Saturday, December 30, 2017

Reviewing Millennium, Space: Above and Beyond, Harsh Realm & The Lone Gunmen

My virginal reactions to the X-Files' sister show, spin-off, Chris Carter's failed second franchise and Morgan & Wong's failed space show. Not particularly insightful (I recommend The M0vie Blog instead), but it was either put them here or put them in the bin, and these unreliable ratings can be helpful for my own selective rewatching.

Millennium (1996-99)


Mythology elements
Less so

Millennium 1x01 Pilot ****

I've never watched this series before, despite (or perhaps due to) the X-Files connection. I'm not sure what was putting me off exactly, but I've always been a little curious and figured that, at the very least, it had to be better than The Lone Gunmen. Based on this dingy, violent, depressive pilot, it's going to be a fascinating journey, if not a particularly fun one.

Lance Henriksen has a powerful presence as retired FBI agent Frank Black, and is a commendably different creation to Mulder and Scully, replacing the humour and youthful exuberance with family responsibilities and - what's that? A psychic ability? He claims otherwise, but I don't know what else you'd call the ability to literally get inside the mind of a killer. It could just be uncanny intuition.

The family angle is one element I wouldn't have been able to relate to if I'd watched these at the time when I wasn't even in high school yet, and it helps to establish this series as a more mature cousin to The X-Files more credibly than the titillating opening scenes of dancing, blood-smeared strippers. Even with the nasty stuff taking place in the inaugural serial-killer-of-the-week plot, the final scene where Black receives polaroids of his wife and daughter in the mail, indicating that they can't escape his shady past, is by far the most chilling part. If anyone dares go near those people, you'll have to answer to me.
"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned" - W. B. Yeats

Millennium 1x02 Gehenna ***

This could have easily been an X-Files plot - they did crazy call centre shenanigans themselves at one point - but we're frequently reminded how much more low-rent these consultants are compared to the FBI. I doubt Frank can even claim his interstate bus rides on expenses. The incredibly insightful criminal profiling continues to be top-notch too - Chris Carter either really knows his stuff or is really good at bluffing.

I hope Terry O'Quinn sticks around for the long haul, as I enjoy his character's matter-of-fact rapport with Frank. Everyone else just seems depressed or is putting on a contented front, as we learn when Mrs. Black admits she knows about the creepy polaroids they've been getting in the mail for the past three years and basically has to accept that her daughter's life is in constant danger wherever they live.

I wonder if all this darkness is building up to a hilarious comedy episode to let off steam? I somehow doubt it.
"I smell blood and an era of prominent madmen" - W. H. Auden

Millennium 1x03 Dead Letters ***

I am deliberately choosing freakish, out-of-context images to give an inaccurate representation of these episodes. Otherwise it'd just be 67 images of Lance Henriksen looking glum in the shadows from slightly different angles.

Now Chris Carter's set the ball rolling it's time for his talented lackeys Morgan and Wong to take over, and they don't waste any time guiltily casting guest stars from their cancelled sci-fi project Space: Above and Beyond. This happened a lot in The X-Files around this time too, though as I hadn't put myself through SAB at the time I only noticed retroactively.

James 'T.C. McQueen' Morrison plays a Portland police consultant who wants to be in on the Millennium Group to have a slice of the relentlessly bleak pie, but he ultimately realises he isn't cut out for dealing with dismembered bodies and the constant threat of violence hanging over his only child. The pussy.

His disputes with Frank Black over the criminal profile make it clear that Frank, like Fox Mulder, is never wrong about anything. All these characters should just save themselves the trouble and follow him to the end of the Earth or the cancellation of the series, whichever comes sooner.
"For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me. And what I dreaded has happened to me, I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes" - Job 3:25,26

Millennium 1x04 The Judge ***

I only realised after watching the last episode how clearly desensitised to gruesome violence I've become since dismembered body parts started making regular appearances in mainstream TV shows, so I tried to adopt a 1990s mentality for this one. Holy shit, that woman got sent a human tongue in the mail! I'm going to be sick.

Without the helpful gore and occasional (but increasingly fleeting) flashes of insight from Frank Black's clairvoyance or whatever it is, this would just be another crime show shot on relentlessly dark sets. The Millennium Group itself is only a very minor plot point, and Frank's cosy home life has been condensed to purely functional interludes to justify Megan Gallagher's credit in the opening titles.

Even this week's bad guy feels like a departure from the norm, if I can claim any 'norm' has been established with just three episodes. I thought they might have spent so much time setting up the theatrical, pompous, over-confident Judge for a return appearance in the future, but that doesn't seem likely now. Not unless someone cut all those pigs' stomachs open and performed some incredible reconstructive surgery.
"...the visible world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright" - Herman Melville

Millennium 1x05 522666 ****

Morgan and Wong are back on writing duties for the first episode since the pilot that might prove to be memorable in the long run, something that's admittedly helped by the death count being significantly higher as pubs and office buildings are blown to smithereens.

It's interesting to watch a pre-9/11 terrorism story where none of the suspected parties claiming responsibility even have brown skin. The perpetrator himself is the stand-out villain of the series so far - just as over-the-top as The Judge last time, but prescient in his agenda to attain immortal celebrity through his bombings thanks to the morbid media. It's also bold to proceed from occasional masturbatory innuendo in The X-Files to scenes of the bad guy actually wanking (tastefully out of frame) as the reports of his atrocities come in.

It's a shame I didn't watch this the first time around, as it's delightfully sick, especially when you consider it as a product of that comparatively coy time period. How could you fail to, with all that clunky 90s technology around?

I'm going to throw in a nascent fan theory that Frank's daughter might have 'paranormal' abilities of her own. Her nightmares have been mentioned a couple of times now, and she has to do something, surely? We don't want two useless Mrs. Blacks.
"I am responsible for everything... except my very responsibility" - Jean-Paul Sartre

Millennium 1x06 Kingdom Come **

The first episode so far that bored me and caused me to question the longevity of this Se7en-stretching format, Frank and his annoying partner-of-the-week are on the trail of a priest-killer whose motivations I couldn't care less about.

I'm not fond of any story that places religion as the default setting and requires the characters to give their excuses why they deviated from jolly nonsense to cold rationality, but the explanation Frank eventually settles on for explaining life and death to his daughter is at least commendably non-committal. They didn't make the world-weary protagonist find God and realise everything was going to be okay, that would have been awful.
"And there will be such intense darkness,
That one can feel it" - Exodus 10:21

Millennium 1x07 Blood Relatives ****

Frank Black bounces back with an episode written by newcomer Chip Johannessen, who'll hopefully hang around. I make the effort to notice the writers early on in a series before apathy takes me, that's how I noticed Morgan & Wong were decent the first time around. It also means the bad writers who contribute to these series' inevitable declines around season 49 largely get off the hook.

The A-team is back as Frank's joined by Terry O'Quinn's character, Peter Watts, and his buddy Bletcher, who isn't played by someone who went on to feature prominently in Lost so I consequently don't know. Even Catherine gets something to do other than be Frank's wife and mother to his daughter, but only because they're able to tie her counselling-type job into Frank's plot.

This week's twisted serial killer isn't as outrageous as those in a couple of previous episodes, but he is one sick mother, getting off on other people's grief though thankfully without scenes of him masturbating out of frame this time (see episode five). I don't know how much harsh truth there is to their claim that kids from troubled backgrounds who go in and out of foster care are likely to end up like this screwball, but this is overall another deathly bleak episode to add to the pile. If you're finding it all too depressing, I don't think it's going to brighten up any time soon.
"This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign shall be given to it..." - Luke 11:29

Millennium 1x08 The Well-Worn Lock **

This is a break from the usual serial killer episodes - it doesn't have any deaths at all - but it's far from the sort of light-hearted relief I was hoping for, with subject matter that's possibly even bleaker.

Lance Henriksen gets to take most of the week off as Megan Gallagher works to earn her opening credit. If you were going to be sexist you could classify this as a woman's episode generally, dealing with a family living under the incestuous tyranny of respected pillar of the community Joe Bangs, who's dedicated to living up to his name. This week's human detritus is played by Paul Dooley, who played the Cardassian Enabran Tain in Deep Space Nine who was also sinister and a terrible father. I guess it's easy to get typecast when you look like that.

There's no compelling mystery, ambiguity or supernatural goings-on in this story, which is a by-the-numbers procedural drama going from the psychiatric clinic to the court room. It feels like a different show altogether. I guess its main legacy is showing us a more determined and moralistic side to Catherine Black to better define her character, but I can't say she's the most compelling of Chris Carter's dramatic creations.
"The cruellest lies are often told in silence" - Robert Louis Stevenson

Millennium 1x09 Wide Open ***

A reliably generic episode that won't persist in memory but doesn't technically have any problems. It's just fine, which means as unremittingly bleak as the audience came to expect some time during the pilot. It was nice to see resurgence in the interpretation of kid's drawings and handwriting, though when they use the same signature visuals for the killer's childhood memories as for Frank's psychic flashes (which are getting very repetitive now) it could be unnecessarily confusing for new viewers.

This week's killer lacks personality or endearing quirks, while for Frank, Catherine and Bob it's just another downbeat day at the office. I felt pretty terrible for the bereaved girl and had to remind myself that it was just a child actress being told to look mopey so I didn't get too depressed. There's also the bright side that Jordan Black gets the chance to make loads of bereaved temp friends as her parents persist in bringing their work home.
"His children are far from safety; They shall be crushed at the gate Without a rescuer" - Job 5:4

Millennium 1x10 The Wild and the Innocent **

Another throwaway episode, Frank's chasing down another old-school murderer who eluded him in his FBI days while Catherine's contribution is limited to a morale-boosting phone call where she advises her husband to get some sleep. Way to earn that lead star credit.

The investigation is tediously formulaic, with little to none of the smart procedural stuff I like about this show. We're supposed to sympathise with the femme fatale who's searching for her daughter (SPOILER! Not really, it's obvious all along), but she's an accessory to murder and an idiot, so I couldn't care less.

There are further egregiously soppy domestic scenes at the yellow house as we're shown that Frank has a blissful life when he's not at work. I'm not saying I want his wife and young child to be savagely murdered, necessarily, but at least those scenes will feel worthwhile if it's all leading somewhere terribly dark. I'm a terrible person, but this series does that to you.
"O Lord, if there is a Lord
Save my soul, if I have a soul..." - Ernest Renan

Millennium 1x11 Weeds ***

Reminiscent of the X-Files episode 'Arcadia' in theme, though entirely different in mood (Frank doesn't order a woman to make him a samwich at any point), this tale of murdered teenagers in a gated community with 24-hour security mainly serves to illustrate that nowhere is safe from evil when there are humans around.

The series has become very formulaic, to the point that I'm wondering if they can really stretch it out to three seasons without injecting some kind of larger mytharc or shaking up the format a little. This is a good episode, but with its villain-baiting, clue-cracking and a zealous culprit spouting about salvation, it's all been done before several times already and we're only half-way through the season.

If there are any elements here that drive the series forward, it could be Frank's continuing lack of trust in his borderline psychic ability, which he hasn't even mentioned in a long time and doesn't seem to bank on being useful until he unintentionally receives those handy flashes of the killer's POV. I want to put this down to the writers showing that he's reluctant or even ashamed to rely on mysticism rather than his hardened skills and experience, but they could just be trying to distance the show from its more popular sibling by not bringing the paranormal into focus. You gave him the gift, guys - you're going to have to deal with it some time.
"But know ye for certain... Ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city..." - Jeremiah 26:13

Millennium 1x12 Loin Like a Hunting Flame **

Any time a TV drama tried to depict 90s rave culture to show it was down with the kids, the results were usually pretty embarrassing. Spaced is the only one that comes to mind as a credible recreation of what I imagine raves might have been like (how would I know? In the 90s I was too busy watching The X-Files to be out having formative experiences).

This is no exception, and in general the episode takes a condescending attitude towards 'unconventional' sex, drugs and even rock 'n' roll as Frank turns down a couple's death metal make-out music, the rotter. This is a contender for the worst episode so far - it's mostly notable for reusing a few obvious actors from The X-Files in the form of Harriet Sansom Harris (the Eves in 'Eve') and Hrothgar Matthews (a few roles, he has that kind of face).

They appropriate the Frank Vision effect once again to show us the killer's POV, but there's no discernible reason for it. I don't remember lead star Megan Gallagher even being in this one, though presumably she was on the end of a phone in a couple of non-pivotal scenes.
"Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast" - Faust

Millennium 1x13 Force Majeure ****

I've been longing for this show to stretch its confining format and try something different, and this will do very nicely. It feels a bit like a rejected X-Files script, but this is more what I expected this show to be like, as Frank Black and Peter Watts (sort of a blended Mulder and Scully with a moustache) cautiously follow prophecies to track down this week's religious kook.

It's a pretty complex plot, and I was hoping it was sowing the seeds of a mytharc this show is sadly lacking, but by the end there are no leads to pick up on in the future - not before the prophesied doom date of 5/5/2000 anyway, and the show was cancelled well before that. At the very least, it could lead to further millennial apocalypse doomsayers coming out of the shadows to bring more meaning to this series's gimmicky name.

I like Frank and Pete in this, both being rational but not to the point of staying unhelpfully closed-minded and missing the signs. Catherine Black's involved in the plot again too, at least in the first act before surrendering to irrelevance again. Genre legend Brad Dourif makes a memorable guest appearance as a David Icke style armageddon prophet, though his Dennis Hoffman won't go down in TV history like his Luther Lee Boggs.
"You remember a single deluge only, but there were many previous ones" - Plato

Millennium 1x14 The Thin White Line *****

Taking a leaf from The X-Files, reliable regular (w)riters Morgan and Wong make the story more personal for our gravelly hero and it might be the best so far. While the previous episode hinted at a more esoteric direction for the show, this one's squarely back in the twisted serial killer camp, though it may offer an origin story for Frank's powers - that's left as cautiously ambiguous as everything with a hint of the paranormal on this show.

As happened to Fox Mulder a couple of times, Frank recognises the tell-tale signs of an old case being re-opened as a murderer goes about town leaving calling cards on his victims (subtle references to Space: Above and Beyond?) and responding to questions and statements that were never uttered. The way this plays out is very nicely done, taking some cues from The Silence of the Lambs along the way along with the customary spiritual influence of Seven that's been there all along.

Lance Henriksen does his best to make the Frank Black of 20 years earlier angrier and subordinate, but the young FBI agent's face is as etched as ever in the flashbacks. I wasn't overjoyed that the gay criminal lovers were demonised in another example of the show's sexual conservatism, but overall this is probably the best episode since the pilot and sets the bar perilously high for all the deranged serial killer plots that lie ahead.

Well done everyone, except Megan Gallagher obviously. Let's start the ball rolling on the mythology now, can we?
"A man's past is not simply a dead history... it is a still quivering part of himself, bringing shudders and bitter flavours and the tinglings of a merited shame" - George Eliot

Millennium 1x15 Sacrament ****

Continuing to tread tentatively down the mythology route, members of Frank's family come to Seattle to christen their daughter and hang, and because this is a Ten Thirteen production you know it isn't going to end well. Actually (SPOILER ALERT) she survives at the end, which I didn't see coming. Maybe the writers have mellowed and picking off Mulder and Scully's relatives one at a time got it out of their system.

On the theme of relativity, it's confirmed that Jordan has inherited her father's still-unexplained-and-mostly-avoided pseudo-psychic abilities, which is a very interesting turn that will hopefully lead to bigger things in the future. It also seems that Frank's power goes beyond the ability to see what killers are seeing and grants him access to their delusions too, as he sees this week's whacko writhing around in Hell in his mind.

