Tag Archives: All Things

I Want to Believe: I don’t think I’m the one who’s changed.


 

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This wasn’t the plan. Within a year of the series finale, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz were brainstorming an idea for the next installment in what everyone assumed would be The X-Files’ continuing feature film franchise. The release would be sometime in 2004. The fandom was out there.

But then, there were delays, and negotiations, and delays, and scheduling issues, and more delays… and a lawsuit. By the end of all that, Carter and Spotnitz were left to work with a small budget, an unsupportive studio, and a dwindling fan base; the cultural zeitgeist of the 90’s had passed and even if it hadn’t, Seasons 8 and 9 had laid waste to much of the public’s interest in The X-Files. Oh, and they lost all their plot notes so they had to scrap their previous ideas and start the script from scratch. Oh, and there was a writer’s strike during filming which meant they couldn’t fix any of the script’s problems.

I Want to Believe was a brainchild born under less than ideal circumstances. It’s little wonder then that it wafts whiffs of the smoke of disappointment. When I squint at it mentally, I see a middle aged man looking nostalgically back on his promising youth and trying to keep hope alive for the future.

But is it good?

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One plan that stayed alive from the beginning was to make this movie an extended Monster of the Week episode, a stand-alone, rather than write it as part of the larger mythology. This way audiences who didn’t know the series could get into it; it could generate general interest and pave the path for more films. As a fan who always leaned more toward the stand-alone episodes, I was and am all for this.

IWTB is an atmospheric, contained, pensive film. That’s what it needed to be, especially on a small budget. Personally, I wasn’t looking for loud explosions or dramatic special effects. I needed a Monster of the Week, not that was bigger and badder, but that was better than what I got in a typical episode.

To that end, the film is shot beautifully. The production went back to Vancouver and the director of photography from the series, Bill Roe, was brought back for this big screen effort so it looks like The X-Files. Someone new to the franchise would get a quick and easy idea of its trademark aesthetic. The setting, the chill, the darkness, it’s all perfect. And for a while, it convinces me I’m back home, imaginatively speaking.

But the difficulty in making this a MOTW is that it creates continuity issues for long time fans. When we last saw Mulder and Scully some six years previously, Mulder was on the run for his life after being given the death penalty by the F.B.I.. After being a part of the plan to help him escape, Scully ran off with him, and I don’t suppose she handed in her resignation either. We left them in a hotel room in New Mexico, hiding from an alien infiltrated government and on their way to Canada, ready to give everything in order to prevent alien colonization before D-Day 12/22/12.

In order for this to be a proper MOTW and still fit into the framework of the mythology, I assumed they would still be on the run or in hiding, but would somehow stumble upon an X-File, an outbreak of platonic paranormal activity or some such. I was sort of right about their being in hiding. Mulder’s hiding out in his home office while Scully lives openly, not under an assumed name, and works in a private Catholic hospital. There’s no underlying sense of urgency. (I’m sorry… when did the Super Soldiers stop posing a threat? I don’t need a mythology rundown, just a wee bit of context, please.)

After all that build up Season 9 about the government being out to kill Mulder, after Carter painted these two characters into the ultimate corner where they have no choice but to leave everything and everyone behind to take on the world by themselves, the threat is magically gone, just like Scully’s cancer, just like Mulder’s brain disease, and just like William. It’s safe for Mulder to walk into F.B.I. headquarters now. There are no Super Soldiers hiding in plain sight there. And the government doesn’t care about him one way or the other. “Just do us this favor and we’ll pretend none of it ever happened, Mulder.” Well, I’m going to do this plot a favor and pretend this issue was resolved in a much more satisfactory fashion.

In the grand scheme of things, how they get to this point is not a big deal. All that matters to me is that Mulder and Scully have an X-File to solve again. Mulder and Scully. Mulder and Scully.

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Is it too much to ask to see Mulder and Scully solve an interesting case… together? That’s all I want. That’s what I tuned into The X-Files to see every week. Instead we have Scully at first urging Mulder back into the land of the living only to retreat herself just as things get interesting. If IWTB is anything, it’s a character study, but not of Mulder, of Scully.

For first time viewers, it no doubt doesn’t matter. But for obsessive Philes, we know that Scully has a long history of being a paying passenger on Mulder’s crazy train. She’s briefly fantasized about normalcy in episodes like “Emily” (5×7) and “Dreamland” (6×4). And she’s questioned her life choices a few times in episodes like “Never Again” (4×13) and “all things” (7×17). But as in the ending of “all things”, she has reaffirmed her decision to continue tilting at windmills with Mulder over and over again. She did it, for example, in “Quagmire” (3×22), “Tooms” (1×20), “Paper Clip” (3×2), “Memento Mori” (4×15), Fight the Future, etc. etc. Scully wasn’t dragged into this quest and she hasn’t been dragged along. She’s invested in the journey.

Heck, she even reconfirmed her commitment in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). It’s a strange day indeed when I have to use TFWID as evidence of anything good and true…

Anyway, the last time we saw Scully in “The Truth” (9×19/20) she was doing what she does best after debunking Mulder’s theories and that’s keeping him in the fight, like she did in “Little Green Men” (2×1), “One Son” (6×12), and “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4), to mention a few episodes of note. Scully is the official Keeper of Mulder’s Faith. And that’s why reading between the lines of the script, I believe ITWB was designed to turn the tables, that it’s meant to show us a weary Scully who now has to be urged back into battle herself by Mulder and by God.

This is potentially a very interesting and welcome moment of personal evolution for her character. Characters, like real people (and Scully is real), evolve and change. But if Scully’s going to jump from “Let’s fight the darkness, Mulder” to “I don’t wanna fight the darkness, Mulder” then we need some kind of context as to how and why.

I remember in the script stage talking a lot about what Scully could say and couldn’t say to [Mulder], that it couldn’t be selfish, her refusal to join him and wanting him to stop. She had to have legitimate reasons about where she was in her life. – Spotnitz, Blu-ray Commentary

Did going on the lam test her faith and her patience? Did she miss her family? Is that why she and Mulder settled down and she took a regular job again? Scully says that she and Mulder have a home and that she doesn’t want the darkness to creep back into that home. Is it that she and Mulder have finally found happiness and she doesn’t want to lose it? Or is it the relative peace that she values? ‘Cause they don’t exactly look like they’re living in non-marital bliss…

Is it that she’s rediscovered her calling as a physician? Are we supposed to understand she’s found fulfillment elsewhere now that she and Mulder aren’t chasing monsters anymore and that her work helping others has replaced the necessity of her work on the X-Files? Maybe it’s her relationship with young Christian, who is not so subtly named “Christian” and comes to represent both her lost son and the Christian faith she questions as she thinks on both her own losses and this young boy’s suffering.

