Tag Archives: Bad Blood

Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster 10×3: I forgot how much fun these cases could be.


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Yes, this is the moment we’ve been waiting for since 1996. Darin Morgan is back on The X-Files. Tell your moms. Tell your mutants.

Whether you’re an old head or a newbie Phile, if you’ve made it as far as the revival then you already know that writer Morgan is a giant among giants as far as this show is concerned, and nearly as mythical as Big Blue, considering that he all but disappeared no sooner than his genius was recognized, and in the wake of his disappearance a legend was born. After all, what is a legend but magic once witnessed and thereafter unseen?

And herein lies part of this episode’s inescapable hurdle: The expectations for it, and its writer, are so high that it will either inevitably fail to live up to the wishes of the viewer, or it will inevitably succeed in the eyes of the viewer by virtue of the legend, and either way the viewer will inevitably fail to see it for what it is.

So now that we’ve cleared up the vanity of our little exercise, let’s take a look at Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.

As much as I welcome the return of Darin Morgan, what matters to me more than anything is that MULDER AND SCULLY ARE BACK. And Scully, especially my Scully. Her attitude is back. Her facial expressions are back. Her voice is back.

Scully!! There you are! There you are!!! *sobs* Where have you be-e-en! Where were you? WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED YOU???

This is my girl. No, she doesn’t believe this nonsense. But she’s still here. She’s still giving it her all. Why? Because Mulder. And why else? Because there are victims who need her help.

And one more thing: Scully has officially confirmed that she prefers her Mulder bat-crap crazy. Can we let that confession stand now? Can we stop feigning every so often that Scully is turned off by Mulder’s insanity instead of admitting the truth we all know, that she thrives off of it? Okthanksbuhbye.

Yet even as I celebrate Scully, I recognize that this episode is mostly about Mulder. We can call that unfair if we want to, but we all know that this quest began with Mulder, that Scully joined in and jump started a mission he was already on. And, frankly, both he and we needed some reminding that this journey on the X-Files is still about a quest, a quest in search of a reality that most mortals never get to see, a key aspect of the show that the show itself seemed to lose sight of as far back as Season 7.

This confirmation of the quest and the recommissioning of our resident believer comes at an interesting time in my personal fandom as I’ve been in an internal debate with my various selves since the premiere. Yes, much of the success of the early seasons relied on the audience vicariously experiencing Mulder and Scully’s awe and wonder with each new extreme discovery. But how much awe and wonder do Mulder and Scully still need or could they realistically still have at this stage of their lives? As every episode of the revival so far has taken great pains to remind us, they’ve been around the block more than a few times.They’re no longer the upstart non-conformists they used to be. They’re coming back, middle-aged and emotionally scarred, to the institution and authority they once ran from. Can anything still believably surprise them? And if it did, would the joy of discovery still be in it?

Thank you, Darin Morgan, for making the answer a clear “Yes.” That gleam in Mulder’s eye after he finally gets to shake hands with a prehistoric lizard man… well, it’s a gleam I haven’t seen in a very, very long time. But I’ll be a leaping lizard if I don’t still recognize it.

Earlier in the episode, Mulder quotes the Apostle Paul, musing that it might be time to put away childish things.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. – 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NKJV)

But he momentarily forgot that “childish” and “childlike” are two things that shouldn’t be conflated. Childlike faith, childlike optimism, childlike curiosity… suffer the little children, my dear Mulder! Go ahead and grow a brain, but don’t grow up completely. I don’t want you to grow up. I need a Monsters-R-Us kid.

Let’s say the newly skeptical side of Mulder is right. Let’s say most of what he thought and believed in the 90’s is intellectual flotsam and jetsam these days. Even if 99% of what Mulder and Scully encounter on the X-Files is bunk, that 1% can rock the world, or at least, completely change the course of Mulder’s life and give meaning to his own existence, a motivation that he at long last has recalled.

Meanwhile, as the rest of the episode not so subtly draws to our attention, he’s not the only one who needs his life infused with some meaning. Because it wouldn’t be a Darin Morgan episode if said author didn’t poke his finger in the hole of the side of the futility of human existence. The perceived futility, anyway.

Just like having no choice but to see every episode of The X-Files within the context of every other episode of The X-Files, it’s impossible to watch this episode without comparing it to Darin Morgan’s other work on the show, so I won’t try not to. Frankly, as self-referential as this is, it invites comparison. I haven’t seen this many easter eggs since I was seven and on an actual easter egg hunt. There are about twenty too many Easter eggs, if I’m being honest.

For Darin Morgan especially, it’s more than a bit on the obvious side of self-parody. “Humbug” (2×20), the pointed and pointedly underplayed comedy that started it all, opened the door to The X-Files commenting on The X-Files, but it did it in such a way that you could easily miss the elbow to your ribs. It was more like a gentle brush than a jab. “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) was much more obvious, but it also gave itself completely over to biting philosophical commentary. Now that’s a jab to the ribs. “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) was a mad world, but what it lacked in focus it made up for in laughs and memorable moments. And my favorite, Darin Morgan’s pièce de résistance as far as I’m concerned, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) was the perfect balance of everything: deep questions, deep belly laughs, and good-natured self-awareness.

How does “MASMTWM” fit into this overall picture? Well, I think if we took “Humbug’s” preference for the freakish over the mundane, mixed in a hefty dose of “JCFOS’s” spoofishness, added a dash of “CBFR’s” sentimentality and middle-aged it just right, we might approximate something close to what we have here.

We’ve arrived back again at the irrationality of humanity. Guy Mann echoes every above-mentioned episode when he tells us that human behavior makes so little sense, it’s frightening. Humans with their 9-5’s, their plans for futures they’d rather not live, their pants – they’re the freaks. The comedy here is the tragedy of the invisible question mark that hovers over most people’s heads. But whereas once, Morgan seemed to make fun of Mulder for trying to make sense of it all in “JCFOS”, he now seems to be anointing Mulder to go and make sense of it. For all our sakes.

In one of the more obvious spiritual parallels of the show, Mulder has always been out to prove that there’s something out there, something more than the banality of mundane human existence. This episode is a moment of validation to affirm that not only is that exactly what he’s doing, that’s exactly what he needs to be doing. If there’s nothing more, what in the paint-filled bag are we doing this for? So go to it, Mulder and Scully. Find a rhyme and reason for lives that seemingly have neither.

#HowMulderAndScullyGotTheirGrooveBack

All that said, and as genuinely relieved and amused as I am at this episode, it’s so loaded down with easter eggs oozing gooey chocolate that it doesn’t match the depth and profundity of Morgan’s earlier work, not that I truly expected it to, I just kinda hoped it would. And before you say it, I do realize that not everything needs to be deep or profound or even perfect. But “MASMTWM” actually attempts anchor itself in the depths of shrewd observation and winds up treading the shallow waters of long-winded exposition. A slightly more balanced “show” to “tell” ratio would have increased its impact dramatically.

Don’t get me wrong, It’s the clear best we’ve seen from the revival so far. It justifies both by its very existence and by its content the resurrection of these characters. But maybe part of the reason it’s forced to rely on in-jokes so much is because a dramatic series needs time to develop rhythms and patterns before those rules can effectively be broken in the name of comedy. Darin Morgan’s reign as a writer on The X-Files didn’t commence until the show had already firmly established its routine and its aesthetic. And as Chris Carter likes to remind us in nearly every single interview, this isn’t a reboot. This revival is a fresh creation and it’s saying and doing things the series proper never dreamed of. I suspect I would have found “MASMTWM” even funnier if it hadn’t harkened back to the old days as much as it was rooted and grounded in the new.