It's nice to see Philip Anglim again (Bareil in Deep Space Nine) as Frank's ineffectual lil' brother, who takes some hard-hitting pot shots at Frank's career choice which we've known all along is putting his loved ones in danger. Bletcher spouts some unfortunate cliches about Frank being too close to the case and needing to back off, and for a change the killer himself isn't the main focus of the story, though his methods and madness are just as unsettling as ever. This series is comfortably on a roll now.
"He said to me in a dreadful voice that I had indeed escaped his clutches, but he would capture me still" - St. Teresa of Avila

Millennium 1x16 Covenant ****

Somehow, they're still finding creative and thought-provoking stories to wrap around these grisly murders week after week, and this tale of three kids and their mother apparently being killed by their own repentant father is one of the grisliest so far. Pretty grim stuff, but if you've made it this far into the series, you'll be able to handle it.

Frank falls into another conventional role, that of the stringently objective detective in pursuit of justice who won't be swayed by the bloodthirsty mob when he spots loose strands in the suspect's otherwise immaculate confession... fabric? I have to close that metaphor somehow. As Frank's out of town, his usual cronies are out of the picture and he gets to square off against Bible bashing, backwater lawmen, like this is The X-Files or something.

You might also be forgiven for thinking you're watching the sister show with appearances by a couple of actors who had pretty prominent roles in a number of episodes. Our suspect is played by John Finn, who was also the guy who caused Mulder to doubt the existence of aliens for a while, and the cutely ditzy assistant pathologist is Sarah Koskoff, who was in the X-Files pilot and other episodes further down the line reprising the same multiple abductee.

It may make me pine for The Other Show a little, but this is another solid entry in the current run of hits that I hope will last out to the end of the season (asking for more would be greedy). There's some fun clue deciphering too, with a cryptic message in blood that could be a key to the mystery - play along at home!
"Thou dost frighten me with dreams and terrify me by visions" - Job 7:14

Millennium 1x17 Walkabout ***

Our guy's involved in the mystery this time, as Frank is found lying battered and bruised in an alley with no memory of how he got into this situation. As we gradually unravel what happened to bring him to this sorry state, we're subjected to some anti-pharmaceutical / America's medicated population rants, but at the end of the day it's all down to a single wacko as usual.

The end goes a long way towards salvaging it, as we (and Frank) learn Frank's motive for getting involved in the drug trial in the first place as he tries to understand what's happening with Jordan - even beyond her potential psychic abilities, it's clear she's growing ever more aware of daddy's dangerous job. The domestic family angle feels superfluous most weeks, so I like it when they actually make it matter.
"I remember the very things I do not wish to; I cannot forget the things I wish to forget" - Cicero

Millennium 1x18 Lamentation *****

With the apocalyptic mythology established a few episodes ago being necessarily postponed until the millennium arrives, this is the first episode that has a real sense of the bigger picture moving forward and it's mostly great. My main gripe is that they needn't have shown such a stereotypical 'demon' figure on screen, an issue I'm only making worse by letting the strobe linger, but that could just be this entity or whatever showing Bob what he expected to see or something. In the X-Files tradition, this episode is big on set-up but not on answers.

It's most successful for bringing danger into the Black household, something that's been threatened since the polaroids in the first episode and that culminates in one of the regular characters being written out shockingly early. True, they chose the most expendable of the ensemble (no, not Catherine), but it's still a welcome jolt for a series that's taken quite a while to work out how it's going to sustain itself for the long haul.

This week's murder mystery is the most darkly entertaining one to crawl out of Chris Carter's brain so far, as our killer (whoever he/she/it may ultimately have been) leaves horrific clues by positioning victims' arms like those of a clock face and making pun name tags for hospital patients. This is someone with time on their hands.

We see more of the Millennium Group itself too, which looks like a more bureaucratic, less smoky version of the X-Files' Syndicate, and we may have our first recurring villain in the form of the enigmatic Lucy Butler. This might not be my favourite episode so far, but it's up there. It's a cut above the average, but the average is already pretty damned fine.
"Every man before he dies shall see the Devil" - English Proverb

Millennium 1x19 Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions ***

This is a sort of sequel to the last episode, as we see Frank struggling with guilt over the death of his buddy Bletcher (I'm just glad it wasn't Peter) and the brief return of Lucy while offering some tentative answers to the questions raised that seem, regrettably, to be straight down the line of Biblical good and evil working through fickle humans. It's an approach I didn't enjoy on The X-Files when it reared its traditionalist head over there, and while it fits this series' morally conservative tone, I was enjoying this show for its realism compared to The Other One, occasional psychic flashes aside.

Without the angle of Frank having a hard time going back to the gruesome day job after his friend's murder, this episode wouldn't have a lot going for it. It's willfully confusing and unimaginative in its Satanic/angelic tropes and a bit of a disappointment after the previous one, but the series still has my confidence. This has been an unnaturally strong first year overall, so there's a long way to fall and plenty of time yet.
"Paranoia is just a kind of awareness, and awareness is just a form of love" - Charles Manson

Millennium 1x20 Broken World **

Sister show The X-Files was infamously terrible any time it dealt with animals, and this equine episode is one of the low points of the series. It feels like self-parody at the start, reducing Frank Black from investigating the murders of his friends and the nature of evil incarnate in previous episodes to tracking down a deviant who's killed a horse, but it's salvaged by more of the canny criminal profiling I love this series for.

It would be a nice change of pace to one day see Frank's incredibly detailed and unwaveringly accurate profile miss the mark entirely. Not so here. This would have been a better episode if it came earlier in the year, a change of theme like 'The Well-Worn Lock,' but it feels very superfluous at this point.
"Man is the cruellest animal" - Friedrich Nietzsche

Millennium 1x21 Maranatha ***

If this episode is the way the series is going, it isn't a direction I'm especially delighted with. There are allusions to Revelation and interpretations of the Antichrist and various other motifs that Frank doesn't exactly embrace wholeheartedly, but he's leaning towards the Mulder side of the fence opposite Peter Watts' slightly more open-minded Scully. Their dynamic is definitely lacking that spark, which explains why Terry O'Quinn doesn't get an opening credit and photo on the DVD covers despite being in most of the episodes.

This episode references Chernobyl and Russians living in the United States with the same not-exactly-racist us-and-them approach taken by The X-Files when featuring Chinatowns and Latin American neighbourhoods. If you like this show for its dark and gory elements you'll be spoiled by obliterated faces and severed fingers, but if you aren't a fan of its supernatural leanings this will probably just annoy you.

"Behold ye scoffers,
For I will work wonders in your days
Which ye will not believe" - Book of Habakkuk

Millennium 1x22 Paper Dove ****

I guess you could call this a mythology episode as it furthers the theme of a growing 'evil' presence affecting society (by having characters mention the notion in one scene and that's it) and directs the evil to Frank's family again, at least right at the end. I have to admit, I was bracing for a more shocking cliffhanger than we got, and as despicably cruel as it sounds, I think it would have been better if they'd found a body.

Outside of those elements this is a pretty standard episode of serial murders, which mainly stands out for its uncharacteristic dark humour in the presentation of the killer. His one-sided chats with his dead victims around the camp fire and the scenes with his ridiculous overbearing mother border on David Lynch, but they do fit in with the type of weird humour that had already been established on The X-Files by this point and that would become progressively worse as the years dragged on. I like it here, but it's undeniably weird.

As the end of the first season I didn't need or expect this to be a cliffhanger to go down in history - it's more 'The Erlenmeyer Flask' than 'Anasazi,' especially with its call-backs to the polaroids from the pilot. But even if I wasn't already committed to this series it's intriguing enough to make you come back for more. At the end of the first year the show hasn't deviated very far from its original premise, and it's still firmly The Frank Black Show with a fairly expendable ensemble - as demonstrated by my opening thought that the series might even be improved if they killed off one of the leads. Let's see how that turns out.

"And now there is merely silence, silence, silence, saying,
All we did not know" - William Rose Benét

Millennium 2x01 The Beginning and the End ****

Right from the start, it's clear that changes are afoot in season two. Under the stewardship of Morgan and Wong, evidently yearning for the unresolved arcs of their curtailed Space: Above and Beyond, Millennium becomes a different beast, with less focus on tracking down killers and perverts and more cryptic discussions on the coming apocalypse and good vs. evil. I should hate it, but I don't.

Beyond the eschatological elements, this is also a significant episode for shaking up Frank's domestic life, as he rescues Catherine and she repays the effort by moving out to protect herself and Jordan. It's been a long time coming, but I can't help feeling it'll make her character even less relevant than she was already, and that takes some doing.

On the flip-side, Frank's real sidekick Peter Watts is fleshed out a little more, though he's still withholding much from Frank. Less effective is the villain of the piece, who sets himself up as Frank's Moriarty only to be quite easily taken down, and we're introduced to the Millennium Group's snarky equivalent of the Lone Gunmen. I can't imagine those guys getting their own spin-off.
"His interest in you is because of our interest in you" - Peter Watts

Millennium 2x02 Beware of the Dog ***

There's a feeling of slump-period Twin Peaks about this episode, with its cabin in the woods and needlessly cryptic forebodings that are vague enough to give Morgan and Wong the freedom to make the mythology up as they go along. Strangest of all is that these 'revelations' are delivered towards the end of an otherwise disposable episode about a small town being terrorised by killer dogs.

This show always excels at atmosphere, and the writers aren't bad at comedy either - the locals refusing to acknowledge that Frank isn't their new sheriff and the deservedly paranoid new resident keep an otherwise dreary episode entertaining. As far as the stone circle, reprised comet references and Ouroboros discussion, that's the sort of enticing mytharc fluff that got me through the darker patches of Lost, so I'm willing to play their game. Don't let me down now!
"We must respect evil and we must make evil respect us" - The Old Man

Millennium 2x03 Sense and Antisense **

This feels less like Millennium - whatever that means for a show that keeps redefining itself - and a lot more like The X-Files, specifically second season episodes like 'Blood' and 'Sleepless' with its nefarious government conspiracy using the homeless and vulnerable as unwitting test subjects. Frank even has his phone tapped like Mulder, and Peter is basically Scully as he explains the science behind the Human Genome Project. Really, what does this have to do with Millennium?

The dot-connecting exercise of John Doe > D.O.E. > Department of Energy and other clues of its ilk are fun but daft. The episode's main saving grace is that it digs ever so slightly beneath the surface of the Millennium Group as Peter tells Frank of his plans to "recruit" him more fully. There's a growing sinister vibe around the Group that's new for season two - unless I was just completely oblivious before - and I like where it's going.
"U.S. Military released from liability for experiments on unwilling and unknowing human subjects" - U.S. vs. Stanley, Supreme Court (1985)

Millennium 2x04 Monster ****

Morgan and Wong are building the mythology again and continue to win me over, even as the series embraces the paranormal more fully. I did appreciate the more realistic tone of the first season, but the show was stretching credulity when it tried to sneak in Frank's psychic abilities every week, so it needed to embrace these elements more fully or lose them entirely. So now he sees demons everywhere, while new Catherine/Peter substitute Lara Means draws the long straw and gets angel visions.

This character is one of the highlights of the episode, partly because it's great to see Space: Above and Beyond's Kristen Cloke again after I unhelpfully developed a crush on her just as that series ended, and it looks like she'll be back in a recurring role. For X-Files fans (presumably the majority of Millennium's audience?) there's also a wealth of crossover guest stars in the form of Chris 'Spender' Owens as an insecure cop, Robert 'Pusher' Modell as a slimy lawyer, Lauren 'Emily' Diewold as the creepy kid of the week and Gillian 'One of Scully's Fellow Abductees' Barber as her suffering mother.

These guest spots actually serve to highlight how different this show is from its sister production (on weeks when they're not just copying it anyway), and we learn ever so slightly more about the Millennium Group again with a reference to the Old Man in the woods who's presumably due for a return. I can imagine a lot of people switching off around this point, but for me it's really getting interesting. The more the mythology builds, the greater its collapse will be if they screw it up. Come on guys, I'm rooting for you.
"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" - Henry IV, part 2, act 4, scene 2

Millennium 2x05 A Single Blade of Grass **

This season has been a really bipolar bag so far. It's just as inconsistent as the first season, despite attempts to tie every story into the grander scheme, and even as writers Kay Reindl and Erin Maher (hardly the new Morgan and Wong) add Native American end-times prophecies to the apocalyptic stew, there's still a basic murder investigation beneath.

Frank isn't treated very well by this story, which has no time for his excellent deductive skills and instead sees him rely on his psychic flashes, which were supposed to be evolving but are still no clearer in purpose than they used to be. The only thing this episode adds to Frank's character is informing us that he's one eighth Native American. Big whoop. (I believe that was his great-grandmother's name?)

Yes, this is another Chris Carter series paying homage to Injun culture, which is always welcome as The X-Files embarrassingly taught me most of what I know about it. It's not an entirely sympathetic portrayal though, with this week's guest sidekick the anthropologist defending the Hopi's visionary genius even as their modern descendants are shown to be drunken gamblers conspiring in murder. Mark Snow's patronising pipe scores are back, as is the distinctive line delivery of Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman, who had a memorable role on The Other Show.

Get good again, Millennium. There's still time.
"The time is now" - Liz Michael

Millennium 2x06 The Curse of Frank Black ****

Rebounding again from one of the worst episodes of the series to one of the best here, this is a really interesting one that's big on atmosphere and small on dialogue. That's not to say Morgan and Wong go all-out on the artistic front, but this will doubtless go down as one of the most memorable installments of the series when I'm through, just for being so different.

Having craved an over-arching mythology in the first season I've been happy with all the hints towards a larger game plan in the second year so far, but it hasn't been a smooth ride. By taking a deliberate step back and homing in on Frank as he returns to the yellow house to contemplate his life choices and responsibilities, this could be the defining episode of the series so far.

It dwells on some of the major events that took place in earlier episodes, notably the death of Bletcher, Frank killing his wife's captor and his estrangement from his loved ones, to bring the character into focus and spur him on to the next phase in his life. With the series' track record so far, I'm not looking forward to seeing this momentum halt instantly next time.

If you're not a fan of character development, and you prefer this show when it's making obtuse allusions to the paranormal, you're also in luck as there's a long monologue from what may be a ghost and a repeating sequence of letters and numbers directing Frank to a passage in the Bible. It's a Halloween special too - wooooo!
"Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?" - Acts 26:8

Millennium 2x07 19:19 ****

I like it when they give us enough ambiguity to take the villain of the week as an overenthusiastic zealot or agent of God as we prefer. I always veer towards the former, so I appreciated the lack of angel/demon flashes in this one, but the suggestion that the kidnapper of these kids may have ultimately been their saviour was a nice touch.

This doesn't add much to the Millennium tapestry though, focusing on trusty Revelation again and taking us into the heart of the Bible belt where our criminal mastermind/screwball executes a kidnapping based on a mix of vague and over-literal interpretation of scripture.

Conspiracy theorists should enjoy his mind maps connecting political events and natural disasters of the mid-90s with 2000-year-old verses, and there's also a return of genuine-sounding forensic psychology (but what would I know?) courtesy of returning character Lara Means, who I hope will stick around as I like her sarcastic attitude.

There's a conventional worried parent/angry sheriff played by the ubiquitous Steven Rankin (Ray Butts in Space: Above and Beyond, plus loads of other stuff) and a silent cameo from the kid who would soon after play the more significant Gibson Praise in The X-Files. If he was reading the minds of his kidnappers all along, he kept quiet about it.
"And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army." - Revelation 19:19

Millennium 2x08 The Hand of St. Sebastian ***

Just when you think this series has found its feet and set a clear direction, they change the focus entirely and character development goes out of the window. This was written by showrunners Morgan and Wong, and there's plenty to like in this globe-trotting conspiracy thriller with tantalising historical references and explosions - it just doesn't feel like it really belongs in this series.

It has shades of trying too much to be The X-Files, with its shadowy boardroom conversation and rogue operatives. The action-oriented tone and international locale specifically reminded me of the other show's 'Tunguska'/'Terma' two-parter, while the historical teaser set prior to the previous millennium in 998 AD put me in mind of Fight the Future's alien-infected cavemen (though this screened first).

