This is, without a doubt, one of the finest episodes of Millennium, and one that deserves a high-ranking on top five or top ten lists of the best ever episodes. Part of me just wants to leave this review there because it’s almost enough, but there is so much to love in “Luminary” that to look deep into it is to see so much.
Chip Johannessen, it has been too long since your name graced an episode of this show. With only “Sense and Antisense” to his credit this season, Johannessen’s first script for the second season was not one of his strongest efforts, but here he rebounds with an episode that sees everything related to the series firing on all cylinders and with writing that manages to get everything right within the framework of the second season.
Brilliantly, Johannessen throws everything in this one; a wonderful central mystery, explorations of the Millennium Group, substantial roles for Megan Gallagher and Brittany Tiplady, and a chance for Lance Henriksen to really show what he’s made of once again with what was shaping up to be one of the great underrated performances from a lead performer on an American television series.
Taking as a major source of inspiration the famous tale of Chris McCandless, whose story formed the basis of Into the Wild, Frank finds himself on the trail of Alex Glaser who has decided to turn away from modern life and to find a life in the outside world. There is a deeply spiritual edge to “Luminary” that works wonders, while Johannessen’s script and its explorations of the Millennium group and Frank’s relationships make this into a season highlight.
The manner in which everything related to the show is thrown in here is superb; the central mystery is delivered in a quirky way that once again recalls the similar air that ran throughout “Force Majeure” through a tale that doesn’t rely as heavily on serial killing, right down to Mark Snow’s more melodic score and the beautiful use of those Vancouver forests standing in for Alaska.
The last few weeks have really seen Millennium turn a massive corner in how it deals with itself in its second season; after that unsure beginning a few weeks ago, Morgan and Wong’s interpretation and reinvention is seemingly hitting it out of the park week after week, and even episodes that somewhat fail in their ambitions have a nobility to them that is hard to ignore.
The de-mythologising of Frank Black has come with a greater mythologising of the Millennium Group itself. All season we’ve had the group kept at arm’s length and in “Luminary” we get a real glimpse of their hiring practices, with Frank basically put into an intense interrogation with other members, essentially placed in a circle and questioned repeatedly and personally by key members.
Henriksen’s portrayal of anger and resentment at that moment is one of the series’ most powerful moments and is a major indication that the Group really has moved beyond the realms of being simply an organisation of “ex-law enforcement people”.
Somewhat segregated from them, including Peter Watts, Frank basically has to go it alone in order to search for Glaser, an investigation that will turn into a personal journey for our hero and one that sees the episode reach more spiritual themes in a way that it seldom has before. It also sees Frank take the reins and not react to the group or their practices and just move on with a suspicious glance. He essentially has to reject the group in order to do the right thing, even if it means having to go it alone.
It is, in a word, a brilliant episode. Best of all, the episode makes superb use of Megan Gallagher and Terry O’Quinn, as we see the two sides of Frank’s life clash together in a way that we’ve been waiting for all season. Better yet, we get to see Frank and Catherine as something of a more unified unit than we have done all season which is welcome.
The separation has always been the one thing that the season has to work really hard to convince of, or at least its origins make it feel that way because it’s hard to ignore that it simply rushed its way there, but the more unified front here is lovely to see and more realistic. We know that they aren’t getting back together here and that both of them will still be going to different homes at the end of the tale, but there is more of a kindness and willingness to be civil that feels more in keeping with the characters, even though admittedly there is more dramatic heft sometimes to be felt when the two are at loggerheads.
It’s the icing on a very spiritual cake this week and another brilliant effort from a season that in on fire at this point. The best part? The season hasn’t even peaked yet.
Are you a fan of Millennium? What do you think of this episode? Let us know!