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.


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.

7 responses to “Born Again 1×21: Not in this lifetime, anyway.

  1. I just love your quote,”It’s like a long car ride with no scenery and definitely the least memorable of all the ‘scary kid’ episodes.” That really is the perfect way to describe this episode. There really isn’t much of a “payoff” for having watched this episode if you think about it. No memorable Mulder quotes, or great interaction between the main characters either, and the ending was rather lackluster.

    It was interesting to hear your comparison to “Shadows”. Although I’d not considered it, the storyline is almost identical, except for the addition of the spooky kid instead of a ghost.

    Great observations as always! Just love reading your blog & seeing how it compares to my own.

    • Hey, Summer! Glad you liked it! The fact that there’s no payoff is really it’s biggest problem. Even most weak episodes have something worth watching for but this one always just leaves me sleepy.

  2. One of the few first season episodes in which we see a little bit of blue sky. Pretty bland episode but it has some really nice dark interior shots towards the end.

  3. Autopsy flubs: watch the dead guys right eye as the camera pans past- he starts blinking. Again, when they’re panning away from the body right when Lazard says “he’s not going anywhere,” the “body” takes a deep breath and the ruler on the abdomen starts rocking back and forth. I guess they were still working the bugs out!

  4. Pingback: Hellbound 9×4: I just know I need to solve this. | Musings of an X-Phile

  5. “You’re joking of course.”

    I was always on the fence about this one, but I rather enjoyed a recent re-watch. Quite eerie in places. The girl being afraid of the pool and the miniature fish tank diver, especially. And of course – Janice.

    I also recently enjoyed re-watching Shapes, but still felt underwhelmed by Gender Bender, just as I’d felt re-disgusted by 3. I thought perhaps it was a simple case of me now loving the underdogs, but apparently not.

  6. If only the writers had come right out and said that Fiore betrayed his partner in order to get to his partner’s wife.

    That would have just added in a tired and unnecessary cliché. I’m glad the writers avoided going down that route. And I disagree that the villains should be more despicable. They don’t need to be. The fact that they had Charlie killed is enough reason for him to be angry. No need to pile it on.

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