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Millennium – The Fourth Horseman (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 has been consciously building towards an apocalypse.

Actually, that is not entirely true. The second season of Millennium has been building to an almost infinite number of apocalypses. The collapse of Michael Beebe’s home in Beware of the Dog, the destruction of an entire community in Monster, the dissolution of the tribe in A Single Blade of Grass, the potential loss of a child in 19:19, an author’s acceptance of his fading skills and relevance in Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense”, the stealing of a soul in The Pest House, the breaking of a spirit in A Room With No View. The second season is populated with apocalypses.

Everything dies...

Everything dies…

Ever since The Beginning and the End opened with Frank Black staring into space as he contemplated cosmic forces of entropy and decay, it has been clear that the second season of Millennium is about more than just the end of the world. It is about the end of worlds. Over the course of The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now, Peter Watts loses his faith (and maybe his life) as Lara Means loses her sanity. Frank Black loses his father and his friends – and, ultimately, his wife. The Marburg Virus is just a blip on the radar compared to all of this.

The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now combine to form one of the most interesting and compelling finalés ever produced. The two-parter is the perfect conclusion to the second season of Millennium. Indeed, it would be the perfect conclusion to the entire series. Perhaps the biggest problem with The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now is the fact that The Innocents is lurking only a few months away.

Cracking up...

Cracking up…

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Millennium – Siren (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.

Even when the second season of Millennium doesn’t quite work, it remains a fascinating piece of television.

Siren is the last script written by Glen Morgan and James Wong before they drafted the two-part second season finalé, The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now. The duo wrote a phenomenal stretch of the second season. They wrote six of the first eight episodes to air; Siren ends another run of four episodes credited to the duo in the middle of the season. Including the two-part finalé, the pair wrote twelve of the season’s twenty-three episodes. That is a phenomenal workload, even discounting the work of producing and re-writing the other eleven teleplays.

Where's your head at?

Where’s your head at?

Given that the duo were writing what amounts to a full-season order for some modern shows, and producing similar volume of episodes, it seems inevitable that one of their episodes would have to slip. Siren is mess. The script feels like it was stitched together from two different story ideas – each of which might have sustained its own intriguing forty-five minute episode. However, cramming both of those ideas into a single script means that neither feels as developed or as explored as it might be.

At the same time, the careful structuring of the season makes it quite what Siren is trying to do. There are a wealth of interesting ideas here that very clearly and very logically serve the larger arc of the second season. However, it often feels like this weight derives not from Siren itself, but from the outline of Siren created when all the other episodes in the season click together.

Hear him out...

Hear him out…

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Millennium – Owls (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.

I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am become as an owl of the waste places.

– Psalm 102:6

Birds of prey...

Birds of prey…

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Millennium – The Pest House (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.

Millennium is largely a show about the nature of evil.

It feels a little redundant to point that out more than halfway through the second of three seasons, but it is worth repeating. When Chris Carter created Millennium, he designed the show to explore the many faces of evil in a variety of ways. It could be argued that Millennium was largely spawned from episodes of The X-Files like Irresistible or Grotesque, stories fascinated by very human forms of evil that almost become supernatural. Carter and his writers played with that idea over the course of the first season, particularly in episodes like The Pilot and Lamentation.

A pointed commentary?

A pointed commentary?

However, Carter was not the guiding visionary for all of Millennium‘s run. He remained involved in the production of the show, but the day-to-day running of the series was handed over to Glen Morgan and James Wong, who immediately reinvented it from the ground up. One of the more interesting aspects of this transition is watching the differences in how the two creative teams approach various aspects of Millennium. In many ways, The Pest House would be read as an exploration and critique of Carter’s approach towards the concept of evil by Morgan and Wong.

Carter’s work seems to suggest that evil is an external and infectious force – a contagion or pathogen that can be passed from one person (or generation) to another. In contrast, Morgan and Wong seem to argue that evil must be rooted in a person, that it must come from inside rather than outside. The Pest House contrasts these two different visions of evil, finding Morgan and Wong playing with the recurring Ten Thirteen trope of evil as a transferable quantity that can be moved and reallocated. And The Pest House seems horrified by such a concept.

A bloody mess...

A bloody mess…

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Millennium – Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” (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.

