The first episode of Millennium to bear the names of Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz since the first season (“Lamentation” for Carter, “Sacrament” for Spotnitz), it also marks the first time the pair of writers had collaborated, or at least been credited as being collaborators, on a Millennium episode.
The results are mixed, to say the least.
On the one hand, the episode is very much a product of its time, exploring millennial angst and the fear of the oncoming year of 2000 from a technological point of view. For anyone born after the turn of the millennium, it might be strange to think how fearful we were of the so-called millennium bug, the idea that once the clocks of the world hit the year 2000 everything and everywhere was going to be plunged into some sort of technological breakdown.
Of course, that never happened. Given the level of fear that it came with, it’s easy to look back on that fear with a hindsight that borders on silliness. This is the third season of Millennium, yet it comes as a surprise that it took until now to deal with this issue head on, but that’s what dates the episode in a strange way. As a time capsule it’s fine, but it’s possible anyone under the age of 18 may look at it and think “huh?”
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The other main aspect of the episode – and the one that will sadly not elicit such an indifferent response to the extent that will have the youth of today looking up “millennium bug” on a Wikipedia page – is how its the main thrust of the plot comes about; “TEOTWAWKI” begins with a school shooting.
The image of a shooter hidden underneath the bleachers taking shots at students as they celebrate a basketball championship, unfortunately, is an image or idea that we have seemingly become all too accustomed to. What feels like a breaking news story of a shooting somewhere in the United States is an all too frequent occurrence that inspires shock. But it has become some dark part of life that we have to just accept that a certain side of the political spectrum are okay with as long as there are ‘thoughts and prayers’ to be doled out afterwards.
The notion of Millennium dealing with such a plot line is an intriguing one, especially coming from these two authors who have dealt with combustible plot lines before on this series, as well as The X-Files (sometimes delicately, sometimes not so delicately). Strangely, “TEOTWAWKI” never quite feels like it gels in the way of what it’s aiming for.
The ideas at its heart are interesting, but it struggles to figure out what it truly wants to be; a tale of millennial angst, or the dark pitfalls of the second amendment? As a result, it never gets the balancing act as successful as it should.
It is substantially better than the season premiere for sure, and at the very least it feels like a Millennium episode, even if it’s not a great Millennium episode. Klea Scott settles in even more as Emma Hollis and there is also the very pleasing return of Stephen James Lang as Giebelhouse, which comes as a relief given the last we heard from him was Frank calling him for help in “The Time is Now“.
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Henriksen shows up and is incredibly stoic. The cast gives the material everything they’ve got and it’s hard not to fault the storytelling ambitions on display here, even if its execution is anything but 100% a success. There is very much an anti-gun message running throughout; not least through the character of Frank Black, which in itself feels like a return to the first season when he very seldom held a firearm but did so frequently during Morgan and Wong’s tenure of the series.
His proclamation that he didn’t bring a gun with him for the episode’s final confrontation, but fully trusted Emma to have his back, speaks a lot about Frank and his developing friendship with Emma. In fact, it’s the Henriksen and Scott scenes that actually come off the best here and it’s that relationship that may prove to be an inroad for the season to get better.