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My Struggle IV 11×10: I am tired of looking at him on video.


 

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#howifeel

 

I teared up before I watched this not out of excitement or nostalgia or even because I knew it was the end of The X-Files, but because I knew it was the end of The X-Files and it wouldn’t be good.

I suppose I should have given it a fair shot. But it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for Chris Carter to tie up the shredded loose ends of the mythology in a satisfactory way within the space of one episode. It can’t be done.

So, lowered expectations properly in place, I sat to watch. It’s over now and I’m sad. And I’m sad that I’m sad. I’m sad that I’m not sad the way I was at the end of “Existence” (8×21) when I knew it was the end of an era. I’m not sad the way I was at the end of “The Truth” (9×19/20) when I had the chance to remember the magic. Heck, I’m not even sad the way I was at the end of I Want to Believe when I waved goodbye back at Mulder and Scully in their rowboat from the darkness of a forebodingly empty theater. In that last moment, I was all but sure I would never see my favorite team again. In all three moments, part of me was relieved to see them go while there was still enough of their legacy intact for me to want more of them.

Today, there’s no sweetness in my sadness. I’m sad for The X-Files. I’m sad for 1013. I’m sad for David and Gillian and the years’ worth of unforgettable moments they stretched their acting chops to give the fans. I’m sad for the fans. I’m sad that we couldn’t have a comeback worthy of how great this show was at its peak. No, I would’ve taken Season 1 levels of greatness.

You know what? I’m not just sad, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed for The X-Files, for 1013, the actors and the fans. This could have been so much more and it should have been. This was a golden opportunity to complete the series in a way that those of us who campaigned for X-Files 3 back in the day didn’t dare to hope for. That opportunity has been squandered. Gloriously.

I’m not even sure how to separate my musings of this episode from my overall feelings of mourning. William may not be dead, but my enthusiasm is.

William. His name is a one-word sentence in my head because I can’t even think of this plot without stopping to close my eyes and tenderly touch my weary head. I need a moment…

So, William. [insert nose bridge pinch here] What we have here, my fellow Philes (for no one but a Phile would still be reading… or watching by this point), is the ultimate retcon. Yes, yes. I know. I was there for Seasons 8 and 9 (unlike some of you, so don’t test me) and I remember the not-so-subtle hints that Williams’ origins were neither natural nor supernatural but manmade. The thing is, after all that back and forth, after all that giving Mulder a son and teasing taking him away, we were all, Mulder and Scully included, left with the conclusion that William was Mulder’s biological child. To pretend otherwise now is disingenuous in the extreme, also known as a right-rotten case of takesies backsies.

Actually, what am I saying? This entire episode is premised on the assumption that everyone had good reason to believe and did believe that William was Mulder’s child. Now, on the word of the Father of Lies… No, on the hearsay word of the Father of Lies as related to Skinner who was given no proof, to Scully who was given no proof, we are now to take it as fact that William was never really Mulder’s son, or Scully’s, for that matter. He was merely an experiment that Scully carried in her womb for nine months.

I know some had hoped that this whole “Luke, I am your father” jagoff shoeshine tip that Chris Carter introduced in the season opener was a mere technicality. CSM was William’s father because he merely medically impregnated Scully. But frankly, I never really bought that. And when we had this little exchange…

Mulder: Your mother has those same visions.

William: Then why don’t you see them?

…I think I threw up a little. Yeah, moving on.

William is Mulder’s little brother whose mother is Mulder’s lover. I know. I said I’m moving on.

Because if that weren’t sketchy enough, Chris Carter has now introduced a new little brother or sister for William. Awwwww.

Let me just. Hold on. Hoo. Okay.

So, everything we suspected in “Plus One” (11×3) was true and nothing will ever be true and right again.

Just kidding. I would have to be emotionally invested in this nonsense for that to be the case. We’re good.

This is not good, though. It’s really not good.

Chris, did you learn nothing from William??? You’re hoping to continue the series with a pregnant Scully AGAIN? Sir… stop it.

Verdict:

I’m also going to stop because otherwise, this will turn into an endless rant. I’d like to give some serious thought to the plot, but how can I when the entire plot was a foot chase for William? William whose hobby, like Darren Peter Oswald before him, was apparently causing death and damage for the thrill of it. William who can’t decide which irrationally adoring girlfriend to run away with. William who Scully is ready to move on from mere minutes after hearing of his (supposed) true origins and after well over a decade of yearning for him from the deep recesses of her heart. She absolved herself of his existence in about 30 seconds. But don’t worry, Mulder. We can still call you Daddy.

Really, I don’t know why Chris Carter thought Gillian Anderson would come back to this. I don’t know why anyone would come back to this. William has been displaced. The X-Files has shut down yet again. CSM is dead yet again. Mr. Y is dead. Erika Price is dead. Reyes is probably dead. Skinner might be dead.

I ask you, what is there to come back to?

I came back to The X-Files because I never really left. As you can see (*ahem*) I’ve already spent an inordinate amount of my imagination on this series. But I can’t go past this point. There has to be an end, Scully. I have now mused and bemused over every episode of The X-Files that exists in my world, and quite a few that don’t.

