Chris, I love you for sentimental reasons.
Here’s the thing, however. I personally don’t do wacky well. I’m usually more of a situational comedy kinda gal. I try with “Improbable”. I try… and then Burt Reynold starts lipsyncing. And then I can’t try anymore. My suspension of disbelief is always suspended at the same spot.
I have a certain amount of fan-guilt over this for several reasons.
- This is one of Chris Carter’s signature high concept episodes, which I’m usually down for.
- Season 9 has been mostly weeping and gnashing of teeth so you think I’d appreciate a little levity. I’m such an ingrate.
- I know Chris Carter is sending a heartfelt farewell message to his audience of which I’m one.
When I think about it, this is actually a perfect theme for the final standalone episode written and directed by Chris Carter. After all, what has The X-Files been except for a giant allegory for the search for God? Chris has freely admitted that Mulder is in many ways a stand-in for himself; Mulder, an intelligent free spirit who thinks he can get to the ultimate Authority by rebelling against every authority between him and that Authority.
Which is why I find it interesting that there’s nothing authoritative about Burt Reynolds. Campy, kooky, charming, yes. Authoritative, certain, powerful, no.
And possibly because I was so disinterested in the episode, I don’t think I figured out that it was God he was supposed to be playing until nearly the end. That does give “Improbable” a certain deep underbelly of meaning, but… I may be of the wrong generation to appreciate the cosmic charm of Burt Reynolds.
Back to the deep underbelly of meaning, though. Jumbled up in a certain zany joy are ideas I suspect of being Chris’s life philosophies. Or rather, his life philosophies include zany joy, which is excellent. From what I can gather, it goes something like this:
There is a God. → God gives a logical order to the universe, patterns and numbers, math, if you will. → He sets up these patterns as a sort of game for mankind to discover and play. → Every person is dealt a different hand, aka genetics and the situations they find themselves born into. → God wants people to win the game of life but He doesn’t have direct influence on our lives. → Rather than giving away the game outright, God drops hints and tricks. → People either make the right choices and win or make the wrong choices and lose. → God loves the losers and the winners, the sinners and the saints. → It makes God sad to see people lose. → It makes God happy to see His creation enjoying itself. → God enjoys Himself.
Some of that I can agree with, some of it I certainly disagree with, some of it I find the nuance slightly off. But whichever way you come down on the profundity of it all, out of “Improbable” spring forth the issues of life. Who do you want to be, Wayne-O or Scully?
I get a lot of style and some disjointed substance which doesn’t make for a satisfying television meal for yours truly. There’s so much going on that I can’t tell whether the episode lacks focus or I do.
I feel bad for being so disconnected from the material because I can tell this is a message directly from Chris Carter’s heart. And there’s a lot here that I would love to see explored and engage with philosophically over tea and crumpets. But I’m just not into it. What can I say?
Thanks though, Chris, for all the joy.
P.S. Dio ti ama.
Numbers and Patterns:
I listened to the DVD commentary for this one, which I highly recommend. And Chris Carter mentions that the festival depicted at the end, the San Generro Festival, wasn’t held in New York that year because of the events of 9/11. The last musical scene is meant as a tribute and, “…a celebration of life, of beauty, and ultimately of God who is everywhere. And that no matter what we destroy, we can’t destroy Him.”
The “Produttore Esecutivo” really is cute, though.
The butt wiggle wasn’t as cute. It was a little try-hard. The whole episode was trying hard.
A slideshow! We haven’t seen one of those since “Patience” (8×4).
At least Scully cracks a smile. I don’t think I’ve seen one of those since Season 8 either.
Mr. Burt: Einstein. Now there’s a winner.
Scully: Look, Agent Reyes, you can’t reduce all of life, all creation, every piece of … of art, architecture, music, literature… into a game of win or lose.
Reyes: Maybe the winners are those who play the game better. Those who see the patterns and the connections, like we’re doing right now.
So the winners are the intellectuals who “figure out” God’s patterns in science and art? Hmm.
Did Reyes just frisk God?
Actor Ray McKinnon, who plays Mad Wayne/Wayne-O, has been in so much my head spins thinking of his resume.
I’m not sure how, if there’s an intelligence capable of creating not only the known universe but the theorized universes beyond it, we can catch up with it intellectually and figure out His “game.” One day we’ll be smart enough to climb an equation like a ladder all the way to all truth? Didn’t they build a tower in Babel once?
On a related note, I had a pastor who used to say, “God isn’t just a little bit smarter than you are.”
Mr. Burt: You know your problem, my friend? It’s not the cards. It’s playing the hand you were dealt. Well, you guys get a bad deal, it’s all in what you do with it. You know what I’m saying, pardner? You can think. Cards can’t. they just lie there. You gotta make them work for you.
Mad Wayne: Go to hell.
Mr. Burt: Are the reservations in your name?
Mr. Burt: You know, there’s a secret to this game, Wayne-O, and I’m gonna tell you what the secret is: Choose better.
Mr. Burt: Can’t show ‘em what they can’t see.