‘X-Files’ Fans Need To Watch Chris Carter’s Other Mystery Series


The Big Picture

  • For fans of
    The X-Files
    ,
    Millennium
    offers a darker, more intense exploration of crime, demons, and the apocalypse.
  • Lance Henriksen’s performance as Frank Black is hauntingly powerful, highlighting the battle between good and evil.
  • Millennium
    ‘s unique mix of drama, horror, and sci-fi, along with its religious themes, make it a must-watch for true crime enthusiasts.



If you haven’t heard of Millennium, it may be because this mystery crime thriller was canceled after airing for only three seasons on Fox in the late ’90s. Despite being created by The X-Files legend Chris Carter, the show was deemed too dark for those watching network television at the time and didn’t end up lasting terribly long. With a strong leading man in Lance Henriksen, playing a former FBI profiler with the ability to “see into the minds and hearts of criminals,” Millennium seemingly begins as “just another crime drama” but slowly evolves into a genre show that isn’t afraid to deal with demons, ghosts, serial killers, and heavy apocalyptic symbolism as the year 2000 approaches. If you’re a fan of The X-Files, then don’t sleep on this impressive series.


Millennium

A former FBI profiler with the ability to look inside the mind of a killer begins working for the mysterious Millennium Group which investigates serial killers, conspiracies, the occult, and those obsessed with the end of the millennium.

Release Date
October 25, 1996
Cast
Lance Henriksen , Megan Gallagher , Terry O’Quinn , Brittany Tiplady , Klea Scott , Stephen J. Lang , Stephen E. Miller , Bill Smitrovich

Seasons
3


‘Millennium’ Is Darker Than ‘The X-Files’

Besides being created by Chris Carter (and lots of cast and crew overlap between this series and The X-Files), Millennium mixes the world of Mulder’s FBI conspiracies and Scully’s skepticism with threats of the biblical apocalypse and demonic adversaries to form something darker than the Mulder/Scully show ever could. Between severed heads, mutilated victims, and doomsday cults, the series would feature things weekly that shows like Criminal Minds only dare show on occasion, with plotlines that better resemble True Detective or Midnight Mass than your average procedural. This darkness derives from not only the subject matter (there are lots of messed-up serial killers here) but also the heaviness that series protagonist Frank Black (Henriksen) takes on himself. As Frank continues to look into the minds of the very killers he pursues, it takes a toll on him unlike any other.


Frank’s gift, his semi-prophetic ability to “see into the hearts and minds” of evil men, gives him an edge on the serial killers, rapists, and evil spirits he chases into the night. This gift (and curse) allows Frank to see his own demons (both figurative and literal) and overcome his worst fears by becoming them. If this show sounds like some sort of existential mental trip, that’s because it often is. Sometimes, these demons get the best of Frank, and nearly cripple him as a result. The Season 2 episode « The Curse of Frank Black, » in particular, dives deep into Frank’s psyche as he’s stalked by a ghost from his childhood (played by Dean Winters), wondering if he’s on the right path at all. This spirit warns him to forgo his work and enjoy his family, but, in the same spirit of Fox Mulder, Frank scoffs at his words, opting instead to fight the good fight.


Lance Henriksen is by far one of the most inspired casting choice of the 1990s, and watching Millennium will prove that statement isn’t a stretch. Not only does this Terminator and Aliens star command the room whenever Frank Black is on-screen, but the gravitas to his performance produces a deep melancholy that lingers with you afterward. The tortured heroism of Frank Black is the defining characteristic of Millennium in the same way that the believer/skeptic balance between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson defines The X-Files. But unlike its sister series, which deals strictly in the weird and unexplained, Millennium tackles the darkness within human nature, something that Frank struggles to come to terms with throughout the series. Yes, it does get supernatural at times, but the main focus of this drama is the inherent battle between good and evil that lies within us, struggling to overpower us at any moment.

‘Millennium’ Isn’t Afraid to Tackle Hard Topics

millennium-terry-oquinn-lance-henriksen
Image via Fox


Those particularly fascinated by The X-Files alien conspiracy plotline and the series’ overall mythology will jump at Millennium’s approach towards the impending doom of the biblical « End Times » which, according to many in the titular Millennium Group, will occur at the turn of the century. The mythology especially picks up during the show’s famed second season (highlighted in episodes like the “Owls” and “Roosters” two-parter), where we learn that much like The X-Files’ Syndicate, not everyone within the Millennium Group plays well together. The intricate and complex nature of the Group makes for some exciting television, making us, and Frank, wonder who is closer to the truth. Depending on the context, these religious themes that undergird Millennium bring either hope or despair to Frank, proving an honest representation of the power of faith that makes this series stronger.