Naturally, I don’t mean that I won’t continue to obsess and discuss. Please. In fact, I’m going to take advantage of my current rewatch and finally post a couple of personal top ten lists. But from here on out, where 1013 goes, I can’t follow. Not on the screen, anyway. I can’t be a part of a show were William is the new Emily and discarded just as easily.

Nope. Nah uh. Not happening.

Grade: N/A

Crumbs of the Cracked Cookie:

I’m still not sure how I feel about Mulder the action hero. Sure there was Nisei and 731 and train hopping and stuff, but he was never Jack Bauer. He would drop his weapon before he’d kill mere footmen in this war.

What tipped Scully off to the lotto connection in the first place?

Scully looking in the mirror like it’s “Within” (8×1) and wearing a sweatshirt like it’s “Colony” (2×16).

Out with it, Scully. Just tell Mulder what’s going to happen instead of just telling him you know what’s going to happen.

“Kersh is blowing up my phone.” ← Should never have happened.

With CSM gone, does this mean no contagion?

So much for little green men.

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Nothing Lasts Forever 11×9: I always wondered how this was gonna end.


 

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Our irreverent constant and her touchstone.

 

 

First of all, pancreas lickin’ surgeons like what in the whole wide world?????

That one moment was harder to watch than all of “Sanguinarium” (4×6).

More importantly, who are you Karen Nielsen and how may I serve you?????

As I try to calm down, let me introduce you to me sitting down to watch this episode. Watching the teaser, I had just started chewing on a gooey Margherita pizza complete with spicy salami. You can imagine my discomfiture.

And at first, I’ll admit, I was cocking an eyebrow at this Catholic Kunoichi plot. I’m still cocking an eyebrow at it, but thankfully, the episode takes the themes deeper than vampire slaying.

Wait, no it doesn’t. It just takes the vampire slaying theme really, really deep. I won’t even try to cover all the themes touched on here. I can’t and keep things coherent. I’m surprised the episode could. But let’s cover what we shall, shall we?

You’re going to think this is strange, but the day I watched this episode, without knowing a thing about it or even remembering the previous week’s teaser, I had been having a conversation with myself in the car that morning about the Bible’s Old and New Testament proscriptions against eating the blood of animals and the inherently blasphemous nature of vampire myths. Because, doesn’t everyone?

Since said conversation has proven oddly (divinely?) relevant to the episode at hand, let me share a few verses surprisingly relevant to this conversation. Bear with me.

Leviticus 17:10-13, 14 (NLT)

“And if any native Israelite or foreigner living among you eats or drinks blood in any form, I will turn against that person and cut him off from the community of your people, for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible. That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood—neither you nor the foreigners living among you.’… The life of every creature is in its blood. That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood, for the life of any creature is in its blood.’ So whoever consumes blood will be cut off from the community.

Here we see God forbid His people to eat blood for two reasons. One, in its blood is the life that God Himself gave it. To eat the blood is to disrespect not merely the life, but the One who gave the life. Two, blood is provided as atonement, which is a $10 word that means to pay the price for a sin committed. Ergo, the innocent bull’s blood is shed for the sins you committed so that you yourself don’t have to die for them even though you deserve to. Blood is the only price that can be paid for sin.

John 6:51-58 New Living Translation (NLT)

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked.

So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”

If you’re saying “WHAT?” right about now, join a couple thousand years’ worth of multitudes before you. Unsurprisingly, most of Jesus’ disciples abandoned Him after this. But Jesus is speaking in spiritual terms, not physical ones, His point being that in the same way people eat food to live, we must feed off of Him to live spiritually and eternally.

You’re starting to see the relevance to our X-Files discussion, yes???

Matthew 26:26-28 (NLT)

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

Finally, not only is Jesus’ flesh and blood the life source provided for all of mankind, but His innocent blood is sacrificed as a payment for mankind’s sins. In other words, the innocent takes the punishment for the guilty so that the guilty don’t have to be punished for their own sins. The innocent is sacrificed in order for the guilty to live.

Whew! I know that was a lot. But we had to get on the same page with all most some of writer Karen Nielsen’s myriad Biblical allusions before we could go any further.

Anyway, this moment of breaking bread and drinking wine that Jesus first shared with His disciples is what’s known in Christianity as the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, or the Eucharist among other names. Jesus’ disciples still commemorate His death this way. Now, Catholic Christians believe that during the Eucharist, the wafer and wine that Christ speaks of here materially and substantially, and through no small sacred mystery, become the body and blood of Christ. This belief is called transubstantiation.

Now we can clearly see the parallels being made between the cannibalism in the opening scene, not only the literal licking of a putrid pancreas, but the cannibalism of one human being’s organs for another human being’s survival, be that human being an aging starlet or a nameless patient in a hospital, and Scully’s participation in the Eucharist.

If the innocent dying for the guilty is a spiritual principle and even Scully takes part in the body and blood of Christ, Scully, who by the end prays to Mulder rather than God, is Barbara Beaumont really so evil?

YES.

