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The 3 Seasons - Rights And Wongs.

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Guest ModernDayMoriarty

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Guest ModernDayMoriarty

What with Sci-Fi running it again and the DVDs coming out soon, I have recently been rewatching all the episodes I have in sequence to try and get a proper feel for what each Season did right and what it didn't. I was hoping to pool these thoughts together and see where the various Seasons went right and wrong.

Season 1.

1) Gave us Frank Black, Catherine and Jordan.

Obvious really but we couldn't do without them could we? S1 was quite a weak Season in terms of how it portrayed Catherine as she seemed a bit winsome and unimportant as anything more than a post for Frank to tell his problems to for the most part. However she has good scenes in 'Gehenna', 'Lamentation' and 'Paper Dove'. The characterisation of Frank and Jordan is very good though and proved that CC wasn't a one-hit wonder with the X-Files. Frank is one of the best characters I've seen on TV and S1 does him great justice as he gets lots of interesting things to do in every episode really.

2) Established the sense of security in the Seattle episodes.

Absolutely crucial was the fact that the Seattle episodes seemed so set in stone. We got used to the idea that every so often Frank would be on his home turf with Bletch and Giebelhaus making the place safer to live. We grew to like the characters and feel at home around them. Some could have criticised this safety net but for the brilliant twist it got...

3) Established the Legion arc after a few tense 'Is it, isn't it?' moments with the supernatural.

For all those who watched the X-Files and heard the show was about a 'psychic copper', it was surprising to see that the show apparently wasn't about psychics and didn't have the supernatural... Or did it? 'Gehenna' was very cagey about whether Ricardo Clement was anything more than an evil man who was being formed into a monster by drug-induced hallucinations (I thought he was simply a man - abeit a very evil one - at the end of the episode the first time I saw it). And 'The Judge' was an episode that had me asking afterwards 'Do they really think I'll buy that a guy can know that much about others by watching them closely - that's CRAP writing... But it wasn't, it was very clever writing because in 'Lamentation' the top blows off as we found out there is supernatural elements at work and they have been throughout the Season under our noses! I really didn't think there was supernatural events at all by this point so 'Lamentation' still stands for me as THE episode of Millennium. It also completely ruined any notion we had that we knew what would happen - did anyone forsee Bletch's death? I doubt it strongly. The most heartbreaking but excellent revelations all in one hour...

4) Was the most realistic and gritty of the Seasons.

Say what you like but S1 Millennium for me is a work of art. It grabs the nearest rusty tool and forces it to your neck whispering 'Look, see what's going on out there' - and that's just the first episode! It stresses the need for awareness and compassion because there are a lot of people hurting out there and we sit here doing nothing about it. But it avoided being overly preachy with punchy storylines and excellent direction. For it to be taken so seriously - and you really felt they wanted, no needed you to like it - was remarkable. And for such a suppoesedly dark program the amount of warmth that would pour out at the strangest moments was a very encouraging sight every week. It was excellent, near perfect television.

Now, what wasn't so good?

5) Gave us the Millennium Group and the Polaroid Stalker.

BUT, critically it failed to really make much purchase on either. The Stalker is mentioned in 'Pilot', given about 2 seconds in 'Gehenna' and then isn't really mentioned again until 'Paper Doves' when most would presumably have forgotten about him because they were concentrating on the growing horror of 'living' evil and Lucy Butler et al, Bletch's death. Now that COULD have been a great move - hit you with something you used to dread at the very moment you have thought you could forget about it. But it was handled very badly in 'Paper Doves', so badly Morgan and Wong felt they had to change it around to make anything out of it and it leads to one of the more jarring changes (but it was probably necessary as 'Paper Doves' is so obscure on his involvement as to be useless).

The Millennium Group are another good idea that is bizarrely allowed to slide for far too long. If there was to be more to them (and I wanted there to be, just not what Morgan and Wong had in mind), then it should really have come out before the end of S1 surely? There are very, very vague intimations that they may hold some kind of religious beliefs beyond what you would expect to find in a simple consulting firm but it is very hard to find. Also, many of the writers are quite lazy in how they use the group bringing in faceless Group members to stand around while Frank busily solves the case. Still Chip J does some good prelim work on Peter Watt (Morgan and Wong barely use him at this point and his contribution to '522666' is negliable at best). Mike Atkins seems interesting but only appears in 2 episodes briefly, Jim Penseyres is another quite likeable character but Chris Ellis leaves before he can be developed. Of the rest only Cheryl Andrews stands out because she is so different - wild haired and jocular compared to the graven faced, serious MLM Group members of other episodes. Ardis from 'Kingdom Come' is very flat, as is Harriet Harris' character in 'Loin like a Hunting Flame'. An untapped resource best explains the Group in this Season and whilst I don't really like what M+W did with the Group, I will agree with Chip J that it was for the best that something was done with them.

