Tag Archives: 3

Alpha 6×16: Don’t mind him, he’ll go on forever.


Bad dog.

“Alpha” holds a special place in my heart.

I realize that probably sounds strange to you, so allow me to explain.

About a year and a half ago, after I had recently completed the rewatch that spawned this one, I was nostalgically flipping through my book of X-Files DVDs, bemoaning the fact that I had watched every episode I wanted to watch and there was nothing left. Lo and behold, my eyes dropped down and I saw something I had never noticed before.

“Alpha”… What’s an “Alpha”?

I searched my extensively detailed mental database of X-Files and I could not for the life of me remember the plot of this episode.

Did I miss this? Is that possible?? What in the heck is “Alpha”???

So of course, I popped the DVD back in the player thinking I must be having a mental block, possibly due to low levels of caffeine in the blood.

Sweet Mulder on a cracker… have I ever even seen this episode?

You see, that’s when I realized I have this habit of pulling the DVD from the player directly after “Arcadia” (6×13). Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.  Do not watch “Alpha”.

There are certainly episodes that I’ve been known to skip out of dislike, others I pass over due to impatience. But “Alpha” remains the only X-File whose actual existence I’ve wholly forgotten. It’s a dubious distinction indeed. In fact, I’m not even positive I saw this episode on its first run because my memories of it are so vague they may be retroactive counterfeits. Perhaps the VCR malfunctioned one Sunday night. I’ll have to dig out my old VHS tapes one day to be sure.

The benefit to this oversight, and there was a benefit, is that it essentially became a Lost X-File for me. Imagine waking up one day and finding out there’s another Mulder and Scully adventure out there for you to enjoy, one that you never knew about. Score!

Right?

Wrong.

I wanted to love “Alpha”. I wanted to have a new X-File to treasure. But yegads, I couldn’t. I suspected that if I couldn’t remember it there was probably a good reason and my instincts were correct.

Even on this rewatch, when I honestly tried more than ever to like it, it only got worse. Coming after the pitch perfection of “Monday” (6×16) and the fun of “Arcadia”, its failures are especially hard to accept. I found myself shaking my head involuntarily with irritated boredom before the episode was through. Frankly, it had me thinking nostalgic thoughts about “3” (2×7)…

This is our second episode in a row with an underwhelming monster. But whereas “Arcadia” had copious amounts of humor to fall back on, “Alpha” has no such crutch.

As I was watching this episode (for what may be only the second time ever), I started to smell the distinctively noxious odor that comes out of the kitchen when too many cooks are cooking in it. I wasn’t there and I can’t prove it, but I highly doubt that 70% of the script belonged to writer Jeffrey Bell, though the credits may tell me otherwise. The script feels disjointed, as if several different people worked on it, all with different points of focus. At least, that’s the excuse I’m giving because not much else can explain this fiasco.

But I’m complaining without giving any details. So… “Alpha”. This is an episode about territoriality, both human and non-human. There’s a noticeable amount of pissing and marking going on, but the hind legs being lifted up aren’t owned by any alpha male, but by a couple of frustrated women, one aggressive and the other passive-aggressive. One is Scully, the other is the newly introduced Karin Berquist, one of Mulder’s shadowy internet friends.

Karin is a socially maladapted loner who would rather be, and has been, living in the wild with wolves than walking on two legs amongst her fellow humans. Probably because he’s socially maladapted as well, and certainly as bright, she’s made a connection to Mulder and it’s because of information she feeds him that Mulder and Scully are on this case in the first place.

Karin, Karin, Karin. I’m all for geeks and losers, but Karin is a little too awkward to be sympathetic. Sadly, she’s just annoying. Which is a shame because I feel I should be rooting for this woman a little. After all, she’s dying, she has no life, and a man like Fox Mulder is giving her some attention. Can I blame her for trying to drag this situation out? However, her manner is off-putting. I realize it’s supposed to be, that she’s written that way, but I don’t believe it serves the story as well as if she had been either a clear object of empathy or a full on nemesis for Scully.

Too bad Mulder has man ears and not dog ears, or else he would have been able to hear the high pitched sounds coming from the mental catfight between Scully and Karin. Men are so oblivious to the ever-present subtext between females. Now, I know that it would be easy to interpret Scully’s actions here as the product of jealousy, but I don’t believe jealousy is what motivates her in any real sense. Mulder isn’t sexually, or even emotionally, interested in Karin and Scully knows that. Scully is being territorial, protective even, over poor, ignorant Mulder who is about to be caught in a web of womanly wiles. Scully essentially gives her the talk that big brothers give to their little sisters’ dates: I’m watching you. See, she perceives in a way that only a fellow woman can what Karin’s true motivations are and she resents them, not because they exist but because of Karin’s covert methods. Oh, and because Scully has been dragged all the way across country to California, probably on a red-eye flight since they arrived on the scene so soon, all so Karin can get the chance to moon over Mulder in person. I’d be a little resentful too.

The scene where Scully confronts her with this knowledge, where she gives her the old “I’m watching you” schtick, falls flat, however. Not because Scully isn’t a force to be messed with, but because Karin isn’t really worth having a woman-to-woman talk with. She’s no Diana Fowley. Scully’s righteous indignation is wasted on a woman who barely registers as human.