Verdict:

Mulder and Scully have met a Silurian from Dr. Who and I think the game is officially afoot, Watson. Mulder has his sense of wonder back and Scully her sense of adventure, two things we both historically got and desperately needed from both characters. They’ve changed, they’ve grown, they’ve endured, but at least we know we still know them. (Though I submit the show is overdoing the awkward middle-aged, post-90’s thing a little. It’s not like our two leads are pre-computer dinosaurs. Heck, they’re not even retirement age. They’re smart people and I’m sure they would have learned how to work smart phones right along with the rest of us.)

It’s funny, but it’s impossible to know yet whether this will be an enduring masterpiece. It will have to endure for us to tell. For me, it isn’t only not “CBFR”, it’s not even at a “Bad Blood” (5×12) level of funny. Then again, I was a freak who thought “Bad Blood” was only okay the first time she saw it. So take my opinion for what you will. Humans are truly the unfathomable creatures.

But if this episode gets credit for anything, besides for reigniting my love for these two characters, it’s for its note perfect tribute to the late, great Kim Manners whose aesthetics as a director, without exaggeration, were foundational in shaping the show into what it became. I’m merely one of the unprivileged masses who never knew the man personally, yet somehow I’m quite sure that he would have gotten a kick out of Mulder stealing flowers for him and getting drunk at his grave. I’m pretty sure that’s the highest known form of flattery.

B+

Comments:

I’m not going to bother with all the easter eggs because we’d be plopping them into our baskets all night. But I think the first one was the best one: The stoners from “Quagmire” (3×22) and “WOTC”.

The scene between Scully and Guy Mann in the phone store started off funny and quickly devolved into much too much. That was one of those moments that took me out of the episode.

Be-Puzzlements:

Mulder hears a panicked cry of “Monster!” but takes the time to put his shirt on so he’s presentable before he goes to investigate?

Again, Scully’s in trouble, and Mulder takes the time to put his suit jacket back on before running with the cavalry to her rescue?

How does Guy Mann know not only about Shakespeare, but about the history of folios? Did those instincts download in the bite of an animal control officer too?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I’m just looking for some kind of internal logic.

Guy Mann: Why? There isn’t an external logic to any of it.

———————–

Guy Mann: Because if there’s nothing more to life than what we already know, then there’s nothing but worries, self-doubt, regret and loneliness.

———————–

Dr. Rumanovitch: No matter how overwhelming our anxieties might be, they will soon be resolved when we’re dead and buried for all eternity.

———————–

Annabell: They think I’m on crack.

Mulder: Are you?

Annabell: Yeah!

———————–
Scully: Mulder, the internet is not good for you.

Lord of the Flies 9×6: You can’t have it both ways.


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What if there was an X-Files/Breaking Bad/Glee mashup?

In which Breaking Bad takes over The X-Files for the second of three times.

But before we get to that, I think I’ve come to a mini understanding. Doggett and Reyes as characters don’t have the comedic capabilities that Mulder and Scully did.

Now, I’m more tired than anyone of hearing myself compare Doggett and Reyes to Mulder and Scully. I prepared myself for change when Season 9 first aired and I’m certainly resigned to change now. My complaint isn’t that we have a new team. No, it’s that this new team isn’t equipped to handle this kind of episode. To put it in layman’s terms, I don’t think they’re ready for this jelly.

Doggett jokes around, sure. But his jokes fall flat because he sounds like an old fogey shaking his head at kids these days. There’s no point at the end of his pitard. Mulder would have delivered those very same lines with a sardonic bite that would have left me giggling.

Scully would have shared knowing or appropriately horrified looks with Mulder at all the right moments, because her character knows how to play up the chaos around her to the best effect. Reyes spends most of the episode looking nothing but bemused, as if this crazed cast of characters genuinely needed the help of the F.B.I..

This episode is not good. But even with its shortcomings it had the possibility of providing us some memorable moments. The scenes in the morgue with Dr. Herb Fountain are still my favorites of the episode. Erick Avari, a veteran character actor who I love, plays Dr. Fountain. He carries the comedic weight of these scenes on his own, and not just because he’s the broad character. Doggett and Reyes give him next to nothing. Their reactions are way too subdued; they shouldn’t be over the top but they need to be appropriately surprised

I know my comparisons are unfair since Mulder and Scully had time to develop a shorthand and a status quo before being thrust into the world of comedy. Yet I still find myself longing for “Humbug” (2×20) and their pitch perfect responses to the madness, and even for “Bad Blood” (5×12) when they showed us they could themselves be the madness.

Frankly, despite the madness that is Dr. Rocky Bronzino, King of the Fake Bronzer, some of the better parts of this episode are watching Scully deal with him. He’s not a great character, but at least he gives Scully something to do besides pine for Mulder and worry about William.

Then again, the low point of this episode is watching Dr. Scully give CPR to a man who’s already breathing. So I guess it’s a wash.

The truth is, “Lord of the Flies” is confused. The basic plot is a serious X-File, but the overall tone is that of an episode of The Lone Gunmen. Why do I say that? I’m glad you asked.

Sadly, The Lone Gunmen only lasted thirteen episodes, but Thomas Schnauz wrote two of them. Two good ones, I might add. A personal friend of Vince Gilligan’s from film school, he was pulled onto The X-Files after the show ended and went from there to… yep, Breaking Bad.

But back to The Lone Gunmen for a moment, Dr. Rocky Branzino is a character perfectly in keeping with the over the top tone of that show. What he’s doing here in an X-File that’s also trying to be both scary and emotional is beyond me. This is a jumbled mess of goals. Is it a broad comedy? Is it a serious murder investigation? Is it a character study in teenage angst? Is it a short horror film? Is it a Twilight Zone mystery with a twist? Is it trying to be all things to all men, that it might by all means win some?

Tonally, “Lord of the Flies” doesn’t know if it’s a real X-File or a light X-File. It’s possible to straddle the fence and it’s been done successfully before, but this isn’t one of those times.

And if you’re going to have a comedic episode with Jane Lynch in it then she should get the chance to be funny. I’m sorry.

Still on the topic of soon to be wildly famous guest stars, if you had told me that the intrepid Sky Commander Winkie would later blow my mind as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, I would have raised a Scully brow. And there’s our Breaking Bad trifecta for this episode: Vince Gilligan produced it, Thomas Schnauz wrote it and Aaron Paul starred in it.

Verdict:

The X-Files has a long tradition of mixing puberty with the paranormal. You know the drill – your body’s going through changes and you don’t know where you fit in, so you electrocute your friend in the parking lot, have an astrological meltdown, or plow your teacher into the cafeteria wall. Or, you can turn into a B movie fly monster and cocoon your enemies, which appears to both the biological fate and freewill choice of Dylan Lokensgard.

Whatever the try-hard philosophical ponderings of the closing monologue, Dylan isn’t sympathetic, or scary, or even interesting. And as such he adds nothing to the Puberty Pantheon. “Hungry” (7×1) was a better take on a monster who wanted to be anything but.

*cough*MoreVinceGilligan*cough*

C+

Pheromones:
What kind of pheromones are Mulder and Scully excreting that they keep attracting entomologists with silly names?

