Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lance Henriksen: Profile And Measures Of The Millennium Man

"No one's gonna' wanna' believe that a killer comes from within."  -Frank Black, Millennium, Episode 11, Weeds-

I don't think it comes as any great surprise that so many of us love character actor Lance Henriksen. He's a natural. He's interesting in so many subtle, complex ways. He was blessed with a facial complexity that is a rare gift.

The native New Yorker, of a Norwegian father and mother, immersed in the arts, brought a kind of foreign, quirkiness that seems to penetrate his own unusual style. It is this alienness that seems to define Henriksen's ability to play anything from gunmen to lawmen, aliens to androids. He's a hard man to box and that's never good for Hollywood, thus his prolific career as a character man. It's awfully fitting the uniquely chiseled Henriksen once appeared in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind [1977] once upon a time.

His inexhaustible, world weary eyes, cult face and voice [yes, that voice] has appeared in over 150 genre TV and Film titles. His is an extraordinary body of work. There has always been something special in those eyes of the man who would be Frank Black [Millennium] - always something going on behind them. The eyes communicate the unspoken word. The wheels and machinery of his mind constantly turning. That twinkle gives each and every one of Henriksen's unique characters, however big or small, something unique of the man. The camera loves Lance Henriksen and Henriksen loves the work. It's this relationship that makes him such a huge hit with fans. He brings a touch of class to the slightest part often saving material, but he's not a superman as some poor film choices have proven.

Still, film aficionados appreciate the art of his performance. His achievements, despite some almost relegated to cult status, are great and anyone who is a fan of science fiction or any other genre respect and treasure the work Henriksen has provided.

Henriksen's work endures from small moments like the one found in The Terminator [1984] to the more significant roles, like his role as Bishop in Aliens. Henriksen injects himself into characters you never quite forget. His relationship with director James Cameron dates back to Piranha II: The Spawning [1981]. All directors work with their favorites. Well, Henriksen has been a kind of go to guy for characters within Cameron's work.

His time worn face today gives the appearance of a man seemingly with us for a millennium. Each wrinkle and each line of his face is filled with the details to endless stories of pain, kindness, anger, joy and wisdom learned. There's something wonderfully weird, warm and at once chilling in the man. He's a kind of self-styled, variation on Clint Eastwood's Harry Callahan. Dirty Frank if you will, but a more cerebral bad ass. Like Eastwood ["Go ahead, make my day"], Henriksen's face and voice ["Come on, give me a reason"] speaks to years of living. Author Joe Maddrey has co-penned a book with Henriksen entitled, Not Bad For A Human, and the title couldn't be more befitting of the actor and the illustrated cover accurately captures the expression of the man's varied career beginning in the early '70s.

It is this face that seemed perfect for the role of Millennium's Frank Black. His brow's every crack and crevice, the crow-footed eyes all seemed so timely in writer/ director/ producer Chris Carter's selection of Lance Henriksen for the role of Black. Clearly it took a man, a fan, like Carter, who specifically penned the role of Frank Black for Lance Henrikesen, to give Henriksen the lead role of a lifetime. Carter, like us, appreciated Henriksen's talent and had the clout and financial muscle with Fox Broadcasting Company to make this significant role happen for the character actor. It had to be a dream come true. With character roles so limiting in film, the TV series allowed Henriksen to really dig deep and offer us that much more of his ability. Carter, in essence, gave Lance Henriksen perhaps the greatest role of his career in Frank Black. The series Millennium [1996-1999] ran for three disturbingly powerful seasons. Logically, Black's character was the perfect launching point for Carter to continue his mind-bending ways in television outside of The X-Files. Fortunately, for fans of Carter's work and the work of Henriksen it was a perfect marriage. Millennium stories were tales for the thinking man thanks to Carter and the bulk of the writing chores being placed in the capable hands of executive producers like Glen Morgan and James Wong. The varied writers on the series managed to walk a fine line fusing true crime, horror-terror and science fiction. The results remain staggering. In effect, the 67 episode run of the creepy Millennium gave fans of The X-Files something entirely new and all different with much of the atmosphere and mood of that aforementioned series retained. Would you expect anything less from a series helmed by Lance Henriksen and steered by Chris Carter?

It's no wonder Henriksen was twice nominated for a Saturn Award for his role as Frank Black in 1996 and 1998. He was thrice nominated for a Golden Globe [1996-1998], but never won. The work of Henriksen within the series was deserving of the honor at least once.
 
