There is an argument to be made that ‘Human Essence’ is the worst ever episode of Millennium.
Usually, this would be the point where I would make the argument that this is not the case and begin to make a passionate reason why it isn’t as bad as its reputation suggests. That is not going to happen here because the naysayers aren’t wrong. ‘Human Essence’ represents a low point of sorts for Millennium. Silver lining; the season only gets better from this point on.
The second, and last, teleplay from Michael Duggan, ‘Human Essence’ has the unfortunate problem of being another Emma Hollis showcase, like ‘Closure’ from a few weeks ago, that puts its new star front and centre in a script that is nowhere near worthy of Klea Scott’s talents. Yet, Scott rises to the lack of challenge here and performs the hell out of the material, once again showing that she is the best thing to happen to the series this season.
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After this point in the season, Michael Duggan would leave the series with Chip Johannessen taking sole charge, with Ken Horton taking an even more active hand in the season along with him as it went on and while the series will not quite hit those heights from season two again, at the very least the quality of the majority of the episodes will be a lot better than what we’ve seen so far this season, with a lot of the best work coming from Johannessen himself who will show an ability to be unafraid to experiment with the storytelling form of the season (there are two episodes, in particular, coming up that are some of my absolute favourites ever from the series and they both feature Johannessen on co-scripting duties).
As for ‘Human Essence’, as terrible as it sounds, one just wants to watch it quickly to get it out of the way. Things start promisingly enough with Hollis being suspended from the FBI due to drug use, but which leads to an even more complicated plotline involving her half-sister and a trip to Vancouver, one of the few time that Vancouver has actually played itself in a Ten Thirteen series.
We do get an admittedly lovely X-Files gag in the middle of the episode which will add debate to the idea of whether or not this and The X-Files take place in the same universe, but other than that, there’s very little to recommend it. Once again it feels as if the series is trying to be The X-Files with a story involving a US Army Research Division creating some sort of superheroine and then linking to Chinese drug dealers in a twist that can’t help but feel racist (not exactly an exclusive Millennium problem, many television series, including The X-Files, can’t help but feel insensitive in this day and age when they bring in other races and cultures to their storylines).
For a writer who was brought in to the series to try and take it back to where it was in the first year, it’s somewhat remarkable that his only two efforts in the series are essentially X-Files-style stories. The episode’s final scene is trying to go for pointed angry energy, where Frank tries to convince his sceptical boss McLaren (Stephen E. Miller) over the episode’s events, but it feels as if it really ought to be David Duchovny performing the scene opposite Mitch Pileggi.
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It’s frustrating when Millennium falls into this trap, even more so with an episode that is really not good in the way this one is, but we can breathe easy. The worst is over. Yes, there are still episodes coming up that don’t really work, but the hit to miss ratio will be more in favour of hit rather than miss, and thankfully Klea Scott will get material that is a lot better than this.
So, let’s take this moment to nod and smile at ‘Human Essence’, and just carry on our merry Millennium way.
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