A Fan’s Guide to Millennium

I love Millennium. I also love X Files, but that’s another story. Here, then, is my guide to Chris Carter’s second best-known show. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

“This is who we are…”

My Millennium Episode Guide (1996-1999)

Recurring Characters

Black family: Frank Black (1-3) Catherine Black (1-2, 3) Jordan Black (1-3)

Millennium Group: Peter Watts (1-3) Dr Cheryl Andrews (1-2, 3) Lara Means (2) Brian Roedecker (2)

Police: Lt Robert Bletcher (1) Det Bob Giebelhouse (1-3)   FBI: Special Agent Emma Hollis (3) Assistant Director Andy McCLaren (3)

Star Ratings ***** Classic **** Very good *** Worth a watch ** Adequate * Awful

Top Five Stories by Season (in order of airing)

Season One

  1. 511666
  2. Blood Relatives
  3. The Well-Worn Lock
  4. Lamentations
  5. Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions

 Season Two

  1. The Curse of Frank Black
  2. Anamnesis
  3. A Room With No View
  4. The Fourth Horseman
  5. The Time is Now

Season Three

  1. Through a Glass Darkly
  2. Omerta
  3. Collateral Damage
  4. Saturn Dreaming of Mercury
  5. Goodbye to All That

NB – This contains spoilers – you have been warned. Each episode contains a brief summary followed by a short review complete with star rating as given above. Please note the plot summaries are very short. There are plenty of more detailed sites out there and I see no reason to duplicate their content. Enjoy!

The Reviews

Season One

Pilot – Ex-FBI agent and now Millennium group associate Frank Black moves to Seattle with his wife Catherine and daughter Jordan. His first on-screen case sees him work with veteran detectives Lt Robert Bletcher and Det Bob Geibelhouse to track down a religiously-motivated serial killer who believes he is on a mission to clean up the city

The aim of a pilot episode is of course to introduce the main characters and set up the basic outline of the series for the future. Millennium was never quite sure what it wanted to be from one minute to the next but for much of Season One it functions very well as a crime procedural thriller, keeping its supernatural element (Frank’s troubling ‘gift’ of seeing what the killer sees) mostly in the background. It’s an engaging 45 minutes of TV which tells you most of what you need to know, with Frank’s insights helping the sceptical police find the bodies while Catherine and Jordan are ‘safe’ in the Yellow House. It would all change, of course.

Rating ****

Gehenna – Frank tracks down a doomsday cult which doses its victims with hallucinogenic drugs before murdering them. NB Frank gets his first glimpse of the demonic forces behind the cult

Despite the intriguing premise I found this one a bit pedestrian. The early scenes we get with young men being drugged, dumped and then attacked by some kind of demonic force are excellently handled, but the episode fails to deliver on its basic premise. The cult leader is duly arrested, we get the image of him being a demon and that’s about it. I can’t complain too much though, as Gehenna is clearly meant to set up events for later episodes which is why it inevitably feels a bit anticlimactic. There is a bit of interesting commentary on the banality of evil and the microwave scene is suitably scary but there’s not much else to report.

Rating ***

Dead Letters – A serial killer leaves clues on each of his victims. Frank is uneasily teamed up with a detective Jim Horn to investigate the case.

One of the best things about this episode is the superb  opening scene where Jordan has a nightmare involving a scary clown. Brittany Tiplady gives a great performance and the chemistry between she, Megan Black and of course Lance Henriksen is tangible. It’s also another sign that Jordan has inherited her father’s abilities which will only grow stronger as she gets older – a worrying reality for Frank. The rest of the episode is decent, but nothing special although it has its moments. Frank spends most of the episode as a stranger in someone else’s town and it’s clear his reluctant partner is a man on the edge who unsurprisingly ends up going postal (no pun intended) on the deranged killer. Is it a signpost of Frank’s potential future? Quite possibly, but it’s a decent bit of drama regardless.

Rating ***

The Judge – A man who styles himself the Judge gets ex-cons to do his dirty work. First appearance of Dr Cheryl Andrews.

This is the first episode where the dark shadowy forces which plague Frank are up close and personal. The titular Judge even offers him a job at one point – not the first Faustian bargain the series plays about with, either. We also get the first appearance of Cheryl who is fairly two-dimensional at this stage. Otherwise, it’s business as usual. The plot is pretty thin and is like a weird rewrite of Gunfight at Comanche Creek with the Judge getting ex-cons to do his evil bidding while he sits there like some kind of pantomime puppet-master. It’s hardly an original idea and it’s not presented with any real verve here, although the bit with the leg amputation made me wince. I should probably like this one more than I do – but I don’t.

Rating **

522666 – A mad bomber conducts a reign of terror across Washington DC in a warped bid to become a glorified hero

The first of the indisputably great ‘villain of the week’ episodes. Although the focus here is a madman’s campaign to spread terror, more than anything else it’s a study of obsession. We have a man who becomes drunk on the power he wields over his victims seeking to place himself centre-stage in the middle of the chaos he has created. Plenty of police series have done mad-bomber episodes, but Millennium handles it beautifully with gorgeously-staged explosions and the central conceit of keying in the number beforehand. A relatively straightforward story but very well-told.

Rating *****

Kingdom Come – Frank investigates a series of religious-inspired slayings including a Catholic priest burned at the stake

In many respects this is an archetypal Millennium episode. We have a serial killer and we have religion – God and death, two seemingly ever-present themes in the gloomy universe of Frank Black and his colleagues. Here it is presented in a pretty interesting way with memorable death scenes (the burning at the stake) which makes the premise work. Or maybe it’s just that by this point the series hadn’t abused the religious-deaths motif as it would later come to do. A worthy episode.

Rating ****

Blood Relatives – Catherine and Frank become involved in a case of a man who befriends, then murders, the recently-bereaved.