"There are no rulebooks. Every situation is different." -Frank Black, Millennium, Episode 16, Sacrament-

If there's one thing that endlessly fascinates me as a fan of science fiction, it's the crossover within science fiction. I love to discover where the things I love come from or witness spin-offs of popular culture take us down new roads and new avenues. When cast members from Stargate SG-1 appeared on Stargate Atlantis it was a treat. Doctor Who's Sarah Jane Smith, played by the lovely, late Elisabeth Sladen, would make an appearance with the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, for School Reunion, linking the old and new series mythologies as one. Star Trek: The Original Series actors would make their way aboard Star Trek: The Next Generation. Age old villains frequently appear and reappear across the genres of our favorite series. These are genuine joys of the science fiction fan. The exchange of ideas always opens the characters to fertile new ground even if momentarily. Evidently the Millennium concept was born of The X-Files' success and inevitably it would return the Henriksen-based series back to The X-Files for one glorious conclusion in Season Seven, Episode 4, Millennium. These ideas by passionate, literate writers and creators are given birth in unexpected places and then they are nurtured, given new life and their own identities. Chris Carter gave us the creation of Frank Black for Millennium, and showrunners like Glen Morgan and James Wong took us deeper, but it didn't begin there. It began with The X-Files and ultimately it would end there. Carter was one of the lucky ones to see his creations come full circle. Do you love the beauty of it all? As a genre fan, it really is like sci-fi poetry. The success of both The X-Files and Millennium is an exceptionally rare thing. Chris Carter told SciFiNow, "I wanted to do a scary show, but no one would listen to me. First and foremost, what I wanted to do was scare people's pants off." Carter was speaking of The X-Files. It's just as applicable to the monsters and men found within the terrors of Millennium.

Yes, Chris Carter envisioned Millennium with Lance Henriksen and created the part for him. His timing with the idea seemed flawless, impeccable, because he may have landed Henriksen in that part at the greatest juncture of his journeyed career. Henriksen had the look, the feel, the ability and the quirky strengths necessary to engage and build the identity of Frank Black and lead the show. It was a part that made sense for Henriksen. It couldn't be for just anyone. The irony of millennium as a measurement of time shouldn't be lost on us. As I mentioned earlier, Henriksen's face speaks to the years of experience and wisdom needed to carry that role. Carter needed a talent able to convey the weight of time. The series hinged on this critical role and Henriksen's performance. It turned on his shoulders. It may not have been the wisdom of 1,000 years, but the essence of that face speaks to us in time. There is a detail and depth to his physical profile that gives his performance credibility and stature. He was ripe for this kind of challenge and I do believe Carter truly captured and recognized that talent at the greatest moment of Henriksen's professional life; in the prime of his career. One could argue without Henriksen Millennium might not have survived three years, an eternity for television.

Millennium is studied, deliberate, thoughtful and painstakingly methodical in its presentation, but it never feels clinical or contrived. There's a flow, a process and it is gradual like Henriksen who grounds the show in calm. It gets into the nooks and crannies of each story and this is illustrated with wonderful close-up shots of Lance Henriksen throughout the series. The camera gets up close with recurring roles too. Megan Gallagher, Terry O'Quinn, Brad Dourif and others grace the camera, but none give us the veteran presence through their physical performances in the way of Henriksen, as good as those supporting actors are.

To speak to the deliberate nature of these well-crafted stories, Millennium always opened each episode with a quote in white lettering against a black backdrop. Quotes ranged from various sources including biblical passages, proverbs, writers and a variety of thinkers. The quote or passage signals the viewer to the episode's theme. "He said to me in a dreadful voice that I had indeed escaped his clutches, but he would capture me still." The quote is from St. Teresa of Avila from Season One, Episode 15, Sacrament. On its face, it certainly allows you room to consider and ponder its meaning and tone as a stand alone quote. Watch the episode, go back and read the quote and the power of the quotation to the overarching theme is that much more profound. Take for example Episode 15, The Thin White Line. "A man's past is not simply a dead history... it is a still quivering part of himself, bringing shudders and bitter flavours and the tinglings of a merited shame" [George Eliot]. These powerful words are merely magnified all the more intensely following your experience within the direct context of the story it previews. Each speaks directly to its respective story. The Thin White Line's story centers on both a serial killer and Frank Black's past. The story further illuminates the relevance and direct correlation of the material to these corresponding quotes. Suddenly, the macabre words come to life and the narrative often has a kind of literary and philosophical flow to its dialogue particularly in the final analysis of each installment.

The approach didn't lure me right away. It grew on me over time and I began to understand its rhythm. Millennium is subtle in its style, reveals itself slowly and gradually enters the minds of its characters.

Just as we understand there are distinct characteristics regarding Henriksen that draw us to his work, there are distinct traits Henriksen brings to life in the Frank Black character gradually over the course of the Millennium series. His character spoke to me personally. Black's sense of impending apocalypse, desire to keep his family safe, his inability to suppress the waves of evil that seemingly arrive at his door like an overwhelming flood. His concerns and the presentation of the character genuinely touched me. This is why Millennium is still an attractive, reflective look at our world. While this is television the writers take their time to say something about human behavior in their stories and this is conveyed powerfully throughout the series. Frank Black is a representation of us peering into the evils of this world and taking us inside, into the black. The character's name itself speaks to the unpredictability of the series and its willingness to defy convention. Afterall, aren't good guys mostly connected with white?

