It seemed like a sure fire idea. X-Files creator Chris Carter, riding an enormous wave of critical and popular success for his scary science fiction show was asked to add another doom and gloom drama to his career canon. Looking at the recent success of Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, he struck upon the idea of an ex-government agency profiler who is forced into early retirement when the job becomes too much for him. Recruited by the foreboding Millennium Group as a "consultant" on crime cases, this reluctant detective soon learns that all the horrible crimes, the terrorist acts and mass murders, are the result of a Biblical battle between good and evil, with the Group's loyalties teetering somewhere in the middle. Mixing the mythology-heavy storylines that made Mulder and Scully's searches for the truth all the more terrifying with the real life horrors of abhorrent crime, the show could not possibly fail. And for a while, it looked like this new series would defy the odds and turn its Friday night death slot on Fox into a ratings winner. But as with most TV experiments that are too morose, morbid or just manufactured before their time, Millennium died a slow and painful death over the course of three erratic seasons. Careening wildly from straight ahead crime drama to bizarre religious Rapture fable, the series never really got serious scenario legs underneath it. Now finally, after milking The X-Files like the cash cow that it is, Fox favors us by issuing the exceptional first season of this sensational, scattershot show on DVD. While by no means perfect, there is a rare power and an uneasy sense of evil in every episode of Millennium: The Complete First Season. It transcends its limits and missteps to become something truly remarkable in the tenets of television.
Frank and Catherine Black have returned to Seattle - Frank's hometown - to start a new life. Frank is an ex-FBI agent specializing in the profiling of serial killers and sex offenders. Forced into early retirement due to a mental breakdown, the Blacks, along with their young daughter Jordan, just want to put on a fresh face and begin again. During his recovery, Frank is contacted by Peter Watts, a member of the criminal consulting firm called The Millennium Group. We soon learn that Frank has a gift of "second sight" or "criminal cognizance" that allows him to see into a criminal's mind, deciphering the dementia within. The Group thinks this will be helpful in closing difficult and/or disturbing cases. Wanting to get back into the business of putting bad men behind bars, Frank starts working for the organization. He even runs into an old buddy from his police days, Lt. Bob "Bletch" Bletcher. Aware of Frank's mental history, Bletch hopes his friend isn't getting back in "over his head" when it comes to confronting the horrible, heinous acts he must investigate. And while his home life seems perfect, Catherine is starting to have her doubts. She knows Frank wants to protect her and Jordan from the evil in the world. But she fears for Frank's sanity...and their safety.
Throughout the course of Season 1, Frank, Bletch and Peter Watts find themselves confronting several sinister criminals, and the horrible atrocities they create. Looking at each episode individually, we can see the structure of Frank's focus with the Millennium Group, a growing assemblage of good vs. evil imagery and the start of small fissures in Frank and Catherine's closeness. Reviewed one at a time, we start with:
"Pilot" – ex-FBI agent Frank Black returns to his hometown of Seattle to "lay down some roots" with his wife and daughter. Working as a consultant for The Millennium Group, he gets involved in a strange series of murders.
"Pilot" is perhaps the most perfect opening episode to a one-hour suspense thriller television show ever conceived. It manages to balance the necessary introductory exposition (who Frank is, why he's RETIRED FBI and what the Millennium Group is all about) with a tense, dread-filled storyline of sadistic serial killing. The great thing about Chris Carter's script is that it never treats the murders as anything other than serious and finds clever, unique ways to tie them in to some manner of evolving mythology. Indeed, Frank will eventually learn that his work with this secret society has some universal, Armageddon inspired parameters. But as of right now, all we fear are everyday dealers in death, the twisted freaks who kill for thrills. That, and the identity of the stalker snapping Polaroids of Frank's family and sending them to him.
As with any preliminary outing of a series, acting is crucial to making everything work, and the choice of B-movie MASTER Lance Henricksen is sheer genius. No one is able to instill more gravity and genuineness into even the most seemingly underdeveloped idea than Mr. Glower Power himself. With a face as cracked and cragged as a classic statue from an ancient society's ruins and a wisdom born out of same, Lance is in control from the first frame he appears in. While we see very little of Terry O' Quinn (another great actor working within Millennium's menace) Henricksen's presence means that Carter is serious about treating the misdeeds as well as the potential supernatural issues within the show with a completely straight face. Add in a particularly creepy killer with an equally disturbing style and a mysterious envelope filled with photos taken of Frank's family and Millennium is off to a great start. 5/5
"Gehenna" – a cult like telemarketing organization kills all non-believers. It is up to Frank to discover why so many of them end up cremated.
