The main title card for Millennium (1996-1999)
Millennium is my all-time favorite show in the entire history of television, period. It was created by Chris Carter, who also created The X-Files, and certain characters have appeared in both shows. But Millennium is no mere “X–Files spin-off”; it’s about a completely different cast of characters dealing with entirely different problems. While Special Agents Mulder and Scully track down weird monsters and alien conspiracies, retired FBI profiler Frank Black (played by genre favorite, Lance Henriksen) gets sucked back out of retirement to chase some truly evil human beings. This is because Frank is so damn good at seeing into the minds of all these rapists, serial killers, and terrorists that he develops something like “the second sight.” He can read about a murder in the paper and start getting flashes of what the perpetrator’s thinking and feeling. As the show progresses, Frank’s gift becomes such that he can even see ghosts and demons from time to time. And as much as he wants to stay home with his wife and daughter and pretend that “the bad men” aren’t really out there, he just can’t help himself; he’s driven to track down and apprehend every evil thing he can pick up on his psychic radar…
In the midst of all this, Frank is approached by a private investigation firm called the Millennium Group. This Group consists of various ex-law enforcement personnel who’ve drawn some terrifying conclusions from all the horrific cases they’ve worked. They believe that evil isn’t just a human failing; it’s a real supernatural force, a living monster that actively seeks to destroy our world (and which is getting closer to achieving this goal every day). They believe that every single rape and murder that happens on Earth is really a part of this gigantic apocalyptic plot (whether the perpetrators truly understand who they’re serving or not), and they’re also worried that the world might actually end in the year 2000 (or perhaps not too long afterwards). Many Group members are deeply religious Christians (of a much more Gnostic variety, as it eventually turns out), but they nevertheless believe that we can’t just sit back and hope for a happy ending. If something isn’t done about this shit right now, there may not be any human civilization left for Jesus to save when He comes back. So the Group uses a wide variety of resources to apprehend the human monsters that live among us, trying to save the world one case at a time. These resources include everything from your basic forensic crime scene investigation to fucking ceremonial magic. And the Millennium Group is especially interested in Frank Black since he’s not only a wizard at criminal profiling, but also has access to a higher spiritual plane than the rest of us do.
This show was inspired by many of the apocalyptic fears than were running rampant toward the end of the 1990s (e.g., the Y2K scare, etc.), which has led some to think that its subject matter is no longer relevant today. Let me just say that I beg to fucking differ; if there’s one terrible truth that Millennium taps into, it’s the fact that people will always have apocalyptic fears that will drive them to do heroic and/or terrible things. Even more terrifying, Millennium analyzes the fact that certain people actually want the world to end, and that they will do everything they can to ensure that it does. This is every bit as true here in 2016 as it was back in 1996, and I would go so far as to say that Millennium is actually far more frightening and disturbing than The X-Files ever was, partly because it was willing to take so many more risks. (The fact that it lasted for three seasons – each of which is drastically different from the others – is nothing short of amazing.)
Lance Henriksen as “Frank Black”
Let me give you an example of what I mean by offering a brief synopsis of the very first episode. One morning at his lovely house with his beautiful family, poor Frank picks up his newspaper and learns that a local stripper has been horribly butchered. He then starts having visions of how (and, more importantly, why) this happened. That’s when Frank realizes that he can’t just stay home and be with his family; he has to go back to work (and the look that crosses Lance Henriksen’s face at that moment always makes me tear up and cry a little). So he approaches some old pals in the Seattle PD and offers to help them investigate the case. They eventually catch the killer, who thinks he’s the Messiah and who’s passing judgment on people by doing things to them that would have made Josef Mengele proud. But not before we see two of the most disturbing things that were ever shown on TV in the 1990s. First, Frank’s gift allows us to see just how Mr. Serial Killer sees the world, and let me tell you: it’s real fucked up. (Think “Hellraiser in the Park.”) Then, we get a scene where Frank and the cops uncover a man who’s been buried alive…and whose bodily orifices have all been stitched shut. They don’t just refer to this stuff off-camera, either; they fucking show it to us, clear as you please. That might not seem too impressive in today’s post-CSI world of gory police procedural autopsies, but this was in 1996 and nothing like that had ever been seen on prime-time network TV before. Not even Law & Order or NYPD Blue went that far at the time. And this was all in the very first episode of Millennium, to boot! It scared me to death when it first aired back in October 1996, and it still gives me nightmares today.
I find it impossible to review this entire show in just one post and do it justice. I can’t just give you a list of my favorite episodes and explain them in brief little paragraphs (like I did with my review of Friday the 13th: The Series), because there’s far too much I have to say about each of them. So I’ve decided to review my Top 10 Favorite Millennium episodes in chronological order. (There’s also a two-parter I’d like to review, but I think I’ll do that as a “bonus post” in this series; I’d prefer to keep my Top 10 list limited to self-contained episodes.) Admittedly, most of the episodes on this list will be from the second season (1997-1998), which was the most memorable for me personally; that was my first year as a conscious Typhonian, and watching Millennium on Friday nights became an important part of my weekly Sabbath routine. But I will include some choice cuts from the other two seasons as well. Hopefully I will do a decent job of describing just why this show became so important to me back when Seth-Typhon first spoke to me in the late 1990s, and how it has informed so much of our shared perspective in the LV-426 Tradition.