For a season that started of highly publicising itself as doing something different from the previous year, there has been a sense – a pleasing sense, mind you – that in the last few weeks Millennium has looked back to its first season and decided to reincorporate those serial killer/crime of the week stories but filter them through the second season’s more mystical concerns.
“Goodbye Charlie“, “Luminary” and “The Mikado” have been brilliant episodes. Couple that with Darin Morgan’s Jose Chung tale and Kay Reindl and Erin Maher’s beautiful Christmas episode, Millennium season two has not only embraced the change, but also been unafraid to use what it knows the series could do so well previously to deliver a superb run of episodes that have seen the season deliver a magnificent run of engaging and superbly crafted stories.
“The Pest House” is not a classic in comparison to some of the previous episodes, but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun. Possibly the purest serial killer of the week story of the season (there are hints of a supernatural element for sure), and with a teleplay by Morgan and Wong, like “Beware of the Dog” one gets the sense that “The Pest House” has come from an unused The X-Files idea.
However, unlike “Beware of the Dog”, “The Pest House” is wickedly entertaining, almost as if a season one era Frank and Peter have found themselves in a case that Mulder and Scully would have easily found themselves in.
The episode begins with the most clichéd scenario imaginable; a couple making out in a car hear a sound, the boyfriend goes out to check, the girlfriend gets scared, and when she gets out to check on him, she finds him hanging upside down above the car having been gutted by a hook.
It’s such a cliché it has been utilised in everything from slasher movies, right down to an episode of Supernatural (amazingly it never showed up in an episode of The X-Files, which makes me wonder if this had been intended as one before Morgan and Wong opted to do it as Millennium standalone?)
Clichés are part of the course of “The Pest House”, although it begs the question why Morgan and Wong make Frank and Peter, frequently portrayed as deeply intelligent investigators, unaware of the correlation of the crimes until near the end?
The majority of the episode, like many another horror movie, takes place in a psychiatric hospital, giving this one, directed by future The Sopranos director Allen Coulter, an incredibly intense atmosphere. That the hospital is run by Melinda McGraw who played Scully’s sister on The X-Files and has Michael Massee from Morgan and Wong’s season four episode of that series “The Field Where I Died” as a resident, just adds to the deliciously dark fun going on here.
Take away the supernatural twist at the end, and this really is prime season one Millennium, while the supernatural element itself is left unresolved and possibly left open for interpretation, somewhat like an early episode of The X-Files.
It may seem somewhat contradictory of this reviewer to praise the episode for these elements given that I gave “Beware of the Dog” and “Sense and Anti-Sense” at the start of the season somewhat mixed reviews because of it, but at least here there’s a wealth of Millennium-feels that makes it a more cohesive part of Frank’s side of the Ten Thirteen-verse than those episodes.
In fact, given its setting of a psychiatric hospital and its more mature investigator, there’s an argument to be made that tonally and stylistically the real forebear here is the William Peter Blatty-directed The Exorcist III (or Legion as it was originally going to be called giving it another Millennium connection).
With its dark setting, intense Mark Snow score and plethora of entertainingly gory set-pieces, this is the most purely entertaining and fun Millennium has been – outside of Darin Morgan’s work at least. It makes for one of those 45 minutes of television from one of your favourite shows that you may not return to again and again, but which always feels like a wonderful unexpected blast when you sit down to do a rewatch.