If you remember without scrolling up however many pages I’ve been venting my Phile emotions, blood is sacred for two (heavily simplified) reasons: 1. It contains within itself life given by God which man has no right to desecrate. 2. Blood is the only thing that can pay for sin. It’s blood that pays for sin in both the Old and New Testaments and blood is forbidden to be consumed in both the Old and the New Testaments (ref. Acts 15:28-29).

What is a vampire? It’s a creature that should be dead but keeps itself unnaturally and blasphemously alive by mocking Christ’s sacrifice for sin and further mocking its Creator by feeding on a life He made. Welcome, Barbara Beaumont. Come on down to Crazy Town.

By the by, if you ever wondered why Dracula was afraid of crucifixes and sacramental bread, it’s because everything he was and did was in violation of God’s natural and spiritual laws. Now you know. Tell a friend.

So, this is an episode that toys with cannibalism but is really about the physical and spiritual implications of vampirism. And might I add, it’s a much more interesting treatment of vampirism than the dreck that was “3” (2×7), which naturally, I skipped during my most recent rewatch.

For that matter, if we’re going back, “Our Town” (2×24) also treated cannibalism as another form of vampirism that provided the gateway to eternal youth for its practitioners, only blood wasn’t touched upon, visually or otherwise, so much or so often as it is here.

Wait. I forgot my comparison to Scully. Rewind. She’s Catholic again? Didn’t she just?… Wasn’t there just?… That whole “no evil” speech… I just… Mmm. Kay.

Anyway, Scully is fueling herself on the blood of Jesus (Really, she’s just reaffirming an ambiguous faith in faith itself, but why split hairs?). She’s not violating any natural or spiritual principles by participating in the Eucharist. She’s a Catholic in good standing and no Barbara Beaumont. May Scully live forever.

Mulder, though, he knows he’s a reprobate. He’s my favorite fictional reprobate ever. Mulder doesn’t believe in God, he believes in Scully. This is something I probably don’t find sweet the way that many Philes do, but I do get it. It’s very human. (It’s not quite where we left Mulder’s character development in “The Truth” (9×19/20) or I Want to Believe, but I’ve given up on continuity. You can’t be disappointed if you don’t care.) And it’s consistent with the nature of their relationship over the years. Scully, for her part, privately whispers her prayer for their future to Mulder rather than God. And even though I have my personal misgivings that Barbara Beaumont and Dr. Luvenis aren’t the only sacrilegiously attached couple who have outstayed their welcome, HOW ABOUT THIS IS PRETTY MUCH HOW THEIR RELATIONSHIP SHOULD BE ALL THE TIME, THANK YOU, CHRIS CARTER.

Seriously, though. Does Mulder worship Scully any less than Dr. Luvenis worshipped Barbara Beaumont?

Verdict:

With no intention of making a perverse pun, I finally have some meat to chew on. I have something interesting enough to muse over. It was not too much to ask.

This doesn’t just challenge your gag reflex like “F. Emasculata” (2×22) or make you squirm in your seat like “Roadrunners” (8×5). My very soul recoils at certain scenes here. Much of it felt over the top and unnecessary. And yet, I’m here to tell you that in terms of writing, I think it’s the most well thought out episode of the season and possibly the whole revival (if I had the stomach to rewatch all of Season 10).

It has to end sometime, Scully. And if this little shenanigans Chris Carter once called a breakup had to end, I’m glad it ended this way. And if The X-Files has to end (I’ll say a prayer for that), let it end with this, one last thoroughly thought out episode, ‘cause we all know the next one’s not gonna be it.

Oh yes, there are the parallels between The X-Files unnaturally extending itself through this revival and Barbara Beaumont sitting in the dark, reliving her heyday on a loop. No, nothing lasts forever.

Except for eternity in heaven or eternity in hell.

“I made a choice – It was mine. I’d gladly trade my lifetime here for an eternity in heaven.”

A-

Just for Kicks:

By the by, another conversation I had had earlier in the day before I watched this episode? About cults and about how one of the hallmarks of them is absolute control by a teacher who knows everything you don’t. This time I was actually talking with someone outside my own head, though.

Once again, Mulder’s uncanny intuition is on overdrive.

What is reverse aging when you spend your pretty-faced life in a lightless coffin of a tenement apartment in New York City with a naked, dirty crowd of grown adults who use words like “dinnie”? Go ahead and kill me.

Barbara Beaumont bordered on too comical at times, and crossed that border into farcical during her little musical recital. I confess, this took me out of the episode a bit. And yet, mad props to Season 11 for using diegetic music in in two out of its ten episodes. Y’all know I’m a sucker for that.

Speaking of Barbara Beaumont, did the actress that played her remind anyone else of Mila Kunis?

Still, no one has answered the question: Where did Juliet learn how to be a ninja?

“Every human being has a time bomb built into their genes.” TRUE. And in more than one way. The Bible calls it original sin. Like yeast in a loaf of bread, decay by a more palatable name, it’s eventual corruption is built in it from the beginning.

Scully would, could, should be dead after her fall through that dumbwaiter and yet Mulder was pretty much chilling.