Alright. Enough griping about Karin because I’ve decided she’s not anywhere near my least favorite aspect of this episode. The next contender? Well, that would be the werewolf wannabe itself, the Wanshang Dhole. I’ve said before that The X-Files never handled exotic or foreign myths very well. It’s hard to introduce the audience to an unfamiliar legend and convince them to be afraid of it in the same 45 minute window. It can be done, of course, but it isn’t here. The playful pit bull my aunt used to own was scarier than this Wanshang Dhole, in human or in “canid” form. You can give a dog glowing eyes but you can’t make me fear it.

I was reading that one of the original ideas for this dog tale was to make the X-File about a kid who worked at a dog pound whose anger was expressed through the dogs there. Now, a pack of vicious dogs chasing Mulder and Scully down darkened streets? That could’ve worked. It could’ve been like “D.P.O.” (3×3), only with the SPCA involved.

But even the underwhelming monster in this Monster of the Week isn’t what dooms “Alpha” for me. It’s the painfully lackluster “climax” of the episode. Scully’s napping and Mulder’s reading a magazine while a mortally ill woman who tricked them into inaction with a see-thru lie uses an even more see-thru trap to easily defeat what’s supposed to be the smartest dog ever known to man.

I can’t even with this stuff.

I’ve read another draft of the script. I know there were better ideas out there both for the climax and for the episode in general. Maybe budget and time constraints forced them to resort to this nonsense, I don’t know. But it’s a doggone shame.

Verdict:

The best few minutes in “Alpha” come right after the opening credits when Mulder regales both Scully and us with a handful of bad dog jokes. Yes, even they fall flat, but this is the first time we’ve seen Mulder and Scully back in the basement office since they were reassigned to the X-Files. It looks a little bare, but Mulder’s hard at work making it feel homey again. It’s just missing one thing…

Mulder’s I Want to Believe poster.

Now, it’s about time we got it back. It’s just too bad that we get it back at the hands of a less than memorable character. If Karin Berquist is going to go down in history as the person who gave Mulder his poster back I want to have some kind of emotional connection to her. Instead, I spent the last few seconds of the episode resenting her spiritual intrusion into the basement office.

“Alpha” is still better than “Space” (1×8). I’ll give it that… and only that.

D

Claw Marks:

If the cage in the teaser hadn’t been opened and they didn’t know the animal was missing and that it had killed two of his crew, why does the captain or whoever he is say, “I don’t know how this happened. It makes no sense. We found the cage still locked. Two of our men are missing?” It makes no sense to me either.

Lupus is a disease I’ve been around a lot in my life. How Scully, a pathologist, not a rheumatologist, diagnosis this disease with so little information and such ease is beyond me.

This dog is supposed to be so smart, yet he falls into Karin’s trap so easily. And how could she have been sure they’d fall back hard enough to land on the fence post? That fence is some distance from the house.

“I think that I believed her very quickly.” Yes, Mulder, you have a tendency to do that.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Aren’t you going home?
Mulder: I am home. I’m just feathering the nest.

——————-

Scully: What happened to the dog?
Mulder: Dog gone… Dog gone… Doggone.
Scully: Yeah, I got it.

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Mind’s Eye 5×16: I have the same pair of pants.


The blind leading the blind.

First off, in “Mind’s Eye” we have a great guest star in indie movie maven Lili Taylor who gives a performance as the blind yet brazen Marty Glenn that sells the entire episode. I dare say that as solid as the episode is it would have fallen apart with a lesser actress in the central role. Even Mulder and Scully come off more as supporting players in her drama than leads themselves. That’s quite an accomplishment considering the dynamic duo was at the height of their television popularity. I must not be the only one who think so since Lili Taylor was nominated for an Emmy for this performance.

This isn’t the first time Mulder has developed a bit of a platonic crush on a woman who most people would cross the street to avoid. Remember “Oubliette” (3×8)? “The Field Where I Died” (4×5)? Even as early as “Conduit” (1×3) and “3” (2×7) we see Mulder’s unique ability to relate to the women that no one else can and believe them when no one else will. It’s hard not to attribute Mulder’s sympathy toward any Little Girl Lost as a psychological byproduct of losing his sister Samantha at such a young age. It’s hard not to and I wouldn’t try not to because I have no doubt that it is. Still, I also have no doubt that that’s not all it is.

To be sure, it’s easy to see how if by some miracle Samantha returned, after the glow of reunion had faded, would resemble these socially maladapted women to no small degree. If Mowgli resented mankind after being raised by wolves how much more a girl on the cusp of puberty stolen and raised by aliens, let alone by Cigarette-Smoking Man which is another distinct possibility. I’m sure she would feel displaced and misunderstood, the way anyone would who came back from the dead.

But more than that, Mulder himself is like a male version of these women, two steps away from needing a psychiatric intervention. He’s misunderstood, emotionally isolated, jaded and dismissive of people who try to befriend him. The main differences are that Mulder is hopefully proactive, refusing to believe that he can’t change what ails him, and unlike these poor and poorly educated women Mulder is no underdog. He has the power of his position, education, and reading between the lines of his family background, grew up with a decent amount of money to fall back on as well. Maybe that’s why these kinds of women tend to resist his help and maybe that’s why he’s intent on rooting them on.

