Tag Archives: Brand X

This 11×2: You’ve really turned a corner.


 

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Adorbs.

 

So, I realize the Twitter generation is probably beside themselves with Glee right now. Me? I am amused. I am also confused.

When we left off last episode, Chris Carter and I weren’t exactly seeing eye to eye. He was gazing somewhere around my kneecaps. Skinner had just been propositioned by that immortal cockroach, CSM, and he smelled like it. Mulder is not fond of the smell of Morleys and told him so. Ergo, we find ourselves at the beginning of “This” episode with Mulder and Scully reluctant to step within two feet of Skinner, they’re so distrustful of him.

But let me take a step back. Before we even get there, how ‘bout them shootouts, eh? I bet you didn’t know that Chris Carter lent Mulder and Scully out to former X-Files writers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa so that they could get special ops training from Jack Bauer. Mine is not to judge, mine is only to say that I thought the opening teaser was a 9 that would have been a 10 if there were one, two, three fewer schizophrenic cuts during the action. Even with the frenetic action, those few minutes were a far sight better than 90% of Season 10 and on par with the other 10%… all of which occurred during “Home Again” (10×2).

Still, I would’ve appreciated just a tad more emotion on Mulder and Scully’s part over Langly’s sudden resurrection. But like I said, mine isn’t to judge.

Back to Mulder and Scully’s unjustified mistreatment of the one person in this world they can trust besides each other, Skinner explains this hullabaloo was due to an Executive Order from the White House. The White House has hired private contractor Purlieu to question Mulder and Scully about… well, he never says what about. About Langly? But how did the White House know to engage Purlieu before Langly contacted Mulder and Scully? The unholy trinity, the inverse images of the Lone Gunmen, they showed up before Langly raised his staticky head.

I’m assuming Skinner was out there in the middle of the Virginia woods because he was on his way to warn Mulder and Scully, but I’m not sure why either the White House or Purlieu would tell Skinner ahead of time what they were about to do, especially since Skinner’s history with Mulder and Scully has to be well known. Heck, it’s a part of those digitized X-Files that have now been disseminated across the globe.

Meanwhile, back in the Unremarkable House, Purlieu tries to trace Langly through Mulder’s phone and those Russian Reds trigger a… KILL SWITCH!!!

Glen Morgan, please pat yourself on the back for name dropping one of my favorite episodes: “Kill Switch” (5×11). Somebody’s been eating their Wheaties and checking their X-Files Wiki. I mean, the knowledge dropping… Mulder watching Deep Throat’s funeral through binoculars, Mulder and Langly’s shared birthday, KILL SWITCH!!!

In fact, for a minute, I thought this was going to be a repeat of the “Kill Switch” plot, that two lovers uploaded their consciousnesses into an AI and sprouted internet wings. Speaking of lovers, I bet you didn’t know Langly had a girlfriend.

And she’s normal.

I’d love to buy it, 1013. I really would. But, I don’t have that much money in my pocket.

Anyway. This frighteningly normal girlfriend of Langly’s did an abnormal thing. She made a pact with Langly to give their brains to Purlieu so that they could “live” eternally (?) in a computer simulation after death.

There are many things I don’t understand about this, but since you and I both have places to be, let me limit myself to two:

  1. What is so spectacular about merely storing your memory if your goal is to live together forever? It isn’t like they’re truly conscious. Everyone in this episode stressed that this is only a simulation. And the simulation will end, as it did, when someone pulls the plug.
  2. Why did the real person have to be dead before their memory within the simulation could “come into consciousness”? That’s awfully convenient to the plot.

Reasoned reasons or not, former girlfriend Karah Hamby leads Mulder and Scully on a Pub Quiz treasure hunt back to her classroom (puh-lease), where she schools them old school on a projector before Langly’s doppelganger rises from the dead just in time to kill her before dying again.

As it turns out, Langly handed over his mind to Purlieu with a plan already in said mind of how to test the simulation from the inside. You know, just in case paradise grew pale, which it did.

I suppose it puts a poop in your party when your mind is being mined by a shadowy Syndicate. I hesitate to capitalize “Syndicate”, but as far as we know, this new Syndicate represented by Erika Price is a continuation of the old Syndicate. The old set out to put the alien in humans, the new wants to put humans in space. And now we know the true purpose of the simulation, for all Erika Price tries to confuse Mulder with a smokescreen about evolution: the purpose is to use the greatest minds of a generation to gain the knowledge needed to colonize space. I gather asking a bunch of living MIT professors would let the cat out of the bag.

Not that Mulder would ever have considered the mind dump Price described as “evolution”.