6) Dark, gory and depressing? SKOTW-a-rama...

To get the real 'hit' from Season One you really have to watch it all to see how it carefully unfolds the Legion arc and how Catherine is pressed to breaking point by Frank's actions. To understand the nature of evil and see it building throughout the Season as well as the tole it takes on Frank it of nessecity requires a good supply of SKOTW's. But for the casual viewer it must be said that MLM S1 is not kind. It is very dark which isn't to everyone's tastes and usually you have to stick around until the end of the episode for your light and hope (which is usually bewitching and well worth waiting for). But how do you tell people that? Some people will just switch off instead and it isn't helped by some episodes like 'Weeds' that start dark, remain dark and end dark! 'Weeds; is useful to illustrate how ecessive blood letting rarely goes down well either with the public. Footballs filled with blood, children with hands cut off with shears, kids forced to drink ice cold blood... very unpleasant indeed. And whilst some episodes made the violence shocking but thrilling, some (like Weeds but it is good in places) are simply repulsive to the average viewer. M+W did have a point when they said that some of the gore was simply for shock value and shouldn't have been included. And whilst I don't agree that the show needed actual humour, some irony could probably have helped ratings (if done well unlike in 'Paper Doves'). Myself, I like it dark and brooding but I know other people aren't such a brooder as I am (pass the Selfosophy books please!) Episodes like 'The Curse of Frank Black' and 'Omerta' were welcome breaks I must admit that still fitted into the show. S1 doesn't have anything like that which can be viewed as a mistake. But like I said, I'm playing Devil's Advocate on that one.

7. An imperfect understanding by the writer on what Frank's gift is and does.

This actually applies to all Seasons really but the precedent was set by the first Season. Firstly we have Chris Carter who says 'It isn't psychic powers', who treats it as an intense connection, an inability to seperate himself from what the mind of a killer is like but who harnesses this to track said killers. It was CC's idea and this is what it supposed to be. Right? Right?? Well even CC makes questionable leaps. He insists that Frank 'sees what the killer sees' and not the victims (he even says this in S3). But Frank clearly has visions of what Ricardo Clement really is (or might be) in 'Gehenna' so by the second episode Carter is going back on himself. Ted Mann seems to uphold what CC firts claims and 'The Judge' seems to reinforce this is not psychic powers. But others don't seem to think so. Chip J in 'Walkabout' certainly seems to think it is something more than simple experience and M+W also seem to treat it more like a psychic power in their S1 episodes (and apparently disliked the whole idea which explains the rather sparse use of his gift in S2). A good idea for a character marred by imperfect understanding even seemingly by the creator himself! Made for some very thrilling images though... Frank's gift is at once the best and worst thing about Millennium in all its 3 Seasons.

So there we are... Christ, I'm exhausted now! I think I'll have a break before tackling Season Two but anyone else is free to have a go if they so wish. Any comments on my assertions? Opinions welcomed as always...

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Guest A Stranger
7. An imperfect understanding by the writer on what Frank's gift is and does.

This actually applies to all Seasons really but the precedent was set by the first Season. Firstly we have Chris Carter who says 'It isn't psychic powers', who treats it as an intense connection, an inability to seperate himself from what the mind of a killer is like but who harnesses this to track said killers. It was CC's idea and this is what it supposed to be. Right? Right?? Well even CC makes questionable leaps. He insists that Frank 'sees what the killer sees' and not the victims (he even says this in S3). But Frank clearly has visions of what Ricardo Clement really is (or might be) in 'Gehenna' so by the second episode Carter is going back on himself. Ted Mann seems to uphold what CC firts claims and 'The Judge' seems to reinforce this is not psychic powers. But others don't seem to think so. Chip J in 'Walkabout' certainly seems to think it is something more than simple experience and M+W also seem to treat it more like a psychic power in their S1 episodes (and apparently disliked the whole idea which explains the rather sparse use of his gift in S2). A good idea for a character marred by imperfect understanding even seemingly by the creator himself! Made for some very thrilling images though... Frank's gift is at once the best and worst thing about Millennium in all its 3 Seasons.

So there we are... Christ, I'm exhausted now! I think I'll have a break before tackling Season Two but anyone else is free to have a go if they so wish. Any comments on my assertions? Opinions welcomed as always...