If all that is the case, then I’m sad to say it doesn’t prove particularly effective as character motivation. The fate of the wide world rests on Mulder and Scully’s shoulders, but having Mulder out of the house for this case is too much for her to take? So she threatens to leave the only person who understands everything she’s been through? The person who she’s saved and who has saved her more times than she can count? Really? Well just roll me into a ball of confusion.

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When did Scully become that chick? When did she become the clingy girlfriend or the stereotypical cop’s wife for whom no emergency is worth her husband missing dinner? The woman who from the outside male perspective doesn’t appear logical, but purely hormonal? Scully’s suddenly the type to emotionally manipulate Mulder into doing what she wants by holding their relationship over his head?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a very low tolerance for onscreen relationship drama. Breakup or don’t. I have things to do.

I think the tension between Mulder and Scully would have worked much better if it had stayed centered around the case. We’re used to seeing Mulder and Scully at odds. The tension between them comes from their different perspectives, which actually work in a sort of harmony to drive the plot forward. There’s no need to force feed us marital drama. If there’s tension between them, let it be about the work itself, not their personal romance.

After all, as ever, they’re ultimately after the same thing. Scully is trying to save a life and so is Mulder. Not only is she after the same thing, she’s going after it in the same way – by exploring extreme possibilities. Even if Scully is wrapped up in what she’s doing at the hospital, there’s no legitimate emotional reason given for why she wants Mulder to give up trying to save these women and come back home and be a good househusband. (Oh, are you losing Mulder’s attention? I am so sorry.)

But that’s enough of my sarcasm because this isn’t a horrible movie. In fact, it starts off really well. There’s a creepy murder. Mulder and Scully are on a new mission – the team is back together. Mark Snow’s music is as effective as ever. It’s dark, it’s atmospheric, Mulder’s spouting mumbo jumbo nobody cares about and Scully looks worried about him. All is well in my world.

I especially like how the movie keeps us guessing as to the current status of Mulder and Scully’s relationship. Is it just that she knows how to find him for the F.B.I. or that they’re in regular contact? Are they in regular contact or is she at home in that house? Even at the end of the movie, is Scully moving out and saying goodbye or is she leaving for another day at work? See how things don’t have to be out in the open to stay interesting?

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Unfortunately, though, the movie hops over the boredom line at about the halfway mark. As the relationship drama ramps up, the mystery itself winds down. Instead of taking time to develop the villain or up the stakes of the plot, IWTB focuses on Mulder and Scully’s adventures with the peodophile priest. Father Joe is played convincingly and even sympathetically by Billy Connolly. But the overall plot is sacrificed to the themes of persistence and redemption that Father Joe represents. I love those themes, but isn’t there still supposed to be a mystery here worth solving?

Father Joe is here more than anything to be the voice of God for Scully, to convince her not to give up on young Christian or her faith. But, Scully’s like the prophet Jonah. Some people she’d rather not see God forgive. There can’t be a more unregenerate soul than a priest turned pedophile, right? If so, then the theme that absolutely anyone can be redeemed and anyone who presents themselves available can be used by God comes through loud and clear. By the end, Scully seems to have accepted the message on behalf of us all. 

As ever in The X-Files, God, Providence is at work behind the events. These are themes Chris Carter keeps coming back to, no doubt because they’re a part of him.

Verdict:

It’s not great, it’s not horrible. It’s just okay. But “okay” isn’t a satisfying comeback after six years. And “okay” doesn’t get you a third movie.

I remember seeing this in the theater for my 25th birthday. One of my best friends had come down to help me celebrate my quarter life crisis and what perfect timing! Mulder and Scully were back. After the way Season 9 ended and the amount of time that had passed, I had assumed all momentum was gone and that there would be no movie franchise forthcoming. Imagine the thrill when I found out we were getting a new movie, and a MOTW at that!

I was duly giddy with excitement, but I couldn’t help noting that we were about the only ones in the theater. And while the movie started out great, even as I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was happy to be seeing Mulder and Scully onscreen even when I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying myself, I knew even then that this wasn’t the kind of movie that spawned yet another movie. Mulder and Scully waved to me and I waved back to them (shamelessly) with the sad knowledge that this likely really was the end this time.

And then it wasn’t…

“I think we always had the desire that we would potentially do a third feature. I think we all felt that the second one that we did wasn’t necessarily the right way for us to end.” – Gillian Anderson

“I feel like we didn’t end on the right note before.“ – Gillian Anderson

I so agree. And I’m so, so grateful that it didn’t end here. If this had been a mediocre episode of the series, I could’ve shrugged off some of its failings much easier. When I thought it was The X-Files’ last gasp, it was a more painful thought. I’ve gone through ups and downs in my feelings about IWTB, but I think I’ve finally learned to accept it for what it is.  IWTB sounds like an instrument tuning back up. But you don’t listen to the orchestra tune up without then sitting through the concert. This was The X-Files getting a feel for itself again. This was the actors connecting with the characters again. This wasn’t a fully satisfying outing that left you feeling like Mulder and Scully’s journey was complete.

In the end, I’m glad IWTB wasn’t sufficient to launch another movie. In the end, the only satisfying way to finish out this series is to finish it out as a series. A couple of hours of screen time isn’t going to cut it to resolve everything that needs to be resolved. We don’t know where this new miniseries will lead, if it will lead to other miniseries. But if I can see the old team solving cases together one more time, it’ll all be worth it.

C+

Misplaced Bush Jokes:

“This stubbornness of yours… it’s why I fell in love with you.” I HATE this line. It’s the low point of the movie and one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the entire franchise. And no, I’m not surrendering my shipper card.

Enough with the free ads for Google. Google’s doing just fine on its own.

Realistically, this stood no chance being released during The Dark Knight’s massive reign.

A gay man kills innocent people to harvest limbs for transplant for his lover as part of a Russian medical conspiracy. They really thought that would work as a plot, huh?

Amanda Peet and Xzibit don’t feel like X-Files characters.

Speaking of which, what was the point of Agent Whitney’s toothless Mulder crush? I mean, other than kinda grossing me and Scully out?

Scully’s abilities as a doctor were always suspect given her resume. But when did she find time while on the run from the government to undergo training in pediatrics? And now the pathologist is poking around in the brains of the living? Scully does a quick Google search then wheels the boy into the OR for an experimental procedure the same day?

And, really? We’re going to bring Scully back to Seasons 1 & 3 with the “Samantha is Mulder’s only motivation” schtick?

THE BEARD, THO.

I can’t believe the Russians would successfully do those surgeries in those kind of unsanitary conditions.

“Write it down. Put it in a book.” – HUH???

William left me with an emptiness that couldn’t be filled either. Let’s see what happens now…

Dear Revival – As you can see, we’ve already been there, done that with the breakup idea.

