TV discussion

TV Rewind… Millennium 1×18 – ‘Lamentation’

If “Lamentation” had been the season one finale of Millennium, it would not have been a surprise. In fact, given how much it functions as a game changer of sorts for the series, it’s a surprise that the episode wasn’t considered for finale status. Like the season one finale of The X-Files, it brings things full circle in a manner that Carter is very fond of, kills off a recurring character very unexpectedly and sets things up to be different from now on.

As it is, there are four episodes after this, and even though it may not close the curtain on the first year of one of television’s most darkest series, it’s a magnificent instalment and one of Chris Carter’s best ever teleplays, playing in a pool of pure darkness that although a very intense ride, is positively brimming with joy that it’s getting away with such dark sadistic pleasures.

Introducing the audience right away to Doctor Fabricant (Alex Diakun), the episode presents us with the darkest character the series has introduced the audience to and then positively trumps him with a character that may be the literal manifestation of evil to ever appear on the show.

The casting of Diakun is canny, having previously appeared in all but one of Darin Morgan’s X-Files episodes up to this point, and would subsequently appear in one of his Millennium episodes next season and both of his episodes of the X-Files revival, to see Diakun is to expect something quirky and funny, but instead the episode has the actor come on like Millennium’s equivalent of Hannibal Lecter and is then made moot because of his outside of prison connections.

The real meat of “Lamentation’s” evil is Lucy Butler, Sarah Jane Redmond making her debut on the series. Although Butler does not appear too often on the series, effectively making one or two appearances per season, she is without a doubt one of Millennium’s most pivotal characters.

Initially appearing somewhat innocent but with a seductive charge, Chris Carter’s explorations of the evil within humanity will be taken to almost epic levels by the time “Lamentation’s” credits roll, and yet it takes that form of evil right into the heart of the yellow house.

While the first half of Millennium’s first season was essentially a philosophical crime procedural, the second half has seen the series put its focus more on Frank and the yellow house itself, from “The Thin White Line” and its exploration of Frank’s past and “Sacrament” taking the series’ form of terror to within the yellow house’s walls. However, “Sacrament” has nothing on “Lamentation” when it comes to horror within those beautifully painted yellow walls.

The personal reasoning for thinking that “Lamentation” functions as a finale of such for the show is in how it compares to X-Files season one finale “The Erlenmeyer Flask”; it starts off innocently enough in the first half, ups the thriller in the second half and eventually culminates with a major character death. The difference between both episodes is that “Lamentation” at least tries to bring a sense of hope to its final scene, with Frank and Jordan climbing the same mountain that Frank and Bletcher are on at the start of the episode (which really should come as a warning for what is to come, but since it’s the eighteenth episode and coming on like a stand-alone episode there’s no reason to expect anyone to die by the end of the tale, apart from some guest stars).

As always, there’s a dark core that runs through the episode in its early stages, but there’s even a sense of playfulness that we haven’t seen before; look closely when Frank is walking down the hallway of Quantico and you can see a tall guy with dark hair and a petite woman with red hair beside him, while the casting of Michael David Sims can only help to remind you of those times he appeared on the early years of The X-Files as one of the FBI director’s in Skinner’s office being a douche bag to Mulder and Scully, which this reviewer cannot help but feel is the same character here.

With Diakun here, we expect a joke, but given his past at playing wonderful Darin Morgan-scripted weirdos, to see him off the leash playing a genuine psychopath and one who relishes his violent reputation comes as an upsetting shock, but it’s a shock that is nothing to where “Lamentation” eventually goes.

After teasing the encroaching horror on the yellow house in “Sacrament”, Carter only goes and strikes hard at the hopeful emotional heart of the show by having Catherine and Jordan terrorised by an unknown long-haired figure, coupled with the shocking discovery within the fridge. The image of a kidney in a fridge is distressing enough, but then the episode goes and only kills Bletcher after he has saved Frank’s family.

The entire second half of the episode ups the ante in terms of horror and suspense, with Frank being taunted by his address of Fabricant’s armband at the hospital, with his home address, a biblical quotation no less, coming into dramatic play, but like the finale of The X-Files’ first year, we don’t actually expect the episode to go where it does, the image of Bletcher, pinned to the wall of Frank’s basement, his throat cut, is as sobering and shocking as anything the series has ever done.

If killing a character is shocking enough, the shifting of style of Millennium away from human horror to something more metaphysical is even more so, but remarkably it’s one that works so well. “Gehenna”, another Carter teleplay, hinted at something more supernatural at the periphery of Millennium’s side of the Ten Thirteen-Verse, but “Lamentation” doubles down with its second half set piece which must surely rank as the most terrifying sequence in a television series that isn’t Twin Peaks, it’s portrayal of supernatural inflicted home invasion making the adventures of Mulder and Scully look like literal child play.

That such an evil strikes hard and violently removes Frank’s friend from proceedings probably says what everything it needs to. It also gives Millennium its first antagonist who simply cannot go to prison. Unlike The X-Files, Millennium has always been able to slap a pair of handcuffs onto its villains, unlike Mulder and Scully who could never be able to arrest an alien.

Here, in a shade reminiscent of many an X-Files mythology episode, Frank has no choice but to watch Lucy Butler confidently boast about getting away with it because she is a completely different type of evil to that explored on the show before. The series has never gone for such an air of self-defeat, amazing when you consider how dark it’s avenues can venture.

By the end, Carter beautifully reprises a key scene of dialogue from the “Pilot” between Frank and Catherine, but it’s totally different because this time Frank really can’t expect his wife to wish away the darkness, not when it’s as powerful and disturbing as the one presented here. It makes one wonder where the show can go from here, but it also displays that Millennium, even more so that its elder sibling, will not be afraid to completely change its rules.

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