Tag Archives: Arcadia

Home Again 10×2: You’re gonna be all right now.


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The thing about raves is that they’re shorter than rants. So I warn you right now that I don’t have much to tell you. There wasn’t a whole lot of deep observation going on as I watched this episode, just pirouettes and prancing.

You would think, you would think, that the episode where Maggie Scully dies would have left me feeling bereft and befuddled with tears. If I adored Maggie Scully, then what’s with the goofy grin on my face that won’t be suppressed?

I can’t help it. I’m home again.

I’m Special Agent Dana Scully and this is Special Agent Fox Mulder.

And we’re done here. My life is complete. That one initial shot of the two of them was worth both the eight year wait after I Want to Believe AND having to sit through all of Season 9. I actually had to fan myself. With a literal fan. It has red and pink flowers on it.

I knew within the teaser, when that classic Mark Snow soundtrack started playing, that this was the direction I personally needed to show to go in. And within the first two minutes of Mulder and Scully on the case, barring any fourth quarter fumbles, I knew this was going to be in the A range. Here’s your one chance, Fancy. Don’t let me down.

Then Petula Clark gave a post-mortem comeback performance and it was all over for me. Diegetic music hasn’t been used to send a victim to the River Styx like this since “Kill Switch” (5×11). And of course, we can’t forget the legendary use of “Wonderful! Wonderful!” in “Home” (4×3), which is what we’re obviously intended to remember.

Oh, wait. I’m sorry. I take that back. This is when it was all over.

Scully: Back in the day, didn’t we ever come across the ability to just wish someone back to life?

Mulder: I invented it. When you were in the hospital like this.

Scully: You’re a dark wizard, Mulder.

Mulder: What else is new?

Yes, we’re only halfway through, but I’m already quite certain that this will remain my favorite moment of the revival. Nay, but this dotage of mine o’erflows the measure. This may very well go down as one of my favorite Mulder/Scully moments in the entire series.

Speaking of Mulder’s mysterious powers and mysteriously well-placed flashbacks, this probably should’ve been called “One Breath Again”. I just can’t get over the looks on their faces as they both remember the events of that episode. See? This is what I’m talking about: the way they bring their entire history into their every interaction. This is what I’ve been missing. No, some emotional context is not too much to ask for.

On that note, this very history and context is why the “breakup” as such is an exercise in dramatic futility. Their “relationship” is their history; it’s their partnership. A casual viewer can see clearly that there’s a connection here that goes as deep as the ocean, and no amount of surface level machination is going to penetrate that depth. It’s also a connection that need not be worn on the surface. It needn’t even come up in onscreen conversation as an issue, as it didn’t here and no one missed it. For Spock’s sake, no one wants to watch them play at playing house. Just let them be.

And is it just me, or is this the first time this actually feels like a natural continuation of the series proper rather than an exercise in nostalgia? I feel like tapping complete strangers on the shoulder and saying, “This is my show,” not, “This is The X-Files: Millennial Edition,” or “This is The X-Files: Alt-U Version ft. Mulder and Scully Wax Figures.”

If the characters came back last episode, the show itself is back in classic form now. Yes, it’s modern, updated and evolved. But all the round pegs are going into round holes again.

You’re responsible. If you made the problem, if it was your idea, then you’re responsible. You put it out of sight so that it wouldn’t be your problem, but you’re just as bad as the people that you hate.

That was deep, Scully. You wouldn’t be talking about Chris Carter and you and William, would you? Call me crazy, but I find this episode more emotionally on point than “Founder’s Mutation” (10×5) which read more like a dirge than a reckoning. Here Scully is finally coming to grips with having abdicated responsibility for William, and to unsuspecting, ill-equipped strangers at that. Well, she sort of does, anyway.

I know now why Mom asked for Charlie, even though he was out of her life. She wanted to know before [s]he left that he’d be okay. She gave birth to him. She made him. He’s her responsibility. And that’s why she said what she said to us. She wanted to make sure that we’d be responsible, and know that William’s okay, even though we can’t see him. I know that as parents we* made a difficult sacrifice to keep him safe, that it was for his own good to put him up for adoption. But I can’t help but think of him, Fox {Ew}. I can’t help it. I believe that you will find all of your answers. You will find the answers to the biggest mysteries and I will be there when you do. But my mysteries, I’ll never have answered. I won’t know if he thinks of me too or if he’s ever been afraid and wished that I was there. Does he doubt himself because we* left him? What questions does he have of me? The same that I have of this coin? And I want to believe, I need to believe, that we* didn’t treat him like trash.

Whoa, Nelly. You hold it right there, Miss Uber M.D.. “We???” Wherefore comes this “we”? Not to guilt trip you or anything, but “we” didn’t give William away. “We” weren’t there. You were there. I know. I was there. I watched Chris Carter make you do a bad, bad thing. But thanks ever so for at least again acknowledging Mulder’s presence in the sacred bed.