But what really makes it seem like a different show is that I hardly recognise the characters. A familiar face from season one returns and is revealed to have been a double agent all along, something that has absolutely no bearing on the routine activities we saw her getting up to in season one, and after being laid bare in 'The Curse of Frank Black,' our hero is treated like a generic cop/hero figure. At least Peter comes out of it better, though it was tempting to think of him turning out to be the villain.

Frank's family isn't in it at all. They weren't in the last one either. Try your best to read Frank's sense of loneliness and estrangement into his eyes, it's not in the script.
"Hoc est qui sumus" - Historical dude

Millennium 2x09 Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense *****

This is just what I've been waiting for since about five episodes into the first season - an episode that finally doesn't take itself too seriously and even mocks the series' sombre, dark tone without going overboard and breaking the fourth wall. That's one of the reasons I prefer it to the first Jose Chung story on The X-Files - that's right, this is the first crossover, albeit with a one-shot character and a very well-conceived cameo from David Duchovny.

This was written by Darin Morgan, one of The X-Files' less prolific but most influential writers who can be held wholly responsible for that show daring to inject some humour once in a while to alleviate the darkness. 'Humbug,' 'Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose' and 'War of the Coprophages' are some of my favourites from the early years, and the wacky 'Jose Chung's From Outer Space' is pretty fine too, if lacking restraint. The wackiness is reigned in here, though I could have done without the bleak ending taking us back where we started and undoing all the hard work to make this series a little less depressing.

The manufactured, celebrity-friendly, extremely litigous cult Selfosophy in this episode is a clear parody of Scientology that cuts things impressively close at times, and venturing behind-the-scenes makes the conspiratorial cover-ups an interactive experience. Even the Wikipedia page for this episode is conspiciously minimal compared to the detailed overviews for every other episode in the series. I love that even the Millennium Group is afraid of the organisation, those guys needed to be taken down a peg or two.

The actual serial killer plot is tertiary here to the excuse for Morgan (through the mouthpiece of Chung) to take an outside look at Frank's demeanour and the Millennium Group itself, culminating in the scene we were waiting for as Lance Henriksen lets his bleached hair down and portrays a very different take on the consulting detective. I also enjoyed Chung's observation that Frank's imaginative criminal profiling gives them something in common, though non-writers could find this all a self-indulgent step too far. One of my favourites so far.
"After wiping away its mind of darkness, the self must then wipe its eternal soul; and since our souls have existed for thousands of years before the advent of Selfosophy, we all have a great deal of wiping to do" - Juggernaut Onan Goopta

Millennium 2x10 Midnight of the Century ****

This Christmas special is sort of a seasonal sequel to Halloween's 'The Curse of Frank Black,' as despite focusing on different themes they both get inside Frank's head and heart, serial killers take a back seat and for once nobody dies.

Catherine and Jordan haven't shown up in any of the intervening episodes, so at least the holiday season gives them a legitimate reason to be involved again. The issue of Jordan's developing 'ability' is also mercifully dealt with for the first time in a while, and we learn that Frank's mother had some similarly vague psychic/angel-seeing ability too.

It's a touching episode that won't do anything for sadistic viewers eager to see dismembered body parts, as the main jeopardy is Frank's dash to buy a suitable present for his daughter. This one should satisfy viewers who've found Frank's character development generally lacking - everyone's lacking actually, especially as they still haven't decided who the other star of the show is. It obviously isn't Catherine, and Peter has on and off weeks, but every time Frank and Lara have scenes together I find the shipping part of my brain that I didn't even know I had wants something to get started there.
"Telling me that she colours with her dead grandmother is a little bit more than 'sensitive'" - Catherine Black

Millennium 2x11 Goodbye Charlie ***

Back to the usual fare of an atypical serial killer who Frank and his non-opening-credits-partner-of-the-week (Peter's been usurped by Lara in the last couple of episodes) try to track down before he kills too many people. They don't always manage it. Blame Lara if you want - it is suspicious that she now seems to be filling the Scully role of postmortem examiner, despite earlier claiming to be a psychologist. I'm just glad they're relying on the characters' skills again rather than being led by psychic flashes and ghosts.

This episode is mostly notable for featuring Tucker Smallwood, another ex-Space: Above and Beyond face showing up in Ten Thirteen Productions after its cancellation, and the highlight is the opening scene where he assists a seemingly involuntary, bound and gagged suicide while singing soothing karaoke. It's downhill from there, but still offers some thoughtful discussion on assisted suicide and the characters' own dark mental states.

The Millennium Group's motives in sending them on this case are questioned a couple of times too, with no conclusive answer either way. I was begging for a mytharc in late season one and now it's been set in motion I preferred it without. I have to keep reminding myself this is still only season two, and they didn't know they only had one more to wrap up the story in a satisfying way. I wonder how successful that's going to be? I won't hold my breath.
"Let us go in; the fog is rising" - Emily Dickinson, her last words (1886)

Millennium 2x12 Luminary ****

My opinions of these episodes have been as inconsistent as the episodes themselves, so the best of luck to me trying to work out which were my favourites when it's all over. In general I've been enjoying season two more than the first, despite (or perhaps because of) this schizophrenic style, but really it's no more extreme in its shifts and highs and lows than The X-Files was during this time (the brilliant and terrible fifth season).

So, I really liked this one. Frank is cut off by the Millennium Group as he throws himself into the task of rescuing a young man lost in the wilderness, and the closest thing he has to a partner this week is... Catherine Black. Supposed leading lady Megan Gallagher spends more time on screen here than in the entire season so far, and the family bonds are re-strengthened. It's nice. Better yet, Peter Watts makes an ominous comment about Catherine having a part to play in upcoming events - here's hoping that doesn't fizzle into nothing again.

I'm guessing British Colombia stood in for Alaska here, and it makes me want to go and live in either. I was slightly tempted to abandon my worldly possessions and go and live in the woods like this character too, but how am I supposed to fill my time without 90s TV?
"We are meant to be here. We step from one piece of holy ground to the next, under stars that ask: 'Imagine, for one second, you could drop in on a past life. What would you like to find yourself doing there?'" - Alex Ventoux

Millennium 2x13 The Mikado ****

I've been enjoying the retro dial-up internet references in the last couple of episodes, but here we plunge into full-on 90s internet curiosity/fear and it's pretty funny two decades on. I won't hold these dated elements against it, as it's otherwise another decent Frank story with an unusually abstract killer who makes our hero look like a damn fool, even as he tries his damnedest.

The concept of a webcam feed featuring real torture and murder for the pleasure of web sickos isn't an original one, and there are other slightly hack plot points like a tripwire-activated gun, impossibly cryptic number clues that Frank solves with a lot of luck and Frank and the gang setting up a phony webcam feed to mislead the villain à la Speed.

And if you enjoy mocking the primitive past when internet penetration was in its infancy, you can scoff at the awed teenagers receiving 473 search hits for 'naked girls,' a newsgroup topic going crazy with an unprecedented 300 comments in two hours, and the name 'CompuNetServe.' There's also the old-school detective who distrusts the technology his job will soon force him to adopt, and even Frank needs to get away from the computers that are cramping his style. Admittedly, the unintentional humour does give this one a certain nostalgic charm.
"From the slipstream of electrons, a world as real as life or death can disappear in the blink of an eye. The devil has a new playground" - Frank Black

Millennium 2x14 The Pest House **

This was not a great episode. It starts out like a sub-standard X-File, as teenagers making out in the back of a car are assaulted by a hook-handed killer in an urban legend come alive. I'll give the writers the benefit of the doubt and assume the doomed boyfriend's "I'll be right back" was a knowing Scream reference.

Frank and Peter (who unhelpfully vanishes for most of the episode - some partner) investigate a psychiatric institution where craaaaazy things are going down, and someone's apparently a soul-eating demon or something. It's all a bit stupid, but at least they didn't go with the even more hack 'the doctors were the inmates all along' cliche I thought was being set up earlier. Maybe I watched too much Tales from the Crypt, though at least that had a sense of humour.
"Maybe evil is like matter. It can't be destroyed, it only changes form" - Frank Black

Millennium 2x15 Owls ***

This is what I've been asking for all along, so why wasn't I completely satisfied by this mythology-dense two-parter? The problem might be with me, or it could be the same issue of over-complication and seed-scattering that plagued The X-Files for so long. Since this is the first time I've watched this series, it could be the case that I revisit these 20 years down the line and rate 'Owls' and 'Roosters' among the high points of the show, but right now they feel less satisfying than many recent efforts.

My biggest issue with these episodes, and season two's plot-heavy mythology episodes in general - like 'Beware of the Dog' and 'The Hand of St. Sebastian' - is that they feel a lot more like The X-Files than Millennium, abandoning the established format entirely and even forsaking character development in favour of spectacle. This episode introduces a split in the Millennium Group between those who believe the apocalypse is imminent and spiritual and the others - unfortunately branded a darker shade of grey and not the ones we're supposed to root for - are convinced it's further away and will be brought about by science. Why can't I be on their side?

As we learn a little more about the splintered group, Frank, Lara and even Catherine are tangentially involved in cracking a Dan Brown style conspiracy concerning a piece of holy wood reputed to be from Christ's cross. There are violent murders, big explosions, secret societies and Nazis, so you should find something to enjoy. Personally, I'm grateful they included Frank's outburst where he criticises what he sees as the over-complication of the Millennium Group from an organisation he consulted for to a centuries-old clandestine order. I feel it, Frank.
"Roosters crow at the dawn hoping to arouse the barnyard, but the owl knows it is still late at night. The foxes are about. The master sleeps. This is who we are" - An Owl

Millennium 2x16 Roosters ****

Things are mercifully made clearer in this second part, so maybe Morgan and Wong learned something from The Other Show after all and didn't want to risk a similar audience backlash for being too cryptic (too late for that, I hear the ratings were on a steady slide all the way to cancellation). The discordant Millennium Group remains a little shady and ambiguous in its morals, but when we're presented with a villainous third party comprised of actual Nazis, the Owl and Rooster factions come out looking pretty clean.

The old guy from the lodge is the only Millennium member who's really above reproach and a reliable confidante for Frank and Lara, so in the X-Files tradition he was never going to last long. I'm glad they found something for Catherine to do again, just to give that character some purpose even if she's utterly uncompelling, and her fractured relationship with Frank is played nicely against the Millennium Group's internal squabbles.

What's changed after this pivotal mid-series two-parter? Millennium looks a little darker, Frank and Catherine are still far from safe domestic bliss and Peter Watts has got some of his untrustworthiness back, which is how I like him best. I'm sure the countdown clock to doomsday was an exciting feature of these episodes for viewers at the time, but watching with knowledge that the series wouldn't live to see 2000 just feels tragic.
"Not revealing the truth is the equivalent of a lie" - Catherine Black

Millennium 2x17 Siren ***

Back to strictly episodic territory, the writers still like to shoehorn in vague notions of wider implications. The best scenes here are the glimpses Frank's offered into an alternate life where he's back to the idyllic post-traumatic domestic life we saw in the pilot, but with the threat of evil lurking in the shadows. Would his loved ones really be better off if he retired, or is his work vital to protecting them? You're not going to get any answers, but it's an interesting angle.

Less interesting is the serial-killer-of-the-week, which is intimated to be a supernatural temptress taking the form of a dead woman. It's another plot that would have been better suited to The X-Files, which I guess means they're running out of ideas for this show already. Defeating her with the aid of a walkman is borderline goofy.

Frank teams up with Lara again, who's back to obvious moralising about the evils of human trafficking and misogyny (you don't say) but is cute when Catherine visits and she feels the need to explain her way out of a situation that wasn't awkward until she opened her mouth. As usual, I'm glad they found a place for Frank's wife and daughter in the episode, and it builds on Jordan's psychic abilities too.

Our hero Frank is shown to be above base seduction, but the temptress still finds his weak spot. It's refreshing that such a violent show doesn't let the audience or the protagonist forget about the time he killed that guy to protect his family.
"It's refreshing to hear someone even more cynical than I am" - Frank Black

Millennium 2x18 In Arcadia Ego **

One of the more throwaway episodes, this is another of those stories that makes you feel sympathy for the murdering cons on the run so you feel sad when they get their overly bleak just desserts.

Because it's 1998, characters are allowed to be disdainful of lesbian relationships, and the guard who confesses to raping one of the inmates while she was unconscious in the infirmary doesn't get any kind of punishment on screen, he's presumably just fired like the last time he did it.

Fortunately, Frank and Peter aren't shown to harbour any of this homophobia and the episode is sympathetic to the escaped criminals, but I wonder why they decided to use Peter rather than Lara to make it such a blatant game of boys vs. girls. I'm glad Frank still uses his profiling skills at least, as the show's veered increasingly away from that - the paranormal intervention here is back to being vague and a matter of interpretation.

Because it's 1998, there are also no kisses between the lovers during their various crises and elations, obviously. Dismembered body parts every week are fine, but two women kissing just isn't suitable for the children.
"Do you believe in miracles?" - Janette

Millennium 2x19 Anamnesis *

At least they tried something different. At least they gave Catherine a chance in the limelight. Shame it was so bad.

Catherine bizarrely teams up with Lara Means to investigate a teenager's supposed holy visions in an episode that feels more out of place in the series than usual, which is an impressive feat. With their believer/sceptic dynamic, kid kults and nocturnal forest vigils, this feels even more like The X-Files than the several other recent episodes that have really felt like they belonged over there, and Catherine's refusal to believe her eyes even after an unambiguous apparition rivals Scully's sceptical tenacity.

There's more angel twaddle, patronising lessons about early Christianity, Mary Magdalene and the Christ bloodline conspiracy, and references back to the polaroid guy in a clumsy attempt to force mythology into it. I don't know why Lance Henriksen wasn't the lead in this one - whether he requested the time off or they just really wanted to make Megan Gallagher earn her star credit - but without his presence this is an easy contender for the worst episode of the series. I hope it stays at the bottom of that list as I plod through season three.
"I am the whore and the holy one, I am the wife and the virgin, I am the mother and the daughter" - The Gnostic Gospels

Millennium 2x20 A Room With No View ****

This is one of the bleakest yet, but unlike some recent episodes it feels justified. With minimal lip service paid to the wider mythology, this would be a good introduction to the series for newcomers, though they might wonder who Lucy Butler is. To be fair, so might regular viewers considering the demoness last appeared in season one - a shame they didn't make more of this potential adversary.

Since killing Bletcher and tearing apart Frank's family, Lucy's been collecting aspiring young people with the seeming intention of breaking their spirits before letting them back into the world. Even with no on-screen murders, this is one of the more horrific installments, and the tension is maintained courtesy of sporadic demon flashes and ceaseless muzak.

What keeps this from being one of the best episodes for me is that the focus on Frank is a little minimal, though he's clearly more personally affected by this week's unholy antics than usual as he tries to call his daughter repeatedly. Morgan and Wong mix in smart commentary on the narrow scope of the American education system - they're not doing too badly with this season really, give them a break.
"A quality of person, sense of humor, heart, these are not on any applications. It's all about your numbers" - Teresa Roe

Millennium 2x21 Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me *****

I was anticipating something a little different from the norm for the esteemed Darin Morgan's second outing for the franchise, but no one could have expected this. I frequently had to question whether it was really the inspired departure from the established format that it seemed to be, or some kind of terrible abomination. That's how good it is.

You can really tell this is written by the guy who brought us the two Jose Chung episodes, as the sense of potentially destructive fourth wall breaking that was a little too much for me even in The X-Files somehow gets away with it in this more serious show. Maybe because light relief is so rare in this series, this Amicus-style anthology of four tales told by demons in the framing setting of a donut diner gives regular viewers time off from the Millennium Group and Frank's domestic troubles. Our protagonist only appears fleetingly in cameos at the end of each story, though he leaves a lasting impression on the unholy horde.

