Tag Archives: Beyond the Sea

Season 2 Wrap Up: I’ve been working out. I’m buff.


I'll take door #2, Monty.

Season 2 is one of my favorite seasons as a whole. I can watch any episode confident that I’m going to see stranger and stranger things unfold over the next hour, like a grotesque Alice in Wonderland. It gives us a long string of episodes that are all dark and disturbing, much more so than the first season. The writers aren’t afraid to “go there” with their subject matter. Child rape, teenage suicide… nothing’s taboo. Ghosts don’t just haunt you this season, they rape you. People aren’t just murdered, their bodies are desecrated. Is it too much? Not for me. I enjoy the fact that The X-Files can go boldly in this direction with intelligence and, dare I say, taste.

Think of Season 2 as the Stretch Armstrong of The X-Files.

Here’s a reference for the pop culturally challenged:

Not as painful as it looks.

Every element of the show is pulled, twisted and bent out of shape, just not to the point that it’s unrecognizable. Let’s start with our leads, shall we?

Both Mulder and Scully’s families take on a more substantial role in the series. We meet the entire Mulder clan, well, except for Samantha. We only met her clone and if we’re keeping score, she probably only counts for half a person. The Scully family is revisited with Captain Bill Scully coming from beyond the grave to finally say goodbye to his daughter and Maggie and Melissa Scully giving a memorable turn during Scully’s abduction.

Why is family life coming up and why now? For one, it shows us that Mulder and Scully don’t exist in a vacuum. They have histories and loved ones and when not chasing aliens, it’s possible that they even go home for Thanksgiving. You see, it’s really not about the families it’s about delving more deeply into Mulder and Scully’s characters.

And delve we do. Scully gave us a glimpse of her inner workings in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) but Season 2 is Mulder’s turn. He runs the emotional gamut what with the X-Files being ripped from him, Scully’s abduction, his sister’s return and then final mental breakdown in the season finale “Anasazi” (2×23). Scully mostly stares doe-eyed up at Mulder this season, but she also has an incredible emotional moment in “Irresistible” (2×13) and downright steals the show in “Anasazi.” Season 3 will be her season to grow a few flaws. Right now she’s still Mulder’s idealized Samantha stand-in.

Another reason Mulder and Scully get to shine is that they have new friends to play with. Krycek and Mr. X join the party while Skinner and CSM get upgraded to First Class and the Lone Gunman crawl out of the storage compartment. The X-Files still isn’t an ensemble show but the cast of characters is phenomenal and there’s combustive chemistry to go around. I’m just waiting for Skinner to stick it to CSM. Fortunately, I won’t have to wait very long.

This is where Gillian Anderson’s unexpected pregnancy and Scully’s abduction turned out to be brilliant: it allowed these minor characters to take on a major role and breathe new dynamics into the show. I find myself looking forward to which surprise guest is going to show up for the next episode. Skinner in particular I can’t get over this season. Dude is bad.

The content of the show was also stretching the boundaries of good taste. If “Eve” (1×10) gave us murderous children, “The Calusari” (2×21) gives us a child murdering a child. Well, it was a ghost child. Same difference. To continue, the ghost stalker of  “Shadows” (1×5) gives way to ghost rapists in “Excelsis Dei” (2x). Then, of course, The X-Files has completely outdone itself in the gross department. How can a liver-eating mutant shock us when there are giant sewer worms on the loose and these humongous, pus-filled boils are spouting off in people’s faces like mini volcanoes? But it’s not just in extremes that the show grew, it’s also covering new ground. “Irresistible” proves The X-Files can successfully give us a non-paranormal story while “Humbug” (2×20) proves it can be utterly hilarious.

My personal highlights were, as ever, “Irresistible” and “Humbug”. A pleasant surprise this time around was the Duane Barry arc, which I previously found 70% boring. (No stones, please.) The lowlight was “3” (2×7), not because I’m a shipper, but just because it’s “3”.

There are also quite a few episodes in the “Better Than I Remembered” category such as “Little Green Men” (2×1), “Sleepless” (2×4) and “Red Museum” (2×10). The mythology is worlds better than most of Season 1 because, well, it actually exists! There’s a rhyme, reason, and backstory to the conspiracy now that gives it substance. Season 1 was full of Roswell-like isolated events almost to the very end. It’s certainly more satisfying to see a single thread spun into a recognizable picture. While this is Chris Carter’s baby and all credit is due, I also think the new mythology collaborations between Chris Carter and David Duchovny have something to do with it. It certainly explains Mulder’s character having more to do.

Even while all this expansion is happening, in comparison, Season 2 is relatively low key; it doesn’t have the cinematic grandeur of later seasons. But that’s what’s so charming about it. This is classic X-Files before anyone knew they had a classic on their hands.