Verdict:

You know what? I’m now less confused than I was when I started typing up these little musings. Funny how explaining what you don’t understand can help you.

This hard-earned clarity frees me up to enjoy this episode even more. Because while I may not be dancing a jig, I’m satisfied. Probably about as satisfied as this two-season revival is ever going to make me. I’m not quite at “Home Again” levels of satisfaction, but “This” just gave me something I never thought I’d have the pleasure of seeing again: A Half-Caff episode of The X-Files.

For the uninitiated, a Half-Caff episode revolves around an experimental technology or science that the government or a powerful private entity seeks to control and cover up. There’s a government conspiracy, just not one related to the mytharc. It’s a tradition that started way back in “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and ended in “Brand X” (7×19) after dying a slow death in popularity after Season 3. But now, the tradition continues.

In this case, it’s not the technology itself that’s so valuable, but the minds the technology gives Purlieu access to. Langly’s mind, even in its confused state, turns to Mulder.

It’s a touching thought. And Langly’s tearful recall of Scully, combined with Mulder and Scully banter that’s over a decade overdue, not to mention that classic early season evidence-erase ending, is nearly enough to get my heart rate up. Nearly.

Yes, maybe the plot is easier to decipher after a rewatch. And yes, the Mulder and Scully banter was old school on point… mostly.

I mean, I know Mulder can be silly. I welcome the return of The Incurable Sarcasm. But would he really be counting loudly in the stairwell when he and Scully are on a stealth mission? Sure, he would make fun of someone who hit on Scully. But would he do it in front of the security guard and break the ruse that’s supposed to get them in the building? Yes, Scully had her fair share of zingers. But would she really joke about alien butts?

Like I said, though. I’m not here to judge. And you know what? It wasn’t “My Struggle III” (11×1)… or I… or II… and it was good.

B+

The Questions:

Are there still no security cameras in the F.B.I. parking garage? Seriously? No guard? Nothing?

Why does Mulder have to be the one to kill CSM? Hmm?

Is Erika Price Mulder’s new nearly equal nemesis now that CSM has graduated to demigod?

How did Dr. Hamby get access to Langly’s tombstone to change the date? Did he leave her in his will?

How did she get access to Deep Throat’s tombstone to change the cross? Did he leave her in his will?

How did she know about Deep Throat’s connection to Mulder when he was buried under his real name and Mulder didn’t know his real name? Langly hacked the info and gave it to her because he knew she’d be able to use it when he was buried in Arlington cemetery one day even though he could have no way of knowing that?

Mulder recognized Deep Throat’s tombstone, among all these lookalike tombstones, as the one he saw from a distance, through binoculars, over 20 years ago? This, but he didn’t recognize his name on the tombstone?

So is Langly alive or not? You’ll notice that question is never truly answered.

The Backup:

The Bureau’s not in good standing with the White House these days. *snort*

“We can’t go to OUR HOME.” – You caught that, didn’t you?

And you also caught the “all things” (7×17) couch pose, yes?

Mulder and Scully made it through the 90’s without visiting an internet cafe, but here they are. And you thought internet cafes were extinct. I didn’t appreciate the PTSD “Trust No 1” (9×8) flashback, though. Scully StupidTM circa 2002.

Mulder’s taking evidence from crime scenes. Even his line delivery is back on point. I have mixed feelings about the “adorbs”, though.

Scully’s hair is so much better. It could still be even better, but at least it’s not embarrassing.

The day The X-Files references The X-Files referencing Silence of the Lambs. See “The Truth” (9×19/20), “The Jersey Devil” (1×4), and pretty much the entire plot of “Beyond the Sea” (1×12).

In case you were wondering about the 4th Gunman in the photo – This Man – The namesake of this episode?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Frohike look 57 to you when he died?

Scully: Frohike looked 57 the day he was born.

……………

Mulder: Who needs Google when you got Scully?

……………

Scully: Maybe he saw Mulder in his dreams.

Mulder: Who hasn’t?

4-D 9×5: Who eats polish sausage with plates?


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I got your back.

This… this is the direction Season 9 needed to go with Doggett and Reyes. I can only think that had the show continued, they would have quickly recognized what they were good at and perfected it. “4-D” is like a rough sketch of what could have been.

In some ways it reminds me of “Monday” (6×15), though I realize it deals with the “space” rather than the “time” part of the space-time continuum. Still, there’s that element of trying to escape a reality one mistakenly finds oneself in, a reality that isn’t right.

Here’s another reality that isn’t right for you: Doggett and Reyes flirting.

