Shiny Shelf


Millennium: The Complete Second Season DVD

By Mark Clapham on 02 October 2004

The second season of ‘Millennium’ is one of my favourite seasons of any TV series, and as such its not just a pleasure to see the season released on DVD, but also to at last get an excuse to write about it.

The First Season of the series was very much Chris Carter’s show, by the time of Season Two the ‘X-Files’ creator was too busy with his primary franchise to take a hands on role with this one. So Carter handed the reins to Executive Producers Glen Morgan and James Wong, the men responsible for some of the most memorable early ‘X-Files’ episodes. Morgan and Wong were still stinging from the cancellation of their tedious ‘Starship Troopers’-without-the-irony SF series ‘Space: Above and Beyond’, and had rather resentfully written a few ‘X-Files’ and ‘Millennium’ episodes the previous year while on the rebound (that their final ‘X-File’ is entitled ‘Never Again’ demonstrates how tired they were with that particular series).

Nowadays, Morgan and Wong occupy themselves making awful horror movies like ‘Final Destination’, so it’s hard now to imagine what a good rep they had from such taut ‘X-Files’ scripts as ‘Squeeze’ and ‘Ice’. During this post ‘Space’ period their work was becoming more manic and inventive, a tendency which peaks with their year in charge of ‘Millennium’. Carter had presented the duo with a series about good and evil, with religious overtones and the backdrop of millennial prophecy. The basis of most of the first season episodes had been serial killers and other criminals, with the philosophical themes kept fairly low-key.

Well, Morgan and Wong don’t really ‘do’ low-key. Their vision for the show is baroque, apocalyptic, and hysterical. Under their command, the stories move from being procedural stories with metaphysical elements, to a wider canvas taking in science, religion, ancient secret societies and a more general, metaphorical idea of evil as a living force. The second episode of the season, ‘Beware of the Dog’, sets out the writers’ stall. In a riff from Ian McEwan’s ‘Black Dog’ (not the common sort of source for American TV), the episode uses a pack of savage dogs as a symbol for untamed, uncontrollable evil. Frank Black (Lance Henricksen) is sent to face the dogs, and gain understanding of the relationship between good and evil. It’s a fantastically non-literal story for a mainstream US drama to try and pull off, and also introduces a historical aspect to the Millennium Group – previously a consulting group with an interest in the end times, they now emerge as a centuries old Christian cult.

The discoveries that Frank makes about the Group – and the involvement of his main contact, Peter Watts – continue through the two-part ‘Owls’ and ‘Roosters’, episodes which establish a somewhat convoluted mythology for the series. (At the time of first UK broadcast, Sky One were doing phone-in competitions at the end of every episode. After ‘Roosters’, the obvious question would have been ‘if you understood a word of that, call in to win a games console.’)

It’s all leading to the season finale, where everything culminates in a genuinely apocalyptic scenario that unfolds in a series of trippy vision sequences. The ending of the season is memorably bleak, and one that Carter and co were to find impossible to follow the next year…

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s more to the season than the ongoing arc plot. Morgan and Wong bring a diversity of storytelling to a series that was previously somewhat formulaic. There’s the fairytale-like ‘Monster’, with its storybook opening and closing sequences. Or ‘The Curse of Frank Black’, which goes deep into who Frank is and where he could be going, all in the context of a lonely Halloween night.

Best of all, there are two episodes written and directed by Glen’s brother, Darin Morgan, who delivered Emmy gold while writing for ‘The X-Files’. ‘Jose Chung’s Doomsday Defence’ is a follow-up to the ‘X-Files’ episode ‘Jose Chung’s From Outer Space’, which was almost certainly the best episode of that series. ‘Doomsday Defence’ isn’t quite at that level, but it’s still brilliant – an outright attack on the very idea of millennial prophecies, with some very targeted observations on cults and their recruiting tactics. ‘Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me’ comes from even further leftfield, as four demons sit in a donut shop discussing their evil works. Both episodes are absurd, poignant, funny and oddly profound all at the same time, and further proof that Darin Morgan is one of the most unique and ingenious voices on television in the 1990s. Where has he gone since then, and why isn’t he being forced to write more? JJ Abrams, find this man and hire him…

Special features on the set include commentaries for two episodes, and another interesting chat from the guys at the Academy Group, the real-life basis for the Millennium Group, who seem to take the more outlandish developments of their fictional counterparts with good humour. There’s also a featurette on the making of the season, which struggles with the non-participation of Morgan and Wong, who were presumably off making a remake of ‘The Tingler’ or some other bit of teen horror nonsense. It’s a shame that they didn’t want to revisit their stint on ‘Millennium’, as it’s the most interesting thing they’ve done. This is one of the most inventive, borderline-deranged, entertaining runs of any US drama series. If you can’t be bothered with the other two seasons of ‘Millennium’ – and they are all very different – just get this one. It’s well worth it, even with the year 2000 a damb squib behind us.


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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