I feel bad for giving away any details of this episode to anyone who's planning on watching it, you should just give it a try. It doesn't mattter if you have no idea or interest in what this show's about, as that won't help you. Morgan's four narratives are all distinct and feel like they come from different writers, but the highlight is the third tale that holds nothing back in attacking TV Broadcast Standards and Practices departments that presented such obstacles to Morgan during his time on The Other Show. There's even an X-Files parody/homage that's sure to be appreciated by fans and casual viewers alike, and it's great to hear Mark Snow imitate his own iconic music while trying not to plagiarise himself.

Sure, some of it goes too far, like the headbanging CGI devil baby. What the hell was that? But embrace the madness and you'll have a great time. When is Millennium going to be this fun again? As much as I've enjoyed some of the series' sombre and thoughtful episodes, I'm pretty sure this is going to end up being my favourite of them all.
"All roads to hell lead through coin-operated laundromats" - Abum

Millennium 2x22 The Fourth Horseman *****

The previous comic episode feels like it was even more of a necessity with this on the horizon. Morgan & Wong end their season-long stewardship of Chris Carter's series by leaving things in a much worse position than they were before, but it was worth it for two stand-out episodes that are definitely among my favourites of the series, even if I can't see myself coming back to them to relive the anguish. I'm not that much of a masochist.

While the less successful 'Owls'/'Roosters' two-parter earlier in the season posed more questions about the Millennium Group than it answered, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the group after this - or as Frank now views them, the cult. The exposure of Millennium's dark side hasn't been a smooth ride, and for most of the season it has felt like no one knew what they were doing, but it all comes together here in a satisfying way, so I guess they're excused.

While Millennium seem to be honest in their goal to safeguard humanity from the coming apocalypse, of which they have a wealth of very specific information, their decision not to intervene and only to protect their own interests rubs Frank up the wrong way, and he even brings Peter on side after he relives some personal grief. While the year 2000 is some way off, the engineered virus subtly infecting the world isn't exactly going to escape the history books... which makes it a bit confusing in light of the later merging of the Millennium and X-Files universes, I don't remember Mulder and Scully going through this. Maybe it happened when they were in Antarctica or something.
"So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given to them over the fourth of the Earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death... and by the beasts of the earth" - Revelation 6:8

Millennium 2x23 The Time Is Now ****

This apocalyptic season finale has extreme highs and lows, so I'll get the low points out of the way first. Lara's fever dream music video is really over-the-top, which would be fine in a canonically loose Darin Morgan episode but feels out of place here. One of the major turning points of the franchise also comes out of the blue and could be viewed as overly dark, but I think it was for the best - a main character exits who hasn't really been an asset to the show since it started, I'm actually looking forward to seeing how things continue without them.

Now I can talk about how much I loved this. With the exception of the insane Lara, the characters are at their best and pushed to their limits, and I was glad to see Peter come around fully to Frank's side, even losing his threatening, superior air. Terry O'Quinn makes a fantastic villain, but this feels right for his character's arc, though I'm sure they'll find ways to ruin it next season.

This is one of the best episodes for Jordan Black too, as she deals with loss in various ways and questions her parents about matters of life, death and afterlife that might be some small consolation to the poor kid after the credits roll. It's also adorably cute that her front teeth are missing - sorry to ruin the bleak atmosphere.

I can see the Millennium Group becoming Frank's (and Peter's?) adversaries in season three - partly because I remember them being mentioned in threatening terms in the later X-Files episode (this also clears up why a key character wasn't there), but also because it's personal now. The group is powerful, ancient and not above dirty tricks, but I don't fancy their chances against Lance Henriksen.

This would have made for a memorable series finale if they hadn't been picked up for one more round, but I'm glad it wasn't. To leave things like this would have been an act of unprecedented cruelty. Right, because I'm sure the third season's going to be japes and chortles all the way...

...Hey, wait a minute - whatever happened to the dog???
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last" - Revelation 22:13

Millennium 3x01 The Innocents ***

I try to keep myself isolated from spoilers - which is admittedly easier when you're watching a show from 20 years ago that nobody's talking about any more - but when doing my preliminary reading to decide whether this series looked worthy of my time I became aware of the commonly held view that season one is solid, season two is too weird for its own good and season three is a bland attempt to go back to basics and bring in new viewers.

Well, I found the second season more engrossing than the first thanks to the mythology elements, so I get contrarian points there, but as open-minded as I try to be, I don't think I'll be able to break the mould and consider this final season the high point of the show.

For a start, the apocalyptic climax of the previous cliffhanger is really toned down to the point that Catherine was one of a relatively small number of people to die, and Frank now believes the Millennium Group was explicitly responsible for her death, despite that not really being the case. After dallying around with Peter Watts and Lara Means last season, Frank finally gets a permanent sidekick in the form of Emma Hollis, who I can't get much of a handle on right now. She seems alert and not afraid to go over her superiors' heads in the name of... yeah, she's little more than a stock character at the moment.

More disappointing is Frank relocating to Washington and consulting for the FBI, which doesn't help to make this series stand apart from its more famous sibling. Frank's huffy FBI boss is less charismatic and smarmy than Giebelhouse too, and after developing into something different over the course of the previous year, Frank's psychic flashes are now back to square one. It's really a step backwards.

Oh yeah, there's an actual plot to deal with too. Right. In the opening half of this two-parter penned by new showrunners Michael Duggan and Chip Johannessen (writers whose previous contributions to the series haven't especially stood out), a plane is brought down in a slightly less impressive wreckage than The X-Files' 'Tempus Fugit' and Frank and Emma connect it to a series of other incidents all involving horrific child death. There's no danger of this show getting lighter in tone, at least.

More interesting for regular viewers is seeing how Frank and Jordan are coping with the loss of Catherine five months down the line, and the archive video of Frank's psychological evaluation closer to the event is the most emotive Lance Henriksen has ever been on the show, it's very sad. Still, I can't say I'm glad to see that superfluous character out of the picture, and I like the new father-daughter dynamic - I just hope Hollis proves to be more useful.
"You see things differently. That's what they say" - Emma Hollis

Millennium 3x02 Exegesis ****

While I wasn't overly impressed by the first half of this two-parter - mainly because I was coming to terms with the new direction of the show (same as the old direction) - this concluding part is actually really good. Though with secret Cold War psychic projects, experimental cloning, cryptic alarm clock messages and FBI agents running around abandoned buildings with handguns it feels so much like The X-Files I have to wonder why they're even bothering to make two shows at this point. Even the title is such an X-Files title.

Peter Watts and the Millennium Group make a welcome return, though it's disappointing to see Peter abandon his character development and the group lose its shades of grey to become the clear villains of the piece. Just in case you were holding on to the idea of the lesser of two evils or something, the episode's handy resident psychic informs us that Millennium is basically trying to bring about the end of the world after all. If only Frank's own psychic abilities weren't so rubbish, he could have saved us all a lot of time.

The prospect of Lance Henriksen and Terry O'Quinn going head-to-head for the rest of the year is pretty exciting because they're both fantastic, but it feels like another over simplification to make this dying show more palatable for the masses who weren't watching anyway. Frank's new partner doesn't do much to distinguish herself here, except get stressed out by cover-ups and question authority. If it makes it easier to just think of her as Dana Scully, that'll do.
"We sense the chaos. We worry. We wait. Who's going to see a different future?" - Frank Black

Millennium 3x03 TEOTWAWKI **

X-Files mytharc architects Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz make a season-skipping return to pen a forgettable episode about high school shootings. Way to be less dark there, Chris. The series also makes its first reference to the Millennium/Y2K bug, which I didn't realise until now was glaringly absent amidst the various apocalyptic scenarios being put forward by characters and factions. There are deliberately no efforts to tie this in with any type of larger plot though, as that basically doesn't exist any more.

It's nice to see Giebelhouse is still around, though it looks like the fresh faces introduced this season will be here to stay in all their smugly superior blandness. Robert 'Pusher' Wisden also makes his second unrelated guest appearance in this series after 'Monster' less than a year earlier, which is just lazy casting.

Three episodes in, it sadly seems the post-movie slump that affected The X-Files applied across the board. That other show got five seasons under its belt before it turned mediocre.
"The only way we're going to survive is by our humanity" - Frank Black

Millennium 3x04 Closure **

Another below par episode that has nothing at all to do with the millennium this time, Frank and Emma investigate acts of seemingly random violence as she tries to extract meaning to help her come to terms with a tragedy in her own childhood that's still affecting her. She's like a more down-to-earth Fox Mulder in that regard, except that it's Frank who's perpetually, infallibly right and who she has to learn to stop questioning just for efficiency's sake.

Frank's squarely back in his season one mould, with no references being made to his life outside the job and even his job itself seeming ambiguous now. He reads up on his new partner's psych file but he isn't sneaky about it, and he applauds her accurate insights into the case so we can know she's capable. His 'flashes' are also back to being unhelpful glimpses of objects and body parts - so much for progress.

Today's villains are less interesting than season one's nutjobs too, due to the random nature of what they do. It's entertaining enough seeing them kill a guy for snoring too loud and involving an unwilling participant in a deadly game, but then it descends into a dubmass shootout and I mourn the decline of a show that was previously on the verge of being a classic.
"What if there is no why?" - Emma Hollis

Millennium 3x05 ...Thirteen Years Later **

Yes, it is. Don't worry, it's not as bad as you're thinking, though it's still not as funny and nowhere near as clever as it thinks it's being.

This isn't Millennium's first stab at a more comedic episode, but Darin Morgan isn't writing it this time and it feels like it's trying too hard, just like The X-Files when that show tried to do comedy post season five (e.g. 'Dreamland'). The plot is that a "genius" killer (according to Frank, though there is the get-out clause that this could all be an exaggerated account, if not fabricated altogether) is basing his murders on horror films that happen to be showing on TV at the same time, and has chosen the cast and crew of a bad horror B-movie for his pickings.

Right from the start they have to make the film-within-a-film segments over-the-top and cheesy, because when the "real" attacks happen they're almost as laughable, a far cry from the darkness and tension this series normally does so well. The show cynically excuses its titillation indulgence under the veil of irony too, and KISS shows up and features in an impromptu 'Psycho Circus' music video interrupting the action just for the sake of it.

I get what they were doing by highlighting the dumbing down of true crime flicks, and I'm an English literature graduate so I know what an unreliable narrator is. This story had the potential to be really good if it was handled a lot better, but it made me annoyed more than anything, and even a little embarrassed on the series' behalf.

The only scene I really enjoyed was Emma educating Frank in classic horror films and him dismissing each one as trite and unrealistic, or offering alternate motives for the masked killers based on his profiling skills. Basically, last year's Halloween episode ('The Curse of Frank Black') was a lot better. Are they going to go through the seasonal cycle again?
"Never believe anything you see on Halloween" - Reverend M. Goodman

Millennium 3x06 Skull and Bones ***

Okay, we're back to some sort of mythology, and we find out a little more about the (revised) Millennium Group courtesy of the admittedly unreliable (and revised) Peter Watts. Like Frank and Emma are more or less Mulder and Scully now, the group is now basically the Syndicate, carrying out heinous individual acts for what they perceive to be the greater good of American/colonial interests in this modern hell.

It doesn't explicitly contradict the established mythology, it's just a dumbing down, but I'm trying to get on board so I don't seem like a stubborn Morgan & Wong fanboy. The newfound nefarious nature of the group makes me retroactively wish that more people had been suspicious of Frank in the previous seasons when he announced his affiliation, but that's expecting too much of a series written on the fly.

I won't gripe too much, as this is a better episode than the last few and it's good to see Emma come to her own conclusions about the group rather than relying solely on Frank's emotional distrust, but she's smart enough not to be taken in by Peter's smooth talking either. I also really liked the paranoid-of-the-week, who found patterns linking Millennium's activities hiding in plain sight. Okay, he also thought squirrels were talking and saw skeletons all over the place, but he was the one in ten thousand crazies who's actually onto something.

It's a shame to see Cheryl Andrews killed off for plot purposes, though they at least brought the actress back to film the flashback scenes, unlike Roedecker who was written out last year with a throwaway line. I suppose we should be on the lookout for that eye symbol hiding on walls in the background of future episodes too (it was in the school shooting one, I think), if that's what the mytharc has boiled down to. Chip Johannessen is probably the best writer they have left now, so hopefully he'll churn out a few more above average installments before this can be put to rest.
"Paranoid delusions reinforce themselves. Every new fact tends to confirm the fiction" - Peter Watts

Millennium 3x07 Through a Glass Darkly ***

Another bloody dark episode dealing with child abduction and murder. Chris Carter's desire to make the show lighter and more commercial in the third season apparently means people love to see 10-year-old girls locked in basements until they die of dehydration. We're all guilty.

The Millennium Group isn't in this one, but Jordan is, and she's being a bit vision-y again, so that's nice. Frank is his upstanding moral self, initially rejecting the release of a child molester/murderer back into the community after he's served his time, but not being so swept up by the town's vengeful Paedogeddon hysteria to be blind to what's really going on.

This is quite a nasty episode, comparable to 'The Well-Worn Lock' of season one or the better 'A Room With No View' of season two, but it doesn't really offend me in terms of quality or direction like some recent episodes have. There's no cameo by KISS, for instance, though some of the imagery did seem to come straight from Korn albums. It's always nice to spend time in the woods too.
"How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? ... I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven" - Matthew 18:21-22

Millennium 3x08 Human Essence **

I miss when this show used to be any good. Emma Hollis gets something of a focal episode, but try not to hold it against her - she doesn't know it's the final season and that you'd rather see more of Frank and less of her putting her career on the line for her secret sister and uncovering an even more secret compound being added to heroin to create an army of strange-eyed monster people.

It's so much like a bad X-File, right through to the conclusion where a frustrated Frank tries in vain to persuade a hesitant assistant director to expose this shady government research. How is this a Millennium episode? The only thing that comes close is last season's 'Sense and Antisense,' which had the same problems.

There are no prophecies of the end times or scenes where Frank struggles to balance his professional and fatherhood responsibilities, instead there are 'edgy' shots of heroin use, fiery explosions, bad Chinese drug men and chases through dark buildings. The only thing that's even worthy of note is that an apartment resident can be heard watching The X-Files, creating a canon nightmare when those two universes merge later. I liked it anyway.
"There are no rules, Andy. Only expedience and necessities" - Frank Black

Millennium 3x09 Omertà **

I guess they are doing all the festive episodes again. As expected for this lacklustre season, it's not as good as last year's 'Midnight of the Century,' and I can't see it joining the ranks of classic Christmas specials. It's pretty bad actually.

Frank and Jordan escape the painful holiday season by taking a trip to a quiet mountain town where there happens to be an X-File going on. Two men apparently died and were resurrected by magic cave women, who now must be protected because they've been targeted by the mob. Something about astrology as well. Jesus, what is this episode?

I don't think I've ever made a point of mentioning young actress Brittany Tiplady's great performances in this show, so I'll do it here. She's really very good, I care about Frank and Jordan more than any other fictional parent and child I can think of, and their relationship helps to make even the bad episodes a little worth watching. So at least there's that.
"I want things to be the way they were" - Frank Black

Millennium 3x10 Borrowed Time ***

Another mediocre episode saved by the father and daughter dynamic, this one really pushes Frank to the limit and sees him begging god to take him instead as Jordan lies dying. Why was Lance Henriksen consigned to a career in B-movies and video game voice-overs? He's the Patrick Stewart of Ten Thirteen Productions.

The plot concerns some kind of ambiguous angel of death or time or something, who saves certain people from death but makes them pay for it later. The sympathetic drowning on dry land thing was used earlier in The X-Files, and putting Jordan in danger feels overly cruel but does admittedly make the drama more powerful. Maybe it's for the best that this series was cancelled, it's saved that kid a lot of misery over the years.
"Nobody gets forever" - Frank Black

Millennium 3x11 Collateral Damage ****

This is the best entry in the season so far, and gives me a little hope that the mythology - what's left of it - will see me through to the end without feeling too disappointed. More satisfyingly, it sees the return of Frank and Peter working together, strictly off the record, as Peter's daughter is abducted by a guilt-ridden Gulf War veteran whose need to expose the truth about Millennium's biological testing matches Frank's own determination to see the group brought to justice for the death of his wife.