Interestingly, there's a creepy, wizened, cool to his former FBI character. This "gift" of second sight places him within the mind and actions and intents of the killer. It's a dramatic device that is like the icing on the character. Somehow the other worldly quality of Frank Black is juxtaposed nicely to his personality of a fairly conservative, comparatively normal family man. Another such character comes to mind.

As I watched Millennium noting Frank Black's gift of second sight I couldn't help make the connection to another compelling character actor with a similar issue in The Dead Zone. Episode 7, Blood Relatives, first hinted of the visual association for me. While Christopher Walken was forced to flesh out his character, Johnny Smith, in David Cronenberg's film based upon the work of Stephen King, Henriksen was granted a rare opportunity to explore his character throughout the longevity of a television serial. Whereby Smith's mind was penetrated by images of future events yet to happen, Black's mind is seemingly nourished by "depravity" and evil of images from the past. Smith's health is weakened by such images, while Black's hero and his correlating health conversely seems unaffected at least through Season One. In many ways the parallels and tones are quite startling and haunting in their presentation.

Henriksen is a joy to watch as he works and builds upon his character slowly, in much the same way Christopher Walken approached his work in Smith. Henriksen's hero is brooding, sincere, courageous and, like Walken's character, seemingly cannot avoid the push, pull and strain of his gift. In Millennium, unlike the Walken character who was unable to build a family, Henriksen's gift is less the curse it seemed to be for the Smith character. Black enjoys the nuclear family. That world feeds him and gives him strength in coping with the darkness of his gift. It is that which is good in his life that allows him to face the dark days of Millennium. Sadly, Walken's character was left almost in a vacuum as a result of his gift slash curse. Of course, Smith was approached by law enforcement much like the Black character, but Smith's gift was a drain that excluded his ability to help, while Black flourished ultimately becoming a sought after resource as part of the Millennium Group. The differences are certainly significant, but the parallels intrigued me. The eyes, the face, the receding hairline of the Black profile speaks volumes with regard to his character in much the same way Walken conveyed much of his talent physically throughout The Dead Zone in Smith. These are the quirky, gifted, powerhouse performers that truly deliver and lead when given those rare opportunities. With Millennium, Henriksen delivers and wrings every ounce of truth from the script throughout the series. The audience, in turn, experiences that gift. It is a testament to the talents the likes of Henriksen, Walken and such talented writers.

"Not sure. Not sure if the bad man can be caught." -Frank Black, Millennium, Episode 2, Gehenna-

Millennium and The Dead Zone were filled with mood, intensity, suspense, shadows, the macabre and stories filled with methodical, brooding deliberation begging questions concerning the future of humanity and conscience.

Never was the connection between Millennium and The Dead Zone more apparent to me than in perhaps my favorite entry from Season One- Episode 14, The Thin White Line. The reference is to a law enforcement term concerning the line between sworn and civilian or the line of law enforcement officers standing between the civilian populace and the criminal element. The title could be a reference to the character of Black himself as that line. It is a remarkable piece of crime drama.

Further, with one of the strongest scripts of the season by Glen Morgan & James Wong, Millennium is really shining as a series at this point. The allusion of the title also tributes a documentary called The Thin Blue Line [1988] by director Errol Morris. This is a stunning documentary and there is indeed a stylistic suggestion to it. The documentary is disturbing and quiet in much the same way Millennium moves. Initially I thought my observation might be reaching, but happened upon a new interview with Chris Carter in SciFiNow #52 called Reopening The X-Files. It's no coincidence. Director/producer Daniel Sackheim produced the Pilot for The X-Files. He notes the stylistic nods to that aforementioned documentary in the early going on The X-Files, before it found its own unique rhythm. It's evidence throughout the series and that influence can also be felt in the approach the creators took toward Millennium, as many of the same people involved in The X-Files fortunately handled Millennium. As many know, Wong and Morgan served as co-executive producers on Chris Carter's The X-Files. Their contributions in that capacity and as writers cannot be understated. Well, Wong and Morgan bring us much of the atmosphere and mood of that show and it really comes through on Millennium. Everything they touched was studied, smart, well-researched and by design. Their hand in Millennium coming off The X-Files was one of the series' greatest strengths. They played such an important part of The X-Files development and would do the same for the Henriksen-led series. Morgan is right when he says "The FBI aspect grounds the series in reality," speaking directly to The X-Files. Still, Morgan applies that same kind of law enforcement reality to Millennium, even moreso, and we believe. The truth is in there. The creative teams behind these works were ingenius in their fusion of fiction to the real world.

