TV discussion

TV Rewind… Millennium 2×08 – ‘The Hand of St. Sebastian’

There’s a part of me that wants to love “The Hand of St. Sebastian” unconditionally, adore it and rewatch it again and again and again. What we have here is a Morgan and Wong script, the third consecutive episode from them in three weeks, Thomas J. Wright behind the camera and a tale that puts Terry O’Quinn front and centre.

It also takes times to leave the cloudy skies of Seattle to go to Germany; no problem there since the series is still using Vancouver and as that city can double for practically anywhere it seems, its easy to buy the location change. Hell, we even get Gottfried John from the James Bond film Goldeneye showing up, his character name-checking every American cop show under the sun for fun, even throwing in a reference to The Commish which Morgan and Wong wrote for, while the great character actor Phillip Baker Hall shows up a key elder member of the Millennium Group.

There is action, even a cool slow motion running away from an explosion scene and a real sense of the series opening up the dynamics of the Millennium Group even more than ever, furthering the mythology beyond what anyone might have thought possible (we’re now into the realm of Knights Templar, as well as a teaser sequence that opens in 998 AD).

For the life of me, however, I can never love it the way I want to. Make no mistake, this is still entertaining stuff; it’s fast-paced, has lots of incident and manages to be a compulsive thriller without ever feeling like The X-Files. I get that the series is trying to be different this season, and has done so miraculously well, even if it took several X-Files-like episodes in order to get there.

This, however, and I realise this is going to sound so hypocritical of me, feels like its straying too far into a different direction to the point that it feels like too different of a show, as if we’ve wandered into a different, parallel universe version of Millennium that also features Henriksen and O’Quinn, but in a version of the show that feels as if it’s going to be a major inspiration to Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code.

As stated before, it’s not without entertainment value, it moves fast and is engaging for what it is, and the attempt at trying to make Peter Watts more than just a figure for Frank to bounce his deductions off is wonderful. In fact, it’s the Peter Watts element that makes the episode soar.

O’Quinn is a wonderful actor and he’s been a godsend to Millennium, and Morgan and Wong, clearly realising what they have here in much the same way JJ Abrams would when it came to casting Lost, have chosen to take him beyond the realm of professional Millennium Group member and working partner to Frank into something more complicated and wonderful.

It’s just they’ve done it in an episode that features Watts bowing his head in respect to a fake looking severed hand and it almost borders on the silly. This is the first time Millennium has felt ridiculous in a way that it never has before. Sometimes its sibling series would fall into the same trap, especially in its later seasons when the mythology starting tipping itself into the realm of metaphysical claptrap in episodes such as “Biogenesis”, but Millennium has always stayed on a wonderful line of feeling deeply real, even when throwing in demons and satanic figures in episodes such as “Lamentation” or “Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions“.

Worst of all, the episode goes and makes one of last season’s best-supporting characters, Cheryl Andrews (the wonderful CCH Pounder), into a traitorous figure who pulls a gun on Frank and has been behind an attempt to discredit Watts and the group.

Once again, it’s easy to get that this is meant to be a different show in some respects this season, but the second season has managed to change direction without discrediting what came before, so it’s disappointing to see it come off the rails a little here. Cheryl’s betrayal feels forced and out of character when it should land with a powerful punch, while the opening up to a mythology that is meant to be rich and grand, not to mention epic, feels silly and preposterous.

The good news; the series will get the balance right. Later in the season, we’re going to get a two-parter in the shape of “Owls” and “Roosters” which will do this type of thing so much better. As for “The Hand of St.Sebastian”, it’s a rare misstep for two of Ten Thirteen’s best writers. It’s not a disaster by any means, in fact, if one wanted to be really kind, it could best be described as a noble failure. It means well, and it tries something very ambitious within the realm of Millennium and its side of the Ten Thirteen-verse, but nevertheless, it doesn’t work in the way it really ought to, which is the biggest shame.

Are you a fan of Millennium? Let us know what you make of this episode.

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