One of the very best trademarks of a Glen Morgan and James Wong script is where they use an upbeat pop song in an incredibly dark moment. The X-Files episode “Home” made glorious use of Johnny Mathis’ Wonderful, Wonderful in the lead up to an incredibly violent moment, while in the recent tenth season revival, “Home Again” had an episode-stealing moment involving Petula Clark’s Downtown.
“Beware of the Dog” opens up with a moment depicting an elder married couple being mauled to death by dogs, all to the optimistic strains of The Carpenters’ Close to You. It pretty much sums up the two writers in a nutshell. Unfortunately, while being a great opening to the episode, it comes during an hour of television where Millennium struggles somewhat.
While “The Beginning and the End” got the season off to a fast-paced and very engaging start, for the most part, it still had the remnants of the previous season’s finale to deal with. “Beware of the Dog” is essentially the first time we have a chance to see what it is that Morgan and Wong are going to do with Millennium in tone and style.
Make no mistake, the second season of Millennium is going to get really good, but you wouldn’t know it based on this. Although not a terrible episode of television by any means, there is a nagging sensation that outside of it setting up certain elements of the mythology that Morgan and Wong are eager to explore, “Beware of the Dog” feels somewhat like a rejected X-Files script that Morgan and Wong have transplanted to Frank Black’s side of the Ten Thirteen-verse.
If this were an X-File, it probably would have been very effective; the previously mentioned teaser sequence is wonderfully done, while the intense climactic set piece makes glorious use of the “kill one dog, another shows up in its place” conceit, itself feeling like something Mulder might make a leap with on Millennium’s sibling. It’s well made, some of the scripting choices are smart and intelligent, and admittedly a lot of what it explores in relation to the now more mysterious workings on the Millennium Group, are promising and intriguing. It’s just that it all feels so wrong for this show.
One of the best things about what is about to happen with this season of the series is that it spearheads a genre direction for itself that is very independent of The X-Files. Whether or not even that was something Fox wanted might be up for debate. It’s hard not to feel that the network asked Morgan and Wong to go in a more genre-flavoured direction, hoping the series might be more X-Files-like and we ended up with what we’re going to end up with. But with this second episode, X-File- like is what we’ve ended up with and it’s hard to shake the nagging sensation that it just feels all wrong for this series.
As a piece of genre television on its own merit, it’s fine, but given the framework in which it’s centred, it’s doesn’t work. The elements where it does work within what Millennium is, or it wants to be about this season, are good. The chillier air in the yellow house works fine, although it still doesn’t fix the fact that the separation came all too quickly last week, but it is interesting to see Henriksen and Gallagher playing a very different tone in their scenes compared to last season. The explorations and hints at what the Millennium Group really is, are the real meat of the episode and it’s here that Morgan and Wong’s script rises above jarring tonal issues.
Introducing The Old Man (R.G Armstrong) and a sense that the group has been around for a lot longer than we have previously thought, while also making the series’ logo, (the Oroborous eating its own tail), part of the mythology feels as if Morgan and Wong have a great idea of where they’re going with the show and the bigger stories they want to tell. It’s just a shame they have married it to such an X-Files knock-off here.
Even when flavouring a little bit more genre outside of serial killers last season, there was a pleasing sense that Millennium was more that willing to offer something substantially different to what Mulder and Scully were doing. Knowing that the series will offer something even different from just stories about Antichrist figures and demons means that “Beware of the Dog”‘s disappointing nature is easy to get by, but it’s easy to see why it might prove problematic and worrisome to someone watching the series for the first time, especially if they want something outside of The X-Files style of the supernatural.
Far from awful, there is much to enjoy, and its genre trappings are admittedly fun. But it’s not prime Millennium, far from it, and as well made as it is (it is directed by Allen Coulter, after all, who directed many of the finest episodes of The Sopranos), it still falls under the banner of being a disappointment from such a fine show.