Provenance 9×10: My baby! They’re after my baby!


 

Screenshot66

Because I accentuate the positive.

This is really… not good.

The X-Files’ underwear is showing. Not just right now, these last several seasons have exposed the the show’s weaknesses. Like a tragic Greek hero, the same things that made it great were the same things that caused its eventual downfall. It couldn’t sustain itself indefinitely the way it was.

“Provenance” is concrete proof that Season 9 was doomed to fail. It wasn’t 9/11 turning America off of conspiracies. It wasn’t the viewers that refused to come back after the season premiere. It’s because it wasn’t very interesting. Period.

Now, it tries very, very hard to be interesting. But I don’t care how hard you whisper it, whispering doesn’t make it so.

Back in Season 3 for instance, this style of drama that made up the mythology episodes worked. It was groundbreaking. It was epic. Even now, those old episodes stand the test of time because when you watch those, you feel like it all means something, like it’s all headed somewhere. “Provenance” is a rote exercise in trying to shock and awe the audience with impossible truths of universal import. Without any soul to back the action up it’s all sound and fury, signifying nothing. The emptiness of performance is exposed.

The routine, more or less, goes a little like this.

Impossible event.
Dangled proof.
Rogue F.B.I. agent.
Intensely whispered conversations.
Monumental inferences.
Dangled questions.

The end.

It’s tired to be sure. But like a good old-fashioned Monster of the Week episode, it might still have worked if the material itself was interesting. Too bad it isn’t.

It’s been so long since I’ve watched most of Season 9 that I forgot they did this. I thought we had let this die, but we’re back to the alien gods plot thread from “Biogenesis” (6×22). You know a plot is too weighty and unwieldy when even Gillian Anderson can’t sell it convincingly. The implications of the new era mythology can’t possibly be handled properly in primetime.

But they do try and the scene where Scully gives the rundown on this madness to Reyes, and simultaneously to the audience, is quite possibly the low point of the entire series. It’s all oblique revelations whispered intensely and pregnant pauses that pretend to give birth to meaning but only pass wind. I’ve had enough of watery eyes, shallow breathing and searching glances, thank you. Give me a story I can get excited about!

And for most of it, there’s no score from Mark Snow to take some of the emotional burden off of the actresses who are clearly working hard for their money. All I can hear are these ridiculous words and they don’t stand up on their own. Devoid of clothing they sound worse.

Is The X-Files really going to reveal the secrets to all mysteries and all knowledge? Are they really going to give us “The Truth” as more than a shadowy conspiracy of men and the secrets they hide? No. And since it can’t, it had better stop feigning that it can.

All Mulder’s search ever was was an allegory of one man’s search for God and I understand that. It should have stayed that. It was much more compelling that way. Once upon a time The X-Files was about a guy and a girl chasing ghosts and bringing conspiracies to light. Now it’s all cosmic prophecy and baby messiahs.

Yeah, so, about Baby “Jesus” William… he’s really the problem here.

The plot surrounding him, surrounding his “origins” as the title of this episode would invite us to ponder, is turning Scully stupid. And I don’t just mean she’s making foolish decisions, which she has all season. She’s becoming a truly uninteresting character and that’s making me slightly resentful.

But back to Baby “Jesus” William…

Maggie Scully: I know you’re worried about him, that there are things about him that you just can’t explain. But even if you were to get those answers what would it change?
Scully: Mom, he’s my child.
Maggie Scully: And you have to love him and raise him in spite of everything. Dana, God has given you a miracle. A child that wasn’t supposed to be. Maybe it’s not to question, just to be taken as a matter of faith.
Scully: Mom, I can’t take this on faith. I need to know. I need to know if it’s really God I have to thank.

Herein lies the key issue of this two-parter. It’s not “who” William is but “how” he is. But part of the problem with asking “how” he came to be is that it’s not a question that can be so easily divorced from the issue of his paternity, an issue that was fried, boiled and overbaked in Season 8. Chris Carter is telling us to ask, “How?” but all we can hear is, “Does this mean Mulder’s his daddy or not?” Maybe if the episode were clearer we would hear, “How did Scully become fertile again?

As I said, William is the root of all evil as far as Season 9’s bloated mythology is concerned. And I know what you’re thinking. “If the baby needs to die, why doesn’t somebody just kill the baby?? Yet if you’ll humor me, we’ll wait to discuss him in excruciating detail next episode. That’s when the chaos around him begins to make sense… not good sense, but sense. There is a method to Chris Carter’s madness. It may just be revealed a little too late. The viewing public’s goodwill wears thin.

Verdict:

You know, it’s not just the content of the plot, it’s the way it’s presented. It’s very hard to follow, much crazier than the mythology ever used to be. Where it was vague before, it’s opaque now. Where it was slow to reveal before, it backtracks now. Wait till you see how much it backtracks in “Providence” (9×11)…

Just so long as you understand that all of this is of the greatest import and magnitude. If you don’t hurry up and understand that, they may resort to whispering it even more forcefully.

The MOTW episodes are flagging. The legacy of MSR is on life support. The mythology is shot to pieces.