Millennium tackles a truly creepy theme here in the form of death fetishism – or what it appears to be. The opening scenes with a seemingly-ordinary funeral shortly followed by a Carrie-style hands-out-the-grave routine is an effective piece of shock horror. But it’s the concept which really gets under your skin – the idea that a killer would latch on to people at their most vulnerable, playing them like a harp before sending them to join their loved ones is a very dark idea indeed. And then there’s the little niggling clues which Frank (of course) picks up on, suggesting all is not what it seems. The psychology of the mother rejecting her own child whom she gave up for adoption is painful to watch and once more makes you realise the strength of Millennium. These are no cardboard cutouts, they are flesh and blood creations who compel you to watch in horror.

Rating *****

The Well-Worn Lock – Frank’s wife Catherine is assigned to work with a woman whose powerful and well-connected father has sexually abused her.

A very atypical Millennium episode where for once Catherine is centre-stage and Frank is largely stuck on the sidelines offering support. Despite the disturbing nature of the story, there’s some surprisingly sweet and tender scenes especially Frank finding his wife asleep in her office. There’s no mystery for once, we know from the start the guy is guilty and it’s just a matter of time before he is brought to book. The series was ballsy indeed to try something so different this early on and you can’t help but admire it.

Rating *****

Wide Open – A man obsessed with security measures murders people in their own homes

Millennium is generally good at doing angry-little-man stories, antagonists who do what they do because they feel themselves out of step with the world around them. The central idea here is great – the notion of someone who wants to take white middle class America’s belief in its own ability to keep the big bad wolf from the door by showing homeowners just how vulnerable they really are. It also connects to Frank of course, with his family ensconced in the safe little Seattle home which will later be demolished, conceptually if not literally. The episode itself is a bit boring though, with a sluggish pace and a pretty sterile feel. Although we learn the killer’s motive eventually, he never feels like a very well-developed character and although it’s quite watchable it doesn’t make best use of its excellent premise.

Rating ***

The Wild and the Innocent – A young couple go on a murderous search across country for her missing baby.

A solidly-constructed thriller which like many other villain of the week pieces is fairly forgettable. Except these two aren’t really villains, more misunderstood. The Bonnie and Clyde motif was done better later in the series but it’s engaging enough without being earth-shattering.

Rating ***

Weeds – Teenage boys are kidnapped and humiliated in a gated community as they are made to pay for the sins of their fathers.

Not a terrible episode, but not very interesting either. We get the standard fare of wealthy suburbanites each with something to hide but none of them are particularly engaging or well-drawn. There’s a rather starchy moralistic feel to the whole thing and the pace is pedestrian. It could have been better with stronger characters and a better use of the gated community setting. As it is, it’s merely adequate.

Rating **

Loin Like a Hunting Flame – A sexual predator uses drugs to subdue his victims

Millennium by now had established itself as a series which could do ‘twisted killer of the week’ motif while standing on its proverbial head. There’s nothing massively wrong with an episode like this other than the fact it feels like a potboiler, which of course it is. Once again we get a killer motivated by sex (it’s either that or religion, isn’t it?), with voyeurism at the story’s forefront. The Pilot episode did this better with more interesting set-pieces and a stronger atmosphere. Easily skipped.

Rating **

Force Majeure – A man obsessed with the Millennium group pesters Frank during an investigation into Stepford Children-style cloning

Despite the presence of the great Brad Dourif (who had previously popped up in the X Files’ excellent ‘Beyond the Sea’ episode), this episode really isn’t very good. We get a lot of guff about cosmic forces and planetary alignments, ripped off wholesale from the X Files. Frank stumbles around in the dark before the final reveal of a group of kids who look like extras from Village of the Damned. It’s bog-standard horror movie stuff and there’s not much to hold it all together. The fact Dourif’s character somehow manages to drive all the girls away on a bus with no-one able to stop him should give you the nod that plot-logic is at a premium.

Rating *

The Thin White Line – Frank hunts a copycat killer inspired by one he stalked decades earlier while with the FBI

Another example of a simple story well-told. There’s very little supernatural tricks on offer here, just a gritty, well-directed crime thriller best remembered for the playing-card motif of the killer and some welcome flashbacks of a younger Frank Black as an FBI agent in the 1970s. The copycat trope is decently handled but it’s the shootouts which are the real star of the story. Young Frank’s first confrontation with the killer who manages to execute several of his colleagues and nearly offs our hero too is as taut as piano wire and the grimy locations really help. A classic of the ‘Millennium as straightforward cop-show’ type.

Rating *****

Sacrament – Frank’s sister-in-law is kidnapped prompting him to take up the case and get her back

Millennium spent much of its first two seasons exploring the concepts of light and dark and whether it is possible for someone like Frank to keep them separate.  We’ve already had episodes dealing with the paranoia of white, suburban America with its gates communities and its quiet little cul-de-sacs. This episode is perhaps the archetypal season one presentation of it, with a crime hitting closer to home for Frank and his family than previously seen. The kidnapping is effectively done, but it’s more the background detail which makes this one stay in the mind. Frank’s argument with his brother Tom in the basement is among the best-remembered scenes here, as are the early hints that Jordan may have inherited her father’s troubling gift.

Rating ****

Covenant – Frank is asked to profile a Sheriff who confessed to killing his family – but Frank believes he is innocent.

Another one of those excellent stories where the supernatural stuff is kept to a minimum and instead we have a well-told tale which does a superb job of exploring the nature of atonement for past sins. The script gets a lot of praise but it’s the performances which once again make this a winner. John Finn as the embattled former-sheriff gives a haunted turn showing an all-too human ordinary guy who chooses to take the blame for a heinous act in the name of love and redemption. It’s not an easy watch but it’s among the series’ best

Rating *****

Walkabout – An amnesiac Frank finds he has been used in a weird medical experiment.

Despite its heavy-handed politics (warning of the dangers posed by Big Pharma), this is ultimately a fairly shallow – albeit highly engaging, story. The opening with the self-harming patients is an excellent example of Millennium doing the everyman-trapped-in-a-nightmare trope which by now had become one of its most easily-identifiable traits. The idea of a doctor feeling so irritated by anti-depressants turning people into a nation of ‘zombies’ is a silly idea which feels preachy rather than profound. Ignore that and you’ve got a decent thriller which will certainly keep you entertained.

