As someone who watched The X-Files almost religiously during its wildly popular nine-year run (or seven-year run, for the Doggett-hating party poopers), I absolutely have no idea how Chris Carter's Millennium completely avoided me during its brief but influential 1996-1999 lifespan. Though it didn't have quite as broad an appeal as its sky-watching big brother, the strongest episodes of Millennium were right on par with the very best that The X-Files ever had to offer. On more than one occasion, the student even surpassed its teacher.
Of course, all of my opinions of Millennium are in hindsight, as I finally caught up with the series upon its initial DVD release (incidentally, after reading the glowing review written by our own Bill Gibron, which is linked below). Right from the start, it was easy to see that Millennium was a very special show: sure, it shared a similar atmosphere to The X-Files, but the core element of evil was grounded firmly in the human mind instead of the supernatural. This series was highly influenced by films like David Fincher's Se7en---which Carter readily admits to during an early Season One featurette---and for good reason: with a future outlook as bleak as Millennium had, it needed some serious atmosphere to back it up. It did, of course, so the formula worked perfectly.
As the first season closed out in 1997, the real-life Millennium clock was still ticking slowly away. While the dreaded "computer scare" turned out to be nothing to worry about---and I can safely admit/brag that I didn't buy one ounce of bottled water---the forward-thinking mindset of Millennium carried a strong sense of urgency and dread that made it a true product of the era (though again, viewed in hindsight, it still holds up very well). The scope of the entire series was still several years ahead of its time at this point, hiding in the shadow of our beloved Agents Mulder and Scully, ready to make paranoid freaks out of us all. The ongoing adventures of Frank Black (masterfully played by Lance Henriksen) as an ex-FBI agent unable to shake his past weren't finished, not by a long shot.
The tight mix of drama and suspense worked well together, combining a dark atmosphere with a team of truly talented writers and directors to create the best TV thriller since, well, The X-Files. Even so, to say this formula stayed the same from 1996-1999 would be grossly inaccurate, wouldn't it? As such, the second season switched gears almost immediately, transforming the show from a sleek thriller into a broader, epic battle of good versus evil. The Millennium Group itself was called into question this time around, with Frank gradually second-guessing his loyalty to the group and their loyalty to him.
Unfortunately, this change in style didn't sit too well with many fans (and some of the creative team, for that matter), as most viewers weren't quite ready for such a different approach. Chris Carter had basically left the show in the hands of the writers and producers---focusing his attention on The X-Files, both the show and the feature film---and his absence was noticeable, but almost necessary in hindsight. Carter's temporary departure helped the show become a bit more experimental, drifting away even further from its X-Files similarities and evolving into one of the best seasons of any series. By season's end, however, Millennium made the mistake of painting itself into a corner: fearing the show wouldn't be renewed for another year, the ending left our hero at, quite literally, the end of his rope. It was a bleak conclusion, but one of the most memorable in television history.
The show wasn't cancelled, of course, but that pesky "painted into a corner" problem still remained. Somewhat alienating its fanbase even further, the creative team, for the most part, swept the chaos of the Season Two finale under the rug. Many viewers gave up on the show at that point---and it would've been hard to blame them, given the circumstances. Here was a show that really pushed itself forward during the first two years---almost too much for its own good, really---enough so that the third and final season had nowhere to go but backwards. Frank returned to his life's routine before his retirement (minus his wife, Catherine, of course), working with the FBI to solve cases with rather unusual circumstances. Frank was also paired with a new partner, FBI Agent Emma Hollis (Klea Scott), making Millennium more of a curious sister to The X-Files rather than its own entity.
Even so, there were plenty of interesting stories left to tell. Although the show took several episodes to really get going---mostly due to the clumsy transition between seasons---there are some real standouts during this third and final season. There's also good and bad news by the season's end: Episodes #21 and #22, "Via Dolorosa" and "Goodbye To All That", are some of the best in the series. While it's good to know that Millennium ended strongly, it's equally disappointing when we realize that they're the last two outings in the series. Could the show have regained its footing in a fourth season, or should the creative team have called it quits after the second? The decision, fortunately, is up to the viewer while watching this final batch of episodes, which include the following:
Complete Episode Listing
(22 episodes on 6 single-sided DVDs, 946 minutes total)
Disc One: The Innocents* / Exegesis / Teotwawki / Closure
Disc Two: 13 Years Later / Skull & Bones / Through A Glass Darkly / Human Essence
Disc Three: Omerta / Borrowed Time / Collateral Damage* / The Sound Of Snow
Disc Four: Antipas / Matryoshka / Forcing The End / Saturn Dreaming Of Mercury
Disc Five: Darwin's Eye / Bardo Thodol / Seven And One / Nostalgia
Disc Six: Via Dolorosa / Goodbye To All That / Additional Bonus Features
(NOTE: Episodes marked with a star [*] also contain Audio Commentary)
Again, this season doesn't particularly start strongly, but it's hard not to notice a handful of standouts this time around. Discs Three and Six are the best overall, including the one-two punch of "Collateral Damage" and "The Sound Of Snow", as well as the visually stunning "Omerta". The latter episode also features a guest appearance by Jon Polito (Miller's Crossing, which one scene in the episode bears a striking resemblance to); on a curious sidenote, Polito also bears an uncanny likeness to a chubby Peter Watts. Of course, the final two episodes are the biggest standouts, each containing a tension and atmosphere that the show hadn't consistently seen since Season 2. There's a few clunkers along the way---something that the other two seasons can admit to as well---but there are a larger number of episodes that only get by on particular scenes, rather than being strong all around.