I wasn’t a big fan of “Oubliette” as it was hard to follow Mulder in his attachment and mentally rally behind a character who walked around as limp as a fish. At least in this episode Marty Glenn has some spice. There are worse emotions than wanting to slap her, like being bored by her altogether.

Verdict:

This episode reminds me of earlier seasons. The resolution is bittersweet rather than satisfying and it’s quiet, without all the typical bells and whistles that we’ve come to expect in episodes of recent seasons. It’s not the most memorable or the most exciting tale, but it is a solid showing in a season that’s especially strong.

One thing that I like is that the writers are getting better at allowing Mulder or Scully to shine for an episode without making the other partner look bad. Mulder connects to Marty without alienating Scully unlike in “Conduit” and “Oubliette” where Scully is antagonistic. In fact, this time around she accepts Mulder’s final hypothesis with in a calm and unsurprised manner. Then again, I suppose it would be disingenuous of her to be taken aback by Mulder’s theories at this late stage in the game.

As I was watching, I remembered originally wanting to dislike this episode because I disliked Marty, but I just couldn’t. True, I’m still not sure I understand Mulder’s emotional response to her, but her story is an interesting one and hey, at least she’s a proactive author of her own tale rather than a passive victim. That’s why out of all the Little Girl Lost episodes this is the only one that passes muster.

B+

Bits and Pieces:

Writer Tim Minear only has one other credit on The X-Files beside this episode, a joint effort with Vince Gilligan, “Kitsunegari” (5×8), the somewhat disappointing follow up to “Pusher” (3×17).

Actor Blu Mankuma makes his second appearance on The X-Files in this episode. He first showed up in the much-panned Season 1 episode “The Ghost in the Machine” (1×6). I wonder how surprised he was and the direction the show had taken since then…

In a rare reversal of roles, Scully runs the opening slideshow.

Coincidentally, the last time The X-Files pulled the “psychic connection” bit we were watching “Oubliette”, another episode where Mulder becomes emotionally involved with a grumpy and misunderstood woman.

Best Quotes:

Marty Glenn: So… I’m all ears.

——————

Detective Pennock: You know, the thing I find most surprising about this case is you. You are one skeptical guy, Agent Mulder.
Mulder: Skeptical?
Detective Pennock: Oh yeah!
Mulder: I’ve been called a lot of things. Skeptical, however, is not one.
Detective Pennock: Yeah, whatever.
Mulder: [Answers cell phone and mutters under his breath] Skeptical…

——————-

Detective Pennock: It looks to me like it [the glove] fits.
Marty Glenn: Somewhere, Marcia Clark weeps.

——————-

Marty Glenn: I’d never seen the ocean before. And now when I close my eyes… or even when I open them… that’s all I see.
Mulder: Well, you’re lucky he wasn’t a fan of the Ice Capades.

Schizogeny 5×9: Talk about puttin’ down roots.


It's kinda like Children of the Corn except... not.

Here we have an X-Files episode about some emotionally disturbed teens in control of the forces of nature. Sound familiar? It should. It has strong similarities to Season 3’s “D.P.O.” (3×3).

Here we have an X-Files episode where a single and socially isolated woman unwittingly channels the personality and desires of an evil male ancestor, so much so that she even takes on his voice and perpetrates his crimes. Sound familiar? It should. It has strong similarities to Season 2’s “Aubrey” (2×12).

In case this hasn’t already clued you in, “Schizogeny” is an exercise in The X-Files By the Numbers. Mind you, there’s no disparagement when I say that because there’s nothing at all wrong with a tried and true X-File. The problem is that with this one, someone forgot Number 10: The Plot Makes Coherent Sense.

Sure, for a hot minute we think there might actually be something interesting going on. But the plot quickly melts into a mishmash of teenage angst, ghostly possession and sentient plants. Throw in issues of child abuse, a mental health practitioner projecting their own issues onto their patients and some Daddy complexes and now we have ourselves an unfocused jumble of ideas.

Even with its complexity against it, I think if Karin Matthews’ character had been a bit more fleshed out the episode might have pulled through. My natural instinct to compare Karin to B.J. Morrow in “Aubrey” doesn’t come out in her favor. You can feel the conflict within B. J. Morrow that makes her sympathetic while Karin Matthews is an emotional blank. I realize she’s a psychiatrist and she’s supposed to have control over her feelings, but I don’t sense any depth of character with her, there’s nothing going on under the surface.

To compare “Schizogeny” with something outside of The X-Files realm, there are also echoes of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho here, only instead of a mummified Mummy in the cellar, it’s Daddy Dearest who’s been preserved in the dark recesses of a creepy old house. And where Janet Leigh’s character overhears Norman Bates argue with his “mother” in Psycho, Lisa is kept awake listening to Karin Matthews’ long deceased father verbally humiliate her. In fact, the more I think about it, the more this episode comes off as a well-intentioned homage to Hitchcock. The X-Files certainly makes an excellent backdrop to attempt Hitchcock’s style.

But style is about all “Schizogeny” has going for it since there’s no substance. There really isn’t much going on in this episode of interest, and consequently, there isn’t much to discuss. So I’ll take this opportunity to wax analytical instead.