When it comes to responsibility for William being gone, it’s a convenient “we,” but when it comes to what or who William needs she reverts back to the singular. I forgive you, Scully.

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s always a good sign when I start yelling at my television screen.

Verdict:

Yes. Yes. Absolutely, yes. Never leave me again.

I’m dang sure going to miss Maggie Scully and Sheila Larken’s memorable performances. But if she had to go out, at least she went out right. Only after having watched Season 9 can you appreciate the magnitude of that.

And it’s true that as much as we may love our families, when it comes to our parents especially, there are parts of one another as individuals that we can never know. There was more to Maggie Scully than Scully could ever hope to find out. And there’s more to Scully than William will ever realize.

Now, you heard Maggie. Go get your boy.

A

Comments and Commentary:

That’s the darkest ICU I’ve ever seen.

1 demerit for Scully calling Mulder “Fox.”

“I didn’t bring him here. He came to me!” – My review of “William” (9×17) in a nutshell.

I don’t know what those shots are called when they strap a camera around the actor’s waist, wind them up and let them go. But I rarely find them effective.

Let’s take a moment to honor Scully’s palpable relief at Mulder showing up when she needed him.

We’re due for another reckoning: Does Scully resent the time she spent away from her mother and her family for nothing?

Who would put their brother’s full name in their phone like that?

For a second I thought this might be a new take on “Salvage” (8×10). If you’ve seen one garbage man you’ve seen them all, right?

Note the cleverly subtle correction of The X-Files previous treatment of the Tulpa myth. Though I think Mulder may have been closer to right back in “Arcadia” (6×13).

There are also deep echoes of “Milagro” (6×18) here…

Mulder: Did you direct him to do it?

Padgett: Jungians would say it’s the characters who choose the writer, not the other way around. So I guess you could argue he directed me.

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Salvage 8×10: More powerful than a speeding locomotive.


 

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No jaywalking.

Up until the last episode, “Surekill” (8×9), Season 8 hadn’t really shown us anything bad, just episodes that were more or less successful. In “Salvage”, the boredom train keeps a-rollin’, though like several Season 8 episodes that don’t live up to their initial promise, the teaser starts off pretty well.

Methinks the brain team over at 1013 Productions were reminiscing over their Superman comics right about this time. We just had a villain with x-ray vision and now we have a man of steel. Okay, that’s fine. A man who can withstand a car plowing into him sounds cool enough. But after the initial startling image, where do you take the idea? “Salvage” feels as though someone had a brilliant concept, but couldn’t come up with a story likewise brilliant enough to sustain it.

Charged with penning what may likely have been a group idea was Jeffrey Bell, the writer who gave us “Rain King” (6×7), “Alpha” (6×14), “The Goldberg Variation” (7×2), and “Signs and Wonders” (7×9). As you can see, his level of success has varied widely. “Salvage” would be his last effort for The X-Files before moving on to Angel and eventually becoming the showrunner there. He’s currently working on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so whatever I’m about to say, I think he’s doing okay.

Once again, the story presumes that the audience is familiar with Scully and Doggett as a pair and that they’re familiar with each other as well. They seem to have slipped into a routine. Funny, I never got the memo. I guess I can’t be mad at it since seeing them constantly at odds would distract from the Monster of the Week episodes and those have always been my favorites so that would be a shame. And hearing Mulder regularly mentioned would also be distracting and frustrating since we’re no closer to finding him and no one seems to be making moves in that direction either.

Anyway, my point is that this episode is rather formulaic considering a successful formula for Scully and Doggett solving cases has yet to be developed. The result is staid and joyless. “Salvage” isn’t the worst story, but it has no sense of adventure, it’s not shocking, it’s not frightening, it’s not thoughtful and it’s not funny, despite a half-hearted attempt at a Terminator 2 in joke. It’s a cute reference to Robert Patrick’s movie past. But that’s all it is, a cute reference, as if the show’s been forced to acknowledge the similarities between “Salvage” and Terminator 2 or they figured they’d better say something before the audience does. Cute can’t save the episode.

I should feel bad for victim and villain Ray Pearce, or at least sympathetic toward his bereaved wife. There are echoes of “Kaddish” (4×12) here; a couple is separated by death before their time and the husband comes back as a monster instead of as the loving man his woman once knew. I would probably understand his dark mission better if Pearce’s vengeance wasn’t misplaced, if his friends had purposefully betrayed him or exposed him to something knowing it would kill him. Instead, he and his wife are both looking for people to blame and then spontaneously giving up on revenge, rather than deserving vengeance and magnanimously and consciously giving up their right to it. That could have held my emotional interest. This was just going through the motions.

Sigh.

Scully and Doggett better find themselves some compelling chemistry quickly if they hope to carry episodes this lackluster.

