Tag Archives: Blood

Season 3 Wrap Up: Are you sure it wasn’t a girly scream?


On the Big Picture Front

Season 3 is a perennial fan favorite, for obvious reasons. It’s during this era that The X-Files went from a cult hit to a primetime sensation. Far from being a specific genre show, it proved it was capable of changing styles from week to week and still maintain consistency and continuity. One week Mulder and Scully are on the brink of discovering alien life, and the next they’re being overrun by mutant cockroaches. Season 3 is at turns a sci-fi show, a psychological drama, a comedy and a parody.

And more than anything else, it’s the Season of Darin Morgan. Sure he debuted back in Season 2 as the writer of the landmark “Humbug” (2×20) and even earlier than that he provided the story for “Blood” (2×3) and even donned a body suit to play The Flukeman in “The Host” (2×2). But three out of the four episodes he officially wrote for the series aired in Season 3. That’s not even counting his uncredited contributions to episodes like “Revelations” (3×11) and “Quagmire” (3×22), two episodes that delve deeply into the psychological background of Mulder and Scully, laying the basis for years to come for other writers who would take their characters even further.

His presence on the staff actually transformed the show into something that was pliable and therefore viable. How long would The X-Files have lasted if things had stayed as serious as they did in Season 1 and most of Season 2? I daresay there’s an audience for that, myself included, but Darin Morgan introduced an era where The X-Files could lovingly poke fun at itself; this meant that the audience didn’t have to. After all, if you bring up your faults before anyone else can, it serves as a first level of defense. “Fox Mulder is off his rocker, you say? We already know. We called him on it ourselves and beat you to it.” Once that’s out of the way, everyone can sit back and enjoy without their being an elephant in the room.

Self-parody is also a sign of success. “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) could never have happened in Seasons 1 or 2. The X-Files wasn’t set it its ways enough to exaggerate its own image. The audience could laugh at Mulder and Scully being ridiculous because they already take them seriously. And even though it’s not one of my favorites, this is a turning point in the show because from here on out, anything was game. Starting in Season 3, you can see how later episodes like “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6) would evolve from this series. The writers could stretch The X-Files and it wouldn’t break.

On the Relationship Front

If you’ve been reading and watching along, you’ve probably already guessed what I’m going to say. I’m no sentimentalist, but the tension that was written into Mulder and Scully’s relationship for much of this season isn’t exactly my bag. It’s true that they couldn’t go on in the hyper-idealized way that they were in Season 2, where the other could almost do no wrong. And it’s also true that a certain amount of tension and drama creates interest, and I’m all for that. But there were moments this season where I wondered why they were even partners at all since they didn’t seem to work well together. Heck, at moments they were downright antagonistic.

The good side of this is that when Mulder or Scully are divided, it almost invariably means that one or the other is about to benefit from some serious character development. Mulder moves beyond Samantha in “Oubliette” (3×8), even if he doesn’t move beyond the “Samantha Protocol”, and he shows off his criminal profiling genius in “Grotesque” (3×14), a skill that Scully can’t possess at the same emotional and psychological level. For her part, Scully matures in issues of faith in “Revelations”, a spiritual journey you’d think that Mulder would be able to relate to but instead is surprisingly antagonistic toward. And dividing them up for the mythology episodes was a wise decision. More information gets disseminated to the audience for one thing. And for another, Scully begins to develop her own methods of investigation. It’s a nice contrast watching them stumble upon parallel bits of information and come to wildly different conclusions. Neither one of them would get to the truth alone.

But after all that division, the writers reel it back in toward the end of the season and I’m forever grateful. “Pusher” (3×17) and “Wetwired” (2×23) remind us that Mulder and Scully still do have an almost spiritual bond that’s survived the losses and divisions of Season 3. It’s a sweet but brief respite, however. Season 4 will bring Mulder and Scully both closer and further apart than ever before, a rollercoaster I’m currently bracing myself for emotionally.

