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Millennium – Season 3 (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.

Three seasons is a good run.

It’s not a great run, but it is worth noting that Millennium ran longer than any of Chris Carter’s creations other than The X-Files. Given you grim and esoteric Millennium turned out to be, that is quite impressive. Notably, even the third season of Millennium performed better in the ratings than the first season of Harsh Realm. In many respects, Millennium is a very odd television show; it seems surprising that it lasted for three seasons. While fans (and many who worked on it) might have wanted more, Millennium is not a failure.

millennium-thesoundofsnow28

That said, the third season of Millennium is a disaster. There are a lot of reasons for this. The show was renewed by Fox quite late in the process, meaning the production team had little time to prepare. Glen Morgan and James Wong had no interest in returning to run the show, even if the rest of the staff would have them. Either due to time constraints or frustration, nobody asked Morgan and Wong about resolving the ending of The Time is Now. Michael Duggan was hired as showrunner, only to depart eight episodes into the season.

With all of this going on, the problems with the third season are entirely understandable. The season feels like a disjointed mess because there was chaos behind the scenes. The season was confused about its own continuity because the production team had no idea what to make of the second season. With ratings plunging, the show sought comfort in the familiar; there is an extended stretch near the start of the third season where it feels like the production team were trying to turn the show into a copy of The X-Files.

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The third season of Millennium has fairly terrible reputation among fans. This is not entirely undeserved; the early stretch of the third season contains a string of the worst episodes that Millennium ever produced. As sympathetic as the surrounding circumstances might make an audience to the show, that goodwill evaporates when confronted with episodes like The Innocents, Exegesis, TEOTWAWKI, Skull and Bones, Through a Glass Darkly, Human Essence and Omertà. The series improves dramatically in its middle section; but it is never consistent.

The third season contains a number of underrated episodes that do count among the best that the show ever produced, and a whole host of more interesting failures around those episodes. Perhaps the best thing that might be said about the third season is that it is interesting at least as often as it is bad. That might not sound like a ringing endorsement. It isn’t. The third season of Millennium doesn’t work. The reasons for this are entirely understandable, but that does not make it any easier to watch.

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Millennium – Goodbye to All That (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.

Goodbye to All That is not a bad place to leave Millennium, truth be told.

Sure, the episode has its problems, but that is true of pretty much every third season episode. However, showrunners Chip Johannessen and Ken Horton do try to offer the show some sort of closure. While Emma betraying Frank before he rides off into the sunset might have been a nice set up for a new fourth season status quo, it also feels like a nice place to leave the show as well. Director Thomas J. Wright frames that closing shot beautifully, to the point where anything that follows does feel like a coda to the three-season show.

Don't be dark, Frank Black...

Don’t be dark, Frank Black…

More than that, there’s a curious magnanimity to Goodbye to All That. The episode seems to suggest that perhaps Millennium has finally resolved all its internal conflicts about its own history. As with Borrowed Time, The Sound of Snow or Collateral Damage, there is a sense that Goodbye to All That is trying to create a cohesive theory of Millennium – suturing together three very different seasons into something approaching a singular entity. The task is impossible, but Goodbye to All That makes a valiant effort.

Yes, the actual plotting is ridiculous and Goodbye to All That tries to do too much in a single forty-five minute episode, but these are far from the worst vices of the third season. It is too much to suggest that Goodbye to All That wraps up Millennium on a high, but it does allow the show to bow out with its head held high.

"You know, for a secret organisation, we sure do a lot of branding..."

“You know, for a secret organisation, we sure do a lot of branding…”

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Millennium – Skull and Bones (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.

Skull and Bones brings a lot of the problems with the third season of Millennium to the fore.

Most obviously, the third season of Millennium is making a conscious effort to return to the aesthetic and style of the first season, with an emphasis on horrific crimes and abhorrent psychologies. In interviews around the launch of the third season, Chris Carter repeatedly suggested that something had been lost in the second season. TEOTWAWKI was an issue-driven episode about school shootings and Y2K. Closure was a story about how spree killers can engage in random patterns of violence and there is no way to reliably discern a pattern of logic in truly evil behaviour.