It is at once an engaging character study, of both Frank Black and the serial killer, Richard Hance, and a cinematic piece of storytelling, while maintaining its intimate, terrifying tone. The Thin White Line takes Frank Black into the mind of a killer again, but this time it's personal. As a result, we are treated to the further character growth of Black himself and we are given a glimpse into his own mind, his own thinking, his own motivations and his past. The terrific back story pivots upon an influential moment in his career with the FBI; a period some twenty years earlier before Black's gift for extrasensory perception had clearly manifested itself. Black, too, is played brilliantly by Henriksen as younger, somewhat less certain, less controlled and certainly more vulnerable. There's clearly a touch of Silence Of The Lambs [1991] here as Black, channeling a touch of Clarice Starling, must come face to face with the incarcerated serial killer he captured twenty years ago. There's a real discomfort in Black's face in the reunion moment too. A twitch, a slight movement of the face lines suggest an intimacy to Black's world, but it's not presented over the top. The violation of that knowing security is certainly open and Henriksen captures it beautifully.

What about that striking unseen character? A terrific, quirky, eerily repetitive score by Mark Snow heightens the atmosphere of a television classic. A spooky, delicious mix of electronic and symphonic is always in evidence on Millennium thanks to Snow. He genuinely delivers on the right tone throughout the series. The use of sound is always a highlight on Millennium, but exceptionally applied in the right spots for The Thin White Line. The persisent use of throbbing beats adds to the equally hypnotic effect of Black's interview with the killer, a turn played exceptionally well by Jeremy Roberts. But, again, Mark Snow, is a major player in the mood of this series. His input cannot be overstated. The music is a player in its own right.

Lance Henriksen gives perhaps his best work on the series to date with this installment. Black's out of body flashbacks to the moment of capture while working with the FBI, and the loss of three fellow agents, further serves to illustrate the central moral code of our hero.

The memories of Black's past are handled with a compelling hand by director Director Thomas J. Wright. Wright takes us in up close and personal to the drama. There are two terrific components, an action set piece showcasing Black's past as an FBI agent tracking the killer, with an equally powerful interview portion with the killer with the cameras figuring prominently on the two men in a flourescent-lit room. You can't take your eyes off either segment. The efforts here remind me of an equally intense and intimate interrogation found in Season Four [Episode 18] of Babylon 5 called Intersections In Real Time.

The episode brings us new shades of the character. Despite his abilities, Black is quite compassionate, quite human and questions the limits of justice. Black questions his own personal decisions. Should he have allowed the killer to live? He questions a choice that continues to reverberate across time affecting lives and families. The influence of evil is indeed profound. If he had snuffed out evil in the past would it be allowed to fester, grow and continue to leave its wake of horror?

It is in the final analysis that The Thin White Line so closely mirrors the questions behind a classic tale like The Dead Zone. If given the chance would you change the past armed with the understanding of what would come? These same questions resonate within other serial [pun intended] productions. Doctor Who is faced with a choice in the origin story Genesis Of The Daleks [1975]. Given the information at his disposal concerning the rise of the Daleks and their devastation the Doctor travels back in time. His mission is to destroy the genetically modified Daleks under the control of Davros. "Do I have the right?" The Doctor questions his moral authority. Should his personal freedom and free will be directed to destroying a living species prior to their evil rise to power? Knowing what the Daleks would one day be capable of, should the Doctor figuratively pull the trigger? Knowing the horrors ahead inflicted by this race of creatures, would you stop them if given the chance? Doctor Who raises these questions beautifully in the 1975 classic.

Frank Black wonders if he has this same right. As reflected upon earlier, the same choices and the same decisions were posed to Christopher Walken's Smith character in The Dead Zone. His medical doctor, a Jew, wonders if armed with the knowledge of history, if given the chance, would he take the life of Hitler before his reign of terror began and ended with the holocaust? Johnny Smith asks himself if he could make such a choice. Visions unfold to reveal political up and comer Greg Stillson will one day exact armageddon on the world with his hand in charge of a vast arsenal. Smith's choice is whether to take Stillson's life in a final heroic act sacrificing his own using the powers at his disposal, in effect for good, or allow Stillson to one day transform the planet in the greatest crime ever known to man. Does a potential outcome of good justify a morally unjust action?

[SPOILERS] Frank Black is left to consider such an action throughout The Thin White Line. His first decision twenty years earlier, in a split second, allowed serial killer Richard Hance to live. Faced with decision again, what will his choice be? The episode speaks directly to the moral fiber of our hero Frank Black despite the virtual daily assault on his psychology by global evils. Black is a true hero and a standard bearer for all of us as he remains impartial in his analysis.

