It’s with a heavy sigh of relief that one watches ‘Collateral Damage’. Not necessarily because of the events on screen – if anything they are as tense as Millennium has gotten this season – but because the episode is excellent, and marks the first time since season two that we’ve got two really good episodes consecutively rather than weeks apart.
If ‘Borrowed Time‘ was the series allowing itself to embrace the events of last season in the manner that it should have been doing in the first third of the season, ‘Collateral Damage’ is the series doubling down yet again on events and plot threads that it was trying to pretend weren’t there and yet also there at the same time (contradictory for sure) and dealing with them head-on in a satisfying manner.
This is a really good episode, but a lot of it works or not depending on how one feels about the journey that Peter Watts has been on this season. Previously Frank’s frequent partner when on cases in season one, Morgan and Wong’s tenure saw the character develop and become a much more complex person in the second season, beautifully allowing Terry O’Quinn to bring in layers and act in scenes that were more than merely standing next to Henriksen while Frank did his detective-with-a-gift thing.
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Just to reiterate, there’s nothing wrong with that, and anyone reading these reviews will be very aware of just how much I love and adore the first season. But to see Henriksen and O’Quinn, two incredibly gifted actors, be given juicier material, and for what had previously been a stoic relationship become more fractured was one of the second season’s most brilliant arcs.
The season two finale ended seemingly with Watts paying with his life for aligning himself with Frank, but strangely, in light of season three trying to figure out whether to embrace those events wholeheartedly or just pass them off with a shrug, this season saw Watts become the enemy, with him and Frank at loggerheads, and now having to go to Frank when his daughter Taylor (Jacinda Barrett) is kidnapped by an embittered Gulf War veteran with a massive grudge against the Millennium Group.
With a script by Michael R. Perry, returning to the type of darker drama that was the hallmark of his debut, ‘The Mikado‘, after spending his last two scripts with lighter, quirkier fare, ‘Collateral Damage’ is Millennium doing what Millennium does best, albeit with a prism on where the series is now. If the series had approached this storyline last season it would have done so with Frank and Peter in a place of somewhat harmony; here it’s with bitterness and resentment and an incredibly tense air.
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Even though Frank was happily married in season one and separated in season two, it’s always felt as if Frank and Peter were a second central relationship at the heart of the show. Early in the series run it sometimes felt as if the series wanted to partner up Frank with a different Group investigator each week before settling on the idea that Frank and Peter made for a more effective duo to watch week in and week out, before Morgan and Wong brilliantly threw the cat amongst the pigeons when it came to their characters in season two.
It has felt almost wrong and strange to see them at loggerheads all season, but like last week, there’s a pleasing sense that Millennium may be finally figuring out a way to work with what it has, and when it’s giving us episodes like this, complete with a brilliant guest appearance from James Marsters, not to mention a cameo appearance from famous US Radio personality and conspiracy theorist Art Bell which works strangely well, one is just thankful that we’re getting great Millennium episodes again.
Like ‘The Mikado’, there’s a pleasing claustrophobic feel, given that many scenes of the episode between Marsters and Barrett are in an enclosed space, but this is of a very different nature to Perry’s season two classic, and while the conspiracy touches here do threaten to put it into the realm of The X-Files, it manages to brilliantly not fall into the trap of becoming like an X-Files episode in terms of storytelling tone.
It all builds up to a brilliant final scene, one filled with bitterness and anger. It’s a reminder that in staying with the Group, Peter Watts has kept his whole family while Frank has lost his wife and been left a widower, but that in doing what he is doing and having to save a family member, Peter may have just lost the love and respect of his daughter.