The word “classic” would indicate that something has consistently recognizable and desirable traits and that’s certainly true here; the less loving among us would call it a rut. I personally don’t mind the classic formula, it’s familiar and comforting and it goes a little something like this: Mulder presents details of an inexplicable event, Scully informs him of how explicable it actually is, Mulder surprises her with an even more inexplicable anomaly, Scully is shocked into silence, Mulder and Scully set out on the case and Mulder proposes a wild theory, Scully shoots down his theory, events occur that make Mulder revise his theory, Scully finds a scientific certainty that she can’t explain, Mulder intuitively figures out the truth, one or both of our leads ends up in mortal peril, they escape by the skin of their teeth and the case remains unsolved. The End.

Basic? Yes. Effective? YES.

The question remains, why doesn’t the audience get bored when they essentially already know how the story is going to go down? The answer: Mulder and Scully. Mulder and Scully’s relationship is in the middle of developing from touching to powerful. We knew that they were deeply attached to each other by the end of last season and that was expressly confirmed in “Little Green Men”. But over the course of Season 2 we’ve watched them grow from friends and confidants, allies even, to something much more difficult to define.

I said earlier that Scully has become a replacement Samantha for Mulder, but that’s only part of it. Mulder is almost like family to Scully, but at the same time he’s on the outside of it as evidenced in “One Breath” where he’s often invited to join the Scullys but purposefully refuses to intrude on certain moments. That doesn’t mean, of course, that he feels any less strongly than they do. It’s as though Mulder and Scully’s relationship exists outside of family, friends and even work. That’s why no one in Scully’s family, besides the all-wise Maggie Scully, understands who Mulder is to Scully. Their relationship resists definition.

Now to the meaty stuff: Are they in love? No, but they are infatuated. They’ve romanticized each other without being romantic. Honestly, they barely have one real disagreement the whole season up until the finale and that last one doesn’t count since Mulder is drugged out of his mind. They’re getting along like mayo and mustard in chicken salad. I daresay if we could pull Season 2’s Agent Mulder out of the TV screen and asked him to name just one fault that Scully has he wouldn’t be able to do it. The writers are quickly getting bored with this love fest, though, as we’ll see in Season 3.

Whatever they are, Mulder and Scully have reached that level where they wouldn’t just sacrifice for each other in theory, they’ve done it in fact. Throw in the subtle smirks and glances and we have TV gold. They were good together in Season 1 but now they’re just pure joy to watch.

So, I gotta ask. Who is your favorite recurring character of Season 2?

Is there some aspect of Season 2 that I missed either out of human error or gross negligence? Are you ready to sue me for malpractice or lock me up like Dr. Conrad Murray? Right the wrongs of the universe and fill in your opinion below.

Anasazi 2×25: I’ve kinda got this Ninja party shaving my butt.


Alas, poor Yorick.

OK, kids. It’s storytime! Today’s episode is called “Anasazi” AKA “The (First) Time Mulder Lost His Marbles” AKA “The Scully Show” AKA “This Chick is That Cool.”

Once upon a time, there was a lunatic named Fox Mulder…

I jest. But, no. Not really.

Mulder’s over-enthusiasm has always worried Scully but I think he’s scaring her for the first time. This is brilliant because Mulder forever lives on the edge of sanity and if it wasn’t that the difference between Normal Mulder and Crazy Mulder is so subtle, this episode wouldn’t work. If the same thing had happened to Scully, those around her would have caught on immediately. Not so with Agent Mulder. After all, it’s not like he hasn’t mouthed off to his boss before and it’s only a small step from there to going after him physically. (By the way, Skinner rocks that scene. Rocks it.)

This whole episode is about taking The X-Files over the top. Not only does David Duchovny finally get to play Mulder to the hilt, it’s confirmed that the conspiracy isn’t confined to the military or even to the Federal government for that matter. It’s multi-national. Well, it involves the Axis superpowers and the United States, anyway. You’ll notice no one invited Russia.

It looks like CSM and his cronies are behind yet another form of alien-human hybrid experiment, only this one is many years old. So old, in fact, that it goes back to when Bill Mulder worked for the State Department. “Bill Mulder?” you exclaim with naïve surprise. Why, yes. It turns out that Mulder’s own family is knee deep in mythology mud and not only because his sister was the victim of an alien abduction.

We learn that Bill Mulder was also involved in the conspiracy and that CSM has ties to the Mulder family. In fact, he claims to have been protecting Mulder all these years. This raises questions that haven’t come up in some time about why Mulder is allowed to investigate the paranormal in the first place. Is he a stooge for the conspiracy as he wonders briefly in episodes like “Little Green Men” (2×1) and “One Breath” (2×8)? Has CSM secretly been on his side?