Rating ****

Lamentation – Frank tracks down an old nemesis Euphraim Fabricant – and encounters the personification of evil in the form of a demonic woman. NB – First appearance of Lucy Butler, final appearance of Lt Bob Bletcher.

Wow. What can I possibly say about this one? The strongest season one episode and a candidate for best ever episode. In 45 minutes we go from what seems a standard psycho-of-the-week story to demonic appearances, severed organs in the fridge and literally all hell breaking loose. Lucy Butler is a superb character brilliantly played by Sarah-Jane Redmond with an eerie, coiling menace. Bletcher’s death is among the series’ most memorable scenes even if the character had been badly underwritten. The series rarely got better than this.

Rating *****

Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions – Frank investigates occult slayings and meets a sinister lawyer as well as a mysterious young man who is apparently an angel. NB Lucy Butler makes a cameo appearance.

Although not technically a two-partner this inevitably feels like a sequel to Lamentation as Frank and colleagues try to come to terms with Bletcher’s death.  Since the advent of shows like Spooks, modern audiences are quite used to shows which kill off main characters mid-season, but here it is still shocking and Frank’s sorrow over his friend’s death still very raw. The main investigation in this, complete with angels and paranormal shenanigans isn’t that interesting. What makes this a classic is all the stuff going on in the background. Once again, Frank gets an offer to join the ‘other side’ this time in the form of a corrupt lawyer who turns out to be none other than Legion. And then there’s Lucy Butler of course – a cameo pop-up but still one of the greatest moments in the first season. A triumph of style over content, in that not much happens but who cares when it’s this watchable?

Rating *****

Broken World – Horses are slain by a sexually-motivated killer

Following the madness of the last two episodes with horned beasts and supernatural goings-on we’re back to a fairly pedestrian story involving a fairly standard killer of the week. It’s a perfectly watchable episode, but one of those easy to forget in the ups and downs of the first season. Frank and the cops do a workmanlike job of tracking down the killer whose demise at the hands (hooves?) of stampeding horses is really rather silly. The location shots are quite atmospheric, though.

Rating ***

Maranatha – Frank investigates killings attributed to a vengeful Russian spirit in the aftermath of Chernobyl

One of those frustrating episodes which begins promisingly, then rapidly runs out of steam. The early bits with the flashback to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster are effectively staged and it’s nice to see Millennium take real-life events and fashion them into its own mythology. Sadly it’s all downhill from there as we get treated to 40 minutes of garbled rubbish about a Russian boogieman and chunks of the Book of Revelation which feel arbitrary and needless. The episode fails to decide whether our bad guy is the antichrist or a mortal killer but frankly by the time the ending came, I wasn’t bothered either way.

Rating *

Paper Dove – Frank is asked to clear an admiral’s son of murder – and Catherine is abducted at the season’s end

This is really two stories in one. The first sees Frank trying to track down another killer of the week in a particularly bleak story. The killer’s home life complete with overbearing mother is uncomfortable to sit through making this a memorable episode even if it is difficult to love. The second involves Frank’s battle with the unseen stalker who was mentioned at the start of the season, sending the Black family disturbing polaroids. The abduction at the end is superb and while a cliffhanger is a tried-and-tested way to get the audience to tune in next season, here it works as a piece of drama and doesn’t feel tacked on.

Rating ****

Season Two

The Beginning and the End – Frank tracks down Catherine’s kidnapper which sets in motion events which have profound consequences for their marriage. NB  First appearance of Brian Roedecker

If season one is all about Frank and Catherine playing happy families – or at least trying to, season two is the place where the proverbial rot sets in. One of the better examples of the series staying within its own myth-arc we get the final showdown with the Polaroid Man mentioned several times in season one before the kidnap, whom Frank eventually kills. The scenes where Frank stabs the stalker to death, driving the knife home repeatedly is intense even by Millennium standards and the look of horror on Catherine’s face is equally powerful. Elsewhere Watts tells an intriguing story of his own fatherhood desires (he wants a son) and Frank’s contrary opinion that you cannot sacrifice one thing for another. Ironically, that’s exactly what happens as Frank crosses the line, saves his family but at the potential cost of his marriage. As he walks off, bags packed, you realise we are indeed in unchartered territory.

Rating ****

Beware of the Dog – As Frank’s marriage begins to crumble he investigates a weird case involving supernatural dogs terrorising a small town. He also meets a mysterious old man who tells him more about the Millennium Group.

A very weird episode which never quite seems to gel. The only real highlights here are Frank’s curious conversations with the old bloke in the woods. Otherwise it’s little more than a glorified monster of the week story with bullet-proof dogs. Some decent atmospheric shots early on save it from a lower grade.

Rating **

Sense and Antisense – Frank tracks down ‘Patient Zero’ – a man supposedly infected with a lethal virus

An episode straight out of the X Files which wouldn’t matter at all if it were one of the better X Files rip-offs. Sadly, it isn’t, just another ‘we need to find the missing XYZ or Armageddon could break loose’ type of set-ups. We get the usual guff about government conspiracies using transients to spread the virus but even by the time Frank and co have tracked down ground zero (no pun intended) we never learn much apart from vague references to the Congo and previous atrocities. A pot-boiler.

Rating **

Monster – A day-care centre worker is accused of child molestation – and Frank soon finds himself the target of false allegations. NB first appearance of Lara Means.

Millennium was good at ‘creepy kid’ episodes – season three’s Saturn Dreaming of Mercury would repeat this trick to fine effect, and it’s done well here with Danielle, a sinister little girl at the centre of abuse allegations. The revelation that Danielle is the latest incarnation of the demonic Legion is guessable but still dramatically effective. The scenes where the day-care worker gives her rationale for running the centre protesting she hasn’t changed her ways of caring for kids in decades as it’s all she knows is a poignant one. There’s just a few silly bits the most obvious being Frank allowing himself to be left alone with a girl so obviously screwed up as Danielle, leaving himself wide open to allegations of abuse. An investigator as experienced (and brilliant) as Frank would surely never make such a rookie error. The final bit where Danielle (the antichrist, let’s not forget) gets dumped with a Millennium Group family is also head-scratchingly unethical. Lara Means also shines in her first appearance, a strong female counterpart to Frank who like him, has a brilliant gift (in the form of an angel which visits her), but who is willing to test and challenge her colleague. All in all, a near-classic let down by a few annoying plot-holes.