Continuity Control: During Season 1, Mulder wore glasses while reading more times than I have the patience to post links for, not least of which was the very first shot we ever had of Mulder in the Pilot (1×79).

What a coincidence that Juliet comes walking into the church that Scully’s praying at. Of all the diocese in all the towns in all the world, you walk into mine.

Am I the only one? I’m a veteran X-Phile, but sometimes the cinematography was so dark I, mercifully, couldn’t make out what was happening.

There are moments of supreme tension here. I actually partially covered my eyes when Barbara Beaumont leaned in to kiss one of her minions. I was afraid I was about to witness a bloodbath.

Juliet and Olivia’s last name, Bocanegra, “black mouth”. I wonder if there’s a history to that name I don’t know about? Or am I just supposed to be visualizing a mouth black with blood? Eww.

Best Quotes:

You may have noticed that this section of my reviews has been neglected for a while now. That’s because there hasn’t been anything worth quoting. But somehow, this time around, there was so much great dialogue I had to pick and choose and still left some great quotes out. Scully and Mulder have the best banter they’ve had all season. Nay, since the final episode that awaits is none other than the inventively named “My Struggle IV” (11×10), I think it’s safe to officially call this the best banter of the season. Period.

Scully: Are those new? Bifocals?

Mulder: They’re not bifocals, Scully. They’re… progressives. They’re called progressive lenses.

Scully: No need to get defensive.

Mulder: I’m not defensive, I’m just…

Scully: Presbyopia’s a natural part of the aging process.

————————–

Mulder: You know, sometimes I wonder why we keep doing it, Scully, in the face of all this indifference and presbyopia… Did you get your hair cut?

Scully: …Are you kidding me?

—————————

Mulder: Now I know why I’m not a Christian, Scully. My parents never got me a puppy.

—————————

Scully: You always bear north, Mulder, no matter which way or how hard the wind blows against you.

—————————

Scully: You think she’s involved?

Mulder: I think she is. My gut tells me she is. And my gut doesn’t need glasses.

 

Familiar 11×8: That’s it. It’s too perfect.


 

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Homie don’t play ‘dat.

 

Before I watched this, I had just finished “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18). I’ve been binge-watching The X-Files, but I’ll get into that later.

Anyway. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t get any cornier during the original run than “Teso Dos Bichos”, so if this episode couldn’t prove itself an improvement over that… Well.

One thing that I’ve noticed this rewatch is how, especially in the early seasons, The X-Files made its bones by treading a fine line between “now you see it” and “now you don’t.” Every case left room for plausible deniability, be it from the mouth of Scully or the U.S. government. Every resolution left everything unresolved. Every unmistakable evil could be dismissed as a relatively benign phenomenon. For instance, the possessed doll in “Chinga” (5×10) could easily be mistaken for a charming antique. And then… came Mr. Chuckleteeth. Obvious much?

First of all, who would give a child such a nightmarish doll in the first place? I mean, tell me Mr. Chuckleteeth isn’t the Devil. He makes Chucky look huggable. But, hey, no one seems to be alarmed by the faces of those Bibbletiggles either.

I’m getting my grump on not so that I can make this a rant, but so that I can get it out of the way. You know what? I’m not mad at “Familiar”. As far as the revival goes, it’s a definite hit. Of course, the revival doesn’t go very far… but let me stop.

At least this week I was actually mildly curious as to who was behind it all, which is a vast improvement over every other viewing I’ve had this season. That said, I suspected it was Anna from the beginning and between being right and her only mildly nefarious motives, the ending was somewhat of a letdown.

But again, going back to my rewatch, this episode feels mostly in line with the creepy, mysterious, small-town vibe that characterized Seasons 2 and 3 in particular. Even if I hadn’t been bingeing on the good stuff recently, I still would have been forcefully reminded of “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14). Here’s another town where the history of the New England witch trials run deep and practitioners of this sacrilegious heritage unleash an evil they can’t control. “Did you really expect to conjure up the Devil and expect him to behave?” And here’s another town, like in “Syzygy” (3×13) that (almost) opens with the funeral of a local boy, killed by “black magic”.

I dunno, though. Despite all the creepy smog, blue lighting, and the distinct turn in the right direction that the dialogue takes here, I can’t help but feel that there’s something still distinctly wanting. The form has returned, for which I am grateful. But I’m missing the substance. I’m still missing the heart and soul of the show somewhere.

Verdict:

Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. But Mr. Chuckleteeth isn’t the only thing that’s obvious. The X-Files was never great shakes at social commentary. “Teliko” (4×4) anyone?

I resent Mulder’s implication of “small town justice”. In other words, we’re more likely to hear of injustice in a small town where people are stupid and less sophisticated than… who? The overpaid government workers disguised as bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.?

Anyway, I found “Familiar” a little too familiar, a little too “on the nose”, if you will. But “on the nose” is better than “way off the mark” or, my favorite “so far apart from the mark you never even saw it nor realized it existed.”

I’ll take it.

B+

Clown Shoes:

Looks who’s playing a police officer! It’s the dude who played a police officer in every episode of The X-Files ever. Hello, Roger Cross. 24 crossover like whaaaat.