The hole in things...

The hole in things…

At the same time, the third season is struggling to deal with the legacy and impact of the second season. The Innocents and Exegesis rather clumsily attempted to write their way out of The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now by downplaying the impact of the end of the world at the end of the second season. However, the third cannot completely erase what happened. The absence of Catherine Black and the presence of Peter Watts are constant reminders. The Millennium Group itself cannot revert back to its first season self.

Skull and Bones plays out this conflict, creating an impression of a show trapped at a crossroads with a problem it cannot resolve. Skull and Bones is an episode that attempts to both minimise the impact of the second season of Millennium while still acknowledging and building upon it. It is not an approach that lends itself to satisfactory or fulfilling storytelling. However, it does articulate just how confused the show must be at this point in its life cycle.

There are going to be a lot of Yorrick captions this time...

There are going to be a lot of Yorrick captions this time…

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Millennium – The Innocents (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.

So, how do you write your way out of the end of the world?

To be fair, it is not an easy assignment. The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now are two spectacular pieces of television, but they arguably work better as a series finalé than a season finalé. Once Fox decided to renew Millennium for a third season, the biggest problem facing the staff was the challenge of writing around the apocalypse that had arrived at the end of the second season. It is a problem that hobbled the third season of Millennium coming out of the gate. However, it was not the only such problem.

Guess who's Black?

Guess who’s Black?

Millennium is a show that feels particularly disjointed from year-to-year. It has been argued – quite convincingly – that Millennium was really three different shows, and that no two seasons of Millennium convincingly resemble one another. The third season of Millennium would be a different beast than the second. The Innocents and Exegesis demonstrate that clearly and quite articulately. The two-part season premiere made it quite obvious that Millennium was no longer a show particularly interested in ideas of apocalypse – whether global or personal.

Unfortunately, it seemed like the show had no real idea of what it wanted to be.

"Yep, this is what Chris Carter found when he took the show back."

“Yep, this is what Chris Carter found when he took the show back.”

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Millennium – A Room With No View (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 is how it will all end,” Jose Chung idly speculated half-way through Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense.” He advised Frank that the end of the world will not begin “with floods, earthquakes, falling comets or gigantic crabs roaming the earth. No, doomsday will start simply out of indifference.” He may have been correct. It is one thing to kill a person; it is quite another to destroy their spirit, hollowing out the shell before slotting them comfortably back into a functioning society.

A Room With No View plays Chung’s observation and plays it straight. Well, mostly – there is something darkly comical about Landon’s reaction to discovering that he is being abducted into Oregon. Appropriately enough, Lucy Butler’s hideout in Hood County is relatively close to the town of Boring, Oregon. A Room With No View is a bleak and cynical piece of work, an existential apocalyptic horror story perfectly suited to Millennium. It is an episode that would seem strange or unusual in any circumstances, but fits quite comfortably here.

Here's Lucy!

Here’s Lucy!

On paper, A Room With No View could easily seem cynical or exploitative. It is the story about a sadistic kidnapper who abducts teenagers to torture and sexually abuse them in a dungeon. The basic plot elements of A Room With No View come from the pop culture serial killer playbook, to the point where it is not too hard to image the episode as a trashy instalment of CSI or Criminal Minds or – truth be told – the first season of this show. In basic structure, A Room With No View could seem as crude as Wide Open or Weeds or Loin Like a Hunting Flame.

However, it is the execution of A Room With No View that marks as a genuine classic. For all that the episode trades in the stock tropes of serial killer fiction, it is doing something unique and provocative with them. Writer Ken Horton and director Thomas J. Wright construct a potent allegory for abuse and under-achievement, a haunting horror story that is all the more unsettling for its refusal to conform to audience expectations for a story like this.

Blue is not always the warmest colour...

Blue is not always the warmest colour…

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