Tag Archives: Born Again

Hellbound 9×4: I just know I need to solve this.


 

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Can you imagine how uncomfortable this must have been?

“Hellbound” is The X-Files’ third take on the subject of reincarnation after “Born Again” (1×21) and “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). Out of the three episodes, this is definitely the best. I still don’t think it’s great, however.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate what’s here, it’s what’s not here that leaves me feeling mildly disappointed. I know nothing more about Agent Monica Reyes at the end of the episode than when I first started this little showcase piece for her character. I know nothing more about her personality or her personal motivations.

All I know is that her reincarnated soul has been unsuccessfully chasing the same bad guy since the 1800s. Or rather, she chased the original bad guys and then the bad guy that they created through their evil actions. I don’t know what about these crimes in particular so compels her soul. Is it the unusual level of violence that troubles her? Does she have some kind of relationship with the perpetrators? Does she just have a strong, motivating sense of justice? If she does, I’d like to know.

I know that she feels things, but I already knew that. Other than telling her that there’s something fishy going on, do these feelings of hers ever actually solve cases? Because right now these “feelings” she gets in the presence of evil don’t have a great track record when it comes to being useful. Nothing was resolved in either “Empedolces” (8×17) or “Daemonicus” (9×3) and she barely makes a dent in the evil here.

What I don’t know is why she’s on the X-Files. I mean, yes, I know she’s there because Doggett needed an ally and he trusts her both personally and professionally. But her history with Doggett tells me a lot more about Doggett than it does about her.

And I know that her expertise is Religious Studies and that she investigated crimes with a seeming Satanic bent. That sure sounds like it makes her a good fit for the basement office. But I also know that by her own admission, she’s never seen evidence of real Satanic activity. Then why is she so interested in the X-Files? Why is it her “dream job” according to her conversation with Follmer in “Nothing Important Happened Today” (9×1)? Is she here because she’s looking to find evidence of real activity? Is she here because she does or doesn’t believe in Satan?

And further back, what brought Reyes to Religious Studies in the first place? Ironically, thanks to the Doggett-centric “John Doe” (9×7), I know she was raised in Mexico, a predominately catholic country. Did she study religion because she was a good catholic girl? Because she wasn’t a good catholic girl? How did she end up so new agey?

I’d like to know Monica Reyes, please.

Her character started off with real potential and I still like her well enough. But she’s quickly turning into a stock believer. Mulder believed because of certain experiences, certain information, and certain hypnosis sessions. He believed because he needed to. Am I to take it that Reyes believes solely because she feels things??? That’s a character cop out, 1013.

There was a lot of room for exploration in this episode for themes of sin and redemption, destiny and freewill… in other words, plenty of chances to get inside Reyes’ head and figure out what makes her tick, what motivates her, and what she thinks her purpose in life is or if she’s still trying to find one. Maybe she’s unsure of the state of her own soul and that’s why this case is so important to her.. Heck, maybe she’s on the X-Files because she wants to understand the nature of evil. How about that?

In an odd twist, I personally enjoy this episode more than Doggett’s “John Doe”, but coming straight off of that episode into this one highlights its weaknesses in the character development department.

In both episodes, our two new leads set out to discover their individual identities. Doggett has his memories taken from him and, by sheer force of will, takes back what belongs to him, pain and all. His display of character and integrity even when he’s been stripped to nothing tells us a lot about who he is as a person.

Reyes, on the other hand, finds out she had an identity she didn’t know existed. That knowledge doesn’t shock her, scare her, inspire her, drive her… she comes to a conclusion about the events of the case and then the end. The events have no bearing on the rest of her life and reveal no new side of her. I can only guess that at some point she wonders if she committed a great sin in a past life, but if she does, we don’t see any signs of an internal conflict.

Verdict:

All right. I know I’ve belabored the point. It’s just that in retrospect, I know this is Reyes’ one chance to distinguish herself as a character and I’m disappointed on her behalf.

Reyes: Whoever I was, I failed. In 1868, in 1909, in 1960… I failed. I was always there, but I couldn’t stop the killings. And he knew that. And somehow he knows my deepest fear: that I’ll fail.

I guess this is the closest I’ll come to the answers I’m looking for. Perhaps Reyes is sensitive to evil in all its forms because she’s spiritually connected to a particular evil. Perhaps her regret and fear of failure drive her forward in the pursuit of defeating evil. Perhaps?

