Hellbound 9×4: I just know I need to solve this.


 

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Can you imagine how uncomfortable this must have been?

“Hellbound” is The X-Files’ third take on the subject of reincarnation after “Born Again” (1×21) and “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). Out of the three episodes, this is definitely the best. I still don’t think it’s great, however.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate what’s here, it’s what’s not here that leaves me feeling mildly disappointed. I know nothing more about Agent Monica Reyes at the end of the episode than when I first started this little showcase piece for her character. I know nothing more about her personality or her personal motivations.

All I know is that her reincarnated soul has been unsuccessfully chasing the same bad guy since the 1800s. Or rather, she chased the original bad guys and then the bad guy that they created through their evil actions. I don’t know what about these crimes in particular so compels her soul. Is it the unusual level of violence that troubles her? Does she have some kind of relationship with the perpetrators? Does she just have a strong, motivating sense of justice? If she does, I’d like to know.

I know that she feels things, but I already knew that. Other than telling her that there’s something fishy going on, do these feelings of hers ever actually solve cases? Because right now these “feelings” she gets in the presence of evil don’t have a great track record when it comes to being useful. Nothing was resolved in either “Empedolces” (8×17) or “Daemonicus” (9×3) and she barely makes a dent in the evil here.

What I don’t know is why she’s on the X-Files. I mean, yes, I know she’s there because Doggett needed an ally and he trusts her both personally and professionally. But her history with Doggett tells me a lot more about Doggett than it does about her.

And I know that her expertise is Religious Studies and that she investigated crimes with a seeming Satanic bent. That sure sounds like it makes her a good fit for the basement office. But I also know that by her own admission, she’s never seen evidence of real Satanic activity. Then why is she so interested in the X-Files? Why is it her “dream job” according to her conversation with Follmer in “Nothing Important Happened Today” (9×1)? Is she here because she’s looking to find evidence of real activity? Is she here because she does or doesn’t believe in Satan?

And further back, what brought Reyes to Religious Studies in the first place? Ironically, thanks to the Doggett-centric “John Doe” (9×7), I know she was raised in Mexico, a predominately catholic country. Did she study religion because she was a good catholic girl? Because she wasn’t a good catholic girl? How did she end up so new agey?

I’d like to know Monica Reyes, please.

Her character started off with real potential and I still like her well enough. But she’s quickly turning into a stock believer. Mulder believed because of certain experiences, certain information, and certain hypnosis sessions. He believed because he needed to. Am I to take it that Reyes believes solely because she feels things??? That’s a character cop out, 1013.

There was a lot of room for exploration in this episode for themes of sin and redemption, destiny and freewill… in other words, plenty of chances to get inside Reyes’ head and figure out what makes her tick, what motivates her, and what she thinks her purpose in life is or if she’s still trying to find one. Maybe she’s unsure of the state of her own soul and that’s why this case is so important to her.. Heck, maybe she’s on the X-Files because she wants to understand the nature of evil. How about that?

In an odd twist, I personally enjoy this episode more than Doggett’s “John Doe”, but coming straight off of that episode into this one highlights its weaknesses in the character development department.

In both episodes, our two new leads set out to discover their individual identities. Doggett has his memories taken from him and, by sheer force of will, takes back what belongs to him, pain and all. His display of character and integrity even when he’s been stripped to nothing tells us a lot about who he is as a person.

Reyes, on the other hand, finds out she had an identity she didn’t know existed. That knowledge doesn’t shock her, scare her, inspire her, drive her… she comes to a conclusion about the events of the case and then the end. The events have no bearing on the rest of her life and reveal no new side of her. I can only guess that at some point she wonders if she committed a great sin in a past life, but if she does, we don’t see any signs of an internal conflict.

Verdict:

All right. I know I’ve belabored the point. It’s just that in retrospect, I know this is Reyes’ one chance to distinguish herself as a character and I’m disappointed on her behalf.

Reyes: Whoever I was, I failed. In 1868, in 1909, in 1960… I failed. I was always there, but I couldn’t stop the killings. And he knew that. And somehow he knows my deepest fear: that I’ll fail.

I guess this is the closest I’ll come to the answers I’m looking for. Perhaps Reyes is sensitive to evil in all its forms because she’s spiritually connected to a particular evil. Perhaps her regret and fear of failure drive her forward in the pursuit of defeating evil. Perhaps?

The X-File itself is okay. Actually, I think the premise had real promise. A group of men bound together in hell, which is spiritual and physical death on repeat, want to be redeemed but aren’t allowed to be. As mentioned earlier, the themes are ripe for the plucking.

Instead, I went searching for depth and all I got was this lousy T-shirt:

Everything you ever wanted to know about skinning people but were afraid to ask.

But while it’s a unique form of death even for The X-Files and I can tell the crew worked hard, it must be said that the makeup is less gross than shocking in its completeness. And it looks like a special effects job the whole time.

