of building a massive and sprawling (and foreign) world. Exodus: Gods and Kings looks and feels like a more traditional biblical epic than Noah, and Scott’s efforts to ground the film in a tangible reality only serves to enhance the awe-inspiring scale of the horror on display here. Exodus: Gods and Kings is an exploration of faith and devotion, asking uncomfortable questions and leaving the answers to the audience.

"Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings..."

“Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings…”

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