TV discussion

TV Rewind… Millennium 1×20 – ‘Broken World’

After the last two episodes, it would  be understandable to have been disappointed immensely with “Broken World” since it reverts back to Millennium’s serial killer of the week formula. However, doing it as well as this does, it’s easier to walk away from it quietly impressed.

It does feel like an episode that really should have come before “Lamentation”. After both it and “Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions”, there is a feeling that Millennium has really turned a corner into different territory, and it also somewhat neglects to filter the story through Frank in the way the likes of “Sacrament” and “The Thin White Line” have done. But coming from a script co-written by Robert Moresco, who gave us the masterpiece that was “Covenant”, and Patrick Harbinson, who’ll become a major voice in the series by its third season, it’s hard not to be engaged by the episode’s compulsive narrative and angry energy.

It’s nowhere near as good as “Covenant”, and given its more earthbound concerns, it would have been wonderful to see the series throw itself feet first into the concerns established in the last two episodes. Next week’s episode will once again see the series return to the more occult vibes established by the previous two episodes, but as a stop-gap, “Broken World” is more than fine, and instead of beginning right away with a murder, it instead opts to tell a story about a serial killer in the making, working his way to that point from which there really is no return.

It’s this last central notion that gives “Broken World” a sense of novelty, and in some respects probably works as an interesting tonal companion piece to “Covenant”. Moresco’s writing, along with Harbinson, finds a way to explore something more interesting and different from just having a simple straight down the middle hunt for a killer right away, and instead is about trying to stop someone from actually getting to a point of no return.

It goes without saying that we do eventually get there; there would be no drama if everyone believed Frank right away. But there is the added suspense of our central hero being the lone sensible voice in much of the episode, as he finds himself in a community that doesn’t give a damn because the only body count are just horses, but once the human body count starts piling up it becomes a matter of grave importance.

The episode’s explorations of the psychology of its serial killer of the week, Willi (Van Quattro), is one of its most interesting aspects and the episode makes a good effort at ratcheting up the tension nicely. Quattro’s performance is interesting and restrained in the first half, but in the second half, once the human body count starts to add up, his performance does fall into a more cliched, rage-filled character, and its a little disappointing because it did seem as if we were in for something a bit different here, at least in terms of performance and portrayal.

There is a danger that some of the dialogue could venture into the realm of “will someone please think of the horses”, but the intention and attitude towards its subject matter allows the script to stay the right side of preachy, and there’s no denying the seriousness of its intent and attitudes towards the horror of animal cruelty.

Directed by Winrich Kolbe, who did such a superb job on “Lamentation”, there is a visual dignity to the horror on display, and amazingly for Millennium, it never ventures into visual territory that is too graphic. The use of rural Vancouver locations gives the episode a real airy, muddy feel, with its muck strewn fields and grey clouds giving way to the sun in its final moments when order is restored.

Admittedly it’s not as spectacular as the last two weeks, but in quietly subverting other aspects of Millennium’s formula it manages to still deliver some quiet goods, doing something interesting with its own story-telling conventions. One could argue that coming off the back of some game-changing events in its mythology, it still shows that there is life, ironically, in Millennium’s ability to deliver thought-provoking and narratively challenging crime procedurals.

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