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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 – Via Dolorosa (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.

And so, Millennium ends.

That is not entirely accurate. Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That are really the third ending to Millennium. Chris Carter’s oft-overlooked series famously reinvented itself in each of its three seasons. Every season finalé was a series finalé, bidding farewell to one version of the show before another arrives. In the first season, it was a serial killer procedural with ominous spiritual undertones. In its second season, it was the story of a family breakup that drew in all manner of religious conspiracy theories and eschatology. In its third season, it was…

"Did I tell you that I REALLY like The Silence of the Lambs?"

“Did I tell you that I REALLY like The Silence of the Lambs?”

Well, it is hard to tell what the third season was – or even what it wanted to be.

Nevertheless, Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That feel like an attempt to grant the series some sense of closure. In a way, these episodes typify the third season. They are messy and confused, awkwardly paced and drawn in broad strokes. At the same time, there are enough interesting ideas and clever concepts that one can see how they might have come together with a bit more craft. There is an outline of a great episode here, with Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That making a valiant effort to pull together messy strands of continuity from across the show’s run.

"Yep, it feels a little bit like that."

“Yep, it feels a little bit like that.”

The third season of Millennium was hampered by terrible decisions made out of the gate, but the final stretch of the season has no shortage of ambition and drive. It is no secret that the third season suffered from a number of serious problems at the start of the year. Maybe if those had been avoided, Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That would have an easier time drawing down the blinds. Still, it is impossible to know what might have been, and the truth is that Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That are a flawed conclusion to a flawed year.

Perhaps appropriately, Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That offer a rather disjointed conclusion to a rather disjointed year. Via Dolorosa and Goodbye to All That are written by two different teams of writers and directed by two different directors. Although the plot carries across both episodes, there are points where the transition seems rather inelegant or incongruous. Then again, this is about wrapping up the show’s troubled third season, so it is certainly representative.

"Take a picture. It'll last longer."

“Take a picture. It’ll last longer.”

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Millennium – Bardo Thodol (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.

As with Saturn Dreaming of Mercury and (to a lesser extent) Darwin’s Eye, Bardo Thodol continues to boldly push Millennium towards abstraction.

The plot of Bardo Thodol is actually fairly basic, in the same way that the plot to Darwin’s Eye is fairly basic. Mister Takahashi has done terrible things. Fleeing the Millennium Group assassin known only as Mabius, the mysterious scientist seeks refuge in a Buddhist Temple. As his body turns against him, Takahashi seeks to atone for his crimes. At the same time, an FBI raid on a cargo ship turns up an ice box packed with severed hands. Inevitably the two threads turn out to be intertwined.

Give the man a hand...

Give the man a hand…

However, as with a lot of Millennium scripts, the details of this fairly simple plot are delightfully askew. Bardo Thodol feels almost like a game of Millennium word association. There are cloning experiments, assassination attempts, meditations on reincarnation, actual meditation, discussions of forgiveness, ominous messages delivered by computer virus, lots of atmosphere, an oppressive sense of paranoia. Adjectives like “cluttered” and “stuffed” come to mind, to the point that it feels like a lot of Bardo Thodol ended up on the cutting room floor.

As with Darwin’s Eye, it feels like Bardo Thodol works better as a mood piece than as an example of storytelling television. It is not a hugely satisfying forty-five minutes, but it is always interesting.

Yes. Yes the show is.

Yes. Yes the show is.

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Millennium – Forcing the End (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.

In its own odd way, Forcing the End is reassuring.

Not in any way that makes Forcing the End a good piece of television. In fact, Forcing the End is a terrible piece of television. It is poorly written, awkwardly staged, horribly muddled and needlessly convoluted. It wastes two potentially interesting guest stars in Julie Landau and Andreas Katsulas, and doesn’t give our characters anything interesting to do. The best that can be said bout Forcing the End is that it has some interesting ideas and striking imagery, but never seems to be able to fashion them into a functioning story.

"Wait. What."

“Wait. What.”

However, Forcing the End is reassuring because it stands as a monument to the second season of Millennium. The second season of Millennium was a gloriously odd and ambitious piece of television, one that floated ideas and concepts that often seemed insane or ridiculous. It was unlike anything else on television, and holds up rather well. However, the second season of Millennium is interesting because it invites the viewer to wonder whether to is fueled and sustained by its high concepts and big ideas, rather than its scripting and plotting.