Mothers are women too, Scully. “I’m with someone,” would have been a more definitive answer.

The teenage romance doesn’t sell. It rarely does in real life either.

When was the last time we had an ending voiceover/case report?

Once again, Scully is a distraction from Doggett and Reyes. Worse, she’s outshining them.

I have no idea why Dylan’s little love interest suddenly feels affection toward the murderous nerd once he’s gone.

No, really. Who hits on somebody by talking about shared menstrual cycles?

FYI, Breaking Bad’s first takeover was “Drive” (6×2) and the next will be “John Doe” (9×7).

Best Quotes:

Dr. Fountain: Well, it’s the kid’s parents. They’re suing everyone.
Reyes: For what?
Dr. Fountain: Everything. They’re suing the county for making the street too steep, the supermarket he stole the shopping cart from, the company that made the helmet he was wearing.

——————–

Dr. Rocky Bronzino: Dr. Scully? This is so exciting. I’ve never had a partner before.
Scully: I have.

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


 

 

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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}

 

Je Souhaite 7×21: How many centuries now has disco been dead?


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Breakfast of champions.

First off, disco is not dead.

Second off, it wasn’t until I joined the internet fandom many years after the show first aired that I realized people really loved this episode. ‘Cause I didn’t love it. I didn’t know what to do with it. I was bored.

Maybe it’s that every time I reach this point in Season 7 I’m so bored and frustrated that it really would take a magic wish to wake me up. – Or some devilish shenanigans a la “Requiem” (7×22). Maybe I would’ve liked it better if we hadn’t just had two kooky episodes in a row. Maybe.

I should love it because “Je Souhaite” is classic Vince Gilligan. And Vince Gilligan is probably my favorite television writer ever. Here he also directs an episode of The X-Files for the first time, which is in keeping with Season 7’s theme of letting everyone have a chance to take the wheel.

But my hangups with this episode are the same ones I used to have with “Bad Blood” (5×12 ) and that I should have but don’t with “Small Potatoes” (4×20) because I’m a hypocrite. There are radical, life-altering, world-changing events happening here and the responses are so… comedic that I find it jarring. In “Bad Blood”, Mulder is under investigation for killing an unarmed teenager but basically limits his reaction to sarcastic one-liners directed at Scully. In “Small Potatoes”, women are basically being raped by a man who tricks them into believing he’s their husbands, but dang it, it’s hard to hate Eddie Van Blundht. And here Mulder makes a wish that wipes out the human race and all he can say is, “Oh, crap.”

Where I actually start to disconnect  is when an invisible body is “discovered” and taken in for an autopsy. Would anyone believe it was a human body some guy on the bike had fallen over? And if they believed it was, wouldn’t the CDC, NIH and the Surgeon General have been called out? Why would the local coroner’s office have contacted Mulder and Scully? It’s not like they were investigating the deaths of invisible men.

I realize it’s comedic, but my mind has to be in “Real World according to The X-Files” mode or “Fantasy according to The X-Files” mode. I have a hard time switching back and forth between the two. At first, I think “Je Souhaite” is going to be funny but still somehow real like “Small Potatoes” manages to be, and then suddenly it’s not and a switch turns off in my head. This is a personal problem.

My second problem is that this trope is a little too familiar. Like Mulder, I too grew up watching I Dream of Jeannie, so I know it’s dangerous to be too literal with the jinn. And then there’s that episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Man in the Bottle” warning me to be careful what I wish for. Heck, even Duck Tales warned me that a genie’s power was dangerous.

And, most of all, I saw Aladdin. So we know where Mulder’s final wish is headed, m’kay?

My point is that none of this is new. Trickster genies are a tradition.

Tradition is fine. But there’s no point in telling the story unless there’s a fresh perspective on the tale, and by “fresh” I mean something more than the genie wearing a leather jacket.

If you’re still here, let me assure you that my griping is now done. Unlike “Fight Club” (7×2), this episode has real merit.

Even though my brain may have trouble suspending disbelief, it is funny. Most of my laughter is drawn out by the Stokes brothers who steal the show. I could’ve used a lot more of them. I love Anson’s kitchen table scream. Leslie trying to throw off Mulder and Scully’s suspicion. Chilly Zombie!Anson blowing up the house while Leslie rants and raves in the background. That’s good stuff. That’s Gilligan stuff.

Since Season 3, I’ve noticed that the penultimate episode of the season usually serves as a sort of emotional finale before the mytharc themed season finale. In Season 5, Vince Gilligan gave us “Folie à Deux” (5×19), an episode that reaffirmed Mulder and Scully’s partnership right before it was tested by the advent of Diana Fowley in “The End” (5×20). I don’t know if “Je Souhaite” was originally conceived of as the penultimate episode, but we do know that when it was written and filmed the fate of The X-Files was still up in the air. This very well could have been its last stand-alone episode. Just in case it was, Gilligan had a little message for the fans:

Mulder: The trick is to be specific. To make the wish perfect. That way, everyone is going to benefit. It’s going to be a safer world, a happier world. There’s going to be food for everyone, freedom for everyone, the end of the tyranny of the powerful over the weak. Am I leaving anything out?

Scully: It sounds wonderful.

Mulder: Then what’s the problem?

Scully: Maybe it’s the whole point of our lives here, Mulder, to achieve that. Maybe it’s a process that one man shouldn’t try and circumvent with a single wish.

You heard it here. World peace isn’t achieved by wanting it or wishing for but by working for it. And you don’t have to start big; you start by treating the people around you better.

Mulder: I don’t know if you noticed but, um, I never made the world a happier place.

Scully: Well, I’m fairly happy. That’s something.

Yes, it is, Scully.

If the world ends tomorrow, and knowing season finales on The X-Files it just might, we can rest at ease knowing that even if Mulder didn’t change the world he made a difference in one life.

Verdict:

All my kvetching makes it sound like my grade is going to be more dire than it is. But now that I know what to expect from it, this episode has grown on me over the years, which seems to be my recurring theme for Season 7. I guess when there’s nothing else left, you learn to appreciate what you have.

And who knows? In a few years I may like this as much as “Bad Blood”.

B

Random Observation:

Funny. Jenn doesn’t talk like she last came out of the 70’s.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I can’t believe you don’t want butter on your popcorn. Uggh. It’s un- American.

——————–

Jenn: The only thing you people are cursed with is stupidity. All of you. Everybody. Mankind. Everyone I have ever come into contact with without fail. Always asking for the wrong thing.

Mulder: You mean making the wrong wishes.

JENN: Yeah, it’s always: “Give me money. Give me big boobs. ” [Indicates crotch] “Give me a big hoo-hoo. Make me cool like the Fonz.” Or whoever’s the big name now.

Mulder: You been out of circulation a long time.

all things 7×17: That’s like saying you’re having David Crosby’s baby.


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Ok. Fine. I do melt.

Gillian Anderson spoke to me today.

Well, she tweeted me a thirteen word sentence but that counts and I’m counting it.

And she spoke to me while I was in the middle of my upteenth rewatch of “all things” in order to prep my final draft of this review. Destiny? Clearly.

In the interest of full disclosure, I used to hate this episode. I’m talking not just dislike, loathing. The shippy moments barely assuaged me. This was exactly what I was afraid of back when David Duchovny first stepped behind the pen and camera for “The Unnatural” (6×20), that the actor’s point of view, or maybe more accurately, my awareness of the actor’s point of view, would irritate me and get in the way of my viewing pleasure. With still palpable relief, I can say I ended up enjoying that one. So by the time “all things” came along I was much more open. Sadly, I spent the entire episode thinking, “Why is Gillian Anderson blocking my view of Scully? ‘Cause I’m hearing a whole lot of Gillian right now.”

