After “Lamentation” threw in a massive game-changing twist for Millennium, amazingly “Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions” makes a glorious effort to double-down on everything that was established last week, from the more surreal air given the new form of evil established, to the supernatural undercurrent.
Co-written by Ted Mann, alongside Harold Rosenthal, interestingly “Powers…” returns to a thread that was established in the final moments of Mann’s earlier season one effort “The Judge”, but instead of simply feeling like a rehash or an unoriginal retread, it instead feels like both a continuation of that thread as well as a chance to do it completely right and on a more grander scale.
Mann, a well-respected screenwriter who had contributed to the boundary-breaking NYPD Blue before he joined the ranks of Millennium, and would subsequently go on to be a key collaborator with David Milch and write for Deadwood and John From Cincinnati, has had a mixed set of episodes thus far; “The Judge” was entertaining if a little by the numbers, and “Loin Like A Hunting Flame” was one of the season’s rare storytelling failures, but “Powers…” is quite simply amazing.
It would have been understandable if the episode hadn’t been anywhere near as great as last week’s, especially given how Ten Thirteen handles these things. It wouldn’t have been a big surprise if they had just gotten on with the series as usual and ploughed straight into a stand-alone tale, something that would frustratingly happen a lot on The X-Files: we’d get a major mythology episode coupled with some intense things that affect the history of the show and then the following week we’d get a monster of the week that wouldn’t deal with those events and we’d have to wait for the next myth-arc tale several episodes down the line to make reference to those events again.
“Powers…” does not take this option, instead opting to deal head on with the ramifications of “Lamentation”; Bob’s death is a driving force for Frank emotionally throughout the episode’s runtime, the hint of a more demonic evil is explored even more fully and given a somewhat more epic canvas, and Sarah Jane Redmond shows up for a cameo, giving the guest character of Alistair Pepper (a wonderfully slimy Richard Cox) a powerful connection to last week’s events.
Opting to use an X-Files trick in its opening moments, by showing a pivotal moment in the climax of the story and then showing how we got to that point, “Powers…” very rarely stumbles or puts a foot wrong. It continues Millennium’s explorations of Frank’s emotional concerns that have taken over beautifully in the second half of the season, taking it in an even more potent direction. The series’ focus has been over events in his past, stories involving his extended family and concerns for his daughter’s future, but now the violence he investigates has struck right into the heart of the yellow house and now our emotionally balanced hero is haunted by the spectre of Bob in his yellow house, confronted by grief and unable to partake in an even more brutal murder than usual for this show. It’s an interesting sight to see Henriksen play a somewhat more broken Frank and he takes the opportunity and runs with it, clearly relishing a chance to play even more layers to the character.
While the story is started by Peter Watts telephoning Frank and asking for his help on a disturbing ritualistic killing, the main thrust of the plot sees Frank being offered what can only be described as a Faustian bargain by the lawyer representing the prime suspect in the case. Alistair Pepper looks the like the cliché, stereotypical lawyer who is a thorn in the side of nearly every cop leading a crime procedural on network television, but superficially that’s where the similarities end because quite clearly he is something even beyond that.
Earlier in the season, the title character of The Judge offered Frank a deal to work for him and thus ensure protection for Catherine and Jordan. Here, the same deal is offered again and while one could initially think that this is a sign of a series repeating a storyline, it’s a clear subtle thread that the evil lurking around the edges of the show has taken a great interest in Frank. It gives what has essentially been a stylistic, darkly gothic and violent crime procedural more of an epic heft than previously believed, and now that the series is throwing in a warring world of demons and angels, it almost feels as if the series is laying down the foundations for an even grander mythology taking place within this fraction of the Ten Thirteen Universe.
There is a danger that sometimes the storytelling here can get maybe a touch too opaque or go a little too surreal or pretentious, but just to see the series firing on cylinders that are different for it and making them work so well on a character level makes it a dark, disturbing joy.
By episode’s end, Frank, and this time the Group itself, have suffered another loss, although admittedly the character of Mike Atkins (Robin Gammell) never made as much of an impact on the show as Bob did given this was only his second episode, but it gives the audience the feeling that the gloves have come off, which is really saying something since Millennium has always been a series unafraid to venture into dark and disturbing waters.
It cannot help but make the audience think, in a deeply unsettling way, about where the series will go next.