Tag Archives: Spooky Kids

Season 2 Wrap Up: I’ve been working out. I’m buff.


I'll take door #2, Monty.

Season 2 is one of my favorite seasons as a whole. I can watch any episode confident that I’m going to see stranger and stranger things unfold over the next hour, like a grotesque Alice in Wonderland. It gives us a long string of episodes that are all dark and disturbing, much more so than the first season. The writers aren’t afraid to “go there” with their subject matter. Child rape, teenage suicide… nothing’s taboo. Ghosts don’t just haunt you this season, they rape you. People aren’t just murdered, their bodies are desecrated. Is it too much? Not for me. I enjoy the fact that The X-Files can go boldly in this direction with intelligence and, dare I say, taste.

Think of Season 2 as the Stretch Armstrong of The X-Files.

Here’s a reference for the pop culturally challenged:

Not as painful as it looks.

Every element of the show is pulled, twisted and bent out of shape, just not to the point that it’s unrecognizable. Let’s start with our leads, shall we?

Both Mulder and Scully’s families take on a more substantial role in the series. We meet the entire Mulder clan, well, except for Samantha. We only met her clone and if we’re keeping score, she probably only counts for half a person. The Scully family is revisited with Captain Bill Scully coming from beyond the grave to finally say goodbye to his daughter and Maggie and Melissa Scully giving a memorable turn during Scully’s abduction.

Why is family life coming up and why now? For one, it shows us that Mulder and Scully don’t exist in a vacuum. They have histories and loved ones and when not chasing aliens, it’s possible that they even go home for Thanksgiving. You see, it’s really not about the families it’s about delving more deeply into Mulder and Scully’s characters.

And delve we do. Scully gave us a glimpse of her inner workings in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) but Season 2 is Mulder’s turn. He runs the emotional gamut what with the X-Files being ripped from him, Scully’s abduction, his sister’s return and then final mental breakdown in the season finale “Anasazi” (2×23). Scully mostly stares doe-eyed up at Mulder this season, but she also has an incredible emotional moment in “Irresistible” (2×13) and downright steals the show in “Anasazi.” Season 3 will be her season to grow a few flaws. Right now she’s still Mulder’s idealized Samantha stand-in.

Another reason Mulder and Scully get to shine is that they have new friends to play with. Krycek and Mr. X join the party while Skinner and CSM get upgraded to First Class and the Lone Gunman crawl out of the storage compartment. The X-Files still isn’t an ensemble show but the cast of characters is phenomenal and there’s combustive chemistry to go around. I’m just waiting for Skinner to stick it to CSM. Fortunately, I won’t have to wait very long.

This is where Gillian Anderson’s unexpected pregnancy and Scully’s abduction turned out to be brilliant: it allowed these minor characters to take on a major role and breathe new dynamics into the show. I find myself looking forward to which surprise guest is going to show up for the next episode. Skinner in particular I can’t get over this season. Dude is bad.

The content of the show was also stretching the boundaries of good taste. If “Eve” (1×10) gave us murderous children, “The Calusari” (2×21) gives us a child murdering a child. Well, it was a ghost child. Same difference. To continue, the ghost stalker of  “Shadows” (1×5) gives way to ghost rapists in “Excelsis Dei” (2x). Then, of course, The X-Files has completely outdone itself in the gross department. How can a liver-eating mutant shock us when there are giant sewer worms on the loose and these humongous, pus-filled boils are spouting off in people’s faces like mini volcanoes? But it’s not just in extremes that the show grew, it’s also covering new ground. “Irresistible” proves The X-Files can successfully give us a non-paranormal story while “Humbug” (2×20) proves it can be utterly hilarious.

My personal highlights were, as ever, “Irresistible” and “Humbug”. A pleasant surprise this time around was the Duane Barry arc, which I previously found 70% boring. (No stones, please.) The lowlight was “3” (2×7), not because I’m a shipper, but just because it’s “3”.

There are also quite a few episodes in the “Better Than I Remembered” category such as “Little Green Men” (2×1), “Sleepless” (2×4) and “Red Museum” (2×10). The mythology is worlds better than most of Season 1 because, well, it actually exists! There’s a rhyme, reason, and backstory to the conspiracy now that gives it substance. Season 1 was full of Roswell-like isolated events almost to the very end. It’s certainly more satisfying to see a single thread spun into a recognizable picture. While this is Chris Carter’s baby and all credit is due, I also think the new mythology collaborations between Chris Carter and David Duchovny have something to do with it. It certainly explains Mulder’s character having more to do.