Now, look. I’m as relieved as the next person to see them finally look like they’re enjoying themselves. I want to know they’re glad to be working together. And I know I’m the one who in the review just previous complained that these characters needed to find a way to lighten their investigations up. But can we let the UST lie where it died in Season 8?

I realize it was necessary to reaffirm the closeness of the pair in order to pave the way for this episode’s emotional impact. But they didn’t have to go there. Frankly, if you’re trying to avoid comparisons to Mulder and Scully, creating romantic tension between Doggett and Reyes is a mistake. When I say this is the direction they needed to go, this part isn’t what I mean.

All that said, I am glad to see them relaxed and they do have a connection and chemistry. Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish give great performances here.

It’s impressive that they stand out considering the swelling cast of characters Season 9 has to accommodate for. Skinner and Scully are shoehorned into the investigation. And why does Follmer appear to be directing Skinner when they share the same title of “Assistant Director”?

Practical adaptations aside, this is my favorite work from writer Steve Maeda since “Brand X” (7×19). He showed us in “Redrum” (8×3) that he’s interested in telling tales about misadventures in time and space, but I think this X-File has more potential for both horror and genuine emotional impact than “Redrum” did. For one thing, he gives us a rather nasty villain to chew on.

Erwin Lukesh is a regular Norman Bates and is clearly modeled after the iconic killer, right down to his icky issues with Mommy Dearest. I mean, they sleep in the same bed. By the way, I LOVE his mother. She actually feels like a woman with no insight into her selfish, overbearing ways. And I LOVE that director Tony Wharmby so often chooses to let us hear that nagging voice without actually seeing her. Surely it’s no coincidence that Lukesh rips out women’s tongues.

Lukesh himself isn’t half bad either. I mean, you know a man’s a sadistic killer when he has cans of Boost in his fridge. Echoes of “Pusher” (3×17) anyone? And the way he savors his kills and feeds human tongue to his unsuspecting mother like he’s Hannibal Lector is properly disturbing. But I think he was robbed of a little of his glory. If he didn’t have to share so much screen time he could have been developed more as an evil maniac. I think he had it in ‘em.

The only thing that bothers me a little, well, besides the flirtation and the lack of character space… okay, so this is the third thing that bothers me… is that Reyes brainstorms her way through this inter-dimensional problem a little too easily. She basically sits at Doggett’s bedside and has a revelation and, last I checked, her background is in Religion, not Physics like Scully. Yes, the episode is running out of time and needs to explain the problem so that Reyes can take action to resolve it, but reducing the explanation to a quantum leap of exposition is anticlimactic.

That said, I still think the sci-fi route appears a better fit for Doggett and Reyes than the paranormal, however Doggett may tease her about going all Star Trek on him. These aren’t a couple of wide-eyed kids like Mulder and Scully were back in the day. Doggett’s a soldier and his brawn combined with Reyes’ emotional sensitivity and tenderness could have led to some interesting case resolutions. Even Doggett believes Reyes’ ideas after a while and his character is more likely to respond well to extreme science than ghosties and beasties.

Now all the two of them need is personal motivation to investigate the X-Files. Because, no. Doggett’s crush on Scully and Reyes’ crush on Doggett doesn’t count.

Verdict:

I don’t know that Doggett and Reyes have ever really felt close until this episode. I knew Reyes cared about Doggett, but it didn’t seem much like the feeling was mutual. It’s kind of amazing that Doggett is able to emote so well considering he’s paralyzed but for a finger. I can only imagine the long hours Robert Patrick had to lie unmoving in that hospital bed, poor man. He pulled it off, though. So hats off, sir.

Of course, I suppose this all means that somewhere in another reality Doggett and Reyes are both dead or nearly so.

Sad face.

B

Too Much Star Trek:

Okay… one last bother. Lukesh dies way too easily for such a Master Villain. Why didn’t he just hop realities with Reyes in tow? If it were that easy, Doggett would have killed him in the teaser, am I right?

And Reyes shaving Doggett on only their second real case together? Mulder and Scully took seven years and never got to that base.

The slow reveal of Reyes’ face after the teaser… makes you wonder if you’re about to see her scarred up. It’s a nice touch of tension.

I think my favorite shot, and there’s some great visual imagery here, is the shot of Marion Lukesh’s eye as her son leaves their bed in the middle of the night… As her son leaves their bed in the middle of the night… As her son leaves their bed…

Scully greeting Reyes with, “Monica, I’m so sorry,” is a subtle way of telling us that Doggett is more important to Reyes than to anyone else here.

I enjoyed the bit of continuity here – Scully sharing with Reyes the emotional impact that the events of “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) had on her.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: [On screen] MISSED A SPOT
Reyes: Did not. Anyway, that’s what you get for hiring cheap help.