The X-File itself is okay. Actually, I think the premise had real promise. A group of men bound together in hell, which is spiritual and physical death on repeat, want to be redeemed but aren’t allowed to be. As mentioned earlier, the themes are ripe for the plucking.

Instead, I went searching for depth and all I got was this lousy T-shirt:

Everything you ever wanted to know about skinning people but were afraid to ask.

But while it’s a unique form of death even for The X-Files and I can tell the crew worked hard, it must be said that the makeup is less gross than shocking in its completeness. And it looks like a special effects job the whole time.

B-

Comment:

I like the short scene between Scully and Dr. Mueller. It reminds me of other times Mulder and Scully consulted a retired detective about an old case. “Squeeze” (1×2), “Tooms” (1×20), “Travelers” (5×15)… There are more, I’m just too sleepy to remember them.

Question:

Reyes was able to save one soul, but the killer continues into the next life with the other victims. Is that enough to break the cycle? Reyes doesn’t need to follow him in death? I guess one of our leads killing themselves would put a damper on the show, huh?

Best Quotes:

Scully: My name is Dana Scully. I’m with the FBI. I want to ask you some questions about a John Doe you did an autopsy on in 1960.
Dr. Mueller: You honestly expect me to recall some case from way back when? I’m 84 years old.
Scully: Sir, this particular victim was skinned alive.

———————-

Dr. Mueller: The victim was a John Doe, a nobody. Carl Hobart, the county sheriff, figured he was a drifter. Hobart said he didn’t want to stir up the community.
Scully: And no one called him on that?
Dr. Mueller: I tried. The sheriff had other things on his mind, I suppose.
Scully: Why do you say that?
Dr. Mueller: Well, it wasn’t long after that he put a bullet through his head.

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Kaddish 4×12: You look like you might be one yourself.


"I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me."

Racism makes its second appearance on The X-Files this season. Maybe really its first since it was talked about but never actually seen in “Teliko” (4×4) despite Mulder’s insinuations to the contrary. Thankfully, this is a much more successful attempt at weaving societal issues into a paranormal tale, even if the end product is only moderately memorable.

Despite different trappings, this is really just another “revenge from beyond the grave” episode in the vein of “Born Again” (1×21) and “The List” (3×5). Only this time our avenger is a Hasidic Jew with one of my favorite names ever, Isaac (It means laughter. How can you not love that?). The other significant difference being that Issac didn’t come back on his own, he was brought back, not to feed hate, but out of love.

This episode reminds me of “Born Again” not just in content but in tone, which can be no coincidence since both episodes are written by Howard Gordon. Gordon’s work tends to have a quiet, somber feel to it, think “Dod Kalm” (2×19), so this episode has little by way of action but lots of contemplation. Maybe it’s because part of me instinctively compares this episode to The Golem, but I do wish the monster had been a little more menacing. That could have helped make up for the fact that it’s a legend unfamiliar to many, and having to familiarize an audience with a legend and then try to scare them with it is a tall order.

Adam was created from the dust of the earth, but then God breathed into him the breath of life. The problem with the Golem isn’t the mud he came out of, it’s that he missed out on that last part, the breath of life, and is doomed to walk around sans soul and wrecking havoc. That’s what happens when man takes things into his own hands, which is the moral lesson behind the tale: Man can only imitate God in shadows and not substance, and hubris is a dangerous form of pride.

But as I said, Ariel created Isaac’s Golem out of love which adds a poignancy to the proceedings. In fact, dare I say this episode isn’t even really meant to be frightening? It’s a story about lost love and that’s the emotional cue we’re being invited to identify with. Even the social commentary is a little distracting since the racists we’re exposed to are a little toothless and so don’t really serve the story in any meaningful way. It’d be nice if I could hate them rather than dismiss them but since they’re so pathetic…

Possibly this episode’s main source of salvation is how beautiful it is. Kim Manner’s usually directs the more gruesome episodes but he does a great job here not with horror but in expressing sadness through his camera choices. Those scenes at the graveyard in particular are stunning. I might go so far as to say that most of the pathos here comes from the way the episode was shot and less from the story or even the characters. The X-Files may have reached that incredible plateau where you can watch it with the sound off and still fully enjoy it.

