Thu
Jan 10 2013 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Millennium”

Reopening the X-Files on Tor.com: Millennium

Season 7, Episode 4: “Millennium”
Original Airdate: November 28, 1999

I think it must be nice, when one of your television shows is canceled, to be able to have another television show available, like if you need to tie up some loose ends. I think this is actually nice! And this is what Chris Carter got to do when Fox shut down his second television program, Millennium. Lo, the adventures of Frank Black, Depressed Former FBI Agent, did not have to end, not so long as the adventures of Mulder and Scully, Slightly Less Depressed Current FBI Agents, were ongoing. Both shows thrived on shadows and supernaturality; it should have been a match made in weirdo heaven. It was, instead: just okay.

Now I have to confess that I didn’t watch a whole lot of Millennium, and I imagine that among X-Files fans, I was not alone. The show had a reputation as being our show’s dark cousin, although honestly both had a real habit for killing off family members and quoting the Bible. Millennium, though, spent more time with the human evil—with murderers and killers, like what if Mulder hadn’t ever been interested in aliens at all and also had been a tiny bit psychic? Would you be into that? Okay then good news.

I mean bad news. Because Millennium got canceled after three seasons and The X-Files did not and the consolation prize for Millennium fans was Season 7, Episode 4, “Millennium.” And your first problem here is, is this an X-Files episode or is this a Millennium episode? I mean it’s got to be an X-Files episode, it says so on the tin, but the trouble then starts the second Lance Hendriksen hits the screen. He’s there to play Frank Black, guy with three seasons behind him. The episode, however, would prefer him to be Frank Black, guy who just showed up.

The result is that Frank spends most of the episode terrifically inactive. He’s in a psychiatric hospital, having checked himself in presumably after the ratings for the finale came in. Mulder and Scully visit to ask about The Millennium Group, the shadowy, Revelations-focused organization that Frank battled on and off throughout his show. Skinner believes the Group to be connected to a Weird Series of Deaths, four former FBI agents who committed suicide and then had their graves exhumed. Skinner is right.

Frank isn’t super-interested in helping Mulder and Scully, we learn, because he’s hoping to get custody of his daughter back and he feels like dabbling in the old stuff will hurt his chances. It’s the episode’s strongest motion in the direction of Millennium-closure, but it’s also a real pain in the butt, dramatically. Frank Black is a pretty great character, and keeping him in the hospital for the majority of the episode—making him fight our agents instead of collaborate—is a real drag. And it does nothing at all to dispel the notion that Millennium was too much of a bummer to be watchable.

So with Frank Black carefully tucked aside, the episode is free to focus on its Monster of the Week, which is, zombies? Yeah, it’s totally zombies. Why is it zombies? Those dead Millennium Group members are being brought back to quasi-life by another member of the group; everybody involved believes that the four reanimated members are capable of bringing The End Times around. Four Horsemen style! Why they come back as zombies, who knows, it mostly just seems to be an excuse to have zombies. To have one of them spring up and attack Scully, to have a whole bunch of them trap Mulder in a basement. It’s a curious choice, given all of the other apocalyptic terrors that the episode could work with, a disappointment, in fact. Less of a crossover? More like parallel lines.

Eventually Frank checks himself out of the hospital and tries to save Mulder from the basement, only then he runs out of bullets, only then Scully arrives and saves them both. So good work Scully, you probably also could have saved Millennium from cancelation. Frank gets reunited with his daughter and then out of like nowhere, Mulder and Scully kiss. It is just, it is the funniest damn thing you’ve ever seen, actually completely delightful in its way. They’re watching the ball drop and it’s going to be the year 2000 and then it is and everyone’s making out and they look at each other and they just do it. “The world didn’t end,” he says. “No, it didn’t,” she says. OH MY GOD.

I swear to you guys, it’s the most perfect thing. It’d almost make you forget the dumb bee trick in the movie, and Eddie Van Blundht, and Morris Fletcher. And Frank Black, for that matter. They kiss and they smile and then what’s next, who knows, are we all shippers now? What ever comes after the apocalypse is defeated? More of the same, but a little bit stronger? I’m sorry, Frank Black, that they didn’t do right by you. But cheer up. If nothing else, the world didn’t end.


Meghan Deans knows her job. The man was deceased. She Tumbls and is @meghandrrns.

11 comments
Jack Flynn
1. JackofMidworld
I was a crazy Millenium fan. I was stationed in Germany at the time and my dad was taping them (for you young'ns out there, that's what we used to do before OnDemand and DVRs, we used to have to use real cassettes and this big, bulky contraption called a Vee-See-Arr, now get off my lawn!) and then mailing them to me to watch. I got back just in time to find out that it hadn't been renewed and I actually sent an Angry Letter (more of an Angry Email, technically) to Fox when it happened. I haven't watched this episode since it came out, and I probably won't watch it now, just so I don't tarnish the awesomeness that my memory has given it, as the ending that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

Bah, who am I kidding. I may be able to hold out for a couple of days but, yeah, I'll probably end up queueing it up this weekend)
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
"The world didn't end." Yes, I liked this very much.
sofrina
3. sofrina
millennium was an awesome show. i watched both religiously, as did some of my coworkers at the time. if anything, the attempts to lighten the mood after season 1 spelled it's doom. the grimness and henriksen's perfection as frank black were what made it such a riveting show. and those crazy tales of people cloning themselves in preparation to repopulate after the millennium apocalypse... and then there's frank who's all filled up with the abyss he keeps looking into, chasing his little girl around their sunny yellow house.

the x-files couldn't do it justice because it simply didn't operate on the same level. there were no 'what-if's?' in millennium, just tons of 'what on earth's?" frank didn't have to speculate because the unimaginable had already been imagined and executed.
Ian Tregillis
4. ITregillis
Great summary. I had forgotten about the kiss!

