Each month, Raz Greenberg reviews an overlooked piece of science fiction, fantasy or horror – be it a film, a television episode, a comic or a game – one that should have gotten more attention when it first came out and should still be remembered, in his opinion. This month, he recommends a funny episode from a scary show by the creator of The X-Files.
Some people are doomed to be branded as creators of one-hit-wonders. Chris Carter is one such person. He achieved a huge success in the early ’90s with The X-Files, which over 20 years after its debut still enjoys a huge fandom (and in recent years made a comeback to the TV screens). He also created Harsh Realm, The Lone Gunmen, the failed pilot The After… remember any of these? No? How about Millennium?
Millennium was Carter’s first attempt to find success outside The X-Files. Premiering in late 1996, the show followed Frank Black (Lance Henriksen), a former federal agent enlisted by a private consulting group to help solving crimes of apocalyptic nature that foretell of the doom expected with the coming end of the millennium. While the concept was interesting, and the pilot drew an impressive amount of viewers, they gradually abandoned the show as it deteriorated in a “serial killer of the week” routine. Upon the second season’s premiere, it was decided that changes were needed, and Carter entrusted the show with his two most talented writers Glen Morgan and James Wong, who were responsible for much of The X-Files early success and also produced the wonderful space opera show Space: Above and Beyond. Morgan and Wong retooled the show considerably, adding an ongoing plot and hinting of the darker sides of Frank’s employers. In retrospect, however, their most significant contribution during their run on the show was the recruitment of Glen Morgan’s young brother Darin to write two episodes for it.
Darin Morgan has previously written for The X-Files, winning an Emmy for the brilliant episode Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose. His comedic writing undermined the dark and serious atmosphere of the show, yet did so without mocking it. The same is true for Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me, his second and final episode written for Millennium.
From the very beginning, the episode feels different from any routine Millennium affair. It doesn’t open with a terrible crime, but rather with a small group of late-night workers who gather together in a small café to exchange stories. Soon enough, it is revealed that these workers are actually demons, sent by Satan himself to do his work on Earth… and that they do so in the most unexpected ways imaginable.
As with Darin Morgan’s other scripts, Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me is hilariously funny. Some jokes (like those referring to shock documentaries) stand the test of time better than others (like those that refer to Ally McBeal), but overall it can be said that Morgan managed to work his magic on Millennium the same way he did on The X-Files: taking the show’s basic premise of the fight against primal evil, and then give it an everyday twist – the horrors of Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me are for the most part those of small annoyances of everyday life. Even the serial killer seen in one of the stories told in the episode is more of a pathetic rather than intimidating figure, and Frank Black’s very small role is that of someone who can deal with the great evils of the world, but has a real trouble handling the small ones.
Darin Morgan wrote and directed the episode, resulting in an interesting mash that was unique at the time the episode aired – the production provided the show’s usual dark atmosphere through cinematography, lighting and design, while the actors went on a sitcom mode. This approach became standard shortly afterwards when Buffy the Vampire Slayer (whose use of prosthetics is also somewhat similar to the episode) debuted and introduced its mix of dark horror and funny comedy. In many ways ahead of its time, Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me is a forgettable gem from a forgettable show – but it’s well worth your time.
Where to get it: DVD releases of Millennium‘s second season carry this episode, including the show’s complete collection