Yeah, I've noticed this too. But, to play devi's advocate, I liked in many way the ambiguity of Frank's gift too. It was very poetic, for the lack of a better term. Even when he first described it to Bletch in the Piot. But it did seem to contradict itself, expecially when season 2 comes. If it's expierence as he states many times namly in "19:19" then why does he have it in "The Curse of Frank Black" as teen and why is it inherited. Also in the flashbacks in "The Thin White Line," when Frank is very young his superior asks him if he has any "feelings" or something to that extent. That is very strange since that flashback is presumably earlier than when he knew Bletch and the gift seems to be very new to Bletch in the pilot. But of course, that serves as a device for the audience who is just as confused at that point.

I think the best (and most cohesive) way it was explained was in "Jose Chung's..." where Chung desribes it as the abliity to submit himself into the madness, or close to that. I think Frank was born with the capacity to understand evil in a way most people can't and his work in criminal pathology was the outlet through which he devolped it, that is the best way I would describe it.

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Guest ModernDayMoriarty

Well, that's it isn't it? There are many explanations in different episodes as to when and how he received his gift. The Pilot implies it is recent as he became immersed in his work and formed an unhealthy but useful connection with the people he hunted. S3 bears this out as 'Via Dolorosa' seems to back up 'Pilot' by saying that Frank's encounter with Ed Cuffle was what triggered it.

The problem is that Season Two quite blatantly says that Frank has had his gift since he was young. Even before S2 though, the gift was variable in what it did. In some episodes it would give a flash of some knife flashing or a monster going 'Rarrhh' and in others it would (practically) say 'Two flights down, second door on the left, pick up the book on the red shelf and say 'Yes!' Different writers just had different ideas of what it could and should do.

To be fair to S2, while it deviates quite widely from the S1 interpretation of how Frank gets his gift, it does try to explain it a bit better (if only briefly and then ignoring it for most of the rest of the Season anyway...) because it says that Frank's gift will increase in power (which it certainly has in 'A single blade of grass'. Part of the reason I think the gift is so absent in S2 however is that Frank is given very short shrift really as I hope to explain later.

Also, S3 deviates back from S2's interpretation and returns the idea of where Frank's gift is from and also seems to pretty much replace Jordan's gift from what S2 claimed it was (it seemed she was destined to see Angels like Lara but actually seems to havea gift more approximating Franks in 'Saturn Dreaming of Mercury'.

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Guest A Stranger
The problem is that Season Two quite blatantly says that Frank has had his gift since he was young. Even before S2 though, the gift was variable in what it did. In some episodes it would give a flash of some knife flashing or a monster going 'Rarrhh' and in others it would (practically) say 'Two flights down, second door on the left, pick up the book on the red shelf and say 'Yes!' Different writers just had different ideas of what it could and should do.

:bigsmile: Yeah, I got the feeling that they really started using it more as a way to connect the dots.

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Guest se7en

........great insights and opinions on S1 here but i think you are dead wrong,pun INTENDED(!) about "Paper Dove". IT'S FUNNY HOW THINGS,AND TASTES,CAN CHANGE. S1 used to be my least fav. season for a time and now it;s virtually neck and neck with S3!

~se7en

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Guest ModernDayMoriarty

Right then. Season Two... My least favourite of all the Seasons but I have long maintained that it had good points so I will attempt to point them out.

1) Vast improvement of the characters of Peter Watts and Catherine Black.

Two characters who, while important, were pretty marginalised during S1. James Wong was correct when he said that Watts usually just stood around saying 'That's right Frank!' From the opening episode of S2, Watts is a better, more believeable and more interesting character and you could see that Terry O Quinn was like the proverbial 'cat that got the cream' at getting a meatier role. Without him I don't think S2 would have worked for me at all because the most memorable scenes from the Season are him and Frank arguing violently on the merits/demerits of the Group.

Catherine was probably my least favourite character of all in S1. She was rather 2D most of the time and seemed to be just the person who needed to be around to show that Frank was in a safe environment. Her rather overwrought performance in 'The Beginning and the End' did little to convince me matters had changed but I was pleasantly surprised to see that she went from strength to strength after that. She adds considerably to the pain of seperation (largely I think because S2 infuriatingly doesn't show Frank's reaction to this very often at all) and comes into her own when railing at Frank and Peter over the bad influence she sees from the Group.

2) The opening up of the MLM Group.