On the Whole

Season 3 is arguably when The X-Files hit its peak. Looking back, I’d say that it is… but it’s not when The X-Files hit its prime, a point of semantics that I’ll get into much later.

I say this is its peak because at this point, the mythology still feels as though it’s heading somewhere, that the answers we’re waiting for are just around the corner. Anticipation is at its highest point, I believe. Will Mulder lose his mother and soon be the only Mulder left? Will Scully be able to face the details of her abduction? Will they get to the bottom of this Smallpox vaccination drama? Stay tuned.

On the New Tip

I’ve decided to start handing out awards this season. So without further ado…

“Most Improved”
Revelations

“Desperately in need of a rewrite”
Syzygy

“Victim of too many desperate rewrites”
Teso Dos Bichos

“The Copycat”
2Shy

“The Sleeper Hit”
Wetwired

“It doesn’t matter how many times I see it I still won’t like it”
Oubliette

So now my question to you, dear reader, is which episode out of the Darin Morgan era is the one that speaks to you the most?  Is one the best but you hate it? Is one the worst but you love it? And if you have any awards of your own to hand out, please do so below!

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Wetwired 3×23: You’re the only one I trust.


Mulder for a day.

I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t we already see this episode and didn’t they call it “Blood” (2×3)?

Admittedly, the two episodes are similar in premise. Both are “Half-Caff”, pseudo mythology type episodes (Which, by the way, we haven’t had all Season 3. Believe it or not, there hasn’t been one since “Soft Light” (2×23) and I’ve missed sensing CSM’s shenanigans behind these technology and science driven conspiracies). Both involve technology based mind-control experiments secretly carried on by the U.S. government.

Or do they? In “Blood” the trigger was actually a pesticide, the result was that people saw messages in all sorts of mechanical devices that drove them to violence. “Wetwired” addresses the T.V./Violence correlation specifically and doesn’t bother dragging other modes of communication into the picture. By now I’m sure you can smell the irony; a television show prone to violent images is pondering whether images on television can lead to violence in real life. Talk about self-conscious.

But when you consider the source, the subject makes sense. This episode is written by Visual Effects Supervisor Mat Beck who presided over the show’s first 5 seasons as well as both movies. Is it any wonder he’s interested in the effect of the image on the American public? But most importantly, why didn’t he write more??

Believe it or not, I actually enjoy “Wetwired” more than all the world-class mythology episodes this season. (Shock!) There’s something meaty about it. We have the Lone Gunmen, X, CSM, mind control, a paranoid Scully, and some great emotional beats on the M&S front to boot. It’s so chock full of X-Files goodies that I find myself wondering why Chris Carter didn’t add Mat Beck to the writing staff.

But enough about background and concept and on to the episode itself. You would expect that if anyone on The X-Files would go psycho it would be Mulder. And in fact he’s done it before and under similar circumstances when CSM’s forces drugged him nearly into paranoid oblivion in “Anasazi” (2×25). Mulder also trashed his apartment looking for bugs in “E.B.E.” (1×16) the way Scully does here, but she does it with more flair, don’t you think? Mulder’s always so close to the edge of insanity as it is that it’s more fun to watch cool, calm and collected Scully lose her mind for a bit. It’s more satisfying. In particular, there’s a great moment when Gillian Anderson leans into the camera, wide-eyed and chomping on ice. Classic.

That’s all fun and games but the real meat is what Scully’s paranoid about. It makes sense that Scully’s deepest fear would be Mulder’s betrayal. She’s devoted her life to this man. She’s made her quest her own and has suffered in the process. It’s not like she’s the one looking for a “white whale.” She’s still here, working on the X-Files, because she believes in Mulder, not because she believes in little green men. What a nightmare it would become if she suddenly found it was all a lie. Mulder didn’t trust her. He didn’t depend on her. In fact, he was out to get her. It’s like that moment in “End Game” (2×17) when the Bounty Hunter morphs into Mulder and attacks Scully. It’s horrible because it shouldn’t be. Mulder should be the last person, save Maggie Scully, who would ever hurt her… er, purposefully anyway.