And it’s Jason Gray-Stanford from Monk. Nice beard.

So now Mulder has a son again, huh? Thanks for that. And thanks for teaching me how not to care.

That “cauldron” joke Scully made in front of the playground, did it feel a little insensitive and out of character to anyone else?

“He’s potentially John Wayne Gacy with a monkey.” Again, this sounds like what would have been a Mulder line.

A magic circle of salt. Say it with me: “Fresh Bones” (2×15).

If the suspect was on record as a sexual predator, even if he was only guilty of youthful indiscretion with someone a little younger than he was, wouldn’t he have been forbidden to work with children? I feel like a career as a children’s entertainer would’ve been about the last thing he’d have done.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Thanks for backing me up out there.

Mulder: Yeah, you’re my homie.

Rm9sbG93ZXJz 11×7: Intruder alert.


 

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Run before the computers start talking for you too.

 

First, I just want to say it: The title of this episode is obnoxious. Apparently, it translates to “Followers” in Base64. Which makes sense as I was wondering why the name of the unmanned restaurant Mulder and Scully ate at was “Follower” or “Followers” in Japanese. How’s that for a heavy-handed hint?

Second, I have to say it: I saw Kristen Cloke’s name in the credits and cold shuddered. Yes, I’m happy to see women writers on The X-Files. No, I haven’t forgotten “The Field Where I Died” (4×5) and the love affair between her and Glen Morgan that birthed it. Yes, I wish them all the best. No, I would prefer not to be reminded of a previous television trauma.

Third, I’m going to confess: The reason this review is late is not that I didn’t watch [insert name here] on the night that it aired and not because I didn’t type up my initial musings that same evening. No. I haven’t bothered to post this review or the review for “Familiar” (11×8) because I’ve been too busy binge-watching The X-Files, The Real X-Files, to stop and slide backwards (forwards?) into entertainment darkness.

In my defense, my intentions were innocent. The overall taste of disappointment and disillusionment this revival has left in my mouth drove me back to the Pilot (1×79). I had to make sure I had seen what I knew I had once seen. I’ve been obsessed with this show for two decades for a reason, dangit. I know there was magic here once.

So off to the Pilot I went. And you know what? There it was. The Magic. Or should I say, there were several different types of Magic gelled to form an overall Magic. Well, one magical exploration led to another, and another, and another. And before I knew it, I was popping episodes like Pringles and I couldn’t stop. I mean, you don’t understand. This was one of those binge-watches where you’re falling asleep and you keep nodding off and rewinding and nodding off and rewinding because your mind won’t let you rest until you know what happens at the end of the episode.

You see the curiosity here? I already know what happens at the end of every episode.

My word. This stuff is like visual crack.

Anyway.

Back to the cold reality of The X-Files in 2018. Writers Shannon Hamblin and Kristen Cloke are taking us where every sci-fi franchise known to man, including The X-Files, has already taken us. (Though I still contend that The X-Files was never truly science fiction, only touching on it occasionally, but was instead more of a romantic mythical quest wrapped up in a paranormal fantasy.) I still remember some bogusly deep paper for a film class in college about some random 70s movie where the AI that ran a “smart house” ran amok a la HAL 9000. You know what? Scully’s Roomba-by-another-name is no HAL. And you know what else? After this latest binge-fest I’ve been on, I think my initial takeaway from this episode was correct, that this episode is too based in reality to recreate the fantastical magic that The X-Files had at the height of its powers. If I laughed at all, it’s because I was ruefully reminded of my own father’s struggles with Alexa, not because I was joyfully taken by surprise. If you’re going to go somewhere with a story, go somewhere right on the edge of an unseen world and partially peel back the curtain, because I’m sitting in a room with a Smartphone, a Roomba, and goodness knows what else and I’m neither afraid nor intimidated since I already know it’s not that bad. Sheesh.

Verdict:

This experiment in minimal dialogue is a cool concept, especially on a famously talky show. But after a minute, it felt forced and gimmicky. They get trapped in a building together and don’t talk? Really?

And I dunno. Once upon a time, Japan was associated with all things high tech. But once upon a time, I went everywhere with my Sony Walkman.

This whole idea would have been a lot cooler in the 90s. And in the 90s, the show would have been in full swing, just waiting for someone to toy with its status quo a la Darin Morgan. A high-concept episode like this needs to exist in the context of a more established series (because let’s face it, the Revival is a new, independent animal), one that’s gliding along like a well-oiled machine. And if it had, it might have worked better.

Then again, I stayed up late the other night because I was more interested in and entertained by the famously low-tech and talky “Space” (1×8) than I was by this entire episode. #TruFax

Even the ending felt falsely sweet. I wish someone would stop feeding me Sweet ‘N Low and telling me it’s sugar.

F

Artificial Intelligence:

When I saw this title on my DVR, I seriously thought it was a glitch.

“You have arrived at your final destination.” I see you, Glen Morgan.

In 20+ years, the voice of Artificial Intelligence hasn’t improved since “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6). No, it hasn’t improved since 2001: A Space Odyssey. Tell me, do computers have to sound like computers?