Rating ****

A Single Blade of Grass – Frank investigates killings involving native Americans and ritual practices.

A silly and inconsequential story which never really seems to go anywhere. There’s some nice bits early on with the ritual consumption of the snake venom, but pretty soon we’re into standard voodoo-style hokum only with native Americans in place of necromancers. The bit where the buffalo escape and thereby fulfil the prophecy is just too trite for words. One of the weakest episodes.

Rating *

The Curse of Frank Black – Frank spends Halloween plagued by visions from his past including a haunting encounter with a WW2 veteran.

The trope of ghostly visitations during the holiday season has been a staple of fiction ever since Dickens penned a Christmas Carol and his Halloween-themed take doesn’t disappoint. For once we have a stripped-down show with Frank (mostly) by himself, a lonely man brooding on his memories, with no crime scene or colleagues to back him up. The flashback scenes with a young Frank confronting the psychologically-damaged war veteran show Millennium at its best, treating its characters with sympathy by investing them with a  true humanity. Frank’s later showdown with the ghost (or is it a guilty memory?) where the spirit tells him he will end up as lonely as he (the veteran) did has the quality of a great gothic  ghost tale overlaid with genuine psychological depth. Frank’s rejection of the ghost’s claims and his symbolic return to the Yellow House which he cleans up (it has previously been egged by trick or treaters) is another glorious moment. There’s plenty of creepy stuff with grinning demons and weird Twilight Zone-style goings-on, but that’s not what this is about. It’s a study of guilt and redemption and the choices we make which can give us a reason to live. A masterpiece.

Rating *****

19:19 – A fanatic kidnaps a bus-full of school children inspired by prophecies of a forthcoming Armageddon

We’ve had no shortages of religious-motivated crazies on Millennium and this is a strong example.  Matthew Prine is a man convinced of the imminent WWIII (he even has Terminator 2-style visions of it, for gawd’s sake). What makes this so creepy is the fact it’s not until late in the story we learn the other kids are merely collateral damage since Prine was interested in only one of them who may, or may not be, a future messiah. It’s a fascinating idea and the tensions continue to raise until he is finally caught. Lara Means gets a chance to shine as well deducing the location of the madman. The episode doesn’t focus too much on the intellectual stuff – people committing horrendous acts in the name of religion to which it pays lip-service but as taut thrillers go, this one is certainly up there with the best.

Rating *****

The Hand of St Sebastian – Frank joins his Millennium group colleague Peter Watts on a trip to Germany to recover a sacred object related to the group’s history while early signs of conflict begin within the membership.

The start of the episode with its view of a medieval-era Millennium is a welcome look at the group’s history which helps build up its mythos. It’s about all that’s good sadly, since the rest is Frank and Peter on an Indiana Jones-style crusade to find a missing object. You get betrayals thrown in for good measure, but the traitor (Cheryl) has hardly been in the series much anyway, so it’s impossible to feel much about it. Dull, plodding and very easily skipped.

Rating *

Jose Chung’s Doomsday Defence – An eccentric author meets Frank and his colleagues as they investigate a huge religious cult

Darin Morgan returns with another ‘Jose Chung’ story and this one’s even better than the well-regarded X Files equivalent (Jose Chung’s From Outer Space). As you’d expect, it’s all very silly and inconsequential, but so what? It’s also a brilliant satire, taking on the might of huge, money-grubbing cults and their self-serving PR machine. Lance gets a chance to show off his comedy talents and the scene where he and Geibelhouse interview the smarmy Robbinski is among the series’ best moments. Loads of fun, plus any episode featuring a character called ‘Ratfinkovich’ can’t be all bad.

Rating *****

Midnight of the Century – On Christmas Eve Frank has flashbacks relating to his childhood and his estranged father while coming to terms with the fact his daughter has inherited his troubling insights

A decent little episode but nonetheless it suffers from the fact it follows so closely on the heels of The Curse of Frank Black, substituting Christmas for Halloween. Once again we get Frank trying to come to terms with his own troubled past, this time his complex relationship with his father and his mother’s untimely death (who shared his gift, as does Jordan). The stuff with the angel and Jordan’s drawing is lovely but it all feels a bit inconsequential as though we’ve been here before and we are simply marking time. We already know by this point Jordan has a gift of her own but here it’s not really developed to any appreciable degree – nor was it until season three and then only in an episode or two. So yeah, worth a watch, but don’t expect miraculous revelations.

Rating ***

Goodnight Charlie – Frank investigates a case of assisted suicides aided by a charismatic health worker

A boring episode which fails to do justice to an interesting theme, that of euthanasia. Steven the mercy-killer comes across as a smarmy and annoying character which makes it hard to feel much for him regardless of how justified he presumably feels in doing what he does. Another pot-boiler which could have been so much more interesting.

Rating **

Luminary – Defying the Millennium group, Frank heads for Alaska to find a missing teenager

Luminary is one of those episodes which works well on two different levels. On the one hand it’s a good solid action adventure with Frank going solo to find the vanished youngster – Millennium’s answer to Into the Wild, if you will. If it were just that it would probably still get a good rating from me since it’s engaging enough to warrant it. But it’s given a bit more depth by the fact we get to see more of the workings behind the scenes of the Millennium Group leadership and the first real cracks in Frank’s relationship with it. This would come to a head at the end of the second series and set us up nicely for the events of the third.

Rating ****

The Mikado – A serial killer kidnaps his victims and then broadcasts his crimes over the internet. NB Final appearance of Brian Roedecker.

Brian Roedecker’s final appearance is also his finest hour (ain’t it always the way?). Since Avatar operates by broadcasting his disturbing brand of torture-porn over the ‘net it’s natural Watts and Frank turn to Brian to help track him down and he does a great job. Roedecker was apparently not that well-liked by fans considering him a watered-down version of X Files’ Lone Gunmen. Too bad – I always liked him, but then I’ve always been a contrarian. Other than that? It’s one of those episodes fandom seems to drool over but I’ve always found a bit cold and empty. Based on the Zodiac Killer, it’s tautly-directed and the stuff with the Mikado as a visual / aural motif is a nice touch – almost like a darker version of Inspector Morse. But it never quite goes anywhere and while Frank manages to foil the killer’s plans the bad guy lives to fight another day and you never learn anything much about who he is or what motivates him. It’s even worse as Avatar never reappears in the series. Maybe he was slated to be in the fourth season?