Verdict:

I know it sounds like I hate “Salvage” but I don’t hate it, I just don’t care about it which is almost worse. It’s a filler episode, another tale we’ll forget on our journey back to Mulder. Scully and Doggett don’t grow any closer, and the case doesn’t prove to be anything special. The cast of guest characters is quickly forgotten.

On the side of pleasantries, the production is as high quality as ever and the special effects are downright impressive. But even those aren’t enough to make me want to watch this again.

We’ve hit a lull in Season 8. There’s nothing to do but wait it out and there’s nowhere to go from the valley but up.

C+

Salvaged Parts:

One image that has stuck with me is Ray Pearce clipping the metal spikes sticking out of his cheek. That’s pretty gross.

Speaking of spikes and other random things sticking out of somebody, Ray Pearce looks more like a humanized form of the garbage monster in “Arcadia” (6×13) than he does like a metal man. Maybe this was an attempt at not alluding to Terminator 2 too closely? So he becomes salvaged metal parts rather than a single metal alloy?

Scully and Doggett show up at the scene early enough that the car hasn’t been moved yet. So who are these scientists who have already come up with these detailed physics calculations that Scully quotes?

I’m sorry. I’m still not used to Scully playing Mulder. I don’t think I’ll ever be.

When a murder is suspected, don’t police check nearby dumpsters as a matter of course?

A guy made of metal tries to get out of a metal barrel and can’t because the metal is too strong. But Doggett can just kick the barrel over and knock it open?

How did Mrs. Pearce get in the Chamber Technologies building and into one of the private offices? That looked like a major corporation, the kind where not everyone could get past the front desk. Not to mention, there was a police presence.

I saw palm trees outside of the corporate office. Do they have palm trees in Indiana?

Best Quotes:

Doggett: Car’s registered to a Curtis Delario, local address. So far, he’s been unreachable.

Scully: Well, it’s highly unlikely that wherever he is he feels like picking up the phone this morning.

——————–

Doggett: [On phone] What are you saying? Ray Pearce has become some kind of metal man? Because that only happens in the movies, Agent Scully.

Scully: [On phone] Does it, Agent Doggett?

 

Chimera 7×16: You and me got more in common than you know.


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‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.

‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’

‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.

‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’

Ah, suburbia. Where happy little families live happy, normal little lives.

Unless they’re on The X-Files in which case unhappiness is bound to find them. And if they won’t admit it’s found them, someone might just go mad. Or grow feathers. It’s a toss up, really.

Take Ellen Adderly, whose pent up anger has turned her quite mad. She’s so upset that her Norman Rockwell life is falling apart that her dissociative rage has manifested as a split personality disorder. When she’s not Susie Homemaker, she transforms into a… a what? A crow monster? Is that even a thing?

Let me preface my complaint by saying I quite like this episode. In fact, I like it so much I’ve surprised myself. I remembered enjoying it originally, but the details were fuzzy so I got to relive it, not quite from scratch, but with eyes ready to observe. I consider that a plus since, up until recently, there were no new X-Files forthcoming and, inevitably, there will always be a finite number of them. Anything akin to a newish watch is appreciated by me.

But this otherwise classically trained Monster of the Week episode has a few weaknesses, the main one being that the monster isn’t scary in the least. The second is that despite attempts to distract the audience, the answer to the mystery is fairly obvious within the first ten minutes of the show. Sure, the teaser makes it look like we’re in for an X-Files/Mean Girls crossover, but no one believes that the working class Jenny Uphouse is the killer. That would be too easy. The next suspect in line is Ellen Adderly, since she’s the only adult the monster appears to who doesn’t wind up dead.

The third weakness is that the monster feels familiar. We’ve seen something similar in “Arcadia” (6×13), another episode that exposes the seamy underbelly of suburbia. Though there, the homeowners collectively created a monster through their out of control desire for perfection. I’m also reminded of “The Walk” (3×7), even though there Leonard Trimble uses astral projection to psychically take vengeance on his enemies when he’s physically unable to.

So, the monster doesn’t excite me. Then again, neither did The Flukeman.

What does excite me is that, like with “Theef” (7×14), I get a vintage X-Files vibe from this episode. I’m happy to report that the weather is dreary and atmospheric. Not that they could have planned that, but it looks like rainy season in Southern California was working to the production’s advantage. The story, maybe by virtue of feeling familiar, comes across as something that would have fit well in Season 3 or 4. Also like the old days, it manages to be quite humorous without ever feeling “light.” (You know I love “light,” but they can’t all be like that.)

The interactions between Mulder and Scully over the phone are priceless. Over fifteen years after first seeing it I was still laughing aloud. I’m surprised I don’t see this episode quoted more often, especially considering how ship-heavy the fandom is. We haven’t had a game of Telephone this good since “Chinga” (5×10)!

