Daemonicus 9×3: Like a snake eating its own tail.


Screenshot10-4.jpg

50 bonus points.

I had a theory going into this rewatch of Season 9 that it’s biggest problem was not the introduction of Doggett and Reyes and not even the flagging mythology. I thought that what Season 9 needed was to cut off the Mulder and Scully umbilical cord and let our new team fly free as the next generation.

I still believe that. But even as the voices whisper to Kobold, I’m feeling a slightly less demonic breeze in my ear. I had no idea, no, not even with my concerning level of devotion to these fictional characters, how necessary Mulder and Scully really were, as a team, to the show as a whole. With their wide-eyed sense of wonder and discovery, particularly in the early years, and their irrepressible banter, they made even the most out there concepts seem believable, even the scariest fears approachable, their shared intensity elevating the absurd. Remember the possessed sewer cats???

Scully: Oh my God, Mulder! It smells like… I think it’s bile!
Mulder: Is there any way I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?

The cases weren’t great just because they were creepy, they were great because Mulder and Scully sold them.

I’ve heard The X-Files described as a supernatural police procedural, and while I get that on one level and used to agree, I now believe it isn’t. That’s why we couldn’t exchange Mulder and Scully for Doggett and Reyes so easily. If it were an endlessly continuable procedural designed to investigate an interminable parade of paranormal problems, then changing the leads wouldn’t have mattered. No, The X-Files was a quest with a distinct beginning, middle, and a forcefully dragged out end. It had a sell-by date. The truth can’t be out there in perpetuity.

Mulder and Scully had a routine, yes. But they weren’t solving cases they were exploring the universe. Many a time they didn’t solve or resolve anything, they just watched the impossible unfold around them. Other times they found answers which led to more questions with no answers. All that mattered was that I felt like I was discovering the universe with them.

I know it sounds like I’m way off topic for a review of “Daemonicus” but there’s a reason for the ramble.

I used to appreciate this episode much more. In fact, it’s long been one of my favorites of the season. It still is. Yet, it’s not too often that I like episodes less with the passage of time and the accumulation of rewatches. Maybe there is genuinely something wrong with me, but when I went to start this episode and heard Mark Snow’s “Lamenta” on the DVD menu screen I felt like crying.

For the first time, it really feels like the good old days are gone. Maybe it’s because it’s Doggett and Reyes’ first Monster of the Week episode and I was always partial to those. Maybe it was my mood after hearing such haunting music. But now I feel like I see in this forty-three minutes of still pretty well-done television why The X-Files couldn’t continue this way and why Season 9 failed.

Change is good and even when it isn’t good, sometimes it’s necessary. But while this remained in many ways a good show after the Mulder and Scully era, it was no longer magically delicious.

In order for it to become so again our two new leads have to create their own magic, but they haven’t worked out how to do that yet. I know it’s early. I do. But let’s see how promising they are.

Where Mulder used to interpret a situation. Reyes “senses” things. When she says, “Not once did I find anything to support evidence of genuine satanic activity”, what she means is that she never got really creepy vibes before. It’s good and interesting that they’re separating Reyes from Mulder even in the role of believer. But it’s much more difficult to pull off Reyes’ pseudo-psychic feelings and make them the foundation of investigation than it was Mulder’s evidenced based hunches, as hard as those stretches of plausibility were to swallow sometimes.

Not to mention, Reyes has lost the self-deprecating goofiness and awkwardness that made her so approachable when she was first introduced in Season 9. Suddenly she’s less childlike and distinctly more womanly. The jury’s still out on how well this plays in the long run.

As for Doggett, he isn’t just a skeptic. Same as last season, he’s resentful of the paranormal, resentful of its implications. Scully was frustrated and puzzled sometimes investigating with Mulder, but rarely angry. And her banter with Mulder kept the reserved Scully from coming off too cold and aloof. Doggett is marching in place as a character, and for what? What truths are frightening him?

