The X Files Revisited: 7.04 Millenium
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The X Files ran for nine seasons and two movies, charting the efforts of Agents Mulder and Scully in their search for the unexplained. And then in 2016, it returned for six new episodes, a mix of mythology and case of the week stories that brought Mulder and Scully back the FBI. From the brilliant Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster to the frantic mythology cliff-hanger in My Struggle II, it was largely viewed as a success and there are hopes that season 10 is just the first of more. In the lead up to the revival, The Digital Fix reviewed the pilot episode and then carried on throughout the series, covering the best and most significant episodes of the show including the first movie The X Files: Fight The Future. This time we look back at Millennium, an episode that sought to tie up the events of that cancelled series...
In 1996, when The X Files was at the height of its popularity after a successful third season, Chris Carter launched Millennium a show that aimed to go even darker than its predecessor. The lead character Frank Black (Lance Henriksen), with his ability to look inside the mind of serial killers (think Will Graham from Hannibal), joined the mysterious Millennium Group an organisation of former former law enforcement officers, fighting an increase in crime in the lead up to the Millennium. With its look at the heart of evil it was often too much for fans of The X Files and it was with great irony that it was cancelled at the end of season three...just half a year before the Millennium.
Millennium had already been established as being set in the same universe as The X Files, with characters like Jose Chung popping up in season two. And with the main show still on the air, Chris Carter took the chance to wrap up the story with a tale of an impending zombie apocalypse on the 31st December 1999. The episode Millennium certainly achieves that, even if it wasn't the explosive conclusion fans on the spin-off show were hoping for (Henriksen apparently wasn't too impressed). There is the feeling that this is Millennium on a budget, with Frank Black only getting in on the action in the episode's closing moments. Given the high stakes - the end of the world - this is one episode that could perhaps have benefitted from being a two-parter.
The episode begins with a chilling scene where surviving Millennium group member Mark Johnson (Holmes Osborne), opening up the coffin of a dead former FBI agent, removing items off the decomposing corpses coffin and placing a cell phone in the decaying head. It is a chilling idea that only grows as Johnson receives a call from the grave on December 30th and digs up the resurrected corpse. The episode wisely keeps the zombie off screen as long as possible. We see a rising hand and monstrous groan from the back of Johnson's truck as he drives along the highway and a flash of the corpse's face as it attacks an unsuspecting deputy as he stops Johnson on the road.
Mulder is immediately intrigued by the signs of a zombie resurrection, calling Scully to the grave site where markings have suggested a necromancer has performed the resurrection ritual. Interestingly it is Skinner that sets them on the path to Frank Black and the Millennium Group after a meeting in his office with colleagues investigating the stolen corpse of the former FBI agent. Skinner even suggests he was part of the now defunct Millennium group. It seems their actions have failed after the events of the cancelled series and only Johnson is around to pick up the cause and bring on the apocalypse.
Mulder and Scully visit Frank Black after he has checked into a psychiatric unit, dealing with the events of the series, including the death of his wife. He refuses to help, only offering them small clues in the fight to stop Johnson and the apocalypse. Fans of the show were probably disappointed by Black's lack of involvement in the episode; while it is The X Files and Mulder and Scully's show, he sits out the majority of the action. Again, it is a story that could have benefited with him checking out to fight the fight and the end of part one, making him a full antagonist in part two.
After the deputy is found buried up to the face, salt crammed into his mouth, the hunt is on and it is here where Millennium delivers some real George Romero moments, using the show's penchant for horror to tackle zombies properly for the first time. The scenes in the morgue are incredibly tense. As soon as you see the woman completing the autopsy is not Scully, you know her time is running out. As soon as she empties the salt from the mouth and receives an answerphone message from Scully warning her to stop the autopsy, she is brutally attacked in a proper horror movie moment.
But it is only when Scully arrives, finding the bloody mortician that the episode finally reveals its first full zombie as the reincarnated sheriff lurches towards her as she fires shots futilely into his chest. As it grabs Scully against a wall, while Johnson watches on, the fade to black provides a great mini-cliffhanger before it is revealed Johnson used Scully's falled gun to shoot the zombie in the head - but not until after Skinner arrives, demands to see her and pulls back the sheet over a corpse, dragging out the possibility, even if it can't actually happen, that his agent is dead.
Even better is Mulder's arrival at Johnson's house. With no phone signal and no way for Skinner and Scully to save him, he enters the dark basement as the four zombies rise from the dirt at his feet. It's another great mini-cliffhanger as Johnson locks Mulder in, listening as the groans of the approaching undead are answered by frantic gun shots. Fortunately Mulder knows his stuff and we see him next surrounded in a ring of salt, clutching a bloody arm as the zombies lurk in the shadows. Black arrives to help Mulder and the final battle with the zombies is terrific, chilling stuff, as the grey, decaying monsters pour out of the corners of the basement, the final one threatening to bite Black's face off before Scully arrives in a timely manner to shoot the last creature in the head.
Millennium does tie things up. Johnson is committed to a psychiatric facility, the monsters are dead and Black is reunited with his daughter (Brittany Tiplady reprising her role as his daughter from the series). It is less apocalyptic and more zombie skirmish - there is no real sense of how Johnson will end the world unless he plans to unleash his zombies upon unsuspecting partygoers and start a deadly zombie plague. But it provides some closure to Lance Henriksen's character while returning the focus to Mulder and Scully as they finally share their first kiss as the New Year is rung in on the TV. It doesn't feel like a full blown romantic embrace, but it is noticeable that this is the year they 'consummated' their son William, so perhaps this is where they started to develop into a romantic couple. Mulder and Scully shippers would certainly have been happier with this moment.
If anything the episode works best as The X Files meets Night Of The Living Dead, with the zombie sequences proving to be some chilling stuff. As a conclusion to Millennium, it doesn't feel like it does that series justice. Perhaps I need to watch that show again. I only watched the first season regularly and perhaps now is the time to revisit another slice of 90's TV horror...