Seeing Scully stuck in squalor while Mulder lives it up in Leave It To Beaver land, eating gourmet meals and having his shirts pressed, is a hoot. And we all enjoyed Mulder admitting that he has an atypical “significant other,” right? Because he doesn’t have a significant other, he has a Scully. But since round about Season 2 or 3, the depth of their relationship has basically precluded any other significant others for either of them. “Not in the widely understood definition of the term” is right. Then again, if that’s the case, then it would seem to contradict the upcoming “all things” (7×17), but we’ll get to that.

Verdict:

Just because there are roses in the garden doesn’t mean crazy isn’t in bloom. They’re all crazy in this town. They’re mad to think that they can live phony lives and get away with it.

That Sheriff especially must’ve been crazy to try to juggle three women at once. I’m surprised he made it to the end of the episode alive. Or maybe he’s supposed to live with the knowledge that his behavior triggered all this death and mayhem. Ellen had to break every mirror in sight to avoid seeing who she really was. What did he have to do?

All in all, a good solid offering and the best writer David Amann has given us so far.

B+

Crow’s Feet:

In which Mulder gets beaten up by a girl.

If you wanted a divorce, Sheriff, why did you impregnate Ellen so she could “lock you up good?” She didn’t get pregnant on her own, you know.

What’s with The X-Files and mirrored ceilings?

It turns out that Gina Mastrogiocomo, who plays Jenny, died in 2001 and this was her final performance. That made me sad! She was in Goodfellas and that’s one of my favorite movies.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Well, I hope we catch her so she can tell us… before I have to spend another night here. You know, Mulder, I don’t know about you but I find this all very depressing, this round-the-clock exposure to the seamy underbelly.

Mulder: That’s the job, Scully: vigilance in the face of privation, the sheer will that it takes to sit in this crappy room spying on the dregs of society until our suspect surfaces. There’s something ennobling in that.

[Mulder’s phone rings]

Mulder: [On phone] Mulder. Now? All right. [To Scully] I got to go. [Leaves]

Scully: [In disbelief] Mulder…?

———————–

Mulder: [On phone] Well, she’ll come, you know? It’s just a matter of time. She’ll show up. I’m sure of that.

Scully: [On phone] Yeah, well not before I die of malnutrition. [Disgustedly picks up and drops a gross-looking slice of pizza]

Mulder: [On phone] Hey, Scully, tough it out. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

[Ellen Adderly goes to dress up Mulder’s plate of gourmet food with the fixings]

Mulder: [To Ellen] No, no, no, no. No capers, thank you.

Scully: [On phone] I’m sorry, what?

Mulder: [On phone] I said, “What a… what a crazy caper.” I’ll talk to you later and, uh, keep warm. Bye.

———————–

Mulder: [On phone] Mulder.

Scully: [On phone] Mulder, when you find me dead, my desiccated corpse propped up staring lifelessly through the telescope at drunken frat boys peeing and vomiting into the gutter, just know that my last thoughts were of you… and how I’d like to kill you.

Mulder: [On phone] I’m sorry, who is this?

———————–

Ellen: Do you have a … a significant other?

Mulder: Um, not in the widely understood definition of that term.

———————–

Mulder: So you were having an affair with both Jenny and Martha Crittendon?

Sheriff Adderly: [Nods]

Mulder: I got to hand it to you, Sheriff. You put the service back into “protect and serve.”

Season 6 Wrap Up: Maybe I did want to be out there with you.


This is one of those seasons in terms of its popularity that gets polar opposite responses depending on which faction of the fandom you ask about it. It’s trying too hard to be funny, it’s not funny, it’s hilarious. Too much MSR, not enough MSR, just the right amount. I miss the Syndicate, I was sick of the Syndicate, what’s with this new mythology?

You can’t please all the people all the time, especially if your name is Chris Carter.

Personally, I adore Season 6. But I can understand why some fans don’t. If Season 5 would throw fans a knowing smile every so often, Season 6 is constantly, flirtatiously winking at us. The X-Files has become not only much more self-conscious and self-referential, it also acknowledges its fan base and fan expectations in a more direct way than before.

Previous episodes like “Small Potatoes” (4×20) have toyed with the ever-present subtext of Mulder and Scully’s burgeoning romantic relationship (MSR). But fast-forward to “The Rain King” (6×7) and it’s not a subtext, it’s the only text, and the characters around Mulder and Scully directly confront them with the feelings fans had been harboring for years.

I mean… you spend every day with Agent Scully, a beautiful, enchanting woman. And you two never, uh…? I… confess I find that shocking. I… I’ve seen how you two gaze at one another.

Not even a kiss?

Sorry, my NoRoMo friends. You’ll have to forgive me for indulging in some MSR talk. It’s a major, major component of Season 6 that can’t be ignored. In fact, I don’t think it’s a reach to say it’s the main component. Not only does it drive many stand-alone episodes, the Mulder-Scully-Fowley love triangle becomes such a major issue that it largely drives the mythology this season. You can’t discuss Season 6 without discussing MSR.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m about to plagiarize myself since I can think of no more effective way to explain my position.