Capitalizing on the stellar start with "Pilot", Millennium's second outing is equally powerful. Thanks to some suggestive effects and wonderful crosscutting (we never quite know what we are supposed to be seeing) the sense of evil is definitely increased. The atypical storyline doesn't rely on the usual evidence and resolution framework. Instead, we witness the investigation in evocative drips and drabs. Frank's "gift" is also challenged and the Millennium mythology begins to broaden. There may be more here than just your standard serial killer show. We also see some more of the key players in the Millennium Group, something the show will explore more fully in coming shows. 4.5/5
"Dead Letters" – a killer leaves taunting messages for the police at his crime scenes. Frank teams up with potential Group member, Jim Horn to solve the case.
With a grotesque series of crimes at its center (our killer likes to cut up bodies in many pieces) "Dead Letters" is one of the more horrifying episodes in Season 1. Seeing Jim Horn go through his mental breakdown gives us insight into where Frank Black is coming from and the conclusion has a real legal authenticity to it (no hot shot heroics here). About the only letdown is the murderer himself. We rarely understand his reasons for committing these horrible acts. We never quite learn enough about him to comprehend his rationale, no matter what insights Frank and Jim argue over. We need to appreciate his evil and unfortunately, we don't. 4/5
"Judge" – an enigmatic man propositions ex-cons into service of his "court". Frank must catch him before he "sentences" more people to their ethical "execution".
If Millennium makes any mistakes in its first few episodes, it's wrapping up each killing spree in a nice, neat bundle after 45 minutes. Frank needs an ongoing nemesis, a cold-hearted villain with easy instant death at his fingertips to challenge this profiler's resolve. Instead, the good vs. evil mythology starts to take over, Frank finding that the face of malevolence is becoming less...or maybe more...human. The Judge could have been a great, gruesome opponent, threatening Frank's skill and sanity at every turn. Instead, we get more blood and guts (including some particularly nasty photos) and a premature end to a potentially great pairing. However, this is still a fine, moody episode. 4/5
"522666" – when a local Washington D.C. pub explodes, Frank and the Millennium Group are called in to trace the whereabouts of the bomber.
Entering its fifth episode, Millennium has begun experimenting with format and protocol, hoping to avoid the serial killer of the week label the media saddled it with. Too bad that all the thrilling components relating to bomb squad activities are completely thwarted by an overly technical discussion of decidedly dull issues, like cell phone tracing techniques. Frank's cat and mouse with the perpetrator is interesting, but grows derivative after a while. Thankfully, Millennium would barely venture back into CSI territory, going instead to a good vs. evil, dark vs. light concentration for the series. 3/5
"Kingdom Come" – a distraught man is killing priests. Frank seems to think he understands the murderer. But it will take a face-to-face confrontation to truly understand his rationale.
Reverting right back to 'insane maniac with a grudge to purge' mode, "Kingdom Come" is classic Millennium with an exceptional script that delightfully fails to spell everything out for us up front. We are therefore allowed to get involved in the compelling premise and see a real psychological profile of a crazed criminal develop. The ending is equally effective, allowing insight into Frank's fears and Catherine's growing unease with her husband's line of work. The next episode would offer a strange solution to this marital dilemma. For right now, "Kingdom Come" is the blueprint for all better Millennium episodes to come. 5/5
"Blood Relations" – a demented drifter shows up at the funerals of people he does not know and inserts himself into their grief. When he leaves, there is usually a dead body in his wake.
Batting two for two, Millennium hits another home run by marrying an original premise to a creepy causality to create an installment that is as shocking as it is sentimental. With elements reminiscent of Cracker's "Best Boys" – troubled teen looking for love from the mother who abandoned him – we get a great set of villains, a nice bit of police work by Bletch and the boys, and even the incorporation of Catherine into Frank's line of work. She counsels the families affected by the uninvited mourner, and more than holds her own against the Seattle PD and her husband's hush-hush organization. With a nice open ending and a very atmospheric, moody tone, this episode really excels. 5/5
"The Well-Worn Lock" – when the police pickup a young woman wandering the streets, Catherine Black is called in to counsel her. This adult daughter of a prominent businessman claims she's been molested for the last 23 years.