Movin’ On Up:

The Skinner Hug. Squeal me.

I remember the actress who plays the missing agent from “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6). TPMP – My eternal debt to Chris Carter.

Between this and TPMP, it’s clear Chris Carter has a Frankenstein fetish.

Father Joe can’t have visions with Scully in the room. Echoes of the Stupendous Yappi in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4).

The hospital asks Scully to let go of her case, Scully asks Mulder to let go of his.

I love the effortless elegance of Scully’s hair.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: If it were me, I’d be on the guy 24/7, I’d be in bed with him kissing his holy ass.

Whitney: Father Joe’s a convicted pedophile.

Mulder: …Maybe I’d stay out of bed with him.

——————–

Scully: What is this?

Whitney: Dorms for habitual sex offenders.

Scully: Dorms?

Whitney: They manage the complex and police themselves. Father Joe lives here voluntarily with his roommate.

Mulder: Just avoid the activities room.

——————–

Scully: What are you doing?

Mulder: [Walks off] I’m trying to ignore you. {Editor’s Note: ME TOO.}

——————–

Skinner: I know Mulder. He’d get to a phone and call first. He wouldn’t do anything crazy.

Scully: [Looks at him]

Skinner: Not overly crazy.

 

John Doe 9×7: I’ll take the bad as long as I can remember the good.


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Every time I try to walk away…

Here’s the thing about “John Doe”. It’s a beautifully crafted hour of television. Writer Vince Gilligan and his soon to be collaborator on Breaking Bad, first time director Michelle MacLaren, present us with an episode that looks like it’s ready for the big screen. Robert Patrick outdoes himself now that Doggett is finally given something interesting to do again, and he’s flanked by a motley crew of impressively convincing supporting actors.

The thing is, I’m incurably bored by “John Doe” and like the Eagles said, I can’t tell you why.

Is it the slow pace? Is it the token nature of the supernatural element slipped perfunctorily in at the end of the episode? Is it the atmosphere of heat and exhaustion?

Whatever it is, it puzzles me. But try though I might, by the ten minute mark I always tune out. I can never watch this episode in a single sitting. I get distracted and then rewind, distracted and then rewind. It’s a sad cycle.

It’s sad because there’s a lot of good going on here. First of all, as only the second time a woman has directed an episode of The X-Files since Gillian Anderson’s “all things” (7×17), it’s somewhat historic. Visually, it’s also an obvious homage to the film Traffic with all of its washed out outdoor scenes.

Speaking of film, I’ve always thought Vince Gilligan’s work on the show had a cinematic edge. That is to say, his X-Files often came across as stories that could easily be adapted for the big screen. His episodes are uniquely suited to Mulder and Scully, made more impactful by Mulder and Scully, but quite a few of them could be reworked without Mulder and Scully and still stand as independent stories. For example, “Unruhe” (4×2), “Pusher” (3×17), “Tithonus” (6×9), “Drive” (6×2), “Roadrunners” (8×5), etc.

“John Doe” feels even more like a mini movie, especially since unlike the days when the X-Files were run by Mulder and Scully, there’s no need to follow the show’s standard storytelling format. There’s nothing perfunctory about it like, say, a Scully autopsy. This isn’t familiar. And not only does our lead not know who he himself is, neither do we, really. We’re still getting to know John Doggett.

It is nice to see more of Doggett, to see more of his relationship with his son. Now we know he also had a wife. Whatever happened to Mrs. Doggett I wonder? I assume that one day she woke up and got out of their marital bed. I’m also assuming we’ll find out before the season wraps up, along with more of the details of Luke Doggett’s kidnapping. Meanwhile, more than anything, we learn a lot about Doggett’s character. Even without his memory and without his bearings, he keeps his integrity… and his skillset. And he’s not afraid of pain, not even the pain of the loss of his son, because he knows that his experiences have shaped him and he can’t lose that pain without losing himself.

All that sounds great, doesn’t it? They’re still doing new and different things on The X-Files, aren’t they? So what’s wrong with me, then?

I’m starting to think these kinds of amnesia tales just don’t interest me, personally. I LOVE “Demons” (4×23), in which Mulder has a limited amnesia. But when someone forgets how they wound up in hell and the audience watches them find out, that’s an interesting mystery. When someone forgets who they are and the audience already knows who they are, that’s not as much of a mystery. That’s a character study. We’re watching John Doggett remember John Doggett.

How he even came to be in no man’s land Mexico, while supposedly the big reveal of the story, is almost irrelevant to the story. The villains are obvious early on. The only question is how they did it, and even the how is given only brief screen treatment. A memory vampire? Really? It’s probably better that they didn’t spend too long dwelling on that, now that I think of it.

No, this is all just a showcase for Doggett the man. And maybe, Doggett, she’s just not that into you.

Verdict:

There’s no real X-File here. It could have been a memory vampire. It could have been a mugger who knocked him down so that he hit his head. The result is the same.

Then again, I think this recent crop of episodes is proving that Doggett and Reyes aren’t that suited to traditional X-Files. They needed something new built around them.

And it’s for that reason that I respect “John Doe” even if my attention span refuses to bend to my will. We needed episodes that sought to differentiate Doggett and Reyes from Mulder and Scully and create a unique bond between them and the audience. The X-Files needed to feel different in their hands.

So here’s what I learned about our new leads this episode –

They’re both more worldly than either Mulder or Scully were.
They’re both ready for a firefight.
They’re both built Ford tough.

The end.

I think Reyes is due for her own character episode now, isn’t she?

B+

Factoids:

It was after this episode aired that Chris Carter announced this would be the final season of The X-Files.

He should have done that after “Trust No 1” (9x).

Michelle MacLaren would go on to direct for both Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead among many other shows. Go ‘head, girl.

Mrs. Doggett is played by the real life Mrs. Patrick. Aww.

According to Wikipedia, Mulder’s old apartment set was dressed up and reused as the Mexican hotel set. Symbolic?

Scully is completely useless here. Yes, that counts as a fact.

The actor who plays Domingo, Frank Roman, does an incredible job. Also a fact.

Just One Question:

Why was Doggett investigating without Reyes in the first place?

Best Quotes:

Reyes: Y acerca de las drogas? Están en su inventario también? Usted ya sabe… cocaina, AGCO, John Deere?
Molina’s Lawyer: I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.
Molina: She says I sell drugs.
Molina’s Lawyer: Please don’t speak Spanish anymore.

———————–

Caballero: Why would you want to remember? You can’t tell me you’re happier now, because you recall your life. I saw it all. So much pain. Why would you want to struggle, so long, and hard to get that pain back?
Doggett: Because it’s mine.

Three Words 8×18: Fight the future.