It wasn’t until one day a few years back, as I was rewatching “all things” with the DVD commentary on, that I realized I actually like what Gillian Anderson was trying to achieve. But while there’s a lot to appreciate here, there are also things standing in the way of some good ideas turning into a great episode.

Let’s take the good ideas first. Scully is meant to come to the understanding that she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. A series of choices, and destiny disguised as a woman in a khaki cap and jacket, have led her on this path. There’s no going back to who you used to be because you’ve grown now. And besides, our emotions and attachments can sometimes make us see good in situations and relationships that really weren’t good for us at all. So don’t waste too much time looking back and wondering. I get it. I’m with you, girl.

Scully slowly comes to this realization after accidentally/not-so-accidentally coming back into contact with her old mentor, professor, and lover (?), Dr. Daniel Waterston. I’ll admit Scully’s relationship with Waterston, as we got to see it, always bothered me. Apparently, though, as written, Scully never slept with Waterston. What they had was a close relationship that was quickly turning into an emotional affair. Scully leaves him and medicine behind in order to resist the temptation of an affair and leave Waterston’s family in peace. Now, that sounds more like the romantic heroine I know. I realize that people have faults, they sin, they make mistakes and they grow. It’s still hard to picture Scully, even the young and relatively inexperienced Scully as we knew her in Season 1, knowingly being party to an affair. If anything, she used to be even less of a “shades of gray” sort of thinker. Regardless, the nuances of Scully and Waterston’s relationship had to be left out because of time constraints.

Maggie Waterston: Do you have any idea the hell you created in our lives?

Scully: Maggie, to be honest, I left so that there wouldn’t be hell in your lives.

One thing that wasn’t left out but I wish had been was the tease in the opening teaser.

No, I won’t be accepting death threats. Thank you for your cooperation.

The truth is, the implication that Scully had spent the night romantically with Mulder wasn’t Gillian’s idea. 1013 Productions had been planning to slip a nugget like this in around this point in the season and it got worked into “all things”. It was meant to serve as confirmation that Mulder and Scully were already in a romantic relationship, which explains the shameless flirting that’s been going on all season. If you thought Mulder and Scully seemed a little too happy lately, now you know why. In fact, keeping in mind their happy-go-lucky attitudes lately, Scully suddenly slipping into “What is my life?” mode feels incongruous within the context of the season, no?

But there I go losing sight of my topic again. As I said, the teaser is a bit of a problem only because it distracts from the rest of the episode. Even today, it’s a distraction. The audience spends the rest of the episode trying to figure out whether Scully’s roamings through the spirit world tell us whether or not she’s sleeping with Mulder. I realize after waiting so long for the two leads to come together a casual confirmation might not have been possible, but that’s my take on it.

The toughest hurdle for me is Scully’s lightspeed transition from a Catholic to a New Age Spiritualist. Again, maybe this is one of those things that would have gone down a little (and only a little) more smoothly if Gillian could have kept in more of her original ideas. She had enough material for a two hour special, sounds like. But we have what we have and Scully makes a turn so abrupt, I end up flying out of the passenger seat of the car. Scully kneeling in front of a Buddha statue in a moment of religious ecstasy, with a cross around her neck no less, is about where my head hits the asphalt. Next time I’ll wear a seatbelt.

Mulder: I just find it hard to believe.

Scully: What part?

Mulder: The part where I go away for two days and your whole life changes.

Scully: Mmm, I didn’t say my whole life changed.

Mulder: You speaking to God in a Buddhist temple. God speaking back.

Scully: Mmm, and I didn’t say that God spoke back. I said that I had some kind of a vision.

Mulder: Well, for you, that’s like saying you’re having David Crosby’s baby.

I’m of Mulder’s mind on this one. Honestly, this New Age through line makes Scully feel more like a vehicle for some deeply felt ideas to be expressed rather than that these expressed ideas were servicing Scully’s character. But I know this episode was very personal. And, hey, at least the suddenness of the change is acknowledged.

What I’m actually more impressed by than the story is the directing. It doesn’t look or feel like a first time effort. Moby makes his second guest appearance on The X-Files soundtrack this season. Gillian and I must have something in common because I also had Moby on repeat back in the day. I didn’t travel without my Moby CDs. (Kids, that’s how mommy and daddy used to listen to music.) “My Weakness” fit a little more seamlessly into the overall aesthetic of the show in “Closure” (7×11), though, than “The Sky is Broken” does here. It draws attention to itself, sometimes purposefully, sometimes distractingly

I love the pattern of musical rhythms and beats, however. Time is the other star of this episode and it draws attention to itself, not only through rhythms but visually. I confess, it took me forever to catch on… Scratch that. I didn’t catch on until Gillian explained it, that time slows down every time Scully needs to pay attention because an important decision is coming up. I wish someone would drop me hints like that.

This is my long-winded way of saying I think it’s a good first effort. There is something much more modern, sometimes jarringly so, about this episode and its sensibilities, from the music to the content, than we usually see in The X-Files. From what little I know of Gillian, I suspect she wanted to get our attention. I heard you.

Verdict:

I know what you’re thinking. That I have no taste. What you’re also thinking: What did Gillian Anderson say to her? Well, she said that Scully’s on a spiritual journey, one that she’s only on because of Mulder and one that Mulder, and not Waterston, can help her complete.

That’s what she said in “all things”.

The Twitter exchange went like this…

And then I died.

Well, no. First, I spun around my room like a top. Then I died.

Here’s the way Gillian described the discarded scene in her commentary:

Initially, our [Colleen and Scully’s]… our second meeting was in Chinatown. Initially, I had a scene where Scully walks into an apothecary. And she was going to go so far as to actually try and find some alternative medicine, tinctures and salves, to help heal Dr. Waterston when nothing else in the world of Western medicine was working. And she finds herself in this wonderful, in my mind, apothecary [laughs] with this wonderful old woman behind the counter. And, initially, right when she’s about to leave, a woman comes from the back who’s been… who’s had accupuncture. And it’s Colleen and they end up going through a walk through Chinatown, through the streets, and having a conversation that had a lot more dialogue than those scenes and less exposition for her [Colleen], and more color and everything. But neither of those things worked out.

I can hear Gillian Anderson speaking, and I’m okay with that.

B

Wind Chimes:

The lady who plays Colleen, whose name is… Colleen, was also in “Detour” (5×4), one of my favorite episodes.

Gillian and I also share procrastination in common. It’s an issue.

I believe this is the first slideshow since “Field Trip” (6×21) and before that it was “Bad Blood” (5×12). What’s with it only being used as a source of tension between Mulder and Scully lately?

Am I the only one who thinks Mulder looks funny in that getup? No?

Gillian’s is one of those rare DVD commentaries that actually gives me what I want – insight into story choices rather than technical details.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: But that was merely prelude of what was to come. Three years later, in 1994 even more complex formations occurred simultaneously on opposite ends of the English countryside with the Mandelbrot Set, were it still there, at its center. Then, in 1997, even more complex formations occurred…

Scully: [Eats her salad and ignores Mulder]

Mulder: … and I’m not wearing any pants right now.