Verdict:

There is a bit of an elephant hanging in the air over this episode. We just came off of “Memento Mori” (4×15) and there’s absolutely no indication that Scully’s tragic diagnosis is at all on her mind or even Mulder’s. But there’s a very good reason for that… this episode was shot three episodes before “Memento Mori”, but partially because of the Super Bowl broadcasting shuffle, was aired afterward. If they’re acting like Scully doesn’t have cancer, it’s because she doesn’t.

I think that actually works out well and I’m glad because that delicate plot line could have easily been worried to death through overkill. A mention or a reminder every other episode or so until the storyline reaches its boiling point is more than sufficient. Besides, at the end of “Memento Mori” Scully makes it clear that she wants to get back to work, and isn’t she doing just that?

Certainly though, back when I didn’t realize all that and even though I still appreciated their not working Scully’s cancer into the ground, a part of me wondered why this tale of death and separation didn’t hit home with Mulder and Scully at all. And just taking things as they aired, part of me still thinks they should have been able to relate just a tad more. Not in a lovey dovey sort of way, but in that here are two people who just had the promise of their lives together cut short. It’s not like Mulder and Scully’s work is done and they’ve found the answers they’re looking for. And now they’re running out of time.

B

Commentary:

So is Mulder Jewish? I guess we’ll have to wait till Season 7 for that answer too. Let’s put that on the back burner along with Scully’s ovaries, shall we?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Yeah, spectral figures are not often known to leave fingerprints. Casper never did.

———————

Scully: You haven’t heard the rumors?
Curt Brunjes: What rumors?
Mulder: That Luria is back from the dead. That he’s risen from his grave.
Curt Brunjes: What kind of Jew trick is this?
Mulder: A Jew pulled it off two thousand years ago.

———————

Mulder: What’s this? A little bedtime reading? [The book bursts into flames]

Grotesque 3×14: You never fit your own profile.


Art Therapy

“Grotesque” is a unique episode and admirably ambitious, yet I can’t help feeling that it takes itself a little too seriously at moments. And that, of course, just makes me want to roll my eyes at the most inappropriate times. I appreciate the plot and the concept and while it’s mostly successful, I feel slightly disengaged when I watch it. It’s sort of Mulder’s answer to the Scully-centered episode “Irresistible” (2×13) where the line between the paranormal and natural human evil is blurred, but this one is psychological rather than emotional. Good, and admirably ambitious, but not great.

Last time we actually saw Mulder care about someone’s negative opinion of him we were still somewhere in Season 1, when the memory of his former glory days at the F.B.I. weren’t far behind him and you could tell that the occasional dig still hit a nerve. Skepticism directed at Mulder’s abilities/sanity is nothing new. “Squeeze” (1×2) and even “Lazarus” (1×14) give us a glimpse at how often there’s sniggering behind his back. But every time we meet one of Mulder’s former colleagues, Jerry in “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and Reggie in “Young at Heart” (1×14), they have a healthy respect for Mulder’s capabilities. Heck, later on there will be Diana Fowley, another former partner who, er, recognizes Mulder’s strength. Between what we know of these characters’ relationships with him and his current partnership with Scully, to know Mulder is to love Mulder, or at least to learn to appreciate him despite himself. This is the first time we’ve seen someone who worked alongside Mulder actually dislike him. And it’s the first time in a long time that Mulder has reacted to anyone’s dislike. So what is eating Agent Patterson?

We never really find out why Mulder irritates Patterson so. But I remember having this genius friend in High School who aced Latin even though she spent 99% of every class passing notes with me, when she even came to class that is. Our teacher couldn’t stand her. I suspect something similar is going on with Patterson and Mulder. Either that or he’s the stereotypical 1950’s father who can’t tell his son how proud he is of him but put a few drinks in him and he’ll have no problems telling the rest of the world. I’m leaning towards the former as his venom toward Mulder denotes both admiration and jealousy.

His relationship with Scully in this episode isn’t much better. The further down the rabbit hole he goes the more he consciously shuts her out. Season 3 has seen the writers as a whole putting distance between Mulder and Scully in quite a few episodes. Things were too perfect between them in Season 2 to continue that way; they’d lack depth in the long run. But maybe there’s too much distancing going on now. Too often only one of them has enough of a personal connection to solve a specific case. Whatever happened to them figuring it out together? That hasn’t really occurred since “2Shy” (3×6) or possibly “The Walk” (3×7). Even “Nisei” (3×9) and “731” (3×10) saw them going down different investigative paths and drawing different conclusions. I submit that such a device makes logical sense in mythology episodes where the writers need to disseminate lots of material to the audience, and it allows both Mulder and Scully to grow as characters. But at some moments this season I’m left wondering why they’re even partners when they’re not working together.

