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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 – 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?

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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.

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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 – Lamentation (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.

Taken together, Lamentation and Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions represent something of a loose mythology two-parter for Millennium. The episodes are not linked by an explicit “to be continued…”, but they feed into one another in a very clear and structured manner. Each of the two episodes exists as a clear and independent entity, but – taken together – they exist as a story that shakes Millennium to its foundation. This is the point at which Millennium seems to know what it is and what it wants to be.

The first season of any show is a difficult time. Everybody working on the series struggles to find the right voice for the series. The goal is to figure out what the show is before the audience loses interest. Lamentation comes quite late in the first season – only four episodes from here to Paper Dove – but it does represent a very clear and dynamic shift. It follows through on a lot of the horror implied throughout the first season, suggesting that Frank Black might be facing something far more sinister and insidious than mere serial killers.

On top of the world...

On top of the world…

In fact, Lamentation exists as a fiendish subversion. It is a story that is very clearly set-up as the sort of procedural serial-killer-of-the-week story that the show was churning out towards the middle of the season. Doctor Ephraim Fabricant is released from prison so he can offer a kidney transplant to his sister; however, while he is recuperating, somebody helps him to escape police custody. Having profiled Fabricant during the initial manhunt, Frank is drafted in to track down Ephraim Fabricant before he inevitably starts killing again. The clock is ticking.

Then everything just explodes. Something from the dark heart of Millennium breaks loose; this more primal evil devours the serial-killer-of-the-week structure. It even leaves his second kidney on a plate in the fridge.

Everybody has their demons...

Everybody has their demons…

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Millennium – Walkabout (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.

Walkabout continues to demonstrate the flexibility of Millennium‘s format.

Millennium is often unfairly dismissed as a “serial-killer-of-the-week” show, an impression undoubtedly created by the stretch of early- to mid-season episodes that adopted an almost procedural formula in their exploration of evil. However, after Sacrament, the show takes a break from those narratives to do something a little more experimental and nuanced. Covenant had seen Frank investigating a murder that had already been solved. Here, Frank finds himself struggling to piece together a fractured memory of his own recent experiences.

A bleedin' disaster!

A bleedin’ disaster!

Walkabout is the third of four scripts from writer Chip Johannessen in the first season of Millennium. Each is a rather strange entity; doing something strange or unconventional for the show, helping to define the boundaries for this young television series. Walkabout is perhaps most interesting for the way that it engages with an aspect of Millennium that has been bubbling away in the background since The Pilot. Although Walkabout never explores the nature or purpose of Frank’s visions, the episode is built around the visions as a concept rather than simply a tool.

Walkabout is an unsettling and effective mood piece that grows more conventional as it progresses. While the final act is a little clunky, Walkabout is a fascinating piece of television and a demonstration of how Millennium has found its own voice.

"Let me outta here!"

“Let me outta here!”

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Millennium – Pilot (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.

You think you’re protecting me but you make it worse, Frank. You can’t shut the world out for me. You can’t ask me to pretend that I don’t know what you do.

Everyone pretends. We all make believe. These men I help catch – make us.

We’re raising a daughter, Frank. The real world starts to seep in. You can’t stop it.

I want you to make believe that I can.

Fade to Black...

Fade to Black…

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Hannibal – Trou Normand (Review)

Trou Normand has a rather beautiful twist, and one which caught me – and, I suspect, a significant portion of the audience – completely off-guard. It’s not overstated or overplayed, but it manages to pack one hell of a punch. It fits surprisingly well with everything we know about the show and the characters who inhabit it, while still serving as something of a game-changer. It doesn’t change the rules of Hannibal too much, but only because the show has been so dedicated to playing with audience assumptions.

In any other show, Abigail Hobbs would be the victim that Will Graham so desperately needs her to be. Jack Crawford’s cynical suspicions would prove to be as completely off-base as his absolute faith in Hannibal Lecter. It would provide a nice moral victory for Will, even if only the audience ever knew about it, and serve as foreshadowing to Jack’s only blindness. It’s a neat narrative hook, we’ve become so subconsciously familiar with the way that these sorts of narratives work that we have come to expect it.

However, Hannibal isn’t any other show, and it demonstrates it by pulling off a particularly shrewd (and nasty) character twist.

A monument...

A monument…

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