I was another Millennium fan. Though I sort of fell away from it in the third season, when it seemed like they did a mini-reboot to handwave away the epic finale of season two. Definitely resided in the same univese as the X-Files, or maybe a very similar parallel universe. Jose Chung shows up in one episode, which makes for a terrific super-meta-inside-joke piece. In general it was pretty gloomy (except when Charles Nelson Reilly showed up), but they did some really terrific stuff.

This episode always fell a little flat to me, because it's neither fish nor fowl. It's not entirely an X-Files episode, nor is an a Millennium episode. It's try to do both, to its own detriment. I was very happy to get to see a conclusion to Frank Black's adventure, and maybe if I hadn't watched Millennium I would've been fine with it. But having watched that other show -- and knowing that if it had continued Black's adventures in late December, 1999 would have been much bigger than 4 FBI zombies -- it still felt a little disappointing.
sofrina
5. dalgoda
Millennium was epic. It's premise had so much depth. I loved X-FILES. Please don't get me wrong. But, Millennium was the show that stayed in my thoughts. I loved the character of Frank Black. The man who was gifted by God to see the evil in the world and its demons, who lived in a sunny yellow house, and tried his best to keep his family together when everything else was falling apart. That was the heart of the show. That was the chord that struck me. It had some amazing episodes...one of my favorites was "Somehow the Devil Got Behind Me." That one was brilliant. It was a shocking show, it bothered you if you thought too much about it, and I truly cared for the characters. Oh yeah, Terry O'Quinn was part of the Millennium group. :) Peter Watts!
j. grant
6. sonteeg
For the most part, I really liked the Millenium TV series. It had just crazy good intro music and visuals that truly gave you a feel for what the show was about. It was more the show for world conspiracy/secret society aficionados, times twelve, rather than for alien watchers. It seemed to me that the X-Files Millenium episode tried to do too much in too short a time, and it wound up feeling rushed, not completely plotted, just not very finis at all. Perhaps if it had been at least a two part show it might've been better.
sofrina
7. RobinM
I think would have worked better as a two part episode too. It would have given Frank Black more time to interact with our heroes and more exposer to Millenium weirdness rather than X-Files weirdness. I'm glad Frank and his daughter were reunited though.
sofrina
8. Eugene R.
Put me down as another X-Files/Millennium fan. Millennium had the second-best-ever Jose Chung episode as ITregillis (@4) points out. (Very terrific super-meta-inside-joke piece, indeed!) The difference between the two shows may be illustrated best by the fact that, in Millennium, Jose Chung is murdered. Gloomy, yes, but Lance Hendricksen and Terry O'Quinn would not want it any other way.
sofrina
9. TL Foreman
Ah yes, the much talked about crossover episode between Xfiles and Millennium. I run a fan campaign called Back to Frank Black and this one has divided our Millennium fandom.

For me, it just didn't work for either series. As you can guess, I consider Millennium a better show than the X-files. For me, Millennium was more grounded in reality than aliens, conspiracies and so on. Although it was great to see Frank Black on the screen again and in scened with Mulder and Scully, the premise of the story didn't make much sense. As Lance has said before, what do zombies in a basement have to do with closing out Millennium.

The main purpose of this epissode was the Mulder/Scully kiss..which is another thing that sort of turned me off from the X-files, the old clishe with they/won't they dynamic, gets very old after 50 other shows have done the same thing.

Millennium was a very deep and dark show, not for everyone, but for the faithful fans out there, it was a tremendous piece of work. If you want to go into more detail about the series, head on over to our website backtofrankblack.com. We have just released a 512 page book on the series with interviews from most of the cast and essays about the show! It's a great read for fans of Millennium!
sofrina
10. Chato Arreguin
Yeah, I was gonna' plug the Back To Frank Black campaign, as well. GREAT podcast, BTW, TL Foreman!!! I just recently listened to the Family Reunion episode, and have to tell you, it gave me such a good feeling, hearing the actors talk together about the show, and other things. Chalk me up for ANOTHER Millenium fan. I really enjoyed both, but Millenium, in my opinion, had more depth, more genuine characters, and was just all around more spooky!!! I am STILL upset that it was cancelled. Especially seeing as how it was the most brilliant piece of television on, at that time, and since (again, my personal opinion.) As for the X-Files episode in question, I've never seen it, nor even knew it existed. I seem to remember a more comical X-Files episode, where Lance Henriksen, as Frank Black, made a cameo, in which he was this snarky, flamboyant detective, or something along those lines (forgive my memory, as the late 90's got pretty wild, to say the least!?!?!?) I assume you're not talking about that particular episode??? Anyways, I basically just wanted to chime in, and proclaim my allegiance to Millenium. I'm still holding out for a resurgence of the Millenium show!!! I still have yet to pick up the aforementioned Millenium book, as my screen printing business hasn't been all that lucrative, lately (anyone need any shirts???) Anyways, just rambling, now. Cheers \m/
sofrina
11. GridProgram
Haven' t seen Millenium, neither have I seen this episode yet. I like the X - Files though. But from what is written here, I don' t think it was a good idea to write out the main character of that show from the episode, especially if it counted as a show' s finale.

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