Verdict:

This is definitely one of my favorite episodes of Season 3. It might not be as inventive as some, but it has all the necessary ingredients of a good X-File and is always, always fun to watch.

Both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny turn in some great emotional performances on this one. And it’s nice to have the mutual importance of Mulder and Scully’s relationship confirmed at the close of a season that features a lot of loss and tension in the partnership. The Shipper in me is satisfied.

But I especially love how it ends, with that short but memorable scene between X and CSM. Now we know that X is one of CSM’s hired guns and it’s him X has been undermining in order to feed Mulder information. How long can the apprentice work against his master without being found out? When X looks into CSM’s cold, dead eyes and lies I still get an ominous chill.

A

Questions:

Even after the Lone Gunmen’s short and pithy explanation of the magic of television, we still never learn exactly how CSM & Co. are creating paranoia in the viewing public, just that something must be being transmitted through the signal. And for that matter, how far did this experiment reach? And for how long? They wouldn’t have stopped at a handful of murders.

Surely this episode calls for a follow-up with some exploration of X’s background. So what happened to it? Mulder confronts him on being too much of a coward to fight the power himself, CSM glares at him with thinly veiled suspicion… His character is just begging to be revealed at least a little.

Comments:

He’s red-green colorblind. Finally, an explanation is given for the atrocity of Mulder’s ties.

Did I mention the teaser is awesome? ‘Cause the teaser is awesome.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: It’s just you, me and the drug dealers.
Plain-Clothed Man: Well, this area’s always been known for its criminal element.
Mulder: Especially when Congress is in session.

———————

Mulder: I just watched 36 hours of Bernard Shaw and Bobbi Battista. I’m about ready to kill somebody too.

———————

Mulder: All I know is television does not make a previously sane man go out and kill five people thinking they’re all the same guy. Not even ‘Must See TV’ could do that to you.

———————

Mulder: What do you think, Scully?
Scully: I think television plays a large part in both of these murderers lives.
Mulder: As it does in almost every American home. But television does not equal violence. I don’t care what anybody says. Unless you consider bad taste an act of violence.

———————-

Scully: I was so sure, Mulder. I saw things and I heard things, and… it was just like world was turned upside down. Everybody was out to get me.
Mulder: Now you know how I feel most of the time.

———————-

Smoking Man: Have you completed your work?
Mr X: All the personnel and hardware has been removed. But Mulder still has one of the devices.
Smoking Man: That proves nothing. What about Mulder’s source?
Mr X: He’s been eliminated.
Smoking Man: And his source? Who’s he working with?
Mr X: That person remains unknown.

Fresh Bones 2×15: No more magic than a pair of fuzzy dice.


A compass by any other name.

We open with a family that appears to be having some issues. At first you think it’s another case of a man dissatisfied with his life, his family, his career. That is until you see the maggots in his bowl of cereal. Once again, The X-Files does a wonderful job of playing with our presumptions.

Also in true X-Files fashion, it takes the familiar Zombie legend and legitimizes it with science. Here’s an idea that you dismissed as a kid made intelligent, even feasible. With that said, you have to keep in mind that “Fresh Bones” has to be experienced, not understood. It’s not the plot that’s gripping, it’s the idea, the suggestion. This is an episode that’s truly supposed to be watched.

Isn’t all TV supposed to be watched, you say? Well, for this episode, the visuals are all one has to hold on to. It’s certainly not the acting and, as I mentioned, not the writing. Instead it’s the camera angles, the frightening images that it burns into your retinas. And I’m not knocking that. In this case it’s sufficient for entertainment.

Whatever you may think of the story, the production is top notch even after all these years. Already the most recent episodes are so much more polished than they were even at the beginning of the season. Just compare these last three episodes to “Little Green Men” (2×1), “The Host” (2×2), and “Blood (2×3).” It isn’t just that the subject matter is more shocking, it’s the direction, the acting (for the most part). They’re getting the hang of this thing.

