Red Right Hand: MFE: MILLENNIUM: "Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me"
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.

 

MFE: MILLENNIUM: "Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me"

MFE. Mutha' Fuckin' Episcopalians?

No. My Favorite Episodes. A new feature here in the lair. Occasionally I'll go into the vaults and highlight a really good episode of something. There are no rankings or limitations. Just whatever I dig. And in honor of this auspicious date, I have made a thematic choice for the inaugural MFE.

"Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me," (from Millennium) was written by the brilliant Darin Morgan. Easily one of the best writers ever to put hand to word processor in the entirety of the Ten-Thirteen family of programs. His first X-Files, "Humbug," is where the show started casting a skewed eye on itself and began the shows tradition of occasionally favoring more humor and taking the piss out of itself. Some of these are some of the show's best episodes, and in a future MFE, I'm sure I'll hit one or two of them.

Morgan is, in fact, the only X-Files writer to win an Emmy for writing on the series. And he only wrote four. This Millennium is one of only two. The real shame here is that these six fantastic hours of television are the only one's he's written (and a story credit on "Blood").

Like his other works, this episode breaks many of the conventions of the series as well as of television in general. For one thing, star Lance Henriksen's character Frank Black, while central, appears very little. Instead this episode follows the tales of four old demons sitting around in a coffee shop complaining about work (work being corrupting human souls and what-not). Each demon's tale involves a certain roving forensic profiler crossing through the path of their story.

Usually a very dark and even somber series, this episode was a comedy and the "angels & demons" aspect that colored the second season (after the serial killer laden first season and before the conspiracy-laden third) got right in your face.

The stories are both very human and absurd at the same time. Each vignette is has a bit of Twilight Zone to it and in looking at Morgan's work, Serling is clearly an influence.

In one demon's tale (Blurk, Bill Macy), he facilitates a serial killer who idolozes Johnnie Mack potter, the most prolific serial killer of all, only to seem him caught and jailed at a tie. He's then imprisoned with Potter, who kills him, getting one up.

The next demon (Abum, Richard Bakalyan)tells of an everyman leading a desperate life who only needs one minor tweak to send him spiraling into suicide.

The third (Greb, Alex Diakun) tells a ridiculous tale of a network TV censor who flips out postal style in a spree of violence as a result of being too...censory.



The last demon speaks of his encounter with a young man who (getting a little spoilery here) saw his old man human façade in a strip club and reacted in horror, not because he saw a demon, but because he saw his own future. This inspired the demon (Toby, Wally Dalton) to chuck his demoning and he took up with an over-the-hill exotic dancer, who saw through that façade and accepted Toby nonetheless. Toby, however, could not break his old ways of breaking people and instead of proposing marriage, breaks it off with her in an ugly. She commits suicide and Toby at the scene, has a bit of a break-down. It is here that he crosses paths with Frank, who can see that he is a demon and reacts only by saying "You must be so lonely."

The episode was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

In the realm of spec writing, this is a horrible example to look at in that all of what makes it great is exactly the opposite of what makes a good spec. What I think is important here is that sometimes a good story will force you out of the box and it's not a bad thing to go there one there once in a while. Can this be applied to spec writing? Yes. In a careful measure. the trick is taking that wild idea, and making fit into the box without losing it's uniqueness. In a spec, it has to fit in the box. You are demonstrating that you can play in someone else's sandbox.

Is there a show that could get away with such extreme format-breaking story-telling today? Buffy and Angel used to do go off and do weird stuff, but they had a broad format to do these things.

Now, though? Lost could almost do it, but I think they're too buried in their ongoing arcs and continuity. I'm not sure how the mainstream Lost audience would take it. Even if they did, it would probably all stay in the flashbacks.

The trick is not getting so far outside the box, you can't see it anymore. Case in point, The West Wing (here we go again) episode "The Long Goodbye." It was well written, to be sure. I'm not about to argue John Patrick Shanley. Guy knows his shit...mostly. It was, however, barely, if even, a West Wing episode. It was C.J. and her Alzheimer's ridden father and an old boyfriend in Dayton, Ohio. I really didn't get what I want, and despite it being good, I frequently skip over it on the DVD.

House will break its own format from time to time (and with amazing effect). How far are they willing to go? Can we see an episode in which House doesn't in fact treat anyone, or go to the hospital?

Maybe he's having one hell of a weird day. House wins the lottery. Something medical in there somewhere maybe. Talks to a lawyer, draws out aspects in the supporting cast. All this with a skewed eye toward the series itself, playing with it's own connventions. Everyone lies, maybe House lied about the ticket. It's not a winner. "April fool's, but now I know what everyone would do. " There really is money and he did give it away , and how much like House would it be if he actually gave away the money to the least likely suspect...some random bum. What does it say about him? /SPITBALL

Smallville
not only could do it, they should do it. That shows takes itself way too seriously sometimes.

Veronica Mars? Yeah, but I think it would really divide the fans on that show. There's an unhealthy amount of fan-ownership of the characters on that one, I think. I'm still amazed to learn that there are a lot of VM fans out there that didn't care for the second season.

Bones could totally do it. The X-mas episode is the closest I've seen to it, but it wasn;t that far removed and I haven't seen them all.

Next on MFE...whatever I damn well feel like.
©2017 Michael Patrick Sullivan