His wife, a grounding, moral compass for Black in the series, reassures and reinforces his decision not to take the life of a killer in his custody. "I believe in the goodness that's in you," she tells her husband. His new knowledge is the result of a man with certain powers, but his powers don't reach into the future. Had they been able to do so, would Frank Black have acted as Walken did in The Dead Zone in his first meeting with Hance? Frank Black clearly struggles with this choice he made and his wife guides him to believe in the good of his decision. Do we allow ourselves to become that which we consider evil or wrong? At the site of the copycat killer, Jacob Taylor, Black and his colleagues discuss the possibility of ending the cycle of violence on the eve of their planned arrest now and forever. Black struggles mightily with the knowledge at his disposal and the man's fate and the actions he must take in the ensuing minutes that lie ahead of him. The Thin White Line serves us one of the most riveting, best hours of television. As law enforcement moves in we anxiously await his choice. How will it end? Black is clearly tormented by his role in what is a deeply personal case. He already feels deeply for for his work, but this one in particular is troubling and once again, the face of Lance Henriksen speaks volumes throughout the entry with little need for dialogue. It is powerful. Black must literally face and relive the events of the fateful loss of three of his fellow officers and the horrors of that past. Will the outcome be different? We know the answer because the writers don't cheat us on the character. We're getting to know Frank Black and the man he is.

This particular installment is worth your time if not the whole series. Black's character is put to the test and his sense of justice is pure. Unlike the Walken character, Black refrains from the move to take a life despite the knowledge before him. This is a fascinating character study and an alternate outcome to the outcome found within The Dead Zone. It will rivet you. Still, which choice is justified? Which choice is the right one? These are the age old questions we are forever left to ponder. One thing is certain, we cannot deny who we are, as much as we might try. Therein lies the brilliance of Wong and Morgan's story The Thin White Line and perhaps the greater Frank Black story in Millennium.

The final moments of the episode see Hance laying in bed surrounded by the probing, humming, throbbing flourescent lights of his cell. The lights dim and for the first time he rests in peace. I can only imagine it symbolic of grace and ending the violence and somehow allowing peace in, but ultimately this wonderfully penned script , like so many in Millennium, never gives us easy answers, but instead allows us to contemplate our humanity. The outcome is left intentionally vague and ambiguous and beautifully written for us to probe the instruments of our own free will and what decisions we indeed would make. This is entirely analytical stuff - splendid television. It's complicated ending is a lot like life- damaged, messy, ambiguous, interpretive, just like the themes that are presented in Millennium asking us where the human race is headed. Is a piece of faith, control taken from us when we try so hard to believe, but fail. I don't think there is a better episode in Season One than the one found in The Thin White Line. It's an oddly beautiful, vulnerable, human story. [SPOILERS OVER].

Of course, when it comes to the big picture analyzing the broken, apocalyptic, end of days atmosphere and world of Millennium, the creators have wisely grounded Frank Black, and his family, as the center of hope. They are us. Black is a good man and a kind, loving, patient father. As a profiler he is open to the facts and approaches both his family and work with deliberation and patience. He is imperfect and sometimes questions his own actions. He is the stark contrast to the impatient, aggressive, viciousness of the surrounding evils. There's a sense from Black that there is Covenant with God in his almost angelic, comforting approach. Meanwhile, his daughter is clearly a symbol of the innocent and the helpless that Black feels compelled to protect. She's also pure. She is the juxtaposition to the wicked within Millennium. His wife, Catherine Black, offers Frank guidance offering yet another grounding factor in a sea of deadly sin. While, Season One genuinely establishes the emotioanl core of the series with Frank Black and his family amidst a swirl of darkness, Sacrament gives us a great deal of information as the series heads toward Season Two building its mythology.

In the end [and it is coming], I think the greatest discovery for me was exactly how much I enjoyed Millennium. Clearly I have missed out for years. Thankfully, DVD makes it all possible. As a genre fan, I had never taken the time to discover the world of Millennium. It wasn't until a forced look at the work of Lance Henriksen beyond many of the supporting roles for which I knew and loved him for had the joy of Chris Carter's Millennium been revealed to me. As it turns out, it's never too late. It's easy to understand why so many fans have long supported a return to the character of Frank Black as embodied through Lance Henriksen's note perfect performance. There is something incredibly timely even today about Millennium. There are certainly elements of frightening horror like those found in David Fincher's Seven [1995] here. In fact, Millennium does takes Seven to another level in the way Band Of Brothers [2001] expanded upon the realities of war found in Saving Private Ryan [1998] or how Deadwood [2004-2006] revisited the gritty, grim authenticity of the western genre. It goes deeper into the world of the depraved, but it fairly represents dark aspects of the real world, or as referenced in the title of Episode 20, our Broken World. It is one portion of today's reality and Frank Black is drawn to that world through his gift. These extraordinary talents are never hackneyed or implemented as a crutch. They are used sparingly. On it own as entertainment, Millennium certainly impresses with its pathos, horrors and mythology. You'll want to smile lovingly at your child and eat an ice cream cone when you're finished.