James "Spike from Buffy" Marsters is the sympathetic lesser-villain-of-the-week, and it's always welcome when they give Terry O'Quinn the scope to do more than scowl and play mind games as Peter Watts. The sensitive circumstances of the investigation temper Frank's usual hostility, and I accept that this may be the last time these characters see eye to eye. Us dumb audiences need a clear-cut bad guy for our hero to fight against, right?
"She's your daughter ... They don't even have a name for what you're doing" - Frank Black

Millennium 3x12 The Sound of Snow ***

What is this? A concession or even apology to the fans for screwing up the show recently? An attempt to patch up outstanding plot holes? The only way they could think of for Megan Gallagher to make a cameo? Whatever their motive, I'm glad they made this thoughtful episode, which heavily references the exaggerated apocalypse that brought a memorable end to season two and which was quickly swept under the rug when the series was partially reset afterwards.

Through slightly clunky dialogue, we learn that reports of the end of the world were greatly exaggerated, so that clears that up. Frank also has a heavy-handed encounter with his dead wife's ambiguous ghost while unambiguously unconscious, which explores his feelings of guilt for not joining the Millennium Group and potentially saving her life, which didn't occur to me before. She says principles are worth dying for, and he gets to loosen one forehead crinkle from now on.

Furthering the idea of moving on, Frank revisits the iconic yellow house, that was the scene of so much happiness and despair in the early episodes, to see that it's been painted white. White house? Frank Black? Go crazy with your colour wheel theories, Breaking Bad fans. It's always good to see Giebelhouse back too, especially as he dismisses Frank's completely wrong and totally right deductions of how this week's disposable corpses died. I mourn the loss of Frank/Giebelhouse, Frank/Peter and Frank/Lara interactions more than Frank/Catherine.

With all these pseudo-revelations and extended flashbacks (they must have saved a little money there), it's easy to overlook the actual plot, which is quite interesting and retro with its focus on cassette tapes and white noise. The ending isn't totally clear, but that wasn't what it was about. The old fans have to grumble more quietly now that some of their criticisms have been addressed, and give the show's new direction a chance. Damn, that means me. Come on then, what you got?
"Every choice has a consequence" - Frank Black

Millennium 3x13 Antipas **

Sometime adversary 'Lucy Butler' makes her annual appearance and is up to her old shape-shifting, youth-corrupting tricks, with plenty of symbolism for our benefit. Her target this time is a young girl who she's already succeeded in making look quite creepy, though she also seems to be after Frank... I admit it, my attention wandered and I ended up not knowing exactly what was going on here, but even if the plot had been gripping me I doubt I'd be much more enlightened.

When it's not being needlessly cryptic, the episode feels almost like a parody of horror film cliches, though there's also the non-ironic alternative that it just really is that bad. The country house setting comes complete with a maze, monsters and an ill-fated groundskeeper who knew too much.

Lucy threatens that it'll be Jordan next time, but with the end of the series on the horizon I get the feeling we won't be around to see if she lives up to that threat. I don't know why they brought her back at all if they didn't have much use for her, she's this series' Sideshow Bob.
"You can corrupt men but you cannot corrupt innocents" - Frank Black

Millennium 3x14 Matryoshka **

Turns out it is possible for this series to get worse. This flashback-heavy episode split between the FBI of the 1940s and 1990s reminded me of The X-Files' 'Travelers,' which was one of my least favourites from the entire series, and it's similarly tedious and tangential to the things we actually care about in this series. It even throws up some unnecessary continuity problems as it's intimated that J. Edgar Hoover established the Millennium Group, but maybe he just resurrected it or the groups later merged to become the ancient esoteric cult we barely know today. I don't think the writers were paying as much attention as the viewers any more.

The presence of Peter Watts is usually enough to push these episodes a little above terrible, and this week he's being written more as a shade of grey again as he still seems interested in recruiting Frank and openly questions some of the group's methods. People have been killed for less. Let's hope he's not back to being a slimy villain next time.

I was less fond of the Jekyll and Hyde mad scientist who splits himself into two people, the evil one of which can be differentiated by lazy Buffy-esque make-up. That whole plot strand will surely stand out as one of the worst things this show ever did, but it'll always be overshadowed by that time KISS were in it.
"They took the apocalypse out of God's hands and put it in their own" - Lily Unser

Millennium 3x15 Forcing the End ***

Even if I wasn't already obsessive-compulsively contracted to see out the series, it's these occasional average episodes with hints of brilliance that keep me sticking around. I can't say yet whether this maligned third season of Millennium is worse than The X-Files' ninth - at the moment it's a tough call.

It feels like the series returns to its roots with the focus on a millennium-obsessed cult, and Frank and the Millennium Group's parallel (albeit differently motivated) efforts to rescue an abducted baby from the clutches of said cult restore welcome shades of grey to Peter Watts and the gang. Emma stands in for confused new viewers (not that there were many) as she learns that the group's intentions can sometimes be worthy, but that to accept their help is to be tempted to the dark side. This is her best episode so far, but I don't think even the die hard fans would lay any of the blame for this season's failings on her character.

The episode once again resorts to chases around abandoned buildings at the end - they could have re-used shots of Emma running down identical halls in previous episodes and we wouldn't have noticed - but like last season's 'The Hand of St. Sebastian' there are cosy candles and religious iconography to make the last act feel like a Dan Brown thriller, so enjoy that.
"And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind" - Revelation 4:6

Millennium 3x16 Saturn Dreaming of Mercury ****

If you haven't spotted this season's intermittent visual theme yet, it's: eyes. There's another attempt to link this episode to larger implications with the appearance of what may be "Lucy Butler" as one interchangeable head in a Jacob's Ladder juddering effect towards the end, but not enough to suggest she's living up to her threat of attacking Jordan. I honestly think it was a last minute thing someone suggested in the edit.

Brittany Tiplady's being given more to do as she grows up a little, and this is Jordan's most prominent episode so far. This was great news, as she's the only character other than Frank who I have any interest in now they've spoiled Peter Watts. The episode sees Jordan apparently misbehaving and acting crazy as she sees the evil in people - again using the cheap Buffy vampire make-up rather than their customary animalistic demons of earlier seasons - and Frank supports her in spite of the compelling evidence that she's just loopy.

As usual for the third season, the whole thing is pretty vague - what was going on with the eyes? - but the untouchable dark atmosphere of the first season is recaptured and things don't get quite so bogged down in specific religious notions of good and evil. Meanwhile, Emma Hollis complains about being left out of the loop when it comes to Frank's weird psychic stuff. I'm sorry your character's turned out to be just as superfluous as the former female lead, Hollis, but try to stay quiet and don't get in the way. There isn't long left.
"I see what I'm allowed to see, just like everyone else" - Frank Black

Millennium 3x17 Darwin's Eye **

Challenged preconceptions are re-challenged in another story that invites us to sympathise with a convicted lunatic - because isn't it the sheeple who blindly conform by not decapitating people that belong in the asylum? No.

I quite liked the episode as it was going along, but realised its failings after. The entire sub-plot with Emma's dementia-suffering father didn't go anywhere interesting, the cocky FBI agent who's been jealously baiting Frank all season didn't get his comeuppance, and the biggest secret hiding in Cass' wall scrawls is just a big picture of her face, which somehow no one noticed before.

Also, I'm no biologist, but even I know that her whole argument about the evolution of the eye that gives the episode its title isn't accurate at all. Sorry, creationists.
"We happened by accident, we're going to end by accident" - Cass Doyle

Millennium 3x18 Bardo Thodol **

Another pretty confusing episode, not because it's too dense and layered but because we're deliberately denied any information that would make sense of its various threads. The main thing that comes out of this tale of clones, deterioration, bloody cover-ups, Buddhist chanting and unrealistic computer viruses is that Emma Hollis (and through her the audience) learns that Peter Watts is unambiguously evil. Just when I thought the series couldn't pander further to the lowest common denominator, they strip Terry O'Quinn's formerly interesting character of any subtext. I don't buy it anyway.

They may be tying to build to something, but there's no sense of direction in the season at all. I didn't even notice any forced 'Bad Wolf'-style foreshadowing with eyes here, so maybe the repeated eye motif has just been coincidence after all. Season two was mired in double-talk and confusion at times, but at least I cared about what happened next. Knowing that this series will never even reach the millennium date doesn't fill me with confidence that the final four episodes are going to justify a mediocre year, though I just noticed there's a Carter and Spotnitz one up next.
"What's apocalypse, daddy?" - Jordan Black

Millennium 3x19 Seven and One ****

There's been less than a handful of decent episodes this season so far, and here's another. Chris Carter may have been disappointed with the directions (more accurately directionless downhill plummet) his show was taken over the years, but he didn't return to rectify it more often. This episode is too little, too late to save the series, but I'm grateful that they bothered, and it makes some nice changes to Frank's story while also going right back to basics with demon flashes and creepy polaroids.

Frank's "psychic" flashes were a controversial issue early in the series, when it was kept deliberately unclear whether he was actually seeing through the killer's eyes or was just a bloody good profiler. Morgan and Wong cleared up the ambiguity when they brought in devils and angels, and Chris Carter has the final word by evolving Frank's visions again to let him sympathise with victims rather than their slayers. It's touching and hopefully comes too late in the series for it to be abandoned or retconned again. Let Frank have this, he deserves some light in his life.

Dean Norris - Hank from Breaking Bad - makes a good secular antagonist here, as he believes Frank to be suffering a breakdown, and to be honest he has a lot of evidence on his side. Emma comes out of the episode well too, as she has her first clear insight into spiritual evil, though her most memorable contribution is as a damsel in distress when she's buried alive.

These shapeshifting demon people are getting a bit tiresome now, but when your recurring bad guys have been defined - even vaguely - you might as well stick with them when the end is nigh. Carter and Spotnitz did some fine damage control to the franchise here, with some horrific scenes that are up with the best of the series, and recapturing the tense atmosphere I used to love this show for. A shame they didn't stick around for the end.
"Evil dwells where fear lives. In a heart without fear, evil can find no purchase" - Father Yeager

Millennium 3x20 Nostalgia ***

All traces of the supernatural have been deliberately expunged from this final killer-of-the-week installment, which is mostly nostalgic in harking back to the simpler times of season one when not every murderer Frank Black investigated had to be revealed as a demon by the episode's end. There's nothing especially noteworthy here, but it's inoffensive.

It made me more nostalgic for Twin Peaks than anything, as there are too many clear nods to be a coincidence, especially when Frank checks out an earlier murder involving a girl's corpse floating down river. These forty-five minutes spent with shady local cops doesn't have the same scope for exposing the dark undercurrent of small town life as David Lynch and Mark Frost's series, and the personal connection to Hollis makes for some of the series' most awkward exposition ever, as she reminisces about her childhood with a military father and murdered sister Melissa... boy, they really know how to make these FBI agents distinctive.
"Welcome to the real world" - Emma Hollis

Millennium 3x21 Via Dolorosa ***

There's no sense of a closing chapter in what ended up being the series finale, especially not compared to the end of the previous season. Whether they already knew they were being cancelled or not, this final two-parter is basically a stand-alone case that ties loosely to the Millennium Group and has some life-changing events for Frank and Emma around the edges.

There's nothing particularly millennial about it, which is a disappointment. True, the date hasn't been reached yet - on-screen date stamps have always stayed close to the broadcast dates, and we got as far as 21st May '99 here - but that didn't stop them last time around. Instead, our story concerns a comparatively small-time killer whose quirky habits and life story directly parallel those of another killer Frank saw go to the electric chair, leading Frank to pursue the avenue of possession.

The series has generally done serial killers well, and this final dark soul is one of the more memorable. The whole thing becomes more voyeuristic as the bodies pile up and we know exactly what's going to happen but are forced to view subjectively through his night vision goggles as the deeds are carried out. This really is the show going back to basics and focusing on its strengths, I just hoped for something bigger from the last outing.

There's a sense of a larger plot as Peter Watts attempts to bribe Emma into joining the group by offering a cure for her father's advancing Alzheimer's - a condition they may have caused in the first place so they'd be in a position to make this bargain. She isn't biting yet. As much as I view Peter as a troubled man who believes his actions are justified, his ubiquitous presence around crime scenes and the FBI offices is a little chilling, and that's all down to Terry O'Quinn's performance over the uneven scripts they've given him this year. Remember, Cancer Man never doubted he was the good guy either.
"Big diamond ring on her finger, I mean who wouldn't want to hack it off and stuff it in her mouth?" - Edward Cuffle

Millennium 3x22 Goodbye to All That ***

It's such an insult to cancel a show that hinges around the millennium just when the big day is on the horizon. This show was effectively designed to run 3.33 seasons, and a little mini-series in the autumn schedule would have been just the ticket. Surely Fox would have had no trouble spinning it at the height of millennium fever? 'Chris Carter's Millennium Finally Gets Relevant.' It just seems ridiculous to run this show for three years and cancel it just when casual viewers might be interested again, even if the ratings had admittedly become terrible and even the fans had largely started switching off. It's like these network executives are running a business or something.

So anyway, the year 2000 doesn't arrive, dogs and cats don't start living together and no one important dies - not on screen anyway, but Peter Watts can't be long for this world. There is some sense of closure as Frank and Jordan leave their lives behind to start again somewhere new for the third time, while Emma makes a pact with the devil - not literally, we're not doing demons any more, the audience didn't like it - and is the hot tip for taking over the department just in time for the new year.

There's potential for all this to have been very interesting, but it could also have been as disappointing as this season was in general. Now it's time to see how Frank's coda in The X-Files stands up from the other side...
"Man has made a mess of Eden" - Peter Watts

Top 5 Millennium episodes

With a comparatively short run (67 episodes compared to its sister show's 200+), a top 10 Millennium countdown seemed superfluous, as even some of the stand-alone stories I really liked didn't feel like they would have made the list if the show had run for longer, and under more competent stewardship. I cobbled together a tentative top 10 regardless, and season three was only represented at the bottom end by 'Seven and One,' which I'm not even sure about as some of the first season's serial killer plots might have been more deserving. Five will do.

I'm through focussing on the negatives now. The X-Files bogged me down in lacklustre episodes for its last few seasons, but now those memories have faded compared to how much I'll always love the first half. The effect was just more condensed with Millennium's three schizophrenic years, and in the first two at least there were plenty of times they got it right.

#1. The Fourth Horseman / The Time Is Now (2x22/23)

Morgan and Wong end their run on the series by advancing Armageddon and leaving things in a sorry state that would have made a much more powerful finale than what we got a year later. I could have done without Lara's music video segment, but Frank and Peter are at their best.

#2. Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me (2x21)

I'm not sure how the irrepressibly anarchic Darin Morgan gets away with this over-the-top episode, but its placement between overly serious installments works to its benefit. It doesn't really feel like an episode of Millennium, but then neither do many episodes in this constantly shifting series.

#3. Lamentation (1x18)

Season one was strong overall, but it lacked a grand storyline until near the end. This direction may have only lasted a few episodes until the show changed hands and was completely transformed, but you can still see the promise in this exceedingly grim entry that brings evil into the Blacks' yellow house.

#4. The Thin White Line (1x14)

The series' premise is basically Se7en and this episode is basically Silence of the Lambs, but it's very good so it doesn't matter. It's the first episode to really focus on Frank's psychology - the deeper 'The Curse of Frank Black' would have been in my top ten too - and Biblical notions of evil are kept to the sidelines as we deal with human nastiness.

#5. Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense (2x09)

It's a bit of a cop-out to choose both Darin Morgan episodes, but this was the first episode of the series that dared take a lighter tone, and it was a long time coming. Morgan reigns in his wacky excesses and preserves Millennium's trademark atmosphere while poking fun at the dark tendencies of the show and its gruff lead.