Scully: [Looks up after realizing Mulder’s gone quiet] Hmm?

———————

Scully: I once considered spending my whole life with this man. What I would have missed.

Mulder: I don’t think you can know. I mean, how many different lives would we be leading if we made different choices. We… We don’t know.

Scully: What if there was only one choice and all the other ones were wrong? And there were signs along the way to pay attention to.

Mulder: Mmm. All the… choices would then lead to this very moment. One wrong turn, and… we wouldn’t be sitting here together. Well, that says a lot. That says a lot, a lot, a lot. I mean that’s probably more than we should be getting into at this late hour…

X-Cops 7×12: With all due respect, what the **** are you talking about?


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It all depends on how they edit it together.

It’s not you, Vince. It’s me.

I realize we haven’t talked for a while, or ever, but I believe it’s best if we’re absolutely open and honest and each other. Because good relationships, like Mulder and Scully’s, are built on mutual respect and trust.

Now, you know I’m not the touchiest feeliest type, but with all my little grinch heart I do love you. Way back in “Soft Light” (2×23) I knew there was something special about you. Maybe it was your sense of humor, your obvious love for the characters that came out in the dialogue, your well-placed touches of continuity… because you always were the King of Continuity, Vince. I don’t know what it was exactly, but I knew that you had it.

Then along came “Pusher” (3×17) and I was just gone. Maya Angelou once said that people will forget what you did but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. Well, “Pusher” makes me feel things, Vince. Happy things. Those happy, gushy, illogical feelings that you get when you’re watching really, really good television. You wrote and directed “Sunshine Days” (9×18), so I know you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve always thought your biggest strength is that you’re a fan first, a fan who can write like the dickens. As a fan then, you’ve had those moments when, for whatever reason, your favorite television show doesn’t do it for you one week. Maybe you had a cold. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe you didn’t like the guest star. Whatever. It could be anything. But it happens.

Well, it’s happened for me, Vince. It’s happened for me with you. It’s “X-Cops.” I just… can’t.

Don’t get upset! Please! I don’t want this to come between us. I’d hate like the devil for that to happen.

I know you’re a genius and I believe in your powers. But this just isn’t my brand of humor. I mean, I suppose I can do broad humor. It may have taken me a little longer than most to warm up to “Bad Blood” (5×12) but we get along fine now. And I’m a huge fan of I Love Lucy. So maybe I’m just a hypocrite. It really is me, not you.

But in my heart and in my mind, there’s broad and then there’s wide enough to straddle Manhattan. Each time “X-Cops” comes up on one of my rewatches I try my darndest to give it a fair try, but when Steve and Edy come on the scene, you lose me. They make The Birdcage look like an exercise in dramatic restraint.

I’m not insulting your taste because I worship the ground you walk on. I do. Or at least I imagine I would if I were anywhere near the ground you walk on… and if worshiping you weren’t blasphemous… and psychotic.

But you know how Chris is famous for saying The X-Files is only as scary as it is real? Well, if you get really real it ain’t scary either. Not that you meant for this Boggart – because that’s what this Monster of the Week effectively is, a Boggart – to be truly frightening. Still, when you take Mulder and Scully out of their alternate universe and drop them in mine, something feels off. Really off.

Frankly, you did too good of a job. The creativity and accuracy in this one is impressive. Actually, this feels so much like an episode of Cops, down to the impeccably done intros and outros, that I’ve lost the sense of mystery and wonder that I’m used to getting week after week…. not that I’ve been getting it very much recently. Season 7’s been rough on me. I’ve kinda been losing the loving feeling. So, like I said, it’s not really your fault.

But I guess I’m like your mom. I read your Entertainment Weekly interview from back in 2000 and you said when you tried to show her “X-Cops” that she left the room to do the dishes saying, “Well, turn off Cops and show me some X-Files.” I feel the same way, Vince. The truth is, you did too good of a job. As a creative exercise, “X-Cops” is impressive. I mean, it’s amazingly accurate. And your dialogue, as always, had me chuckling despite myself. I have needs, though. Emotional needs. And what I need at this point in the series is a good old-fashioned X-File. “X-Cops” just isn’t fulfilling my needs right now.

It’s not a big deal. It’s just one of those things, one of those bumps in the road that every relationship has. We’ll move past it. I still love you! I still love The X-Files! Nothing’s going to change that. Nothing’s gonna spoil us.

I know it’s hard because up until now we’ve never had so much as an awkward moment. You know how I feel about “Unruhe” (4×2) and “Small Potatoes” (4×20) especially, not to mention “Paper Hearts” (4×8) and “Drive” (6×2). And then I could go on and on about your work as part of the John Gillnitz trio, but I wouldn’t want you to think I’m sucking up. I just want you to know that my love for your work has by no means diminished.

Besides… you don’t need me, Vince. You never have. Most people love this episode! Many a time I’ve read it lauded as the best episode of Season 7, so there you go. Never mind that my heart won’t accept it as an X-File. That’s a personal problem of mine.

One day soon we need to sit down over a cup of cocoa somewhere and catch up. I know you’ve been living your life and I’ve been living mine, but I miss you. I’ve been dying to tell you how haunting I thought the Breaking Bad finale was, how much I loved the way you used the song “El Paso”, and how I saw that little nod to The X-Files in the episode “Full Measure” and grinned like an idiot over it. And every time Breaking Bad comes up in conversation… and it does a lot…. I tell people, “Vince was a writer on The X-Files,” with all the pride my voice can handle.

I’m glad to know you’re out there and busy, giving lots of people the same geeky joy you give me.

And that’s why I say it’s not me, Vince. It’s you.

Yours devotedly,

Salome

Verdict:

If I’m going to be totally honest, and why not be? When the show first aired, it was right here at this episode that I remember thinking to myself, “I’m never going to love an episode the same way ever again, am I?” 

Yes. This was my personal “Jump the Shark” moment.

C+

Crack House Commentary:

This is the first of several episodes this season that smell suspiciously like fanfic, as if the cast and crew wanted to fulfill a few guilty pleasures before the show left the air.

On that note, part of me feels this whole exercise was just someone’s (cough!) excuse to fulfill the boyhood dream of riding along in a cop car all for the sake of “professional research.”

Okay, maybe it was an adulthood dream.

How could Steve and Edy really be sure it was Chantara? I feel like in that kind of neighborhood brightly colored fake nails wouldn’t be hard to come by.

I’m not superstitious, but I’ve found over the years that crazy really does come around when the moon is full.

Why are David and Gillian still gorgeous even on video?

That really cute moment when Scully hides behind the ambulance door.

That sketch artist came up with a drawing of Freddie Kruger in less than thirty seconds. I know. I counted.

Those scenes with Steve and Edy… I don’t think Mulder’s trying not to laugh I think David Duchovny’s trying not to laugh.

If you are going to do an X-Files/Cops crossover, an invisible MOTW is a wise choice. If a monster had actually shown up in the real world it would have been all over, for both the episode and the show.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Look, Mulder, you want to talk about werewolves to me you can knock yourself out. I may not agree with you but at least I’m not going to hold it against you. But this, Mulder, this could ruin your career.

Mulder: What career? Scully, I appreciate it. You don’t want me looking foolish. I do. I appreciate that.

Scully: I don’t want me looking foolish, Mulder.

——————-

Officer: My favorite part of the job – knocking down crack houses.

Dep. Wetzel: I heard that.

