With the last few, quite brilliant weeks of storytelling for Millennium, devoted to serial killers and mysteries of the week, albeit filtered through the second season’s more mystical concerns, Morgan and Wong return to the more complex mythology they had envisioned with the series, taking a cue from The X-Files and devoting two hours of the series to a complex, epic and thrilling two-parter that feels stylistically a little like the mid-season two-parters its sibling series did so well.
It may seem hard to think of it in such ways now given how many feel about the mythology at the heart of The X-Files and where it went (or didn’t) but whenever the mid-season two-parter came around, it always felt like an event; episodes such as Piper Maru and Apocrypha, or Two Fathers and One Son felt like these wonderful little grandiose events where we’re about to be teased with answers to the larger mysteries at the heart of the series’ backstory complete with appearances from characters we felt we never saw enough of like Krycek or The Well-Manicured Man.
Owls, and the following episode Roosters, is pretty much the Millennium equivalent of those epic mythology episodes; the episode opens in a foreign country, in this case, Syria, and ends up devoting itself to an epic narrative that promises long-term ramifications based on the ideas it brings up, complete with a paranoid, conspiratorial feel running throughout and very high production values.
Tonally, we’re back into the territory of The Hand of St.Sebastian a few weeks ago, which was somewhat of a noble failure, but a failure nevertheless because it honestly felt like it was too much of a mythological left turn for the series when it was still trying to figure those things out. It also didn’t help that its revelation that the character of Cheryl Andrews (CCH Pounder) was a traitor was a massive no-no and didn’t work at all leaving a sour taste in the mouth given that she was one of the best of the supporting characters from season one that we wished we had seen more of.
It’s pleasing to report that Owls is a much, much better episode that than. Fifteen episodes in and a plot line where we see the Millennium Group in a much more espionage-like manner complete with plotlines involving subterfuge, betrayal and a hunt for what may in fact be a part of the cross that Jesus was crucified on feels more earned at this stage than it did last time (which is really saying something because that occurred around the eighth episode and still felt like it had been rushed to).
There’s still a level of silliness to the proceedings here, especially given how much the series has looked back to its origins the last few weeks, but it’s hard to dismiss Owls in the ways one did with The Hand of St Sebastian. For one thing, spreading the episode across two episodes instead of one means that while the episode is fast-paced, it never feels rushed the way it did last time, and there is a pleasing epic feel to proceedings that is wonderful to see the series playing in.
We get the trip to Damascus as previously mentioned, but we also all sorts of action with guns and explosions, including one superbly produced moment involving a murder on the side of a road set to America’s A Horse with No Name, just in case you needed reminding that this is a Morgan and Wong episode.
Being that this is Millennium doing a “big” episode, we get all sorts of character interaction and confrontations that we’ve been waiting all season four, including a fantastic moment between Watts and Frank where Frank states that he is done with the group and their practices. Admittedly this is the first time where we’re given the most concrete depiction of the group away from solving cases, more so than the hints we were given in The Hand of St.Sebastian and Luminary and there is an argument to be made that what we’re being given is somewhat more in line with a cult than even a secret society.
The scene in question between Watts and Frank is effectively what the season feels like it’s been building to for a while and indicates just how much the series and the characters have changed this season. It’s moments like this, even if it throws in a lovely little jibe in The X-Files direction, that ground the episode and make it work.
Frank’s frustration represents the audience’s frustration in a way. We thought we were in a thematically heavy crime procedural where murder and philosophy were the questions keeping us awake at night, but we’re now knee-deep in a plot involving the Crucifix Cross, a secret society and some mysterious business that is trying to ensnare Catherine that happens to keep Hitler’s artwork on the walls.
It’s incredibly far-fetched for sure, but it’s ridiculously entertaining also and that “To Be Continued” banner at the end will leave you wanting to watch Roosters right away.
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