TV discussion

TV Rewind… Millennium 1×12 – ‘Loin Like a Hunting Flame’

At some point in the lifespan of many a genre series, or at least a procedural with a tangible genre element, you’re quite possibly going to get the “sex kills” episode. Don’t believe me; there’s “Genderbender” in The X-Files, “Lonely Hearts” in Angel, and “Day One” in Torchwood.  It most likely will be an episode that will devote itself to some sort of genre monster that needs either bodily fluids or orgasms or simply the thrill of sex with which to survive.

Millennium, at least at this stage, is not a series that is a hard genre series per se, but since it’s coming from a stable of shows (Ten Thirteen Productions) with a vested interest in genre and is a mystery show at heart concerned with serial killers, it’s no surprise that it would focus on sex itself as a motivation for murder.

In fact, one cannot help but be reminded of “Genderbender” from The X-Files; there’s an attempt at a network television friendly level of raunchy material as well as beautifully lit scenes in a night club complete with loud music, but like that time Mulder and Scully went after a shapeshifter who could change gender (one of the few times that The X-Files threw in a plot line that would age badly), Millennium’s attempts at exploring sexuality that pushes towards psychosis is troubling in it both its portrayals of such a crime, as well in its character and plot developments.

Once again, this is Millennium by numbers; a serial killer on the loose with a high concept modus operandi, all beautifully visualized and directed (it would sadly be David Nutter’s final directorial credit on the series), but unfortunately, that ends up being the best element it works with. The sad thing about the episode is that Ted Mann’s teleplay does attempt at trying to throw in more interesting elements, but it comes somewhat unstuck in its attitudes and attempts at developing its characters.

Worst of all, the episode features Harriet Sansom Harris as Millennium Group member Maureen Murphy, another in the series’ fantastic ability to bring in great X-Files guest stars and partner them up with Frank Black for a week. The series has given great, stoic recurring characters to Terry O’Quinn and CCH Pounder, so to have the main guest star from X-Files episode “Eve”, an episode that seemed very popular back in the day but which has sadly been forgotten about, show up here is wonderful, but she’s pretty much given a less than stellar character by which to show up, stand next to Lance Henriksen, deliver exposition and then leave.

If you’ve seen Harris on The X-Files where she delivered several tour de force performances in one episode as the Eve clone, then you know she’s a good choice of actress to have around. Even watch one of her many hilarious guest appearances as Bebe on Frasier and you know have someone who can do dark drama on one level and fantastic comedy on the other.

The episode is, like “Weeds” last week, more concerned with its male guest characters than anything else, and worst of all treats its female characters here as either not worthy of its time, or victims of male sexual aggression, or lack thereof, which in turns leads to violent death.

There is an incredibly interesting and complex story here, but it gets lost somewhere, and while it somewhat forgets about Harris’ character, it does find time to spend with both is main antagonist, Nesbitt (Hrothgar Mathews), and Detective Thomas (William Lucking, so memorable in X-Files classic “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'”). The latter actually does get some interesting material, from being somewhat dismissive of Murphy and her involvement in the case to his eventual revelation that it’s his own insecurities that caused him to be horrible to her.

His own backstory which he recounts to Frank is actually one of the better and more well-done aspects of the episode, and would even have been better if the script had the sense to involve the character of Maureen more effectively, but she seems to be there so Thomas can have someone to ask out on a date at the end of the episode, and serves very little purpose but to allow one of the main male guest characters’ a shot at redemption.

Redemption is pretty much out of the question when it comes to Nesbitt. Either picking up young couples in nightclubs (sequences that are superbly realised here by Nutter’s direction and Robert McLachlan’s gorgeous lighting) or stalking the female half of couples indulging in wife swapping, we’re presented with a character so sexually repressed by his lack of intimacy with his wife that he’s driven to watching strangers doing it and then poisoning them, but not before posing them in various ways, the  most visually striking of which is a Adam and Eve like scenario after the credits.

Like the best of Ten Thirteen, there’s a real intelligence at its core, but it gets lost in the message, and the episode seems to be positing the notion that nightclubs, raves, and sex outside of marriage are evil, but that lack of sex within a marriage is even worse.

At this stage, this is definitely the weakest episode of Millennium so far. Even at its most basic, the series can deliver hugely stylish, and darkly entertaining thrillers. Ted Mann’s previous script, “The Judge”, was one of those, as was “Weeds” from last week. They’re not classic pieces of television, but they can still be an entertaining forty-five minutes, as long as you’re willing to go that dark with your crime procedural.

Credit where credit is due, this tries to hit some interesting emotional targets, but it misses them for the most part. With a series this interested in both criminal psychology and its explorations of the darker parts of society, it probably cuts deep as the show’s biggest disappointment so far.

Are you a fan of Millennium? Let us know what you think of this episode.

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