The Scully Hair has returned sans fanfare or explanation. I guess that’s how it should be.

Scully laughed! Finally.

Scully’s wearing sneakers again for the first time I can recall since Season 3. Unless… I’m trying to think back to “Chinga” (5×10). Those weren’t sneakers, were they?

“Never again!” I see you, Glen Morgan.

Mulder has a map in his car? I didn’t know they still made those.

And now we know: Mulder and Scully aren’t living together.

Who would have walked into that Blade-Runner-on-Lysol restaurant to begin with?

“This Man” makes his second appearance this season.

“Queequeg.” I see you, Glen Morgan.

Does Mulder normally keep a baseball bat by the door?

The warehouse scene with the slowly encroaching robots feels more like something out of Dr. Who. Exterminate.

I thought the running vibrator joke was crass, and it is, but it’s also oddly relevant:

Vulnerable vibrator: Security researchers find flaw in connected toy

I get it. The AIs are like our children. Our followers. They learn by our example, through observing us. Yeeeeaaah, okay. Then why when I type “I’ll have the fish” in Japanese into Google Translate does it still think I’m saying “I am a fish”? How about you follow context?

Best Quote:

Mulder: Why is your house so much nicer than mine?

*Seriously, though. Where would Scully have found this California-style midcentury modern masterpiece in the suburbs of D.C.? Scully has spent most of her adult life working as a grunt for the federal government. Stop this nonsense. Thanks.

Kitten 11×6: He’s a good man.


 

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Do you see the dead person?

 

My first thought at the opening of this episode: FINALLY. A Skinner-centric X-File.

My second thought: Hey, that guy looks like a chubby Haley Joel Osment.

(!!!!!)

I guess this was just an episode for 90s reunions.

The last time we saw Kersh in “The Truth” (9×19/20), he was on our side. Color me confused. I guess when the Super Soldiers magically disappeared he began to doubt Mulder and Scully’s conspiracy theories? Weird.

What’s weirder is that I walked away from a Skinner episode without feeling like I understood Skinner any better. I mean, okay. I get that nuggets of government distrust were implanted deep down within his soul many years ago. And? So? This explains why he famously headbutted Mr. X so many years ago? This explains why he sold his soul to CSM for the cure to Scully’s cancer? This explains why he cradled a drugged and beaten Mulder in his arms on a dark and snowy night?

I know I’m being difficult and I don’t really mean it. “Kitten” doesn’t try to kid us that Skinner’s love for Mulder and Scully is primarily based on his latent doubts about the good old U. S. of A. But this just may explain why he never seemed completely at ease with CSM in his office even before he outed himself as an ally of the X-Files. Frankly, I always thought it was because he was a decent man with a moral compass who didn’t like being bossed around. I suppose it could have gone deeper.

Even so, outside of some internal emotional conflict over the war in Vietnam (and how many Americans already share those?) I honestly don’t feel like I know Skinner any better after this. He has the same moral core I always thought he did, even if his duty sometimes ran counter to his personal feelings. That, my friends, is what you call “a soldier”.

Regardless of how much we did or didn’t find out, I’m grateful for any extra attention paid to our too long unacknowledged third lead. Skinman for the win.

This episode, though… it’s just kind of “there”.

The Mulderisms are on point. Thank you for that, Gabe Rotter. But after watching and rewatching it, I can confirm that nothing much happens. Oh, a throwback to the mind-control cropdusters of “Blood” (2×3) happens, but not much else.

Wait, let me take that back. Mulder and Scully kinda sorta come to their senses without ever actually apologizing for the way they’ve treated their closest ally all season. Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

Verdict:

Let’s put to bed this ridiculous lack of trust Mulder and Scully have been showing Skinner lately, shall we? Because it is ridiculous. Walter Sergei Skinner has put not only his career but his very life on the line too many times for these two for them to treat him the way they have been.

The monster? Meh. It’s a half-caff episode of mythology disconnected government conspiracy mixed with a serial killer style “Monster” of the Week. Neither aspect of the mystery faired all that well.

As an episode of The X-Files, it falls flat for lack of plot. But at least it isn’t flat-out horrible.

C+

Uninventive Nicknames:

This town looks too big to only have one doctor. Just look at the number of cubbies in the morgue.

Okay, who can explain to me the tooth thing? I realize it’s a side effect of the gas. But why are all these people losing teeth without showing any symptoms of visions or violence? Have they been exposed to a more sophisticated version of the gas that the government is just waiting for the right opportunity to trigger? Was Skinner exposed before or after he came looking for Kitten? Is Kersh coming back???

If this has suddenly and understandably given you an itch for Skinner-centric episodes that you want to scratch, “Avatar” (3×21), “Zero Sum” (4×21), and “S.R. 819” (6×10) are all waiting at a Fox.com near you.

And, yes. They’re all better than this episode.

Funny, they’re all cases where Skinner’s in trouble and Mulder and (except for one instance) Scully have to save his reputation and/or his life. Pattern much?

I appreciate the diegetic use of John Cale.

