When it comes to the television show Millennium, there seem to be two camps (the “owls” and the “roosters” perhaps?): one group thinks that during season two when Glen Morgan and James Wong took over executive production (because series creator Chris Carter was focusing on Fight the Future [the X-Files movie]) the show went downhill and got too bizarre (e.g. Millennium Group as a conspiracy group trying to bring about the apocalypse, numerous episodes featuring the music of Bobby Darin, etc.); the other group thinks that season two is the best of the three seasons, and that Carter’s decision to basically “fire” Morgan and Wong so he could work on season three was a mistake.
I am certainly in the second camp: season two of Millennium remains one of the best seasons of television ever. For me, it’s right up there with Angel season four (when the world goes to hell — literally).
Season three, for me, occupies a weird place in my heart. When Millennium first aired in 1996 (because it was basically considered a spin-off of The X-Files), and wasn’t very impressed. I only watched for a few weeks, and then stopped. Between the first and third seasons, however, I started watching Twin Peaks and would like to think that my taste in television became a little more developed. When season three of Millennium started, I decided to give the show another chance. I even posted to the alt.tv.twin-peaks newsgroup about this decision back in 1998.
Needless to say, season three got me hooked. Ever since Fox started releasing The X-Files on DVD I eagerly waited for Millennium to follow. Watching season one with “new eyes” only cemented my love of the show. Season two, which I hadn’t seen until I watched it on DVD last fall totally blew me away.
And now, here I am, coming full-circle (like the Ouroboros from the Millennium logo) and watching the season that started it all.
I’m struck by how much the season started off like X-Files — Frank Black mirrors Fox Mulder as Emma Hollis mirrors Dana Scully. It’s really quite bizarre. I guess Chris Carter loves stories about the FBI or something? Thankfully, after a few so-so/blah episodes, the season picks up and finds its own ground again.
Here are my episode-by-episode thoughts. I am currently a little over half-way through the third season, so look for part two to come later.
“The Innocents” & “Exegesis” (two-part season premiere) — Basically, this episode ignores everything that happened in season two. We see that Frank Black has moved to Washington, D.C. and that he is consulting with the FBI, but we don’t find out what ever happened with the outbreak of the Marburg virus, why Frank’s hair is no longer grey (which it turned to at the end of season two due to the traumatic death of his wife), etc. Instead, we get a group of random FBI people investigating a downed airliner in what feels more like an X-Files episode than a Millennium one — a conspiracy to kill possibly cloned little girls who have the ability to do remote viewing. What is going o here?? I think when I started re-watching the show I missed these two episodes, because if I watched then, I may very well have given up again.
“TEOTWAWKI” — This episode I do remember from before, and it did strike me as very cool. At a large computer company in Washington (hmm… probably a thinly veiled reference to another company…) there are some high-level people who fear that when the year 2000 rolls around, the “Y2k Bug” would cause a total breakdown of society. When one of the children of these guys finds out and freaks out, badness ensues. I gotta say, I love the slight twist at the end (in regard to Brant’s death). I also loved remembering all of the Y2K paranoia going on before the turn of the century — this episode does a great job at capturing that.
“Closure” — This episode was pretty so-so, but I’m glad that it gave us a chance to learn a little about Emma’s background. She was just sort of plopped into the first episode and somewhere I think she became Frank Black’s partner (though this is never explicitly explained, as far as I remember), so as a major character she does deserve an episode dedicated to explaining her interest in violent crimes.
“… Thirteen Years Later” — I tend to hate it when dark shows attempt to break format and do something lighter. I know most fans love the Jose Chung episodes of X-Files and Millennium, but I always thought they were stupid. Further, when The X-Files really tried to lighten things up during seasons six and seven, I was thoroughly annoyed. Buffy‘s campy episodes were okay because it fit the format of the show, but when Angel tried to go really light (i.e. the fifth season’s Halloween party episode), I groaned. “… Thirteen Years Later” is another Millennium attempt at being campy, I think. The episode is about a movie reenactment of a case that Frank Black solved thirteen years ago. The band KISS makes a cameo appearance and the person you don’t expect ends up being the murderer — big surprise.
“Skull and Bones” — To be honest, I need to re-watch this episode because it left me rather confused. Basically, it is about the Millennium Group covering up information about people they or the government or someone had murdered because those people knew things they shouldn’t, caused too many problems, etc. The episode also explains what happens to Cheryl Andrews, a Millennium Group member that was somewhat of a reoccurring character during seasons one and two.
“Through a Glass, Darkly” — First, I love the title of this episode. Second, I love this episode. It is probably one of my favorite Millennium episodes and I distinctly remember it from when I watched the show on TV. This episode is about a child molester who is released from prison in a small town and has to deal with townspeople hating him and general witch-hunt type activity. Of course, at the end there is a huge twist that I doubt anyone can say they saw coming, and really pays off.