Mulder: Hey, Scully, is this demonstration of boyish agility turning you on at all?

Listen up, fellas, because I have a theory and I’m sticking to it: Mulder was Scully-crushing Season 5. Think I’m wrong? I’m not. And the beginning of Season 6 will prove me right.

Chris Carter may not have intended it, David Duchovny may not have meant it, the writers may not even have purposed it, but television has to be accepted as the sum total of what we as the viewers end up seeing. And after all the editing is said and done, the overall impression is that Mulder harbors some feelings for Scully in Season 5 that edge ever so perceptibly away from the platonic.

I know, I know, Mulder’s always been a flirt. But his jokes have an edge of earnestness to them now that, in my opinion, they didn’t have before. Take the above quotation, for instance. Sure, Mulder might’ve teased her with something like that in Seasons 3 or 4. But this time Mulder doesn’t just flippantly throw this line out there, he actually looks down to make sure Scully’s paying attention, as if to say, “Well, is it?” I realize that’s a small moment but try adding it to the next several episodes in particular and it starts to equal something more than merely playful.

Not that I’m about to advocate the fantasy of some dime store romance style piece of fanfic that would lead you to believe Mulder is crying in his Wheaties every morning wishing Scully would finally notice him, I’m just saying that Mulder’s heart is more obviously on his sleeve this season when it comes to Scully, that’s all. After that cancer scare coupled with the loss of all he believes in, who could blame him? Scully’s the last thing he has left.

Verdict:

I don’t hesitate to say “Schizogeny” is the nadir of Season 5. It’s noticeable even in the middle of a streak of so-so episodes. But unlike episodes like “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) that implode in a blaze of glory or episodes like “3” (2×7) that inspire righteous indignation, “Schizogeny” commits no grave sin outside of being plain old boring. There’s nothing memorable going on here one way or the other. I could wish that it were either hot or cold but being lukewarm I just want to spit it out. Like most other lackluster episodes, it’s forced to rely on the failsafes of Mulder/Scully banter and The X-Files’ gorgeous cinematography.

Underneath it all I believe there’s supposed to be a message here about the cycle of abuse, but the plot connections are so tenuous that it’s hard to take any social commentary seriously. Worse, it’s hard to side with these kids and fault the parents when all I want to do is reach through the screen myself and give Bobby a good slap.

D+

Here nor Theres:

The shots of the bare, wintry orchard are so lovely I could wish it had been used as the backdrop to a better episode.

There’s a joke in here somewhere about psychologists needing psychologists, I just can’t seem to find it.

Interestingly enough considering the parallels this episode has to “Aubrey”, Sarah-Jane Redmond who plays Karin Matthews appeared in that episode as well.

If that weren’t enough, the actress who plays Lisa’s Aunt played Darin Peter Oswald’s mother in “D.P.O.” At this point, it’s almost creepy.

Even the title of this episode is obtuse. “Schizogeny” isn’t a word, but “Schizogony” refers to the asexual reproduction of protozoans. Maybe the substitute of “geny” is a reference to “progeny” since this episode is all about the difficulties of parent-child relationships?

The Creepy Woodsman red herring is a little overdone. Scully backs away from him one too many times and it feels forced.

Factiod: “Scully’s line about the town getting ‘400 inches of rain a day’ is a reference to a comment David Duchovny jokingly made about Vancouver during his appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, getting himself into a lot of hot water with the people of Vancouver. ‘Now that’s a bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think?’ was a perfect comeback by Mulder, given the circumstances.” http://cleigh6.tripod.com/CTP/CTP-schizogeny.html

Best Quotes:

Mulder: All that came out of his stomach?
Scully: Most of it. The small amount in his lungs is what killed him.
Mulder: Is it possible that he took the term “mud pie” literally?

———————

Mulder: Then how did the victim swallow 12 pounds of this stuff?
Scully: Well, when you fight for air a vacuum is created and maybe once he sucked down a mouthful of mud it turns his esophagus into a siphon. And with his head pushed down it filled all his passages like a gas can.
Mulder: [Grins and nods in amusement]
Scully: [Sheepishly] Well, you asked me for answers. These are the best ones I’ve got.

——————–

Scully: His mother says that Bobby can’t make friends. He’s been in therapy for his anger since 1995.
Mulder: That could be me.

Teso Dos Bichos 3×18: Some things are better left buried.


My sentiments exactly.

Last we heard from writer John Shiban he gave us “The Walk” (3×7), a well-liked if not loved episode. This time around he doesn’t fare as well. Personally, John Shiban wouldn’t win me over as a solo writer until “Elegy” (4×22). When he, Frank Spotnitz and Vince Gilligan worked as a team it was usually to great results but his individual efforts aren’t among my top favorites, the glorious exception of “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18) not withstanding… not that I possess that much talent in a single strand of my DNA you understand.

Still, the sad truth remains that The X-Files hasn’t bombed this badly since Season 1. Even “3” (2×7) is better at least in terms of production value. By the end of the teaser the episode is already a non-starter. Not one thing about the opening is successful. The guys at 1013 had been sipping too much yajé if they thought this would work. From the second I see the mysterious shaman or whoever he is draped in red, ominously looking down from his lofty perch with his cane in hand, my eyes roll of their own accord.