As mentioned before, this is something of a double edged sword for me. I do agree it was necessary to do something with the Group. However, M+W seem to regard the Group as the only area worthy of exploration at all. Most of their episodes centre on the Group and ignore practically all other threads (which I'll mention later). However it DOES give the show more focus and allows for the whole concept of Frank first being in and then out of the Group in S3. I am a bg opponent of the way the Group was portrayed in S2 as many people know but at least M+W addressed a major concern by doing something with them.

3) Genuinely good ideas.

When it comes down to it, S2 includes a great many good ideas. I don't think they were particularly well implemented at various points but nevertheless. M+W's treatement of the Polaroid stalker is very creative and exciting. The episode may lag a bit but the performance from Doug H is excellent as the religio-babbling black hole, a man torn into little pieces eager to pull everyone down to his level to see what he sees. The Group at odds with each other was a good idea but poorl developed. The Owls never really do anything and it isn't clear exactly what they get up to when the Group seems so dead set on the Roosters path. The Odessa as an enemy is an intriguing idea executed appallingly badly. It really should have been given more time to develop than one 2 part episode. If M+W had had more discipline then they could have made some really great episodes with the ideas they had. As it was they rush them and pollute them with silly characters (more on that later) and unlikely plot twists. Lastly, it must be said that 'The Curse of Frank Black' and 'Jose Chung's Doomsday Defence' must rank as 2 of the best MLM episodes. Good ideas, well implemented. Even the Marburg story had promise if they hadn't made it a world killing virus (as S3 wisely scales it down to).

4) A lack of respect for Frank and Jordan...

Millennium was not M+W's show, they didn't create it and didn't have the right to mess around like they did with the established story. It has long been my contention that M+W set out to recreate the show and excise everything they didn't like which didn't sit well with me or anyone interested in continuity. The main areas I am concerned about is their treatment of Frank and Jordan's characters and their introduction of new characters. They didn't like Frank's gift, that is on record but did they like Frank? It seems unlikely that M+W ever really cared that much about Frank Black as he is very different from the characters they usually populate their worlds with. S2 includes a vast array of quirky, silly characters like the German cop in 'The Hand of Saint Sebastian', feisty female Lara Means, computer geek Brian Roedecker, Rudolph Axeman, etc etc. Next to this Frank seems very out of place and indeed they start fiddling and giving him flash jackets to wear, a passion for playing solitaire on his computer and listening to Bobby Darin whilst singing along in his gravely voice. In short, they alter Frank from a weary, jaded veteran to a kind of 'funky uncle' action star who goes treasure hunting for lost relics and battles nazi organisations!

Think about it. How important is Frank in 'The Beginning and the End?' He is barely in it when you consider all the time given to the PS and Peter Watts as his character develops. Many of the scenes with Frank in are him listening others or acting while the PS voice overs declaring that he knows exactly what Frank is up to. Perversely, only the beginning and the end of the episode really see him do much. He is severely upstaged in 'Beware of the Dog' by the Old Man who gets all the good lines while Frank (and Lance Henriksen I suspect) look about bewildered. 'Monster' is really just a vehicle for introducing Lara Means and the new Catherine - Frank accomplishes little of note again. But it gets worse, 'The Hand of Saint Sebastian' really doesn't need him in at all as Watts is far more important to the episode. 'Owls and Roosters' are 2 of the worst episodes for Frank fans of the Season as the episodes almost entirely ignore him! Most of the action centres on Watts, Means and the Group in general. Frank is out of the Group and misses practically all the big events. He is almost completely sidelined in the end as well when Odessa is defeated... The other episodes aren't 'as' bad but I was annoyed with how little Frank does in the second Season in general. With no real SKOTW he doesn't get much chance to do any profiling, his gift is rarely used and he is usually sharing screen time with Watts, means, both of them and more.

Also, Jordan is badly done by in this Season. Even episodes that nominally concern her rarely feature her very much indicating that M+W and co didn't really care for the character. She isn't seen very much and when she is, Catherine gets far more attention. The seperation between father and daughter needed to be emphasised far more strongly becasue unlike with Catherine, we din't have episodes where Jordan gets sections to herself to make her feelings felt.

5) Too much light - it burns! Group propaganda...

As stated, I am a fan of MLM as a dark, brooding program on the nature of evil. After seeing 'Lamentation' and the exciting possibilities it provided I was eager for more. What did I get? The almost complete absence of Legion and associated storylines. One small appearence in 'The Curse of Frank Black' and that's your lot basically. After the interesting character of Samiel in 'Powers...' I was prepared for Angels too. Instead of enigmatic, tortured souls however we get the lame 'guy in black clothes' from 'Midnight of the Century' and the Praise Jesus angels of Lara Means... The idea of God's forces as lofty servants of celestial law who cared little for people individually was much more appealing than the happy clapper semtimentality I encountered in this Season.

