Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Millennium Season 1: Chris Carter's Scary Growth Into Adulthood

The Good: Genuinely horrific moments, Excellent acting, Great characters, Amazing opening credits
The Bad: One or two conceptually far-fetched plots
The Basics: In the adult horror show Millennium's first season, Frank Black uses his gift to see in the minds of the evil to try to keep his family (and the world) safe.

When Millennium first aired, it was easily the edgiest show on network television. Seeing it now on DVD, it's easy to be amazed with how much horror, gore and even near-nudity the show got away with. This is an adult show from the get go and it's very successful at being an adult exploration of the horrors people inflict upon others.

Frank Black, having recovered from a mental breakdown as a result of his work, moves to Seattle with his wife and daughter. There, working as a consultant for the mysterious Millennium Group, he finds himself getting more and more back into the life he thought he left behind as he chases down serial killers and other villains against society.

Frank Black is no ordinary investigator, though. He possesses a freakish talent to understand the mind of evildoers so well that he can see what they see. He catches glimpses into the minds of those who do evil and is thus able to track them down with a high degree of success. Over the course of the first season, Frank is put in situations where he must confront serial killers, mind-controlling cults, bombers, molesters, and zealots.

Frank's professional life is balanced by his family life. After a day of encountering evil, he returns to his bright yellow house to the woman he loves and the daughter who is growing up in the world Frank is desperate to make for her.

Like all great dramas, the stories revolve around characters and Millennium is no exception. The principles for the first year (though only Lance Henriksen and Megan Gallagher are credited every episode) are:

Frank Black - This is mostly his story. Frank tries desperately to keep evil at bay by catching the worst elements of society. But his gift comes with a soul crushing price as he comes to realize that the world is too big to be saved by one man,

Katherine Black - Is a social worker who loves and supports Frank and keeps him grounded. She is a pragmatist, but as Frank's association with the Millennium Group progresses, she begins to feel more and more distance from him and more fear for what he is doing,

Bob Bletcher - the Chief of Detectives in Seattle and an old friend of Frank's, he helps Frank whenever possible and acts as a friend to both Frank and Katherine. Unsure the depth of Frank's ability or ability to stay grounded, Bletcher lives in the real world, but accepts Frank's help when the case is unspeakably bad,

Peter Watts - Frank's coworker at the Millennium Group. A forensic expert, Peter represents the Group which is otherwise nebulous. He is efficient and calculating,

and Jordan Black - the daughter of Frank and Katherine, she is almost completely innocent. Her innocence is challenged when Katherine begins to suspect that she may share in Frank's abilities, making her a target of evil.

Millennium is a show where pretty much anything can happen. Unlike some shows that will take the viewer to the edge of terror and then everything turns out all right, Millennium is a show grounded in some measure of the worst aspects of reality. Good people suffer, evil occasionally gets away, relationships get strained. It has a gritty feel to it that makes it quite compelling.

A great deal of credit must be given to the cast and the writers. Series creator, Chris Carter, has a talent for casting and for picking writers and directors who know how to scare the bejesus out of their viewers. And it is not all gore. In "The Well-Worn Lock," one of the series' only Katherine Black stories, the horror of the episode is done all in the writing, the acting, and the insinuations. This is easily the most creepy hour of television done without envoking the supernatural.

The actors must get some serious credit. Megan Gallagher is wonderful as Katherine Black. She lends a realism to the supernatural show by embodying a strong, intelligent woman who expresses so much through her body language. She was perfectly cast as a foil to Lance Henriksen.

Terry O'Quinn is not given as much to do in the first season as he is in subsequent seasons, but he establishes Peter Watts as an intriguing character. O'Quinn has a gravitas to him that lends well to a character like Watts who clearly has more knowledge than we ever see in this season. O'Quinn is balanced well by Bill Smitrovich, who plays Bletcher. Smitrovich's everyman quality works perfectly to portray a less guarded associate of Franks. Smitrovich is likable and his ability to balance an air of integrity with good natured smiles makes him a pleasure to watch.

Lance Henriksen is amazing as Frank Black. First of all, it is refreshing to see someone who looks more like a real person than most anyone else on television. Henriksen does not possess a Hollywood face or bearing. Instead, he and his gravely voice make Frank into a believable entity. Henriksen plays confused, confident, and stricken without ever leaving the conflicted character of Frank Black. He is a pleasure to watch and a force of his own on screen.

Who would enjoy Millennium? Anyone who likes a good, intelligent horror. This is not about people jumping out of the dark, it's about people who go to open houses and wait in the closets until the home's owner comes back. It's not about cheap gore, it's about the sliding of the lock on a child's bedroom door and the understanding of the terrible thing going on on the other side. This is a great show for those who understand that the world is mostly good, but there is evil in it.

And it's refreshing to see someone else fighting for us.

For a little more information on what is in this boxed set, please check out my more detailed review of the first two episodes, "Pilot" and "Gehenna" by clicking here!

For other works featuring Lance Henriksen, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Alien Vs. Predator
Alien 3
The Terminator


For other television works, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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