Congratulations hero! Well now, you've arrived at day 5 of Morgan and Wong Week. Read this entry to win the level and proceed to day 6!

Well we're staying on the Millennium theme today having looked at Morgan and Wong's contributions in season one with Dead Letters, we're now moving back to Season 2. Today we have guest writer William Johnson from Secure to take us through season 2 through his eyes.


You can't have a season 2 without a season 1. . .and that's probably the only clear cut thing about Millennium's approach to. . .well. . .anything. Because while Millennium excels in being as thematically sporadic as possible across three wonderful and often tortured years on American television (where patience is hardly ever rewarded by the big suits in the big chairs in the big office in the big building) I believe (queue up the Season 1 loyalists, the Season 3 wackos, and the Season 2 haters), Season 2 embodies everything you'd ever want to know and feel about the show Millennium. *winces expecting large objects to be thrown*

I was talking to Lance the other day (yes, Lance Henriksen. Not Lance, my barber neighbor next door or Lance the homeless man near my work who I always give a quarter to) and he mentioned that Chris Carter feared Millennium wasn't as cutting edge as he wanted. Then again, as documented, Chris Carter never watched all of season 2. And I'm not here to go all Chelsea Handler on the Hollywood machine (or, Hollywood-Canadian machine I guess) and point fingers at people. Chris Carter had a show idea in Season 1 about solving serial killings with cameo appearances by millennial nutbags and prophesy obsessed weirdos. Glen Morgan and James Wong, once Carter employees, decided to make season 2 a show actually living up to it's namesake: Millennium. This time the cameo roles went to the serial killers and the wackos got center stage.

And while the critical results are mixed, two things happened: Millennium became cutting edge and Morgan and Wong were pronounced certifiably insane. . .in that creative, genius way! We're celebrating Morgan and Wong week here at BacktoFrankBlack and while my all-time favorite episode of Millennium exists in Season 1 (coincidentally written by Morgan and Wong: The Thin White Line), their magnum opus of work is, without a doubt, Millennium: Season 2.

I enjoyed Season 1 (otherwise I wouldn't have watched season 2) but thought that, despite many of its genuinely shocking/creepy moments, there was a formula that prevented the stories from truly breaking out. Maybe because I enjoy things with a little supernatural bent (it has nothing to do with my Fox Mulder poster next to my bed) I felt Season 1's strongest points were when it went into ambiguous horror mode. I liked guessing whether or not things were real, hyper-real, uber-real, or just plain otherwordly. I like androgynous creatures coming down into basements and killing people. . .I do.

So after Morgan and Wong wrapped up a cliffhanger season 1 ending (pre-empted by some super cool celestial stuff), they decided to just embrace their macabre tendencies and go full-out ambiguous horror, minus the ambiguous part. I won't lie. . .I was taken aback at first. A show about sadistic but all too real serial killers was now being replaced by demon dogs and humanistic (and holiday specific) demons. Perhaps the lines of ambiguity were no longer there. . .these things flat out existed. . .but the mystery and grandeur continued. Why? Sure, it wasn't about 'does this exist?' like it was with, say, Season 1 Lucy Butler or the dude who shot lightning bolts out of his hands (or did he?????), but 'what will these things do next and how will it effect our hero?' And instead of just flat out explaining it, Morgan and Wong decided to make your face explode by tackling the subjects in every way possible: you want laughs? You got it. You want mystery? It's there. You want straight horror? They provide it. You want to make men everywhere sexual confused by maximizing both the raw sexiness and terrifying horror of Lucy Butler. . .well, that exists too. What doesn't exist? is probably the question to be asked. Because Season 2 can't be summarized or easily explained. . .(when asked to write a 'summary' of sorts by the Millennium Group themselves (aka Troy) I literally went to my room and cried for two days straight). Season 2 just is and you have to take it or leave it. I take it. . .with reckless abandon.

And while Morgan and Wong didn't write every episode (not everyone can be J. Michael Stracyznki. . .jeez), there presence on the show kept the show focused. To not criticize season 1 (or 2) too harshly, there was always a wandering sense to the narrative. You were never sure where the story was going to go in terms of consistency. You never know where Season 2 is going to go in a situational sense. That season was, believe it or not, amazingly consistent in theme: a)because, like Chris Carter's first few years of his 'Mythology' arc of the X-Files, the writers, seemingly, had an idea of where to end things (and if they didn't then bully for them because they fooled us all and are only made of more platinum genius if they came up with this stuff on the fly), and b)because Morgan and Wong are CRAZY!