Space: Above and Beyond (1995-96)

Space: Above and Beyond 1 - Pilot, Part 1 ***

Here's another space show of which I barely have memories and everyone else has all but forgotten. It's tangentially related to The X-Files, created by James Morgan and Glen Wong during their break from that other series to focus their efforts on creating the stand-out action sci-fi show of the 90s. It was cancelled after one season.

The barely-memory I have is watching this pilot episode on its British TV debut - at least, I seemed to be under the impression it was the pilot. The only scene I remember is one of the marines blasting lasers from a gun turret, but as that scene wasn't in this two-part opener I might just be misremembering Han Solo from Star Wars or Deadeye Duck from Bucky O'Hare. I'll keep my eyes peeled for the gun turret, though I don't think I watched any more episodes.

This series feels like an intriguing take on a very old idea. I like the near-future setting and if the world-building continues to be as clunkily integrated as this in the rest of the episodes, we'll end up with a fully fleshed-out future by the end of the month. While there are explosions, yelling drill sergeants (look! It's that guy from every other army show and film) and space battle simulators, there's also time to explore issues like positive discrimination and genetic engineering. At the moment I have no idea which characters I'm supposed to care about.
"They're going to yell a lot, aren't they?" - Paul Wang

Space: Above and Beyond 2 - Pilot, Part 2 ***

The cocky marines get their first mission in Earth's time of need and succeed admirably. Most of them do anyway, as a character I assumed would be a major protagonist is slaughtered in the first few minutes. I still haven't warmed to any of these hot-headed upstarts yet, I guess they're just not my type of people. Throw in an underhanded Gaius Baltar and you'll hook me in.

That wasn't the only time I thought of the 'reimagined' Battlestar Galactica while watching this. Elements of the plot are very similar, some of the characters are just as irritating and will hopefully warm on me, and the space fight scenes are really preminiscent (Blogger tells me that's not a word) of that later series. There's even a spacefight with a Ramones backing track a decade before the Colonial Forces would go into battle to a Hendrix cover. If S:A&B hadn't been cancelled and had enjoyed a long and successful run, I'd be making BSG comparisons the right way round.

The death of rock 'n' roll is surely the grimmest aspect of this mid-21st century dystopia. Actually, the social unrest and impending war with mysterious aliens is probably worse. Yeah, that second one. Sorry, I don't know what I was thinking.
"The one certainty in war is that in an hour, maybe two, you'll either still be alive or you'll be dead" - Tyrus Cassius McQueen

Space: Above and Beyond 3 - The Farthest Man from Home ***

Now the basic, depressing premise of the series has been established, there's time to learn more about the characters. There isn't time to learn their changeable call signs, so I'll get to know them on a friendly, first name basis instead, starting with Nathan. His generic face, optimistic attitude and tendency towards reckless insubordination make him the obvious candidate for 'hero.' He's sort of like the Starbuck, only even easier to dislike, as he goes AWOL and everyone else feels peer pressure to go and get him back. Dick.

We see more of the Chigs, as the aliens have been dubbed, and their irredeemable evilness is confirmed when they shoot a dog. The characters spout an impressive array of Newspeak future terms that there's also not enough time to bother compiling a glossary for. I think 'mikes' are minutes or something.
"Every life in this war is tied together" - Tyrus Cassius McQueen

Space: Above and Beyond 4 - The Dark Side of the Sun **

It's Shane (female Shane)'s time in the limelight this week, and her recurring nightmares and flashbacks to childhood trauma introduce another set of enemies to this already miserable universe in the form of the Silicates, another form of synthetic life bred by humans who eventually rebelled and tried to kill their masters. Just in case the Battlestar Galactica parallels weren't smothering enough already.

This is a confusing distraction from the conflict with the Chigs, especially as it results in basically the same type of episode as last week, as our heroes run around on a rocky planet in the dark getting shot at and shooting things. The big difference is that Chigs don't seem to have much time for gambling, whereas the Silicates can't get enough of it. I don't get it, are they supposed to be cute or terrifying?
"Fate's a bitch" - Silicate

Space: Above and Beyond 5 - Mutiny ***

Another swerve away from the main war plot, this time to spend some time with the In Vitroes for some hard-hitting social commentary that's unfortunately boring and obvious too. The Tanks, as they're colloquially known due to their growth in labs, are evidently still being treated as second-rate citizens by being shipped off to perform menial manual labour in distant and dangerous parts of space, and our characters just won't stand for that. The ones that are In Vitroes themselves anyway, no one else seems too fussed about their plight until they launch a mutiny.

These noble themes are dealt with through convenient plot contrivances as the section of the ship housing cryogenically frozen Tanks is earmarked for powering down to save the 'human' crew and Hawkes learns he has a test tube sister who just happens to be in there. There's plenty of clumsy dialogue and nascent character development that doubtless would have got better as the seasons went by, but unfortunately this single year is all I have to base it on.

It seems they really liked the CGI sun effects from last time as they over-use the same software again. This also might be the episode I saw as a kid with the gun turret that I mentioned in the pilot, though tellingly I couldn't remember anything else about it.
"Pain is part of being human" - Cooper Hawkes

Space: Above and Beyond 6 - Ray Butts ***

I might be very gradually getting into this series, though it certainly helps when they stick to the primary arc rather than going all over the place with Silicates, In-Vitroes and other home-grown menaces that aren't aliens. That inevitably means this is very similar to what's come before - a dangerous mission on a fake-looking planet that later takes to the skies, dressings-down by an asshole colonel and space tactics taken straight from trench warfare that forget things are 3D up there.

This week's asshole colonel is the eponymous Ray Butts, a no-nonsense, whiskey swillin', Johnny Cash repeatin' rogue agent who temporarily enlists the Wildcards on a foolish mission to bury some bodies and eventually earns their grudging respect in time for his own completely unforeseen death that was obviously going to happen all along.

The final shot is of a load of pancakes floating in space backed by Cash's 'I Walk the Line.' I don't think this is even supposed to be a comedy episode.
"I guess Ray Butts has ate his last pancake" - Ray Butts

Space: Above and Beyond 7 - Eyes ***

After possibly the most by-the-numbers episode last time there are some genuinely surprising plot twists in this shady tale of political conspiracy and mind controlled assassins. The Wildcards being the ones assigned to protect various delegates the moment they arrive back on Earth to have shore leave cancelled due to terrorism isn't one of them.

It's another In Vitro episode too, which means more screen time for Hawkes and McQueen. They're not really my favourite characters, but I can't think of anyone I particularly like more or less, so it'll do.
"Loyalty can't be tested by questions and answers" - Cooper Hawkes

Space: Above and Beyond 8 - The Enemy **

After the conspiracy intrigue last time, we're still in X-Files territory as our heroes get zapped by space rays and go nuts, in scenes that look more reminiscent of Laserquest. These plucky rookies once again succeed where their betters failed, as the magic of teamwork allows them to overcome their own enhanced fears.

We don't learn much more about the characters during this psychological crisis though, as these enhanced phobias are mainly used to reiterate their personal quests, though we do learn that Wang doesn't like insects very much. The whole thing's bookended and interspersed with tedious inquiry scenes that all turn out well in the end and might just have been inserted when they noticed the episode was running under time.
"This thing... it's beyond fear" - Cooper Hawkes

Space: Above and Beyond 9 - Hostile Visit ****

Finally it feels like this series is hitting its stride, and you can smell the looming To Be Continued even after the first act, this just feels too grand in scope to be squashed into a single episode.

The recovery of an alien ship offers humanity (and In-Vitroanity) its first glimmer of hope in this doomed war, and watching the crew get to grips with genuinely alien technology is a rare treat in TV sci-fi, where alien ships usually feature the same consoles as Earth ones, but with the blue flashing buttons swapped for red ones. It looks sort of like the intro from Blockbusters in there, but I still buy it.

Sadly, they start rolling out the war cliches in the second half as McQueen motivates the marines with a mixture of Vietnam speeches and kamikaze poetry to show they're not racist, and the characters are pressured into showing their true colours with one of those "this suicide mission is voluntary, I won't respect anyone who doesn't show up at 0600" scenes I saw in Deep Space Nine a couple of times, and presumably a load of hack Vietnam films too. They all show up, obviously, and get shot down. Bet you they all survive.
"It's a good day to die" - Tyrus Cassius McQueen

Space: Above and Beyond 10 - Choice or Chance ***

In the best Star Trek two-parter tradition, the resolution isn't as exciting as the build-up, largely because the cliche quotient is raised even higher than it was previously, and that's saying something. They avoid the "guard, my friend is sick - *whack* *steal uniform*" one at least, but the fake betrayal, shape-shifting girlfriend pretender and unrealistic escape through open, unprotected terrain scenes are all in there.

The strangest plot development is the tying together of the Chig and Silicate story arcs that have been set up in earlier episodes (hopefully the set-up's all out of the way now and they can concentrate on stories), as the aliens employ the robotic humans in hostile environments. It's a bit mad, there are really no reasons for either party to trust each other beyond a 'the enemy of my enemy' philosophy.

In a controversial plot development, all the characters are shown to remain strong and resolute throughout their ordeals apart from Wang - specifically noted as the Asian guy by his torturer - who finally cracks under pressure and records an incriminating confession, though fortunately he's rescued before anything can come of it. Apparently the actor wasn't especially pleased with this depiction of yet another cowardly Asian stereotype in American television, though in Wang's defence, he did get tortured and breathed on a lot. Personally, I'm more offended by the two In Vitro characters reminding each other what they are in the dialogue for the benefit of viewers.

Everyone's okay and the status quo is restored, roll on the next arbitrary episode.
"Would you like a hamburger?" - Elroy-El

Space: Above and Beyond 11 - Stay with the Dead ***

Nathan is rescued from another rocky, lightningy hellworld and told he's the only survivor of the 58th squadron. What's more, he even sent a radio message stating that the others are dead, so there's no room for ambiguity. That was pretty abrupt - I guess the remaining 13 episodes will all be flashbacks or something? I guess it was a brave decision by the writers to kill off all but the most annoying character (which is saying something), this early in the...

Oh, okay, turns out it was all a trick. I didn't see that coming. Glen Morgan and James Wong continue to paint an unremittingly depressing vision of a future where rock 'n' roll is dead but Christianity and the state are firmly entwined. The Chigs are doing them a favour.
"Why can't we ever get a planet with a friendly name?" - Shane Vansen

Space: Above and Beyond 12 - The River of Stars ***

In this dreary Christmas special, the Wildcards are stranded after a battle with no way to call for help and a dwindling air supply. I wonder if they will survive?

The scenario gives time for the core characters to get closer, going even further down the soap opera route. Fortunately, there's still a smidgeon of sci-fi as they try to hitch a ride on a comet with a welcome spacewalk scene. Unfortunately, the arbitrary Christmas setting invites over-sentimentality and further demonstrations of the enduring spirit of Christianity in this dystopian future. At least Wang's pedantically sceptical - he's emerged as my favourite character of the series, though that's not saying an awful lot.

The crew's obsessive history buffs make more convoluted references to World War I, the Apollo 8 mission and the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman series. That bit was kind of cute, I suppose.
"It's that old TV show. Where one guy's like a bat and the other's like a bird. I like that show" - Nathan West

Space: Above and Beyond 13 - Who Monitors the Birds? ****

This is just the sort of atypical episode the series needed at this point to keep me interested (and presumably the people watching back in 1996 too), and it might be the best so far unless the last one I said that about was better. They tend to blur together, which is why this one's refreshing - if a little gimmicky - with its almost complete lack of dialogue. At least they're trying something different, even if much of the silent action takes place on another Earth-like planet where Hawkes has been dispatched to dispatch more Chigs.

Cooper Hawkes is one of the more interesting characters, and we're spared his typical emo brooding this time as he skulks around in forests hallucinating and recalling his past, Lost-style. These are the better scenes of the episode, with some overdue world-building as we see how In Vitroes are 'born' and 'raised' to become patriotic cannon fodder.

There's also a nice scene where Hawkes and a wounded Chig gain mutual respect, just to rub in the message that maybe we're not so different, you and I, and in a different reality I could have called you friend. Then he kills him, ah well.
"Until we meet again" - Ghost Vansen. What's up with that?

Space: Above and Beyond 14 - Level of Necessity **

WRITER 1: Is that all the characters sufficiently introduced and backstoried-up now?

WRITER 2: Looks like it... oh wait, we don't know anything about Lieutenant Damphousse.

WRITER 1: Who?

WRITER 2: Lanei Chapman's character.

WRITER 1: Who?

WRITER 2: The black girl.

WRITER 1: Oh, yeah. Well... we could give her psychic powers out of nowhere?

WRITER 2: Sounds good to me. That's lunch.
"I work with nuts who have special abilities" - Matthew Burke

Space: Above and Beyond 15 - Never No More ***

After starting to personalise the faceless Chigs in 'Who Monitors the Birds?', this episode introduces a Chig flying ace who these history fanatics inevitably find a World War I comparison for. It doesn't make much sense that this alien would daub his ship with English graffiti, and it makes the Chigs less satisfyingly alien when they start acting like bragging cocks, but I suppose the series is crying out for villains with character. He's still out there, but whether Chiggy von Richthofen will be a recurring enemy or was left for later seasons that never happened remains to be seen. Less than ten to go now.

Speaking of forced characterisation, this time it's Vansen's turn to be reminded of her past as an old lover shows up and we place bets on how long into the episode he'll last. The characters are starting to grow on me, which might be down to the actors rather than the scripts, but I wasn't especially invested in watching the younger Vansen philosophise about change when I'd rather be back in the present watching primitive CGI space battles.

I'm happy that they're continuing to push the general arc forwards at least, as McQueen's superiors disclose that the Chig homeworld has been discovered and a major offensive is imminent. Less impressive is the narration they've layered over the top of the formerly inspirational opening credits that tries desperately to bring new viewers up to speed, but ends up focusing on some details that are relatively minor and ignoring others (like the Silicates). Maybe they'll change depending on the theme of the episode, or do we need to be told that McQueen is an In Vitro every time?
"Abandon All Hope my ass!" - Glen Van Ross

Space: Above and Beyond 16 - The Angriest Angel ****

So they didn't leave Chiggy von Richthofen on the back-burner, heading straight into a sequel that shifts the focus to the often overlooked Colonel McQueen. Maybe he's had a focal episode before, I can't remember, but as the first since the series took a sharp upward turn with the 'Hostile Visit'/'Choice or Chance' two-parter, it's the first one that really counts.

They handle McQueen really well here, taking him on a journey without falling back on all the obvious cliches. True, determination and vengeance allow him to magically overcome his own body's frailties under pressure, but he doesn't learn to love again or make friends with the crew he previously scolded for daring to treat him like a human being (if In Vitroes are technically human anyway?)

This series is really on the right course now, I really hope it doesn't slide back to being about Nathan and his bloody dead girlfriend.
- "I'll be a son of a bitch if I go to your funeral, Ty."
- "Yes you will sir, but we'll talk about your mother when I get back" - Ross and McQueen

Space: Above and Beyond 17 - Toy Soldiers **

Oh great, after the excitement of that sort-of-two-parter they did fall back on a retro episode about Nathan "Bland" West, as I pessimistically predicted. I should really use these clairvoyant powers for good, but instead I'll keep ploughing through this largely mediocre military sci-fi show to its bitter end and writing down my thoughts for an audience of no-one.

Not content with featuring one Nathan, we also get the next best thing with his younger brother, meaning there's plenty of predictable sibling care, over-protective antagonism and excruciating flashbacks to childhood ball games. The actual plot features the latest in a line of unhinged military commanders who jeopardises the lives of his young recruits, obviously including Nathan Jr., and we get another trench warfare tale supposedly set somewhere out in space.

