Rewatching “In Arcadia Ego” nowadays sometimes proves an interesting experience. Sometimes one goes into the episode expecting to find that with each passing year the episode has fallen apart a little, or its portrayal of a same-sex relationship doesn’t work in the manner that the teleplay and the series thinks it does and yet this reviewer ends up enjoying it regardless, even if I’m less prone to give it a five-star rating as I might have done the first time I watched it.
Similar in some level to last season’s “The Wild and the Innocent“, a personal favourite of this reviewer even if it isn’t regarded highly by others, “In Arcadia Ego” rests its narrative on a couple on the run trying to protect a child, in this case the twist being that one of the couple is pregnant and the child they’re trying to protect in not yet born.
With this being the second season, it’s simply not enough for one half of the couple to be pregnant so naturally, there is a possibility that we’re dealing with a virgin birth. Although interestingly I sometimes get the feeling that the episode is a carryover of sorts from season one. The Millennium Group are involved and we spend most of the investigation element of the episode with Frank and Peter and yet given the Group’s interests which have been revealed this year, it’s interesting that the episode doesn’t devote more time to how the Group and their potential religious interests in such a development.
The idea behind the episode is naturally intriguing, and as an on the run narrative, Chip Johannessen’s teleplay does a great job in making us care for Janette (Missy Crider) and Sonny (Mary-Pat Green); the episode has pace, it’s brilliantly directed, as always by Thomas J.Wright and Crider and Green are magnificent as the doomed couple, with their performances really carrying the weight of the episode’s tragic finale.
There are some complaints to be hand, though. I’m not sure if the episode is being subversive or not when it presents a typical “women in prison” scenario during its teaser sequence. On the one hand, it shows the stupidity of male prison guards and how a male who doesn’t think with his head could easily fall for such a trap, and yet the camera does gaze a little too long at Crider’s bare legs when she’s trying to ensnare one of the guards in order to escape.
There is also the issue of rape coming up during one of the episode’s more distasteful twists when it’s revealed that Janette’s pregnancy may not be the result of a virgin conception but in fact as a result of her being sexually assaulted, without her knowledge, by one of the prison guards.
It’s understandable that the episode wants to go for some narrative twists to keep the level of suspense going, and in fairness, the way the episode plays off Frank’s reaction when he learns of this possibility is a full indication that this is meant to be played as a horrific possibility, but it’s still a queasy notion that’s indicative of how some of the best shows from the best writers can resort to rape tropes in narrative all too easily.
The episode scores major points for Crider, Green and Henriksen’s performances throughout. This being a 90’s television series, one watching this for the first time could almost be ready to wince a little at a television show trying to portray a same-sex relationship, but despite coming from that era, and maybe this reviewer is in the minority thinking this, but Janette and Sonny are very believable as a couple.
Of course, the episode cannot help but go down the path of killing both of by the end of the forty-five minutes, which is a rather queasy notion in itself, but for the majority of the running time, Crider and Green sell their relationship wonderfully. Green in particular and her character of Sonny is the one presented as the most dangerous of the pair and yet the way Green sells those loving looks to Janette make all the difference in the world.
This may not be Johannessen’s best script, but it shows once again how he has a wonderful ability to filter many of his scripts through wonderful characters and emotional beats, as shown in “Luminary” earlier this season and last year’s “Force Majeure“.
As a writer, he always aims high and there’s no doubt that emotionally we’re on fire here, but it’s the little things that can sometimes cause one to pause and question whether or not the choices being made are the right ones. Admittedly “In Arcadia Ego” does have problematic elements that have maybe caused it to not age as well, but despite that, it still has that emotional sweep that makes it rather hard to not enjoy and those central guest performance from Green and Crider help make all the difference in the world.
Are you a fan of Millennium? What do you think of this episode? Let us know.