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Millennium – The Mikado (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.

Glen Morgan and James Wong famously pulled Millennium away from its “serial killer of the week” format in its second season. While the label might be a little harsh (and perhaps a little exaggerated), it did hint at a recurring formula in the first season. Frank Black would be called in to catch a serial killer with a unique and distinctive modus operandi. The first season was littered with episodes built around that core format, wildly varying in quality. For every Blood Relatives or Paper Dove, there was a Loin Like a Hunting Flame or Kingdom Come.

The second season largely moved away from all that. Although Morgan and Wong occasionally made nods towards the classic format in episodes like Beware of the Dog, 19:19 or Goodbye Charlie, the second season of the show was a lot less formulaic and familiar. This is was a show that could transition from The Hand of St. Sebastian to Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense” to Midnight of the Century to Goodbye Charlie to Luminary. It seemed quite reasonable to suggest that the second season of Millennium was not as firmly attached to the concept of serial killers as the first season had been.

This is Avatar calling...

This is Avatar calling…

This makes The Mikado a rather unique instalment, arriving a little past half-way through the season. Written by Michael R. Perry, The Mikado is very much an archetypal serial killer story. There is a case from Frank Black’s past, lots of victims, some occult imagery, and even a ticking plot. In fact, The Mikado is probably the only episode of the second season that would arguably fit more comfortably in either the first or third seasons of the show. All you’d have to do is write out the character of Roedecker.

However, there is something decidedly big and bold about The Mikado. It is perhaps the most archetypal (and maybe the most successful) straight-down-the-middle “serial killer of the week” story that Millennium ever produced. After all, if you are only going to do produce one truly traditional “serial killer of the week” story in a season, you may as well go big. And you can’t go much bigger than the Zodiac.

It's all about the execution...

It’s all about the execution…

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Millennium – Sacrament (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.

If Force Majeure and The Thin White Line seem to call forwards towards the weird and eccentric second season, Sacrament is a bit more modest. In many ways, Sacrament seems to foreshadow the last stretch of episodes in the first season. The forces of evil seem to encircle the Black family, creeping closer and closer to the big yellow house and everything it represents. For the first time, Sacrament explicitly puts Frank’s family at the heart of a case; this time focusing on the kidnapping of his sister-in-law from her child’s christening.

In many respects, this points towards the direction the show will take in its final stretch of episodes. Lamentation and Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions will see the forces of evil explicitly violate the Black residence, insidiously eroding the idealised life that Frank has tried to build for his family in their new Seattle home. The cliffhanger at the end of Paper Dove pushes the concept to its logical conclusion, as a secret that Frank has tried to keep from his family finally comes home to roost.

Worst. Uncle. Ever.

Worst. Uncle. Ever.

As with WeedsSacrament demonstrates that writer Frank Spotnitz has an uncanny understanding of how Chris Carter built Millennium. It is an episode that is soaked through with the core themes of the series; it is a story about good and evil, and how evil taints everything that it touches. As with a lot of Millennium, Sacrament is not subtle; the moment that Tom Black is identified as the brother of our protagonist, it is inevitable that the forces of evil will come barrelling down upon him.

Nevertheless, Sacrament demonstrates a clear understanding of what it wants to be, and is a pretty effective snapshot of Millennium at this moment in time. The first season of Millennium is often overlooked and overshadowed amid the controversies surrounding the second or third seasons, but Sacrament stands as a great example of what the first season was trying to do.

Our father...

Our father…

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