I think it’s best to view Millennium as the story of a man with a unique kind of tunnel vision who, over the course of 67 episodes, comes to a newfound sense of clarity. “Intimacy is the grand finale,” said series star Lance Henriksen in an interview. It’s a sentiment that echoes throughout Millennium’s third and final season, a divisive run of episodes that, for many viewers, blasphemously rewrites what came before. The apocalyptic plague that closed out the second season becomes an isolated incident. Protagonist Frank Black (Henriksen)—left white-haired and catatonic in a cabin in the woods—is suddenly dark-haired and healthy and raising his daughter Jordan (Brittany Tiplady) in a Virginia suburb. And the mysterious Millennium Group, primarily a force for good in the second season, is now the show’s principal antagonist, a diabolical cult that uses end-time prophecies as a method for control.
This illusion of control (both on- and off-screen) is what makes Millennium’s second season so attractive and outwardly satisfying, while it’s Frank Black’s relinquishing of that control (supplanted by ambiguity and uncertainty) that makes the third season such a challenging watch. The writers cop to their intent in the fifth episode, entitled “…Thirteen Years Later,” in which new female lead Emma Hollis (Klea Scott) is shown reading the Jorge Luis Borges collection Labyrinths. Indeed, the first half of the season is much like a playful, thought-provoking collection of Borges short stories, providing a kind of reverse-closure to past events through a recontextualizing of perspective (and paralleled by a slow episode by episode reveal of Frank’s gray hair.)
“…Thirteen Years Later” is the third season’s comic mission statement, an installment featuring murder, mayhem, and the rock band KISS that, much like the show’s circular snake symbol, eats its own tail to the point of existential absurdity. “Skull and Bones” casts a different light on the villainous betrayal of Millennium Group member Cheryl Andrews (CCH Pounder), effectively leveling the good guy/bad guy dichotomies that the second season reveled in with comic-bookish abandon. And “The Sound of Snow,” a midpoint episode that plays as a kind of emotional series finale, takes Frank Black to a surrealist brink wherein he reckons with and overcomes a variety of lingering interior demons. From there Millennium transmogrifies again into a tragic celebration of the individual, with each character facing crises and challenges that send them off on separate paths and climax in death, loneliness, or—as Henriksen suggests—intimacy. “We are all shepherds,” says Jordan to her father at the series’s close and Frank’s gruff affirmation of that sentiment is enough of an ending for Millennium, a moment in which two souls (possessed of newfound purpose) connect for one beautiful and eternal instant.
All episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers and as one who was previously familiar with only the full-frame broadcast versions this is nothing short of a revelation. For the most part, season three’s gray, color-drained palette (a sublime cinematographic choice, courtesy of DP Robert McLachlan, which thematically parallels Frank Black’s newly uncertain view of the world) is crisp and clear with a few minor imperfections. During a few episodes (see, for example, "TEOTWAWKI" or "Collateral Damage") certain conversations or actions are clearly framed for a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. In the former episode there’s a few moments where mouths and dialogue are out of sync, in the latter a sequence of implied nudity loses its impact because the actress is clearly clothed. This problem was also present on the Harsh Realm DVD set where the camera crew was occasionally visible on the edges of the frame. It’s an error most likely attributable to the early days of widescreen television, though it remains an unfortunate distraction. The three Dolby surround tracks do ample justice to Millennium’s ominous soundscapes, especially to Mark Snow’s scoring, which is particularly noteworthy this year as it grows more expansive and orchestral over the course of the season.
Two commentary tracks are included in the Millennium third season set, the first with actors Lance Henriksen and Klea Scott on "The Innocents," the second with director Thomas J. Wright on "Collateral Damage." The former track is more interesting as Henriksen is very vocal about his vision of the show as an exploration of millennial hysteria as opposed to apocalypse and prophecy, a view often at odds with the majority of Millennium’s fan base. Also included is the X-Files seventh season episode "Millennium," which has Frank Black teaming up with Agents Mulder and Scully in an effort to stop a sub-section of the Millennium Group from bringing about the end of the world. "Endgame: Making of Millennium Season Three" features interviews with numerous cast and crew members in which they discuss specific episodes and the many changes made to the show in its final year. Finally, "Between the Lines" highlights members of the Academy Group, the law enforcement unit that was Chris Carter’s initial inspiration for the Millennium series.
We are racing toward an apocalypse of our own creation. This is who we are.