Kobold: I’m wondering, why a skeptic such as yourself would accept an assignment to an obscure unit of the FBI devoted exclusively to the investigating of paranormal phenomena… Ordinarily men do not pursue occupations against their own inclinations unless there’s some strong countervailing reason. Seeking the love or approval of a woman, perhaps? Agent Reyes may have affection for you, but you for her…?

————————

Kobold: I’ve been thinking a lot about you, Agent Doggett… about why someone so ill-suited would draw this duty. Clearly, you have feelings for her. But you can’t compete with the long lost Agent Mulder… his easy good looks, his Oxford education… Mulder has what you can’t have. But you stumble forward, the flat-footed cop, thinking he can put handcuffs on demons. You want her, but she feels sorry for you. They both do.

————————

“I really wanted a character who could not just tell us again what the X-Files were after nine seasons, but tell us something about who Doggett, Reyes, and Scully were,” said Frank Spotnitz.

————————

“From the beginning Doggett has tremendous respect for Scully and I think that respect has blossomed into something else,” says Carter. “That was always our intention, that we would have a sort of triangle.” “From the beginning Doggett has tremendous respect for Scully and I think that respect has blossomed into something else,” says Carter. “That was always our intention, that we would have a sort of triangle.”
I think the madness speaks for itself, yes?

For her part, Scully’s back teaching at the F.B.I. Academy, a gig she had before she ever met Mulder or heard of an X-File. The move makes sense both in terms of continuity and of character. She has a baby at home to take care of and if the writers’ seem to have ignored her maternity leave benefits, then I’m glad they recognized that it’s time for a more regular schedule and a less risky job. What’s more, I’m glad to see Scully has again found her happy medium between skepticism and belief.

That said, Scully is a heavy weight that’s holding everybody down. Her presence isn’t necessary in this plot, but she’s here because Gillian Anderson is contracted to be here. Worse, her presence is a constant reminder of what no longer is when I’m trying my darndest to concentrate on Doggett and Reyes and give them a fair shake. Yet they keep going back to her like Jedi Knights to Yoda instead of learning to fly on their own.

I really think they could, you know… fly, if the right winds were blowing. I’m going to need some drive, though. And I’m not talking about romantic competition with the absent Mulder. Doggett needs to want to be here and Reyes’s take it or leave it attitude when it comes to getting definitive answers needs to go. Make me believe that it matters. Make me believe it all means something.

Verdict:

This all sounds dank and depressing, I’m sure. But I’m not mad at “Daemonicus”, I just think it needs a lift, something to shine a soft light into the darkness. But like Kobold says, Doggett doesn’t possess Mulder’s easy manners and humor. And he and Reyes aren’t two wide-eyed young agents on a journey of discovery. Still, everybody’s got their something and I want them to find theirs and fast. I need a little yeast to leaven this lump.

Visually, I think this episode is great. This is only Frank Spotnitz’s second time directing and while the direction draws more attention to itself than it did in “Alone” (8×19), I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that, like Reyes, our spidey senses are supposed to be tingling and that’s manifested in the hyper-reality of the clouds. I also think the mental hospital set is gorgeous.

It’s a good effort, ladies and gentleman.

But enough with the love triangles or quadrangles or whatever this nonsense is you have planned.

We now have Follmer pawing at Reyes, Scully pining after Mulder, and Doggett dreaming of Scully. What’s next, Reyes flirting with Doggett?

Oh.

B-

Scrabble:

I really like the black opening of riding in the car with Reyes.

So… remember that time Doggett and Reyes walked into the padded cell of a crazy man and closed the door behind themselves?

What did he just vomit up? Niagara Falls?

The checkmate ending feels… awkward.

