This is really… not good.
The X-Files’ underwear is showing. Not just right now, these last several seasons have exposed 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 Chris Carter makes Scully 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.
Rogue F.B.I. agent.
Intensely whispered conversations.
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.
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.
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.