Back in the not so distant day, a Shipper had to hunt for little romantic gems in an episode. A brief hand-hold here, a golden moment of banter there… it was a game looking for these affirmations of the Shipper faith since it wasn’t as though the writers were putting them there on purpose. We had to take what we could get. Now, however, the game has changed completely and after the events of the movie, Chris Carter & Co. could no longer believably ignore either the mounting anticipation of their audience or the romantic tension that they inadvertently created between their two lead characters. So, what to do, what to do? They had no choice, really, but to officially script the MSR subtext into the series. Now Shippers no longer have to hunt for sustenance like wild animals, it’s being fed to us in golden bowls like house pets.

If that sounds like a complaint, please know that it’s not. As I said, I don’t see how the show could have believably evolved any other way. What could Chris Carter have done? Turned back the clock and pretended that millions of people had never seen that scene outside of Mulder’s apartment? Or worse, should he have taken character development back a few seasons in order to halt the progression of this budding romance between his leads? Never. Looking back it was inevitable that the romantic undertone of the series would become more overt. And however people may complain that it made The X-Files look silly, it would have looked a heck of a lot sillier if they had stubbornly ignored the obvious.

And in the profound words of Mr. Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

The only check mark in the negative column against Season 6 is that while the great majority of episodes, as individual episodes, are great, on the whole it may be slightly unbalanced. Particularly in the beginning of the season, the scales are tipped toward the lighter side of things which is a disappointment, I’m sure, to the fans who prefer grittier Monster of the Week and Mythology episodes. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if episodes like “Tithonus” (6×9) had come along sooner rather than later if Season 6 would still have quite as featherweight a reputation. After all, for the shortest season ever (twenty episodes) Season 5 gave us its fair share of less than super serious material: “Unusual Suspects” (5×1), “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6), “Detour” (5×4), “Bad Blood” (5×12), “Folie a Deux” (5×19). And that’s not even counting Mulder’s hilarious phone calls to Scully in “Chinga” (5×10).

I calculate Season 6 at 40% funny vs. Season 5’s 30%, give or take. Perhaps the team at 1013 wanted to leaven the heavy drama of the mythology episodes this season by giving the fans an emotional break during the stand-alone episodes. I still consider “Arcadia” (6×13) a humble apology for forcing us to watch Mulder and Scully nearly split up for good in “One Son” (6×12). That fight was so bad even the Lone Gunmen had to look away. And while we’re at it, maybe Chris Carter meant “Triangle” (6×3) to be a peace offering after he had Mulder nearly take back in “The Beginning” (6×1) everything he said to Scully in the hallway last summer. You bet your cheap weave Mulder owed Scully more than one “I love you” after that.

Speaking of “I love you’s”, somewhere along the way this season, probably without us even noticing, I believe Mulder and Scully passed the point where a love confession was even necessary.

I can safely say that by the events of “Biogenesis” (6×22) Mulder knows that Scully is in love with him and not just because he can conveniently read minds. I don’t know by what work of the Devil I didn’t talk about this in my “One Son” review, but Mulder knows. Even the first time I saw it, I was certain of it. It’s all in the way he says, “No. Actually, you hide your feelings very well.”

Now, I will often, in the heat of my Fangirl passion, yell things at Mulder and at my television screen and “Stupid” is an adjective I use for him regularly. However, Mulder is not actually stupid. He’s a very intuitive, very perceptive character. He couldn’t have helped but read the not so subtle subtext during Scully’s heated interchange with Fowley in the aforementioned episode. That wasn’t purely righteous indignation on Cassandra’s behalf that Scully was acting out there. And even before that, he was in that hallway too. He knew she was about to kiss him just as sure as he was about to kiss her, though judging by his somewhat nervous confession in “Triangle” I’d say he wasn’t confident as to whether she’d be willing to start a relationship or not.

But, I digress. Mulder knows and I believe that’s part of why Padgett’s “Agent Scully is already in love” pronouncement in “Milagro” (6×18) doesn’t elicit a major response from him. It also doesn’t elicit a response from Scully because she knows too. And, at this point, I think she knows that Mulder knows and that he knows that she knows. I think there’s mutual knowing all around. Mulder certainly didn’t wrap his arms around her in “The Unnatural” (6×20) like a man who thought his attentions might not be desirable.

A question less easy to answer is does Scully know how Mulder feels about her? To that I’d give a qualified “Yes.” She knows he loves her dearly; he did go to Antarctica to rescue her after all. She knows he’s attracted to her since he’s not too subtle with his looks in either “Two Fathers” (6×11) or “One Son”. There’s even something about the look on her face when Mulder tells his tall tale in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) that makes me think she knows she’s supposed to be “Lida”, the brooding yet heroic “Maurice’s” ethereal love. But, ah, that Fowley woman. I don’t think Scully’s going to pick up what Mulder’s puttin’ down as long as Fowley is around. Cue Season 7.

