Monday, July 25, 2011

Not As Bad As I Remember It Being After The Apocalypse: Millennium Season 3!

The Good: Good acting, Interesting stories, Interesting character development
The Bad: Real stretch after the prior season's finale, Some fairly standard stories, No real surprises
The Basics: After the Apocalypse arrived at the end of the second season, Millennium returned for a third and - try as they might - is unable to get the magic back.

Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files and Millennium returned to his latter series after a year of working on The X-Files feature film and other projects to find his show had been almost completely co-opted. It was unrecognizable from where he had started it. The Millennium Group - which he had based on a group of noble, real-world profilers - had become an enemy cult that was bent upon bringing about the apocalypse. One may only imagine he was not terribly happy.

If you are a fan of Millennium and have not watched the second season finale, stop here, go watch the second season first. If you're not a fan of Millennium and don't mind reading something that is seminal to understanding the third season, but was surprising at the end of the second season, read on. Otherwise, please leave now. It's impossible to talk about the third season of Millennium without mentioning certain aspects of the second season finale.

That's all the warning I can give.

Following the viral outbreak that marked the beginning of the apocalypse at the end of season two, Frank Black returns to work for the FBI as a single father without his unique ability in play. He works quietly to raise Jordan, despite having to deal with the hostile in-laws and he searches for a way to make the Millennium Group pay for what was ultimately - apparently - a localized phenomenon with the viral outbreak.

Frank is paired with Emma Hollis, a competent and bright young woman who is pretty much fresh in the field. Frank and Hollis explore psychopaths and cases that are like generally violent The X-Files at the behest of a different Director in the FBI. And as the season goes on, Hollis and Frank learn to trust one another more while Frank's obsession with the Millennium Group fades, then returns even more forcefully.

And then the series pretty much ends. Fortunately - from a matter of perspective - this DVD boxed set includes the coda to Millennium from The X-Files, an episode called Millennium that tries to resolve the issues left open at the end of the series and instead is marginal and somewhat silly.

The fundamental problem, hands down, with the third season of Millennium is that it follows on the heels of season two. Season two's two-part finale is one of the greatest endings for a show. Ever. I mean that. Like in the history of television. Millennium's second season finale is one that I can watch over and over and over and over again and always be entertained, find something new, and end with a feeling of "WOW!" It's an ending that is almost impossible to come back from.

This is why the first episodes of season three of Millennium are forced, awkward. The producers, even Chris Carter, had no clear idea of how to come back from that finale and the best they can do is to work around it and try to figure out what the Millennium Group is now. As much as this might be heresy to fans of Millennium, I can only recommend the third season of Millennium in good faith to people who absolutely loved the first season of the show and want more of the same. Here's what you do. Watch the first season and if you love what you see and don't want the format of the show to shift radically, just buy the third season. It's a surprisingly easy transition given where Kathrine ends up at the end of season one.

But, it doesn't. Season three follows season two (reviewed here!) and it's a real tough sell on that count. The first episodes are clunky and then the show falls into stories that are more episodic than serialized. And when Peter Watts shows up - and he does - it's very hard to tell how his character relates to the character from the prior seasons. Watts has lost all revelation and doubt from the second season finale and it takes the whole season before Frank can get him even to question again.

That's not to say this is not wonderful television. It has moments that truly are. One of my favorite episodes of the series, "Omerta" is in this season. It was robbed; it should have won awards for musical direction, but did not. Similarly, I enjoyed "The Sound Of Snow" in this season and fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer are bound to enjoy James Marsters' appearance in "Collateral Damage." And I tend to enjoy the Lucy Butler stories and this season has two (or three, wink wink) of them.

It also has some duds, like "Seven And One" which just seemed too obvious to be real. And I know a lot of KISS fans enjoyed ". . . Thirteen Years Later," but I found it to be lacking. It tried to be a second season episode and failed. It wasn't quite as clever as some of those pieces (like "Somehow Satan Got Behind Me") and it just didn't work the way it could have with better writing.

What is interesting is the character arc of Emma Hollis. Because Hollis is not tied to the previous works, her whole arc is interesting and natural. She is believable and compelling. She makes a good foil for Frank and perhaps the only real good part of the series finale is where she is left and it works.

Hollis is played quite ably by Klea Scott who is wonderful in the role. She easily projects an intelligence and innocence with her eyes and as the series goes on, she is able to flex some spine in ways that she is not able to early in the season. Scott brings a wonderful humanity to the cases that Megan Gallagher was never able to do because she was not inside Frank's professional world. Scott is articulate and charming and she carries every scene she's on her own in the series without her costar.

Lance Henriksen is stuck in a tough place, though he rides out the series quite well. With his hair back (most of the season) to a darker shade, he is put in the awkward position of redefining his character. He lives up to the challenge as best he can, making Frank more of a straight-out profiler as opposed to using an almost supernatural ability. Henriksen is appropriately intense throughout the season and the few moments he's able to soften (like when his character is with his daughter) he does so successfully.

Ultimately, though, this is one of those cases of average television falling on the heals of truly great television. I own it, as a fan of Millennium and I henpeck the episodes from time to time, but it's a rare thing for me to sit down and watch Millennium - The Complete Third Season all the way through the way I do with seasons one and two. It just had too high a hurdle to jump after such an amazing run.

For other works where the third season was the show's last, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek - The Third Season
Veronica Mars - Season 3
Arrested Development - Season 3


For other television reviews, please be sure to visit my index page page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2006 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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