Reviewed: The Time Is Now
Contributor: The Polaroid Stalker
Synopsis: When Richard Gilbert, representative of "The Trust," dies brutally in a car crash, Frank is given a lecture by Millennium Group officials that only intensifies his fears regarding the cult-like organization. Peter Watts fights back against the Group he followed so loyally for years. Lara Means, meanwhile, finds herself confronted with the knowledge of the coming apocalypse, so she spirals into insanity. As the bloody Marburg outbreak spreads to all nations, Frank, Catherine, and Jordan retreat into the woods of Washington to escape from the plague, and possibly the grim end of the world as they know it.
The Stalker's Review: The best episode of television EVER!!!
Of all the episodes of the second season of "MillenniuM" I have seen, I must admit that "The Time is Now" has got to be the greatest hour of television I have ever seen, matching only with the episode "One Breath" of "The X-Files." It's an absolutely stunning episode, and I almost felt like the show should have been cancelled after Season Two, just to make this episode seem like the tragic and appropriate finale it deserved. And this was it!
The episode is the last Morgan and Wong wrote for the series, and they ended it not with a whimper, not with a bang, but more like a nuclear bomb explosion!
What a mix of emotions roared through me following the second-season finale of "MillenniuM," a finale, which is some respects, seemed the end of all things for Frank... and a terrifying new beginning for those who continue to stand against the looming darkness. "The Time is Now" summed up an incredible, two-year journey of self-discovery for our hero, and brought the rising tide of violence and insanity to a truly staggering finale.
The opening sequence is just outstanding. It opens with Frank, Jordan, and Catherine attending the funeral for Jordan's parakeet, Kenny, who died during the earthquake from the Marburg Virus. At least, that's how I think it died, unless it broke its neck from whiplash during the quake. But I'm pretty sure it was the plague that killed Kenny.
Anyway, Jordan, Frank and Catherine bury the dead parakeet, prompting more questions from Jordan regarding God and the afterlife. Meanwhile, Dr. Sorenson leads a Millennium Group team, clad in biohazard suits, into the Davis residence in El Cajon where, earlier, an entire family was wiped out by the Marburg Virus. One of the scientists picks up high virological readings, telling Sorenson that the virus is here. Sorenson insists that they won't know for sure until their evidence is compared with the CDC in Fort Dietrich. "No," the assistant replies. "We knew it was coming, and that it would spread faster than we could contain it. The time is now." And we see that the Davis backyard is littered with the bodies of thousands of dead birds, a signal of the coming plague.
Catherine, Frank and Jordan return to the Yellow House. Frank realizes that, with all of the unhappiness associated with the structure, it is time to return home. He finds earthquake damage, but Catherine tells him, "This house was damaged long before this morning's earthquake." "Yeah," Frank replies. "Bletch, the Old Man, our family..." Catherine: "Maybe now that we've found our way back to the Yellow House..." Frank: "It's time for a different Yellow House." What exactly did he mean by that? Was he supposed to mean they should move, or something else?
Meanwhile, Peter Watts makes his way through a Millennium storage facility. Inside, he stumbles across a Morley cigarette butt lying on the ground, implying that the Cancer Man himself might be involved. It may simply have been an in-joke, but it made me think. Anyway, Watts finds a locked crate. Watts picks the lock with a circular saw, then steals its contents -- a roll of audio tape and an envelope.
Back at the Yellow House, Frank receives some paperwork in the mail, which indicates that his late father left him a cabin in a remote wooded area in the Wenatchee Mountains. Gee, that was awfully nice of him.
Using the Old Man's voice identification password, Watts is able to crack the top security levels and access all files on the Marburg Virus. A technician is in the computer services office deleting files on the Virus, and notices the illegal access. D'oh!
Frank then tells Catherine about Watts's prediction that there would be an earthquake. Although he distrusts the Millennium Group's power and control, Frank cannot walk away from it until he knows what the future entails.
Richard Gilbert meets Frank at the docklands. When Frank reveals he has decided to stay with the Group, Richard warns against it, as even now, they are being spied upon by Group members. He adds that Watts has also been placed under surveillance. "Any organization that would so closely monitor its own members has to be feared," he insists.
