Saturday, July 16, 2011

An Unfortunately Erratic Series, Millennium The Complete Series Is Shaky.

The Good: Genuinely horrific moments, Excellent acting, Great characters, Space-saving boxed set.
The Bad: It's all over after the second season finale . . .
The Basics: Chris Carter's most successful (to date) non-The X-Files project is Millennium, a series that is erratic with real hints of greatness that didn't quit while it was ahead.

There are few television series' that I truly consider as examples of a poor overall work where there is something to love. But with Millennium, Chris Carter's project while The X-Files (reviewed here!) was at its peak, it is hard to discuss the series with love and feel like one is being truthful. With Millennium The Complete Series, this becomes very evident. The show had three seasons, but the first is radically different from the second and the third struggled to reinvent itself and, coming on the heels of a powerful season finale, failed horribly. The result is a creative, but terribly erratic series which does not hold together very well at all.

Millennium is a forensic crime drama that precedes the C.S.I. craze. The boxed set of Millennium The Complete Series features the same discs from:
Millennium Season One
Millennium Season Two
Millennium Season Three without any additional bonus features or discs, but in a slimmer DVD case. Millennium focuses on Frank Black and is a deep, very dark psychological horror series that has a former F.B.I. Agent working for a group of consultants as the year 2000 approaches.

Season one finds Frank Black, having recovered from a mental breakdown as a result of his work, moving 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.

In the second season, Frank and his wife Katherine are estranged as a result of the extreme lengths Frank went to to save Katherine's life at the climax of the prior season. On his own and with Peter Watts, Frank struggles to understand serial killers, torture artists and actual devils and angels who cross his path while attempting to reconcile with his wife and see his daughter.

And the third season has Frank reuniting with the F.B.I. when it appears the Millennium Group is actually a sinister organization.

The problem here is that the seasons do not truly relate to one another. Season one has the Millennium Group working to save humanity and treasuring Frank's gifts while ridding the Seattle area of all sorts of darkness. Season two has quirky stories that exposes the supernatural and insinuates the Millennium Group is not all it initially seemed. And the final season pairs Frank Black with a rookie investigating surprisingly mundane cases.

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.

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. Similarly, Terry O'Quinn 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.

But the entire series is erratic and viewers might do better with the first and second season without the third to weigh it down. Even though the first and second are radically different, they are both good. The third is deadweight on a creative series.

For other shows that originally aired on FOX, please check out my reviews of:
Family Guy Presents: It’s A Trap!
Glee - Season Two, Volume One
Fringe - Season Two
Arrested Development
The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr.


For other television series reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

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