From outward appearances, or from the teaser at least, it looks as if Millennium is returning to the well of serial killer of the week, but appearances can be deceptive, and while ‘Goodbye Charlie’ offers a mystery for Frank and Lara to solve, it reveals itself to be a deeper tale with other layers to it that make it a lovely part of the whole when it comes to the second season of the series.
‘Goodbye Charlie’ is a wonderful episode that while returning to a murder mystery of sorts, never feels as oppressive or as dark as anything from season one. There is a quirky air to proceedings that recalls ‘19:19′ a few weeks back indicating that while Millennium isn’t above returning to a style of narrative similar to what it did last year, it’s doing so with a more lighter and less intense touch.
Make no mistake, there is a version of this episode that could be incredibly intense and distressing. It does, after all, tell a tale centered around assisted suicide, a topic that forever instigates intense debate and feeling, splitting opinion right down the middle. ‘Goodbye Charlie’ never offers a simple solution to the topic. It deals with it in an even-handed way, with even the conversation between Frank and Lara surrounding the subject never offering an easy “yes” or “no” answer from either of them.
Even our serial killer-of-the-week may be something more substantial and deeper than a former nurse who wants to make his patients comfortable as they die. There is a hint in the final moments that suggest he is something more spiritual, the real question being, as Frank posits in the episode’s final moments, “is he from Heaven, or hell?” As such, it fits beautifully within the season two aesthetic, a tale with a more spiritual edge rather than trying to stop a mere mortal from racking up the body count and as such is a wonderful tale.
Credited to Richard Whitley, one cannot help but see Glen Morgan and James Wong’s fingerprints all over it despite their lack of credit. Music plays a massive part throughout. Guest star Tucker Smallwood’s character, Stephen Kiley, sings to those he is helping to die, which means we get karaoke versions of Seasons in the Sun as well as the titular song which of course originated from Bobby Darin and whose songs have recurred throughout the season, a Morgan and Wong touch in itself that has its origins as far back as The X-Files episode ‘Beyond the Sea’ from season one.
Smallwood, who had previously appeared in the Morgan and Wong-created Space: Above and Beyond and their notorious X-Files episode ‘Home’, makes for a lovely and wonderful guest character, whether it be singing songs throughout or just his charming demeanour, he is a different kettle of fish compared to many of Millennium’s serial killers and the audience cannot help but be charmed throughout.
It may be a controversial notion, and your opinion of Kiley may depend on how you feel about his actions, but it feels as if the episode really wants you to like him despite how one might feel about his motivations and philosophy on dying. He never feels as monstrous or as disturbing a character in the way that many of Millennium’s antagonists do, and instead offers an “antagonist” who is hard to describe as a monster of the week or even simply a villain and whose motivations are somewhat decent.
The tone and attitude of the episode is enjoyably jaunty, with some wonderful dialogue between Black and Lara that makes Henriksen and Cloke an enjoyable double act this episode (the partnering up of Frank with a female character almost feels like an accidental trial run in some respects for where the series will go in the next season) and some beautifully understated humour; the scene where they go to the Crisis Center and talk to the staff there in order to find Kiley is gently hilarious if only for the fact that it feels as if Frank isn’t playacting when he talks about his reasoning for being there.
Even when they eventually catch up to Kiley and interrogate him the episode feels different. Anytime we’ve seen Frank or the Group sit down with their antagonists (see, for example, last season’s superlative ‘The Thin White Line’) the results are as intense and dramatic as you can imagine, but here there is a lightness of touch to the dialogue and the interaction that almost feels lovely in a way that you would never expect from the series.
It may not be an episode that comes up in discussions when deciphering the best episodes of the show, but for this reviewer, it’s right up there with some of the best of this season and the series as a whole. Make no mistakes, I love and admire the darker excesses of the first season, it’s remarkably different from any crime procedural before and since and was never afraid to be so and it’s a season of television that I love to return to again and again, but an episode like this indicates that the series can play within the wheelhouse it established last season and do it remarkably different in tone and attitude and for that it’s nothing short of a mini-masterpiece.
Are you a fan of Millennium? Let us know what you think of the episode.