Alone 8×19: I appreciate your enthusiasm.


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How do I get you aloooone?

“Alone” makes me want to cry and not for sentimental reasons.

It was lovingly crafted as a nostalgic look back at the Mulder and Scully era and as a tribute to the fans by the Godfather of The X-Files, Frank Spotnitz, who both wrote and directed it. It’s dotted with tender little nods toward some of the show’s most memorable moments, a “Dreamland II” (6×5) reference in particular being especially appreciated by me.

But… and I feel like an ingrate and a heel when I say this… I don’t like it.

This episode marks Scully’s departure from the X-Files, Mulder having said goodbye to the basement office last episode. This is the very last Monster of the Week episode of Season 8 and the very last Monster of the Week episode before Mulder’s official departure from the series. Yes, that means that for both Mulder and Scully this is their last chance to solve an X-File together. This is our last chance to see them solve an X-File together, only they don’t.

That’s Doggett’s job now and Doggett’s job “Alone.” So Mulder and Scully are splitting precious screen time with Doggett as he investigates an X-File that was never designed to hold our interest in and of itself.

*whines* Why do they have to share??

I say Doggett’s alone in his new job, but he’s been temporarily assigned a rather green partner. Don’t worry, she won’t last but an episode. Her name is Leyla Harrison which, in a very sweet and genuine tribute, is the name of a fan of The X-Files who passed away from cancer. Her name and this character come to represent all the X-Philes out there and the mutual love between them, the characters and the creators of this amazing, amazing show. I’m not overstating my own emotions when I say I personally consider The X-Files a gift from God.

That’s why I feel horrible when every time I see the Leyla Harrison character onscreen I instinctively resent her and recoil. She’s an annoyance and a distraction. She’s also too literal a representation. I wasn’t too insightful back in the day as a teenager watching this show, but even my dense self realized the wide-eyed Agent Harrison was a stand-in for The X-Files’ legion of fans. 1013… are we really a bunch of silly, awkward little groupies to you? I know I’m slavishly devoted and I squeal a lot, but really. This is insulting.

The above are the complaints of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person. If you’re Frank Spotnitz, I know you were expressing love and I’m sorry. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Moving on to a less sensitive subject, by Frank Spotnitz’s own admission in the DVD commentary, the monster is the least interesting part of this episode by design. The plot merely gives us an excuse and a way to say a bittersweet goodbye to what The X-Files was with Mulder and Scully and to look ahead toward an unknown but promising future with Doggett. It strikes me on this rewatch that the same can be said for every single episode of Season 8 after Mulder’s return.

Did it need to be done? Well, it is and was complicated.

From what I know of Season 8, and please someone correct me where I’m mistaken, the status of the show was in limbo very much like it had been in Season 7. All the way through the writing and filming of the season finale, it remained unknown whether the show would be back for Season 9. What was known was that whether it came back or not, David Duchovny had made it clear that he wouldn’t be back. That means that the Mulder and Scully era would officially end with the Season 8 finale regardless of whether or not Gillian Anderson, whose contract was also up at the end of Season 8, signed up for Season 9. Heck, even Chris Carter was in the midst of contract negotiations with Fox and wasn’t certain to be coming back. He actually swore he wouldn’t do a season without David Duchovny.

I know that’s hard to keep track of, but what it all means is that the latter half of Season 8 needed to serve as both a goodbye to Mulder and Scully and still pave the way for a Season 9 with a new team, just in case there was a Season 9. So instead of a clear and focused goodbye, we’re also getting a rushed and anxious hello, anxious to make sure we love Doggett and Reyes enough to stick around and watch them.

Which brings us to “Alone” and a less than successful attempt to make us as the audience willing to pass the baton on to Doggett as easily as Mulder and Scully appear to be willing to. Doggett’s a good guy and I like him, but all his scenes with Agent Leyla Harrison make me feel is impatient that they’re taking up my time when I could be watching Mulder and Scully. If Mulder and Scully weren’t here at all it might be different, but teasing me with their legendary chemistry in a few brief scenes and then giving me Clint Eastwood and Goldie Hawn is a recipe for discontent.

What I was hoping to see was Mulder and Scully solve an X-File one last time. What I now know is that the last time I would ever see them hunt a traditional monster or villain together in a stand-alone episode was way back in “Brand X” (7×19). Surprise! You never knew it was over.