That last part, at least, is doubtful. As we’ll see over the course of this three-parter, CSM is on no one’s side but his own. That said, there may be something to the idea that he has a certain amount of affection for Mulder. He said so himself in “One Breath”, not that we can trust anything that comes out of his mouth. Most think that he tries to kill Mulder at the end of this episode. Surely that’s not the action of a friend and in light of what we learn about his relationship to the Mulder family in later seasons, it’s rather abominable. But did he know that Mulder was in the boxcar? I personally don’t think so. In “The Blessing Way” (3×1) we’ll find out that his men tortured young Eric Hosteen, presumably to find out Mulder’s location.

That debate will come later. This episode is about my girl Scully. We’ve seen her take the lead in an investigation before, notably in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) and less memorably in “Excelsis Dei” (2×11) but never like this. As Mulder falls apart she’s shown at her best: brave, loyal and smart. It sounds like I’m exaggerating, but Mulder really does nothing in this episode except rapidly degenerate. In terms of the plot, he’s completely passive; everything happens to him. He’s given a disc, he’s fed spiked water, he’s robbed of his father, he’s shot, he’s taken to a quarry, he’s firebombed. Notice a trend? Scully quarterbacks this episode and solves the case (as much as it can be solved in the first part of a three part story arc) without Mulder’s help. And she saves Mulder to boot!

I can’t say enough about their scenes together here, particularly the scene where he comes to her after his father is killed and when he wakes up after she shoots him. There’s so much obvious care between these two but they don’t force it down our throats with any effusive declarations. Check the minimalist dialogue:

Mulder: You’ve taken a big risk.
Scully: I was certain they would have killed you, Mulder.
Mulder: Thank you. Thank you for taking care of me.

Sounds dry in written form, doesn’t it? That’s because they don’t need much dialogue, dialogue would be redundant. Mulder and Scully express more emotion with their eyes than normal human beings are capable of. Gillian Anderson’s acting here is mad fantastic. The look she puts on Scully’s face as she says that line speaks mountains. She put her life, her job, her reputation at risk because she would have been broken-hearted if something had happened to Mulder. Scully gets to make good on that statement she made in “Tooms” (1×21).  “I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you.”

By the way, don’t think I’m going all Shippy on you. (Though to my fellow Shippers, rock on.) It’s just that this is such an amazing friendship. No matter how mean and nasty Mulder gets she refuses to let him alienate her, she only works even harder to help him. [Insert “That’s What Friends are For” audio file here.] And really, isn’t that why we (the sane ones) ship Mulder and Scully anyway?

Conclusion:

Chris Carter & Co. keep raising the mythology stakes ever higher. If we thought that “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23) was new ground for Mulder and Scully, just look at what’s at risk for them here. Now Mulder’s family isn’t just a casualty of the conspiracy, his father himself was a perpetrator.

This episode does have an Achilles heel, though. But I have to cut it some slack as regards the 1990s fail-safe of working American Indian myth into the plot even when it doesn’t belong. But I’ll address that issue more in “The Blessing Way”.

I feel as though I’m about to enjoy the mythology episodes far more this time around, which is lovely.

A

P.S. Krycek’s back!!!

Comments:

I don’t want to give undue glory, but the mythology episodes have taken a distinct turn for the better since David Duchovny joined the story process. I’m just sayin’.

The Lone Gunmen’s potential is finally being realized. They’re used so perfectly in that opening scene. And in a nice bit of continuity, The Thinker, who we were previously introduced to via computer in “One Breath”, makes it onto the screen in human form.

This episode marks Chris Carter’s first cameo appearance.

Questions:

I understand that Scully has to go back to Mulder’s apartment to retrieve the bullet for ballistics testing, but why on earth does she have the blinds open? Being shot once in the head isn’t enough?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I’m not feeling well. I didn’t sleep last night. Really not in the mood for The Three Stooges.
Frohike: I don’t think we’ve been followed.
Mulder: Oh? Who would follow you?
Byers: A Multinational Black Ops unit. Code named Garnet.
Langly: Trained killers. School of the Americas alumni.
Mulder: You boys been defacing library books again?

——————-

Kenneth Soona: I… I don’t want you to know my real name. I… I just don’t think it’s that important that you know.
Mulder: Sounds like a line I used in a bar once.

——————-

Bill Mulder: You’re a smart boy, Fox. You’re smarter than I ever was.
Mulder: About what?
Bill Mulder: Your politics are yours, you have never thrown in. The minute you do that, their doctrines become yours and you can be held responsible.

——————-

Scully: Your shoulder’s going to be fine. The round went through nice and clean.
Mulder: You shot me!
Scully: Yes, I did.

——————

Albert Hosteen: You’re lucky she’s a good shot.
Mulder: Or a bad one.

The Calusari 2×21: My grandfather used to take that for his stomach.