I think soon the collective writing club at 1013 Productions comes to realize the Mulder and Scully seesaw is tilting too far in one direction and they start adding weight to the other side for the last half of the season, a development which I’m forever grateful for. It’s not that I don’t agree that Mulder and Scully should have independence, autonomy and interests apart from each other and even apart from the X-Files. That was part of what I enjoyed about “Revelations” (3×11) was that Scully had a supernatural niche all her own. I just miss seeing them work as a team rather than acting as an antagonist of sorts in each other’s individual drama.

The Verdict:

Besides the less than inspirational interpersonal dynamics, my other bone to pick with this episode is that the solution is too clear from the beginning. Only someone from the crime team knew the ins and outs of the murders? Then someone from the crime team committed the murders. And it’s certainly no shock when Patterson, obsessed with finding the killer, turns out to have found his killer’s obsession instead. In fact, we’re expecting it. With the 1980’s/1990’s rise to prominence of Criminal Profiling, the tale of an investigator becoming what he hunts isn’t exactly fresh and new. I couldn’t say for sure, but I don’t believe it was fresh in 1995 either.

I don’t think “freshness” is a concern here regardless. It’s a vehicle to let David Duchovny strut his emotional stuff, which he certainly does a solid job of. This episode is about exploring more of the tragic side of Mulder’s nature and his ability to intuitively understand people, the gift that’s actually a curse. Writer Howard Gordon, even more so when working with partner Alex Gansa, has a propensity toward the solemn and the serious when it comes to giving us X-Files. His previous offerings include “Conduit” (1×3), “Born Again” (1×21) and “Sleepless” (2×4), all episodes with a rather grim sense of loneliness, a theme echoed again here. He also successfully adds poeticism into the mix in “Dod Kalm” (2×19). “Grotesque” reminds me a lot of “Dod Kalm” in tone and theme; both show us a man slowly turning into what he hated and both are continually swathed in blue light.

After all that tepid to cold praise, I do like this episode. It’s a brave departure from the norm. I just wouldn’t turn it on to have a good time.

B

Peanut Gallery:

It’s a little difficult to believe Mulder went that crazy that fast, but then, they only have 43 minutes.

I kinda dig the exploration of insanity vs. demon possession. Which is which and how do we know? Like “Irresistible” before it, we don’t get a straight answer in the end.

Didn’t Mulder already have his tortured soul moment in “Oubliette” (3×8)? Maybe that doesn’t count since this one brought up Samantha and this one has absolutely nothing to do with his sister issues?

Scully’s one moment of glory in this episode, as she cocks her chin in Skinner’s office, is my favorite part.

Best Quotes:

Scully: So you’re not going to tell me when your love affair with Patterson ended?
Mulder: Patterson never liked me.
Scully: I thought you were considered the fair-haired boy when you joined the bureau.
Mulder: Not by Patterson.
Scully: Why not?
Mulder: Didn’t want to get my knees dirty. Couldn’t quite cast myself in the role of the dutiful student.
Scully: You mean you couldn’t worship him.
Mulder: Something like that, yeah.

——————–

Mulder: Patterson had this saying about tracking a killer. If you wanted, uh, to know an artist, you have to look at his art. What he really meant was if you wanted to catch a monster you had to become one yourself.

——————–

Agent Patterson: I have to tell you, I am really disappointed in you.
Mulder: Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint you by not disappointing you.

——————–

Agent Patterson: My advice to you, Scully: Let Mulder do what he has to do. Don’t get in his way and don’t try to hold him back… because you won’t be able to.

——————–

Skinner: Are you worried about him, Agent Scully?
Scully: No, sir.
Skinner: Off the record.
Scully: [Cocks her head]
Skinner: So am I.

The List 3×5: I just don’t see the motives, do you?


The Green Mile it is not.

Chris Carter is back in the director’s chair and I have to say I’ve missed him. I’ve always generally preferred his directing over his writing. In fact, his first foray into directing was “Duane Barry” (2×5) which would go well on anyone’s resume. And like in “Duane Barry”, it’s when he takes the helm as both writer and director that he really packs a punch. Sadly, “The List” is an exception to that rule.