The work of writers like John Kenneth Muir, Joseph Maddrey, Millennium: This Is Who We Are and the Millennium Group over at Back To Frank Black genuinely illustrate the love fans have had for this quality series since its debut. I don't know if a return of the character to film will ever happen, but I've discovered one thing is certain, I'll be there if does. You'll find me in the front row.

Like the Millennium series, actor Lance Henriksen, too, is one of the most criminally underrated actors to quite possibly walk the Earth. Never typecast, Henriksen has managed to cultivate a career of fascinating, frightening, complex characters. Without question, Millennium gave Henriksen the chance to really spread his wings and enter the three-dimensional outside the restraints of his supporting work. But even those roles are fascinating thanks to Henriksen's touch.

To be perfectly honest I immersed myself into Millennium Season One with a great degree of enthusiasm. I was initially unaffected by the first few episodes or so it seemed. It was unnerving at times and often cold, but I felt unmoved at first. On its surface the experience felt vslow, studied and calculating and failed to draw me in completely. Some episodes worked better than others. Half way through the first season, something began to change. It gradually worked its way in. Like The X-Files, Millennium sinks in. It affects you on a subconscious level. The performances are subtle and delicate. Very seldom did a tale raise the emotional needle to some kind of intentionally manipulative high impact, red zone of the overdramatic. The whole concept of Frank Black and performance by Henriksen is played deadly serious and intentionally steady and it begins to seep into your system. Highs and lows are kept to a minimum. The stories, the ideas, the visuals creep into the recesses of your mind as only Chris Carter would have it. It crawls quietly and gets under the skin. It is fertile with rich character and true crime phenomenology and it will haunt you beyond your initial viewing. It did me and its affect truly surprised me. The many faces of Lance Henriksen will surprise you throughout his career, but Millennium was the gem for Henriksen.

Frank Black is an amalgamation of many things to me, the things we wish we saw in ourselves. Tenacious, fair, kind, just, concerned, pensive, good, unusually human. Lance Henriksen, the serial actor by this point, was now the perfect choice to capture analysis of these many complex shades of the human condition found within Frank Black. Most crime serials provide us with hollow archetypes, but Millennium gave us a depth of real life ambiguity we'd come to expect from the people behind The X-Files. Henriksen's approach is subtle, restrained, complex and vulnerable, the necessities required for the mood and depth of Chris Carter's Millennium and such an extraordinary human character. Henriksen was indeed the ideal Millennium Man for desperate times.

"Just coffee please... black." -Frank Black, Millennium, Episode 16, Covenant-

Millennium Season One Episode Guide:

Pilot: B. Writer: Chris Carter. Director: David Nutter.
Gehenna: B. Hebrew for Hell. Guest: Robin Gammell. Writer: Chris Carter. Director: David Nutter.
Dead Letters: B-. Writer: Glen Morgan & James Wong. Director: Thomas J. Wright.
The Judge: B-. Guest: John Hawkes. Writer: Ted Mann. Director: Randall Zisk.
522666: B-. Writer: Glen Morgan & James Wong. Director: David Nutter.
Kingdom Come: B-. Writer: Jorge Zamacona. Director: Winrich Kolbe.


Blood Relatives: B-. Writer: Chip Johannessen. Director: Jim Charleston.
The Well-Worn Lock: B+. Guest: Paul Dooley & Michelle Joyner. Writer: Chris Carter. Director: Ralph Hemecker.
Wide Open: B-. Writer: Charles Holland. Director: James Charleston.
The Wild And The Innocent: B. Guest: Michael Hogan. Writer: Jorge Zamacona. Director: Thomas J. Wright.
Weeds: B. Writer: Frank Spotnitz. Director: Michael Pattinson.




Loin Like A Hunting Flame: C+. Writer: Ted Mann. Director: David Nutter.
Force Majeure: B+. Guest: Brad Dourif [a Brad Dourif blogathon may be in order]. Writer: Chip Johannessen. Director: Winrich Kolbe.


The Thin White Line: A. Guest: Jeremy Roberts. Writer: Glen Morgan & James Wong. Director: Thomas J. Wright.






Sacrament: B+. Writer: Frank Spotnitz. Director: Michael Watkins.


Covenant: A-. Writer: Robert Moresco. Director: Roderick J. Pridy
Walkabout: B+. Writer: Chip Johannessen & Tim Tankosic. Director: Cliff Bole.


Lamentation: A. Guest: Sarah-Jane Redmond. Writer: Chris Carter. Director: Winrich Kolbe.


Powers, Principalities, Thrones And Dominions: A-. Writer: Ted Mann & Harold Rosenthal. Director: Thomas J. Wright.
Broken World: B-. Writer: Robert Moresco & Patrick Harbinson. Director: Winrich Kolbe.
Maranatha: B-. Writer: Chip Johannessen. Director: Peter Markle.
Paper Dove: B. Writer: Ted Mann & Walon Green. Director: Thomas J. Wright.

