TV discussion

TV Rewind… Millennium 2×09 – ‘Jose Chung’s “Doomsday Defense”‘

One of the biggest coups that Millennium accomplished in its second season was undoubtedly getting Darin Morgan to contribute two episodes to the series. One of the greatest writers to ever bring his unique brand of humour and comedy to The X-Files,  the biggest disappointment with his work on that show was that there was so little of it, so it goes without saying that despite the differences of opinion on the merits of the recent revival of Millennium’s sibling, that everyone was in agreement that Morgan’s two brand new episodes made the new run worth it.

Back in 1997, it was a case of four episodes and he was gone, each one brilliant, funny and incredibly thematic that took The X-Files, looked at it somewhat askew and mined it for comedic and storytelling gold. For his first instalment of Millennium, Morgan would not only craft a piece of work that would be equal and in some cases almost better than his work for Mulder and Scully, but it would bring in one of his greatest creations and as a result look at the more realistic, serial killing obsessed and angst-riddled thoughts of the upcoming year of 2000 through the lens that was so very much his own.

His first time behind the camera as well, something he would do not only on his next Millennium episode but his future X-Files episodes, “Doomsday Defense” is, unsurprisingly, the best episode of Millennium up to this point. It almost seems unfair to praise it in such a way, but it’s always the way these things go with Darin Morgan.

On the third season of The X-Files, arguably one of its greatest seasons and the moment the show solidified itself into the great series that we now think of it as, the three episodes that Morgan wrote stood out magnificently (even if he is on the record as claiming he dislikes “War of the Coprophages” to which I say to you, killer cockroaches and we’ll just leave it there), capable of delivering stories that were hilarious, and incredibly thematic with a rich vein of humour and themes that has always made revisiting them such a joy.

It’s the same here. His stories on The X-Files went from being comedic horror tales like “Humbug” to eventually skewering the series itself with our introduction to Jose Chung (Charles Nelson Reilly who feels as if he never stopped playing the character), remarkably Morgan continues his more skewered explorations here. This is a prime episode for fans of Millennium. Anyone who has never watched it before may not get as much out of it as much of the humour is dependent on being knowledgeable of the series.

When Morgan first made his writing debut on The X-Files there was concern that his style and tone would be a bad fit, but he ended up adding a new layer to the series that would end up yielding some of the most popular ever episodes of the show; adding humour to Millennium could be a potential problem due to how dark it has always been and how little humour there to begin with, unlike The X-Files which always had a quirkiness and a way with one-liners from the beginning.

Morgan makes it work triumphantly however with sequence after sequence, not to mention several in-jokes that will make you howl with laughter. Best of all, his exploration of Millennial angst, celebrity cults (it’s very clear who the target of most the jokes is and brilliantly even Peter Watts is afraid of this week’s villains because they have the potential to sue) and the 90’s obsession with serial killers all come under Morgan’s eye and the results see Millennium at its absolute best.

Instead of just ushering in Millennium slowly into the world of Morgan’s brand of firebrand, observational comedy, he just goes right for it, opening with a montage depicting the creation of Selfosophy that is so good that it almost makes one worry that the rest of the episode will be incapable of following it up with anything as good and then goes and becomes something that is nothing short of a comedic masterpiece.

Shockingly, the episode even goes and kills of Jose Chung in its final moments, as if a comedic creation as light and fun as this is incapable of surviving in a series with such fiery concerns as the one that Millennium deals with, a noble and dark notion that reminds one that while Morgan is a scriptwriting genius capable of delivering some of the greatest comedy ever crafted for genre television, he is someone unafraid to go just that little bit dark or emotional, or remind you of the futility of life.

Best of all, it gives Lance Henriksen a chance to do some comedy for a change and the results are fantastic, leading to a wonderful double act between Henriksen and Reilly, and the superb sequence where Black imagines himself as Rocket McGrane, a sequence that I dare not spoil here but which the sight of Henriksen cutting loose comedically in such way starts of as a major shock in itself before becoming the most hilarious thing the series had done to this point.

Like the best of Morgan’s work, “Jose Chung’s ‘Doomsday Defense'” works so brilliantly because he’s not afraid to point how ridiculous Millennium is. It was his trait also on The X-Files and it’s what makes his brand of comedy so wonderful. There is a cynical edge to it, but it manages to do this thing of being able to make fun of your favourite show but in a way that feels as if it’s not trying to bring it down. It’s basically self-assured comedic destruction but in a manner that ensures the series is still standing by the time Mark Snow’s theme music rolls over the end credits.

The killing of Chung may have threatened to be a downer, but it feels strangely apt and somewhat poignant and beautiful too. It’s a shame though as well because one cannot help but have wanted more of him at some point, but Millennium is such a grim world and for all the jokes on offer here (Morgan still cannot help but want to make fun of David Duchovny, even though this is a series he isn’t on) it reminds the audience just how dangerous Frank Black’s corner of the Ten Thirteen-verse can be and even Darin Morgan cannot deny that.

Have you seen this episode of Millennium? Let us know what you made of it.

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