Forcing the End answers that question rather clearly. It confirms that the second season works as well as it did because it was well written and beautifully constructed; carefully put together and meticulously crafted. It is not enough to just throw crazy apocalyptic concepts and imagery at the screen and see what sticks. The fact that Forcing the End is so packed with weird eschatological imagery and themes, and yet so stubbornly refuses to work, demonstrates that it is not enough for television to be odd. It has to be good.

Veiled threats...

Veiled threats…

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Millennium – Matryoshka (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.

It seems like every time that the third season of Millennium takes a step forward, it is simply preparing to take a tumble backwards.

After spending over a third of the season trying to rewrite the events of the second season, it seemed like the show was finally accepting the changes that had been made by Glen Morgan and James Wong over the course of the sophomore year. Omertà, Borrowed Time, Collateral Damage and The Sound of Snow had all seen the show trying to make its peace with the loss of Catherine Black and the changes to the Millennium Group stemming from the second season finalé. It looked like the show was working through its conflicted feelings, and was ready to move on.

Perhaps it must...

Perhaps it must…

However, both Antipas and Matryoshka represent a very clear step backwards. Antipas feels like an attempt to return to the mood and aesthetic of the late first season (and first season characterisation of Lucy Butler) with no regard for what came afterwards. Matryoshka attempts to reintroduce the sort of clumsy revisionist rewriting of Millennium‘s internal continuity in a manner that evokes The Innocents or Exegesis or Skull and Bones. It presents a secret history of the Millennium Group that heavily contradicts The Hand of St. Sebastian.

There is a host of potentially interesting stuff buried under all of this, but – as with a lot of the third season – it is very hard to care about a show more invested in playing ping-pong with its own history than in trying to tell a new and compelling story. It seems like the most striking thing about most third season episodes is how they engage with what came before, more than what they are actually trying to do. Watching the third season, it seems like the Millennium writing staff is just as divided as the Millennium Group was in Owls and Roosters.

Nesting dolls...

Nesting dolls…

This approach is self-defeating on a number of levels. The second season was admittedly divisive among fans, but it seems like the third season simply cannot get past The Fourth Horseman and The Time is Now in any meaningful fashion. Fans who enjoyed the second season will inevitably feel frustrated by the repeated efforts to minimise or over-write it. Fans who disliked the second season will grow increasingly annoyed that the show is still fixated upon it. Any viewers without a working knowledge of the history of the show are likely to just be confused and befuddled.

Matryoshka is not the worst offender for this sort of confused self-contradiction and self-fixation, but there is a sense that Millennium‘s fascination with the continuity (or lack thereof) of the second season has already passed to point of diminishing returns. Much like the script for Matryoshka, it seems like the third season of Millennium is trapped in the past.

Eating its own tale...

Eating its own tale…

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Millennium – Collateral Damage (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.

Collateral Damage continues the weird healing process at work in the third season.

After spending so much time pretending that the second season never actually happened, the third season has finally accepted that there were story developments flowing from that season that the show needs to deal with. In some respects, Collateral Damage can be seen as a process of healing and integration for the third season of Millennium, constructing a story that manages to tie together all three seasons of Millennium together into something resembling a cohesive whole.

"A bloody fine mess you've gotten me into!"

“A bloody fine mess you’ve gotten me into!”

From the first season, Collateral Damage takes its introduction and basic premise. Collateral Damage begins in a manner similar to many early Millennium episodes. A sinister attacker stalks their victim and brutally strikes. We are then treated to a few extended suspense-filled sequences as the attacker’s designs become increasingly uncomfortable and nefarious. It is not too hard to imagine Collateral Damage as the kind of “serial killer of the week” episode that populated the early first season.

For the second season, Collateral Damage inherits its fascination with the Millennium Group and its depiction of Peter Watts. Collateral Damage marks the first point in the third season where Peter Watts feels like the character that we watched grow and evolve over the second season. This is a version of Peter who has so repressed his doubts and uncertainties that they threaten to explode if they are even acknowledged. It is a much more compelling character than the knock-off conspirator featured in episodes like Exegesis and Skull and Bones.

"Don't be afraid."

“Don’t be afraid.”

From the third season, Collateral Damage takes its fixation on the link between the Millennium Group and conspiracies involving the American government. Collateral Damage suggests that the Millennium Group is responsible for Gulf War Syndrome. It feels like a plot point from an episode of The X-Files – and arguably makes it an ideal third season element. The result is perhaps the most all-encompassing episode of the show ever produced. Collateral Damage is not the best episode of Millennium ever produced, but it is perhaps the broadest representation of the show itself.

If you were to pull back and examine Millennium from a distance, it might look a lot like Collateral Damage.

"Surgical strike."

“Surgical strike.”

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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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