 

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That sound you hear is me sobbing with joy.

Scully: Mulder, I don’t know if you’ll ever understand what it was like. First learning of your abduction, and then searching for you and finding you dead. And now to have you back and, uh… [Her voice cracks]

Mulder: Well, you act like you’re surprised.

Scully: I prayed a lot. And my prayers have been answered.

Mulder: [Indicates her growing belly] In more ways than one.

Scully: Yeah.

Mulder: I’m happy for you. I think I know… how much that means to you.

Scully: Mulder…

Mulder: I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be cold or ungrateful. I just… I have no idea where I fit in…  right now. I just, uh… I’m having a little trouble… processing… everything.

If you expected Mulder and Scully’s reunion to pick up at the warm and fuzzy place where it left off in “Deadalive” (8×15) you were mistaken. Mulder’s been abducted by aliens, tortured for almost a year, been returned dead or something that looked a little too close to it, been buried, exhumed, hooked up on tubes and given a rigorous course of medical treatments that barely allowed him to escape transforming into something inhuman. He’s come back to find he’s not dying despite having shelled out for a tombstone, his position on the X-Files has been filled by a stranger, and his partner and lover is knocked up. Oh, and Molly his fish died. He has some things to work through.

It makes sense for Mulder to feel out of sorts and angry. If anything, I wish he’d been given more time to work through those feelings. But with only six episodes left to wrap up David Duchovny’s time on The X-Files, his character doesn’t get that luxury. Mulder’s clock is running out and before he goes he has to wrap up his personal issues, say goodbye to the old gang, meet and greet the new crew, and give some clarity to his relationship with Scully.

Scully appears a little put out by Mulder’s lack of enthusiasm at being back. But she doesn’t show hurt until he acts too emotionally removed from the baby situation. “I’m happy for you?” “I know how much that means to you?” Those are the words of a mere sperm donor.

Excuse me? Oh, are we going to start this now? So now you’re going to make Mulder and Scully dance around whether or not they’re having a baby together? You’re going to pretend “all things” (7×17) never happened? Play like they aren’t a couple? So it’s like that, huh, Chris Carter? Okay. Fine.

I wish I could just ignore this plot and I usually do. But because of “Per Manum” (8×8), for the rest of Season 8 it becomes the main question right up until the last scene of the finale. So for the purposes of this rewatch I can’t escape it. And for those of you who are watching for the first time, you can’t escape the wait. Put your patient panties on.

Before I stop complaining and move on to the rest of the episode, let’s take a moment to discuss Mulder’s magically disappearing no-name brain disease because we will never hear of it again. Yep. After the tears, trauma and drama… that’s it. It’s gone and even Mulder doesn’t care. This plot existed purely to put extra emotional pressure on the viewing audience. It was never an integral part of the overall Season 8 storyline or of Mulder’s character development.

With Scully’s cancer, there were things that led up to it and things that derived from it, connections with other storylines that were made stronger because of it. There were places that it took the characters that they otherwise wouldn’t have gone. This brain disease… this was useless. And for it to miraculously go away and never be mentioned again adds insult to storytelling injury.

I’ll discuss this more in the Season 8 Wrap Up, but one weakness The X-Files had that came to a head in the last two seasons especially was the habit of wriggling out of difficult plots by invoking a miracle at the last second. We’ll get to that. For now, this is one more miracle. Mulder is cured. The end.

I know that so far it sounds like I hate this episode but I don’t at all. So let me finish with the gripes and get on to the good stuff.

The old team is finally back together but instead of teamwork we get tension. I’m glad it happened, though, because it needed to happen. As I said, a man can’t just walk back into his old life after all the people in it have emotionally and physically buried him. There is a sad moment, though, when Mulder is back at his desk and Skinner and Scully don’t look at all happy to see him there.

Since Mulder’s back, Skinner and Scully are free to go back to being skeptics. Which they do. Immediately. Scully now claims Absalom defies all standards of credibility when she believed he and Jeremiah Smith could help her save Mulder a mere two episodes ago.

O Absalom, Absalom! We barely knew ye before the conspiracy killed ye. But at least you served to open Doggett’s eyes to the possibility that he was being used. This episode was not poor Doggett’s happiest hour. After working so hard to save Mulder and being genuinely happy to see him back and healthy, Mulder returns the favor by hating him instantaneously and irrationally. It’s irrational but it’s understandable. Doggett is the kind of stubborn unbeliever that Mulder naturally dislikes, and it’s a man like him of all men who is running his precious X-Files division and has taken up affection space in the hearts of his loved ones. All this while Mulder was being tortured and buried. Poor Mulder. Poor Doggett.

At least we finally get an emotional reprieve from all this angst when Mulder is reunited with the Lone Gunmen. Finally! A heartfelt Welcome Back and a little funky poaching. I am appeased, gentlemen.

Verdict:

This episode makes me wish so hard that we had had Mulder for more time in Season 8. He needed more time to work through his trauma. And he needed more time with Doggett… with whom he had a good antagonistic kind of chemistry. I’ve said it before, but I enjoy Skinner and Doggett as a pair more than Scully and Doggett. More Mulder and Doggett could have been delicious too. But that’s a subject we’ll pick back up a couple of episodes from now.

If it seems like I’m spending an unbalanced amount of time on the series’ relationships it’s because I am. As for the plot of “Three Words”, like much of the mythology this season, there isn’t much to it. We learn precious little more by the end of the episode than we did at the beginning.

Basically, it’s been confirmed yet again that the alien invasion is still going forward. As a matter of course, that information is being covered up. It’s also confirmed yet again that the coming invasion won’t look the way we expected it too. So I’m assuming that means the Black Oil infection has been rendered passé. We’ll hear one last gasp from that old plot before it sizzles out for good.

Even the revelation that there are creatures running around that look human but aren’t is really confirmation of what we suspected in “Deadalive”. The only telltale sign that they’re not normal is a bump on the nape of the neck. What’s with The X-Files and the nape of the neck? Oh yeah, and Doggett’s formerly trusted source is one of them. I guess there’s something new after all.

B+

Comments:

Scully just got Mulder back and she doesn’t want to risk losing him again. That’s a tough battle considering Mulder has always been irreparably reckless and self-destructive.

Doggett realizes that he too has been lied to and that there’s a conspiracy afoot. That’s always the first step in inextricably intertwining oneself with the X-Files.

When this first aired, I totally assumed that the eponymous three words would be “I love you.” I know I’m not alone.

Interrogatives:

Kersh says Scully and Doggett had a higher arrest rate than when Mulder was on the X-Files. Huh? I didn’t witness that.

The Lone Gunmen tease Mulder over their suspicions that he’s the father of Scully’s baby. Scully has almost no reaction. Mulder looks at her questioningly. Is the question, “You mean you didn’t tell them?”