Ghouli 11×5: It was in this borderland that I found myself frozen.


 

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You can shed a tear, Mulder. Sheesh.

 

I know it looks like I forgot, but I didn’t. I wanted to forget, but I didn’t.

Oh, no. I did my duty and watched “Ghouli” twice within the first 24 hours of it airing. I watched it a third time before finalizing these musings. I’d like to tell you that time and distance has settled all dissatisfactions. They have not.

I mean, listen. You don’t want to hear me kvetch. I don’t want to hear me kvetch. I’ve kvetched enough. And frankly, I’m not annoyed enough to kvetch. Not really. It seems these days when it comes to The X-Files, I’m either staring at my screen under half lids of bored bemusement, or I’ve closed my eyes completely to ask God for patience. This must be that state of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness that Scully so duly described to us in one of her famous voiceovers.

I never thought I’d say this, but I half miss how ticked off Season 9 made me. At least it gave me a reason to feel passionate.

But enough about my cold love. You’ve come here to discuss William – the boy who once was lost but now is found… sort of. I think it helps to know nothing whatsoever about an episode before watching it. That’s what I did here so that I had no preconceived notions or expectations, good or bad. I didn’t even know this was definitely going to involve William until Scully finds him lying “dead”.

And he is dead. Because whatever else happened or will happen, a funeral has been held for the William of my imagination. Ladies and gentlemen, William is a punk.

I kid. The William of my imagination isn’t dead. #headcanonwins

But I’m not kidding about Mulder (?) and Scully’s lost alien-miracle-super baby being a punk. To be sure, he’s a two-timing, game-playing punk. Scully still seems rather fond of him, though. She has her reasons. In fact, here’s the story of that lovely lady:

Once upon a time, in an episode the excellence of which seems an alternate universe away now, Scully lost Mulder and found herself pregnant in “Requiem” (7×22). The mom-to-be kept mum about it (get it?), but most everyone assumed the unnamed father was the improbably named Fox Mulder. In “Per Manum” (8×8), two possibilities are raised at once. One, Mulder impregnated Scully through IVF, you know, as a friend. Two, Scully was made pregnant by men who, what else? Were trying to create an alien-human hybrid. This second possibility remained, despite the vague assurances of episodes like “Existence” (8×21) (RIP the majesty of MSR) and hung over William’s head all of Season 9. Oh, and then there was the whole plot line about him being the New Messiah, come to bring salvation to the human race, but I don’t have time to go over that. If 1013 can ignore it, so can I. Anyway, by the time William is “cured” of his Carrie-like abilities and abandoned without so much as a few days to think it over, “William” (9×17) assumes Mulder’s paternity. Scully even calls him “our baby” to Mulder in “The Truth” (9×19/20) (italics hers). I need not mention IWTB, or Season 10 of the revival, or the whole “Mulder needs stem cells from his son to survive the alien apocalypse” plotline.

I need not mention them, but I bet you wonder why I do. Why rehash this nonsense at all? Because I want to know when in the good Green Goblin William became the product of experiments conducted by a Dr. Masao Matsumoto, formerly of Virginia. No, I want to know how William got to Virginia in the first place.

As to my first point of bewilderment, I’m sure this Dr. Matsumoto plot has something to do with the nefarious hints dropped by CSM that he’s somehow William’s “father”, that William is the product of science experiments conducted on a pregnant Scully, not a miracle given by God to Mulder and Scully after years of pain and heartache. As to the second, Wyoming, anyone?

Sigh. Anyway, so much for the buffalo flag. And so much for William’s adoption protecting him from the government that wanted to kill him. At no point is the irony of his current predicament addressed, considering Scully gave him up only because he was in danger. Then again, I think the failure of this episode is that there’s too much ground to cover in a MOTW. Think of it: Mulder and Scully find William. They find William dead. They believe William is a murderer who committed suicide. William is reunited with his biological parents. He loses his loving adoptive parents when they’re murdered by the people after him. William is discovering his superpowers. Mulder and Scully discover their son (still) has superpowers. He’s a regular Pusher in the making. Mulder and Scully kinda sorta confirm their son is the result of government experiments. William is a teenager all alone in the world and on the run for his life. William is a two-timing punk.

Call me Mariah Carey right now because I cahn’t, dahlings.

Verdict:

Who feels this is anticlimactic?

I’m raising both hands. And lifting a toe.

Maybe it’s not William’s fault he’s a punk. Maybe it’s James Wong and 1013’s fault for stuffing too much in the emotional bag of this episode rather than neatly unpacking it. Maybe if we had even a second to watch William mourn his life, either the life he had or the one he never got to have. Maybe if 1013 didn’t stubbornly insist on keeping Mulder emotionally distant from the William situation.

All hail Gillian Anderson and the one moment of this episode that felt real, true, and well, interesting.

C

Snowflakes:

I always expected William to be a much more powerful version of Gibson Praise. At least all my hopes weren’t completely disappointed.

I’m having “Dod Kalm” (2×19) flashbacks in here.

The last time a “Chimera” (7×16) came up, I was witness to some excellent Mulder and Scully banter. *nostalgia break*

James Wong steps in the director’s chair. I’m ready.