——————-

Dep. Wetzel: You really believe me, huh? You really believe I saw what I thought I saw?

Mulder: Yeah, I believe you.

Dep. Wetzel: Why?

Mulder: Why do I believe you?

Dep. Wetzel: Yeah. I mean, what proof do you have what I’m saying is real? I mean, it’s not… it’s not on the video tape.

Mulder: The camera doesn’t always tell the whole story.

Dep. Wetzel: And what about your partner? Does she believe me?

Mulder: I don’t think she thinks you’re lying.

Dep. Wetzel: Yeah, but what? Maybe I’m crazy? You know, I’ve been on the job 18 months– all I ever wanted to do. Right out of the gate, I get some kind of rep like I’m crazy? I mean, you know how cops are. How’s somebody supposed to live that down?

Mulder: I don’t know. Uh, I guess just do good work.

Dep. Wetzel: It’s a hard enough job already, you know?… And it’s hard to have a fast-track career in law enforcement when everybody thinks you’re nuts.

Mulder: Tell me about it.

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

Field Trip 6×21: I thought we had a good time?


Them bones, them bones, them dry bones.

This is another one of those Season 6 episodes where I wasn’t sure what to make of it for the first few minutes. Okay, make that the first twenty minutes. (An alien in the bedroom? What?) Long gone are the days when a Monster of the Week episode had to involve an actual Monster.

We open with an odd couple at odds. This petite redhead and her lanky Mr. Stud seem a little mismatched and hearing their argument, one wonders how they ever came together in the first place. But the genuine affection between them more than makes up for any superficial differences and they quickly reach an understanding… just in time to die.

That’s where Mulder and Scully come in.

From that point on, the rest of the episode is essentially a lengthier repeat of what happens in miniature during the teaser. Oh, except for the dying part.

Pretty Redhead? Check.
Studmuffin? Present.
Oddly matched personalities? Doubtless.
Silly argument? Yep.
Shared acid trip? Dude.
Compromise and renewed mutual appreciation? Score.

It’s no surprise to see Mulder and Scully paralleled so nonchalantly with a married couple. It’s not even really gratifying at this point either because it’s old news. The writers don’t even bother to draw too much attention to the similarities. Mulder and Scully passed the honeymoon phase a long time ago and it was starting to look like everyone but them realized how settled and “married” they already were.

To emphasize how settled their routine is, the customary slideshow is resurrected. This is the first time it’s been used since Mulder and Scully have been back in the basement office and only the second office slideshow since “Bad Blood” (5×12), which is interesting since “Field Trip” is essentially a more serious treatment of the fuel that fired that episode – Mulder and Scully’s contrasting viewpoints.

Well, maybe it’s the curse of the Seven Year Itch but the routine seems to be getting to them. One of the major tensions of the season has been Mulder’s frustration with Scully’s continuing refusal to believe. Now I think it becomes clearer that his issue isn’t so much that Scully’s a skeptic so much as he takes her skepticism personally as a lack of faith in him.

Scully: Mulder, can’t you just for once, just… for the novelty of it, come up with the simplest explanation, the most logical one, instead of automatically jumping to UFOs or Bigfoot or…?
Mulder: Scully, in six years, how… how often have I been wrong? No, seriously! I mean, every time I bring you a new case we go through this perfunctory dance. You tell me I’m not being scientifically rigorous and that I’m off my nut. And then in the end who turns out to be right like 98.9% of the time? I just think I’ve… earned the benefit of the doubt here.

I want to take my usual position on Scully’s side of the argument here, but in good conscience, I can’t. Okay, his declaration sounds arrogant, it does. But Mulder’s not exactly wrong. The 98.9% number he throws out may be just a tad high, especially since while he’s usually closer to the truth than Scully he often has to amend his initial hypothesis, but Mulder has proven over and over that his instincts are uncanny. And while Scully’s natural instinct is to gravitate toward the most logical explanation, she’s seen enough at this point to know better than to make instant assumptions.

What makes a tense moment worse is that Mulder’s not really angry, he’s hurt, and slightly offended that she’s still so dismissive of his theories after all this time. Scully is so taken aback by his unexpected response, or perhaps by his depth of feeling, or perhaps by her own guilt, or most likely all three that she has nothing to say in self-defense.

And it’s here, in this brief moment of disharmony, that I pause.

There’s a thing, a rumor, an idea that’s been floating around the interwebs in recent years and it disturbs me. It’s the fanfic-sprouting notion that Mulder and Scully are in a co-dependent relationship.

Somewhere, someone’s been skimming through too many pop psychology paperbacks while sunk a little too deep in their armchair. Remember Maurice in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8)? He was a hack, a hack with an agenda. He took a modicum of truth about Mulder and Scully, threw it out there as “intimacy through co-dependency” and the glory of MSR has been tarnished by it ever since.

Co-dependency has no official definition that I’ve been able to find. Instead there are long lists of signs and symptoms with some definitions choosing to focus more on certain characteristics than others. There is a common theme, though: a missing sense of self apart from another person to the point where one will do almost anything that person wants you to. The problem is that the lack of self identity required for co-dependency is too easily mistaken for the more honorable character trait of self-sacrifice. A wife gives up a part-time job she likes because her husband says they don’t spend enough time together anymore and he misses her. Self-sacrifice or self-loathing? Wise or shortsighted?

If I may say so, and I will say so, though I say so not as a mental health professional… it seems to me that the difference between a healthy, mutual reliance and co-dependency has a lot to do with one’s sense of self. Do the sacrificial acts come from a place of self-aware love, of confidence? Or do they stem from a desperate need to hold on to somebody, anybody?

What would make Scully co-dependent is if she became a knee-jerk believer in order to please Mulder. What would make Mulder co-dependent is if he gave up his convictions in order to keep Scully around. Those would be signs of an unhealthy relationship. But this?? If “Field Trip” is anything it’s proof positive that neither Mulder nor Scully have changed one iota for the other and that’s a good thing.

I say “one iota” for dramatic effect and, yes, their fundamental personalities are the same as ever. But they have changed in that they’ve grown wise enough to realize that neither of their perspectives, while valuable independently, are independently sufficient to get to the truth. They realized that long ago, Mulder openly admitted as much in the feature film. But somehow, maybe because of the trust issues they’ve been having all season, they’ve momentarily forgotten how valuable the other’s perspective is. Ah, but in a bit of karmic brilliance facilitated by an overgrown fungus, suddenly they’re each faced with an overdose of their own opinion. That’ll cure ‘em.

It’s hilarious to watch both of them start questioning their respective hallucinations only once their opinions are universally affirmed and unquestioned. When Hallucination Scully meekly declares, “You were right. All these years, you were right.” I can almost hear Mulder’s brain synapses go off like bombs – Does not compute.

What I love about these dream sequences is how straight they’re played. Scully really believes Mulder is dead, and she really acts like she believes. The emotional honesty of it helps prolong the mystery. We know something’s not real, but what’s not real and where/when did it start? About the only thing I don’t like about these sequences, the only thing I don’t like about the whole episode, actually, is the Jell-O mold morph. Those special effects just don’t match up to the real-world green goo in the field.

But that’s a minor quibble. I can’t hold it against the episode that is probably the purest and most direct explanation of what makes Mulder and Scully “Mulder and Scully” and why they’re so effective together. Frankly, they are dependent on each other. They rely on each other’s separate strengths without neglecting their own. Neither of them would have survived this X-File alone. It takes Scully to initially realize what’s going on and Mulder to realize it’s still going on. So, yes, they need each other. What of it?