Either a failed attempt to incorporate both Frank and Catherine into Millennium's mix, a blatant star turn for Megan Gallagher or a crass attempt at appeasing the female demographic, "The Well-Worn Lock" is the first episode in Series 1 that truly doesn't "feel" like Millennium. It's not because the story is substandard: indeed, Chris Carter's script handles the horrifying subject very well. But with Frank more or less in the background (save for one scene outside a cabin) we are mostly treated to victim counseling, legal arguments by the DA and one of the most unrealistic court cases ever. While not the worst installment of the show (that's coming up...) it really fragments the tone and atmosphere the previous segments tried to set up. 2.5/5
"Wide Open" - an unknown killer cases homes for sale and attends the open house. He hides inside and waits for nightfall. Frank and the Seattle police must discover the purpose behind his brutal attacks.
Finally, another trip back into serial murder land. "Wide Open" has a clever premise, a great deal of suspense and some gruesomely graphic imagery to appease the gorehounds (yours truly included). Though the open house ruse does get repetitive after a while, at least it is offered with enough passion and presence to hook us from the very beginning. The only flaw here is that the killer's motives are left to a casual comment from Bletch about two minutes before the show is about to end. Something as cruel and calculated as this crime deserves some manner of in-depth detail, not an off-the-cuff quip. 3.5/5
The Wild and the Innocent – a young woman kidnaps her step-dad and with the help of a homicidal boyfriend, goes hunting for her "Angel". Frank and the group must track down this desperate duo before they cause more damage.
God, "The Wild and the Innocent" is a TERRIBLE episode of Millennium. Mannered, irritating, poorly cast and terribly written, this voice over vomit is a chore to sit through. Any TV show that starts off its story with a young woman drawling like a hillbilly Harlequin Romance novel about her "Angel" completely destroys its felonious footing; and this is a THRILLER, remember?! Our redneck narrator aside, this Bonnie and Clod contemptuous crap reduces Millennium to a ridiculous movie of the week. No matter how hard they try, or how horrible the acts of violence become, we still can't forget that this entire episode is about a whining teenage mother who wants to find her sold-on-the-black-market bratling. Boo-hoo. 1/5
Weeds – in a heavily guarded, gated community, young boys are being kidnapped. Frank and the local police must determine why these specific kids are targeted.
Something about "Weeds" just isn't right. Maybe it's the standard befuddled local police chief, a clichéd character that seems to pop up in every other Millennium episode (Frank is basically handing them their suspect on a silver police blotter and all these law guys can do is stand around in slack jawed disbelief). Perhaps it's the ritualistic elements of the tortures (why the blood drinking? Why the cattle prod?), the full facets of which are never really explained. Or it could be that we are tossed a big fat red herring (the sullen swim coach) before we really have a grip on all the dynamics of the retribution. Whatever it is, it takes Herculean efforts by the cast and crew to overcome it. "Weeds" is one of the weaker episodes in the series, but it also had some of the greatest potential. Too bad it couldn't completely come together. 3/5
"Loin Like a Hunting Flame" – a deranged man with warped sexual fantasies begins kidnapping couples, forcing them to have sex on camera. Frank must discover the reasons behind these deadly perversions.
Even though Frank is constantly labeled as an expert in sex crimes, this is really the first time we witness a case of such a salacious nature. Beginning with this tense, tawdry offering, Millennium starts a streak of stellar episodes that prove what could have been done had the show's focus, both literally and metaphysically, remained on crime and criminality. Handled in a subtle, somber manner, the events unfold in this episode evenly and eerily. The maniacal face of the everyman killer says it all: this is one sick deviant, getting his kicks off the torture of others. 4/5
"Force Majeure" – when a bright, blond college student immolates herself, The Millennium Group finds itself confronting ancient prophecy, Biblical revelations and an enigmatic "groupie" who thinks he has the answers.
Laying the groundwork for the entire mythology that will start to spring forth toward the end of Season 1 (and go gonzo in Season2), this bizarre tale of cloning, conspiracies and catastrophes is superb. It may not make much sense - and frankly, even after the show's entire run it is still not very well explained – but the enigmatic visuals (man in an iron lung, a group of identical children) are very atmospheric. This is also an episode where Frank and Peter are more on the outside looking in, not really affecting the outcome of events but interpreting them for our benefit. Complete with a creepy, calm turn by genre mainstay Brad Dourif, this is one of the series' better apocalypse-inspired episodes. 4.5/5
"The Thin White Line" – there's a copycat killer on the loose, reenacting crimes committed by a killer Frank put away decades before. Now the ex-FBI profiler must face the incarcerated felon to try and stop the carnage.
