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Millennium – Collateral Damage (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.

Collateral Damage continues the weird healing process at work in the third season.

After spending so much time pretending that the second season never actually happened, the third season has finally accepted that there were story developments flowing from that season that the show needs to deal with. In some respects, Collateral Damage can be seen as a process of healing and integration for the third season of Millennium, constructing a story that manages to tie together all three seasons of Millennium together into something resembling a cohesive whole.

"A bloody fine mess you've gotten me into!"

“A bloody fine mess you’ve gotten me into!”

From the first season, Collateral Damage takes its introduction and basic premise. Collateral Damage begins in a manner similar to many early Millennium episodes. A sinister attacker stalks their victim and brutally strikes. We are then treated to a few extended suspense-filled sequences as the attacker’s designs become increasingly uncomfortable and nefarious. It is not too hard to imagine Collateral Damage as the kind of “serial killer of the week” episode that populated the early first season.

For the second season, Collateral Damage inherits its fascination with the Millennium Group and its depiction of Peter Watts. Collateral Damage marks the first point in the third season where Peter Watts feels like the character that we watched grow and evolve over the second season. This is a version of Peter who has so repressed his doubts and uncertainties that they threaten to explode if they are even acknowledged. It is a much more compelling character than the knock-off conspirator featured in episodes like Exegesis and Skull and Bones.

"Don't be afraid."

“Don’t be afraid.”

From the third season, Collateral Damage takes its fixation on the link between the Millennium Group and conspiracies involving the American government. Collateral Damage suggests that the Millennium Group is responsible for Gulf War Syndrome. It feels like a plot point from an episode of The X-Files – and arguably makes it an ideal third season element. The result is perhaps the most all-encompassing episode of the show ever produced. Collateral Damage is not the best episode of Millennium ever produced, but it is perhaps the broadest representation of the show itself.

If you were to pull back and examine Millennium from a distance, it might look a lot like Collateral Damage.

"Surgical strike."

“Surgical strike.”

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Non-Review Review: Robot & Frank

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

Robot & Frank is perhaps best described as a live-action Pixar film, a lost script or concept from that period only a few years ago when it seemed like the studio could do no wrong. The beauty of films like The Incredibles or Toy Story 3 was the way that these fantasies allowed us to engage with incredibly adult issues in a disarmingly wondrous way. Up could deal with the pain of loss in great detail, because it was really the story of a man flying his house to South America, right? Finding Nemo could play out the darkest fears lurking in a parent’s subconscious, because it was really about cute fish, correct?

And so Robot & Frank provides a wonderful vehicle for the exploration of what growing old really means, and how we cope with the challenges that it presents. Because, after all, it’s just a film with a cute-looking robot butler, right?

Frank'll test his metal...

Frank’ll test his metal…

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House of Cards (US, 2013): Chapter 5 (Review)

Friends make the worst enemies

– Frank Underwood

There is a sense now that House of Cards has figured out what it wants to be and how it wants to go about being that sort of thing. After the first three episodes were surprisingly non-committal, the fourth and fifth episodes make it clear that Frank has a plan for revenge against those who betrayed him, one that stretches a bit further than scuttling Michael Kern’s chance to be Secretary of State. There’s a wonderfully understated moment in the middle of this fifth episode where it looks like Frank has finally figured everything out, the pieces have aligned in such a way that he is positioned to speed up what is likely to be a pretty far-reaching payback scheme.

A name you can trust...

A name you can trust…

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House of Cards (US, 2013): Chapter 4 (Review)

So you lied to his face?

No. I revised the parametres of my promise.

Which is lying.

Which is politics.

– Bob Birch and Frank Underwood

After spending three episodes lining everything up and getting all the plot points and characters to where they need to be, it looks like House of Cards is finally ready to kick into high gear. There’s still a sense that show isn’t as comfortable with its amoral and sociopathic lead character as it should be, but there’s finally a sense of what Frank Underwood is capable of. We’ve seen him topple the incoming Secretary of State using just a college article that the man didn’t write, but that sort of politicking should be second-nature to Underwood at this point. Here, Frank is a bit more ruthless, a bit less concerned about collateral damage.

That’s really the key here. House of Cards needs us to root for Frank despite his drive for power at all costs, without excusing it. It looks like we’re getting to where we need to be.

Speaking Frankly...

Speaking Frankly…

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House of Cards (US, 2013): Chapter 3 (Review)

Dammit, Frank! You can’t just roll up on my property like you own it!

Oh but I can.

And we’re back to square one. I suppose this is inevitable in the transition to American television, but House of Cards is beginning to feel strangely episodic. The British version ran ran for four episodes, moving at an incredible pace as Francis Urquhart manipulated his way to the position of Prime Minister. The American version, running thirteen episodes, seems to be more about stopping and starting. Indeed, there’s relatively little traction here on the Secretary of State subplot, or Frank Underwood’s plan for political revenge against those who he feels wronged him.

Instead, this third episode feels like something of a breather episode, the kind of character-orientated piece that might have worked a bit later in the year, after the show had built up a decent momentum. Instead, it seems like we accelerated last time only to pump the breaks this time around.

Just peachy...

Just peachy…

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House of Cards (US, 2013): Chapter 2 (Review)

Get ready, Cathy, things are about to move very quickly.

– Frank is moving

That’s more like it. After a rocky season premiere, it looks like House of Cards might finally be settling into a groove. It’s very strange to see a four-part BBC drama adapted into a full thirteen-episode season of an American television show. Of course, the United States has a very different political system, so the machinations of the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives could never overlap fully with those of Sir Francis Urquhart. However, the first episode needed a sense of traction that was so sorely lacking.

Luckily, the second episode picks up the slack. The pieces are all in play, the characters are established. The game can be afoot.

Underwood tactics...

Underwood tactics…

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Non-Review Review: The Mummy (1932)

The Mummy is often unfairly dismissed as an inferior attempt to emulate the success of Dracula. It’s from the same writer, John L. Balderston, and the credits are even set to the same music – the powerful Swan Lake theme that opened that other iconic horror. I’d argue that the influence of Frankenstein can also be keenly felt on the picture, and not just in its leading actor. However, I think The Mummy is often unfairly overlooked when examining the Universal Monster Movies, playing more like a creepy existential romantic epic than a conventional creature feature horror film.

He needs his beauty sleep…

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