99 Luft Balloons.

Once again we start of with a dysfunctional family. (By way of an aside, I once read someone complain that The X-Files is full of unhappy nuclear families and that the only happy ones we see get destroyed. I thumbed my nose at that before, but I’m starting to think whoever wrote that isn’t far off base. I don’t think the show has anything against happy families, but it wouldn’t be frightening if we only saw happy families that stayed happy, would it?) What kind of parents, one might ask, would mindlessly take a balloon from one child and preferentially give it to another? No wonder he becomes something out of The Omen. The creepiest part of the episode is that opening teaser: Kid has balloon. Parents give balloon away. Kid wants balloon. Kid gets balloon.

As Season 2 progresses, it’s getting easier to recognize subcategories of X-Files. We’ve seen poltergeist tales before. Heck, Season 1 was on ghost overload. Even episodes that ostensibly didn’t involve a ghost like “Space” (1×8), “Born Again” (1×21), and “Roland” (1×22), were just ghost stories called by another name to see if they would smell as sweet. Probably because of that Season 2 has only had one poltergeist plot so far, “Excelsis Dei” (2×11).

This episode reminds me a lot of “Roland”, not because they’re similar in style or substance but because they have the same basic foundation: twin brothers who can’t truly be divided, even by death. I have to say that “The Calusari” tackles the premise more successfully, mainly because it’s a straight up mini horror flick. It has all the requisite elements of the genre; spooky kid, witch-like old woman, secret rituals, bloody deaths, and, of course, a malignant spirit back from the grave. In fact, out of all the examples I listed above, and a few I didn’t list, this is the most satisfying episode in terms of the fear factor.

The fear factor is really all “The Calusari” exists for. This isn’t an introspective character study or story to further the mythology, Mulder and Scully don’t grow either as individuals or in their partnership, there isn’t an underlying message about societal ills or a warning about human hubris. Even “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14) had an embedded caution not to play with fire. No, with this one the writers are just trying to freak you out… which isn’t a bad thing. I’m impressed even now at how The X-Files pulls off something of this scale in roughly 43 minutes.  To get this kind of a scare you generally have to go to a movie theater and buy an obscenely priced ticket.

Since there isn’t too much going on here I don’t have much left to add except for a note about what little characterization we do get to see. As much as I love her, Scully’s arrogance is a somewhat grating in this episode. It is funny in parts. Some of the cracks she gets to make in her scenes with the newly introduced Dr. Chuck Burks are cute. But her usual reactions to Mulder’s theories lack the “eye-rolling” attitude she displays here.  Her resistance is all a set up, however, and the payoff is that in the end she finally sees something paranormal happen with her own eyes rather than just hear the tale told later by Mulder. We never do hear her final reaction so who knows whether she explained it all away or whether remembering the events of “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) she ultimately admitted to herself that “ghosties” and “beasties” exist.

…And the Verdict is:

Not to belabor the point but you really don’t want to look too hard for anything meaningful in this episode. It’s not that deep. It is good, though, for what it is. And if there are still quite a few questions by the end, well, that’s what The X-Files is famous for. Not only that, it wouldn’t be a “horror film” if it made any real sense.

If “The Calusari” has a weakness it’s that they threw everything into this episode except their fuzzy slippers. It wasn’t necessary to use every cliché the horror genre has in order to scare folks. Wait. I take that back. They didn’t use every cliché. There were no over-sexualized teenagers killed in the making of this episode.

B+

Issues:

Mulder’s trained in psychology but he’s never heard of Munchausen by Proxy? I realize they have to come up with devices to get information to the audience without obvious exposition, but at least come up with something a little more clever.

If we go by what we learn later in the episode, the bratty child in the teaser isn’t necessarily Charlie but his dead brother Michael posing as him. But if that’s the case, who was the poltergeist pulling the balloon? Or if it is Charlie, why so cold? He doesn’t react so dispassionately when his father and grandmother are killed and the nurse attacked. Instead, he pleads with Michael to stop.

Random Thoughts:

The 90s projectile vomited all over that house.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: You see this is a helium balloon here, and the one thing I did learn in kindergarten is when you let them go they float up, up and away. But you see this is moving away from him. Horizontally.
Scully: Did you learn about wind in kindergarten?

——————–

Chuck: In 1979 I witnessed a guru named Sai Baba create an entire feast out of thin air.
Scully: Too bad you didn’t take a picture. You could have run it through your computer and seen the entire Last Supper.

——————–

Calusari: The evil that is here has always been. It has gone by different names through history. Cain, Lucifer, Hitler. It does not care if it kills one boy or a million men. If you try to stop us the blood will be on your hands.

Irresistible 2×13: I’ll pay extra if that’s something out of the ordinary.


I’m sorry, did that fangirl squeal come from me?

[Disclaimer: The following is the work of a rabid fan and does not necessarily express the opinions of Mulder and Scully, 1013 productions, or anyone else with a modicum of sense. The writer understands that none of the above were on the Good Ship this early on in the series but, by the Grace of God, all later came to see the error of their Noromo ways.]

I have to warn you, dearest reader, that this is bound to fail. I am emotionally incapable of giving a sound and objective review of this episode.