Why does Mulder still have an apartment? Who’s been paying his rent this whole time? Even for three months after his death? Scully? Was she using Mulder’s savings? G-Men have savings?

Best Quotes:

Mulder’s back again so I have more to choose from… Hooray!!

Scully: Mulder, I know you know this, but if anything leaves this room you could be in violation of the law.

Mulder: Really? When I was dead I was hoping maybe they changed the rules.

Scully: Mulder, just being here could be used by Kersh as cause for dismissal.

Mulder: Then why don’t you shut the door so he doesn’t find out.

———————

Frohike: You know, it’s really not fair. You’ve been dead for six months and you still look better than me. But not by much. [They hug]

Mulder: [Chuckles] Melvin. I’d be a whole lot happier to see you if you’d just take your hands off my ass.

Frohike: [Lets go] Sorry.

———————

Mulder: [On communicator] Frohike? Langly? Byers? Let’s go. I’m dying out here.

Frohike: [On communicator] Well, let us just finish our cappuccino and biscotti, and we’ll see what we can do.

Per Manum 8×8: Don’t make me guess.


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Never give up on a miracle.

Questions. I have so, so many questions.

I don’t know if this will end up being a review or a loosely organized series of interrogatives. You have been warned.

Season 8 has a glaring problem, other than the absence of Mulder, a startling trend that I’ve noticed. Instead of propelling the story forward with new developments, it goes back to plots that the audience thought they understood and turns them inside out by reinventing the past. This is a shortcut to drama since 1013 already knows that we’re emotionally invested in Mulder and Scully and the things that they’ve been through. But it’s potentially dangerous because this method of manufacturing interest by pulling the rug out from under your audience creates instability. They’ve already done it once with the “Mulder was dying” plot. Now they’re doing it again with Scully’s baby.

“Per Manum” exists mainly to rock any assumptions we might have naturally made about the paternity of Scully’s baby. When we first found out about the baby in the Season 7 finale “Requiem” (7×22), it had already been confirmed in “all things” (7×17) that Mulder and Scully were sleeping together and based on that knowledge and Scully’s choice of words and facial expressions when she announces her pregnancy to Skinner, it was safe to assume that Scully at least believed she had conceived this baby with Mulder the old fashioned way. She was supposed to have been barren so it was a shock, but it was a happy shock, a miracle.

Then comes Season 8 when 1013 tries to convince us that nothing was ever as it seemed. Mulder and Scully weren’t as blissfully happy as they looked in Season 7. Mulder was dying almost that whole time.

Yes, I got that memo.

Now, they’re telling us that not only is the paternity of Scully’s baby up in the air, the circumstances leading up to the conception cast doubt not only on the timeline of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, but even on if it was what we thought it was.

It all starts off with Scully remembering a conversation with Mulder on an elevator. This is the first we’ve seen Mulder and Scully together since “Requiem” and what should be one of my happiest fangirl moments ever is… awkward. It’s actually awkward. I mean David Duchovny looks physically uncomfortable taking part in this ridiculous conversation in which best friends and possible lovers discuss fertility failures and an ova rescue.

Scully admits to Mulder that she’s a little upset over hearing the news that she’s definitely barren. Mulder then admits to Scully that he funky poached her ova back in “Memento Mori” (4×15) and has been hiding them and the secret that they’re no good from Scully.

Scratch the record.

I’m sorry, but didn’t Mulder already confess that to Scully in front of a judge in “Emily” (5×7)?

Right. Moving on.

So Scully gets a second opinion and visits Dr. Parenti. How did that wind up happening? How did she just happen to end up with a doctor who specializes in implanting alien fetuses in women who are alien abductees? I say alien fetuses, but I’m supposed to be assuming that these are a part of the alien-human hybrid experiments, yes? Those experiments are continuing even though the Syndicate is dead, plans for colonization are continuing and the aliens have been criss crossing the country to destroy all evidence of the hybridization project as of “Within” (8×1)? Who is continuing these experiments and why? And how did they manipulate Scully into visiting Dr. Parenti originally?

Regardless of what I don’t know, Scully is told that she might have a shot, she just needs to find a semen donor. Naturally, she asks Mulder, a moment which wisely takes place off screen. Mulder gives it some thought before agreeing and they have an incredibly lovely interaction that makes up for their previous scene together and that leaves me totally confused.

This must take place in Season 7. I know it can’t be so far out as Season 6 because the treatments have to be recent enough before Scully’s pregnancy in order for them to be a viable option for how she got pregnant. That means it would make the most sense for this conversation to take place late in Season 7. Late in Season 7 we know that Mulder and Scully were romantically involved.

Yet the vibe here between Mulder and Scully, while as close as ever, is not one of lovers. Their relationship is left ambiguous – on purpose, I’m sure. But if Mulder and Scully were already in an exclusive romantic relationship, would she ask him to help her have a baby or would she in effect be asking him to start a family? Would Mulder’s response be that he’s flattered, or rather would it be strange for her to want to have anyone else’s baby when she’s in a relationship with him? Would Mulder be worried whether her carrying his baby would come between them, or would he be worried about whether he’d even get to see the baby seeing as how he’s dying and he probably won’t live long enough for it to come between them?

Maybe they were lovers before this conversation, maybe after. Who knows? 1013 is purposefully playing coy with the cannon. It’s like, oh, I dunno, they want us to keep watching to the end of the season to receive confirmation that Mulder and Scully are an item and that this is their baby. Funny. I thought we’d been there done that in Season 7. Whatever. I have more questions.

If Scully had been receiving IVF treatments, and receiving them recently enough that she believed this pregnancy could possibly be a result of them, why would she look so shocked at the end of “Requiem” (7×22)? Gillian Anderson didn’t play that scene like a woman who had been trying to get pregnant and found out that despite what the doctors had told her she was successful. She played it like a woman who thought pregnant was the last thing in the world she would ever be.

I just… I can’t. My head hurts.

After all my questions, only one really matters: Scully became pregnant per manum, by hand, but was it by the hand of man or the hand of God?

Verdict:

Hello, mythology! Where did you go? Are we going to continue to explore this theme? Is this the next stage? Are they going to take this elaborate conspiracy anywhere, or does this plot merely serve as a means to make us worry about Scully’s pregnancy and question the paternity of her baby? Why do I suspect it’s the latter?

Well, I’m not giving up on my miracle. Whatever ridiculata may surround them, Mulder and Scully are gold. Pure gold. That thing that they have that resists definition, it’s a gift from God to television watchers everywhere. There was that hiccup on the elevator, sure, but the rest of their scenes together only reminded me how much I miss their connection. I also desperately miss Mulder and the humor and humanity he brought to the show. I may or may not have sobbed his name several times during the watching of “Per Manum”.