One thing I would like to be over is this hemming and hawing over whether or not Mulder and Scully are a couple. Take the scene where Mulder picks Scully up for Lamaze class:

Now, at this point, we still had not revealed the paternity of Scully’s baby, although Mulder and Scully presumably knew whether they had consummated their relationship. And so this scene is meant as a tease: Did they or didn’t they? You know, it could well be that Mulder’s just a good, close friend helping her go to Lamaze or it could be more. – Frank Spotnitz

I always thought Scully’s “Thank you for doing this with me” line felt off. Why would she thank the father of her child for participating in the pregnancy and birth? Now I know it wasn’t me, it was 1013.

Trust me, fellas. I was already watching to the bitter end. There was no need to bait me.

Verdict:

I was actually quite emotional by this point in the show’s run knowing that I was about to lose Mulder and Scully. I still get emotional here towards the end of Season 8. You know it’s coming and you know it has to come, but it hurts, dang it. Maybe that’s why I’m so grouchy.

Doggett certainly doesn’t deserve my attitude. It’s not his fault he got stuck with the superfan.

Uncle Frank doesn’t deserve my attitude either, since this is a heartfelt and polished looking effort from the first time director.

No, it’s all sweet but it’s a little too direct.

The best part of the episode has to be Mulder and Scully arguing about how they got back from Antarctica in Fight the Future. That was still a little meta for me, but it was cute. Mulder and Scully can’t help but be cute.

Ugh. I’m gonna miss these two. My poor heart.

C+

Musings:

I believe this was our last Mulder phone ditch. *sniff* *sniffle* *sob*

“Sunshine Days” (9×19), which will end up being not only the penultimate episode of its season but of the series, will give us another take on fans, fandom and nostalgia.

They let Leyla solve the mystery. So there’s that.

Mulder and Doggett have to work together and take a huge risk to defeat the monster, so there’s that too.

What was it the old man told his son to take care of in the teaser?

Mulder’s attitude during he and Scully’s last autopsy together is priceless. It’s not, “I’m gonna miss this, Scully.” It’s, “We’ve got better things to do, Scully.”

Best Quotes:

Scully: How do you know all these things, Mulder?
Mulder: I’m unemployed. I have a lot of time on my hands. Oprah. I watch a lot of Oprah.

———————–

Harrison: Agent Doggett. What happened?
Doggett: I lost my grip… with a little help from the man upstairs.

The Gift 8×11: Are you calling Mulder a liar?


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Sniffle.

We’ve had a string of episodes I don’t care for and they culminate in this, “The Gift”. I warn you here and now that I have mixed feelings about it. That said, maybe because I’ve been so bored lately, or maybe because I missed Mulder more than I realized, but seeing his face in the opening teaser is such a joy and relief. In fact, I may have teared up a little.

I used to think I hated “The Gift” but I realize now that isn’t true. I only have one problem with the gift, it’s just a really, really big problem: The entire premise rests on a storyline I despise. That’s right. Not only is Mulder missing, even if he weren’t missing, he’d be dead or dying. Mulder has a deadly brain disease that he never saw fit to tell a soul about. So go ahead, steal Mulder back from the aliens. His eventual death remains inevitable.

I’ve already expressed my opinions on this ridiculous, horrible, abomination of a distraction from the primary plot in my review for “Within” (8×1). It went a little like this.

“It’s not enough that Mulder’s gone, you’ve gotta ruin the memories too? Stop retroactively killing what little joy I found in Season 7! He was happy in Season 7! This doesn’t even fit the timeline!

Let me try to get this straight. In Season 7, Mulder and Scully are sleeping together, but she has no idea he’s traveling nearly four hundred miles round trip every weekend. Mulder’s dying of an incurable disease, but devastated as he was when his mother killed herself after hiding her illness, he plans to keep his disease a secret from Scully. Scully and Mulder are happy as clams almost all of Season 7, but what we didn’t know was that Mulder was merely hiding his suffering. He was showing “clear signs of decline” but they didn’t catch that when Mulder went to the hospital in “Signs and Wonders” (7×9) and “Brand X” (7×19), just to name a couple of times. Things are so dire that he already had his name etched on the family grave stone. And all this he manages to hide from Scully, a doctor so brilliant she can diagnose nearly any disease from a single symptom despite never having practiced medicine.

I call revisionist BS.”

My feelings remain unchanged.

So now we’re back to that, are we? Doggett has suddenly and conveniently remembered that X-Files assignment aside, he’s still charged with the task of finding Mulder. He remembers just as the audience is starting to grow restless… though I’m sure the timing of this episode and bringing David Duchovny back had nothing to do with that… or with February sweeps.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. The thought of Mulder dying makes me cranky, that’s all.

Let me focus on the positives because, as I said, I don’t hate this episode the way I thought I did.

Like #1: Skinner and Doggett make a good team.