If you’ve been reading my reviews carefully… and I know who you are… you already know a bit of my X-Files autobiography. The first glimpse I got of The X-Files was “Gender Bender” (1×13) and I was intrigued. I tuned in and out after that but once I saw “Darkness Falls” (1×19) I tried not to miss an episode. It wasn’t until “Irresistible”, however, that I became a Phile in its most extreme definition. I was literally jumping up and down with joy by the end yelling, “I love this show!” to my poor family’s befuddlement. Over-enthusiastic? Possibly.

“Irresistible” is about as close to a straight police procedural as The X-Files ever got. It says something that a series about the paranormal doesn’t have to rely on shock value to give us a memorable episode. The show has now reached such a level that it doesn’t even have to give us an actual X-File. A creepy villain and a chance to get inside Agent Scully’s head for 45 minutes is more than sufficient for quality television. There’s only the merest hint that there may be more to Donnie Pfaster than meets the naked eye, and even that may have only been in Scully’s head. As Scully says in her voiceover, it’s easier to believe in monsters of the supernatural kind than in human ones.

There have been some complaints from fans over the years that Scully is reduced to the role of the “Damsel in Distress” in this episode, waiting for Mulder to save her from the big, bad boogey man. I beg to differ. Scully was abducted and left for dead only some months back. Instead of taking time off to work through the inevitable psychological trauma, Scully jumps right back into the job. In fact, if the series’ timeline is to be believed, she goes back to work about a week after being in a coma. Riddle me that.

My point is that Scully has some issues waiting to be dealt with, issues of her own mortality and vulnerability that she’s put off for far too long. The fact that she’s having a hard time with the death and desecration of these young women is only natural, it doesn’t make her weak. That’s a lesson that Scully needs to learn. Trying to be a big girl in a boy’s club at the F.B.I. has cost her. Even strong, intelligent women need a shoulder to cry on sometimes. Finally, she allows herself to openly depend on Mulder without fear of what others will think of her… or what she may think of herself. Like “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) before it, this episode emotionally invests the audience in Scully’s personal journey. How could Chris Carter have ever denied that this show was primarily about the characters?

If this episode has any flaw it’s that you have to stretch your imagination fairly far to feel the same horror at Pfaster’s crimes that the characters do. Pfaster represents a serial killer of Jeffrey Dahmer’s ilk, which is alluded to in the episode itself. The problem is that Dahmer’s atrocities were still too taboo for network television at the time. Consequently, Pfaster’s character morphs from a necrophiliac into a “Death Fetishist”, a man who only takes benign souvenirs from the dead. Call me callous, but I’m more horrified by atrocities committed on the living. Not that I’m complaining, truthfully. I rather miss the days when TV didn’t spell everything out in graphic detail. This episode addresses its subject matter in a roundabout manner and that’s about as close as I ever want to get. It’s just that the writing requires the viewer to make the jump and connect the dots as to what’s really going on. Scully isn’t having a visceral reaction because of fingernail clippings.

…And the Verdict is:

Now that we’ve discussed some of how awesome this episode is in its awesomeness, can we talk about Mulder and Scully here for a minute? I realize that Mulder and Scully aren’t shipping, but I’m shipping. Noromos, consider yourselves warned.

[gush]This episode is when my Ship sailed. Not that I wasn’t rooting for Mulder and Scully before, but previous to this I thought that Mulder and Scully were just supposed to happen, that the writers had written them that way and I, as the viewer, was just waiting for the inevitable to be revealed. I cared but within decent proportions. “Irresistible” changed all that. I went from vaguely interested to unhealthily invested with one flicker of Scully’s eyelashes. Honestly, how could you be immune??[/gush]

Stepping away from Shippiness for a moment, just as friends and partners, Mulder’s quiet concern for Scully here is everything it should be. He spends the entire episode watching her with knowing eyes. I don’t know how Scully thought she could avoid his notice. He’s not Oxford educated in Psychology for nothing. Mulder may have his faults but being an indifferent to Scully is not one of them.

Mulder isn’t just giving her the “Let me know if you want to talk” speech. He’s not “a shoulder if you need it.” He’s not waiting passively, he’s looking for an opportunity to help her. He wisely doesn’t force the issue but you can see him shrewdly looking for a sign that she’s ready to let him comfort her. Again, if you look back at “Beyond the Sea”, Mulder does reach out to Scully but it’s more the passive sort of comfort that I just described. There he gave the impression of someone who’s concerned, but here he’s not just concerned, he’s invested. They’ve moved on to where they’re not just there for each other, they can trust each other to share the other’s weakness. Doesn’t everyone need a friend like that?

There’s a great difference between someone who lets you hold their hand when you’re afraid and someone who grabs your hand back. When it comes to Scully, Mulder’s the latter. He’s not just letting her cry, he’s helping her cry. For homework, check out the hug scene in the “Pilot” (1×79) and compare.

