Directed by Thomas J. Wright
I was not a big fan of Paper Dove the first time I watched it back in 1997. Having spent the past twenty one weeks developing an obsessional love, second only to...well...I think you can probably guess, I sat down to watch Paper Dove with tremendous excitement to see how Millennium would end its first season. Maybe it was because I was always so used to The X Files going all out and ending their seasons with epic cliffhangers and game changing plot lines, but Paper Dove was somewhat lacking as a season finale for me and back in 1997, I walked away from the final episode of Millennium's first season a little disappointed.
Fourteen years later and I guess I have perspective because as the years have passed I've gotten to like Paper Dove a lot more. The thing I love about is that it doesn't try to do what Chris Carter does with his scripted season finales of Millennium's sister series. It doesn't go all out to top what has come before, it doesn't try to pack so much into forty five minutes of screen time (as we'll see when The X Files ends season four in very dramatic style), instead writers Walon Green and Ted Mann (in his final Millennium script) take their time, let the story develop slowly and let things take their course. It works. I don't think I was ready for this back in 1997 because I wanted Millennium to pack its final episode with everything as Mulder and Scully's adventures always did when the end came round.
Of course, this is the only time a Millennium finale will be slow and steady, seasons two and three will go all out to deliver big bangs for their bucks, but that's in the future and this is now. The important thing to note with Paper Dove is that it's not delivered by Carter himself. As I noted in my Lamentation review, that one felt like a finale and the four episodes after it almost feel like they could have been early episodes for a second season, albeit a second season we're not going to get because big changes were planned behind the scenes. You can see some careful setting up for threads that were being carefully set up but which won't be dealt with since Morgan and Wong's creative course for the show was completely different to the one that the writing staff here had. Without Carter's stewardship for season two writers such as Robert Moresco and Ted Mann would leave and the storyline involving Polaroid Man and Catherine's sister's hatred of Frank would be cut short. There is a hint here of trouble in store for Catherine and Frank's marriage, but that would be taken to further extremes plus I don't know if it's me maybe reading too much into it, but it almost seems that the Polaroid Man and Henry (guest star Mike Starr) are part of a larger group of stalkers, but it's probably best not to read too much into a possible storyline which is about to be cut off permanently in the season two premiere.
The thrust of Paper Dove is not spectacular by any stretch of the imagination for a season finale though, but it does have a lot to enjoy. Sending the Black family to Catherine's parents is a nice touch and it's lovely to see new locations for the series to enjoy. We're away from the grim rainy streets of Seattle, and it's a joy to see Frank and Catherine interacting with new characters in a different way than we've seen previously. The interaction with her parents along with her sister is a nice stretching out of the series too, and can be seen as an introduction to new characters who the writers will want to play with in later years. The antagonism shown by Catherine's sister seems to be setting up a strand that won't be developed however, although this isn't the last we'll have seen of Catherine's mum and dad.
Mike Starr is wonderful as Henry, both frightening and sadistic, but strangely sympathetic, Green and Mann's script shows us the worst of the character and yet aren't afraid to show a good side to him too when he helps a family at the camp site. The story is solid and has a lovely flow to it and thankfully, despite the violence that takes place, very little of it is shown. It may not be as bold a finale as The X Files, but it does have one thing in common and that is we're given a cliffhanger to ensure we come back.
The Polaroid Man has struck. Catherine is abducted and Frank is left alone, crushing the paper dove of the title. I guess this sums up Paper Dove in a nutshell. The cliffhanger is not spectacular as such, but it works where it has to, is great when it needs to be and actually knows how to grab the audience without going over the top. As we'll see, the fourth season of The X Files is going to go all out with a cliffhanger that was going to grab headlines. Millennium, as always, does it's own thing and ends its first season on its own terms. It may be more quieter and subtle, but that final image sure carries a deadly punch because at the end of the day, nothing will ever be the same on this show.