Every thundercloud has its rainbow and the rainbow in the storm of Mulder’s disappearance is Skinner. Our dear A.D. needed to get out more and it’s good to see him investigating a case again. This is a trend that started towards the end of Season 7 with “Brand X” and “Requiem” (7×22) and I see no reason for it to stop. Besides, he and Doggett have more onscreen chemistry than Scully and Doggett. They genuinely challenge each other instead of just assuming the position.

If we’re going to lose Scully for an episode and have an abundance of untempered testosterone, then I’m glad it went down like this. I would hate to see her absence wasted.

Like #2: The monster is unsettling.

And so are the monstrously selfish humans. Yes, the monster is gross, but more than anything it makes you wonder how far you yourself would go if you found yourself incurably ill, if you could live with saving yourself at the expense of someone else’s pain. Are the suffering entitled to the sin-eater’s help? Is their desperation excusable?

There’s a Christlike allegory in here somewhere…

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a Man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-5 (NIV)

The difference is that while Christ died willingly, the sin-eater has no choice. He’s dying a constant death because no one is brave enough to bear their own suffering, not when there’s someone else who can pay the price instead.

It may sound like I’m pulling this out of nowhere, but I think this is actually a parallel that writer Frank Spotnitz wanted us to see, especially in the scene of Mrs. Hangemuhl’s deliverance.

Watching the sin-eater stretch its mouth to eat her alive while her husband recites The Lord’s Prayer in the background, I’ll admit it’s pretty disturbing. It’s supposed to be.

Like #3: Mulder makes sense.

His dying makes no sense, but if he were dying, it would be completely in character for Mulder to destroy the means of his own salvation if by doing so he could save someone else.

One thing the series has lost sight of as of late is the original vision Chris Carter had of Mulder and Scully as romantic heroes, and I do mean romantic in the literary sense. Their main purpose is to seek the truth and to do right even if it costs them. To that end, Scully was originally imbued with a strong sense of justice, Mulder with compassion. Sometimes Mulder empathizes with victims to an almost frustrating extent, but that’s who he is. He’s a compassionate human being who would rather die than force someone else to suffer for him.

Heck, when Scully was dying in “Redux II” (5×2) he wouldn’t let her take the blame for his killing a man who was spying on him. He wouldn’t let her reputation suffer for him even though she wouldn’t be alive to feel it. That’s my Mulder.

Like #4: Doggett bonds with Mulder.

This is The X-Files. You don’t ever have to have met to develop a spiritual connection.

Somehow, despite having been a confirmed skeptic as recently as the last episode, Doggett puts together the pieces of this case so well you would think he was reading from Mulder’s playbook. While that does move my eyebrow up toward my hairline a tad, I’m glad that if Doggett finally experienced the paranormal in his own person, it’s Mulder who led him there. Mulder is the emotional and spiritual center of the X-Files, which started out as the expression and fulfilment of his own passion, the vehicle for his quest. He’s the one who initiated Scully on this journey of discovery, and it’s only fitting that he should initiate Doggett, even if it’s in his absence.

Doggett also finishes what Mulder was trying to do. Through Doggett’s death he saves the sin-eater. Ah, there’s that cycle again: death – resurrection – salvation.

In saving the sin-eater an emotional link is created between Mulder and Doggett. Mulder shoots it to save it, Doggett stands up for it and is shot. I’ve avoided this episode for so long that I didn’t remember the ending. I had forgotten that Doggett died and came back. I like it.

Mulder’s a good man. John Doggett’s a good man too.

Verdict:

I’m both relieved that they brought Mulder back and more than slightly resentful that they brought him back this way and to serve the purposes of this storyline. But it is what it is and if it has to be, at least “The Gift” makes better use of the characters than the last several episodes.

Well, most of the characters. Mulder could’ve remained completely unseen and the story wouldn’t have suffered at all.

For the love of all that is Scully, stop wasting David Duchovny’s eleven episodes!!!

A-

The Peanut Gallery:

All this time and no one had given Mulder’s apartment a proper search before?

So, in order to be healed, you get eaten and come back as monster vomit.

The monster vomit and the yellowish underground caves remind me of “Gender Bender” (1×13). That was my very first episode of The X-Files.

We’re getting so much of the Lone Gunmen this season that I’m starting to feel spoiled. Another silver lining to the Mulder is Missing rainbow.

There’s a great shot director Kim Manners does in the hospital scene. We can see Mr. and Mrs. Hangemuhn lovingly celebrating her recovery in Doggett’s reflection. That’s a beautiful shot.

That rustic woman’s accent throws me off.

Best Quotes:

Byers: We learned what we could. This is somewhat short notice, of course.