This is The X-Files we’re watching so we already know the curse is real and even so, we’ve seen scarier. Before the episode even starts all chance at real tension is lost. As it continues, a cast of characters parade before us that range from annoying to boring. Not a one of them makes it all the way to “vaguely interesting.” And we need for them to be because the premise behind this episode is less then compelling and the typical “Western invasion of the sacred” politics are a bit of a turn off.

I have this theory I’ve mentioned before that The X-Files never really tackles “ethnic” myths and legends in a believable way. “Fresh Bones” (2×15) more or less succeeds but that’s only because Voodoo is already a familiar concept to the Western mind. The writer didn’t try and tie Voodoo to Hatian culture specifically so much as he created a regular mini-horror flick where explanations and motivations were rendered unnecessary. The thing is that it’s hard to make an audience care about something they don’t understand the significance of and that’s what usually happens in these “ethnic” X-Files.  In case you think I’m relying on a fluke for evidence, my suspicion is about to be confirmed twice in a row. But we’ll discuss “Hell Money” (3×19) tomorrow.

Back to the plot, I had always assumed that the Jaguar spirit had stowed away on a plane or the like to finish up its revenge in North America and that the tabby cats were just its minions or something. I come to find out this rewatch that the killers are actually the stray cats; the last vestige of credibility this episode had in my mind is gone.

Even Kim Manners’ knack for directing horror episodes couldn’t save this one. Something about the Jaguar/Cat special effect is hokey, almost like something out of Season 1 except that Season 1 pulled off something similar much more successfully in “Fallen Angel” (1×9). And poor Gillian Anderson had to be stabbed at with fake cat paws on sticks to film the climax scene because of her cat allergy. It’s a metaphor for the entire episode, really.

After filming Kim Manners had shirts made up for the crew that read “Teso Dos Bichos Survivor” and “Second Salmon”, the second quote being a reference to the number of rewrites the script was subjected to; each rewrite was color coded and they made it to the color Salmon… twice. Says it all, doesn’t it?

Here’s what I think is the biggest problem: It isn’t a story worth telling in the first place. There are some funny lines and some scenes that are clearly aiming to give us an “iconic X-Files” moment. Yet it’s not enough to have the disparate elements without glue to bind them together, namely an interesting premise. The X-Files cannot live by flashlights alone.

Believe it or not, I was actually looking forward to reviewing “Teso Dos Bichos” more than “Pusher” (3×17) even because I believed that like most of the episodes I disliked previously, it would benefit from a fresh set of eyes this rewatch, that looking at from a more critical point of view would help me appreciate some of its finer points. Yeeeeaaah.

In a way though, I was right. I’ve discovered that this episode’s redeeming quality is that it’s hilarious, just not on purpose. “Teso Dos Bichos” may take itself too seriously, but don’t you as the audience make the same mistake. Mulder and Scully face off against killer sewer cats. For pete’s sake, laugh.

Verdict:

No.

D

Questions:

How did Dr. Bilac sneak yajé into the U.S.?

If the Native Indians of Ecuador are so paranoid about disturbing the rest of their dead, what are they doing working at an excavation site?

Comments:

The way Dr. Bilac talks drives me nuts. I feel like scratching out my ear canals every time he comes on screen.

Everyone knows there’s something a little evil about cats.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Personally, if someone digs me up in a thousand years, I hope there’s a curse on them, too.

—————–

Scully: So you think Bilac’s innocent? That the victim wasn’t even killed at all? That he was devoured by a mythological jaguar spirit?
Mulder: Go with it, Scully.

—————–

Scully: Label that.
Officer: As what?
Scully: Partial rat body part.

—————–

Mulder: Do we know for sure it’s Lewton?
Scully: Yeah, by what he had for lunch; corn chowder and it looks like he’d been snacking on sunflower seeds all afternoon.
Mulder: A man of taste.

—————–

Dr. Winters: When I dissected the dog’s stomach, I found an undigested fragment of intestine, which appears to be feline.
Scully: The dog ate a cat.
Dr. Winters: I also found what appears to be bits of rat fur. I think the rat ate the poison.
Scully: Cat ate a rat.
Mulder: And the dog ate the cat.

—————–

Scully: So what are we talking here, Mulder? A possessed rat? The return of Ben?

Oubliette 3×8: I guess she’s not too big on confined spaces.


Flash Forward or Back?

Ah, “Oubliette.” I realize I should probably love this episode and yet… a knot formed in my stomach just as my thumb touched the play button.

That’s silly, I suppose. Here The X-Files takes a brave step forward by giving us an episode slightly outside its typical formula. But it’s not the formula that concerns me, it’s the tone.

Here we have a Monster of the Week who is perfectly human and decidedly not paranormal. Since the success of Donnie Pfaster in “Irresistible” (2×13) I’m sure the writers were itching to try it again, only this time they take it a step further in that Donnie Pfaster had at least a smidgen of paranormal aura. Whether it was all in Scully’s mind or not, at this point, we don’t know. This new villain, Carl Wade, is as typical an unsupernatural pedophile as he can be. The paranormal element is introduced in his victims instead, the currently kidnapped Amy Jacobs and Lucy Householder, his former victim.