And as for the Group. Well, I know I've mentioned them but they really got far, far too much airtime. M+W write most of the episodes and most of their episodes are dealing with the Group in some form or another. It leads to a Group overload where what they are doing is more important than anything else (thus the absence of evil, Legion, conventional killers). Far too much time banging on about prophecies, passwords, factions, levels of Group involvement, Group policy, opposing Groups on and on and on until I was sinking through the floorboards in a liquid state of apathy. 'No more!' I cried. They didn't listen. 'Can't I just have one killer, one good instance of demons or angels, something that is actually scary?'

No.

6) Humour.

Already mentioned really but deserving of its own section for how truly irriating it really was. Every episode it seemed needed some quirky character, some ridiculous element to dispel credibility. Bumpkin townsfolk, american TV talking German cops, escaped clowns from the circus (!), people singing karoke and all topped off by the tremendously unfunny 'Somehow, Satan got behind me'. Black Humour should be both or it doesn't work. 'Somehow' is quite simply bitter and spiteful in a very unpleasant way. It isn't even remotely funny for the most part and lacks even the unfunny but occasionally weak smile inducing 'jokes' from the mainstream episodes. The humour and bright colours (check out the Yellow house next the new White house in S3's 'The Sound of Snow' to get an idea of how different S2 looks) and 'bop-a-long tunes' really put me off big-time. Like I said before, irony was probably needed, crap humour wasn't.

7) Scorched Earth.

This won't be long as people will likely be fed up seeing me rail against S2 by now. I can only state that I have put down what I honestly believe were the pros and cons of the Season. Lastly, the 2 part end episode 'The 4th Horseman' and 'The Time is Now'. Terrible. Never have I seen such a sad tantrum before. So it was failing, maybe people just didn't like what you were doing eh? No reason to nuke the series is it? The bizarre thing is that people actually defend this and criticise S3!!! What would you have had them do? Post apocalyptic zombie hunting with Frank and Jordan? The tragedy is that 'The Fourth Horseman' is actually quite good because it is has a good, filmic quality to it. An interesting story seems on the horizon and then 'The Time is Now' throws it all away in the most ludicrous fashion possible. Quite apart from the bad idea to end it all, 'The Time is Now' is just plain bad. A huge, self-indulgent scene with Lara going insane, no resolution and no real measure of any quality. A pathetic ending in my opinion and an outrage which never should have been allowed.

So there we are. Sorry to all the S2 fans out there but hey, I did like some things right? Thanks for reading even if you were scraping your nails along the table in anger!

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Guest A Stranger

Modern Day Minority: To be fair, I think Odessa was the group in "The Hand of St. Sebastian" only later to be revealed in "Owls/Roosters."

Also, I can understand your complaints about M&W altering Frank's character, and at times I agree. But I think it worked in some instances to make him a little more likable, or maybe to show that he's more than just sexual homocice cases and murder investigations. I think it was nice for instance, to see him walking around the house alone in "The Curse..." making "d'ohs" and and just sort of knocking around. That episode in particular worked for me in that regard.

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I liked how Season Two brought in new characters in teh mix and explore teh chracters instead of having Millennium being the Frank Black show all the time (There isn't anything wrong about it, but I liked how the people who work with Frank became 3D).

I do agree Time Is Now was a wasted conclusion to The Fourth Horseman. Time Is Now was a little too slef-idulgent, and probably came about because M&W knew they wouldn't be back for another season.

Be Seeing You,

David Blackwell

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Guest ModernDayMoriarty

I'm not actually as big a fan of Wright's work as some here seem to be. He is certainly one of the most (if not the most) prolific of the directors but doing the most doesn't you do the best. T J Wriight does very little of the episodes I consider true classics in terms of their direction, mood, feel etc. Pound for pound I think Winrich Kolbe takes the crown as all the episode he directs, even if not fantastic episodes for story, look and feel excellent. His skills really enhance the rather inpenetrable 'Force Majeure', the questionable 'Broken World' and do real justice to the fantastic 'Lamentation'.

But even without Kolbe... Episodes I consider to be well directed are such things are 'The Curse of Frank Black', 'Jose Chung's Doomsday Defence', 'Pilot', 'Gehenna', 'The Sound of Snow'. etc etc. None of these are done by Wright. I'm not saying he doesn't have talent of course, just that I thought the question to Lance that began 'T J Wright was responsible for the most powerful episodes of Millennium' was in error.

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