2 November 2001 | robotman-1
The Blood Plague
Lance Henrikson's Frank Black characterization is probably one of the greatest acting jobs one is likely to see. Not only was "Millennium" the most realistic, thought-provoking series ever produced (especially the second season), but Henrikson as Frank Black created a living, breathing human to counterbalance the paranormal aspects of it: strength and intelligence in his work as an investigator, loyalty and protective care above all to his wife and his child...sustained through the first two seasons, when Morgan and Wong wrote a huge chunk of the series, lost forever when the 3rd season began.
The second season set up a scenario in which Frank Black comes into direct conflict with the private agency he contracts for, the Millennium Group and his contact Peter Watts whose ambiguous role reveals the true warring factions behind all the borderline paranormal activities Black has encountered. The waring factions, both anticipating the Biblical endtimes, are the Owls and the Roosters, differentiated by their beliefs in the coming Apocalypse (Owls remain watchful, ready, protective of the mundane world faced with the building supernatural forces, while the Roosters are reactionary militarists zealously assured that the Apocalypse has already begun, and only they have prepared...). Frank Black's discoveries culminate in one of the most horrible living nightmares ever suffered by a fictional character in any medium, as a biological weapon is released in Washington state, a wind-carried plague similar to ebola, only more severe and instantaneous in its effects.
That second season ended with Frank Black and his family taking to the hills, cutting themselves off from humanity as this Blood Plague consumed the cities. When the final episode ended, the full unrelenting horror of Frank Black's existence was unforgettably etched: he had lost one of his most loved to the plague, and he was slack-faced, hair turned white, isolated in a cabin with the whole world succumbing to this unstoppable disease. This was the most devastatingly shocking thing imaginable, not a hallucination, not a dream. Real was the horror, and everlasting.
Then Morgan and Wong left the show with this impossible scenario to either solve, deal with, or simply ignore by cancelling the show altogether. There was no way to go back. Truly, this cataclysmic ending to the second season was the most uncompromising, gutsy move ever, on television especially. Of course, considering the fact that the huge audience for Morgan and Wong's other affiliation, "X-Files", did not watch "Millennium", nor did anyone else, it really was not a gutsy move to end the second season with a full-blown Apocalypse, since this wasn't Fox Mulder watching Scully's blood explode from her body through her pores as Plague devoured her. The public never would stand for an Apocalypse, a change so radical, in something so popular as "X-Files", though many would argue that's exactly what "X-Files" needed and still needs..
"Millennium" did not survive its own Apocalypse, for the greatest cop-out in any film or series occurred when the execreble 3rd season began, and the Blood Plague became an isolated event, Frank's loss bypassed by "six months" in which he'd spent under psychiatric care. Gone was the Millennium Group, Peter Watts, Lara Means, the Apocalypse...replaced by bad writing, cliche stock characters, and a complete loss of any kind of respect for the complex themes and issues of the human condition raised in the first two years.
This series came along and revealed truths about human motivations and monstrosity, as well as the depths of loyalty and deception, centered around one of the most well-crafted, solid series protagonists to be found in fiction. To this day, and probably as long as I live, I will be haunted by the questions raised during that last episode of the second year, concerning a non-existant character in a television series who had been shattered by events he could not avoid, left clutching what remained while all the demons and monsters he'd always feared and fought against slowly and inexorably engulfed the Earth. The effect of Frank Black and this series cannot be measured, personally. But the second season is as close to a legitimate masterpiece of writing, acting, and direction to be released in the last twenty years, in film or television, in my mind.