Taking a page from Silence of the Lambs, Frank goes back to an old nemesis to pick his deviant brain about what makes a killer. The confrontation and quid pro quo are excellent. Less successful are the flashbacks to Frank as a young FBI agent in the 70s. Lance sports a silly sprout of hair and jacks his voice up a couple of notches, but he still looks like our middle-aged main man running around. Yet because the past material is directed and edited in a very spooky manner, we mostly fall for the fakery and go with the flow. With a stellar final act and a closing scene that has a great deal of impact in a very restrained manner, this is an excellent installment. 4.5/5
"Sacrament" – during the baptism of Frank's niece, his sister-in-law is kidnapped. All signs point to a known sexual predator.
While it may seem unfair to blame Frank for how his brother's family falls into the horrors of the criminal world (it's inferred all over the episode) this is still a taut, well-executed thriller. Our potential bad guy is sufficiently chilling, the events unfold with logic and authenticity and the final few minutes are real nail biters. Though we never really see any sadistic behavior, the suggestive snippets used (images of tools, screaming faces, bloody remnants) really sell the sinister qualities. With great acting all around (as well as a nice bit of back story on Frank) this is Millennium at its best. 5/5
"Covenant" – a retired police officer is accused of murdering his entire family. But after careful scrutiny of the facts and the evidence, Frank feels differently. He must act quickly to save the innocent individual from a death sentence.
One of the reasons Millennium worked beyond the conventions of other "cop" shows is because it broke clichés and trampled all over formulas. Any other show about a man accused of killing his entire family would be centered on discovering 'why' he did it? What caused him to snap: drugs?, adultery?, financial woes?, his dead dog's mandates? Frank avoids these typical takes to question the very nature of the crime and the prerequisites for committing such a horrible act. The fact that we never really know the entire truth – several parts are left wide open for interpretation – doesn't lessen its impact. 4/5
"Walkabout" – dazed and confused, Frank is picked up in an alley. He can't remember what happened to him. Peter discovers that Frank used an assumed name and attended the trials for an experimental drug.
This is a strange show on many levels. The narrative is jagged, jumping back and forth from present to past to...the possible? Indeed, the whole episode is like a giant puzzle with the pieces tossed at us from all angles. It forces us to confront uneasy questions: what was Frank doing at the drug test trial? Who died? Why did the Internet "doctor" loose his license? Now, if one pays close attention, they can make all the pieces fit: the fear for his family, the taking of a homicide case against the Group's wishes, the rationale behind the "evil twin" drug. The megalomaniac subplot is just further fun frosting on the cake of chaos. It is easy to see why some fans hate this particular show. Frank Black is really not "himself" in this episode, acting completely out of character. But as part of the ever-evolving aspects of the series, it's a fine outing. 4/5
"Lamentation" – a cruel serial killer Frank helped apprehend escapes from the hospital. More and more, the evidence points to the maniac targeting Frank, and more importantly, his family.
Chris Carter is back to script and he produces one of the scariest, creepiest installments of the entire first season. He also introduces an incredibly successful adversary for Frank and the Group – the heinous bitch witch Lucy Butler. Creating an archetypal villain is tough, but Carter finds the right combination of pragmatic and paranormal to turn Lucy into the stuff of nightmares. Dr. Fabricant, the killer Frank helped catch, is really just a bundle of malevolent components, never really given a chance to become a real cruel character. But Lucy is more than the demented doc could ever be. Practically an equal with Frank and Peter, her presence will be "explored" in future episodes and seasons. Along with the unexpected shock ending and a wonderfully suspenseful sequence in the Black home, this is one of the best episodes of Millennium ever. 5/5
"Power, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions" - after the Bletcher situation, Frank is reluctant to return to work. But a series of ritualistic murders call him back in. Apparently, the war between good and evil has begun.
While this could be considered a "continuation" of the previous episode, this is definitely one of the purest supernatural episodes of the series. Basically, we are placed in the position of witnessing the opening salvos in a battle between angels and demons. The title refers to the hierarchy of angelic choirs, and the Satanic/Ancient Ritual elements help to keep the episodes grounded in the suggestive and the religious. Spooky and somewhat surreal, the entire installment crackles with possibilities. It will form the basis for much of Season 2. 3.5/5
"Broken World" – sensing there is a serial killer in the making, Frank investigates the systematic slaughter of horses in the Northwest region of the United States.