Pop me on a shish kebab. I’m done.

D

Comments:

Doggett’s a regular Mulder now. Unbridled insubordination, showing up where he has no business being, taking things he has no business taking.

Doggett and Follmer spar like equal rivals, not like a boss and his upstart subordinate.

The travel times are unreal. A man attempts to cross the border one night. Border Patrol finds the rubbings and immediately turns them over the the F.B.I.? The F.B.I. recognizes them as part of an X-File and summons Scully the next morning. Scully warns Doggett and Reyes something’s up. Doggett flies to North Dakota where he finds Follmer already there and working a scene that hasn’t been cleared yet, this despite the fact that Follmer was at the meeting with Scully that morning.

Scully’s rubbings had covered the entire spacecraft? The pile of papers didn’t look that huge.

I’m with Maggie Scully. Scully doesn’t seem all that interested in actually raising the baby. She keeps defending him as her real son, but then acts like she believes he’s something altogether different.

And if the aliens are God, then shouldn’t you stop fighting against them? But it’s really not clear if they are God or if they’re at war with God and have somehow interfered with the human race.

We can easily dismiss the notion that Mulder’s dead. Not only do we know Chris Carter would never kill him offscreen, but David Duchovny is scheduled to appear in the series finale. So we are unmoved.

The ONLY moment I find worthwhile in this episode is watching Scully hand baby William over to the Lone Gunmen. That’s still not worth my watching this ever again in life.

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28 responses to “Provenance 9×10: My baby! They’re after my baby!

  1. Wow. You know we’re in trouble when the episode begins with reminding us of the magical spaceship that is the key to all. This is all actually insane. This whole plot line. I can’t help but laugh as I watch this because of how unbelievable it all is.

    Not only that, but I also am still having trouble digesting just how stupid Scully has become. Talk about a character learning things over the past seven years working on the x-files and then forgetting it all. If someone was trying to kill my baby, you’d better believe that I’d be strapping him to my chest and never letting him out of my sight. I feel like Scully is constantly passing him off to other people. Why on Earth would she think it would be a good idea to hand him off to the Gunmen? I mean, really, she should have gone with them. This is the same as Mulder passing off Scully when she was pregnant and in danger. Necessary for the plot, but so completely out of character that is just makes them seem stupid. What happened to trust no one?? I will say, though, I did enjoy Scully busting in and saving William in his bedroom. Some much needed Scully fire right there.

    Then the whole “Mulder is dead” thing. I mean…Scully can’t catch a damn break. Must she think she’s lost him again? Gillian did a good job with her teary reaction when she found out…although it gets lost among her thousands of other teary reactions in this episode. Speaking of Mulder, they shouldn’t even bring him up. Why? Because I find it absurd that he wouldn’t find out about the threat on William and Scully and not come back. I know David’s not coming back until the end, but it’s just crazy that they expect me to believe that Mulder would be so selfish that he would stay in hiding rather than protect them. He left to draw the danger away, so his plan to leave is null and void now. In reality, Mulder would have returned in TrustNo1. He would have jumped off that train, lured the super soldier to his death, and been reunited with Scully. Then he would have made the choice to stay so he could protect them better.

    I’m also now completely convinced that Scully’s infertility was healed when she touched the magical spaceship back in Africa. That was the spaceship’s only useful purpose, as far as I can tell.

    • It is insane. I’ll talk about it more tomorrow, but even within the anything-goes world of The X-Files, this is hard to swallow.

      And Scully is always teary. It’s driving me mad. Her tears don’t even move me anymore. I roll my eyes at them. I’m eye-rolling you, Scully!

      This is a Space Soap Opera now. I guess Scully’s always teary because there are super sad, dramatic, monumental, devastating, tragically tragic developments happening all the time.

      The mythology of Season 9 is one of those things you should not put yourself through unless you have a case of OCD that defies treatment or you are the kind of X-Phile that must see and know everything because you’re married to this show – of which latter sort I am. But even I won’t be watching this again.

      As far as Mulder goes… the implication in TINH is that Scully made him leave for his own safety, because of the Super Soldier’s threats against him… which, again, we’ll get into tomorrow (It’s looong). So by staying away he’s actually keeping potential danger away from Scully and William also.

      And, yes! It was the spaceship. Also tomorrow.

      • This is the one and only time I plan on watching this season. I went into this rewatch saying if I don’t do it now, it’s never going to happen. I’ve been dreading it (especially the episode “William”). I will say when I saw that you were finishing off your reviews of the show, I knew that I’d be able to make it through to the end. I don’t feel like I have to suffer alone and I have a place to come to say, “What the heck did I just sit through??” So thank you, Salome, for helping me, and other philes, weather this storm.

        I can’t wait until tomorrow to continue my rant 🙂

        • I don’t know about you, but this whole thing is Phile therapy for me. I crave commiseration!

          “William” is brutal in its aggravation. Prepare yourself.

          And tomorrow is all kinds of long as I try to has out the mythology as it stands… if it stands. But then, I don’t plan on visiting these episodes again so I figured I might as well go all out.

