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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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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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