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.