“Human Essence” — This is yet another X-Files-like episode about heroin in Vancouver that turns people into monsters. It’s another Emma-focused episode (we learn that she has a half-sister, etc.), so that is cool. But ultimately, I wasn’t a fan of this one. First, I’m not sure why they chose to have the tainted heroin in Vancouver or why Emma’s half-sister lives there. I mean, it’s a minor point and don’t get me wrong, Vancouver is a cool city and it’s neat to set an episode there, but why does the only one during the show’s run set in Canada deal with drugs? I’m not sure. Then, the whole thing about the Chinese scientist who is tainting was strange too — especially since he worked for the U.S. DEA. Ultimately, I think the episode is probably about some conspiracy in which the U.S. government is experimenting with mind altering substances in order to either control people or use them for war, so they sent someone outside of the country to work on it… but still, this isn’t explicitly laid out (and not that it needs to be explicit, necessarily — it’s just that the intention is poorly conveyed in the episode) so in the end, you are like, “Huh?” (in a bad way — not in a, “Wow, I need to reflect” way).
“Omerta” — Ugh, another let’s-try-to-be-light episode. It aired the week before Christmas, so I guess the creators can be like, “Oh, well it’s Christmas season so we have to do something light and cute.” “Omerta” involves a mafia guy who was supposedly killed 10 years prior but then suddenly shows up and it turns out that two mute women in the woods kept him alive and hidden all this time. Obviously, the two women are supposed to be angels.
“Borrowed Time” — Thank god for this episode. I swear, after “Human Essence” and “Omerta” I was about ready to reconsider my praise for the show. I was tempted to write a blog entry about how terrible the third season of Millennium was and how it just tried to copy The X-Files and that I was really sad and so on. But then came “Borrowed Time.” I remember watching this years ago and maybe even crying at the end. The title refers to people who have somehow escaped death (like Frank’s daughter Jordan — who survived meningitis in season one and the Marburg virus in season two) whose “borrowed time” is being collected and given to others who, in the future, will die of freak accidents. Eric Mabius’ character, who takes the time, is probably an angel of sorts. Somehow this episode captures death so softly and in such a touching way.
“Collateral Damage” — I already blogged about this episode the other day, so this will repeat some of what I mentioned there. This episode is great because freaking Art Bell was in it!! Playing himself!! Sorry, but I still cannot get over the coolness of that fact. Then you have Spike from Buffy (well, not Spike as Spike but James Marsters) and, get this, Jacinda from Real World: London! As for the rest of the episode, I love the character of Peter Watts and so the fact this episode sort of dealt with him and his family was cool. The conspiracy stuff in the episode was great, too. During the Golf War, did the military have soldiers test chemical weapons? Is that what Gulf War Syndrome is really about? One of my favorite lines from the episode deals with the effects of war on soldiers when a doctor at Walter Reed is talking to Frank Black:
Uh, each war has its own syndrome. World War II, it was shell shock. Vietnam was post-traumatic stress disorder. The Gulf War gave us, uh, paranoia, I guess.
Since the episode dealt directly with the Marburg virus, I did hope that we’d learn more about what happened between season two and season three, but I guess that is what the next episode was for…
“The Sound of Snow” — Finally, we find out what happens after season two. This episode is about a woman in Seattle who makes cassette tapes with “white noise” on them that cause people to hallucinate their greatest fears/things they feel guilty about. When Frank hears the tapes, he starts having flashbacks to the outbreak of the virus and the vaccine that he and Peter Watts received and the immense guilt he feels about the death of his wife, Catherine. The first half of the episode of pretty straightforward — Frank investigates two deaths in which people received the tapes. You wouldn’t tell from the beginning that by the end of the episode it’d turn into a “mythology” one, which is cool, I think. (One of the things that got old with The X-Files is that there was a strong delineation between a “monster of the week” episode and a “mythology” episode — events from one never crossed into the other.) I’m not sure that the episode resolved all of my issues/questions about season two, but at least it attempted to give closure. The guest appears of Megan Gallagher playing Catherine was great. It really is too bad that was killed off in season two.
“Antipas” — The return of Lucy Butler (as played by Sarah-Jane Redmond)! Lucy Butler is my, and many other fans I am sure, favorite guest character on Millennium. We first met her during the two-part “Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions” & “Lamentation” episodes of season one when she was somehow the killer of Frank’s best friend Bob Bletcher. We then met her again during one of my all-time favorite Millennium episodes, “A Room With No View” when she kidnapped teenagers with bright futures and tortured them by playing the song “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat incessantly. In “Antipas,” Lucy is the nanny for the attorney general of Wisconsin (who is planning to run for governor). The episode starts with Emma investigating a case in which she has no leads on. Frank notices the words “Saint/PA” written on a note in one of the photographs. He decodes it as an anagram for “antipas” which leads him to the Antipas Gardens on the estate of the Wisconsin Attorney General’s mansion. There he finds Lucy Butler, who he believes has been leaving clues for Frank so that he can find her here (he uncovers numerous other crime scene photos what have the word “antipas” contained in them somewhere). Frank and Lucy many antagonistic encounters, including a “dream” Frank has in which Lucy is essentially raping him — which is then turned around into Frank raping Lucy after he has her arrested and she demands a rape kit and a paternity test. After two more deaths (the attorney general and his wife), strange encounters in the Antipas Gardens (a maze, of sorts), Frank hits Lucy with a car, killing “their” baby and leaving Lucy in the hospital. When he confronts her in the final scene to tell her that he’s not afraid of her, she makes a vague threat toward Frank’s daughter Jordan.
… So that does it for the first half of season two. I have nine episodes to go and then it’s all over, sadly enough. After I finish those I’ll do a similar recap and my thoughts on the season and the series in general.