‘Saturn Dreaming of Mercury’ is without a doubt one of the most intense pieces of horror that not only Millennium but any of the Ten Thirteen series produced at this period of time. A brilliant showcase for Brittany Tiplady, and with a dazzlingly complex script from Chip Johannessen and Jordan Hawley, this is Millennium in a metaphysical horror mode that it’s never really gone for before, but it works so well.
There’s a more straightforward version of this episode that could so easily have been made, but now that it’s getting closer and closer to the end of its run, an end that many behind the scenes had a clear sense was on the way, one can feel the sense that the writers are throwing caution to the wind in approaching their stories. This marks the first in a series of tales where Millennium is going to become one of the most abstract series on television. It’s not always necessarily something that it pulls off, as we’ll see, but it sure means that Millennium is never boring or run of the mill as it heads to its finale.
The great thing about ‘Saturn Dreaming of Mercury’ is that while it’s perplexing in some regards, it is so in a delightfully dark and imaginative way. It’s a viewing experience that leaves you with a million questions about what it was that causes the events that transpire on screen, but the events are filtered through a brilliant emotional prism and prism is Jordan Black.
As Brittany Tiplady has gotten older, her storylines in the series have gotten more intense and complex. We saw that a few weeks ago during those intense hospital sequences in ‘Borrowed Time‘, and we see that again as she finds herself against a world, including her own father, who seemingly don’t believe her.
There are times when Johannessen and Hawley’s teleplay and Paul Shapiro’s direction feels like it’s really showing us the world of this episode through the viewpoint of Jordan and there is a clear sense of frustration as Frank and Emma don’t know whether or not to believe her over the new neighbours that have arrived next door.
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It goes off in weird, violent directions at times, and in other hands this could have been a real mess (and we’ll see an equivalent to this from Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz in a few episodes time that will attempt something similar but not quite hit the mark), but the approach and execution of the events on display are brilliant and help make it into a fantastically cinematic piece of television.
Elements that show up in the episode – like the case of eyeballs that clearly have a supernatural property – are never properly explained, and it is left to the audience to decipher what, if anything, they mean. And there are set pieces that are executed to such a dark and brilliant degree, with one key moment involving a horrible death by impalement during a car crash that feels like a more extreme version of something from the Final Destination franchise.
None of it would work without the powerful execution of its emotional weight. Brittany Tiplady is sensational here, putting in one of the best performances ever seen from a child in a television series, and her scenes with Henriksen take on a very different dimension to those seen previously. Older now than the toddler we first saw in the ‘Pilot‘, this is the first time we’ve seen the father/daughter relationship that has become a main beating heart of the series go through the emotional ringer in the manner that it does here, indicating that time stands still for nobody, not even idyllic father/daughter dynamics.
The episode builds to a literal explosive ending and one brilliant cameo twist that puts events into a fresh perspective. It’s one of those moments that leaves you wishing that there had been a fourth season because it would have been intriguing to see where that appearance from Lucy Butler might have taken us for the inevitable rematch.