One thing I had forgotten about over the years is how often crossover took place between the mythology and the stand-alone episodes in these early seasons. It doesn’t always make sense. Why would X go all the way to North Carolina just to tell Mulder that guards were abusing refugees? Doesn’t he have aliens, green ones, to exterminate? I smell an unnecessary plot device.

…And the Verdict is:

This episode doesn’t have very many fans and while I personally like it, I can understand why that is. We’re not left with many resolved questions in the end and it falls prey to Season 2’s An Excess of Red Herrings Syndrome. The plot is at points too mysterious for it’s own good. And there’s some political rhetoric thrown in which I confess I don’t fully understand because I was too young to know about what was happening at the time in regards to refugees. But for me, it walks that fine line of leaving the audience with questions and yet giving them a satisfying resolution. No, I don’t know what all went down but I know that Wharton was behind it. Watching him receive his comeuppance is enough.

There’s an abundance of striking images that are hard to forget. Maggots in the cereal, Wharton buried alive, bleeding meat, the dog’s corpse, and of course, a man digging his way out of Scully’s hand. That was a straight-up horror moment right there. In fact, it’s best to think of this episode as a horror film in miniature. Do you complain about the lack of a plot in Nightmare on Elm Street? No. It wasn’t made to have a plot. Take it for what it is.

Me, I’m just loving that The X-Files has reached the point where you can tune in every week and know that you’re going to see something freaky.

B

Random Questions:

What secret was Wharton looking for? The secret to immortality or something? Was he trying to bring Bouvier back from the grave? You’d think he’d know better than to resurrect a man he murdered. That doesn’t a happy reunion make.

Last we left off with X, he had warned Mulder that the men who took Scully would be at his apartment that night and claimed that they couldn’t see each other again for several weeks. Why did Mulder think that would be the end of their relationship? Because he didn’t take X up on his offer but instead went to the hospital to be with Scully? How did Mulder interpret that vague calling card so easily? 

Random Thoughts:

Scully’s a doctor. She knows about infections and she would know to get that wound checked out. Not only that, but with all this talk about poisons and toxins she’d be even more on the alert. Instead, she rubs her hand idly and ignores the obvious. But as long as it gives us an excuse to have that scene in the car where Scully goes all wild-eyed, I’m cool.

Scully is way too obvious when she looks out the window after Mulder tells her they’re being followed. Where’s that covert training, G-Woman?

Rob Bowman was probably capable of making even the most ridiculous episode fun to watch.

An X-Files episode in New Orleans would have been an utterly awesome match made in Heaven. The Skeleton Key meets Silence of the Lambs.

Best Quotes:

Scully: [On finding a bag of frogs] Maybe I should kiss a few and find out if one is Guttierez.

—————–

Colonel Wharton: I’m sorry. I’m having my breakfast.
Mulder: That’s alright. We already ate.

Blood 2×3: That’s not supposed to happen anywhere.


Postal meets Paranoia.

It’s one thing to have an itsy bitsy fear of spiders, but what if that fear lead you to break out more than a can of Raid? What if it led you to kill two-legged creatures as well?

OK, so maybe spiders didn’t make an appearance in this episode (though they would have if I were in it). Instead, it’s your toaster oven that’s out to get you. That’s right, don’t trust anything your alarm clock tells you. Your machines, and your mind, have been hijacked by the government for a controlled experiment designed to test chemical weapons of war on unsuspecting citizens.

I could buy that, really I could, if only I understood how it was all going down. This episode suffers from a syndrome I like to call “But If That’s the Case, Then…”

For example, citizens subjected to the chemical LSDM are receiving messages through electronic devices. Or are they? Judging from the scene is Mrs. McRoberts’ kitchen, these messages may not be real. Mulder glances at her microwave a second after Mrs. McRoberts does and sees nothing. And it doesn’t make sense that if these messages were visible to all, no one else would have seen them. It’s also hard to believe that someone is somewhere typing all these in at precisely the right moment addressing precisely the right phobia. The question is then, if these messages are in their heads, why do they only see them in machines? Why not in the clouds or in their mother’s meatloaf?