And on a final note, how awesomely amazing is Scully this season? She steals the show pretty much from beginning to end. From being boldly faithful to slapping suspects, from becoming open-minded to learning how to play baseball, my girl has been on fire. If we could say nothing else in favor of having a comedy-heavy season, I’m so glad it affords Scully the opportunity to show us all her different sides.

——————

Assuming your teeth aren’t already aching with sweetness, you tell me:

And the Awards go to….

“How could you do this to me, Chris Carter?”

The Beginning

“You’re forgiven, Chris Carter.”

Triangle

“Most Underrated”

Drive

AND

Trevor

“Most Overrated”

How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

“Not Rated”

Alpha

“Best Use of a Guest Star”

Dreamland/Dreamland II

“Scully for Queen”

Tithonus

“Coulda Been a Contender”

Agua Mala

“Don’t Judge Me”

The Rain King

“David Duchovny, why won’t you love me?”

The Unnatural

Trevor 6×17: I just wanted another chance.


Don’t we all?

Scully: Spontaneous human combustion.
Mulder: Scully…!
Scully: Well, isn’t that where you’re going with this?
Mulder: Dear Diary, today my heart leapt when Agent Scully suggested spontaneous human combustion…
Scully: Mulder, there are one or two somewhat well-documented cases…
Mulder: [Makes an effort at a conciliatory expression]
Scully: Mulder, shut up!

And I could end this review right here.

Believe it or not, my favorite part of that moment isn’t the “Dear Diary” hilarity. It’s when Mulder says, “Scully,” like she just paid him the sweetest compliment he’s ever been given, or rather like she just surprised him with two front row tickets to the Knicks game. He’s inordinately touched.

From the inspired banter to a socially backward antagonist in charge of the forces of nature, “Trevor” is about as classic an X-File as you can get. I may even have to take the title of “Most Classic of Season 6” away from the well-intentioned but flawed “Agua Mala” (6×14) to give it to the more well-rounded “Trevor”.

Its success shouldn’t be a surprise since one half of its writing team is former X-Files production crew Property Master Ken Hawryliw. Having worked on the show in Vancouver for five years, if anyone is familiar with what constitutes an X-File, he is. We’ve seen this kind of behind-the-scenes to front of the class success before with Special Effects Supervisor Mat Beck’s “Wetwired” (3×23) and Executive Producer R.W. Goodwin’s “Demons” (4×23). All three episodes are among the best of their respective seasons, all three are underappreciated. For this one, Hawryliw teams up with writer Jim Guttridge so I can’t forget to spread the credit around, but I am again amazed by the multi-tasking talent on this show.

I’ve never loved Season 6 quite this much before. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed it. I was never a Season 6 hater. But I’m especially struck this rewatch by how frighteningly consistent it is in quality. Okay, there are some slight missteps as there are in every season, but there’s only one trip and fall – “Alpha” (6×16). Other than that, it’s one near perfect hour of television after another.

“Trevor” continues that trend though you may not guess it based just on how often episodes are discussed on the boards. Somehow, this little gem seems to slip under the radar of fans. I can only think that in a season full of more attention grabbing episodes like “Triangle” (6×3)  that it’s easy to get lost in the mix.

But I’m not one to talk because I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated “Trevor” before either. I thought about why for a minute and I figured it out: I had never watched it directly after “Alpha” before because I always (accidentally, I swear) skip “Alpha” and go straight to the next DVD and watch “Trevor” right after “Arcadia” (6×13). Watching the already weak “Alpha” crumble like a stale cookie at its climax leaves me with all the greater relief at the tension and emotional high stakes of “Trevor”. This climax delivers. Where I rolled my eyes at Scully’s look of pity for Karin at the end of “Alpha”, Mulder’s bittersweet empathy here for the doomed Pinker Rawls strikes a chord.

You see, Pinker is both the antagonist and the protagonist. He’s the villain and the hero, the victim of his own personal Greek tragedy. All Pinker wants is a second chance at life and the son that was stolen from him represents that possibility. Sure, he’s a cold-blooded psychopath, but psychopaths need love too.

I don’t think there’s ever any question that this man isn’t fit to be loose in society. But it’s hard to fault his desire for fatherhood and the normalcy that comes with it. In Trevor he imagines his chance to finally become the man a young boy would want as a father. It’s only when he sees Trevor’s terror at the end in that phone booth that he realizes he himself is destroying his own chances of experiencing real fatherhood.

On the other hand, June, his former lover whose family he terrorizes in an effort to find Trevor, is far less sympathetic than Pinker. Ostensibly, her only real crime is having hooked up with Pinker Rawls. She’s just a girl trying to make it out of the trailer park and onto Park Avenue. However, she hasn’t chosen to hand over the raising of Trevor to her sister out of some emotional aversion to mothering Pinker’s child but because it’s hard to catch a good man when you’re saddled with a kid.