Rating ***

The Pest House – Frank investigates a case where killings are linked to urban myths

Another of those stories which fans seem to love but never fully grabbed me. Again we’re on to ‘killer of the week’ territory with more than a hint of X Files about it. The story is frankly rather garbled although the concept of doing a story revolving around urban legends is a nice one. The opening scene with the teens in the car is a spirited attempt at breathing new life into a hoary old chestnut. The rest of it is garbled, though. We get a load of rubbish about a man who ‘absorbs’ the madness of the patients around him and the shapeshifting scene is very silly indeed. With a bit more plot logic it could have been a semi-classic as it is, it’s an atmospheric piece let down by self-indulgence.

Rating ***

Owls – A civil war rages in the Millennium group between two different factions both with a different view of how the end of the world is likely to come.

I’m not a fan of myth-arc stories in general – and that goes for X Files as well as Millennium. By all rights, Owls should have left me cold but for some reason I loved it. The story itself is quite silly – the civil war within the Millennium Group is based around two conflicting groups, the eponymous Owls – who believe the end of the world will come in the form of a scientific holocaust (think atom bomb or similar), and the Roosters, who believe in an biblical-style meltdown. In 45 minutes we get a plot revolving around the splinters of Christ’s crucifixion cross and some neo-Nazis who are after it. It should be a garbled mess but it’s so brilliantly directed it really doesn’t matter. The assassination scene in the car while America’s ‘Horse with No Name’ plays is one of my favourite scenes in the whole of the show. It shows Millennium’s ability to conjure up a tense atmosphere with nothing other than a well-chosen use of a popular song (‘soundtrack dissonance’ as I believe it’s called). Being a two-parter, Owls is under no obligation to answer all its questions, it’s simply there to set up the premise which it does remarkably well.

Rating *****

Roosters – A Millennium group conflict is linked to an underground Nazi group

Given all the loose ends Owls established  it was going to be a tall order to tie them all together in 45 minutes – and not leave a jumbled mess in its wake. Roosters has a good go, but not surprisingly it falls short and the atmosphere and style which worked in Owls are entirely absent as we fall back on wacky neo-Nazis and a bog-standard civil war plot complete with murders and counter-strikes. In the end, the Millennium Group rallies, kills the members of the Nazi Group, Watts apologises for being a wanker and all’s right with the world. I don’t know what I expected frankly, and it’s not terrible by any means. But satisfying? No – just very formulaic.

Rating ***

Siren – A seductress with the power to communicate in any language wreaks havoc aboard a Chinese ship.

Pure X Files, this one – no bad thing in itself, if it were up to the standard of a good X Files monster of the week tale. Sadly, it isn’t. There’s not much to say really, the concept is pure hokum and lacks interest for the most part although there’s a few nice scenes including one where Frank first realises the being can communicate with him. A filler episode, nothing more.

Rating **

In Arcadia Ego – Two female convicts go on the run, one pregnant with a child she believes is a virgin birth

We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Two mismatched outsiders on the run from the law a la Bonnie and Clyde as in season one’s Wild and the Innocent. This is a far more engaging plot though and the characters are drawn far more sympathetically, thereby getting the audience on-side from the start. The virgin birth idea may seem daft, but it’s really no more so than many of the other McGuffins we’ve seen in Millennium and from a dramatic point of view it works just fine. It’s a great showcase for Frank doing what he does best, using his insights to track down the couple and getting them onside (the bit where he warns Sonny of the snipers is lovely). The final ‘suicide by cop’ bit is hard to take as you find yourself caring for these two women after all they have been through. Religious motifs be damned, this is simply great human drama and on that level it’s a classic.

Rating *****

Anamnesis – Lara Means and     Catherine investigate a high-school shooting revolving around a group of students’ visions of the virgin Mary. NB – The only episode in which Frank Black does not appear.

The opening shots of this top-notch story are among my favourite scenes in the whole show. As Patti Smith plays, the students roam along high-school corridors with an eerie sense of menace lurking in the shadows. It’s gorgeously directed – and that’s only the start of a fascinating drama which explores religious ecstasy and its accompanying hysteria. With no Frank to get in the way, this is the Catherine / Lara show, with two strong women playing off against each other, both with their own take on what’s really going on. The script sparkles throughout and the scene where our two heroines talk high-school proms and soundtracks (Kiss or Journey?) is a welcome break from the tension. One of my absolute favourites.

Rating *****

A Room with No View – Lucy Butler abducts students who show promise and subjects them to a horrifying psychological ordeal.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest Millennium episodes, and you’ll get no argument from me. Instead of the demonic cat and mouse game we got in Lamentations, this time Lucy Butler brings us a different kind of evil in which talent and inspiration are drained out of underachievers, crushing their individuality. While this theme is hardly original, it’s handled brilliantly with the constant repetition of the elevator muzak enough to literally drive its victims mad. Instead of the usual find-the-bad-guy drama, this is a perceptive study of the banality of evil, so confident in its tricks that Frank and Lucy don’t even share screen time together. There’s also tantalising glimpses of a bigger picture with the guidance counsellor, implied to be a former victim of Lucy turned-willing conspirator. Millennium never got better than this.

Rating *****

Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me – Four demons swap stories of their attempts to capture human souls.

Millennium is by nature a rather dour series, but when the writers get busy on the funny stuff they usually come up trumps. This is certainly the case here in this delightfully bonkers tale which feels more like something out of an alternative comedy series than our usual Frank-investigates fare. But I’m not complaining – when it’s this well-written it’s a joy to watch and despite the silliness of the premise it’s not without intelligence. The demons are the embodiment of bored, thwarted ambition going through the motions ensnaring souls simply because they have nothing else to do. Is it Samuel Beckett? Hell no. Wickedly entertaining and a personal fave? Hell yes.