Nest of Bile can be found here – “Squeeze” (1×2)

Possessed Sewer Cats can be found here – “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18)

Best Quotes:

Reyes: Did Dr. Richmond display any knowledge of Satanic lure, or speak of demonic possession?
Dr. Sampson: No, he was perfectly cogent. He didn’t suffer from those kinds of delusions.
Reyes: I’m not really asking about delusions. When you last spoke to him did he seem himself?
Dr. Sampson: Seem himself?
Reyes: I mean did he display a personality other than his own? Speaking tongues or in any language which he didn’t know?
Dr. Sampson: You’re asking me if he was possessed? This is the 21st Century, Miss Reyes. We stopped looking a long time ago to demons to explain mental illness.
Reyes: I’m not really talking about mental illness.

——————–

Reyes: What if it’s ectoplasm?
Doggett: Ectoplasm?
Reyes: You’ve heard of it, Agent Scully?
Scully: Agent Mulder used to refer to it as “psychic plasma”: a residual by product of telepathic communication. In theory, it would have inorganic properties that couldn’t be explained otherwise.
Doggett: So what are we talking now? The Ghostbusters?

Advertisements

17 responses to “Daemonicus 9×3: Like a snake eating its own tail.

  1. So I’m trying to stay open and look at this season separately from the rest of the X-Files, but then I see the guard reading a magazine called Ronin and then there is talk that this guy manipulated them and imposed his will on the agents to fool them. Is this a call back to Pusher? Pusher?? One of the best episodes of the X-Files ever?!? If this wasn’t intentional then maybe I’m just desperate for the old days and am seeing the virgin Mary in a potato chip, but everything you see on screen in a conscious choice so maybe it was all done on purpose (Why? I don’t know). Either way, any objective view I tried to have with this episode went out the window because all I could think about was Pusher.

    Before I started pining for what we’ve lost, though, I actually was enjoying the creepy feel and seeing Doggett and Reyes together. They make a better pair than Scully and Doggett. I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but there is actually a part of me that cringes a bit when I see Scully now. She’s not the same Scully we’ve all known and loved in seasons past. I miss her. Now she’s just the person who does the autopsies and is the median between Doggett and Reyes. I’m also afraid that when we see her, they’ll touch on William and all of that insanity. Thankfully that’s pushed to the side in this episode. But wait! All is not lost! Now there’s something else I get to look forward to. A love triangle! Thank goodness. We’ve given Scully another reason to be present on screen. And here I was starting to worry. So much for a show that originally thumbed its nose at stupid soap opera drama. A love triangle?? Because that worked soooooo well the last time they tried that. Diana Fowley, anyone?

    You basically touched on every reason why this episode, as creepy and visually intriguing as it is, doesn’t really do it for me. The heart of the X-Files was Mulder and Scully. They brought the cases alive and really made me care. Also, Scully didn’t have to be pining over Mulder to have a reason to stick around. She loved and respected the journey. They both did. I don’t really feel that with Reyes and Doggett, especially Doggett. But it’s still early. Maybe things will change at bit?

    • After I rewatched and reviewed this episode this time I looked around on the net and found out “Daemonicus” was pretty well panned. I always found it atmospheric and creepy too. It’s just that the show used to be both that and a lot more.

      Scully is an annoyance this season. Yeah, I’ll say it. Her story arc, her changed character, her lingering presence. In a perfect creative world, Scully would have gone with Mulder. But contracts being what they are, that fate could never be.

      But wait! All is not lost! Now there’s something else I get to look forward to. A love triangle! Thank goodness. We’ve given Scully another reason to be present on screen. And here I was starting to worry.

      Do I detect a hint of negativity?

      You basically touched on every reason why this episode, as creepy and visually intriguing as it is, doesn’t really do it for me. The heart of the X-Files was Mulder and Scully. They brought the cases alive and really made me care.

      I had no idea how essential they were, both of them were, until this rewatch. The X-Files was a perfect storm of factors leading to greatness – the stories, the atmosphere, the music, the conspiracy – but Mulder and Scully were the eyes we saw it all through and they made it both real and magical.