Despite what some think, and despite what Mulder and Scully themselves are sometimes tempted to think, their partnership doesn’t need perfecting. They don’t need to change. Two heads, two very different heads are better than one. I don’t care what anyone says – If this is co-dependence, then someone please sign me up for some.

Didn’t Babs say it best? “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Verdict:

In the grand tradition of “Wetwired” (3×23), “Demons” (4×23), and “Folie a Deux” (5×19), “Field Trip” is not just the penultimate episode of the season, it’s the emotional finale before the season finale. This reaffirmation of Mulder and Scully’s trust in and reliance on each other is absolutely the perfect lead-in to the next set of angsty problems they’re about to face.

That’s it. It’s done. I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly when it happened. Perhaps it was “One Son” (6×12), perhaps “Milagro” (6×18). But this show is no longer about aliens, assuming it ever even was. It’s about two people who love each other.

And in the end when Mulder reaches for Scully and she responds without even opening her eyes because she just knows… here I go again chanting I Love You’s to people without flesh and bones.

A

The Peanut Gallery:

The lab results on the “bog sludge” come back absurdly fast.

How could I forget the moment where Scully drives a Dodge pickup?

Scully is so Scully. Even when she’s about to break down after finding out Mulder is dead, she’s still asking investigative questions. Immediately.

Who are all these people who would actually mourn Mulder? When did he get friends? That right there should have tipped Scully off.

How incredibly uncomfortable must this episode have been for Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. Buried alive in dirt and slime? Really? Who’d they piss off to get stuck with this detail?

There’s never an explanation for how these hallucinations can be shared, but OK.

Best Quotes:

Scully: UFOs. Extraterrestrial visitors from beyond who apparently have nothing better to do than buzz one mountain over and over again for 700 years.
Mulder: Sounds like crap when you say it.

——————–

Frohike: We’ll make that monkey pay.

Agua Mala 6×14: Don’t all the nuts roll downhill to Florida.


I came down for the weather.

I’ve always had a soft spot for “Agua Mala” because it takes place so near to my own neck of the woods. An X-File in my own South Florida backyard? Score! All those scenes of wind and rainy mayhem leave me feeling quite nostalgic.

It starts off as a classic Monster of the Week –  almost as an homage to The X-Files itself. In fact, much of this episode feels like a Season 2 flashback in the best kind of way: the rain, the flashlights, the creature from the blue lagoon…

Trapped in a building with a hidden but deadly monster? I call that freaky. That old, claustrophobic feeling is back, the one we used to get from episodes like “Ice” (1×7) and “Darkness Falls” (1×19). But despite the obvious parallels to those two classics, where Mulder and Scully are trapped with a deadly and previously undiscovered organism, “Agua Mala” actually feels more like the spiritual spawn of Season 2 to me, when the show grew much darker and even more disturbing because of episodes like “The Calusari” (2×21) that opened the door to topics like child on child murder. “Agua Mala” doesn’t subject us to a murder, but it does start out with a young child being strangled by the translucent tentacles of a sea monster. Then there the obvious parallels to iconic episode “The Host” (2×2), which is the last time I can remember Mulder and Scully chasing down a wormlike creature. And with the infested holes this new mutation of a jellyfish leaves in people’s necks, I’d say it’s just as creepy.

Or at least it has the potential to be. “Agua Mala” has the dubious distinction of being a textbook case of “X-Files Lite.”

Unlike the early attempts to meld humor and The X-Files by writer Darin Morgan where episodes like “Humbug” (2×20) and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) were just as frightening as they were hilarious, X-Files Lite is neither frightening nor hilarious. Nor is it self-parody in the vein of “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (3×20). Neither is it the pure comedy that humor heir apparent, writer Vince Gilligan, graced us with in episodes like “Bad Blood (5×12). It’s the next step in the evolutionary process: tongue-in-cheek X-Files. There’s a self-consciousness to the X-Files in Season 6 that didn’t really exist before, or I should say, only poked its nose out of the door occasionally. This self-consciousness is inevitable considering the iconic status the show was enjoying. If it took itself too seriously just think of how silly it would have looked.

After all, the mythology episodes became progressively harder not to smirk at as the story of the Syndicate built to its conclusion. When the conspirators in (necessary) bits of long-winded exposition start unraveling the mythology plot out loud, it’d be denial not to confess that sci-fi can be a little silly. What better way to balance the over-seriousness of a plot to conquer the planet by turning the human race into a set of living incubators than to use the episodic side of The X-Files to cheer things up a bit?

Personally, I don’t have anything against X-Files Light. I’m a fan. But it can cause some confusion in the tone of certain episodes and “Agua Mala”, unfortunately, is one of them. My inclination is that this is supposed to be a serious X-File, but my diagnosis is that it suffers from an overdose of comedic elements.

Scully sparring with Arthur Dales? That’s welcome. The dimwitted Deputy? He’s entertaining. But right about the time we’re introduced to the emasculated father-to-be and his exaggeratedly stereotyped girlfriend, I start to wince. The wannabe militia member is downright overkill.

If only the humor had leaned toward the subtle, dark humor of seasons past. If only “Agua Mala” had taken another page out of the Season 2 playbook. After all, this isn’t the first time Mulder and Scully have conducted an investigation surrounded by a cast of characters. “Excelsis Dei” (2×11) and a nursing home full of withered old perverts comes to mind – another of the darker episodes of Season 2 (the topic of entity rape has a way of bringing down the conversation) leavened with well-placed moments of humor. “Agua Mala” is slightly bogged down by its motley crew.

Fortunately, the banter between Scully and Mulder and Scully and Dales more than makes up for that. I sound like a broken record repeating how much I love Scully this season, but I’m not alone. Arthur Dales loves her too. And watching Mulder’s pride squirm as Arthur Dales lavishes praise on his pretty partner is decidedly satisfying… especially since Mulder really did figure out how to save himself on his own.

The Verdict:

I always liked this episode well enough, but now I think I may actually be a fan of it. I especially welcome the return of Darren McGavin as Arthur Dales and can only shake my head in sad regret that his health prevented him from coming back for more. What an asset his character could have been to Season 7!

The truth is, if it weren’t for a few unfortunate moments of overblown humor, and maybe even despite them, I could call this the most classic X-File of Season 6. In fact, I believe I will. And in case you were wondering, all the nuts really do roll downhill to Florida.

B+

Debris:

Instead of immediately calling Mulder to come down from Washington, D.C., why doesn’t Dales first call the police? Maybe they couldn’t have solved the X-File, but they could have checked to see if the Shipleys were all right.

There’s a bit of an easter egg hidden in this episode. If you watch the scene where Arthur Dales leaves Mulder a message with the closed-captioning on, you’ll find this little treat where the audio ends, “If this is you, Scully, call me on my cell phone. I think you know the number.http://www.insidethex.co.uk/transcrp/scrp614.htm

What’s with the Southern accents? This is South Florida even if it is the west coast of it. Deputies with New York accents would have made more sense. Ironically, to hear a Southern accent you’d have to drive far north of Goodland.

Scully leaving Mulder out in the hallway even once the threat of the gun has passed still rubs me the wrong way.