Even while all this expansion is happening, in comparison, Season 2 is relatively low key; it doesn’t have the cinematic grandeur of later seasons. But that’s what’s so charming about it. This is classic X-Files before anyone knew they had a classic on their hands.

The word “classic” would indicate that something has consistently recognizable and desirable traits and that’s certainly true here; the less loving among us would call it a rut. I personally don’t mind the classic formula, it’s familiar and comforting and it goes a little something like this: Mulder presents details of an inexplicable event, Scully informs him of how explicable it actually is, Mulder surprises her with an even more inexplicable anomaly, Scully is shocked into silence, Mulder and Scully set out on the case and Mulder proposes a wild theory, Scully shoots down his theory, events occur that make Mulder revise his theory, Scully finds a scientific certainty that she can’t explain, Mulder intuitively figures out the truth, one or both of our leads ends up in mortal peril, they escape by the skin of their teeth and the case remains unsolved. The End.

Basic? Yes. Effective? YES.

The question remains, why doesn’t the audience get bored when they essentially already know how the story is going to go down? The answer: Mulder and Scully. Mulder and Scully’s relationship is in the middle of developing from touching to powerful. We knew that they were deeply attached to each other by the end of last season and that was expressly confirmed in “Little Green Men”. But over the course of Season 2 we’ve watched them grow from friends and confidants, allies even, to something much more difficult to define.

I said earlier that Scully has become a replacement Samantha for Mulder, but that’s only part of it. Mulder is almost like family to Scully, but at the same time he’s on the outside of it as evidenced in “One Breath” where he’s often invited to join the Scullys but purposefully refuses to intrude on certain moments. That doesn’t mean, of course, that he feels any less strongly than they do. It’s as though Mulder and Scully’s relationship exists outside of family, friends and even work. That’s why no one in Scully’s family, besides the all-wise Maggie Scully, understands who Mulder is to Scully. Their relationship resists definition.

Now to the meaty stuff: Are they in love? No, but they are infatuated. They’ve romanticized each other without being romantic. Honestly, they barely have one real disagreement the whole season up until the finale and that last one doesn’t count since Mulder is drugged out of his mind. They’re getting along like mayo and mustard in chicken salad. I daresay if we could pull Season 2’s Agent Mulder out of the TV screen and asked him to name just one fault that Scully has he wouldn’t be able to do it. The writers are quickly getting bored with this love fest, though, as we’ll see in Season 3.

Whatever they are, Mulder and Scully have reached that level where they wouldn’t just sacrifice for each other in theory, they’ve done it in fact. Throw in the subtle smirks and glances and we have TV gold. They were good together in Season 1 but now they’re just pure joy to watch.

So, I gotta ask. Who is your favorite recurring character of Season 2?

Is there some aspect of Season 2 that I missed either out of human error or gross negligence? Are you ready to sue me for malpractice or lock me up like Dr. Conrad Murray? Right the wrongs of the universe and fill in your opinion below.

The Calusari 2×21: My grandfather used to take that for his stomach.


99 Luft Balloons.

Once again we start of with a dysfunctional family. (By way of an aside, I once read someone complain that The X-Files is full of unhappy nuclear families and that the only happy ones we see get destroyed. I thumbed my nose at that before, but I’m starting to think whoever wrote that isn’t far off base. I don’t think the show has anything against happy families, but it wouldn’t be frightening if we only saw happy families that stayed happy, would it?) What kind of parents, one might ask, would mindlessly take a balloon from one child and preferentially give it to another? No wonder he becomes something out of The Omen. The creepiest part of the episode is that opening teaser: Kid has balloon. Parents give balloon away. Kid wants balloon. Kid gets balloon.

As Season 2 progresses, it’s getting easier to recognize subcategories of X-Files. We’ve seen poltergeist tales before. Heck, Season 1 was on ghost overload. Even episodes that ostensibly didn’t involve a ghost like “Space” (1×8), “Born Again” (1×21), and “Roland” (1×22), were just ghost stories called by another name to see if they would smell as sweet. Probably because of that Season 2 has only had one poltergeist plot so far, “Excelsis Dei” (2×11).