Rating *****

The Fourth Horseman – Frank’s disillusionment with the Millennium Group reaches a head as he discovers a plot involving a deadly virus which the group plans to release

The tensions which have been bubbling away beneath the surface all season finally erupt as Frank comes to see the Millennium Group for what it truly is and makes plans to leave – but inevitably it’s too little, too late. The Fourth Horseman is the perfect set-up for the apocalyptic episode which follows as we get eerie prescient dreams from Jordan and a weird ceremony in which Lara is finally inducted into the group. She has done her deal with the proverbial devil and will soon pay for it – but more on that later. Frank confronts Watts and demands some answers, but of course he gets nowhere (a motif which will be done to death in season three until you want to scream). How can you follow something this intense and engaging with something even better? Well, they did.

Rating *****

The Time is Now – Frank fights to stop the spread of the virus with terrible consequences for his family. Meanwhile Lara means loses her sanity during her induction into the Millennium Group. NB Final appearance of Lara Means.

Wow. There is absolutely no way a few paragraphs can do justice to this one – suffice it to say, this is the iconic Millennium Episode, and if the myth-arc which followed it failed to do it full justice, it’s still an outstanding piece of TV. All the threads from the previous episodes are brought to a head as Lara Means’ angel finally deserts her. The extended trip in which her visions overwhelm her may go on a bit too long – but so what? The theme here is that the Millennium Group contaminates all it touches and to watch Lara – a feisty, intelligent and brilliant woman reduced to a burned-out shell is horrifying. But it’s nothing compared to the horror of watching Catherine die as she and Frank go into hiding only to learn both she and Jordan are infected. Lara’s gift to Frank – her own antidote, which Catherine then gives to Jordan before walking into the woods to die alone is the series’ most powerful moments. Like all the regulars in Millennium, Catherine has always seemed a real flesh and blood human being instead of a token wife character. She provides Frank with a moral compass giving him a reason to continue in spite of all the horrors which exist in his working life. To see her killed off in this way is a shattering experience made all the more terrible by the fact that Frank himself is only spared because he has been inoculated – by the Millennium Group which he has now renounced. Season two could not possibly have ended in a better way and the fact season three largely failed to seize the initiative with the Frank vs Millennium Group theme is a crying shame. The best episode Millennium ever made.

Rating *****

Season Three

The Innocents – Months after Catherine’s death Frank returns to the FBI as a consultant where he works alongside agent Special Agent Emma Hollis to discover the truth about a mysterious plane crash.  NB First appearance of Emma Hollis, Barry Baldwin and Andy McClaren.

Following the fireworks of last season’s closer this had the potential to be explosive, but instead it’s a damp squib. There’s very little mention of Catherine, Frank spends most of the episode bashing his head against a wall trying to get his FBI bosses to believe him and the plane crash story isn’t very interesting. Necessary in the grand scale of things perhaps but not very watchable.

Rating **

Exegesis – Frank and Hollis discover the plane crash relates to a group of psychic women whom the Millennium Group is targeting.

Continuing where the underwhelming season opener left off, this is a slight improvement simply because there’s a bit more going on. Frank and his new sidekick find themselves in an underground silo looking for evidence of the Millennium Group’s dark doings and the X Files comparisons are inevitable. The action scenes are tersely directed and it’s all admirably workmanlike but it’s still not very involving.

Rating ***

TEOTWAWKI – A high-school shooting leads Frank and Hollis on the trail of a group of survivalists who are preparing for the end of the world due to the Millennium Bug. NB Title stands for ‘The End of the World as We Know It.’

Despite the dated premise, this one stacks up much better than you’d think. While high school shooting episodes had been done before by both Millennium and X Files this one takes a slightly different tack, by-passing the kids and turning the spotlight on their parents. Ultimately, it’s a study of fanaticism and the lengths people will go to if they believe their cause to be justified. Uncomfortable but gripping.

Rating ****

Closure – A trigger-happy psychopath and his two friends go on a rampage of destruction across America while Hollis confronts painful memories of her past.

I have no idea what Chris Carter’s politics are as regards gun-control but there’s so many nutters in Millennium episodes with access to weaponry you inevitably wonder if a point is being made somewhere along the line. In any case, this is another of those shallow Bonnie and Clyde-type episodes where the cops chase after a gang of nutters across country – except this time it’s largely two guys who are responsible for the chaos. The William Tell scene is as tense as the proverbial crossbow string and while it’s as throwaway as many other third season stories, it’s still good stuff.

Rating ****

Thirteen Years Later – A tasteless movie is made based (very) loosely on a serial killer case Frank once worked on. Then the murders start happening for real. NB – features a cameo by Kiss (as themselves).

One of Millennium’s rare but welcome comedy episodes, this one is an affectionate homage to postmodern horror in the wake of films such as Scream. There’s far too many great scenes to mention, but Frank’s dour commentary on famous slasher fare such as Halloween, Friday the Thirteenth and so on is worth the price of admission alone. Fun, goofy nonsense with an intelligent script in the best ‘Jose Chung’ tradition.

Rating *****

Skull and Bones – A field of human remains are dug up prompting an FBI investigation. Among the dead are Cheryl Andrews and Hollis comes to realise what the Millennium Group is capable of. NB Final appearance of Cheryl Andrews (as flashback).

One of those mythology episodes which frankly aren’t very interesting. We get half an hour’s worth of ominous brooding from Hollis and Frank while Watts wanders about in the background looking like a panto villain. By this point we already know the Millennium Group is a bad bunch of dudes, so we hardly need a site full of skeletons to tell us. The flashbacks showing Cheryl’s fate are pretty cool though, and the only reason this otherwise forgettable episode doesn’t get one star.

Rating **

Through a Glass Darkly – A convicted child-killer is released from prison back to his hostile small-town where he faces hostility.