Richard drives off in his car, and shortly thereafter, a Group member named Lott steps from the shadows, accompanied by security men. "The Millennium Group does not concern itself with any single individual life," Lott explains, noting that the group feels its responsibility lies with the whole of mankind. At the same moment, Richard loses control of his vehicle, and is killed in a car crash. This scene intercuts with two red dice, rolling on a checkered tabletop, a recurring theme of fate and destiny, which Morgan and Wong wrote prominently about in "Space: Above and Beyond."
Frank meets with The Trust's CEO, Brian Dixon, who reveals that an examination of the vehicle turned up no sign of sabotage. Nevertheless, Frank refuses to believe that Richard's death is an accident. "Death is never convenient," Dixon insists. "Sometimes it's as simple as our time is up." First off, this character's name is an in-joke. This must be one of Dix's favorite episodes! But when I saw this part, I actually blurted out, "Dixon's the killer!" I don't know why, but I have this odd tendency when watching dramas and crime shows to point the finger at the main characters and accuse them. Like, for example, I will watch "The X-Files," and when Scully comes up on screen, I'll be like, "She's the killer." I digress...
Watts turns up, and informs Frank that the Group had nothing to do with Richard's death. Its attention is focused on something far more important than Gilbert. So, Gilbert's brakes suddenly failed for no particular reason? I can't believe that. Is Peter involved?
Anyway, Watts reveals that he broke into the Group's database, something a good little patron wouldn't do. He has learned that the mysterious virus was discovered by the Soviets years earlier in the jungles of Africa. It was then genetically enhanced, creating a biological weapon of astonishing toxicity. "The idea was to create a devastating biological weapon," Watts explains. "One which the human population would have no defense." When the Soviet Union fell, the virus was inadvertently exposed to the environment, and carried aloft by birds. D'oh!
In 1986, a Wisconsin farmer and his entire flock of hens died from exposure, but like the Spanish flu of 1918, it mysteriously went away. So that explains Farmer Duffy in "The Fourth Horseman." The man who died by the lake the previous week had somehow contracted the disease. Watts believes the Group developed a vaccine to the virus back in 1986, but produced only enough to inoculate its own members. Watts says that the Group's going to want Frank and Peter to stay with them, now that they've been protected from this plague. Frank responds, "Watching our families die is protecting us?" Watts then says it was all about control.
Frank then instructs Watts to find Lara Means and meet him back at his house, as he knows of a location where they can live until the crisis passes. Frank thinks he's got it all planned out...
Watts, meanwhile, goes out to the cottage where Lara is staying, while Frank packs up some provisions, including some books he wants to take in seclusion, among them "Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger, a complete works of Shakespeare, and John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath."
Meanwhile, as Peter reaches the log cottage, Mr. Blaylock and another security man intercept him. A fight ensues, and Watts overpowers Blaylock's partner, using him as a hostage. Blaylock still refuses to lower his weapon. Inside the cottage, Lara hears a shot ring out.
Frank receives a phone call, and listens to the sound of the struggle, followed by the sound of a car pulling away in the distance. Frank has Giebelhouse trace Watts's cellphone, but he dropped it during the struggle. Just in case anybody cares, Giebelhouse's number is "555-1121."
The third act has got to be one of the strangest I have ever seen. It's the insanity of Lara Means. The act takes at least ten minutes, a trademark Morgan and Wong scene. Like the final act in "Roosters," this one makes you look at the clock to see how long it's gonna take. The sequence is narrated in the form of a song, Patti Smith's "Horses" -- a song I never particularly cared for, but I put it on my "MillenniuM" soundtrack nevertheless.
When I first saw the episode, I felt I could sum the act up in three words: "Lara's lost it." But now, after a subsequent viewing, I realize that it's also fulfilling, because for once, a character is given an ample amount of time to make an EXIT STAGE LEFT, if you catch my drift. Lara's removal from the main character list was not in the form of a three-second gunshot, but rather a long, entertaining, and artistic performance. Before this, I thought the greatest demise of a main character came with the death of Bob Bletcher, but Bletch's swift and grisly end cannot compare to this exit.