        • I second Amanda’s assessment – it’s great to have people to help weather through the storm of dumba**ery that is Season 9

          I appreciate you and your mind SO much, Salome!

      • “So by staying away he’s actually keeping potential danger away from Scully and William also.”

        I get that this is what the show wants me to believe, but how on earth is Mulder hiding while Scully and William stay in plain sight making them safer? Wouldn’t it really put them in more danger? If the danger is so great, and Dearest Dana is so distraught at being separated from Captain Mushypants, why didn’t she go with him? I know the real answer is that Gillian signed a contract and David didn’t, but there should also be an in-show answer that makes a tiny bit of sense.

        • Dearest Dana is so distraught at being separated from Captain Mushypants

          HAHAHAHA

          Sorry.

          Ahem. Well, it isn’t clearly explained until the next episode, but William isn’t actually in danger. The enemy is after him, yes, but not to kill him, to protect him. They *do* want to kill Mulder, however.

          That said, the whole plot is stretched like a rubber band.

  2. I keep telling myself to go watch this episode so I actually have something coherent to add but … I just … ugh …

    WHY? WHY? WHY?

    It’s all I can think/say … why bring back the alien spaceship that is the key to everything? why CONTINUALLY bring up “Jesus” William (thanks for that little quote title there, by the way! love!)? why have Scully be a moron?

    I really truly wish by this point that they had never allowed Scully to get pregnant – that they had ended the whole arc with her infertility and just let it go – but NO. But, I’m basically ok with William until all this crap starts and then it just gets irritating. Let her have a normal freaking baby and then write in drama some other way.

    The only thing I really remember from this episode is Scully going full on mama bear: I am in love – from the moment she sees the partially open door to when she takes Doggett into the nursery – seeing Scully so protective and a bit unhinged is amazing 😀

    • At least Scully got to do something besides go all watery doe eyes.

      I will say that everything makes more sense come the next episode, why the spaceship back in “Biogenesis”, why Mulder is targeted in “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati”, why Scully gets pregnant (which CC had been planning or considering for a good while), why William & Scully are hunted in “Essence” & “Existence”, and why the Super Soldiers are after Mulder in “NIHT 1 & 2” and “Trust No 1”.

      Chris Carter’s a mad genius, his genius just went mad with the post-Syndicate mythology.

      But I was pretty ticked off when I realized the mythology was back to the “aliens as God” craziness. I had completely forgot about and/or mentally blocked out the contents of these two episodes, so it was a complete and total unpleasant surprise.

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  4. “The ONLY moment I find worthwhile in this episode is watching Scully hand baby William over to the Lone Gunmen. That’s still not worth my watching this ever again in life.”

    Have you given them any much-deserved Fs? How did you manage the generosity of a D, are you so tired out at this point? We need to send you some Sweet Pete’s candies, the sugar will give you a short burst of energy.

    Someday I will write my Salome-esque reviews and I’m going to lay the GPA Smackdown* on these people**

    *on seasons 1-7 because I value my sanity.
    ** invoking Vince Gilligan protections because he was the Good Super Soldier in this timeline.

    • No, if I were going to give an “F” it would have occurred much earlier. There have been quite a few contenders.

      But even if I’m frustrated on one level, the acting and the production is such that I could never take it down to “0”. These folks were putting everything into it for us, even if “it” wasn’t my favorite.

      That said, I think this grade is the lowest I’ve gone. I may have to check, though.

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  6. SCULLY: Mom, he’s my child!
    MRS. SCULLY: And you have to love him and raise him in spite of everything.
    SCULLY’S INTERNAL MONOLOGUE: No, I don’t! You’re not the boss of me, mom!

    Knowing the outcome of this storyline sure changes my response to Momma Scully’s line. Why they ever thought this William storyline was a good idea in the first place is the biggest X-File of all.

    “Mulder is dead” in this episode is just as silly as “Mulder is coming back” in Trust No 1. It really bothers me when a TV show tries to fake you out with something that every single audience member clearly knows is not going to happen.

    • I don’t think they originally anticipated having to write for William for two seasons. And then after taking the plot as far as they did, I think they got sick of it themselves. That’s what their comments in interviews would indicate. And they realized that he’d be a hindrance to the plot of any future movies.

      In other words, they wrote themselves into a corner and erased themselves out of it.

      “Mulder is dead” in this episode is just as silly as “Mulder is coming back” in Trust No 1.

      It sure was. No one believed it for a second.

      Then again… At the end of Gethsemene you know that DD isn’t going anywhere. But it still manages to create more emotional impact and tension than either of those episodes.

      • I think you’re exactly right about this whole William fiasco but, honestly, they should’ve seen the problems he would present from the very beginning. There are also plenty of ways to write him out of the story besides having Scully put him up for adoption, which sure as heck doesn’t seem like something she would ever do.

        I mean, wouldn’t “Aliens stole my baby!” be a good jumping off point for continuation in films? It’s probably for the best that he’s just gone, though. Lord knows I’m sick of hearing about him already. Unless they bring him back in the new episodes…

        I’m going to give myself nightmares!

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