It's not a terrible episode, but it slides downhill after a particularly strong start as the new recruits arrive and the marines are hit by the reality of how far they've come from being in that same position sixteen episodes previously. It would help if the planet under siege wasn't so obviously a Fox sound stage dotted with pyrotechnics too.
"Brothers, sisters, they always see the differences in each other. They never realise they came from the same place" - Shane Vansen

Space: Above and Beyond 18 - Dear Earth ****

Here we have a really well-timed R&R episode that's welcome relief after the relentless darkness of the last few stories. It's light-hearted without veering into comedy farce, but it's still funnier than the show's ever dared be before. Vansen shadily bartering her way into the phone queue with strawberries and bathroom keys and Wang stepping in Chig dung contrast well with West's attempt to inform his parents of his brother's death and Hawkes' feelings of loneliness being accentuated by mail day. Damphousse is also temporarily blinded for some reason, I think they just have a thing for shoving stuff on her eyes and giving her character developments that don't lead anywhere.

Another of the many plots shoved into these 45 minutes is a TV crew's intrusive documenting of life aboard ship for In Vitroes, which Hawkes first embraces as a chance to be the centre of attention for the first time in his life (aww) before the production's Tank-baiting agenda becomes clear. Still, even that works out sweetly in the end.

If this had come a few episodes earlier in the schedule it would just have annoyed me, but now I've finally started to care about these characters. Some of them anyway. Heck, even Nathan's good in this one, and Shane Vansen keeps getting better. The disappearance of one of the strongest female characters in 90s sci-fi might be the greatest casualty of this abruptly cancelled series.
"I don't want to be promoted to captain, I want to use the phone" - Shane Vansen

Space: Above and Beyond 19 - Pearly ***

Still forgetting that this used to be set in space, the marines trundle around in a personified tank and run into mad, borderline racist English caricatures and familiar Silicates on some kind of planet of the freaks.

The guest characters are the best thing about this, even if the anachronistic Major is an embarrassment at times. I preferred the tank operator who developed an unnatural bond with the machine and chomped coffee granules, but they had to kill him off. I wasn't so pleased to see the return of Elroy El, whose reappearance a couple of episodes ago feels like over-use in the style of Battlestar Galactica's duplicate Cylons and Deep Space Nine's endless Weyoun clones, but it at least draws a line under Wang's guilt arc, which Vansen dismisses as pointless anyway. Could have saved us a lot of bother if she'd told him that at the beginning.
"You stop taking pride in your personal appearance and hygiene, you might as well be dead" - Cyril MacKendrick

Space: Above and Beyond 20 - R&R ****

Sure, the crew had a day off just a couple of episodes ago, but that one wasn't spoiled by addiction issues, uncomfortable realisations and trench warfare. This memorable episode deals with commendably mature themes - because obviously all that dying and horror of war stuff that characterises the series generally is just for kids.

Just like 'Dear Earth,' they cram too many elements in to give every character something to do, but it all works well together. Stepping aboard the sleazy corporate pleasure ship Bacchus, West pays for Hawkes to lose his cherry to a drug-addled, single-parent prostitute, Vansen battles a Silicate on the pool table, Wang and Damphousse are temporarily put together as the relationship that would do the least damage to the status quo and McQueen watches old films because that's him all over.

Reeling from this stressful R&R, the marines are then abruptly thrown back into action for some heavy-handed demonstrations of why not every day can be Sunday. With just a few episodes left, there just isn't time for the character developments here to have the consequences they should have, but as (probably) a final chance for these guys to let their hair down before we head into the dramatic finale, it's a great entry in the series.
"Is that like, when they're girls but they don't like men or something?" - Cooper Hawkes

Space: Above and Beyond 21 - Stardust ***

The end game is being set in motion as the Wildcards are involved in a top secret mission to spread disinformation and divert enemy forces in a plot borrowed from World War II. And after David Duchovny's guest appearance last time, The X-Files' preoccupation with Navajo Indians also comes into play. Some fan somewhere has doubtless merged this fictional universe with that of Ten Thirteen Productions - we're in the far future, so unless alien colonisation ever did take place, it doesn't really matter. Go crazy.

Vansen keeps impressing me at this depressingly late point in the series, and I realised I do feel affinity with all of these guys now. I really didn't expect that to happen. I also continue to be impressed by some of the frankly bizarre character traits of the senior officers, as we spend slightly too long revering a dead criminal because a general's convinced he could have ended up like that in another life. What is it with these guys?
"This is Rosayln. You damage her, you damage me, and I will make you walk all 12.6 light years back to Fat Anthony's Guitar Parlor in Shreveport, Louisiana to repair a single nick" - Glen Van Ross

Space: Above and Beyond 22 - Sugar Dirt ****

It was worth enduring the early mediocrity to get to the good stuff. I'm confident this show would have continued to impress if it had been given more time - after all, many of my favourite shows started out pretty lousy and only hit the gold later on. The first half of Farscape's first year borders on unwatchable, and Deep Space Nine didn't realise its potential for three or four.

Like the earlier two-parters that also rank among the best of the series, this story puts the marines into deadly danger (from which they inevitably emerge unscathed again - come on, there are still two episodes to go) and pushes the characters to extremes. While there's monumental, game-changing space war stuff going on above, the plight of these five reluctantly abandoned marines is the real focus, and at least some of them get to undergo some form of character development. It's clear which members of the ensemble the writers favour, while they seem intent on making us dislike others.

For once, they bother to make an alien world look authentically alien with a sulphuric haze and plenty of dust, and there's a grander sense of scale as the newly unified Earth forces (led by an American, naturally) send a shedload of ships, some of which even look like they've been properly rendered for a change.

One side effect of watching this series is that it's making me appreciate the mighty Battlestar Galactica slightly less, as more of its plot elements show up in this superficially similar show from a decade earlier. 'Two months later...' might not be as much of a mind-blower as 'one year later...', but they're planting seeds.
- "Marines always bury their dead."
- "But they abandon their living" - Vansen and Hawkes

Space: Above and Beyond 23 - And If They Lay Us Down To Rest... ***

I was expecting a rip-roaring two-parter from these final episodes, especially with Vansen's dramatic opening monologue channelling Cosmos and The X-Files that does its best to convince us of the importance of the upcoming mission. But instead, they make the odd decision to do a Star Trek style allegory about conservation and protecting the innocent against the backdrop of the invasion of the Chig homeworld.

This will turn out to have major repercussions in the finale (Teaser Alert), but it does feel like a weird distraction at such a critical stage of the war and the series to go off on tangents about pandas. Damphousse raises the question attentive viewers will have been wondering since they landed on the Chig moon, as to why the aliens still need to wear all that gear in their natural atmosphere. Maybe military casual's just the fashion?

I also have to give honourable mention to a light-hearted joke about a comic book at the beginning turning into a plot point later on. I might dedicate my life to failing to popularise the maxim 'Cooper's comic' as a modern substitute for Chekhov's gun.
"The survival or extinction of life is in your hands" - Tyrus Cassius McQueen. No pressure, marines

Space: Above and Beyond 24 - ...Tell Our Moms We Done Our Best ****

I had high hopes for this premature series finale, but despite being above and beyond the quality of the pilot - which might seem like a different show if I forced myself to sit through it again - it ended up lacking the punch of some other recent episodes. The apocalyptic plot overtakes the characters for the most part, even as half the regulars are killed off, either presumably or definitively.

The only major character development outside of death or injury comes with the culmination of Nathan's search for his stolen girlfriend, so if you've been watching on tenterhooks for how that particular, long-forgotten arc panned out, you can end the series on a high note. For the rest of us, it's a pretty miserable finale that starts with false promises of peace that are too good to be true and ends with everything going to hell.

The creators were supposedly informed about the show's cancellation by Fox a while before these last few episodes were written, so this is the way they wanted to go out, though they still leave plenty of plot threads hanging in case the Sci-Fi Channel or some other small fry network wanted to pick it up. It didn't happen, so the pulp sci-fi twist of the Chigs' Earthly origins and the uncertain fates of the only two women characters will forever hang in the balance.

Still, at least Nathan's girlfriend's alive. That's the important thing, right? Now I don't have to lose sleep over that any more.

In conclusion, this was a decent series some of the time, but it took its time getting there. Best episodes (probably): 'Who Monitors the Birds,' 'The Angriest Angel,' 'Dear Earth,' 'R&R,' 'Sugar Dirt.'
"Strap yourselves in - this flight's gonna suck and we don't serve peanuts" - Cooper Hawkes

Harsh Realm (1999-2000)

Harsh Realm 1: Pilot **

The black sheep of Ten Thirteen Productions is sadly just as bad as I feared. Developed by Chris Carter based on a comic (I don't know how loosely), Harsh Realm feels like it was hastily put together to replace the cancelled Millennium, and its own run was even shorter. It's a shame they didn't know this at the time, as we could have got a six-part miniseries with a conclusive arc rather than nine semi-serialised episodes building to nothing.

It couldn't be more 90s. Airing in the year of The Matrix, it follows a very similar theme of our protagonist entering a parallel virtual world and being lauded as some sort of messiah, except this time it's supposedly the U.S. Military running the show rather than sci-fi robots, which makes the credibility of the technology even more hard to reconcile. But who knows what they would have pulled out of their arse if this series had made it to a full year, no doubt there would have been secret societies and extraterrestrial influence as they tried desperately to stretch the B-movie concept beyond its limits.

Our not-especially-likeable hero is Thomas Hobbes, an aspiring military officer whose personal life is just going swell until he's recruited to join "the game" and try to accomplish what countless people before him had failed. For fans of Chris Carter's other series, he at least gives work to his frequent collaborators with a star role for Terry O'Quinn at last as arch villain General Santiago, and Lance Henriksen and Gillian Anderson make brief cameos, the latter in voice only. Mark Snow's doing the music again, but it's forgettable and gets drowned out by the Prodigy anyway.

The main thing I'll give it credit for is that our protagonist doesn't spend the entire episode not knowing he's in the game and getting that revelation at the end. He's not that incredulous. While I don't especially like Hobbes, with his cheesy voice-overs and virtual canine companion, there's at least the promise of a decent supporting cast. I won't get too attached, no need for heartbreak.
"Is this nightmare I'm in only a mistake away?" - Thomas Hobbes

Harsh Realm 2: Leviathan **

The real world intrudes on the virtual as Tom's pregnant 'widow' (can't remember her name, what's the point?) is told that her husband is still alive somewhere, somehow. Sarah-Jane Redmond played occasional Millennium nemesis Lucy Butler, but we don't know what her deal is here yet. I'll take a wild guess and say she has a hidden agenda, Chris Carter is writing this.

Inside the realm, there are more patronising voice-overs from Tom; there's apparently more to the ridiculously named Mike Pinocchio than meets the eye; General Santiago is shown to be an over-the-top evil despot; and there's a bounty hunter who pauses and captures people. I thought this place was Harsh. Tom's bloody dog provides occasional goofy comic relief too.

I don't really like this show, but if I made it through The Lone Gunmen I can get through seven more episodes of this.
"Kindness is when your buddy robs you, shoots you and doesn't rape your woman" - Michael Pinocchio

Harsh Realm 3: Inga Fossa ***

The eponymous Inga (Sarah-Jane Redmond's character) makes things more interesting in this concluding part of the original trilogy, as she's shown to be working multiple sides and I can't work out what her motivations are. The fact that she has relationships and connections with all the main characters is overly convenient but maybe not an accident, though the ease with which she transfers in and out of the virtual realm is a little disappointing.

It would have been more effective if we were trapped in there like the characters, and it was left ambiguous whether the letters and information from the outside were genuine. If there really was an outside at all. They're not making the most of this concept really.

When they do expand the virtual mythology, it's often just embarrassing: case in point being the 'zip files' or whatever those battling midgets were called. It's like Chris Carter saw the CGI demon baby in Millennium's 'Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me,' stripped it of its humour and inserted it here. Why are those implants placed just under the skin where they're so easy to remove every week? Why didn't I just watch The Matrix again?

This is a better episode than the first two at least, with the triple-agents and reveal of the greater things at stake as the mad dictator Santiago sets his sights on deleting the real world so there's only his domain left. After so many years of morally (and literally) grey adversaries who fervently believed their actions were justified for the greater good in The X-Files and Millennium, Harsh Realm doesn't have time for that nonsense. Terry O'Quinn plays malevolence well, but I wish they'd give him more to work with. Maybe in the episodes to come.
"Great empires are built on the wisdom of sages and the blood of heroes" - Oman Santiago

Harsh Realm 4: Kein Ausgang **

We're into episodic territory now, as each new writer adds another facet to the virtual realm extrapolated from 1990s computer gaming parlance. Today we're doing a Nazi siege simulation, meaning the show's even more militaristic than usual. Wunderbar!

They've established the tradition of Pinocchio explaining every gimmick of the realm to Tom/audience as we come across them, which would have got really old if there weren't only five episodes left. We also find out a little about his shady past working under Santiago, who's briefly mentioned for the pretense of there being a larger narrative, while Tom exerts his energy to save a virtual child so we know he's unquestionably the hero.

The sepia wash and gritty siege setting at least make this episode look good and stand out from the rest, and I like the idea of a PacMan style game-within-a-game that you can't escape from. This was always going to be a tough job as the first arbitrary story they've done after setting up the series in the opening three episodes.
"A man can be guided by his humanity, or by something else" - Thomas Hobbes

Harsh Realm 5: Reunion *

This boring episode about slave labour and rising up against oppression (it's a theme, see) continues the previous episode's descent into a dumb action movie starring two invincible guys who wisecrack their way out of situations that see everyone else dying.

The other side of this episode deals with Hobbes' mother, who's dying in both realms and who he conveniently bumps into. The ending makes absolutely no sense and even destroys the bleak atmosphere they'd successfully built by breaking down the borders between the real and virtual worlds a little, but why would that happen anyway? I know the creators were still teetering on the edge of the 20th century, but it's like they don't even know what a computer is.
"Though life goes on without you, it must also end without you" - Sophie Green

Harsh Realm 6: Three Percenters *

This tale of evil duplicates is such a first season episode, I won't hold it against this young show. The exact same plot wouldn't have been out of place in the first season of Stargate SG-1, Farscape or other interchangeable late 90s sci-fi shows - it's a stock script given a slight virtual reality twist and replacing the alien soldiers with humans in berets. It's awful, but it's so far from what this series set out to be that it can be appreciated for the aberration it is. It's just a shame the more serious episodes weren't that much better.

I thought at first they were dealing with the inevitable notion of a plugged-in game player encountering their virtual double, but it turned out to be something completely different and ridiculous. There's no doubt that the hypothetical Digital Tom would have become a recurring ally or villain by mid-season two, with every excuse made to play a switcheroo and the fake one eventually dying, leaving very slight ambiguity that it was actually the real one that bit the dust. All those predictable adventures we never got to see.
- "Smells like barbecue."
- "Smells like trouble" - Hobbes and Pinocchio

Harsh Realm 7: Manus Domini **

They finally get around to addressing the boys' mute companion Florence and her miraculous healing abilities, as she's revealed to be just one of many similarly mute, similarly female healers embracing the nostalgic trappings of organised religion to explain how these miracles came about. Pinocchio (still haven't got over that stupid name) makes the rational argument that they're in a game and everything can be traced back to programmers and system errors, not realising the grander points he's making about our own "real" world. Oh sorry, I accidentally used speech marks there. Our world is the real world, obviously. Shut up.

Tom helpfully reads aloud his letters to his girlfriend every episode to remind us of the story so far, then spends much of the episode lying on another guy's back to stop a mine going off while Pinocchio spends most of it lying on some hay because his leg blew off. He got better.