Though he is often called in to offer profiles, it is rare when we get to witness Frank actually creating one. This interesting installment of the show allows us that window into this world. Some of the aspects to the narrative are very sinister (the murderer, the abattoir setting) but others prove silly (the overwhelming pro-horse mantras). Still, the straightforward police work matched with a truly craven criminal makes this episode enthralling, if not completely successful. 3/5
"Maranatha" – a Russian police officer is in New York looking for a madman that has slaughtered several people, all of whom have a connection to Chernobyl. But Frank and Peter think the deaths may indicate the presence of the Anti-Christ.
With its focus on Biblical revelation and the Chernobyl accident, "Maranatha" could have been truly taxing. But thanks to the incredibly tight script, the great sense of Russian culture and tradition and incredible performances by the guest stars, this episode is incredibly ominous and grim. There are lots of theatrics here, obvious bows to the end-of-the-world elements discussed throughout. Combined with previous installments of the show, this is one of the best examples of Millennium's careful balancing act between reality and the otherworldly. 4.5/5
"Paper Dove" – while on vacation in Washington D.C., Frank is asked by his father-in-law to help a friend who's son was accused of murder. While investigating the man's guilt, Frank stumbles upon another series of crimes.
In essence a multi-part show, we are treated to another stalwart serial killer (Mike Starr's menacing Henry Dion), Frank's favor for his family, the "Polaroid" stalker, the link they all have to each other and the uneasy feelings Catherine's relatives have for their strange son-in-law. Centered around Starr's throat crusher and then fanning out to explore the overall web of evil that Millennium exists in, we are even treated to an intense cliffhanger that will have first time DVD fans completely flummoxed. Mixing many of the best elements of the show (without the psycho-sacred overtones) this episode caps off the series sensationally. 4.5/5
Millennium, especially in its first season, is one of the great lost gems of episodic television. Looking back it's hard to fathom how such a dark, gruesome show ever saw the light of programming. Obviously inspired by Se7en, David Fincher's amazingly dark serial killer thriller from 1995 (the year before Millennium's birth), Carter and company wanted to explore the bad side of man in as equally ambient and morally ambivalent tones as the blockbuster film. It tried to mix the deviant with the divine to seek sense and order out of a world gone wicked. It placed the fate and the destiny of the planet in the hands of a man fearing he has lost faith in his inner strength and abilities. It wished to shock and scare. It hoped to suggest and scintillate. By using the life of ex-FBI agent Frank Black and his insular battle between hope and helplessness, it was a series that strived to explain death and those who want to create it in terms both pragmatic and prophetic. And for the most part, it succeeded wildly. There hadn't been anything remotely like it on TV before, and similar shows (Profiler, for instance) couldn't capture the craven nature of evil the way Millennium did. Every week we were taken on a trip into the horrid underbelly of life and prayed that Frank and the Group could save us from the mindless monsters within. Sometimes they did. Most times, we failed to return unscathed.
Casting was crucial to the success of the show and Millennium's main players are truly magnificent. Indeed, they are so good that when less than stellar performers take up residence beside them (like nosy, numbskull neighbor Jack Meredith, played by Don Mackay or over the top investigator Jim Horn, played by James Morrison) they appear pretty pathetic. As stated before, Henricksen is the glue that binds together this bold blast in the heart of darkness flawlessly. So morose you'd swear he invented the emotion, Black must face more than personal demons on Millennium and never once does Henricksen fail the flighty material. He plays everything straight and severe, helping sell the more mind-boggling moments with creepy clarity. Equally effective in a far less showy role is Megan Gallagher as Catherine. Trying to be the understanding wife in a world of pedophiles, rapists and serial killers is a tough call for anyone. But Gallagher instills Catherine with enough emotional heart to see both the good and the bad in what her husband is doing. Toward the end of the series, when crime hits too close to home for the Black family, Catherine's coldness adds another layer of grief to the already anguished Frank and this extra dynamic makes theirs one of the most interpersonally complex relationships in the history of television. Even little Brittany Tiplady manages to avoid precocious brat syndrome to turn daughter Jordan into a viable cog in the Black clan.
