Nightlife

Millenium: The Complete First Season

by D. Bishop
Contributor
Tuesday Jul 20, 2004
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Millennium: Season One, starring Lance Henriksen, follows the sometimes chilling, sometimes tragic adventures of Frank Black, an investigator for the mysterious Millennium Group who specializes in tracking down those most feared criminals called "human predators" using an ability that allows him to deduce details about the perpetrator’s background, motive and likely next move. This special talent makes him much sought after by various law enforcement organizations for assistance in solving cases that run the gamut from animal killings that represent the first acts of a novice serial murderer, to re-apprehending a Hannibal Lecter-esque human monster who escapes following a medical procedure. Suffused throughout is an undercurrent of increasing darkness brought on by the notion that the increase in crimes of this nature is spurred on not by some basic flaw in society, but through the workings of ancient prophecies that foretell the coming of the Last Days. Altogether, these elements provide for a very dark, occasionally horrifying, and frequently disturbing series that will appeal to fans of horror and crime drama alike, so long as they have a very strong stomach.

It would be difficult to imagine an actor besides Henriksen in the lead role. His very even-toned, almost emotionless performance might seem two-dimensional in another setting, but here it speaks volumes about a man who has seen the worst that humanity has to offer time and time again and has become almost numb to the horror and death to which he is regularly exposed. The only moments of brightness in his life occur while he is at home with his family, who he struggles to keep apart from the evil he investigates. If there is any criticism to be levied against Henriksen’s performance, it would be the lack of perceived caring on the part of Frank Black for the victims and potential victims he is forced to deal with. The dialogue certainly makes plain that Black feels deeply for those affected by these crimes, but the actor doesn’t quite sell it convincingly. In any event, Henriksen’s performance shines compared to the rest of the cast, who range from periodically interesting to very one-dimensional to the outright absurd. Thankfully, the character of Frank Black is able to carry the show well enough maintain focus throughout the series.

The problem with trying to run stories of this type as one-hour television shows is that the short time allotted leaves very little opportunity for character development, a somewhat important element when dealing with the crimes of serial murderers, and rushed timelines frequently mean gaps in the stories that translate into inexplicable plot twists and unbelieveable leaps in reasoning. Millennium unfortunately suffers from both of these throughout the course of the series. In a novel or movie there is plenty of time to "get inside the head" of the villain, get a look into his past, note the repeated elements in his actions... in essenece, to form your own picture of the killer that is something other than a one-dimensional caricature. All too often in Millenium the viewer is provided with only the actions of a particular crime and the hurried deductions of Frank Black as material with which to build an incomplete and unsatisfying picture of the antagonist, which robs the drama of some of its depth. Additionaly, the deductions that Frank Black and other investigators come up with as they themselves try to build an image of the perpetrator that they can then use in their investigations are occasionally far beyond the realm of the believable. Most of the time the conclusions are explained using the evidence made available to the viewer (and these moments are a delightful peek into the world of the behavioral scientist), but every once in a while Frank Black makes a determination about the murderer that is not explained, and that feels more like a psychic flash than logic. This confusion is furthered by the device used to express what Frank Black "sees" when he discovers an important clue - a quick series of flashing images and sounds depicting the murderer or his victims that may look more like psychic visions to the viewer than the workings of deductive reasoning. This blurring of the lines can only lessen the impact of a show that grounds the majority of its action in reality and thus makes the horror more potentially personal and believable.

As a long-time fan of horror films I very much so wanted to like this series a whole lot more than I actually did. It was the first series to feature a "profiler" type characer, some of the villains had the potential to be very interesting and realistic, there was an element of the supernatural but the action didn’t rely on it or focus on it too strongly (except in two episodes, which ended up standing way out from the rest of the season as confusing and incomplete), and the dark, serious atmosphere was very appealing given the subject matter. However, I found the stories in general to be too rushed and full of just enough inconsistencies to make them annoying. The imagery is also surprisingly gory at times given that this is a television show, and while this didn’t impact my viewing, I am sure it will put off some viewers as unnecessarily gruesome. I do recommend the series, but recognize that it will most certainly not be for everyone and may try the patience of hard core horror fans.

Even if you do not end up appreciating the series, I still recommend that you watch the two featurettes provided in this six-disc boxed set if you have any interest at all in profiling or behavioral science. "Order and Chaos" and "Chasing the Dragon" detail the background of the show through a series of interviews, including interviews with members of the Academy Group - a consulting firm made up of ex-law enforcement professionals that acts as the model for the show’s Millennium Group. Getting the chance to hear from some real-life "profilers" is not to be missed. The third featurette, "Creating the Title and Logo Sequence", explains the choice of imagery chosen for these elements of the show (apparently some fans place a great deal of symbolic significance on these images). TV Spots for the pilot episode, Trailers for some soon-to-be-released DVD offerings, and an audio commentary track for two of the episodes (including the pilot episode) round out the extra material.

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