Well, all’s well that ends well. Though that’s easy for Shakespeare to say – he’ll be around for another millennium. But what of our own millennium? Will it all end well? No one of course can know, but that of course doesn’t stop anyone from guessing. And the nature of these predictions always revolve around the usual suspects: salvation and/or self–satisfaction. With that in mind, I humbly add my own prophecy of what the dawn of the new millennium shall bring forth: one thousand more years of the same, old crap.

– Jose Chung

The write stuff...

The write stuff…

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The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #3 – Squeeze (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.

There is an argument to be made that this is the perfect time to feel all nostalgic. The X-Files is one of the biggest shows on television, sitting just outside the top ten as it entered its fifth season. The climax of the fourth season generated a national conversation, something that very few season-ending cliffhangers can do. The X-Files: Fight the Future was filmed in the summer of 1997 and primed for release in the summer of 1998. If there was ever a time to look backwards and dig into the show’s history, this is it. However, Season One feels like a flawed exercise.

There are a lot of problems here that contribute to the sense that Season One is not everything that it could be; the price is a little too high, there’s no new content to justify the nostalgia, and the show was becoming more easily available on home media as Season One was being released. The relaxed release schedule meant that Season One (and, presumably, any follow-ups) would never keep pace with the show, let alone catch up. At nine issues a year, the comic would fall further behind the show, even allowing for the decision to cherry-pick episodes.

In a tight spot...

In a tight spot…

However, the adaptation of Squeeze demonstrates perhaps the biggest problem with the Season One line. While writer Roy Thomas was working from Glen Morgan and James Wong’s original script for Squeeze, and artist Val Mayerick can reference the finished episode, there is undeniably something missing from this adaptation. There is some part of Squeeze that is not replicable in the classic four-colour design, a vital part of The X-Files that seems lost in translation and seems to identify Season One as an inferior imitation.

Quite simply, Season One does not have access to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

Closing in to seal your Tooms...

Closing in to seal your Tooms…

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Millennium – The Hand of St. Sebastian (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 Hand of St. Sebastian closes out the first third of the second season of Millennium. It also marks the half-way point in the episodes credited to Morgan and Wong as writers over the course of the season – it is the sixth of a phenomenal twelve scripts credited to the showrunners, even outside their responsibilities as executive producers. In many ways, The Hand of St. Sebastian represents the point at which the stage has been completely set. It establishes the last of the basic ideas that the team will play with across the rest of the season.

The Curse of Frank Black and 19:19 had affirmed that Christian eschatology would be a driving force for the show, as if that had ever been in doubt. After all, the first season’s big two-part epic had been Lamentation and Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions, an epic story about demons and angels. More than that, Morgan and Wong had revised the opening credits sequence of the show so that it ended with the promise that “the time is near”, an obvious textual reference to Revelation.

Circle of trust...

Circle of trust…

The Hand of St. Sebastian confirms what was inferred in Beware of the Dog when Frank pointed out that the ouroboros was “used as a secret symbol on early Christian graves.” Here, the Millennium Group itself is identified as an ancient Christian organisation, one interested in ancient Christian relics for their spiritual and magical uses. There is a decidedly pulpy feel to the second season; one that is particularly evident in The Hand of St. Sebastian, as Frank and Peter go abroad to do a modern day Raiders of the Lost Ark on a nineties television budget. Ambition is not the worst vice.

However, The Hand of St. Sebastian is perhaps most notable for putting the focuse squarely on the character of Peter Watts. Naturally, Frank plays a pretty vital role in The Hand of St. Sebastian, but the episode does a lot to develop Peter as a character. It builds off his powerful speech in The Beginning and the End to portray a man of faith searching for validation and meaning in the world. The second season really capitalised on the presence of Terry O’Quinn, recognising the actor’s immense talent and helping to establish him as a televisual talent to watch.

This is who we were...

This is who we were…

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Millennium – The Curse of Frank Black (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 Curse of Frank Black is a phenomenal piece of television, and an episode that demonstrates the raw potential of the approach that Glen Morgan and James Wong have adopted towards Millennium, making the show feel (simultaneously and paradoxically) more intimate and more epic. It is a show about the end of the world, but where the end of the world can be conveyed through the late night wandering of an old man on Halloween. It is a superb piece of work on just about every level.

