Three weeks in, and there’s no denying that Millennium feels as if it has become both rudderless and too dependent on being X-Files like compared to season one. For first time viewers this might prove disappointing, but sometimes it’s worth it to stick with something, and now that we’re at “Monster”, one finds themselves exclaiming in the most satisfying way, “this is more like it”.
There’s no doubt that “Monster” is something that could have been done on The X-Files also; it’s very much a horror tale centred around themes of abuse and evil, and that’s something we’ve seen the other Ten Thirteen series do a lot of also, but the thing to admire and love about “Monster” is how much of a Millennium episode it feels like, while also grabbing with both hands a chance to explore the new set of themes that Morgan and Wong have opened up for the show.
There’s a playfulness here that has only been hinted at so far in the season; we saw a few weeks ago in the season premiere, “The Beginning and the End“, that the writers were just itching to get a chance to explore Peter Watts in more detail, and now with Frank and Catherine separated, to see the initially awkward interaction between them from “Walkabout” last season turn into something a little more fraught and bitter is strangely great fun from a series that had set up a paradigm last season and pretty much stuck with it.
Catherine’s bitterness at meeting Peter and describing him and the Millennium Group as essentially the other woman does feel at times like its retconning her character development from the first season, when we very much presented with a united front with regards to the Black’s marriage and their ability to support each other while both worked very stressful jobs related to investigating and stopping the very worst of humanity, but it’s hard to complain when the writing is so well done here and the performances by Gallagher and O’Quinn even more so.
Even better, the episode features the season’s next little character experiment as we’re introduced to a new creation to the series who will recur throughout; Kristen Cloke as Lara Means.
Initially starting off as antagonists, both Lara and Frank come to an understanding and what we see is the beginning of a very respectful partnership that will be at the heart of some very engaging stories. Clearly sent to investigate as part of a larger test by the group, it genuinely feels as if the series is allowing itself to open up to a larger set of stories as opposed to the serial killer of the week format that was season one, while the hint of Lara’s gift suggests even more character driven material and mythology to mine.
It also helps that Cloke is truly wonderful first time out in the role and her appearance here leaves one very eager to see more of her.
Make no mistakes, “Monster” is very much a Ten Thirteen piece of television and while it could have fitted into the mould of a season one episode, albeit with less of the mystery angle when it comes to the Group elements, or even had Mulder and Scully show up and play out with some of the same story beats and twists, it works here superbly as it once plays out within a more quirky nature (the offbeat Mark Snow score and the use of a children’s story read out via voiceover at the beginning and end of the episode) as well as a further demythologising of Millennium’s stalwart hero, Frank.
Morgan and Wong continue to take Frank away from the perfect hero of season one and make himself and his world that little bit less perfect and picturesque; the yellow house has become a different kind of symbol than last season. As opposed to being one of perfection within a dark world, it has now become something that Frank is simply fighting to get back to, while his more fraught relationship with Jordan (we once again witness him shouting at her, an image that would have been unthinkable in any of last year’s episodes) hints at a more realistic development than the picture perfect scenes that we got so much of last year.
Of course, seeing him yell at her is really there to get him into trouble in the second half of the episode, but the image of Millennium’s world-weary profiler being arrested and subsequently wearing prison overalls is still a shock in itself, but builds up to a superb final stretch that brings out the very best in Morgan and Wong’s script and in Henriksen whose monologue in those final moments is superbly delivered by the actor.
Along with guest appearances from X-Files Hall of Fame participants Robert Wisden and Chris Owens, it all feels wonderfully Ten Thirteen, with a very dark story that strays into incredibly twisted territory, not least when the eventual culprit is revealed. It ends with a final scene that reminds the audience of how different this is compared to last year, but it is a genuine, wonderful change that indicates that Millennium has upped the ante considerably in terms of drama and its mythology.
It’s also just wonderful to see the series deliver the goods after being on shaky ground for the last few weeks, and it’s a relief to say that it will be the first of many great episodes to come.
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