The third script of the season from Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz, and their last overall contribution to the series, ‘Seven and One’ continues Millennium‘s more abstract explorations of its side of the Ten Thirteen Universe, but as has been the case with the works of Carter and Spotnitz this season it’s something of a mixed bag.
With Millennium moving ever closer to its finale, there has been a sense of finality hanging over the series, an atmospheric sense as opposed to one that has been approached in the writing. But this episode’s exploration of Frank being stalked does return us to the character’s backstory; one that was approached in much of the dialogue during the series’ first couple of episodes back in season one, as well as the storyline involving The Polaroid Man.
The use of polaroids are a deliberate trigger within Frank’s world and at first it appears as if the show is going to do a wonderfully paranoid callback to a storyline that was set to dominate the series under Carter’s eye in season one before it was removed for other concerns by Morgan and Wong in season two.
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The set up is there for a paranoia drenched atmosphere and uncomfortable character thriller, but it ends up going in abstract directions on a par with what Johannessen did with Jordan Hawley on ‘Saturn Dreaming of Mercury‘ and Virginia Stock on ‘Bardo Thodol‘, but whereas those episodes were successful and felt wonderfully strange and fresh, ‘Seven and One’ just feels messy and never quite hits the landing that Carter and Spotnitz are aiming for.
You have to continually admire Millennium for trying to aim for something so vastly different and strange, not to mention unsettling, as they have been doing these last few weeks. Knowing full well that the writing is on the wall for the series as a continuing entity, the showrunners have taken a different approach to dealing with its impending cancellation than Morgan and Wong did. Instead of simply deciding to end the world in the finale, the series has gone all out on experimentation in a manner that was very uncommon for genre television of the period.
Carter and Spotnitz are very talented writers for sure, and their solo scripts as well as their collaborations, especially during this same period as Millennium was airing, on The X-Files, are some of the best genre television of the period. It’s sometimes hard to forget that, at its peak, the mythology of The X-Files was incredibly engrossing and exciting which made its move to the big screen a legitimate event.
With Millennium, it feels as if all season they have struggled to find their voice again on this series. Carter’s work during the first year was exemplary; after all, he wrote the ‘Pilot‘ which was an incredible piece of television and his follow up episodes (‘Gehenna‘, ‘The Well Worn Lock‘, ‘Lamentation‘) were brilliant explorations of evil and crime, and while Spotnitz’s work was more mixed, he had one ace episode in ‘Sacrament‘.
Coming back to the series with its third season, where it tried to go back to the style of season one but instead opted for a more weirder crime/horror genre than even season one did, their work has struggled to find its way. ‘TEOTWAWKI‘ attempted to go back to the more straightforward crime procedural but alas it didn’t quite work, and while ‘Antipas‘ was great fun, and by far their best script of the season, it was somewhat messy and a touch distasteful.
‘Seven and One’ is an admirable attempt at starting as something run of the mill and then going in a weird direction, but it still feels like a deeply strange mess that never quite comes together. It goes for something deep and there are some startling set pieces in the final stretch, and it even tries to go for something profound via a Frank Black voiceover that feels very much like something Chris Carter would script.
It’s a shame it is such a messy episode because, as always with this show, you cannot fault the ambitions here. I just wish it was better.