The show’s serial killer-of-the-week episodes range from completely secular to paranormal, making Millennium unique among genre-based television. This show refuses to conform to « genre roles, » continually bridging the gap between reality and fantasy. Sometimes, we don’t even know which is which. Episodes such as the famed Christmas special « Midnight of the Century » or the somber grief-fest that is « The Sound of Snow, » may involve Frank dealing with loss through interacting with different spirits. Other fan-favorites, like « The Mikado, » focus entirely on catching a deranged serial killer (in this case, one who puts their victim’s deaths online) before they can strike again. « The Pilot » episode itself leaves a horrid mark on the viewer, an intense first impression that perfectly baptizes one into the world of Frank Black and Millennium. The official novelization is pretty killer, too.


While this tension between genres (drama, horror, sci-fi/fantasy, etc.) may seem strange at first, it all feels very natural as Frank remains our consistent guide through each intense case and unexplained phenomenon. Fans of The X-Files episodes « All Souls, » « Die Hand Die Verletzt, » or even the second theatrical film The X-Files: I Want to Believe, will especially enjoy Millennium due to the series’ authentic exploration of differing religious and eschatological views. Season 1’s « Maranatha » sees Frank scout a Russian Orthodox Church in search of the possible Antichrist, while the second season’s « The Hand of Saint Sebastian » sends Frank and his partner Peter Watts (Terry O’Quinn) to Germany in search of an ancient religious artifact. Both episodes (among many others) serve as excellent vehicles for the deep, and sometimes dark questions many of us have about the world. These questions are intricately woven throughout the series’ narrative in thoughtful ways that reflect Frank’s own curiosity and search for truth.


‘Millennium’ Is Not All Doom and Gloom

millennium-lance-henriksen
Image via Fox

Of course, if Millennium were always dark and dreary, it would make for a depressing watch, no matter how many religious or genre elements you throw into it. Thankfully, Frank isn’t alone in the fight. Frank’s wife Catherine (Megan Gallagher), a social worker who helps on various cases, and their daughter Jordan (Brittany Tiplady) are the center of his world. Time with the two of them in their sacred yellow house ground the series in family. The house itself serves as an anchor that keeps Frank sane in an increasingly insane world, and it’s here, in “The Pilot,” where Catherine reminds him that he can’t protect them from every evil. Solemnly, he responds by saying, “I want you to make-believe that I can.” This reminds us that Frank is not just a depressed lawman, but a loving husband and father who will stop at nothing to defend his world. Though he doesn’t always succeed, it doesn’t stop us from believing he can.


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But evil takes many forms in Millennium. If you were worried that the countless serial killers (a la Se7en) wouldn’t be enough to foil Frank for long (you’d be right), there’s always the deliciously sadistic Lucy Butler (Sarah-Jane Redmond). Lucy is Frank’s archnemesis who turns out to be a demon (nicknamed “Legion” by fans) more terrifying than even the likes of Azazel in the Denzel Washington thriller Fallen. Appearing in different forms each season, Lucy torments and stalks Frank in ways no other creature could. From killing his close friends to targeting his daughter, Lucy’s sensual and predatory nature makes her one of the biggest and most complex threats that Frank could ever face. If you thought William B. Davis‘ Cigarette Smoking Man on The X-Files was bad, you’ve never met an antagonist quite like Lucy. Episodes like “Lamentation” and “Antipas” will shock you to your core, as the succubus’ merciless prowess seems to gain the upper hand. While Frank may come out on top in the end, he doesn’t always win, per se.