      Also, Scully didn’t have to be pining over Mulder to have a reason to stick around. She loved and respected the journey. They both did.

      Somehow, this aspect of Scully’s character, that she *did* want to be out there with Mulder for her own reasons, has been forgotten over the years. Squeeze, Tooms, The Host, Firewalker, Paper Clip, Quagmire, Memento Mori, Elegy, The Movie… we could keep going.

      • > “I had no idea how essential they were, both of them were, until this rewatch.”

        I had somehow absorbed some knowledge of what the X-Files was all about before I ever actually watched an episode. Somehow I imbibed “X-Files = Mulder & Scully” from the general mass of popular culture in the same way I’d imbibed “Star Wars = ‘Luke, I am your father'”.

        So if I had thought about it then, and certainly if I think about it now, it seems impossible to imagine the X-Files without Mulder or Scully. I know hindsight is 20/20, but still, I can’t understand how anyone who watched even one episode of this show, much less its creators, ever thought it could be *just* a supernatural police procedural.

        • For *years* there was denial that the M/S dynamic was the glue that held the show together. That was a supposed aspect of it, even a major component of it, but it’s the stories, stupid – That was the vibe.

          Even today, I’ll occasionally browse boards and reviews of episodes I’ve already passed and see that there are still those who maintain the show never should have become about Mulder and Scully.

          I would argue that it was about Mulder and Scully from the Pilot.

          Somehow I imbibed “X-Files = Mulder & Scully” from the general mass of popular culture in the same way I’d imbibed “Star Wars = ‘Luke, I am your father’”.

          That’s a perfect parallel.

          • I suppose I can understand how fans of hard sci-fi — in which, let’s be honest, character development often takes a back seat to concept and story — might be frustrated by the suggestion that the Mulder & Scully relationship was the truly significant aspect of the X-Files. But to me that seems like just what you said — denial.

      • Jonathan Mastrojohn

        From Squeeze:

        Scully: It seems like you were acting very territorial, I don’t know, forget it.

        Mulder: Of course I was. In our investigations, you may not always agree with me but at least you respect the journey. And if you wanna continue working with them, I won’t hold it against you.

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

  3. You know what I always thought was unnecessary? Doggett pining after Scully. Talk about a snake eating its own tail. That is one plot point that never goes anywhere.

    But I actually enjoyed this episode more than I thought I would. They did a lot to make it visually striking and I liked Reyes’s role in it. But you’re right, Scully is not needed and although it pains me to say it I kind of wish they’d left her out of this season altogether.

    • That was completely unnecessary and just a hair’s breadth away from being up there with the “Mulder was dying” storyline. I mean, really. They couldn’t give Doggett a better motivation for investigating the X-Files than that?

      It was useless, pointless, and like you said, it never goes anywhere.

  4. Pingback: Season 9 Wrap Up – There’s a lot of crap to cut through. | Musings of an X-Phile

  5. Jonathan Mastrojohn

    This episode made me feel like I was watching “Millenium” again.

  6. I like it.

    I agree about the vibe when Scully’s around. Just seems to take me out of the moment to remind me of what was. I still see Doggett and Reyes feeling each other out as characters but imo if this show was allowed to continue I think they could have been a great tag team.

    So…the dude was actually the devil or just possessed?

  7. Yeah, this episode was annoying to me b/c Doggett had other drives to remain on the x-files at the end of season 8?? Like when he saw how the government could be corrupt and realized his buddy Rohrer betrayed him?? Like, remember when he tried to dig up dirt on Kersh?
    And I think it’s not working out b/c they’re trying to force this new love triangle in the show. Romance is definitely a benefit to watching the show, but when it becomes the focus, it just does NOT work out. Scully and Mulder’s relationship was/is a big part of the show b/c they didn’t make their romance the sole guiding rudder of the show. It’s a big part b/c it developed naturally, not b/c it was the driving storyline of the show.

You Know You Want To...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s