Millennium also had a superb supporting cast. Terry O' Quinn's Peter Watts (who won't really come alive until Season 2) plays off Henricksen perfectly, their pairing resulting in some of the best moments in the show. C.C.H. Pounder also shows up as Group pathologist Cheryl Evans and practically steals every scene she is in. While the killers and creeps can all seem like run of the mill, dime a dozen character actors from Central Casting, a few truly stand out. As mentioned before, Sarah Jane Redmond creates one of the best human abominations ever, the cool calculating creature called Lucy Butler. Basically an embodiment of pure malevolence, her appearances on Millennium resulted in some of the best out right terrifying episodes. It's hard to pinpoint what makes Redmond's redolent female so foul. Perhaps it's the callous disregard she has for even the most atrocious acts of awfulness. Or maybe it's how callous she is about it all. Equally effective is Marshall Bell as the mysterious "Judge" from the episode of the same name. His dispenser of peculiar punishments makes a grand dictatorial presence. Too bad he had to "disappear" after his episode. And Mike Starr, who many may remember as George Weiss from Ed Wood or Frankie from Miller's Crossing, gives a stellar interpretation as the under-appreciated, overweight Mama's boy who just wants someone to "listen" as he talks. His terrific turn marks one of the many times when recognizable faces (Bill Nunn, Brad Dourif) show up to lend Millennium a familiar helping hand.
But Millennium is more than great acting and terrific tone. It's a weekly horror film with its focus on man's most inhumane treatment of his fellow being. It's a brilliant character study of killer and cracker, and how both can be one and the same sometimes. Though perhaps too bleak to be called a classic entertainment, it is still a show that sucks you in from the very beginning and paints its pain in broad, baneful strokes. It's unmistakable and usually quite memorable. Though it flounders around in the middle, trying to find a way to get regular people to partake of an eerie ethical battle between divergent superstitious ideals and the unquenchable human desire for blood, it does feature several of the most mesmerizing, unforgettable characters ever created. With an overriding aura of doom and gloom and an even stranger symbolic system of prophetic pronouncements, Millennium was a stark, sensational crime drama that only faltered because the public wasn't quite ready to stare our sad reality square in the face. No matter the legions of devils or hordes of angels, Millennium was mostly about our degenerating social order and how evil has subsumed almost all of the decency that used to exist. And apparently, not even someone as tuned into it as Frank Black can save us from it. He simply exists to clean it up when it's all over.
Dark, foreboding and using a muted palette of earth and autumnal tones, Millennium is a very evocative show. And thanks to the terrific transfer offered by Fox, the eerie atmospherics are captures in complete clarity. This is the best the series ever looked, from its original broadcast on the then fledgling fourth network to its later, limited cable exposure. The 1.33:1 full screen image is gritty, moody, and buried in the darkest of shadows, almost always an issue for a DVD release. But thankfully, Millennium avoids the usual compression pitfalls to offer up a fantastic visual presentation of the gloomy Pacific Northwest (even if it really is Canada) as an oasis of awfulness.
Equally important to the tenor of the show is the ambient angst projected by the aural attributes in the soundtrack. Heard here in Dolby Digital Stereo that has a few true immersive moments and a great overall audio vibrancy, the sinister and the shocking are greatly served by the sonic situations on this DVD. Millennium enjoys messing with the mind of its audience by adding odd undercurrents of unusual noises and obscure sound effects into the mix. All of it is captured here in near pristine clarity.
Aside from the ability to see a favored old show again for the first time in a long while, the other major benefit of the Millennium DVD package is the interesting bonus materials offered. We are treated to commentaries, behind the scenes documentaries and a look at the true work of FBI profilers. Individually, here is a run down of what you get:
Commentary on "Pilot" by creator Chris Carter – starting immediately once the first fade-in occurs, Carter describes how he approached the creation of the series, from its main character and his perplexed persona to the types of plots he preferred to explore. He agrees that the show stumbled along the way the first few months it was on the air and overestimated the Y2K fears that formed the basis of Millennium's themes. Toward the middle of the second act, Carter starts to shut down, allowing long portions of the plot to go by without comment. But he really does clarify where many of the character names come from, how he only wanted to hire "adult" performers with real personas for the show and how the interpersonal relationships, the symbolic meanings and the overall ideas within Millennium were set up and executed.