But don’t worry, not every episode of Millennium is « doom and gloom. » In fact, there are some lighthearted gems here, too. If X-Files episodes like « X-COPS » and « Bad Blood » are more your speed, then prepare for some wacky episodes of Millennium as well. « Jose Chung’s Doomsday Defense » (itself a semi-X-Files crossover) is a clever poke at Scientology through, get this, « Selfosophy. » The Season 2 masterpiece « Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me » (a personal favorite) follows four devils as they sit around in a donut shop explaining to each other their techniques for tempting human souls. It’s a pretty hilarious oddball take on C.S. Lewis’ infamous The Screwtape Letters that hits the mark every time. And if that’s not enough, Season 3’s « …Thirteen Years Later » follows Frank and his FBI partner Emma Hollis (Klea Scott) as they track down a serial killer on a horror film set on Halloween of all days. What makes this episode especially weird (besides the wacky ending) are the cameos by members of the rock band KISS, who were promoting their late ’90s album Psycho Circus at the time.


‘Millennium’ Crossed Over With ‘The X-Files’

But die-hard X-Files fans out there probably recognize Lance Henriksen’s Frank Black from another story. In The X-Files seventh season, Frank appeared in the episode aptly titled « Millennium. » That’s right, Frank Black crossed over to The X-Files in an episode helmed by longtime Millennium director Thomas J. Wright (who had directed 26 episodes of the show, including the impromptu series finale « Goodbye to All That ») and co-written by producer Frank Spotnitz and future Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan. Taking place on the eve of the new millennium, FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigate a series of zombie murders that feels somewhat akin to Night of the Living Dead. Of course, the Millennium Group is involved, as a faction of the organization attempts to kickstart the Apocalypse, thus self-fulfilling their own prophecies.


Naturally, who better to call than Frank Black, who, after the sudden cancelation of Millennium following its third season, has committed himself to a mental institution to deal with his dark and unique gift. While the episode feels distinctly more X-Files than Millennium, it’s an honest effort to wrap up Frank’s story in a meaningful way that reunites him with his daughter, Jordan. « Millennium » the episode is perhaps most well-known for that New Year’s Eve kiss between Mulder and Scully, but the episode itself is notable as a coda to the gone-too-soon Millennium series, which must’ve been just ahead of its time. Before the revival seasons of The X-Files aired in 2016, creator Chris Carter teamed up with comic book writer Joe Harris to continue Mulder and Scully’s story via The X-Files: Season 10 comic book series. This excellent comic, which does a much better job with the show’s myth arc than the revival did, also brought Frank back from the great beyond, as he assisted the agents in the arc « Immaculate, » which itself feels something like a Millennium episode.


Frank’s return was so well-received that a Millennium comic book miniseries was released by IDW in 2015. The comic book reunites Frank with his now-adult daughter years after the series came to a close and features a standoff between our tortured hero and his worst enemy, Lucy Butler. « Millennium has a ton of great ideas that were never fully explored, » Harris told Comic Book Resources in 2014. « Along with shifting focuses of the show itself, from the dark and gritty serial killer-hunting going on throughout Season One to the more mythological world-building in Season Two, but all with this one man, Frank Black, caught in the middle. » While the tone of the series shifted slightly every season, Frank Black remained at the epicenter of Millennium and is a character many still wish to see return today.

‘Millennium’ Deserves a Revival


While Millennium was canceled after its third season, the impromptu series finale « Goodbye to All That » serves as a solid ending for Frank Black’s journey. Nevertheless, many involved with the series have been itching for a return, and podcasts like The Time Is Now: A Millennium Podcast and Millennium Group Sessions have pushed for more, with the latter show even giving a platform to folks like Chris Carter and Lance Henriksen to share their love for the short-lived series. Henriksen in particular has expressed interest in returning to the role of Frank Black, who continues to tweet about it on his X (formerly Twitter) account, as have many members of the cast and crew, like producer Frank Spotnitz.


Additionally, books like Back to Frank Black: A Return to Chris Carter’s Millennium by Adam Chamberlain and Brian A. Dixon and documentaries such as Millennium After the Millennium, which highlighted those who worked on the critically acclaimed series, have likewise pushed the idea that a Millennium revival of some kind is wanted by fans everywhere. While nobody knows if the series will ever return, this not-easily-forgotten ’90s classic has been beloved by a strong cult following for years. Millennium is a unique show, to be sure. It’s not quite a procedural, nor does it fully commit to being a serialized genre series, but Frank Black managed to pull in audiences who love both. If you’re a fan of Chris Carter’s The X-Files, the time is now to give Millennium a go.

Millennium is available for purchase on Amazon.

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