There were two parts of Lara's insanity. First, there were those visions of apocalyptic disaster that pushed her over the edge mixed amongst the barrage of "music-video" sequence images. Earlier, the portrayal of the doomsday virus had been limited mostly to a few isolated cases, some radio broadcasts, and Jordan's nightmares in which she witnessed Soviet agents obtaining the material for their mutant strain of the virus in the jungle. The Biblical Revelation references were piled on, but not really blatantly obvious, save for some images, like the recurring imagery of the horses (symbolizing the four horsemen of the apocalypse). There is a particularly interesting moment in which a white-robed figure appears with seven burning eyes and a cloak stained with blood. This is how the Lamb of God is described at one point in Revelation, and it makes me wonder if perhaps Lara had been seeing not an angel but the Almighty himself from the very beginning.
The second part of Lara's insanity was, well, the insanity. Bizarre visions I'm not sure that anybody can quite explain, not even Morgan and Wong. This includes that tea cup scurrying its own way off the edge of the table, Lara lying amongst that bathtub of black oil, visions of her own suicide, and Frank as the Gehenna Devil!
The sequence effectively ties into the idea of the greater understanding supposedly found in the Millennium Group's revelations, by mixing images that refer to the specific situation at hand, such as infected blood pulsing through veins, with imagery such as volcanic eruptions, lightning storms, and comets flying through space. I don't think these images were meant to signify the random, incoherent thoughts of a crumbling psyche, but rather a series of associations that now make some strange kind of sense to Lara.
Frank enters to help Lara, but she raises her gun and opens fire, narrowly missing him. Paramedics rush inside and help restrain Lara. As she is wheeled away, Frank takes an envelope which Lara left behind, which contains a syringe filled with a vaccine to the virus. Oooh. So Frank's got a syringe with the vaccine. The question remains: Who's he gonna give it to?
Frank phones Catherine and instructs her to begin gathering provisions. He then drives to the psychiatric hospital to speak with Lara, who is in a catatonic state. "I've traveled that road, Lara, that you're on," Frank tells her, "And what I saw made me swear that I would rather die than return. All I know, peace can be found there. And if you do... if you do find it, I know you will never return." Frank thanks Lara for the vaccine, then drives his family to the remote cabin. And that's the last we see of Lara Means. Sigh.
The fourth and final act of Season Two has got to be the finest act that television has ever seen before! The insanity of Lara Means pales in comparison to this act. Frank returns to what has always been his primary concern: the safety of his family. The cabin where they take refuge, in fact, is even described by Catherine as "their new Yellow House." Despite all the turmoil of the past year, Frank and Catherine do still love each other, and now they've put aside their differences to protect each other and Jordan from the immediate danger of the viral outbreak.
Frank plainly feels guilty that he's been vaccinated against the virus when she and Jordan haven't: he's never been one to seek any special privilege or advantage over others. Later, as Jordan sleeps, Catherine listens to a news broadcast, which details the symptoms of the virus. Catherine asks Frank to kill her if she should become infected. Frank counters it would be impossible for him to do so, arguing that if he got sick, he would go off into the woods to die. He then produces the syringe containing the vaccine. He explains that he has already been inoculated, and the syringe contains enough vaccine for one person. Catherine immediately insists that Jordan be given the shot.
So it is Catherine who makes the final sacrifice, by forgoing the dose of the vaccine left by Lara and agreeing to give it to Jordan instead. She saves her daughter's life, but at the same time she fulfills her premonition, in which she saw her mother disappear alone into the woods. Later that night, Catherine wakes experiencing symptoms of the virus. She quietly walks out of the cabin and heads towards the woods, choosing to die alone while Frank and Jordan are asleep rather than make her husband and daughter watch her pass away. Finding blood on Catherine's pillow, Frank watches the darkened forest.
In the very last scene, Jordan climbs into her father's lap, as he lies destroyed amongst the ruins of his life, his hair now gone shockingly white, as he stares off wide-eyed into a conglomeration of so many apocalyptic visions they appear as buzzing static.
As director Thomas Wright slowly pulls away from the confused Jordan and the shell-shocked Frank, static envelops the screen as we hear the chilling sounds of civilization descending into chaos, underscored by the melancholy strains of Zager and Evans' "In The Year 2525," which has always been my favorite song.
I must admit, after seeing this episode, I couldn't stop crying. It was just so powerful. Morgan and Wong just created such a beautiful, artistic episode, that I believe there is nothing that can even compare to this. Just... wow.
My rating: TEN flashes of static out of five! BRAVO!!!
-- The Polaroid Stalker