Seriously, though, Season 2 set into motion two things: the rise and fall of Frank Black and the final preparation for the Millennium itself. In regards to Frank, his character becomes the eyes for the audience. He's isolated (just like I am on my couch while watching the show) and thrown into an ever growing world that seems to be on a ticking clock to doom. We can't help but learn and grow with him. . .but like all great hero journeys, Black goes through a Gauntlet of Physical/Emotional proportions.

At the beginning of season 2 and the very end, Black goes full circle: he abandons his family and is lost. By season's end, some of his family has abandoned him and he is beyond lost (he's got grey hair and all that to prove it). In between he is tempted by myriad forces to join them (Millennium group) or to give up the fight (multiple demons/angels/what have you). Physically he suffers from his 'gift' even at points only able to think straight if he wears glasses inside. And at one point, Frank Black is seen from the villain's angle. . .from the outside looking in (Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me). In my mind, no character in television history has ever been examined so thoroughly. A man journeys down a road to. . .well. . .?

The Millennium, finally, plays the final part in Season 2's consistency. Whether it be the continued cameo of the 'comet' to the days ticking away on Frank's computer, to Frank coming face to face with different cultures and groups' take on the Millennium itself (Asian, Native American, the Millennium Group, European, etc.), Frank encounters what makes the actual fascination with 12:01, 2000 tick. And we, thanks to Morgan and Wong, were there for the ride.

Sure, there were some Season 1 sidebars, but you can only have so many Old Man in Woods episodes or demons eating donuts or what not. Episodes like 'Luminary' and 'The Mikado', while having nothing, really, to do with Season 2's Millennium theme, further exploit the exploration of Frank's soul. Luminary, specifically, making Frank look at what it takes to be human, even having a moment where he has to see what a young kid sees when stripped of all 'normal' attributes of existence. It's compelling stuff.

I hope you want to watch Season 2 again. . .I really do. That was my goal. Morgan and Wong spearheaded the whole thing and though it seems they left on bad terms, their work is cemented forever both in my brain and, thankfully, on DVD. I think many people get stuck in their views and can, over time, revert to those views even when new life experiences can change them. . .if you are adamant Season 2 is not for you, just give it another try. I think it will change the way you look at Frank Black. . .because that's why we're here! To bring him back and Season 2 is almost like his greatest moments captured in 23 hours of television (okay, well, that Sense and Antisense stuff was kind of odd. . .so 22 but still. . .). Let's thank, primarily, Morgan and Wong for that.


Satori said... February 26, 2010 at 10:11 AM

An excellent summary of one of the best years of television! Beautiful camera work, insightful stories and wonderful characters. Watching my video tapes (and later, the DVDs) I'm always left wanting more episodes like Beware of the Dog, Hand of St. Sebastian, Owls & Roosters, Anamnesis and the final two-parter... Plus Darrin Morgan's two episodes are wonderful!

It was heartbreaking to tune in a year later to find that the direction Millennium was going would not continue, that much of what was set up as Season 2 ended would never be resolved. Lara Means' tortured soul, the nobility of the Season 2 Peter Watts, the intro of Stephen Macht as Mr. Lot- all gone.

I often have said- "When I grow up, I want to be The Old Man"! Cheers to Morgan and Wong for daring to create a truly visionary show.

Sean Stubblefield said... February 26, 2010 at 7:26 PM

What a marvelous jaunt that was!
amusing and fun analysis that well captured the essence or tone of S2.
i wish i had written something like this.

Adam Chamberlain said... February 28, 2010 at 2:44 AM

Anyone that knows me knows that I am a big fan of an awful lot of television, from the worlds of Chris Carter to those of Aaron Sorkin, Joss Whedon, Alan Ball, Russell T Davies and in fact pretty much any era of Doctor Who to name but a select few. But for all that, if I had to select one favourite season of any show from all of those, it would have to be Season Two of Millennium.

A lot of the reasons for that are mentioned in this article - where it took the show and where it took Frank Black, introducing a stronger mythology and examining Frank from so many angles - but there's even more to recommend it. I won't attempt to mention them all here, but "Luminary" remains one of my favourite hours of any drama, and really did - in my view - tap into the wider themes of the season, I still don't think anyone's produced a sequence to compare to that representing Lara Means' insanity in "The Fourth Horseman" and the final moments of "The Time Is Now" are pure poetry.

I don't for a moment dismiss what came before or after this season, or how we were brought back from the precipice of that Season Two finale, but I do sometimes wonder where Morgan & Wong could've taken Millennium if they had remained in creative control right up to the millennium itself. Alas we'll never know, but what we're left with is this incredible legacy across 23 hours of television of compelling, incomparable and truly ground-breaking drama.

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