I make no apologies for how gushingly positive this review will be. The thing you have to understand is, “Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me”, the second and last of Darin Morgan’s contributions to Millennium (and his last to the Ten Thirteen Universe until the revival of The X-Files in 2016) is one of my favourite episodes of any television series ever, and probably in my top five overall episodes of television ever produced anywhere in the world.
Is it really that good? Yes, yes it is.
The best thing about it is how daringly outside the box it is as an episode of Millennium, probably more outside the box of this show than even Morgan’s X-Files episodes. With his X-Files episodes, at the very least Mulder and Scully were still around, with the funniest and most bitingly brutal jokes usually reserved for Mulder.
Here, Morgan dares to go the route of an episode of Millennium that barely features Frank Black. He’s still there, but the concept of the episode surrounding four demons having coffee and waxing lyrical about what they’ve been up to ends up seeing the hero of the show make cameo appearances within their stories, with each act of the episode taken up with each demon’s narrative.
With the stories ranging from one demon moulding the type of serial killer that was Millennium’s stock in trade, to another where a television network censor is psychologically tortured by a dancing demon baby (a good-hearted dig at Ally McBeal), to another irritating a human eventually to suicide and finally to the tragic relationship between one demon and a stripper who he pushes to killing herself in an effort to damn a human because he can.
It’s the last story that pushes what has been, up to that point, a comical masterpiece, into the realm of subtle tragedy. The humour and the drama here can bring a smile to the face, and even some incredible uncontrolled bursts of laughter (the section on the television censor not only puts the dig into the Fox Network’s output, including The X-Files but also gives Morgan a chance to vent his frustrations over the number of cuts to swearing that were made to X-Files episode “War of the Coprophages”) but they can also hit the audience with some deeply uncomfortable truths and ideas that make it simultaneously the silliest that Morgan has ever been but also his most mature and devastating.
It’s a wonderful set up for an episode and another prime indicator as to why Morgan is probably one of the greatest writers to ever contribute to television. Not only are his episodes brilliantly within the fabric of the series he has contributed to, they are genius depictions on the nature of humanity, with bitingly funny observations that manage to go from being darkly hilarious, to terribly emotional and satirical, all the while managing to retain heart and soul even when his episodes gently, or not so gently, manage to pick apart the very series he is writing for.
His work was perfect for the darkly entertaining world that made up Chris Carter’s series and the Ten Thirteen Universe so it’s hard to figure out whether or not it’s not surprising that he’s found it difficult to marry that voice to other television series. Included amongst his other sporadic credits are being credited as a consulting producer on Fringe and the reboot of The Bionic Woman, but no credited work ever appeared.
He is without doubt one of the finest writers to ever grace television, and his work here and his X-Files episodes not only rank as some of the greatest works within the realm of genre television, but probably within the medium itself, his observations of the futility of life, it’s cruelties, foibles and weirdness is on the part with the likes of Jonathan Swift or any number of writers who manage to combine imagination with borderline severe satire.
“Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me” hits so many targets that it’s hard to keep up, and just when you think it’s going to be nothing but a large selection of jokes and set pieces, it goes and hits you right in the feels with a final section that is every bit the equal to the heartbreak that came with “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”.
For a long time this was the last we’d seen of a Darin Morgan episode from a Ten Thirteen series and if it had have been the last, then it was one hell of a way to go out. Thankfully, with the revival of The X-Files, ironically the production of which he lampoons here to a devastatingly hilarious degree, the means for more Morgan work to see the light of day came back.
It’s a shame his work has only been restricted to these shows. Famously quoted as saying that he finds it hard to write, it’s probably not a surprise that he might have found it harder to contribute to other series, and that his voice worked best with a universe of television shows where expansive, differing voices and storytelling managed to get a work out within the confines of material featuring Frank Black and Mulder and Scully who were a part of television shows which had been willing to experiment with its voices.In many respects, this was, until 2016, probably the best way to end his work with the Ten Thirteen Universe. A bunch of demons who like to torture humanity, drinking coffee and joking about their horrible action, while also getting their hearts broken by an enveloping sadness that can overtake the human condition.
It couldn’t be any more Darin Morgan if it tried.
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