She’s not trying to become something else so much as she’s trying to pretend she’s someone else. In contrast, Pinker knows he’s a killer and doesn’t attempt to suddenly reform now that he’s loose. But he’s a killer that wants to be more than just a killer and June ultimately takes that hope away from him, not once but twice, the last time for good. Nope, I can’t say I like June.

Verdict:

Please understand that if you’re ever randomly gifted with freaky “gods of Olympus” style powers you cannot use them to force someone to be with you. That’s a no-no. We’ve seen this type of situation go badly before.

There are echoes of “D.P.O.” (3×3) here, not only because we have an… er… less than morally adept gentleman who can control the forces of nature because he survived a freak storm, but because that same dude keeps chasing after someone he can’t have and leaves destruction in his wake. It’s that desperation for another human being who would be good for them but who they themselves are no good for that links Darren Peter Oswald and Wilson Pinker Rawls in spirit. They’re like X-Files blood brothers, both unsympathetic and yet tragic at the same time.

Yes, the look Mulder gives June at the end of the episode says it all: Killing Pinker Rawls was unnecessarily cruel. He had already let Trevor go. Then again, Pinker allows her to do it. I guess he realizes all his chances are gone.

Undeserving though Pinker is, in that moment you know he’s been robbed of something precious.

A

I want what’s mine:

Since when do people board up for tornadoes? Shouldn’t they be bunkered in a basement somewhere? And if a tornado is coming, who has time to pick a fight?

Is it supposed to be ironic that Pinker went to prison with so many condoms on hand meanwhile he had a kid he didn’t know about? Or am I finding things that aren’t there?

Wow. Scully knows the ICD9 billing code for c-sections. That’s ridiculous.

Shouldn’t Pinker have been able to reach his hand through the metal part of the phone booth?

Is Jackie dead?? Pinker seems to be able to touch people like a normal fella when he so chooses. Perhaps all that’s left of Jackie’s face is an ashen hole. Perhaps not.

Give me my son:

That’s a pretty O, Brother, Where Art Thou? style prison we open upon.

I love the way Scully reaches for Trevor’s hand right before they run for the phone booth.

If a naked man is chasing after you in the dark of the Mississippi night, it’s a good idea to run even if he can’t walk through walls.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Should we arrest David Copperfield?
Mulder: [Nods] Yes, we should. But not for this.

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.

Arcadia 6×13: Did I not make myself clear?


Us? Married? You don't say...

Who knew the day would come when you could pay your mortgage with perfect precision and still be evicted for violating your neighbors’ aesthetic sensibilities? Or more accurately, for violating your neighbors’ property values? I’m just going to put it out there and say that the true horror of “Arcadia” will be lost on anyone who hasn’t been subject to the capricious cruelty of a homeowners association.

You may think I exaggerate, but I’ve personally witnessed the unmarked cars that slowly and suspiciously pass by to inspect the nearly identical lawns in our neighborhood for flaws. A trashcan in plain view, an unshapely bush, or a front door with off color paint and you can expect to receive a terse notice post haste.

Not too long ago, we received an anonymous flyer in the mail rallying the neighborhood to help right a terrible wrong. It seems there’s another, less expensive neighborhood, down the street with the nerve to have newer, blacker pavement than us. If we’re not careful, visitors may think those people actually make more money than we do, what with our beat up grey streets. It’s urgent that each family invest a couple of hundred dollars over and above their association dues, taxes, and grocery budgets, yes, even in this bleak economy, so that we can bring our neighborhood back up to a grasping middle class standard.

And it was written in all caps. I swear to you.

This is all my way of saying that there’s a great subtext in “Arcadia” about the pitfalls of the pursuit of perfection. Not to mention the demotion of the American Dream into some cookie cutter concept of middle class home ownership and matching SUVs – A monotony of conformity. First time writer on The X-Files, Daniel Arkin, came up with the idea based partially on his own experience in a co-op.

This was originally supposed to be the first episode aired after “One Son” (6×12), an episode the events of which turned The X-Files’ longstanding mythology on its head. It’s no wonder then that The Powers That Be opted for more lighthearted fare to follow that up. Unfortunately for “Arcadia”, the two episodes that ended up airing directly before it also featured heavy doses of humor so some fans were getting restless at this point for a good, old-fashioned X-File.

In that respect, in terms of the X-File itself, “Arcadia” doesn’t earn the highest marks. The Stepford-style homeowners are much more frightening than the actual monster in this Monster of the Week. An Übermenscher made of garbage? Really??

Distractingly smelly pile of garbage aside, the basic plot reminds me of “Our Town” (2×24) where another seemingly ideal community hides a dark and deadly secret. In that episode, outsiders and misfits face the threat of being cannibalized, which holds a heck of a lot more emotional weight than being torn to pieces by a garbage heap. Hiding the absurdity of the “Tibetan Thought Form” by filming it mostly in the dark does help, but it still manages to be more funny than frightening.