I should insert something intelligent here about the quality of Chris Carter’s writing or the unsettling darkness of David Nutter’s direction or the cold creepiness of Nick Chinlund’s Pfaster, but as I said before, I’m not capable.

Just go watch it.

A

Thoughts:

Agent Busch makes a brief appearance as an admirer of Scully. A precursor to Agent Pendrell perhaps?

Best Quotes:

Scully: Why do they do it?
Mulder: Well, some people collect salt and pepper shakers. Fetishists collect dead things, fingernails and hair. No one quite knows why. Though I’ve never really understood salt and pepper shakers myself.

———————

Scully: It took us three hours to get here. Our plane doesn’t leave until tomorrow night. If you suspected…
Mulder: Vikings versus Redskins, Scully. 40-yard line in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. You and me.

———————

Mulder: Are you staying on there, Scully?
Scully: No. I’m coming back tonight.
Mulder: Look, I know this is a pretty horrific case, but if…
Scully: I’m okay with it, Mulder. Anyway you could use my help.
Mulder: Always. (Swoon)

Season 1 Wrap Up: The FBI’s most unwanted.


“This must be the place.”

…And the Verdict is:

B

It’s alive!

Sure, things started off a little slow and clunky, but that’s what happens when a snowball rolls downhill.

Up until now, when I’ve had a rewatch or when I’ve gone back and watched Season 1 episodes individually, all I noticed was how different the show was in the beginning versus later seasons. The unfulfilled episode endings, hokey special effects, bad ties… it’s hard to forget that you’re watching early 90’s television. But this time around, I’m struck by how consistent the show actually was, particularly in Mulder and Scully’s characterizations. Even through Season 7, the creators stuck to the original plan, they just got better at executing it. From beginning to, well, almost end, we have two paranormal investigators who use science as their guide and regularly give their bosses the stink eye.

The conspiracy is different, sure. But that’s only because it didn’t exist. Instead, there are a number of small conspiracies presumably organized by the same shadowy group of men. There’s no connectivity between episodes like “Deep Throat” (1×1) and “Conduit” (1×3) for instance. Miraculously, though, all the seeds planted at the end of the season in “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23) bring forth fruit before the end of the series. No, you can’t quite call it a mythology episode but it certainly serves as a prologue to what comes later.

My personal highlights were enjoying “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and “E.B.E.” (1×16) for the first time. GITM still ranks at the lower end of the spectrum but it’s not the lost cause I had written it off as before. I dare say I might even enjoy it more the next go-around. “E.B.E.” is a gem long misunderstood by my adolescent mind. Thank heavens I’m a big girl now. It’s particularly gratifying since part of the point of this endeavor is to eke out every last bit of pleasure from this show that I can. Now I have to more episodes to add to my anytime rewatch list.

Even more importantly, I’m getting a kick out of trying to track Mulder and Scully’s relationship timeline from beginning to end. As far as Season 1 goes, they click in the beginning, they gel in the middle, and they downright congeal at the end. By the beginning of Season 2 Mulder just about gives her the, “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope” speech.

So now for a question I’ve been dying to get to. Somewhere inbetween the “Pilot” (1×79) and the closing of the X-Files in “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” Mulder and Scully become better than partners they become “Mulder & Scully.” Now, I’m not hinting at any Shipper Shenanigans, but I’ve always wondered whether there was a “moment” that could be picked out or if, as I’m prone to think, it was a natural evolution that occurred before the audience even picked up on it. To be honest, I’m still not sure. But if there is a “moment” that can be pointed out, then there are several contenders for that honor.

  1. “Pilot” (1×79): Mulder and Scully bond in the rain and Scully laughs maniacally. Why not? She must be losing her mind since she’s starting to believe her crazy partner.
  2. Squeeze” (1×2): Scully stands up for Mulder against some J. Edgar Hooverish bullies while Mulder first hints that he may be feeling some (platonic!) affection for Scully. Scully makes a fateful decision to follow him up the stairs.
  3. Beyond the Sea” (1×12): Mulder doesn’t just hint, he calls her Dana. Dana decides she can open up and be vulnerable with Fox. At this point, they’re so in tune with each other that they even sit in sync.
  4. “E.B.E.” (1x)16: Mulder now realizes that the only person he can trust is Scully, and he tells her so without any regard for her personal space.
  5. Tooms” (1×20): Root beer.

My personal opinion? The “Pilot” is where they become partners, “Squeeze” is where they become comrades, “Beyond the Sea” is where they become friends, “E.B.E.” is where they become allies, and “Tooms” is when they become “Mulder & Scully.”

That’s my take on it… this time around. But I’d love to hear some other opinions. Is it possible to pinpoint when Mulder and Scully became something special? If not, why not? If so, are any of the options I listed viable? Was there a moment I didn’t list that you want to smack me over the virtual head for missing? Let me know!

