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New Podcast! The Time is Now – Season 1, Episode 18 (“Lamentation”)

As ever, a delight to stop by The Time is Now to talk about Millennium, this week as part of triptych with the great Kurt North and the wonderful Christopher Knowles.

An interesting installment this week. Kicking off a loose two-parter that effectively serves as Millennium‘s version of a mythology episode, Lamentation offers a clear escalation in the stakes of the first season. It’s a fascinating episode that seems to mark a clear transition in what Millennium is about, a strong signalling of creative intent from the production team. It’s a weird and eccentric episode of television, a real showcase of what Millennium could do when it set its mind to it.

I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of opinion on here, with each of the three of us having very different takes on the episode’s strengths and weaknesses. As ever, you can listen to the episode here, subscribe to the podcast here, or click the link below.

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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 – 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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Millennium – The Judge (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.

The Judge feels very much like an episode that might have worked better later in the first season of Millennium. It deals with pretty big ideas and themes at the heart of the show, but in ways that feel almost clumsy and haphazard. Millennium is still a show that is finding its way, and The Judge pokes and prods at ideas close to the heart of the series as a whole. The episode feels rather clumsy, as though the show hasn’t reached a point where it really has a handle on itself, let alone the sorts of hefty existential questions suggested by The Judge.

At its core, The Judge is fascinated with issues of moral authority and justice – in particular, it asks questions about whether such authority can exist outside (or even inside) the mechanism of the state. Given that Millennium is the story about a man working with a private group to the potential collapse of civil order on the eve of the millennium, The Judge feels like it would be the perfect opportunity to broach questions about the Millennium Group and the work that they do. After all, the Millennium Group and the supporting cast have been haunting the narrative since The Pilot.

Judge not...

Judge not…

While these tough questions hover at the very edge of the episode, it never seems like The Judge addresses them. Then again, The Judge is the fourth episode of the first season of a new show. Millennium is still young. The Judge is written by Ted Mann; it is the first episode of Millennium that is not written by a veteran of The X-Files, by somebody who isn’t Chris Carter or hasn’t experience working within Chris Carter’s world. It is, perhaps, too much to expect it to have a handle on all of that. And The Judge deserves a great deal of credit for marking out areas that the show may want to explore as it grows and develops.

At the same time, while it has some interesting big ideas and a great cast, The Judge feels little clumsy and awkward in its execution. It avoids a lot of the interesting implications of what it says, and it features a rather convenient and contrived final act that seems to exist solely so Frank Black can move on to doing other stuff in the next installment. The Judge is a misfire, but it is an intriguing and interesting misfire. It is precisely the sort of episode that you might expect at this stage in the season.

You've got male (body parts)!

You’ve got male (body parts)!

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Non-Review Review: Legion

Imagine The Terminator if you were substitute “heaven” for “the future” and you’d have a good idea of what this movie is about, right down to a mother offering a philosophical closing narration (okay, that’s Terminator II, but still…). Oh, and maybe drop the quality expectations a bit.

Okay, quite a bit.

Don't cross him...

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Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way.

They call themselves Legionnaires. There are so many of these guys I can’t keep track of them all.

– Superboy Prime. I can empathise.

The tie-ins to Final Crisis were an interesting bunch. They weren’t, for the most part, your usual comic book event tie-ins. Then again, Final Crisis was hardly your usual comic book event. Indeed, the handful of essential reading material was included in Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis hardcover. The remaining hardcovers didn’t exist to plug holes in the story, nor to showcase particular characters interacting with the crisis du jour. So, while Final Crisis: The Legion of Three Worlds does little to tie-in plot-wise to the main miniseries (save, perhaps, setting up a tiny scene), it’s interesting that Geoff Johns elected to have is story reflect the themes and core ideas of Grant Morrison’s epic event.

And the Legion shall be many...

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