B-

Comment:

I like the short scene between Scully and Dr. Mueller. It reminds me of other times Mulder and Scully consulted a retired detective about an old case. “Squeeze” (1×2), “Tooms” (1×20), “Travelers” (5×15)… There are more, I’m just too sleepy to remember them.

Question:

Reyes was able to save one soul, but the killer continues into the next life with the other victims. Is that enough to break the cycle? Reyes doesn’t need to follow him in death? I guess one of our leads killing themselves would put a damper on the show, huh?

Best Quotes:

Scully: My name is Dana Scully. I’m with the FBI. I want to ask you some questions about a John Doe you did an autopsy on in 1960.
Dr. Mueller: You honestly expect me to recall some case from way back when? I’m 84 years old.
Scully: Sir, this particular victim was skinned alive.

———————-

Dr. Mueller: The victim was a John Doe, a nobody. Carl Hobart, the county sheriff, figured he was a drifter. Hobart said he didn’t want to stir up the community.
Scully: And no one called him on that?
Dr. Mueller: I tried. The sheriff had other things on his mind, I suppose.
Scully: Why do you say that?
Dr. Mueller: Well, it wasn’t long after that he put a bullet through his head.

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16 responses to “Hellbound 9×4: I just know I need to solve this.

  1. I have to say I agree with you about the lack of character development for Reyes. And based on a comment you made in your review, I assume we never get another episode that really gives us the back story/development we want. That really does make me sad. It kind of felt like the writers cared more about developing Doggett anyway. We see more stories from his perspective…although it doesn’t help that we had two seasons with him instead of just one.

    There is also a distinct lack of flirting happening between…anyone these past few episodes. I have to say that I don’t feel any unintentional undertones of something greater (not just romantic love, but just an extra something) between Doggett and Reyes like I always did with Mulder and Scully. Just goes to show (again) that their chemistry was special and always there no matter if it was slightly brought to the forefront or not. Doggett and Reyes genuinely come across as partners and friends. I wish the writers just left it at that (this is based on my assumption that they continue to bring D and R together).

    Yay! Scully had something useful to do!

    • The sad thing about Reyes is that the most interesting part of her character is her relationship with Doggett. Outside of that, she doesn’t have much going on. Doggett, on the other hand, while he’s good with Reyes, is fleshed out enough to stand on his own.

      I don’t think they didn’t care about Reyes so much as they may not have known how to identify with her and write for her. She’s like the cute girl in high school that Doggett is friends with and likes but whose mind is a mystery to him. She’s never taken out of that “object of interest” mode because her mind remains a mystery. At some point, we have to get to know the girl.

      Scully was a very personal character to Chris and very fully formed in concept. Even though they were mostly men writing for a female lead, Scully was so clear that they could understand what made her tick. It helps that Gillian Anderson is brilliant and gave her depth.

      BUT, I could be wrong. And to be honest, my memories of Season 9 are purposefully fuzzy. Maybe they’ll surprise me with some more Reyes development before the season ends?

      • I like your description of Reyes as just one of Doggett’s friends. It’s like the writers knew they needed Doggett to have a partner just because, they knew it wouldn’t be Scully, so they created this character who had some history with him. Beyond that, we don’t really get much and it doesn’t really feel like they know what her back story is or where they wanted to go with her as an individual. They haven’t given her much depth and her primary roles consist of assisting/caring about Doggett and holding/watching William.

        • I think you hit on it: they didn’t give her a back story and may not know it themselves.

          It helps if the character is fully fleshed even if there are things about them the audience never sees onscreen. Basically, Reyes’ back story is that she bonded with Doggett over tragic circumstances, she studied religion and she investigated satanic murders but never actually found a legitimate one.

          • P.S. With Mulder and Scully, we found out quite a bit of their back stories early on. Especially Mulder, but we also got a good glimpse into Scully’s life and motivations as early as “Squeeze”.

          • This makes me think of JK Rowling with Harry Potter and how she knew intimate details of every named character’s family, past and future – even though basically 98.99% of the information never made it into the books. SHE needed it while she was writing to inform the characters she presented on the page …

            I think it can be the issue with TV writing sometimes – especially in the US model because we produce SO many episodes in a season, and you don’t want to reveal too much too soon – but in later seasons characters can start to do things that are (or maybe seem) out-of-character because bits of them (their pasts, beliefs, etc) weren’t laid out BEFORE the writing of the series or if they were then they aren’t carried through or different writers have different takes on characters that don’t fit with them overall (I’m looking at YOU Morgan & Wong!) … but, eh …

            It’s what we were left with and that’s sad because I do think Doggett and Reyes had the potential to be really interesting …

            • YES. Harry Potter is a perfect example of that. Star Wars is fleshed out far beyond what we see too. And George Lucas kept the characters’ histories and futures in mind.

              What you say is so true about U.S. TV. Fortunately, the model has changed a lot (not all, by any means) in recent years. But during The X-Files’ era, cranking out all those episodes is what caused a lot of burn out all around, actors, writers and crew.