Commentary on "Gehenna" by director David Nutter – with a far more conversational approach from Carter's straightforward monotone, Nutter provides insight into how an entire series is structured, from first episode exposition to circumstances hinted at for future installments. He also provides information on how attitude, mood and environment were created within each show. Casting is also crucial for Nutter and he has nothing but praise for the actors in Millennium. Indeed, both Carter and Nutter agree that this was the key to any success the show had. They both acknowledge that without Henricksen, Gallagher, O' Quinn and others, Millennium would never have seen the light of day. But Nutter's main focus is how important the first episode is to any television series and he believes that Millennium was successful in selling its bleak, Baroque premise from the very start.
"Order in Chaos: Making of Season 1" Documentary (50 mins) – one of the best aspects of this DVD set is this broad overview of the series, from conception to the completion of all 22 episodes. Chris Carter, along with several of the cast and crew, sit down to discuss the delights and difficulties in bringing this bleak vision to life. This behind the scenes profile includes insights into the casting, how standard and practices responded to the show, the effect all the carnage had on those making each episode and the use of direction and editing techniques to ensure the dark, foreboding tone of the series. From the case of the changing Black residence (the owners of the home used in the "Pilot" would not let Millennium come back) to the admitted mistakes in focus and narrative drive, this is a very comprehensive account of the enormous amount of work required for each installment of this very unconventional television show. While some of the more important performers are absent (Terry O' Quinn, Bill Smitrovich) and none of the numerous guest stars (Brad Dourif, Bill Nunn) speak out, this is still a sensational look at how Millennium was made.
"Chasing the Dragon" - Academy Group Featurette - subtitled "a look at real life profilers" this short features interviews with several members of the Academy Group, an organization of former FBI and law enforcements investigators working in the private sector. Conferring with clients on cases similar to the ones Frank and the Millennium Group undertake – it was this actual company that Chris Carter based his characters and their collective on – the Q&A gives us a rare glimpse into the world of real life criminal consultants. While their discussions of the ins and outs of the business have a rehearsed, derivative feel to them, their coarse words for "fly by night" profilers and individuals who would jeopardize the integrity of an investigation by going on television to discuss it (or, in their opinion, basically just guess and speculate) are very interesting to hear. Along with bows to Thomas Harris (whose Red Dragon influenced the Group) and the personal mental pitfalls of dealing with depraved acts of inhumanity, we see just how someone like Frank Black could actually exist in the world.
Creating the Logo and Title Sequence – long of details but short on answers, this clarification of the art behind the start of each show provides the chance for some of Millennium's unsung heroes to discuss their part in its eerie essence. While it would have been nice to save some of the font discussion and scattershot symbolism used for a more measured approach on all aspects of the introductions creation, the majority of the information here is interesting. But ALL the images used in the opening should been explained. Sadly, only a few are. We get snippets of specifics and some captivating hints, but there's a lot left out. Indeed, there is a sense that the full story has been truncated here, as if to only offer tidbits. Maybe the rest is being saved for future DVD sets.
TV Spots – a half dozen examples of how Fox sold Millennium to the viewing public when the show's "Pilot" was about to appear.
Trailers – basic Fox ads for other DVD product.
Make no mistake about it; Millennium was a missed opportunity for Fox. Hoping for a quick and easy payoff after the unbelievable success of The X-Files, the never-patient network demanded that Chris Carter's latest creation instantly click with viewers...or change completely trying. Asking a show with a specific sense of the world, with all its shadows and blackness, to find immediate mass appeal was rather ridiculous. But Millennium felt up to the challenge. And all the elements were in place for the show to soar, once it got its CSI together. But the bean counters couldn't wait and after countless shifts in story, time slot and publicity, the series fell off the pop culture landscape, leaving in its wake a devoted legion of fans. These aficionados have waited patiently for the time when they could revisit Frank Black, the man with the metaphysical weight of the universe on his strong, but scared, shoulders. And now the DVD has finally arrived. In retrospect, the first season of Millennium stumbled a bit. It occasionally crafted more than it could ever consume. And it tossed aside several stellar chances at creating a true serial killer drama that was evocative and filled with evil. But beyond all the bungles lies a fantastic, frightening work of visionary wonder. For many, Frank Black is a sacrosanct superhero, one minor man fighting against infinite evil to bring a small amount of hope to all of humanity. Whether or not he succeeds makes for sensational storytelling. It is also what gives Millennium: The Complete First Season its dramatic weight. It is a truly special show.
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