Overall, Millennium was a very interesting show from start to finish. In more ways than one, each of the seasons were strong by themselves---with the obvious edge going to the first two, of course---but as a whole, they had a lot of trouble getting along with one another. As a result, the show's fans were left with a slightly uneven but highly ambitious series that burned out much too quickly. On one hand, the show was a product of its time: as the year 2000 approached, it showed us a bleak yet fascinating glimpse of what the future might hold. On the other hand, it was too far ahead of itself: the public didn't seem to be ready for what Millennium had to offer, and its parallel existence with the more popular X-Files left most viewers with a choice of one or the other, rather than both. Had either show existed on its own, both would have undoubtedly ended much more smoothly.
Even so, Fox Home Entertainment delivers this final season of Millennium with as much respect and care as the other two. The technical presentation is easily on par with Season 2, displaying the same striking atmosphere that drew many towards it in the first place. The extras aren't quite as thick as other television collections, but they do a fine job of bringing a bit of closure to a series that couldn't quite do it on its own. Though a flurry of rumors are floating around regarding a Millennium feature film---which Lance Henriksen seems very interested in, apparently---fans of the series have a final batch of episodes to tide them over until the future arrives. Until then, Millennium: The Complete Third Season deserves a closer look. Let's see how this collection stacks up, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
Right on par with the second season, this final crop of episodes has been presented in the original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio and looks terrific. Flesh tones are natural, image detail is strong and the consistently dark atmosphere holds up very well. Although a handful of shots look a bit softer than others---in most cases, secondary angles and POV shots during a few scenes---this definitely looks to be a source material issue and isn't terribly distracting (NOTE: This minor problem was also present on previous collections of Millennium and even The X-Files). On the other hand, digital problems such as edge enhancement and pixellation are virtually nonexistent. Overall, this is a fine looking transfer that won't disappoint Millennium fans in the least.
Following the trend of seasons past, these episodes have been presented in a robust Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix. This dialogue-driven show doesn't always make use of the rear channels, but the strong atmosphere and music fill out the soundstage nicely on several occasions. English, Spanish and French subtitles have also been included for the hearing and English impaired.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The beautiful animated menus (seen above) provide a terrific atmosphere and simple navigation, while all of the subtitle and audio options are selectable on the fly. Each 43-minute episode has been divided into over a dozen chapters, while no layer changes were detected during playback. The actual packaging is also on par with earlier collections: each of the six discs is housed in its own thin case, while everything is tucked inside a handsome slipcover. Only a promotional insert is included, but episode and bonus feature descriptions can be found on each case.
They're not quite as strong as those found on previous collections, but the bonus features for Millennium: The Complete Third Season are interesting in their own right. Things start with a pair of Audio Commentaries; the first features Lance Henriksen and Klea Scott during Episode #1, "The Innocents". This is an entertaining track, with both actors discussing the ups and downs of the show's overall direction and a handful of other memories. The second track features director Thomas J. Wright during Episode #11, "Collateral Damage", though it's quite disappointing (where's Chris Carter when you need him?). Wright spends most of the track in near-silence, mostly commenting on things that most viewers could figure out for themselves. It would've been nice to hear from Henriksen and Scott again---especially during the series finale---but two tracks are better than none.
Disc Six is home to the rest of the goodies, kicking off with The End Game (39 mins, above left), an informative making-of featurette for this final season. We do hear from Chris Carter during this piece---as well as the two leads and a handful of episode directors---while listening to admissions of difficulty in closing out the series. Also here is an extremely invaluable supplement: the complete "Millennium" Episode (44 mins, above right) from Season 7 of The X-Files. This is old news for ardent X-Philes, but it's great to a bit more closure tucked inside this collection. This special "crossover" episode doesn't wrap up many loose ends, but it's great to see Mulder and Scully team up with our hero at least once. Closing out the extras is Between the Lines (13 mins), another series of interviews with members of The Academy Group, the real-life organization that inspired the idea of the Millennium Group. Overall, this is a well-rounded mix of supplements that closes out the series well.
The ending to this third and final season may have been strong, but there's no doubt that
Season 3 is the weakest of the bunch. Even so, this bronze-medal winning installment of Millennium is easily on par with most other TV thrillers---either in 1999 or 2005, for that matter---so there's no doubt that this crop of episodes is worth picking up. Those that easily dismissed this final run upon its first viewing are encouraged to give Season 3 another chance, as it's not without a series of highs similar to the earlier years. While a feature film based on the series may or may not happen in the coming years, it's still tough to see the curtain close on this uneven but incredibly ambitious series. Fox has once again delivered a terrific DVD package, combining an excellent technical presentation with a short but sweet mix of bonus features. Though fans of the show unfortunately don't have any more episodes to dig through, releases like this one should help to ease the pain. Recommended.
DVD Talk Review Link: Other Millennium Season Collections
Randy Miller III is a moderately affable art instructor based in Harrisburg, PA, who also enjoys freelance graphic design and illustration. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.