The Curse of Frank Black is, in a many ways, the perfect encapsulation of many of the themes and ideas that Morgan and Wong have played with over the years. It is constructed in the style of a classic horror film, but is driven by character. As with Scully in Beyond the Sea, Mulder in One Breath, and McQueen in The Angriest Angel, Frank Black finds himself facing an existential crisis at the darkest moment of his life. What will Frank do when faced with the most horrific of possibilities?

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack22

What does anybody do when they are confronted with the end of their world? Morgan and Wong are fond of putting their characters through the metaphorical crucible, seeing what happens when the foundations are eroded and the support framework is taken away. The Curse of Frank Black suggests that there are only two possible options when the world falls to pieces: either you stand safely on your side of the line and watch it happen, or you pick up a bucket of water and start cleaning up.

It is a simple choice, an elegant metaphor, and it sits at the heart of The Curse of Frank Black.

millennium-thecurseoffrankblack15

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Millennium – Monster (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.

Monster continues the process of laying the groundwork for the second season of Millennium. Glen Morgan and James Wong had very consciously shaken things up with The Beginning and the End, and the first third of the second season is clearly intended to construct a solid foundation for the rest of the year. Looking at the plot points and character beats from the various episodes, they read almost like a checklist of things to address or introduce before the series can really start moving under its own power again.

Even outside of the dramatic changes wrought by The Beginning and the End, the other episodes in this stretch of the season each have their own purpose. Beware of the Dog introduces us to the Old Man, affectionately riffs on the first season format, and outlines the refactored Millennium Group. In turn, Sense and Antisense riffs on The X-Files and helps to identify areas of overlap with Millennium. A Single Blade of Grass gives Frank back his psychic powers, albeit in a more powerful and abstract form. The Curse of Frank Black is a character-driven vehicle. 19:19 and The Hand of St. Sebastian get well and truly biblical.

Fire and brimstone...

Fire and brimstone…

The most dramatic aspect of Monster is the introduction of the character of Lara Means. Means becomes a pretty vital part of the second season of Millennium, and is introduced in Monster with an eye to her inevitable role in The Time is Now. Means is a vital cog in the workings of the second season, perhaps the most important part of the mythology explicitly created by Morgan and Wong, instead of simply repurposed and reinvented. Means is a fantastic creation, wonderfully brought to life by actor Kristen Cloke and well-realised by Morgan and Wong’s scripting.

However, even outside of the important introduction of Lara Means to Millennium, Monster feels like an episode that exists to set up and outline the larger themes and ideas of the season in a way that foreshadows the larger arc. Like A Single Blade of Grass, it reiterates themes that will become a lot more important as the year goes on. Like Beware of the Dog, it uses the familiar template of a first-season Millennium episode to do this.

I believe in angels...

I believe in angels…

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Millennium – Beware of the Dog (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.

Beware of the Dog opens with the shot of the same comet discussed at the start of The Beginning and the End, just in case viewers thought that The Beginning and the End was somehow a fluke or a deviation. The Beginning and the End was not a freak occurrence, it was not some random divergence from the rest of Millennium. It was very much a new beginning for the series, harking in a bold new direction utterly unlike that marked out by The Pilot. The second season of Millennium was a new breed of animal.

And so a lot of Beware of the Dog is devoted to reinforcing this new direction – convincing the viewers at home that Millennium had reinvented itself from the ground up. Part of what is interesting about Beware of the Dog is the way that the basic structure and beats of the episode hark back to the formula and themes of the first season, but in a way that makes it quite clear that things have changed. Beware of the Dog embraces the pulpy absurdity of a show about millennial fears and anxieties, about the nature of good and evil in the world.

Call of the wild...

Call of the wild…

Beware of the Dog is a very weird piece of television. It is resoundingly and unapologetically odd. It is nowhere near as quirky and eccentric as the second season would become in episodes like The Curse of Frank Black or Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” or The Time is Now, but decidedly more surreal than the first season had allowed itself to be – even in episodes like Force Majeure or Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions. This is an episode which takes the first season’s “serial killer of the week” format, and substitutes in packs of wild dog.

The result is a piece of television that is quite difficult to classify and quantify, but which feels fresh and exciting. As with The Beginning and the End, there is a playfulness and fun to Beware the Dog that was sorely lacking from extended stretches of the first season. Indeed, it seemed unlikely during the first season that Millennium would ever be classed as “playful” or “fun.” That sense of energy and vibrance imbues the second season with life, helping to carry the show across some admittedly rough episodes later in the year.

Circle of trust...

Circle of trust…

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