Visually, this episode rocks. Mulder and Scully are constantly swathed in ethereal blue and green lights. The prison is sufficiently claustrophobic. And let me just say, as a Floridian, the glistening sweat on the brows of the entire cast is sadly realistic. On atmosphere “The List” gets an A+.

But the content of this episode is like the microwaved leftovers of “Fresh Bones” (2×15). General Wharton in charge of policing a refugee camp led by a spiritually sensitive, mystical black man is now turned into a Warden in charge of policing a prison led by a spiritually delusional, mystical black man. Both are propelled to their deaths by a resurrected mystical black man. Even the closing shots of their deaths resemble each other; the camera comes from above and goes “through” physical barriers to give us a glimpse of their final rest.

I’m not mad at this episode for not being particularly original. In fact, sometimes I out and out prefer it when I get a tried and true X-File. But this one doesn’t bring any kind of new or fresh twist. As the series has progressed, the guest spots have been more consistently memorable and the acting has improved. Yet nothing I see here is enough to elevate “The List” above being merely mundane. Well… mundane for The X-Files that is. It doesn’t help that it ranks up there, for me, as one of the most confusing episodes of all time.

Neech is supposed to be reincarnated, “reunion of spirit and flesh.” Instead, we get another ghost story very, very similar in content to “Born Again” (1×21). Another soul is reincarnated for the express purpose of bringing vengeance on a short list of enemies. Only “Born Again” at least gave us the protagonist reborn in the flesh. Where exactly is Neech’s reincarnated form? He only shows up briefly at the end of the episode and even then I’m not convinced. I’m beginning to think that we in the West are incapable of successfully translating the concept of reincarnation. It’s too foreign to our worldview.

Speranzo: Neech is back.
Mulder: Reincarnated.
Speranzo: Well, he would have called it transmigration of the soul.
Mulder: Into what form?
Speranzo: You, me, this mattress… I don’t know, he didn’t specify. But he’s back. I can feel it. The man was electric, you know what I’m sayin’? Pure energy.

From that I suppose we’re to infer that Neech has been reincarnated as some vague spiritual energy; in other words, as a ghost. So why bother to call it “reincarnation” you ask? Good question.

Conclusion:

I tend to not skip this one on rewatches. Not because it deserves it, but because it feels distinctly X-Filesian even if it isn’t particularly good. I’m not convinced that Neech Manley is a character worthy of his own episode. Maybe it would have been more successful if there had been a villain to latch onto, but as it is, none of the characters motivate the audience to either “Yay” or “Boo” in their honor. “The List” ends up as a footnote, a cross between “Born Again” and “Fresh Bones”, complete with a bitter, white taskmaster terrorizing his black prisoners for their spiritual secrets.

I don’t know what you all are going to think of my IQ when I confess this, but after seeing this episode what must be at least 10 times I still have no idea who killed who. Did Neech commit all the murders? Where Parmelly and Speranzo in on this together? Then why did Parmelly point the way to Roque? Did Neech’s wife know? Did Neech ask these guys to kill for him after his death so that everyone would believe the myth and then, surprise of surprises, came back from the dead anyway? I’m lost. Lost, I tell you. I don’t know which lie to believe.

Watch it once and enjoy the atmosphere. Watch it again and risk ruining it for yourself.

B-

Bepuzzlements:

See above.

Random Thoughts:

Neech was on death row, probably with good reason. I wonder what some people might have done to him if they could come back from the grave and exact revenge.

It’s nice to see Scully a little shaken up in the prison. Any woman would be on edge.

I believe “The List” wins the trophy for most maggots ever in an episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: The man was obsessed with reincarnation.
Scully: Being obsessed with it doesn’t mean you can do it.
Mulder: No. Unless he knew something we don’t.
Scully: Like what, the secret password?

——————–

Mulder: Okay, but imagine if it were true, Scully. Imagine if you could come back and take out five people who had caused you to suffer. Who would they be?
Scully: I only get five?
Mulder: …I remembered your birthday this year, didn’t I Scully? *Editor’s Note: Actually, no, he didn’t. He won’t remember it until next year.

——————–

Scully: Woman gets lonely. Sometimes she can’t wait around for her man to be reincarnated.

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.

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?

Born Again 1×21: Not in this lifetime, anyway.