We open with something also against formula when we see Mulder already at the crime scene without so much as a strand of Scully’s titian hair in sight. It becomes clear quickly that this one is Mulder’s story. The parallels are obvious: Amy Jacobs was taken from her bed at night and spirited out the window while her little sister looked on from the other bed helpless to stop it. This sounds strikingly similar to Mulder’s account of Samantha’s abduction that we heard in “Conduit” (1×3), another episode where Mulder’s ability to relate to the case is both his strength and his weakness.

We’ve already seen in “Conduit”, “The Jersey Devil” (1×4) and even “3” (2×7) that Mulder has a soft spot for any “little girl lost” that stems from the scars of Samantha’s abduction. Even Scully agrees with me:

Scully: You don’t see what you’re doing, do you, Mulder? You are so close to this that you just don’t see it.
Mulder: What don’t I see?
Scully: The extreme rationalization that’s going on, your personal identification with the victim, or in this case the suspect. That you’ve become some kind of empath yourself, Mulder. You are so sympathetic to Lucy as a victim, like your sister, that you can’t see her as a person who is capable of committing this crime.
Mulder: You don’t think I’ve thought of that? I have. And not everything I do and say and think and feel goes back to my sister. You, of all people, should realize that sometimes motivations for behavior can be more complex and mysterious than tracing them back to one single childhood experience.

Oh, Mulder. Methinks thou doth protest too much. While I know Mulder’s right about the case, I agree with Scully. Even if he were wrong, Mulder would have a terrible time admitting that Lucy was guilty. He clearly identifies with her because of Samantha, so I don’t know who he thinks he’s kidding. He didn’t even bother to deny it in “Conduit” and I don’t know why he does here. It’s an interesting element to his character that he’s constantly trying to save all the other “Samanthas” out there since he hasn’t been able to save his own. The problem is, I’m rarely interested in the women he’s attempting to help.

Lucy Householder isn’t an exception to that rule. Mulder is going to bat for this woman and it’s hard not to feel like she doesn’t deserve it. Of course, she does, but it doesn’t feel like it. Here’s a woman that may not be living a perfect life but she’s living. And considering all that she’s been through you’d think there’d be some spark of fire in her, something that’s kept her going all these years but there’s nothing. I can see Scully’s irritation at her attitude and I find myself having the same reaction. Maybe as a woman I have a harder time seeing her as a damsel in distress.

What bothers me most is that Lucy is so devoid of hope. A woman used to believing she’s powerless. She couldn’t help herself when she was kidnapped and kept prisoner for years, she can’t help herself now in her dead-end life, why would she be able to help anyone else? Even her final sacrificial act isn’t one of empowerment but of defeat. She dies not to save Amy, but because it’s not worth it to fight anymore. That’s what Mulder is trying to explain to Scully at the end of the episode: he didn’t save her at all, she gave up. “Finally, it was the only way she could escape.”

…And the Verdict is:

As good as the acting is in this episode, and it is good, and as good as the pacing and direction is, and it’s also good, I think part of the reason I dreaded having to watch it is because it’s no fun.

I should explain. Here’s what I don’t mean when I say “fun”: something that isn’t sad or something that’s humorous. It can be scary, meaningful, thoughtful, tearful even and still be “fun.” The Godfather II isn’t exactly an uplifting film but it’s one of the most fun movies in existence. I can’t help but get excited about it.

“Oubliette” is emotionally almost oppressive. It’s not that it’s dark the way The X-Files typically is as far as its subject; not that kidnapping and pedophilia isn’t a dark topic, but this is a show that’s covered child murder and entity rape so I think its audience isn’t afraid to “go there.” No, it’s not the subject that bothers me it’s the tone and the outcome. There’s nothing to balance out the sadness and despair. Is there a single joke or sarcastic line in this episode? Any brief moment of levity?  There’s just nothing to get excited about, nothing funny or scary or otherwise.

Mulder tries to reach Lucy, to gift to her some of his strength, but he fails. Thank heavens Mulder is a Mulder and not a Lucy. The X-Files would be a very different place if he were a despairing rather than proactive individual. Heck, we wouldn’t have a hero.

Maybe this is an episode where my worldview gets too far in the way for me to appreciate it. I’m too hopeful a cynic.

C+

Nagging Questions:

That was some bogus CPR Scully pulled. But I suppose they can’t fit the truth in a 43 minute episode: they would have worked on that child for an hour.

Random Thoughts:

I didn’t mention Jewel Staite. Imagine my surprise when I looked her up for this episode and found out she’s become a star. Apparently everyone knows her from Firefly and Stargate Atlantis. Me, I remember fondly a little show on The Disney Channel called Flash Forwardhttp://youtu.be/LNVE9HWUxiE

Best Quotes:

Myra Jacobs: Who could do such a thing? Who could take somebody that wasn’t theirs?
Mulder: I know you must be feeling…
Myra Jacobs: I’m sorry, but how could you really know how I feel?

——————-

Scully: That’s spooky.
Mulder: That’s my name isn’t it?

——————-

Mulder: Have you ever experienced temporary blindness before?
Lucy Householder: I’ve probably experienced just about everything once or twice. It’s all been pretty temporary.