Millennium Season One Characters:

Frank Black [Lance Henriksen]/ Catherine Black [Megan Gallagher]/ Jordan Black [Brittany Tiplady]/ Lt. Robert Bletcher [Bill Smitrovitch]/ Det. Bob Gielbelhouse [Stephen J. Lang]/ Peter Watts [Terry O'Quinn]/ Mike Atkins [Robin Gammell]/ Dr. Cheryl Andrews [C.C.H. Pounder]/ Lucy Butler [Sarah-Jane Redmond]
 
My analysis of Lance Henriksen was based solely on Millennium Season One. When my dear friend and author John Kenneth Muir, of the wonderfully literate site John Kenneth Muir's Reflections On Film/TV, announced that he would be hosting a marathon look at the staggering career of Lance Henriksen he had my attention. Still, it was a monumental undertaking for me. My affection for Henriksen was certainly strong enough to merit a deeper investigation, but my knowledge of his work was limited. I knew this was going to take some work if I was to participate. It was a challenge for me and ideally I probably could have used another week for research and writing. Many of my own writing ideas and plans really had to be placed on hold to formulate what I hoped would become a proper tribute to the man. My exposure to Henriksen was essentially through the Alien franchise and the classic Stan Winston-directed Pumpkinhead [one of the scariest monster/demon designs I've ever seen in an oddly moving film]. I had work to do. I purchased the Millennium DVD box sets well over a year ago. I adored Chris Carter's The X-Files. I hoped to one day watch Millennium start to finish and here the opportunity presented itself. Of all of Carter's projects outside of The X-Files [Harsh Realm, The Lone Gunmen, etc.] Millennium was highest on the list. Millennium is about as perfect a crime procedural as I've ever seen designed for television. The series is certainly far darker and far less predicatable than the unending stream of police dramas that have cropped up on the major networks over the years. Millennium was also fascinating as a character study, when so many police programs focus on the crime story itself discarding the central characters as two-dimensional. Millennium enjoys a gradual build in mythology and grows increasingly more complex with each episode. At first, I was skeptical, but slowly I was pulled in by the dark forces. I wanted to provide a thorough look at Henriksen specifically through Millennium. I hope I've done his work and the work of Chris Carter justice with the latest Sci-Fi Fanatic multi-media production.

17 comments:

John Kenneth Muir said...

SFF:

This is such an intricate, meticulous, idea-filled post, I almost don't know where to start when commenting on it.

Except, like a parrot...I agree, yes, I agree, yes, absolutely...

In other words, you really said it all, and with beautiful words and images. An extremely impressive post, and the blogathon is lucky to have it. I am linking to it this am (9:45 est) and I term it "the mother of all Millennium posts."

A truly impressive piece. Thank you for this.

regards,
John

J.D. said...

Another great, indepth piece! Wow. Speechless. You really outdid yourself on this one, SFF. I really need to revisit this show and your exhaustive piece has inspired me to do just that.

Terri Wilson said...

Everything you say is precisely the reason I "signed on" to watch this show in the first place. And the reason I still regard Season 1 as the only true "Millennium" series. THIS is my Frank Black. :-) Kudos on such a thoughtful post!

"And now there is merely silence, silence, silence, saying, All we did not know." - William Rose Benet

le0pard13 said...

A wonderful and thoughtful critique/essay on what makes MILLENNIUM such a compelling series, SFF. This is one awesome piece of writing. THE DEAD ZONE parallels you make were insightful, my friend. Since I read the novel long ago, I've always felt Frank Black was the natural extrapolation of Will Graham from the 1981's RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris. More so than Clarice Starling (in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS). I find Frank and Will the most haunting given their gift -- Clarice, though sympathetic, is razor sharp and driven rather than cursed with the ability to share the mind of darkness.

I love this episode, though. And I agree it stays remarkable true to the character that is Frank Black (still one of my favorite names for a lead in a series). The quality of the writing, along with LH in the role, made this one of the most extraordinary programs in television. I sincerely hope someone will green light the return of Frank, in series or film. Thanks so much, SFF!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

JKM

Thanks so much for these words. Thanks you for all of these remarks coming from someone who certainly has a strong knowledge of Millennium.

Now, that I am finished I can go back and read your reviews which I purposely refraiend from doing until I was complete.

Again thank you John

*****

Thanks J.D. I really appreciate you enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to Season 2 and 3.

*****
Terri

Ah, yes the final quote from Paper Dove. They are all really significant in their power and meaning aren't they?

Thank you Terri. I sincerely appreciate the words of someone who clearly knows Millennium inside out.