              In a way, it served the show because they evolved far beyond the original vision while still staying true to it. On the other hand, it allowed for character inconsistencies as they figured out what worked and what to drop.

              • Which for Star Wars amazes me with how bad the prequels got a times … but, I digress.

                I am so thankful to see US TV moving away from the 22-25 episode seasons – yes it’s a slow change but I hope it keeps going – cause it’s what still causes burnout for so many people on TV and why you see a lot of cast changes on shows.

                • “At times” is key. They had dramatic ups and downs. I still think George Lucas was underappreciated by the fandom he created. But I digress too!

                  I think the evolution started with shows like The Sopranos, which started peeking just as The X-Files was waning. When you think of how different their styles and formats were, you can see how The X-Files was of another era in its own time there toward the end. And television learned a lot from The X-Files. The X-Files created serialized mythology. Now there are several shows that revolve around a single mystery, but they’re not forced to drag the mystery out unnaturally.

                  The shorter format allows them to focus on being effective.

  2. i really don’t think they ever give Reyes any depth beyond wat you said here – we know little bits and pieces but nothing really important.

    I have been wondering if it would have been better for the show to focus Doggett and Reyes’ X-Files into the spiritul/supernatural a bit more than the paranormal – even like urban legends and such to give Monica a usefulness that I feel like she just dosn’t have. I still enjoy her – to the point where I would LOVE to see her and Doggett in the revival – but it’s mostly out of nostalgia and not any real insight into her as a person. Whereas, Doggett really got a good backstory and a fairly defined character especially for the limited timeframe that we had him for.

    I really wanted to enjoy this episode – past lives! people being skinned! a holy mission! what could be better – but it ended up feeling lackluster.

    • I think a spiritual focus could have worked for these two, between Reyes’ inclinations and Doggett’s history with his son. Though, I think the fact that these two characters lend themselves more to semi-real world situations than the paranormal means that they have more limits than Mulder and Scully did. How M&S managed such variation is still a mystery. I think it had a lot to do with how David and Gillian played them.

      And I really want to add a comment but I’m not sure where you stand on spoilers… It’s not a huge one, either way.

      • You hit it right there – I feel like there are limitations on their abilities when it comes to the X-Files that Mulder and Scully didn’t have! It’s almost as if, when coming up with the characters, they didn’t think the show was really going to last much longer so they just plopped generic “believer” and “skeptic” characters into the mix (with a little bit of variation from M/S) mostly because we don’t know what’s driving either of them.

        We found out in the Pilot exactly what drove Mulder to the X-Files and then we quickly find out why Scully stayed even when she was given an out and more importantly we BELIEVED it! – Doggett staying wasn’t nearly as powerful as Scully’s revelation and Reyes … well … yeah … no clue to this day

        AHHHHHH I’m usually big on NO spoilers but I couldn’t help myself – I watched the “Re-opened” special three times the first night it came out on YouTube! And I will not lie: I jumped and down and screamed “YEEESSSS!”

        • I’ll repeat myself like a robot: The Believer/Skeptic Dynamic did not need to be repeated.

          That dynamic was particular to M&S and worked uniquely for them. Any attempts to repeat it only make the characters look watery in comparison and forces them into a mold they might not be appropriate for.

          Case in point, Doggett is a great, real-world, average joe sort of skeptic. But they gave him a knee-jerk, automatic, touchy feely sort of believer to compliment him. What if the situation wasn’t either/or?

          But repeating myself again, it may also just be that The X-Files couldn’t exist as a paranormal procedural in perpetuity. These kinds of discoveries are best suited to the young, idealistic, naive adventurer, at least as they were presented when the show started.

          They could go all Dr. Who on us and use a world-weary traveler… but that would require a complete about face from what we had with Mulder and Scully… and that would have been the only way – an almost total transformation.

          This is too close yet too far away.

          And these characters have no personal drive when it comes to their subject matter. Well, Doggett has some.

          • Ah yes Doctor Who! That could have been amazing – especially because I feel like Robert Patrick could have played the world-weary traveller SO well.

            I feel for Robert and Annabeth like I did with Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman and now Capaldi – wonderful actors and performances but not enough meat to make their characters truly interesting because the writing is lacking. It’s as if the writers couldn’t even be bothered to give them more than stock character traits. How can WE be interested and invested in these people if the writers obviously aren’t?

            I could go on and on about this but what’s the point – no one can match Mulder and Scully’s awesomeness or David and Gillian’s awesomeness – it was a match made in TV heaven!

            • My interest started waning once Clara’s character joined… for reasons related to the writing as well. Though I held out and I do like Capaldi, but not enough to give time to it instead of the other things I need to do in life. But that’s a whole other chat!

              Meanwhile, I’ve found other shows I like, a couple that I’ve loved, including Dr. Who, but I’ve learned that I will never be emotionally attached to another show the way I am to this one. Mulder and Scully stole my heart.

  3. Pingback: Audrey Pauley 9×13: You’re not giving up, are you? | Musings of an X-Phile

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