I truly wish for “Arcadia’s” sake that it had a better monster because it deserves it for being so hilarious otherwise. Unlike “Agua Mala” (6×14) where the monster was effective but the characterizations were over the top, the humor here is on point the whole way through. “Arcadia” has the exact opposite problem.

Oh, and you may hear the occasional unfounded complaint, but Daniel Arkin doesn’t succumb to the temptation to turn “Arcadia” into a tantalizing adventure in UST and I’m grateful for that. Yes, there’s a whole lotta banter going on. But there’s never any serious threat of Mulder and Scully getting personal; no pregnant pauses, no yearning glances. The jokes are all in cheeky fun. Despite what you may read in fanfic, I don’t spy any secret desire in Scully’s eyes for Mulder to stop teasing and take her in his arms, nor do I imagine Mulder tossing and turning on a couch downstairs resisting the urge to break down Scully’s door in the heat of passion.

Whatever their feelings for each other, neither wants to be trapped together in some sterile suburbia. “Arcadia” is just an opportunity for the characters to good-naturedly rib each other, and maybe the audience at home as well. More importantly, it’s as though Chris Carter & Co. were trying to say, “Don’t worry. The recent, painful split between Mulder and Scully that we willfully, cruelly and unnecessarily inflicted upon you was only temporary.”

But that’s no thanks to Mulder. He is absolutely the highlight of this episode as he takes advantage of every moment possible to irritate Scully. He’s like the annoying kid at the back of the class who dips the girls’ pigtails in the inkwell. In fact, he overdoes his act to such an extent that the least believable part of this episode is that anyone would think Mulder and Scully were a happily married couple. Between his exaggerated smiles and Scully’s pained ones no one would buy it, which is ironic since when they don’t try everyone assumes they’re together.

And I’m not complaining because watching Mulder drive Scully up a wall still makes me laugh out loud. And seeing Mulder nearly pee on himself is its own reward. Silly monster or no, “Arcadia” is worth it just for the belly laughs.

You may want to cherish this moment because pretty soon, successfully funny X-Files will be few and far between. In fact… nah. Spoilers.

Verdict:

By the way, we live in a planned community built on reclaimed land. Like Mulder, we’ve been denied the portable basketball hoop in the driveway, a gift from my uncle. Currently, the light in our lamppost is out and we have yet to replace it.

In other words, if you don’t hear from me by Friday… feed my fish.

A-

Tibetan Thought Forms:

Didn’t the Kleins hear about the unibomber? Who opens packages with no return address?

Why would Mulder leave Scully alone in the house after he’s all but summoned the monster by name?

If Big Mike was the one who warned Mulder by sticking a note in his mailbox, if he’s the one who kept fixing the mailbox, where were the telltale signs of much? After all, he was living in the sewer at the time. For that matter, where’d he pick up the paint?

Interestingly, neither Mulder nor Scully seem to have their cover story straight. Aren’t you supposed to settle those details before going undercover? I’d say that Mulder was spontaneously changing the plan, but their mutual hesitation before answering personal questions makes me think they never concocted an official lie.

Rattan Furniture:

Notice there are no children in this episode.

It’s that guy from Monk… and from everything else.

Scully’s exposition of the case while she videos the crime scene is rather see-thru. It’s so long I start tuning her out after a minute. And you know what? It’s not even essential to understanding the plot.

I like Big Mike.

Okay, one of the best things about rewatching something you’ve already seen 20+ times is still finding new nuggets of gold. There’s a moment right after Gogolak breaks the news to Mulder that he can’t have a basketball hoop where Scully with an all too serious face pats his hand in a gesture of comfort. Priceless.

Best Quotes:

Win Shroeder: So how was your first night? Peaceful?
Mulder: Oh, it was wonderful. We just spooned up and fell asleep like little baby cats. Isn’t that right, Honeybunch?
Scully: That’s right, Poopyhead.

——————–

Gene Gogolak: Rules are rules. It may not sound like anything, a simple basketball hoop. But from there, it’s just a few short steps to spinning daisy reflectors and a bass boat in the driveway.
Mulder: In other words, anarchy.

——————–

Win Shroeder: Sweetheart, did you use the dolphin-safe tuna this time?
Cami Shroeder: Dolphin-safe all the way, Honey.
Win Shroeder: We always use the dolphin-safe.
Mulder: You’ve got to love those dolphins… although they’re pretty tasty, too.
Win Shroeder: [Stunned Silence]
Cami Shroeder: [Horrified Silence]
Scully: HAHAHA! Ha.

——————–

Mulder: [Pats the bed beside him and poses suggestively] Come on, Laura, you know… we’re married now.
Scully: Scully, Mulder. Good night.
Mulder: [Walks past her] The thrill is gone.