——————-

Scully: I hate to say this Mulder, but I think you just ran out of credibility.

Fearful Symmetry 2×18: It’s all happening at the zoo.


Sing and sqeak and squawk with the animals.

Coming off of “Colony” (2×16) and “End Game” (2×17), we’ve been on an adrenaline rush. And judging from the first part of this teaser, you’d expect that to continue. There’s an incredible, invisible force tearing through town and causing thousands of dollars in set damage. But by the time we see a dying elephant lying in the road with children weeping over it, I already know that something has gone horribly, terribly wrong.

If I’m to understand this properly, aliens are abducting animals for genetic testing and conservation purposes since we humans aren’t stewarding the planet the way we ought. Said aliens have such advanced technology that they can travel light years through space, abduct animals out of their cages without unlocking them, but they can’t. put. them. back. They’re so worried about preserving these animals that they impregnate them, steal their babies, and then drop them among human beings who they know will kill them if they’re on the loose. Not to mention these animals are so scarred by the abduction experience that they all seem to be in need of a psychologist, or at least Dr. Dolittle.

Mulder gives a vague explanation about how there’s some astrological issue with the space-time continuum that prevents the aliens from putting the animals back safely. So… what? They couldn’t wait a few days till the stars were aligned and the issue was resolved?

More time is spent in exposition about the plight of animals in zoos than is spent on the plot itself. This is Steven DeJarnatt’s only writing credit for The X-Files. Funny, I only have one episode to go on but I think I have a pretty good idea of his political leanings.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not unsympathetic. In fact, I’ve never been fond of traditional zoos myself. I too watched Dumbo as a child and pitied the poor little elephants bound by chains for gross human consumption. That said, I’ll give up my two little doggies for no man. They’d barely last an hour in the backyard let alone in the wild. “Objects for [my] own selfish pleasure?” You bet they are.

I’m being sarcastic. I don’t truly believe this episode is espousing the more radical view of the fictional WAO, but it does have a moral to the story that’s written in all caps. It forces the viewer to mentally engage in a political debate rather than in the story. This isn’t Law & Order, this is a show that features green-blooded alien bounty hunters. Green-blooded.

Here, instead of aliens, you’ll find animals in crates everywhere. And I’ll give the creators some credit; it does serve to heighten the tension. Mulder and Scully are walking around with a relatively small barrier between them and a vicious death. But the underlying plot is so absurd that I find myself not caring. Lovely, frightening wild beasts can only take a story so far. I should care by the time Mulder gets trapped in a room with Sophie and witnesses her abduction, but the climax is so decidedly boring. I admit, however, that watching Willa cry over Sophie’s body did make me a little sad.

You know what makes me sadder? This episode.

Conclusion:

An episode about straight-up cattle mutilations would have been more interesting. As it is, the whole premise of “Fearful Symmetry” ends up being mire that quickly swallows the episode whole. That this episode comes directly after the pinnacle of “End Game” only makes things worse.

Does it sink to the depths of “3” (2×7)? Few episodes can. Is it quite as dull as “Space” (1×8)? Humor saves it from that ignoble fate. Its only saving graces are a chance to see Angry Scully and the all too brief appearance of the Lone Gunmen.

Ah, the Lone Gunmen. Too bad one of their funniest scenes is lost in an episode that’s mostly forgotten. They easily steal the show in this one. Not that that’s hard to do…

So, overall, how did it score on my “Reasons I Watch The X-Files” test?

  • Did it make me laugh? A little.
  • Did it make me happy? No.
  • Did it stir my imagination? No.
  • Did it move me? Eh.
  • Did it freak me out? Heck no.

C-

P.S. In case you think I’m exaggerating about how hard they drive the “Save the Animals” point home, try to make it to the end of the episode and listen to Mulder’s closing voice-over. I rest my case.

Questions/Comments/Complaints:

Ed Meecham has worked at the zoo for years. For what? So he can torture animals for fun? It makes no sense that this man would spend his life caring for animals when he’s not an animal lover. Worse, why does everyone look at him in horror when he shot the tiger that was about to maul Willa Ambrose to death? Heaven forbid.

If an animal has already killed someone, isn’t it policy to put it down? I don’t think Willa Ambrose would have had the authority to order Meecham, or for that matter, the police, not to shoot on sight.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I’d be willing to admit the possibility of a tornado, but it’s not really tornado season. I’d even be willing to entertain the notion of a black hole passing over the area or some cosmic anomaly but it’s not really black hole season either. If I was a betting man I’d say it was, a…
Scully: An invisible elephant?
Mulder: I saw David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear once.

———————

Scully: What are you looking for, Mulder?
Mulder: Oh, a local paper. I want to see if David Copperfield is in town.

———————

Mulder: It’s all happening at the zoo, Scully. (A Simon & Garfunkel reference, for those of us too young… or too old to remember).