P.S. BBC America is airing Fight the Future right this very moment, 8pm ET. I smell a run up to XF3!

Roland 1×22: Did you catch the bouquet?


The “once an episode” pose.

This is a very quiet X-File, so quiet that you almost can’t hear it nearly 20 years later. Mulder and Scully never even have to run or break out their flashlights. Neither of them is ever in danger. Considering the immediately preceding episode “Born Again” (1×21) wasn’t much louder, it’s a sad lull before the season finale.

That being said, I don’t think this is a bad episode just a lackluster one. The performances by Kerry Sandomirsky and Zeljko Ivanek in particular are outstanding. His performance is heartbreaking. It’s too bad the story didn’t give him a better vehicle to shine in. But how could the story hold our attention when it’s based on a faulty foundation?

Arthur Grable is not dead. Really? He physically died and then was frozen. He wasn’t preserved alive a la Han Solo to merely be defrosted at a later date. Blood had stopped flowing through his brain long before it made it into stasis. A plot where Arthur Grable came back from the dead would have actually made more sense. Mulder claims that Arthur Grable is in a state that no one has ever come back from. To which I say, “Really?” yet again. He’s a dead man whose body was (partially) preserved. He’s no more than a modern day mummy.

Later on a similar plot line pops up in the second season. In “The Calusari” (2×21) we have another set of twin brothers separated by death, only the writers don’t bother to pretend that the plot is anything more than the ghost of one brother possessing another. But unlike “The Calusari”, which was more like a traditional horror story, Roland is introspective, focusing on the power of an unbreakable bond between siblings. Till death do us not part.

Contrived plots aside, with such memorable performances, why doesn’t this episode garner more attention? I think it goes back to it being one of the quieter episodes of the series. It’s a character study, not an adventure or even a drama. Watching the wind machine whir hardly sets one’s pulse to racing.

And the Verdict is…

It’s an age-old tale. Here we have competitive, socially maladapted scientists killing and stealing research in order to be recognized as one of the masters of the universe. I know I saw this once on an episode of Law & Order, minus the paranormal aspect, of course.

Stripped down to its underwear this episode is just another “haunting” courtesy of a dead man seeking vengeance, all too similar in tone and pacing to both “Born Again” and “Shadows” (1×5). The main advantage it has over the other two is the quality of the acting. The halfway house romance between Tracy and Roland is neither cloying nor pitying, a hard line to walk.

As a bonus, a series of crumbs fall off the table of Scully’s personal life. This is the first we hear of any siblings, none of whom made an appearance in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12).  Two brothers? No wonder she’s tough.

Bottom line: It’s an under-appreciated episode that’s still underwhelming.

C+

Nagging Questions:

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but there’s a particular strain of music used for the first time in this episode that Mark Snow continues to use for some time to come. It’s eerie and eccentric. In other words, it’s wonderfully X-Filesian. I’d love to know for sure if this was its debut.

Mulder and Scully got to the crime scene THAT fast? Morning on the west coast is already afternoon on the east.  At best, if the body was found in the morning Pacific Time, Mulder and Scully shouldn’t have been there until that evening. That’s a six hour flight at best. When do the writers start letting our dynamic duo show up a day or two after the fact? Season 2?

What do you want to bet the other man in Mulder’s dream was CSM? OK, so they probably didn’t mean it that way. But in hindsight, it’s a valid interpretation.

Random Thoughts:

There was a time when Scully got as many punch lines as Mulder.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: So how was the wedding?
Scully: You mean the part where the groom passed out or the dog bit the drummer?
Mulder: Did you catch the bouquet?
Scully: Maybe.

————–

Mulder: I don’t think they’ll be performing this experiment on Beakman’s World.

————–

Mulder: You got a brother, don’t you, Scully?
Scully: Yeah, I’ve got an older one and a younger one.
Mulder: Well have you ever thought about calling one of them all day long and then all of a sudden the phone rings and it’s one of them calling you?
Scully: Does this pitch somehow end with a way for me to lower my long distance charges?

Lazarus 1×14: The plot thickens.


Time to take a personal day.

If I compare Lazarus to the previous episode, “Gender Bender” (1×13), then the show has improved in quality. So why don’t I enjoy it as much? Even though this is a solid episode with good performances, it somehow remains less than memorable. It’s still a far sight better than most of the episodes in the first half of the season and is a part of the general trend upward in quality that we see during the second half of Season 1. This may mark the first time where we see more of an episode from the guest character’s POV than either Mulder or Scully’s. Not that I’ve counted screen time or anything, but we definitely see a significant portion of the action from Dupre/Willis’ perspective. Does it help or hurt? I’m not sure. At least it adds a new dimension to the show and paves the way for more substantial guest spots later on. Maybe if we had seen some of “Fire“(1×11) from Phoebe Green’s POV…