This episode reminds me a lot of “Roland”, not because they’re similar in style or substance but because they have the same basic foundation: twin brothers who can’t truly be divided, even by death. I have to say that “The Calusari” tackles the premise more successfully, mainly because it’s a straight up mini horror flick. It has all the requisite elements of the genre; spooky kid, witch-like old woman, secret rituals, bloody deaths, and, of course, a malignant spirit back from the grave. In fact, out of all the examples I listed above, and a few I didn’t list, this is the most satisfying episode in terms of the fear factor.

The fear factor is really all “The Calusari” exists for. This isn’t an introspective character study or story to further the mythology, Mulder and Scully don’t grow either as individuals or in their partnership, there isn’t an underlying message about societal ills or a warning about human hubris. Even “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14) had an embedded caution not to play with fire. No, with this one the writers are just trying to freak you out… which isn’t a bad thing. I’m impressed even now at how The X-Files pulls off something of this scale in roughly 43 minutes.  To get this kind of a scare you generally have to go to a movie theater and buy an obscenely priced ticket.

Since there isn’t too much going on here I don’t have much left to add except for a note about what little characterization we do get to see. As much as I love her, Scully’s arrogance is a somewhat grating in this episode. It is funny in parts. Some of the cracks she gets to make in her scenes with the newly introduced Dr. Chuck Burks are cute. But her usual reactions to Mulder’s theories lack the “eye-rolling” attitude she displays here.  Her resistance is all a set up, however, and the payoff is that in the end she finally sees something paranormal happen with her own eyes rather than just hear the tale told later by Mulder. We never do hear her final reaction so who knows whether she explained it all away or whether remembering the events of “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) she ultimately admitted to herself that “ghosties” and “beasties” exist.

…And the Verdict is:

Not to belabor the point but you really don’t want to look too hard for anything meaningful in this episode. It’s not that deep. It is good, though, for what it is. And if there are still quite a few questions by the end, well, that’s what The X-Files is famous for. Not only that, it wouldn’t be a “horror film” if it made any real sense.

If “The Calusari” has a weakness it’s that they threw everything into this episode except their fuzzy slippers. It wasn’t necessary to use every cliché the horror genre has in order to scare folks. Wait. I take that back. They didn’t use every cliché. There were no over-sexualized teenagers killed in the making of this episode.

B+

Issues:

Mulder’s trained in psychology but he’s never heard of Munchausen by Proxy? I realize they have to come up with devices to get information to the audience without obvious exposition, but at least come up with something a little more clever.

If we go by what we learn later in the episode, the bratty child in the teaser isn’t necessarily Charlie but his dead brother Michael posing as him. But if that’s the case, who was the poltergeist pulling the balloon? Or if it is Charlie, why so cold? He doesn’t react so dispassionately when his father and grandmother are killed and the nurse attacked. Instead, he pleads with Michael to stop.

Random Thoughts:

The 90s projectile vomited all over that house.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: You see this is a helium balloon here, and the one thing I did learn in kindergarten is when you let them go they float up, up and away. But you see this is moving away from him. Horizontally.
Scully: Did you learn about wind in kindergarten?

——————–

Chuck: In 1979 I witnessed a guru named Sai Baba create an entire feast out of thin air.
Scully: Too bad you didn’t take a picture. You could have run it through your computer and seen the entire Last Supper.

——————–

Calusari: The evil that is here has always been. It has gone by different names through history. Cain, Lucifer, Hitler. It does not care if it kills one boy or a million men. If you try to stop us the blood will be on your hands.

Born Again 1×21: Not in this lifetime, anyway.


Status: Unexplained

Before watching, I had made up my mind to try and like “Born Again” this time around. There are no new X-Files episodes forthcoming, so I had better appreciate what I do have, right? Besides, I might find a new kindred episode like I did with “E.B.E.” (1×16). Well, this episode was not meant to be a kindred, though I did give it my best shot… possibly my second best shot as I hadn’t had coffee yet that morning.