If there’s any bright side to the unnecessary drama it’s Gillian Anderson’s performance. In the opening shot after the teaser, she shows us a beautiful mixture of wonder and joy and sadness as Scully contemplates the life growing inside her and the absence of its presumed father. Then there’s a brilliant shot of Scully over the shoulder of Mr. Haskell as he recounts his wife’s story. You see Scully’s face shift from skepticism to recognition as the camera pans across Mr. Haskell from behind. That was a bit of brilliance. Thank you, Kim Manners.

And that’s it. I’ve worn myself out. All I have left to say is that mind games are fine in their place, but when you change the past to fit the present, chaos ensues.

B+

Even More Questions:

Scully was afraid the F.B.I. would force her to stop looking for Mulder if they found out she was pregnant. Well, they’re going to find out soon no matter what, so it’s high time she got a move on before she starts showing and she’s physically unable to look for Mulder. There’s been a time crunch this whole time that Season 8 has ignored.

Scully’s only fourteen weeks along? Huh? Scully found out she was pregnant in May. We know this episode is after the date on the pre-recorded ultrasound tape. That means it takes place in late November at the earliest. Baby timeline…. I give up.

How did Miss Hendershot know about Scully and where she lived?

Why did Skinner and Scully call Doggett out in the middle of the night just to tell him that Scully was taking leave? If you weren’t going to tell him anything, you could’ve not told him at the office.That said, by telling him earlier that Dr. Parenti was her doctor, wasn’t Scully admitting to being pregnant anyway? Why get shy now?

The conspirators appear to have wanted access to Scully all along which is why they sent Haskell and were willing to give up Miss Hendershot and her baby to get at Scully. But didn’t they already have access to Scully through Dr. Parenti? Why warn Scully that something might be wrong with her baby at all? She would be completely pliable if she remained ignorant.

Comments:

Anne!! It’s Anne! Megan Follows from Anne of Green Gables plays the doomed Mrs. Haskell in the opening teaser. That series of books was my first true love. Ah, I love it when obsessions collide.

We as the audience know this wasn’t all in Scully’s head. We saw the alien babies. We heard Haskell’s phone call and we know the doctors or somebody is after Scully’s baby. That would only be the case if they believed her baby to be alien.

That Duffy Haskell twist was a good one.

The actor who plays Duffy Haskell was also in “Demons” (4×23). It’s good to see an actor from the Vancouver era again.

This marks the first appearance of Knowle Rohrer.

It’s good to realize that Scully is vulnerable in her condition. You feel for her and are scared with her.

Did you spot Mark Snow?

Best Quotes:

Doggett: Your assistant said you were going to get right back to me about this David Haskell fingerprint.
Knowle Rohrer: I’ve got a day job, John. The government gets suspicious if I work at too fast a pace.

Patience 8×4: Well, that’s a good place to start.


 

 

Patience04

Nananananananana, Batman!

It was a dark and stormy night. Into the somber old house the undertaker walked, slowly, the floorboards bending beneath his feet, his lanky shadow indistinguishable in the gloom.

I bet you thought George the creepy undertaker was who you needed to be afraid of, huh?

There are a lot of well-founded complaints about the trajectory the mythology takes in Seasons 8 and 9. But if the mythology falls down, the stand-alone episodes start to step it back up.

“Patience” is appropriately named. I’ve been very patient waiting for The X-Files to get back to its spooky roots. I suspect writer and director Chris Carter was waiting for this moment too, because he gives Scully and Doggett an old-fashioned X-File for their first real case together.

This is where I should probably warn you that I like John Doggett.

I’ve been putting off discussing Doggett until he began to be fleshed out as something more than a punching bag for the collective hate of the Philes. Doggett has taken Mulder’s place, if not in all of our affections, undeniably as Scully’s partner. Scully seems as reluctant to accept him as we are, because accepting his presence means also accepting that Mulder is gone. Also, Doggett standing in Mulder’s place makes it impossible to not compare him to Mulder and find him wanting. And how does he compare?

Doggett’s a guy who worked his way up the ladder of respect the old-fashioned way, policing the streets and making a name for himself by being dogged (pun intended), smart, and capable. He’s blue collar to Mulder’s white collar, New England, Oxford educated world. Mulder’s cerebral while Doggett’s practical. Mulder is driven by passion, Doggett by duty. Mulder’s an angsty Batman to Doggett’s non-introspective Superman. He don’t need no stinkin’ psychology.

Doggett has a job to do and he does it. He reminds me of a man from the Greatest Generation, full of a sense of responsibility and honor and integrity for integrity’s sake. If he’s been assigned to the X-Files, then he’s going to read through every one of them. If he’s been assigned to Scully, then he has her back whether or not she wants him to, because he’s her partner and that’s what partners do. How she, or even he, feels about it is irrelevant. This is not the type of guy to sit and dwell on his feelings period.

What eventually wins Scully over to Doggett is the same thing that first won Mulder over to Scully: he’s a skeptic with integrity, willing to take a hard look at the facts however strange they may be, willing to do what it takes to get to the truth.

Now, Scully’s going through some changes. So we don’t expect her to warm up to Doggett too soon, try as he might to prove he’s taking his work on the X-Files seriously. The problem is, he takes a step forward and then trips all over himself. Taking the weekend to go over every single X-File is good. Talking mano-a-mano to a chauvinistic local detective in such a way that Scully can’t hear you even though you’re standing right in front of her is bad. Very bad.

I realize that Carter is setting up this antagonism between the characters both to give vent to his audience’s anger and, conversely, in order to use it to create a stronger bond between them eventually. But I think the plot of “Patience” starts to suffer at the expense of showing Scully and Doggett at odds.

For one thing, Scully’s a little too deep into this “I am Fox Mulder” kick. Scully is and should be more open than she used to be. But her imitations of Mulder’s logic leaps feel forced. Those nonsensical words don’t fall out of her mouth naturally. Not only that, but Mulder’s theories are usually based on his encyclopedic knowledge of previous cases and occurrences. Scully had no mental reference for a Bat-Man, yet the first idea she comes up with when she sees a strange footprint is some kind of were-animal.

Even more importantly to me, the link between the Bat-Man that was killed in 1956 and the Bat-Man that’s killing now is left too vague. For years, I thought the Bat-Man that killed then was the same Bat-Man killing now, that it somehow wasn’t dead and was taking revenge on its enemies. A more logical inference is that the Bat-Man killed in 1956 was a companion to the Bat-Man behind the current killings, and these killings are revenge on the man responsible for the death of its friend.

I like the Bat-Man. I want to know about the Bat-Man. Or is it Man-Bat?

