This is more like it. Six episodes into the third season of Millennium, and we get our first genuine, bona fide excellent episode that comes from Chip Johannessen and Ken Horton and happens to have very little of the problems that this season has had up to this point.
Admittedly ‘TEOTWAWKI‘ and ‘Thirteen Years Later‘ had their moments, and Klea Scott has been a brilliant addition to the series, but the first third of Millennium’s third year on the air has seen the series struggle in trying to find a way to justify its continued existence in light of how the second season ended.
‘Skull and Bones’ feels like the first episode of the season that makes the third year of the series feel as if it should be on the air. A sequel of sorts to ‘The Hand of St. Sebastian‘, it effectively retcons some of the events of that episode which should be a problem in itself, but there is a sense of the series trying to right what it saw as a wrong perpetrated on the Cheryl Andrews (CCH Pounder) character.
The failings of ‘The Innocents‘ and ‘Exegesis‘, the episodes that opened the season, were for a multitude of reasons, the biggest of which being that they were effectively retconning some aspects of what had happened in season two while also having no choice but to embrace others, all married within a narrative that felt like a rejected part of The X-Files‘ mythology. It was a mess, and there is a reluctance at first when one watches ‘Skull and Bones’ when it appears that we’re back into the realm of the mythology of Millennium, but Johannessen and Horton’s script is actually genuinely great: engaging and very suspenseful, and the twists and turns it throws help it flow brilliantly.
While changing the motivations of Andrews yet again, after the issues with her ‘turn’ in the season two episode, might be indicative of a series out of narrative control, there is a sense, for the first time this season, of Millennium being comfortable with itself, the first time the season has felt truly comfortable in its skin and assured of its direction since the end of season two. Yes, one could very easily pick it apart, but it’s hard to complain too much when the episode is as enjoyable as it is.
Admittedly it is still a bit of a bummer to see Terry O’Quinn having to play Peter Watts as an antagonist, but there’s a wonderful sense of drama and character interaction going on here that is the most engrossing that Millennium has been since ‘The Time is Now’. Even more fantastically, the majority of Watts’ scenes are with Emma.
Klea Scott has continued to be a wonderful addition to the series and has made some of Millennium’s weakest work soar in a way that it mightn’t have done under lesser hands, but being given a great script with some brilliant scenes with Terry O’Quinn, this is the best showcase for Emma Hollis that we’ve had all season, and those moments were Emma sees fully the working methods of a group that she has come to learn from Frank are incredibly dark and suspicious makes for some of Millennium’s best work in forever.
While a lot of the screen time is split between Frank and the character of Ed (Arye Gross) who knows a lot about the Millennium Group’s methods in dispatching those they see as threats, and the teleplay does a great job of filtering the story though essentially two-hander scenes between Frank/Ed and Emma/Peter, it’s the Emma and Peter scenes where the episode really fires on all cylinders and which hints at great things for the future of the season.
Without giving too much away, Peter Watts is about to have a massive impact on the life of Emma as the season continues, especially as the episode is clearly setting up Emma to learn that Frank isn’t completely wrong about his beliefs, and in his hatred of the Group. What’s great about this is that for the first time this season, we’ve had an episode that hints at a potentially wonderful future for the season and indicates that just maybe, at least under the eye of Johannesen and Horton, Millennium has a future.