What was meant to make this episode is part of what keeps its characters at a distance: Dupre/Willis’ love for Lula feels cloying rather than passionate. Desperate love could’ve worked if they had pulled it off. However, for it to work we would have to feel it and understand it rather than just see it. Why is Dupre so connected to Lula? What is it about her that makes him dependent on her? We don’t really get a chance to experience their chemistry. And if this relationship is so deep, why can’t he see that it isn’t co-dependent; that she doesn’t care for him as much as he does her? If we had seen Lula at least feign passion in return, maybe we could have bought it. As it is, she looks reluctant and disengaged even in the teaser. I understand that she’s probably feeling guilty about her betrayal, hence her quiet, but if so then where did the guilt go by the end of the episode? Later on she betrays Dupre/Willis with relish and without an ounce of hesitation.

On to the true dynamic duo, Scully is once again confronted with the paranormal in her personal life, but the conclusion is up to interpretation and Mulder wisely lets her come to that conclusion on her own. At least we know he’s coming to understand her. But then there goes that “Dana” again… I suppose this is meant to be our clue that Scully being missing is personal for Mulder. It’s unnecessary. It’s already touching that Mulder would stand up in front of a group of men who are skeptical of his every thought and give an emotionally vulnerable plea for them to find someone who was already more than a partner to him. And on that note, I can’t be the only one to find it ironic that in later seasons Mulder’s emotional state in regards to Scully bears more than a passing resemblance to Dupre’s desperate dependence on Lula. OK, Mulder doesn’t turn into a homicidal maniac. But there are definitely moments when you feel like he would turn into a homicidal maniac if something were to happen to Scully.

And the Verdict is…

If socially alienated Mulder has an ex-lover, why wouldn’t Scully?

We see them only for the briefest of moments together at the beginning of the episode, after that, Scully never truly sees Jack Willis again. This makes it hard to gauge the merits of their relationship based on interaction. We can only go by what we’ve already seen of Scully’s relationship with her father and by Scully later observes about herself and men in “Never Again” (4×13). I can’t say that Lazarus really delves into Scully’s psychology like “Beyond the Sea“(1×12), but it does build on what “Beyond the Sea” started in that because of her relationship with her father, Scully has a natural attachment to men in authority. Jack Willis, after all, had been her instructor at the academy.

One thing Scully never expressly admits but that we can surmise between her relationships with both Willis and Mulder is that Scully is apparently into guys who are restless and obsessive. So Scully likes authority and at the same time perversely enjoys bending the rules. What was that story Boggs told about a little girl smoking cigarettes?? Reading between the lines, it was probably Willis’ single-minded obsession that destroyed their relationship. (This is where the ominous music comes in.) One day, when Scully writes her autobiography, I’m sure I’ll be proven right.

If I were to pinpoint a weakness, “Lazarus” suffers from a plot that’s dependent on relationships it didn’t have the time to establish. An altogether solid episode, just not one for the books.

B+

Nagging Questions:

Why does Lula even help him steal the medicine in the first place if she only plans to let him die? Talk about a waste of energy.

We’re supposed to believe that this audio expert drags all this heavy equipment down to the basement office rather than Mulder just going to him?

Why is no one concerned about the X-File within an X-File? Willis’ heart stopped beating for 13 minutes yet he bounces back like a jackrabbit with no signs of brain damage or even physical weakness. They should study him for the cure for cancer.

On that note, why would Scully, a doctor who understands the consequences and a woman practical by nature, attempt to bring Willis back after 13 minutes of no oxygen flowing to his brain? Wouldn’t she assume he’d be a vegetable?

I’m not so sure this criminal could step into the role of FBI agent so easily. And just how did he know about Willis’ passion for catching them? How does he know it’s the biggest case of Willis’ career? Had they run up against him before? Had they ever exchanged words? If so, it’s never indicated. Once he escaped, sans clothes, from the hospital, how did he figure out Willis’ name and address?

General Observations:

Did I just hear the words “alien virus”?

Is the Maryland Marine Bank a precursor to the later Craddock Marine Bank in “Monday” (6×15)?

Mulder’s testing of Willis comes off as a bit callous, especially considering he’s aware of Scully’s history with the man at this point.

What’s with Scully being a magnet for dangerous men with tattoos?

The random guest scientist every episode is later replaced by go-to guys. I’m looking forward to Pendrell.

This has nothing to do with anything, but I love the name Lula.

Best Quotes:

Professor Varnes: Well the pilot became increasingly disoriented, schizophrenic his doctor claims. Until one day, he strangled his wife… with an extension cord.
Mulder: [Exchanges a glance with Scully] It’s a nice story.

———-

Agent Bruskin: Mulder says he’s got something.
Agent: What? An alien virus, or new information on the Kennedy assassination?
Agent Bruskin: Hey, Mulder’s all right. Just pay attention, you might learn something from the man.