What starts off as a promisingly creepy Monster of the Week episode ends up with the monster uncomfortably sandwiched between Scully’s initial declaration that this is Mulder’s office and she and Doggett are just living in it, to her total turnaround at the end of the episode when she quietly stuffs Mulder’s nameplate into a drawer. Chris Carter was never one for subtlety.

Verdict:

This was a good idea for an episode and it could have played out better if it weren’t bogged down by the necessary growing pains of Scully and Doggett’s relationship. Had this been an X-File in Season 7 when there weren’t any emotional distractions, I think it could have been more successful.

As it is, I still like it. Even with its flaws I actually find it enjoyable. And this is The X-Files; I’m used to not getting all the answers.

B+

Impatience:

Okay, the Bat-Man tracks his enemy by scent. Everyone that’s killed was killed because they bore the scent of Ernie Stefaniuk. Since the Bat-Man appears to plot like a human, wouldn’t it make more human sense to leave those in contact with Ernie alive so as to be able to trace him through them? That’s what he does with Myron, Ernie’s brother.

Why doesn’t the monster kill Doggett?

How did Scully’s massive bruises from “Without” (8×2) heal so fast?

Scully runs the opening slideshow. Cool. She should go ahead and dye her hair brown and cut it like Elvis. What I find interesting is that including this episode, the last four times we’ve seen a slideshow, it’s been used to create distance between partners. “all things” (7×17) – “Field Trip” (6×21) – “Bad Blood” (5×12)

This marks the first time David Duchovny’s ever been left out of the credits. Sadface.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: [Pulls out a flashlight] You ever carry one of these?

Scully: Never {Editor’s Note: I see you, Chris Carter}

 

Season 7 Wrap Up – You don’t want me looking foolish.


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Let me preface this by saying that I don’t mean this insultingly. But if I had to pick one keyword for Season 7, it would be “Self-Indulgent.”

At this point in the series, the cast and crew of The X-Files have been churning out classic television at an unbelievable clip for the past seven years. Their work schedule was famously insane, averaging almost twenty-two one hour episodes a season. Somehow, despite that, they were able to function at such an impressively creative level that the numbers of the show’s fans keep increasing with time, some thirteen years after it went off the air. Not only was it a pop culture phenomenon in its day, but it remains such a present part of the public’s consciousness that Fox is airing a six episode revival of the series starting in January. If it’s successful, there have been hints of more to come.

I know I’ve just jumped from Season 7 into the future, but my point is that the talents behind The X-Files had earned a little self-indulgence by the time Season 7 rolled around. They had worked hard, they had made the show a success and, what was key, they had no idea if they’d be back for an eighth season. Fox didn’t officially renew the series until almost a week before “Requiem” (7×22) aired, meaning the final episode of Season 7 was written and shot without Chris Carter being sure whether he was ending the season or ending his series. From what I’ve read, the vibe behind the scenes was “This may be it.” And if Season 7 was “it,” then it was their last chance to say what they had to say and try what they wanted to try. I can’t blame them and I don’t.

How does Season 7 indulge itself? Let us count the ways.

  • Chris Carter’s Basic Instinct homage in, and frankly all of “First Person Shooter” (7×13)
  • Vince Gilligan creates a crossover of two of his favorite shows in “X-Cops” (7×12)
  • William B. Davis writes himself real screen time with Scully in “En Ami” (7×15)
  • Gillian Anderson cues us to the importance of chakras in “all things” (7×17)
  • David Duchovny hosts a block party in “Hollywood A.D.” (7×18)
  • Mulder & Scully flirting like they didn’t know how to stop in almost every episode
  • A third of the episodes taking place in the production’s home state of California
  • The mythology’s loose threads are ignored in favor of the new alien-gods

Deserved? Yes. And some moments are more successful than others. The overall result, though, is that the season feels largely unfocused. It’s like a free for all. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we get canceled.

I think part of the lack of focus and direction is due in part to the mythology not serving as the series’ backbone any longer. The X-Files is wobbling around without an alien conspiracy to hold it together. Not that there weren’t still unanswered questions about the conspiracy that the fan’s wanted addressed, but they weren’t vital questions and the series seemed content to move forward without answering them. But if “Requiem” proves anything it’s that there was still life left in the pre-Season 7 mythology.

Season 7 doesn’t act like it, but the human race is on the verge of complete annihilation. The threat of alien takeover is still there, it’s just not being addressed. Why isn’t there a fire lit under our heroes? ‘Cause Mulder and Scully certainly aren’t acting like they have anything to be concerned about. They’re flaunting their flirtation at the Bureau’s policy against male and female agents consorting in the same motel room while on assignment. But, they’re together now, as the not-so-subtle jabs to the audience’s ribs often remind us.

And I’m glad of their togetherness, don’t get me wrong. It was well-earned and well-timed. Stringing the fans on too long becomes palpably artificial past a certain point. Season 7 was that point. Stringing Mulder and Scully themselves along would have felt disingenuous too. They had reached a catharsis in their relationship and that’s good. You don’t have to keep ribbing me about it. That’s bad. The end result is that Season 7’s main legacy is the ongoing debate over when Mulder and Scully started having sex. That’s really bad.

So, the mythology is largely resolved. Mulder and Scully are at peace. Samantha’s dead. What are we here for? The Monster of the Week episodes? Most of those have been lackluster and weak. There’s no driving force behind the season, no push or pull, no sense of urgency or adventure. When The X-Files first started, Mulder and Scully were on a quest. Now there is no quest, just a rag-tag mix of episodes. The result is that Season 7 feels like a coda to Season 1-6’s main piece. Mulder and Scully have done all they came here to do and things are winding down.

It may just be the natural progression of things. Everything has a beginning, middle and end. The story and relationship arcs The X-Files started off with have inevitably run their course.

Maybe.

I can’t help but wonder inf 1013 Productions had known early on that there was going to be a Season 8, if they could have planned ahead and plotted out the show’s trajectory for Seasons 7 and 8 the way they did for the mythology of Seasons 4, 5 and 6… I wonder what the show would have been like.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda territory, I know….

We have what we have, and what we have is a stagnant series. Season 7 is standing still instead of heading somewhere. It’s not going backward towards the show’s roots or forward into a new battle for Mulder and Scully. It’s just kind of biding its time, spinning in circles until the show ends.

What I’m seeing on my screen is a show that’s suffering from chronic self-awareness, that’s bored with itself, and that reads a little too much like childish fanfic: “What would I make Mulder and Scully do if I could make them do anything?”

Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the Season 7 Year Itch. When it first aired, there were five episodes I actively resented, and seven more I passively disliked. Twelve out of twenty-two ain’t good. The rest I found middling with a few bright spots dispersed here and there.