Frohike: And a little outside our area of expertise.

Langly: Plus the fact we were sleeping.

Doggett: You wearing pants, Langly?

Langly: Uh… yeah.

 

Surekill 8×9: Calling Clark Kent


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Meanwhile, Scully’s wardrobe choices have been excellent.

Whelp, Season 8’s been going along at a fairly good chop, especially considering the ship is sailing without Mulder. But every season has to bomb sometime. And for Season 8, that time is now.

This is only writer Greg Walker’s second X-File. The first one was the very promising “Brand X” (7×19). “Brand X” had many classic X-File elements and was on the verge of greatness, but I’m sorry to say that despite also harkening back to earlier seasons in style and substance, “Surekill” left me bored.

“Surekill” centers around two fraternal twin brothers, Dwight and Randall Cooper, who together run a pest extermination business, human pests included. In some strange twist of fate or science, Randall was born with super eyesight, x-ray vision, in fact. Dwight got the short stick and was born legally blind. Either the force is seeking balance or Randall got some of what belonged to Dwight. On the flipside, Dwight clearly got all the brains. Because of that, and likely because of guilt over having taken the eyesight that rightfully belonged to his brother, Randall is completely under his thumb. Dwight exploits his brother’s x-ray vision and his slow wits by having him shoot drug dealers through walls, ceilings and other places unseeable. Then the two go in and steal the money someone else already illegally earned.

All that I understand. But if Randall somehow got his superpower at the expense of his brother, one would think Dwight would have been born completely blind and not just legally blind. As it is, Dwight only acts like he can’t see when he feels like it.

Anywho, trouble comes in the form of a woman, Tammi, who works for them and plays a classic femme fatale trope. She’s the femme fatale who acts like a damsel in distress and robs you behind your back. Dwight sleeps with her while Randall stares at her… and stares at her… and stares at her…

Really, is x-ray vision sexy? Because I’ve seen x-rays and they’re not sexy. But Randall’s vision has a funny way of stopping just where he wants it to, and it appears he can stop at Tammi’s flesh without seeing through to her bones. Which I suppose is why he rented the apartment next door to hers so that he can stare through the walls at her taking a shower. Randall was somewhat sympathetic before that little scene. But I find it hard to sympathize with the Ultimate Peeping Tom, however Scully may think it’s romantic that he only wanted to look at Tammi. What an absurd way to try to make the story emotionally compelling as an afterthought.

The problem with “Surekill” is that it spends a lot of time on the Surekill Exterminations team and I’m not interested in any of them. I don’t like them. I don’t hate them. I don’t feel pity or anger toward them. I’m certainly not interested in their little love triangle. If nothing more is at stake than one of them killing each other, what does that matter to me?

If anything, the characters are off-putting and I’d be happy to see them destroy each other. Dwight is skeevy and Randall’s creepy, Dwight demanding what sounds like yet another round of obligatory sex from Tammi in his office while he knows Randall’s looking on through the door. Yep. I hope they do die.

Worse than that, there’s nothing that distinguishes the plot either. The teaser starts off fabulously; a terrified man runs into a police station asking for protection from an assassin and is killed in a locked cell while in police custody. That definitely qualifies as an X-File. Sadly, from there the story slowly peters out, becoming less and less interesting until, by the end, I don’t really care how it’s resolved.

Verdict:

X-Ray vision alone isn’t enough to build an X-File upon, it seems. So a criminal uses his superpowers to spy on a girl and kill other criminals. So what?

I complained in “Patience” (8×4) that the baggage of building Scully and Doggett’s relationship got in the way of the plot a little bit. Here, I wish it had. At least then I’d have something to think about. Scully and Doggett are already acting like they have a routine. Well, when did they get a routine and I missed it?

And I might add, Scully and Doggett observe without doing much to actually solve the case. Dwight, Randall, and Tammi all stay one step ahead of them.

Stupid ain’t cute.

C+

Rats:

I understand that Randall can see through walls, but how is it that those bullets of his can go through anything and everything?

These guys don’t sound like they’re from Massachusetts.

The way this case resolves itself while Scully and Doggett play catch up reminds me of “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14).

Doggett makes an Elvis reference… I miss Mulder!!

Dwight Cooper is played by Michael Bowen of, you guessed it, Breaking Bad. Because you know I love my X-Files/Breaking Bad connections.

Did you spot James Franco?

Best Quotes:

Dwight: I sent him a ham every Christmas till he finally told me he was a Jew.

——————–

Doggett: Calling Clark Kent.

Roadrunners 8×5: You’re going to be so loved.


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Highway to hell.

Warning: Do not take this episode with food. May cause stomach upset.