The teaser is OK, but I could find better banter in an elementary school play than the stilted dialogue between Detectives Barbala and Lazard. It’s painfully amateurish. What’s worse, the connection that Lazard has to the “Tooms” (1×20) case feels forced. It’s a little beneath the quality of writing on this show, actually.

Speaking of writing, reincarnation never proved to be a convincing topic on The X-Files (and they tried at least 3 times). Maybe the problem is that it’s hard to play out a story of reincarnation in such a way that it feels distinct from a possession or a poltergeist. Little Michelle is supposed to be the reincarnated soul Charlie Morris and instead it feels like his ghost has possessed her. She’s a separate personality being bogged down by his memories rather than the same personality unable to move on. Once Charlie’s bloodlust is satiated, Michelle goes back to normal.

Regardless, a tale of murder is only as good as its villain. We could relate to Charlie’s need to avenge himself if only his partners in crime were just a tad more despicable. They come close. If only the writers had come right out and said that Fiore betrayed his partner in order to get to his partner’s wife. The way things are left unspoken, it could be inferred that he comforted her out of guilt and regret. I suppose that could still make for high drama if done right. But it’s awfully hard to identify with Charlie when we never meet him. Maybe that’s the true downfall of a reincarnation plot. We only get to know the original protagonist through an intermediary. Short of making the villains such that we want to reach through our television screens and choke them ourselves, I don’t know how the writers could have made Charlie’s situation sufficiently sympathetic.

The lone interesting aspect of this episode is that Mulder comes away from Scully’s challenge admitting that the hypnosis session was “inconclusive.” He is listening. And like in “E.B.E.”, he’s paying more attention to what Scully says than he at first appears to. That little interchange is about as much as we get this episode on the Mulder/Scully partnership front. Sad. They took a couple of steps forward and then started marching in place.

And the Verdict is…

It’s Janice! You know, from Friends! The best part of the episode is recognizing her. There’s little else to get excited about in an episode that amounts to little more than TV filler. It’s like a long car ride with no scenery and definitely the least memorable of all the “scary kid” episodes.

I’ve said before that there was a general upward trend in the quality of episodes during the last half of Season 1. I lied. Well, sorta. As far as production quality goes, it’s steadily improving. The show itself feels closer to coherent, more like the producers and writers have a solid vision whereas the beginning of the season was an exploration. The X-Files is gaining it’s own tone, it’s own look and feel at this point. This certainly feels like an X-Files episode, just not a great one.

Even the worst X-Files episodes have a few redeeming qualities that they tend to share in common. The premise is usually interesting even when it doesn’t pan out. Mulder and Scully’s signature interaction is fun to watch. And in later seasons especially, the cinematography is lovely. Unfortunately for “Born Again”, it came along before The X-Files’ cinematic era, Mulder and Scully’s relationship didn’t yet have the depth that later episodes could rely upon and even the underlying story felt like reheated pizza. (The movie Ghost anyone?) We don’t even need to go back that far. Wasn’t a guy coming back from the dead to avenge his own murder the plot of the earlier Season 1 episode “Shadows” (1×5)? And wasn’t there a girl who couldn’t escape his memories and desire for vengeance? Yeah, that wasn’t particularly successful either. But it was better than this. This is one of those rare episodes I liked more before I rewatched it.

To sum it up, this is the only DVD in my entire X-Files collection where the picture skips in parts… and that doesn’t bother me.

D+

Nagging Questions:

How do Mulder and Scully get to the scene of the crime so quickly?

Scully puts together that Morris’ death was only made to look like a signature hit based on the coroner’s report. The coroner and the police couldn’t figure that out back when it happened?

Why is it that the guest stars consistently wear better ties than Mulder?

General Observations:

With the Minnie Driver look alike this could almost be a pre-quel to Remember Me.

A Mulder voiceover! Now, that’s new.

The look on Scully’s face during the autopsy as she realizes Mulder’s hunch has proved correct yet again is almost worth the price of admission.

Best Quotes:

Detective Lazard: Excuse me. Could I talk to you for a second?
Scully: I just started the autopsy…
Detective Lazard: Yeah, I don’t thing he’s going anywhere.

Eve 1×10: I am her and she is me and we are all together.


How about those Giants?