On the side of the messages being real, Mulder directly states that the government is using some sort of subliminal messaging system to control people once they’ve been exposed to the LSDM. But if that’s the case, how do they know what these people’s fears are in order to tailor their messages? In Funsch’s case, how did they know he was afraid of blood and not, say, needles? It’s not as though he’d been to a psychiatrist to be diagnosed, he hadn’t been to the doctor in years. And if someone is spying on these people, then how? Satellites? Can they see through buildings? How on earth can they control every single computer or TV? If they have that much power, surely they could have done a better job of covering up their conspiracy.

The only conclusion I can come to is that there are subliminal messages that somehow, only people who have been exposed to LSDM can see. And somehow, the government is powerful enough to control every electronic device… everywhere. They know just where you are, just what screen you’re in view of, and just what phobia button to push. Far-fetched? Most definitely.

If the story isn’t quite logical, that’s because it’s about the absence of logic. It’s all about paranoia. “Blood” is playing off of our own latent fears as a society. Technology isn’t a useful tool, it’s a weapon used to spy on you. That quaint, small town you’re driving through is actually home to The Stepford Wives. The government that claims to be protecting you with pesticides and preservatives? It’s using you as a guinea pig.

Conclusion:

This episode is about government conspiracy in its purest form. There are no aliens and no signs of the paranormal. I can’t think of a single Season 1 episode that falls into this category except for Ghost in the Machine (1×6) so it’s a nice break from the greater mythology and the typical Monster of the Week. In a way, it’s a forerunner to John Shiban’s awesome “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18), which is another reason why I can’t be mad at it.

Even so, for an episode written by Morgan and Wong, “Blood” is at the lower end of the success spectrum. It’s not particularly intense or insightful. In fact, the plot is confusing and even the audience can’t be sure of what’s happening. Are the messages real or imagined? Did the government plan this or is it just a series of unfortunate events?

Exploring personal phobias and societal fears are both great concepts for The X-Files, but they probably should have stuck to one or the other. This episode tries to cover too much. There are government plots, spree killings, uncontrolled paranoia and even machines that talk to you. How many darts can you throw at one board?

Because of all these variables, it’s hard to catch hold of what’s happening. Even in the end, we’re not sure whether the mechanical messages people were seeing were real or imagined. The plot took a back seat to casting vague suspicion on the government. If not the government in particular, a group of nameless, faceless men willing to inflict torture on their fellow citizens without so much as a qualm. With such an unflattering picture of the Federal government, you can tell that Chris Carter et al. grew up in the Nixon era.

It’s not all sturm and drang, however. The Lone Gunmen make a clever return and Frohike’s crush on Scully is intact. Mulder gets in some good quips and Funsch’s freakout on the bus is absolutely great. I can’t really rally behind this one but it’s not a waste of time. Watch it for the highlights rather than the whole.

C+

Best Quotes:

Sheriff Spencer: Played softball with this guy over Labor Day. He was one of those nice guys. Couldn’t play and didn’t bitch about being stuck in right field.
Mulder: What’s wrong with right field?
Sheriff Spencer: Always the first one to shake hands at the end of the game, didn’t matter whether he won or lost.
Mulder: Gotta have an arm to play right field.
Sheriff Spencer: Bought a round of beers afterwards even though he didn’t drink.
Mulder: I played right field.

———————

Frohike: So, Mulder, where’s your little partner?
Mulder: She wouldn’t come. She’s afraid of her love for you.
Frohike: She’s tasty.

———————

Mulder: Hey, Frohike, can I borrow these?
Frohike: If I can have Scully’s phone number.

———————

Mulder: He’s probably one of those people that thinks Elvis is dead.
Scully: Mulder, I was wrong. Exposure to the insecticide does induce paranoia.
Mulder: I think this area is being subjected to a controlled experiment.
Scully: Controlled by who? By the government, by a corporation, by Reticulans?