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.
“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.
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?
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)
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?
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?