———————

Mulder: Alright, you keep an eye on the WAO.
Scully: And where are you going?
Mulder: Talk to the animals. (AKA: The Lone Gunmen)

———————

Frohike: Beam me up Scotty!
Mulder: Did anybody ever tell you the camera loves you, Frohike?
Frohike: Yeah, the arresting officers at the Free James Brown rally.
Byers: What’s this costing the taxpayers, Mulder?
Mulder: Uh, about 150 bucks an hour.
Frohike: Ouch! Almost as much as Bill Clinton’s haircuts!
Mulder: Where’s Langly?
Byers: He has a philosophical issue with having his image bounced off a satellite.

———————-

Frohike: If that’s the lovely Agent Scully, let her know I’ve been working out. I’m buff.

3 2×7: You are really upsetting me… on several levels.


That didn't go over well, did it?

Let me start off with some positives. First, the music in this episode is awesome. I don’t believe we’ve heard this exact refrain from Mark Snow before and if we have, I doubt it was used to such great effect. It’s lovely and haunting and perfect. Second, Mulder has some great quips in this one. The scenes between him and “the son” and between him and Dr. Browning are the highlights of the episode. And in a distant third, by tying Mulder’s loss to Kristen’s, the writers do a good job of keeping the fact that Scully is out there…somewhere… in the forefront of our minds.

Now I have to confess my prejudice. I hate this episode. In fact, for the most part, it out and out disgusts me. From the blood-sucking to the body that looked like it had been through a nuclear holocaust to the club scene to watching Mulder get his freak on to the blood filled loaf of bread… I just can’t deal. It’s like the writers of this episode picked up on everything that rubs me the wrong way spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. Oh, Morgan and Wong, how could you?

Don’t get me wrong, I can watch a decent vampire flick with the best of them. But this episode taps into everything that’s gross about the myth without exploring the psychology of it with any style or substance. And when you consider the time and place in which this episode occurs, it’s amazing that we only hear Mulder mention that little word, “AIDS,” once and then that’s the end of it. Really??

Speaking of communicable diseases, this episode relies too heavily on sex.  No, it’s not that we see a whole lot. Heck, this is nothing compared to your average episode of CSI. But it’s gratuitous because it doesn’t serve a purpose. Or at least, it doesn’t achieve the purpose for which it was filmed. Think I’m wrong? This was the first episode where The X-Files got sexy and while sex usually attracts audiences, this is one of the most panned episodes in the series. Sex by itself doesn’t always sell. We also need a plot we can sink our teeth into.

Even Mulder falls prey to the sex theme. I can only reason that Mulder is in a very dark place because of Scully’s abduction and is eager for a distraction. He’s helpless to find Scully, so I suppose he wants to feel as though he’s not impotent in every single way. Though I don’t know if I could’ve gotten my thing on with my best friend lost to the wind, especially if that friend was lost because of me. But I’m not here to judge Mulder… Oh wait. Yes, I am.

In all seriousness, Mulder’s attraction to this Kristen does relate back to Scully’s abduction and even further back to Samantha’s. He sees his sister as a vulnerable victim, a “Little Girl Lost.” Surely if she had been returned she’d have ended up like the other abductees; outcast and troubled. I believe that’s why he tries so hard to rescue women who he feels are misunderstood. He believes them when no one else will. This is yet just another case of Mulder to the rescue. He’s right, of course. Kristen Kilar certainly needs saving. How did she become a vampire in the first place? Her boyfriend beat her and busted her lip so she bit through his and it was love at first taste. No, no psychological handicaps there.

Whatever her issues, Kristen does prove sympathetic in that last moment, when she sacrifices herself to save John from what he had become. In a way, she regained the loved one she thought she had lost. Will Mulder be able to do the same?

Conclusion:

Please.

D+

Extras:

There just happens to be a mirror perfect for spying around corners lying on the table? They need mirrors at blood banks?

Knowing that Perrey Reeves was David Duchovny’s girlfriend at the time is the definition of TMI. I really, really don’t want to know what they looked like when they… you know.

“Feeble, literal grasp of the Bible?” I’m going to ignore that dig, Mulder, because I love you. And by the way, big-haired preachers don’t take that passage about drinking Christ’s blood literally. You’re confusing evangelicals with Catholics. Sigh.

I would also like to point out that John 52:54 Does. Not. Exist. I can only assume that those numbers are significant to someone on the writing staff. I haven’t found any info on that bit of trivia, though.

The scene where we watch Mulder catalogue Scully’s file and store her personal effects is well done. It perfectly symbolizes the fact that she’s on his mind, but there’s nothing he can do about finding her at the moment.

Actually, why doesn’t Mulder check with MUFON or something? Hunt down Duane Barry’s abductee friends and try to pin down where they’re being taken? That’s why they put the “I” in the “FBI.”

Best Quotes:

John: When a snake eats a fly it’s not murder. It just is.
Mulder: Frogs eat flies.

—————-

John: Don’t you want to live forever?
Mulder: Well, not if drawstring pants come back into style.

—————-

Mulder: I’m familiar with proferia. It’s an affliction that causes lesions and blisters when skin is exposed to sunlight, not fourth degree burns. Sufferers may have a haema deficiency which can be supplemented by a small ingestion of blood, not the kind of blood-thirst that this man had. It’s probably ignorance of proferia as a disease that led to the creation of vampire myths in Asia in the middle ages. I had dismissed the possibility of the actual existence of such a creature as myth.
Dr. Browning: You are really upsetting me… on several levels.