As many complaints as I’ve had this revival, let me take a moment to salute the very authentic sounding pre-case car convo.

I see a trenchcoat and I can’t understand why neither Mulder nor Scully is in it.

Of course, their child plays baseball.

Naturally, Mulder would question his son’s lack of a porn habit.

All these subdued reactions are subduing me.

Call me untitillated at the idea of CSM holding court in Skinner’s office again.

I’ve lost track of how many alien experiments William is supposed to have been connected to, either directly or through his parents. And now with this Project Crossroads, I’ve also lost interest.

William has two girlfriends. He says things like “Oh, babe.” Oh, really?

I can’t believe Scully’s not suspicious of that odd little man who keeps whispering sweet vagueries in her ear.

What’s this “bigger picture” William speaks of?

The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat 11×4: Nobody knows for sure.


 

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Fox Freakin’ Mulder.

 

I seem to fall into this weird noman’s land when I watch a Darin Morgan episode. Either I adore it at first watch as I did with my eternal favorites “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) and “Humbug” (2×20), or I’m not at all sure how I feel about it other than what registers as a vague feeling of malaise after watching 45 minutes of existential angst wrapped up in 35 layers of laughter, like when you’ve overdosed on dark chocolate that’s too sweet. The latter happened after I watched “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20), “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” (10×3), and now I’m getting that old familiar feeling after watching his most recent (and final?) episode, the title of which I’m both too lazy and too time-pressed to type out.

Now, let me disclaim again that I don’t dislike any of the above episodes, even the ones that aren’t really my bag. But I’m pretty sure Darin Morgan has no moral foundation.

I say this not because I’m not a fan because I am, and not because he’s an evil man because how would I know? I say it because his episodes, even the ones I adore, have a distinct theme: There is no truth, or if there is, you can’t know it. Therefore, eat, drink, and be crazy and maybe tomorrow you’ll die.

Our personal clash of worldviews notwithstanding, Darin Morgan’s attitude seems to fly in the face of all that sustains The X-Files, lovingly poking fun at the entire philosophical premise behind it, which is exactly why his episodes work so well on Chris “I can’t take myself seriously enough” Carter’s show. It’s like Morgan’s winking at us that this whole search for the truth jag Carter’s on has ever been ridiculous. We love Morgan for it. And if this revival has been inconsistent, sometimes surreally so, at least this hasn’t changed. Morgan‘s the only one brave enough to say that Mulder’s a pompous jerk, but we love him anyway. And this whole quest for the truth can’t go anywhere because there’s nothing to find, but let’s enjoy the ride.

You know what else is consistent about Darin Morgan? He has this strange way of bringing out the best in the characters. Maybe it’s not really the characters, it’s David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. It’s like they come alive when Morgan writes a script. Maybe they’re as excited as we are that they’ve been given interesting material to play with. And right about now, I’d like to get on my knees and thank Darin Morgan for bringing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson back to life. No. Scratch that. I’d like to thank Darin Morgan for bringing Mulder and Scully back to life.

Most of this episode, particularly their scenes together and the dialogue, felt like it could have taken place during the series proper. Let me repeat that: This didn’t feel like an Alt Reality X-File. 

Then again, it didn’t feel like a classic in the making either. It’s cute and it’s funny… in parts… but nothing much actually happens. I could’ve used a little action.

Then again, I’m still happier than I have been so far this season, so….

The Truth is Out There?

Who else thinks this theme was slightly subversive? Subversive as in, “You think The X-Files was as great as you remember, but it’s not us, it’s you. You remembered wrong.”

Well, I do not suffer from the Minghella or the Mandela Effect. And the only parallel universe I believe in is my headcanon. I have had the rewatches, Darin. The magic is exactly what I remember it to be. No, our collective memories aren’t the problem.

I’m like Scully. I want to remember how it was. I want to remember how it all was. And I feel like I’ve eaten the Jello mold of the revival when I should have pulled a Scully and let it go, let the nostalgia reign supreme without interference from a wobbly, artificially flavored reality.

It’s time to face the facts, guys. This is the end of the X-Files. But maybe the point wasn’t to find the truth but to find each other. For no matter where we go in our lives, we will always have the memories of our time together and no one can take those away or alter them in such a way to make us doubt that they actually happened.

B+

Losing the Plot:

Chuck Burke!!!!

The look Mulder gives Scully in the car after he says “innit?” I could live for that.

So all I have to do to get a ride in the Ghostbusters car is go crazy? ‘Cause I can do that.

I’m sure there’s a place for all of us Philes – all us Reggies – in the Spotniz Sanitarium.

What’s with the obvious political references this season? As someone who’s neither red nor blue, they’re not impactful. Worse, they’re not funny.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Let me get this straight. When it cools, it forms into three different layers with three different textures, all from the same mix?

Scully: [nods]

Mulder: How has this never been an X-File?

—————————–

Scully: But that’s your secret rendezvous signal. I don’t want to intrude.

—————————–

Dr. They: Who’s hiding? I’m in the phonebook.