Status: Unexplained

Before watching, I had made up my mind to try and like “Born Again” this time around. There are no new X-Files episodes forthcoming, so I had better appreciate what I do have, right? Besides, I might find a new kindred episode like I did with “E.B.E.” (1×16). Well, this episode was not meant to be a kindred, though I did give it my best shot… possibly my second best shot as I hadn’t had coffee yet that morning.

The teaser is OK, but I could find better banter in an elementary school play than the stilted dialogue between Detectives Barbala and Lazard. It’s painfully amateurish. What’s worse, the connection that Lazard has to the “Tooms” (1×20) case feels forced. It’s a little beneath the quality of writing on this show, actually.

Speaking of writing, reincarnation never proved to be a convincing topic on The X-Files (and they tried at least 3 times). Maybe the problem is that it’s hard to play out a story of reincarnation in such a way that it feels distinct from a possession or a poltergeist. Little Michelle is supposed to be the reincarnated soul Charlie Morris and instead it feels like his ghost has possessed her. She’s a separate personality being bogged down by his memories rather than the same personality unable to move on. Once Charlie’s bloodlust is satiated, Michelle goes back to normal.

Regardless, a tale of murder is only as good as its villain. We could relate to Charlie’s need to avenge himself if only his partners in crime were just a tad more despicable. They come close. If only the writers had come right out and said that Fiore betrayed his partner in order to get to his partner’s wife. The way things are left unspoken, it could be inferred that he comforted her out of guilt and regret. I suppose that could still make for high drama if done right. But it’s awfully hard to identify with Charlie when we never meet him. Maybe that’s the true downfall of a reincarnation plot. We only get to know the original protagonist through an intermediary. Short of making the villains such that we want to reach through our television screens and choke them ourselves, I don’t know how the writers could have made Charlie’s situation sufficiently sympathetic.

The lone interesting aspect of this episode is that Mulder comes away from Scully’s challenge admitting that the hypnosis session was “inconclusive.” He is listening. And like in “E.B.E.”, he’s paying more attention to what Scully says than he at first appears to. That little interchange is about as much as we get this episode on the Mulder/Scully partnership front. Sad. They took a couple of steps forward and then started marching in place.

And the Verdict is…

It’s Janice! You know, from Friends! The best part of the episode is recognizing her. There’s little else to get excited about in an episode that amounts to little more than TV filler. It’s like a long car ride with no scenery and definitely the least memorable of all the “scary kid” episodes.

I’ve said before that there was a general upward trend in the quality of episodes during the last half of Season 1. I lied. Well, sorta. As far as production quality goes, it’s steadily improving. The show itself feels closer to coherent, more like the producers and writers have a solid vision whereas the beginning of the season was an exploration. The X-Files is gaining it’s own tone, it’s own look and feel at this point. This certainly feels like an X-Files episode, just not a great one.

Even the worst X-Files episodes have a few redeeming qualities that they tend to share in common. The premise is usually interesting even when it doesn’t pan out. Mulder and Scully’s signature interaction is fun to watch. And in later seasons especially, the cinematography is lovely. Unfortunately for “Born Again”, it came along before The X-Files’ cinematic era, Mulder and Scully’s relationship didn’t yet have the depth that later episodes could rely upon and even the underlying story felt like reheated pizza. (The movie Ghost anyone?) We don’t even need to go back that far. Wasn’t a guy coming back from the dead to avenge his own murder the plot of the earlier Season 1 episode “Shadows” (1×5)? And wasn’t there a girl who couldn’t escape his memories and desire for vengeance? Yeah, that wasn’t particularly successful either. But it was better than this. This is one of those rare episodes I liked more before I rewatched it.

To sum it up, this is the only DVD in my entire X-Files collection where the picture skips in parts… and that doesn’t bother me.

D+

Nagging Questions:

How do Mulder and Scully get to the scene of the crime so quickly?

Scully puts together that Morris’ death was only made to look like a signature hit based on the coroner’s report. The coroner and the police couldn’t figure that out back when it happened?

Why is it that the guest stars consistently wear better ties than Mulder?

General Observations:

With the Minnie Driver look alike this could almost be a pre-quel to Remember Me.

A Mulder voiceover! Now, that’s new.

The look on Scully’s face during the autopsy as she realizes Mulder’s hunch has proved correct yet again is almost worth the price of admission.

Best Quotes:

Detective Lazard: Excuse me. Could I talk to you for a second?
Scully: I just started the autopsy…
Detective Lazard: Yeah, I don’t thing he’s going anywhere.