I know I had read somewhere in this last month and I can't recall where, that Morgan and Wong were given relative freedom by Carter to take the show in any direction they wished creatively.

Having said that, I know it changes in tone and direction a bit, but I have been impressed by Morgan & Wong and really look forward to seeing what they came up with.

Carter was clearly pretty liberal about creative input and certainly there was alot of trust shared within their own Millennium Group so to speak.

So anyway, based on what I've read I can certainly understand where you are coming from by your remarks.

Thanks for appreciating my focus on Season One. It means alot [especially after all that work].

***********
Leopard 13

I would love to see this film happen to. Thanks for your additional commentary and contrast/ comparison Michael.

I have to tell you... how about Millennium and The X-Files on Blu-Ray? That would be nice. My regular DVDs all rattled for the first few minutes in the DVD player. I wonder if anyone else had those problems.

Thanks again my friend as always.
sff

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Also John... thanks for hosting such a great Lance Henriksen week. Your efforts and hard work did not go unnoticed my friend. Everyone's posts were terrific and it was a thrilling week.

It was an honor to contribute.

Sff

Sean Gill said...

To obliquely quote the Doobie Brothers, you really took it to the streets with this one, my friend! A longtime Henriksen aficionado, I've been meaning to check out MILLENNIUM for a while, and now I believe I have no excuse. I enjoy your relentlessly thorough writeups, and this was another great piece.

Joe said...

You've produced a treasure trove of insight with your crash course on Millennium. I also watched the entire series for the first time on DVD, and I have some very definite opinions...

My main feeling is that EVERYTHING hinges on Henriksen's performance. The series changes a lot over the three seasons - nothing is stable except Frank Black. He is the not just the anchor... He is the show. Without his perspective, we'd simply get lost in a storm of images and ideas.

Thanks very much for taking part on the blogathon this week!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Sean...

Love those Doobies! : )
Thanks my friend. It appears we have invested time of late into the minds of serial killers in the form of our entertainment of late. :) I appreciate your supportive and complimentary words Sean. Thank you - sff

******

Joe

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for adding me to your site.

I could not agree with you more and I know I'm preaching to the choir, but Lance as Frank Black really does ground that show. He is the rock for which the chaos swirls about.

You are so absolutely right. Those images are powerful, but Black gives Millennium its humanity amidst the monsters. I can't imagine a better actor for the role. He was perfect.

Also, wish you all the best on your book and will be along soon for a copy.

... and speaking of images....

Thank you so much Joe for the kind words as someone with an obviously firm grasp of the material.
sff

Adam Chamberlain said...

SFF,

Just reiterating that this really was a great piece on Lance as Frank Black and Millennium in general.

A personal request, if I may be so bold: unless I am being slow (always possible), I cannot find contact details for you anywhere on Blogger or in the blog. Would you mind dropping me a line (luminary@fourthhorsemanpress.com) as I had something I wanted to discuss with you...

Cheers,

Adam

crowmagnumman said...

Very good write-up. I had no idea that you were involved in the Lance Henriksen blogathon. Henriksen is my favorite living actor; possibly even my favorite actor ever. I'm hoping I'll get a chance to work with him someday, and I really hope that Frank Black makes a return at some point.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

C-man!

Thank you for the kind words. It's nice to see someone like yourself enjoy it months later.

Thanks for stopping to say so.

Lance is something special. What a series that he made extra special.

I would love to see a Millennium return if for a telefilm or film.

What kind of project would you have in mind to work with Lance?

I hope all is well my friend.
sff

crowmagnumman said...

Glad my comments are appreciated SFF! I really ought to be checking your blog more often, because your posts are always fantastic.

I'd work with Lance on anything, but there's one role in particular that I'd love to see Lance do. As I believe I've mentioned in one of my comments on your excellent Lost in Space blog posts, one of my greatest career aspirations is to develop another Lost in Space TV series. There's a character I created for that, and he kind of came about with Lance in mind, before I'd even thought about doing Lost in Space actually. By now I have trouble separating the character from Lance in my mind, which is why screenwriters advise against mentally casting the roles ahead of time. It's doubtful that Lance will still be around when I get to that point in my career, but I suppose I can always hope.

crowmagnumman said...

In addition, I do have a moderate interest in possibly writing the MillenniuM return, but that's a pretty lofty goal this early in my career. Perhaps the best I can hope for is that MillenniuM will return, that Lance will be in it, and that it will be good.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

C-man!

I love your ambitions and they are always worth exploring and developing. You simply never know. I believe that.

Thanks for the kind words. It's nice to know the site is coming across that way to someone like you who is reading it.

Thank you.

Best,
sff

Jane Considine said...

I missed this excellent post during the blogathon as well. Well written, thoughtful, and many great points.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thank you for the kind words and taking time to write Jane. I appreciate it.

Likewise, I enjoyed your work throughout the series.

Best,
sff