I'm a bit annoyed to see yet another series going down the Christian salvation route, and Tom's unquestioning conversion to full evangelist doesn't endear him to me any more than he hadn't already. There's also some mind reading and more mentions of Santiago despite Terry O'Quinn not having shown up since episode three. For a main cast member, he's become this series' Catherine Black (see: almost every episode of Millennium).
"This is some man's perverse fantasy that you went and made a religion out of" - Michael Pinocchio

Harsh Realm 8: Cincinnati **

I'd really started to feel the absence of Terry O'Quinn's insidious tyrant General Santiago prior to his timely return here, but this episode doesn't add much to the ongoing story (soon to abruptly end) apart from heightening the villain's deadly insanity. He fawns over Native American weaponry (you can tell Chris Carter wrote it), pointlessly kills his own officers and swaps faces (and voices...?) to his heart's content, before the status quo is conveniently restored at the end.

The writers keep throwing up different ways characters can be duplicated or pose as each other, but never got round to a character from the real world encountering their virtual double, which is built into the show's premise. Duplicity is one of the hallmarks of Ten Thirteen Productions, with shape-shifting aliens and demons teaching us not to trust our eyes, but this takes things back to Mission: Impossible levels of unlikely unmasking. Santiago's face is plastered over buses and billboards throughout his empire, but no one recognises him when he grows hair and shaves the trademark O'Quinn moustache? (Why didn't John Locke get that moustache?)

It's good to get back to the heart of the series for one more episode, swapping the woods and barns of the previous few for the dystopian urban sprawl. There's no sense of closure of course, and not even any sense of the plot advancing, with entire elements - Tom's girlfriend; Inga's duplicity - being left out. Make up your own stories if you like, they're probably better.
"Look right into the eyes of the greatest warrior's and show him you are greater" - Oman Santiago

Harsh Realm 9: Camera Obscura *

The not-so-grand finale of Chris Carter's rightly bashed series clearly doesn't know it was going to be the finale, and was presumably just the episode they happened to be recording when news came in that no one really liked what they were doing.

To its credit, the episode does answer a question I'd had since the start, informing us that the Harsh Realm simulation went online about four years ago, though I'm still no clearer on what happened to any part of the world outside of North America's Eastern Seaboard. Did my virtual double get nuked too, or is everything just going normally over there? We'd never find out, this is clearly a show targeted at American viewers of a specific locale.

There's a glimmer of an ongoing plot as Tom and Mike prepare to build a rebel army, but for that they'll need gold, so they take on a job as mercenaries to protect some kids or something, my attention drifted. There's a glowing thing that shows you the future, consisting of the same short snippets of previous episodes repeated over and over (I think I saw Lance Henriksen's character in there from episode one), and some Beneath the Planet of the Apes style New York dystopia, thankfully without mutants. It's a bit awkward to hear New York referred to as the "Ground Zero" of the nuclear bombardment, please note this episode was produced in 1999 and broadcast in 2000. It's no Lone Gunmen.

Our characters experience radiation poisoning but would surely be A-OK in time for the next episode, if that had ever happened. Maybe they just died and that's why the series ended. I've been very Harsh on this series, I know, but I have to compare it to Chris Carter's previous triumphs: Millennium was strong from the start (much stronger than it was by the end), and even by this early point in its run, The X-Files had produced the likes of 'Pilot,' 'Deep Throat,' 'Squeeze,' 'Ice'... I'm justified in slamming this show.
"We make our own future, it doesn't make us" - Fallon Stewart

The Lone Gunmen (2001)

The Lone Gunmen 1: Pilot ****

Am I feeling an X-shaped void? Whatever the reason, I was intrigued to finally see this spin-off featuring Mulder and Scully's comic relief informants on all matters conspiratorial. Not intrigued enough to get round to watching it any time in the past eleven years, evidently, but now I've wrapped up the series and seen these characters meet their end, I thought I should get it out of my system. Even if I hate it, it was cancelled after 13 episodes anyway.

This pilot was actually more enjoyable than the bulk of the later seasons of The X-Files, so it bodes well. From the start we're given subtle and less subtle clues that this isn't the same bag - Mark Snow's moody synthesiser is usurped by a rock and industrial soundtrack and there's a stronger emphasis on goofy slapstick than the other show usually found time for (with some unfortunate exceptions).

The opening Mission: Impossible style scene with an unlikely Frohike dangling on wires would be the most enduring of the episode, if not for the extremely unfortunate and perplexingly accurate parallels to the September 11 attacks as the plot develops and forces within the US government conspire to send a passenger plane crashing into the World Trade Center. It's a spooky similarity that's made the episode go down in internet lore, and it definitely changes the viewing experience when watching the episode any time in history outside of the few months between its original broadcast and the attacks.

As for the Gunmen themselves, they were already pretty well characterised on the parent show, with Byers the closest thing to a straight man, Langly the irritable and arrogant hacker and Frohike increasingly assigned to duties that require hanging upside-down and falling over. You don't need to have seen The X-Files to get into this, and I'd recommend you're not overly familiar with computing either, or the concessions to TV scripting and slightly dated technology might just annoy you. Fortunately I'm completely technologically illiterate, so I just enjoy watching them bash at keyboards and make text windows open and close. Unlike all those 80s films, they even manage to make hacking seem exciting.
"Bring down a fully loaded 727 into the middle of New York City and you'll find a dozen tin pot dictators all over the world just clamouring to take responsibility, begging to be smart-bombed" - Bertram Byers

The Lone Gunmen 2: Bond, Jimmy Bond **

Things have taken a steep slide downhill since the impressive pilot, with the introduction of an even less realistic character to supplement the main cast of oddballs. I've seen Jimmy Bond show up in the Gunmen's X-Files send-off where he was a lot more down-to-earth, so I wasn't prepared for his credulity-stretching gullibility here. If the creators wanted to insert a layman who the hackers could explain concepts to, why not go with an everyman figure? Does he have to be a complete moron?

Speaking of stretching believability, I was really hoping the opening Matrix style scene (parodying popular films of a few years previous appears to be one of the series' hallmarks) was going to turn out to be a dream or virtual reality or something, but it turned out Frohike was just on wires again. Because sending the stocky old guy in to perform aerial acrobatics is obviously the best choice when you're trying to dupe a smart businessman.

I haven't even got onto the main plot yet, which is less high-stakes than last week and doesn't even have any creepy parallels with major world news events of the time. My hopes were set too high. The standard of humour has also really slipped, as scenes poking fun at blind football players (ha ha! They can't even see!) and Langly hurling and then cleaning up the hurl go on for too long.

The Lone Gunmen used to be pretty funny in The X-Files when they were just being themselves. It's called characterisation.
"Conspiracy theories and masturbation. I suspected there was a connection" - Yves Adele Harlow

The Lone Gunmen 3: Eine Kleine Frohike *

This series has already become unwatchable and we're only on episode three. In a ludicrous plot that brings shame on the universe of The X-Files even more than that show managed itself in its last few seasons, Frohike goes undercover to pose as a French woman's long-lost son in the hope of exposing her as a former Nazi collaborator, which can be confirmed by photographing a Germany-shaped birthmark on her buttock.

The summary sounds bad, but the episode manages to be even worse, thanks partly to a recurring soundtrack from Plastic Bertrand. You know, because Belgium's between France and Germany and the 1970s were between the 1940s and the 2000s or something like that. Recurring Ten Thirteen guest star Alan Dale doesn't even bother to do a convincing German accent. Please give me something better next time.
"Maybe I'm trying to see the wrong old lady's butt" - Melvin Frohike

The Lone Gunmen 4: Like Water for Octane

I'm settling into this series now, which is so different from The X-Files in tone that it was jarring at first. A fun intro sequence unconnected to the main plot helps to ease in uncertain viewers, taking us further back in the origins of Byers, Langly (since when has anyone called him 'Ringo?') and Frohike to their idealistic childhoods. They are really pushing the patriotic American hero angle, complete with Civil War soundtrack. I guess that stuff's important if you're American.

After Jimmy's slightly inaccurate history lesson (Gandhi was leader of the Indian people, who we call 'Native Americans' now), the Gunmen are back to their code-deciphering, duct-crawling best as they try to track down a legendary car capable of running on water. There are some compulsory jokes about asses and toilets as well as a serious discussion over whether freeing consumers from their dependence on oil would truly be a good thing, which was more high brow than I expected.

I'm sorry, I won't underestimate you guys again. Just don't make any more episodes where Frohike plays house with a Nazi and I'll keep up my end.
"Sometimes, maybe not changing the world is a good thing" - Jimmy Bond

The Lone Gunmen 5: Three Men and a Smoking Diaper **

This week's high-stakes jeopardy concerns the team's attempts to expose a senator and ends up with them looking after his love child because they're inept and that's apparently hilarious. There isn't much to see here.

It's inexplicable why the Gunmen continue to rely on Jimmy, who repeatedly lets them down through his ineptitude, though I guess he's the one paying the bills. Yves gets called in because she's the woman one and women like babies. Extended fart sounds and extended peeing satisfy the toilet humour quotient.
"This kid refuses to negotiate" - Melvyn Frohike

The Lone Gunmen 6: Madam, I'm Adam ***

That's more like it! This potentially paranormal investigation feels more like an X-Files episode, with its pre-credits mystery and the Gunmen being consulted for their expertise. So I guess I like The X-Files a lot more. You can't blame me for that.

If this had been an X-Files episode, it's exactly the sort that would have brought in the Gunmen for tech support and comic relief, and they handle the investigative side well too. Even Jimmy manages to stop being goofy for most of it, so there's a chance I won't end up hating him after all.

The plot manages to stay within the confines of the show's more down-to-earth premise by being about implanted memories and virtual reality rather than aliens or parallel universes, so I can forgive it getting customarily ridiculous by the end with a love triangle involving boxing dwarves. I'm settled in now.
"Judas H. Priest! If you don't shut that hole of yours I'm gonna stick my thumbs in your eyes and ride you like a pogo stick" - Adam/Charlie

The Lone Gunmen 7: Planet of the Frohikes ****

Passing the half-way point of this short-lived series, I might finally have settled into the writers' daft sense of humour. This episode featuring a genetically engineered, intelligent chimpanzee was a lot of fun, from the opening scene that shows Peanuts literally typing the works of Shakespeare to the character's eventual liberation and selection of an inexplicable new name for himself: Simon White-Thatch Potentloins. I've always been a sucker for animals named Simon.

I don't know if my positive reaction to this one and very different reaction to the similarly silly Nazi episode is down to my greater familiarity with the show now or me just being in a different mood on those days, but this one feels a lot better accomplished. The Gunmen actually make use of their tech skills for one thing, and the contrived reveal of Jimmy being ahead of the geniuses due to his presumably less evolved brain continues to make his character more useful and less annoying. As much as you could see the switcheroo coming a mile off, I admittedly didn't reason about Simon's short legs meaning he was never planning to escape in the VW van.

You can bet this would be Karl Pilkington's favourite episode.
"You can create an intelligent animal but you can't be sure of its politics" - Yves Adele Harlow

The Lone Gunmen 8: Maximum Byers **

Even the characters within the show admit these contrived plots are getting desperate, and this week sees Byers and Jimmy sneak into a prison posing as inmates on death row, inspired by an episode of The A-Team and evidently not thinking things through very well.

Jimmy continues to improve after his bumbling early days while Yves deteriorates into eye candy as she uses her "feminine wiles" to distract prison guards. The teaser is completely unrelated and features the team's attempts to track down the real Elvis Presley, believed to be hiding in plain sight as his own impersonator on a cruise ship. That might have made for a better episode.
"I've got to trust people. It's how they prove to me I can" - Jimmy Bond

The Lone Gunmen 9: Diagnosis: Jimmy **

Another sub-par episode, the main plot of Byers, Langly and Frohike trying to bag a bear hunter isn't enough to sustain a whole episode, so we also get Jimmy in a hospital becoming increasingly convinced that his doctor's trying to kill him. There's a ludicrously flirty nurse too, just a couple of steps down from Carry On material. They also did that in The X-Files, but it turned out to be virtual reality. There are no excuses here.

Because that story was running short too, there's a C-plot involving some old man we don't even care about learning to accept his son so he won't feel alone. This show probably deserved to get cancelled.
"Hack into the memory banks of the... y'know. Do the thing with the internet, look up the file with the... on the computer, so that we can bust the guy!" - Jimmy Bond

The Lone Gunmen 10: Tango de los Pistoleros **

I'm being hard on these episodes, but it's because they've shown they can do better, especially with the experience of Ten Thirteen behind them. Then again, this is the third Ten Thirteen Production, and that proud kid's made a lot of television hours by this point, so maybe he's just burned out.

Some previous episodes have opened with sequences completely unrelated to the main story of the episode, which I thought would be the case for the artsy tangoing prelude here. But no, this turns out to be an episode loosely based around the dance, with a conspiracy about arms dealers and radar-resistant weapons tacked on.

The X-Files never had a good track record with Latin Americans, and the Argentinians here come off pretty badly too. A major plot point is the suggestion that Yves could betray the Gunmen and murder Langly for real, but that's obviously never going to happen, and that's not only because I saw 'Jump the Shark' before this.

There's a surprising absence of vomit, poo or wee this week. Instead, the bad humour quotient is satisfied by a montage of several characters dancing really badly. Ho ho ho!
"The only thing that's blown is us, and not in a good way" - Richard 'I Wish People Called Me Ringo' Langly

The Lone Gunmen 11: The Lying Game ***

Mitch "I'm Mitch Pileggi" Pileggi is the first X-Files cast member to cross over into this black sheep of the family, excluding the Gunmen themselves, and his typically bullshit-resistant Skinner remains commendably straight-faced even when surrounded by slightly ridiculous characters, though he does get to let his lack of hair down when Jimmy tries out some convincing Cosplay.

Jimmy provides bookending narration directly to camera, which is weird, and gets his own little arc where we see how much he's sacrificing to support these guys and how much they appreciate him. It's quite sweet. The main plot is too confusing to get into, but involves a murder, a set-up, a sex change and a fabricated love triangle between a husband and wife.

Byers' personal investment in this case through his old roommate feels more genuine than Frohike's old flame in the tango episode. That's probably because Byers feels more genuine than Frohike in general. Still, gotta love Hicky.
"This is Walter Freaking Skinner of the FBI and I am going to prison big-time!" - Jimmy Bond

The Lone Gunmen 12: All About Yves ****

For those idiots like me who persevered with The X-Files to the end before watching this spin-off (which seems to have taken place during season eight), you'll finally be up to speed with this penultimate final episode. Fox switched the scheduling or something. I mean the network, not the Mulder, though he does show up for a pointless cameo that's nonetheless enjoyable, especially as he's accompanied by the whistling soundtrack.

Underhanded Man in Black Morris Fletcher reprises his former (and subsequent) X-Files role, though apparently everyone's forgotten they met before in 'Dreamland.' To satisfy X-philes even more, alien abductions are paid lip service though never really confirmed in this more Earth-centric show, going as far as 'Jose Chung'-style props. It did the trick for me, I was always going to enjoy the X-Filesiest episodes the most.

The episode and the series end on a cliffhanger, though considering a blue Langly shows up in the ninth season premiere of The X-Files, you can assume things worked out okay. On the whole, this very up-and-down series was about as good as I could reasonab... hold on, there's another episode?
"You crack babies woke me up from a killer dream, and I'm not talking about the dry kind" - Kimmy the Geek

The Lone Gunmen 13: The Cap'n Toby Show **

So, thanks to some network genius with no regard for continuity, the final episode of the short-lived series isn't a follow-up to the previous episode's cliffhanger - that would have to wait until a later episode of The X-Files - but an unrelated, disappointing one about national secrets being subliminally hidden in a TV show. It's like when the writers of Sliders had to hastily insert reminiscing bookend segments to episodes when the order was shuffled around, to explain how dead characters spontaneously showed up again. When I compare any show to Sliders, you know it must be in trouble.

It makes sense that this episode wouldn't be very good, as the series has veered between quite good and quite bad throughout, with a couple of significant dips and nothing outstanding to save it. I didn't have high hopes in the first place, considering the decline in The X-Files even before this came out, and I'd prefer to remember these guys as Mulder's strange and useful friends. Nice try, but they could have tried harder.
"Growing up. Man, it's a bitch" - Richard Langly

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