”The X-Files” is back, adding spook to Fox
No one in television does ”dark” like producer-writer Chris Carter, whose new seasons of The X-Files and Millennium must now share gloom and doominess with another blue-glow Fox show, Brimstone. This rookie stars thirtysomething‘s Peter Horton, who in the pilot roamed the streets of New York City looking like one of the living dead. That’s because, unlike most Manhattan inhabitants of his ilk, he really is: Horton is Zeke Stone, once a cop who murdered the man who raped his wife, then himself was killed and banished to hell. Satan, in the form of an even more foppish than usual John Glover, cuts a deal with him: Zeke will be released from hell if he can go back to Earth and recapture 113 evil creatures who’ve escaped his fiery netherworld.
If the premise is as outlandish as, say, a government conspiracy about aliens among us, Brimstone earns points for visual flair: Coexecutive producer and director Felix Enriquez Alcala gets a lot out of framing Horton against rain-wet street corners. In turn, the actor responds to his surroundings by assuming the classic hard-boiled posture of clipped speech and sudden, violent actions. But the coolest thing about Brimstone is the way Zeke retakes the bad guys for the devil: He must shoot them in the eyes, thus releasing their whooshing souls straight to hell — an effect not unlike windows being blown out of a burning building.
If Brimstone could use more complex plots to bolster its stylishness, the current version of Millennium needs exactly the opposite. This season, Lance Henriksen’s hollow-cheeked, granite-eyed Frank Black — recently widowed and a single father — is now in Washington, D.C., and paired with FBI agent Emma Hollis (Brooklyn South‘s Klea Scott). The season premiere was a dull workhorse that labored to unsort everything that had gone on during last season’s enjoyable but often-incoherent flurry of mystico-apocalyptic boogie-woogie. But subsequent episodes have been better — the most consistently good run of Millenniums, in fact, ever.
New executive producers Michael Duggan and Chip Johannessen have given Black and Hollis a fine new institutional foe, the creepily supercilious Critical Incident Response Unit agent Baldwin (Peter Outerbridge), and there’s a healthy effort being made to connect Black — a character too often prone to drift into serial-killer cuckoo land — to the real world. Well, not the real real world; the Halloween episode, which included cameos by the rock band Kiss, the shower scene from Psycho, and Jorge Luis Borges’ short-story collection Labyrinths, was wacky, but at its core was a good murder plot as solidly constructed as an old episode of Columbo.
Scott’s presence is bracing. Her Hollis is a novice who idolizes Black and is all alert sensitivity whenever he’s around; Scott captures perfectly the way young adepts try to soak up everything about their heroes. And Black is, appropriately, unnerved and grumpy about her eagle-eyed attentiveness; they make for a nicely awkward pair whose relationship can only grow more complicated and interesting.
The least awkward pair in current television — disgraced, transferred X-File agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) — have survived this past summer’s feature-film expansion of their quest for alien bee pollen only to find themselves enmeshed in an even greater horror: back-stabbing office politics. In the best joke of the opener (written by Carter), M&S are even chastised for ”some very questionable travel expenses.”
In the crackerjack sixth-season premiere, the FBI’s X-Files division has been taken over by the anti-Mulder-and-Scully agent Spender (the gloriously stiff-necked Chris Owens) and the mysterious Fowley (the perennially pained-looking Mimi Rogers). The episode moves the series’ ongoing conspiracy mishegoss along a satisfying bump or two, but finds fresh suspense in our heroes’ career trajectories — why, they don’t even report to Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) anymore!
True Files bliss is achieved, however, Nov. 22, as Carter has written and directed a mindblower that he compares in a press release to The Wizard of Oz, but which I view as equal parts The Twilight Zone (time travel!) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (parallel subplots shot in real time, in single continuous takes — actually, a double-Rope trick!). All this, plus two full-on-the-lips smooches, but I’m not telling between whom. This episode, titled ”Triangle,” tops Carter’s showcase effort last season, the Frankenstein trope ”The Post-Modern Prometheus,” for wit, daring, logic, and suspense. Be there or, like Mulder, be nowhere. Brimstone: C+ Millennium: B The X-Files: A