Eve is one of the few episodes of the first season that holds up completely almost two decades later. Remember how I said Philes don’t let friends watch “Space” (1×8)? Feel free to preach Eve to the unconverted. I know I have. It’s no wonder a band named themselves after it. Unlike much of Season 1, it doesn’t suffer from hokey special effects or a distractingly 90s wardrobe. It’s a plain, good story.

This is the only X-Files episode written by Chris Brancato and Kenneth Biller who previously worked together on Beverly Hills, 90210. That’s rather a shame since they did such a solid job. Biller went on to become a writer and producer on shows such as Star Trek: Voyager, Smallville, and the recently mourned Legend of the Seeker. Brancato’s resume isn’t far behind. We could bemoan the lost potential, but since that won’t do any good let’s go ahead and celebrate the one episode they did give us.

This is the grand spooky kid tradition. In and of itself, the model can’t be called original. But these two girls are double the pleasure, double the fun. Multiplying the child times two makes for something more interesting than average. They aren’t merely morose a la The Omen. They aren’t merely repetitive like in The Shining.  Do they steal the show? Not exactly. The performance of the twins isn’t what sells the episode. The rest of the episode, especially Harriet Harris’ performance as the adult Eves, is what convinces you that these girls are evil. That’s not surprising. Outside of Haley Joel Osment, Dakota Fanning, and Jodie Foster, kids usually aren’t too adept at nuance and subtlety. Still, the girls give an effective if not stellar performance. Mulder and Scully don’t run into a nemesis this clever again until “Pusher” (3×17).

Dare I confess it with glee? Mulder was WRONG. And not just half wrong, WRONG. Not once, but three times in the same episode. First, he thinks aliens are behind the killings, then he refuses to believe two killers are working in tandem. And even when he changes his mind about that aspect of the case, he blames the murders on Eve 7 and Eve 8 while ruling out the girls as suspects. If I were keeping track, and I am, this is the first episode where Mulder was completely off. Somebody must not have given the writers the memo.

And the Verdict is…

For now, let’s forget the writers. Hats of to the actors who managed to leave pretentiousness behind in drama school. Sometimes when it feels as though every actor on television is doing his best William Shatner impression, I can still slip in a DVD and listen to Mulder and Scully talk like real people. They’re not affected, not too well groomed (yet), not too cool. They’re just normal. OK, so they have above average intelligence and natural good looks. For all that, they feel like they could, wait for it… actually be FBI agents! Just think if Mulder and Scully had talked like they do on CSI. Cold shudder

Our agents get taken for a spin this time around. If not for Deep Throat’s intervention and the little girl spilling the poison, they would never have solved this case. Investigation-wise? They fail. Character progression? That’s a no. But that doesn’t matter. This case isn’t about Mulder and Scully, it’s about the X-File itself. In that way, it’s very separate from the previous stunner, “Ice” (1×7), where the tension between our two leads becomes the star. We finally have an episode that’s purely out to give us the creeps, a milestone indeed.

A

Nagging Questions:

Why did the girls exsanguinate their fathers, exactly? Why make the murders obvious? Maybe it was just a game to show how smart they are.

How does Teena Simmons know to psych Mulder out with the red lighting bit? I can only assume she surmised what he was hinting at from his leading questions and decided to play him.

General Observations:

If it’s a contest between this and the rest of the creepy kid episodes produced during the series’ run… “Conduit” (1×3), “Born Again” (1×21), “The Calusari” (2×21), “Revelations” (3×11), “Chinga” (5×10), and “Scary Monsters” (9×14), I’d have to say “Eve” is the most effective overall.

For once, Scully couldn’t stomach her own nonsense. She looked embarrassed at her own suggestion of mere coincidence.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Mulder, you’re rushing me out of the room
Mulder: No, I’m not.
Scully: You have a girl coming over?
Mulder: What’s a girl!

————–

Mulder: One girl was just abducted.
Scully: Kidnapped.
Mulder: Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

————–

Eve 6: Unlock the chains… then we’ll talk.
Mulder: They’re probably there for a good reason.
Eve 6: No. Bad reason. I paid too much attention to a guard… bit into his eyeball. I meant it as a sign of affection.

————–

Eve 6: This replication of chromosomes also produces additional genes. Heightened strength, heightened intelligence…
Mulder: Heightened psychosis.
Eve 6: Saved the best for last.