Meanwhile Frank comes to believe he didn’t do it. A powerful story and one of the best stand-alone episodes of Millennium I can think of. There’s no mythology or story-arcs here, just a powerful examination of a wrongfully-convicted man facing abuse and hostility from a town which wants nothing to do with him. There’s so many beautiful scenes here but the delicate drawings in the flip-chart book and the final part with the hamper being brought to the door are especially memorable. Millennium has a fairly good track record with small-scale episodes like this and here everything, direction and powerful performances add up to a classic.

Rating *****

Human Essence – Hollis is suspended from the FBI and travels to find her drug-addict half-sister who claims a batch of drugs is turning users into ‘monsters.’

A bog-standard episode and while it’s perfectly watchable it’s also eminently forgettable. Hollis’ sister isn’t around long enough for us to really get to know her so the plot which places her in peril lacks any real emotional punch. Frank seems superfluous to requirements most of the time which wouldn’t matter in the least if Hollis had something to do. Millennium works best when it gives its characters scope to flex their imaginations and their intuitive powers, but here it’s just an average crime thriller complete with Triad-style gangsters.

Rating **

Omerta – A hit-man murdered by the mob turns up alive and well years later claiming to have been nursed back to life by two strange women with apparently magical powers.

Yes it’s a Christmas episode and some bits are so sugary it makes your teeth hurt. But I don’t care as Omerta is not just beautifully-made it has to be the most heart-warming story the series ever shot. Jon Polito gives a bravura performance as a one-time bad guy who finally comes to see the error of his ways. The scenes where Eddie cheerfully ‘fesses up to his crimes is among the funniest the series ever did. Whether you see it as a cheerful deconstruction of the Mob or just 45 minutes of fun, this is something very special.

Rating *****

Borrowed Time – A mysterious man seemingly causes people to die who have previously cheated death. He then turns his attentions to Jordan.

In what became a running theme for Season Three, this is lavishly directed with some top-notch visual effects (for the time, anyway) – but the plot leaves something to be desired. We get the point that the man in black is some kind of angel of death and the motif of the stopped clocks is nicely done. But what happens? Frank pleads and wheedles with the angel which then goes on board a train and puts a bullet through its head thereby avoiding having to take Jordan’s soul. The little girl’s meningitis scare happened so long ago (Pilot), that I’d forgotten all about it making it doubly confusing for the casual viewer. Having said all that, it’s well-made and very creepy in places.

Rating ***

Collateral Damage – Peter Watts’ daughter is kidnapped by a vengeful former soldier desperate to prove the Millennium Groups’ involvement in covert operations during the Gulf War.

Terry O’Quinn shines in this top-notch conspiracy thriller. Here, the  usually shadow-hugging Watts is centre stage, a man torn between his loyalty to preserving the Millennium Group’s secrets and the love of his daughter. The scene in which he begs Frank for help is almost too painful to watch and one of the season’s finest moments as is the shattering finale with the Watts family eating dinner with palpable tension in the room. There’s nothing not to like here – the action scenes are beautifully-directed, there’s plenty of tension and an involving back-story. Everything a classic episode should be.

Rating *****

The Sound of Snow – Cassette tapes cause their victims to experience nightmarish hallucinations – and for Frank, they mean a chance to see Catherine once more. NB Final appearance of Det Bob Geibelhouse.

Okay, bad things first. The idea of cassette taps which drive people mad is decent but it never goes anywhere. Frank knows the tapes are dodgy, so why the hell does he drive around by himself with one in his tape deck? When the sender is revealed it’s a big anti-climax. ‘She’s got some kind of power’ says Frank, and the Millennium group has obviously used it for its own ends. Eh? However – the whole thing is gorgeously directed, the hallucination scenes are superb especially the opening icy road sequence and Megan Gallagher makes a welcome return one last time as Catherine. The scenes between she and Frank are electric and since so little has been said about the late Mrs Black it’s a welcome change to have her back. A fan favourite, I suspect, despite the garbled plot.

Rating ****

Antipas – Lucy Butler returns working as a nanny for a politician and his family, with designs on both the husband and the daughter.

The weakest of the three main Lucy Butler stories, but it’s still a highly engaging episode. This time the subtleties of her previous outings are replaced with a more explicit plot which wears its influences for all to see, making Butler into a 90s answer to Mrs Baylock from the original Omen film. We even get demonic dogs thrown in for good measure. The direction and performances are superb throughout which compensates for the lack of clear intention. A triumph of style over content.

Rating ****

Matryoshka – A former FBI agent’s suicide is linked to a scientist’s work in 1945 to split his consciousness into good and evil in the wake of the atom bomb.

Another stylishly-directed thriller with bags of atmosphere but a rather thin plot. Essentially an updated version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, this links Stevenson’s concept with atomic age paranoia. It’s a nice idea, but it never quite goes anywhere and we end up with more Millennium Group shenanigans as we find out it is complicit yet again in cover-up – now there’s a shocker. It’s still an entertaining watch though and the period details including the record and the Russian doll are a nice touch, giving it a jigsaw puzzle feel.

Rating ***

Forcing the End – A pregnant woman is kidnapped by Jewish fanatics.

The best thing about this story is the opening sequence showing the kidnapping which is smoothly handled. Sadly it’s all downhill from there as the plot makes little to no sense. Basically a bunch of cultists steal a baby because they want him to grow up to be a high priest in a temple that’s not been built yet in Jerusalem to await the Second Coming – when it eventually happens. Oh, and the baby can’t touch the floor, either. That’s somehow important.  Lance looks bored throughout and to cap it all we get a villain so stupid he hasn’t anticipated the fact the helicopter in which he intends to escape can’t land on the roof as there isn’t enough room. Millennium-by-numbers and absolute garbage.

Rating *

Saturn Dreaming of Mercury – Jordan’s latent psychic gift makes her sense a demonic presence among the new family on the block.

Brittany Tiplady gives an outstanding performance as a troubled little girl who is never anything less than totally convincing. The concept of a demonic child is a well-worn one, but here it’s presented in a fresh and engaging way with a classic bit of misdirection. Jordan is convinced the dad’s to blame – until she and Frank learn otherwise. Lance gets a chance to flex his acting muscles as an anxious dad and the final scene with blazing house and Lucy Butler is classy American gothic. Despite some extraneous material, the needless stuff with the glass eyes and the annoying welcoming committee, this is still a classic.