I came to a sober realization this rewatch –  most of Season 7 I will never watch again.

On that sad note, here are the awards for the season…

Most Improved

all things

Least Improved

First Person Shooter

Missed Opportunity for Backstory

The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati

Deceptively Deep

Signs and Wonders

Successfully Experimental

Hungry

Overrated

Je Souhaite

Underrated

Theef

Brand X 7×19: They say these things kill people.


 

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I’m having War of the Coprophages flashbacks.

I was really excited to watch “Brand X” again. Honestly, my memories of the last few seasons are a lot fuzzier than the early parts of the series. (You can probably guess which episodes I watch more often.) The hidden blessing in that is getting to relive episodes afresh. And what I did remember of “Brand X” was good. Very good.

We have Skinner in play, and he so rarely gets to move from behind his desk. I think Mitch Pileggi was brought on the court mainly because Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny were still busy in post-production for “all things” (7×17) and “Hollywood A.D.” (7×18) respectively, but I’ll take any excuse to see more of Skinner.

I also haven’t seen a Half-Caff episode in nigh forever and I’ve missed them. For those who don’t know, Half-Caff is my own obsessive-compulsively subclassed category of X-File that involves a newly discovered science or technology with world-changing implications. Here-to-fore, however, they’ve also included a government conspiracy to get a hold of or control said science. “Brand X” is slightly different since there’s no government conspiracy, only a corporate one. But I’m counting it because I can.

Morley Tobacco takes the place of the government this episode and so is appropriately shady and secretive. Except for the good Dr. Voss, who shows signs early on of wanting to switch allegiances to the good side of the Force. He smirks in response to Mulder’s sarcasm at the conference table, anyway. But Dr. Voss has a problem. He and Dr. Scobie’s noble experiment, to genetically engineer a tobacco plant that wouldn’t cause cancer when smoked or inhaled, backfired. Oh sure, they developed a non-toxic plant. However, the tobacco beetles evolved to match the new supply and now their eggs are being inhaled along with the smoke. Needless to say, it’s not a pretty picture when the eggs hatch. Just ask the late Dr. Scobie.

Initially, we think Dr. Scobie’s been killed because he’s a whistleblower and the company didn’t want him revealing their nefarious secrets to the world. Whistleblowers were a hot topic in the 90’s and so was Big Bad Tobacco. I wonder if generations of X-Philes to come will recognize the plot of The Insider buried in all this. Even if they don’t, in a world where the GMOs vs. Non-GMOs debate has only gained traction over the years, this episode is oddly still relevant. Can we make nature better? Will we kill ourselves trying?

For first time writers on the show, Steve Maeda and Greg Walker give us a pretty classic X-File, the anomaly of Skinner being out in the field not withstanding. Steven Maeda will go on to write several more episodes including one of my later season favorites, “Audrey Pauley” (9×13).

There are lots of little moments, especially in the beginning, that I enjoy about this episode. I love the opening shot of smoke billowing out of a chimney and how it subtly introduces our subject. Seeing Dr. Scobie’s glass of icy water with pinkish swirls of blood floating around in it gives me a delicious sense of foreboding. It also warms my Philish heart to see Mulder and Scully coming to Skinner’s aid. I realize he’s their boss and technically they have to show up whether they want to or not, but it’s nice that they want to. Oh, and it’s the first time, probably all season, that I’ve felt like either Mulder or Scully were in real danger. “Signs and Wonders” (7×9) didn’t convince me. This actually feels like Mulder’s on the verge of death.

The atmosphere, particularly in the indoor scenes where they could block out the L.A. sunlight, is perfect. (The X-Files was gorgeous.) The villain is vile. (That’s right. You go ahead and smoke your neighbors to death. ‘Cause this is America, man. E pluribus uh…) The deaths are disgusting. (And I take perverse viewing pleasure in that.)

Everything’s moving with tense, expectant energy and then… the ending flattens like Coke in a cup.

Sigh. It pains me to admit it, but the 4th act starts to fizzle right when it should sizzle. It’s a sad reminder of what happened to “Theef” (7×14), another episode this season that was leading somewhere good and then choked right at the climax.

In particular, that scene where Skinner can’t make up his mind to take down Daryl Weaver goes on two minutes too long. I mean, I get it. If Daryl keeps on living he’ll keep on smoking and more people will inhale tobacco beetle eggs and die. And if Daryl dies then the doctor’s may not get the scientific answers they need to save Mulder and anyone else who might get infected. But Skinner is an Assistant Director at the F.B.I.. I’m pretty sure he knows how to shoot a suspect so as to disable them rather than kill them, especially when that suspect is standing still. His hesitation, no, procrastination doesn’t make sense. Not to mention, Daryl’s bad guy speech would have been much more effective cut in half.

Verdict:

Is it too late to create a “Coulda’ been a contender” category? Because “Brand X” had the potential to be a classic. Instead it’s just a really solid offering. Warts and all it’s still a far sight more entertaining than most of what I’ve seen this season.

B+

Bugs:

Skinner makes the idea of killer bugs sound so fantastic. Wasn’t he around for “Zero Sum” (4×21)? I know, I know. The bees carried a virus. They still behaved abnormally.

Are those pencils in the office ceiling the same ones from “Chinga” (5×10) or does Mulder still get bored often?

Correction, Scully. If Mulder were to pick up that pack of Morley’s he wouldn’t be taking up smoking, he’d be falling off the wagon. Mulder smoked back in “Travelers” (5×15).

If the situation was dangerous enough that Skinner needed to put a detail on Dr. Voss’ family for their safety, why did he let Dr. Voss travel home alone?

Is there any particular reason we’re supposed to believe Morley Tobacco would go so far as to kill Dr. Scobie for testifying against them? When did the mafia take over Big Tobacco?

PSA: It was implied by this episode but never directly stated that the smoke and tar from tobacco plants causes cancer, not nicotine. The smoke chronically irritates the lungs, leading to cancer and a whole other host of issues. Cigarette smoke also contains over forty known carcinogens, marijuana smoke over thirty. Though whether or not marijuana directly leads to lung cancer is still under debate. It’s been linked to testicular cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer and leukemia in the babies of women who smoked while pregnant, though.

Actor Tobin Bell, who plays Daryl Weaver, is our second Goodfellas alumnus of the season and our second 24 alumnus. Or at least, he’s the second of each that I’ve recognized and counted.

The actors must have killed themselves coughing from this episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: [Looking at a gruesome picture of Dr. Scobie’s corpse] Can’t blow the whistle with a mouth like that.

———————–

Mulder: Mr. Weaver, did you see or hear anything unusual last night?

Daryl Weaver: Little Korean fellow down the hall dresses like Wonder Woman. But that’s every night.

———————–

Daryl Weaver: Toodles.