Best Quotes:

Arthur Dales: Why did you bring her here?
Mulder: Well, she knows your reputation, your early work on the X-Files and she has a knack for getting to the bottom of things.
Scully: [Glances wryly at a trash can full of empty liquor bottles] Apparently, so does Mr. Dales.
Arthur Dales: It’s a good thing I have a reputation. Otherwise, how could it be impugned?

——————–

Scully: Well, what else would we be doing out here on a night like this?
Deputy Greer: You could be looters. For all I know, you could be part of the Manson family.

——————–

Mulder: [In his best narrator’s voice] If the sea is where life began, where our ancestors first walked ashore, then who’s to say what new life may be developing in its uncharted depths?
Scully: You know what? Maybe you are a member of the Manson family.

Dreamland 6×4: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Johnny Cash.


The Exorcist?

For the second episode in a row, The X-Files boldly goes where it’s never gone before. Only this time, instead of clever camera moves what sets this episode apart is that it’s not really one episode, but two. You see, the duo of “Dreamland” and “Dreamland II” (6×5) is the first and only comedic two-parter and, for that matter, the only non-mythology two-parter The X-Files ever gave us.

In keeping with the quickly developing theme of Season 6 which is to throw Mulder and/or Scully into a strange and uncharacteristic environment and then sit back and watch the fireworks go off, Mulder is taken right out of the only environment he’s ever known, his own body, and dropped into that of Man in Black discontent Morris Fletcher, played to pitch perfection by television veteran Michael McKean.

Michael McKean is priceless. Do you hear me? Shall I put that in bold? Priceless.

What I love about the performances in this episode and his performance in particular is that the subtleties of expression keep on going past the point where the audience is even paying attention. For instance, during that phenomenal scene in Kersh’s office where “Mulder” first reveals his new obedient attitude, notice the ever so slight nuances in McKean’s expression the entire time the camera is on him. His performance doesn’t end merely because he’s finished delivering a line, the hilarity just keeps on giving.

Because more makes merrier, we’re blessed with yet another obscenely funny guest star in Nora Dunn of Saturday Night Live fame who plays the not so long suffering wife of Morris Fletcher, Joanne. The scenes between her and David Duchovny alone would make for memorable television. Personally, I think Mulder could use a little henpecking. Maybe then he’ll appreciate how lightweight a nag Scully actually is.

Speaking of Scully, can I just say how happy I am for her character? We’re already four episodes into the season and not once have the writers subjected her to a stereotypical treatment. Her default position is pursed lips and a poker face but instead she’s been alternately bold, brassy and bewildered. And, oh, the expressions she makes! There’s no crying beach ball sized tears over the children that never were, either. I could get used to this Scully.

Now, Scully’s out of the box characterization here isn’t merely because “Dreamland” is a comedy. I believe it has more to do with who’s doing the writing than the style of episode. I can’t prove it, and I know this episode is officially written by the John Gilnitz trio (John Shiban/Vince Gilligan/Frank Spotnitz), of which all three amazing writers deserve credit, but the distinctive odor of Vince Gilligan humor is all over this one. Never mind that he’s already used the body double motif in “Small Potatoes” (4×20), how about that he again takes a horrifying tragedy and turns it into a screwball comedy? He did it before by creating humor around rape in “Small Potatoes” and again by making Mulder’s mistaken murder the stuff of silliness in “Bad Blood” (5×12).

Here Mulder is trapped in another man’s body and in another man’s life with no foreseeable way out. On top of that, he witnesses a man whose own body has been gruesomely melded with a gas station floor and then watches as that same man is shot in cold blood, by a man charged with protecting the innocent, all for the sake of expediency. But no, our hero isn’t traumatized, he’s only a bit exasperated. Considering the magnitude and the implications of his situation, Mulder takes it all quite well.

As much as I love watching it all, I have no doubt that if I suddenly found myself in someone else’s body I’d probably lapse into a catatonic state… after they sedated me, that is.

Verdict:

Thirteen years after this episode originally aired and I’m still laughing out loud at it, heartily in fact. Whether that makes me incredibly easy to please or whether it means that the humor here is unusually enduring, who can tell? All I can say is that after much rewatching I’m still unearthing gratifying nuances and that keep this episode forever young.

When I hear read people complain about how light Season 6 is as a whole, how it’s lacking in freaks and geeks and bumps in the night, no one ever seems to complain about “Dreamland” or its follow-up. How can they when it’s one of the most successful comedic moments in The X-Files’ resume? No, this isn’t the type of story that made The X-Files famous, but I’ll take this over the likes of the blandly atmospheric “Schizogeny” (5×9) any day.

Oh, and for a comedy, the cliffhanger is impressively dramatic. Has Scully finally realized that Mulder lost his body and not his mind?

A+

Copious Comments:

One of the more famous parts of this episode is when David Duchovny and Michael McKean reenact The Marx Brothers’ mirror scene from Duck Soup. But my favorite recreation of this scene is from I Love Lucy with Lucille Ball and Harpo Marx. Classic.

If I were Kersh, there’s no way I would have bought Mulder’s total about face.

I love the opening conversation in the car between Mulder and Scully, but it does feel a little pat. I realize it’s supposed to make their routine sound tired and predictable, it just might do too good a job.

Once again the production’s move to L.A. is being put to good use by placing much of the action of this episode in Nevada.

I’m sure the move to L.A… and the show’s current status as a pop culture phenomenon… is also responsible for the steady line of respected actors that come through and guest star this season.

Needless Nags:

When they’re first together in the car, how does Morris Fletcher as Mulder know to call Scully “Dana?” Mulder and Scully flashed their badges at him on the road, but it’s not like he took a good look and she certainly didn’t introduce herself.

Why is Mulder still tilting at the windmill of proof of extraterrestrial life when he already has it? Gibson, anyone? Hello?

I don’t get why the gas station looks like a bomb hit it. The U.F.O. didn’t crash there, it passed overhead. It’s not like it blew out the windows of Mulder and Scully’s car when it passed by earlier.

Best Quotes:

Scully: What is going on with you?
Morris as Mulder: Will you please stop trying to pick a fight with me?
Scully: Mulder, you are acting bizarre!
Morris as Mulder: [Knowingly glances back at Kersh’s secretary and then grins] Jealous? [Slaps Scully on the rear]

———————-

Morris as Mulder: Come on baby, be the hole… [Misses] Oh!
Scully: Mulder!
Morris as Mulder: I got a birdie!

———————

Scully: Mulder… are you sure that’s the best thing to do?
Morris as Mulder: Look, little lady, I think it’s time you got your panties on straight. We’re federal officers. We go by the book.

———————-

Joanne Fletcher: That and you mumble something about Scully in your sleep. Who is Scully, Morris? Is it another woman?
Mulder as Morris: Does Scully sound like a woman’s name to you?

———————–

Mulder as Morris: Your full name is Dana Katherine Scully. Your badge number is… hell, I don’t know your badge number. Your mother’s name is Margaret, your brother’s name is Bill Jr., he’s in the Navy and he hates me. Lately for lunch you’ve been having… like this little six ounce cup of yogurt… plain yogurt… into which you stir some bee pollen because you’re on some kind of bee pollen kick even though I tell you you’re a scientist and should know better…
Joanne Fletcher: Cheater! [Throws Morris’ clothes on the doorstep]
Scully: Look, any of that information could have been gathered by anyone.
Mulder as Morris: Even that yogurt thing?? That is so you. That is so Scully. Well, it’s good to know you haven’t changed, that’s somewhat comforting.