Mystery with a Native American twist was something of a trope within the world of Millennium‘s production company Ten Thirteen Productions. As far back as the first season of The X-Files with its tale of lycanthropy in “Shapes”, Chris Carter and his team of writers haven’t been afraid to occasionally link some of their narratives back to Native American heritage and mythology.
In the case of “Shapes”, the connection and narrative was somewhat controversial due to it to it connecting its werewolf tale to Native American belief, something which prompted Carter to craft the blistering season two finale of The X-Files, “Anasazi”, and further on into the continuing season three episode “The Blessing Way”.
Interestingly, one of the main guest stars of that episode, Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman pops up here, although sadly he isn’t in it enough given how majestic and wonderfully and comfortably spiritual a presence he could be.
The first credited episode of the series to Erin Maher and Kay Reindl, who would go on to write a further three episodes of the series, some of which rank as Millennium at its very best, their first episode was met with some criticism but for the life of me I actually can’t help but rather like the episode.
Some of the Native American angles do feel shoehorned in, that is true, but it once again further solidifies Millennium in not only trying to get away from the serial killer of the week stories and as such rely less and less on formula, but also in its attempts at trying to pursue stories of a paranormal nature but in a way that makes it different to its elder sibling.
Best of all, Maher and Reindl’s teleplay puts Frank’s visions under the microscope in such a way that the series has never done before. Famously referred to as a gift and a curse in the “Pilot” episode, that was about as far as an explanation for Frank’s gift that we have ever gotten, something that Glen Morgan is on record as feeling was a storytelling cheat for the series.
Admittedly it was a way to get Frank and the Group to further their investigations along, imparting information visually as opposed to through exposition, but it was always one hell of a visual way to do so, but this season has seen the series put the visions on the back burner a little, and with “A Single Blade of Grass” Maher and Reindl’s teleplay brings them back in a much more intense way than before; this is a gift that isn’t merely a way of figuring out the psychology of a killer, it may be a way into seeing deeper and intense mysteries of the world.
The inclusion of Native American mythology and mystery into genre television narratives can either work or they don’t. Even when The X-Files handled it right in “The Blessing Way” it could manage to feel forced in or wrong, especially given that in that episode’s case it came there in the middle of an intense trilogy that had a propulsive thriller narrative, but here it strangely works.
It’s easy to see maybe why some might not like it or have issues with it, it definitely feels and flows differently than any episode before it, but if anything that helps make it so good. It might feel truly different from any episode last season, and while this season might have gotten off to a shaky start due to it being too similar in tone and style to the adventures of Mulder and Scully, it’s clear that the writers have actually found a way to bring in supernatural and genre elements which can allow Millennium to feel independent of those files marked with an X.
Best of all Maher and Reindl’s teleplay, like “Monster” last week, filters their story through Frank in an emotional way that continues to de-mythologise Frank in comparison to season one and helps make him even more emotionally engaging than ever. The moment when he recounts his visions to this week’s guest star Dr Michael (Amy Steel) recalls the emotional intensity of the final moments of “Monster”, albeit in a more positive way and gives Henriksen a chance to do something other than show up at a crime scene and look pensive and thoughtful.
Both that scene and the episode, in general, allow Millennium to continue to open itself up to new and exciting possibilities and while it may not top a poll to find the best ever episode, it does rank as something original and different and has a lot to recommend.