Rating *****

Darwin’s Eye – A convicted murderer escapes from a mental hospital and goes on the run with the aid of a police officer who falls in love with her.

The whole point of a show like Millennium is that there’s always something going on below the surface. This time we’re offered up a whole bunch of clues yet none of them amounts to a proverbial hill of beans. Instead, the smarmy Agent Baldwin ends up being right – that the drawings in the cell are the ravings of a madwoman and her claims she’s been framed by a conspiracy are just that – claims, with no substance behind them. Emma Hollis meanwhile has some beautiful scenes with her ailing father, whose deteriorating mental health mirrors that of the main plot. Definitely a classic and one of the cleverest the series produced, but perhaps one to greatly admire rather than love.

Rating *****

Bardo Thodol  – A scientist from the Millennium Group flees to a Buddhist Monastery having been involved in shady plans concerning human cloning.

One of the least satisfying and most incomprehensible episodes of Millennium. The atmosphere in the Buddhist temple is nice and the horrendous infection which is slowly killing the scientist is a triumph of prosthetics. But that’s it. We go 45 minutes without really learning a single thing. All we get is a load of overblown guff about surrendering desires etc, plus nonsense about the group wanting to find a red lacquered bowl. How did the scientist get infected? What was he doing? What’s the stuff with the bowl about? I have no idea and by the end I didn’t care. Emma shouting ‘Hey, bald man!’ at Watts is one of the show’s silliest moments. All in all, a garbled mess.

Rating *

Seven and One – Frank finds himself discredited among his FBI colleagues when he is plagued by a stalker who seems to know his innermost fears.

Like so many other Season There episodes, Seven and One begins with an interesting idea but never really goes anywhere. The early part of the story where we get a flashback to Frank’s childhood and a traumatic drowning incident is brilliant and makes us eagerly anticipate a top-notch psycho-drama. It’s not long though before it degenerates into yet more supernatural clichés with a shape-shifting antagonist, Emma facing her doppelganger and a silly bathroom flooding scene. A real shame as it could have been so much more interesting if played as a straight psychological thriller. A wasted opportunity.

Rating **

Nostalgia – Frank and Hollis return to the latter’s former hometown where they uncover a serial killer and townspeople with guilty secrets.

It’s nice that even at this late stage of the game Millennium can still produce a solid little episode like this one. There’s no demons, no Millennium Group shenanigans and no hocus-pocus. Instead we get a very ordinary investigation which proves bittersweet for Hollis as she realises the quiet little town in which she spent some of her childhood years is riddled with hypocrisy and corruption – just like anywhere else. Gerry makes a suitably twitchy character alternating between bravado-filled denials and self-loathing. An enjoyable slow-burner which is easy to overlook in the rush to the series’ end.

Rating ***

Via Dolorosa – The FBI investigates a serial killer who tapes his victims having sex in their own homes before murdering them and displaying their bodies. Frank becomes convinced the culprit is following the MO of a killer recently sent the electric chair while Hollis gets an offer to join the Millennium Group from Watts.

A cliffhanger ending sees Baldwin’s team hit by an explosion. As the first of a two-part story the primary goal of Via Dolorosa is to set-up the action to come, which it handles very well. The main storyline involving a killer who hunts with night-vision goggles is effectively creepy, while Watts’ offer to Hollis – a potential cure for her ailing father’s Alzheimer’s at the expense of betraying Frank ramps up the tension brilliantly. A quick mention should go to a lovely shot in which Hollis exits the lift – with Frank in front of her and Watts lurking behind as the doors close. Symbolic? Probably. But who cares when it’s this well-done? A near-classic I say.

Rating ****

Goodbye to All That – Baldwin is injured in the blast and then murdered in the ambulance by a Millennium Group agent. Frank deduces the serial killer has been created by the group. After wrestling with her conscience Hollis  abandons Frank and joins the Millennium Group while Watts reveals to Frank he has been protecting him from the group’s activities. He sends Frank a dossier of information and (seemingly) pays the price with his life. Frank takes Jordan from her school and goes on the run. NB Final appearance of Emma Hollis, Barry Baldwin, Peter Watts and Andy McLaren.

There’s so much to talk about here it’s hard to know where to begin. The main plot of the created killer is engaging but it comes second-fiddle to the rest of the episode’s revelations. Having spent most of Season Three as an ostensible villain Watts redeems himself when it becomes clear he is being purposely cut out of the Millennium Group’s plans and is therefore on its hit-list. His end is ambiguous, but then, that suits the nature of the character as he was always a man of mystery. Hollis’ betrayal of Frank, while predictable, is still painful to watch. Against her better judgement she trades a cure for her father in exchange for her soul. Her cured father telling her she made the wrong choice is gut-wrenching as is the final scenes of her sitting at her computer with the familiar ouroboros symbol is a powerful one as we know she is now trapped. Millennium had the potential to run for at least another season but as it is, this episode provides a powerful swan-song which sticks in the mind long after the final titles roll.

Rating *****

Post-Script – X Files Series Seven (Episode Four)

Millennium – Frank Black helps Mulder and Scully track down a necromancer who is trying to bring about the end of the world. NB Final appearance of Frank Back and Jordan Black.

It’s great to see Frank back on our screens even if it is just for one episode. Since Millennium met an untimely demise after just three short but eventful seasons, any cross-over episode was going to have a tough time tying up any loose threads and not surprisingly it doesn’t manage it. Instead, we get a burned-out Frank who has checked into a psych-ward locked in a custody battle for Jordan with Catherine’s parents. The Millennium Group, we are told, has disbanded and before this, was ‘discredited’ at the FBI. Apparently the revelation that it was all just some big weird cult after all, was not enough to vindicate Frank. No, I didn’t get it either. The plot is stupid, with four Millennium Group members killing themselves just so they can be resurrected to bring abut the end of the world. What we’re left with is neither a good episode of X Files nor a good episode of Millennium although it’s nice to see Frank and Jordan walk off together at the end. Millennium deserved a much better send-off than this, but I guess a single episode was never going to match up to the promise of a fourth season.

Rating **

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