I flailed all through this, but not for my usual fangirl reasons. The sheer grossness is mindboggling. I haven’t contorted my face this much since “F. Emasculata” (2×22).

My king, writer Vince Gilligan, is back… boy, is he back… with his first serious X-File since “Tithonus” (6×9). The only solo offerings he gave us in Season 7 were comical so I guess he’s trying to make up for lost time. I don’t know. But I know he’s freaking me out.

One of the things I love most about Gilligan’s writing is his characterization of Scully. Too often Scully is left to look bored and aloof, because we know that all serious scientists are bored and aloof. Gilligan, though, likes to give her new things to do, things that bring out other sides of her. And he gives her back some of the sarcasm she originally had in Season 1. I find it interesting that his last serious X-File was Scully-centric too.

Scully’s in real trouble this time. She’s on a case alone because, while she’s stopped resenting Doggett, as demonstrated by her procuring the desk she promised him, she would still rather not have him around. The X-Files don’t matter to him the way they matter to her and she wants to keep him on the periphery. Besides, there’s no sense in getting attached when Mulder will be back soon. But what Scully’s forgotten is how many times she’s nearly died investigating an X-File.

One of the things I liked about the good but not great “Brand X” (7×19) was that it was the first time in a long time that it felt like there was a very real threat to Mulder. Well, it’s Scully’s turn. I haven’t feared for her life like this since I don’t know when. She’s surrounded by the faithful from hell and she has a giant slug stuck in her back that thinks it’s the second coming of Jesus. I’m pretty sure that’s called a “pickle.”

Right from the teaser, we see a bus full of zombie-like strangers calmly stone a crippled man to death in the desert in the middle of the blackest night. Don’t hold any horror tropes back, Vince. It starts freaky and it only gets freaky-er.

Scully gets trapped in this little village after being sabotaged by Marty Taylor from Home Improvement. Then she’s introduced to this guy with a thing crawling up his spine. He’s got a big hole in his back where it went through, and Dr. Scully seems to think the best medical course of action is to squeeze the hole to see what comes out of it

Here’s where Scully starts to get a little gullible. It could possibly read out of character that the townspeople catch her off her guard, but I think she is on her guard. She knows these people are up to something and she doesn’t trust them. It’s exactly because she doesn’t trust them that she’s inclined to think the guy with the thing up his back is a victim, which really, he is. As a doctor, her heart also naturally goes out to the patient. Why she’d give him her gun though…

The result is a scene in a dark barn that’s deliciously horrible. Scully slowly realizes she’s cornered, she struggles, the crowd is shouting, “Amen!” as yet another crippled man get stoned to death. Oh, the creepiness. I know what happens and I had to watch through my fingers.

The good news is this madness gets Scully riled up. And Scully may be in trouble this episode, but she’s no damsel in distress. Nosirree. This is another moment brought to you by Scully Squared ™. Even tied up and gagged she’s causing trouble and starting fires. That’s my girl.

However, there’s no way she’s getting out of this on her own. Doggett shows off his investigative skills and has a couple of cool moments himself before showing up to help Scully. One character trait he and Mulder do share is that they both trust their instincts. His instincts tell him something’s wrong in this no-name town. I especially like seeing him knock Marty Taylor the gas station attendant out. And then he cuts that thing out of her back. Ugh! Now that’s commitment. I’m sorry. If it were me, Scully would have had to die. There’s no way I would have been within thirty feet of her back. And then he holds it with his bare hands. Kill me.

Verdict:

All hail King Gilligan because this was the perfect way to bring Scully and Doggett together. Not only has he saved her life, he’s saved her baby’s life. Scully can’t hate him now. And a very mature Scully is forced to realize that she can’t keep treating Doggett like he’s sort of her partner. He’s here and she’d better accept him. Or else.

And while I miss the Mulder/Scully dynamic as much as anyone, I don’t think “Roadrunners” suffers from the loss of it. We’ve had episodes without one or both of them before and few of those are quite this memorable.

In summary, “Roadrunners” freaks me the heck out.

A+

Pocket Change:

This guy is stranded in the middle of the night, hails a bus, and then insults the driver after she picks him up? What, does he want to end up stranded back on the road? Then he doesn’t even bother to ask where the bus is going, just puts on his headphones and settles down for the ride.

It’s so dark, I can’t see what Scully finds when she looks at Mr. Milsap’s phone plug.

Danny’s back!

Is Scully going to be in the hospital every other episode this season?

It’s funny, when I thought ahead to this episode I figured it would be Vince Gilligan. These X-Files writers really do distinguish themselves.

“F. Emasculata” also involved buses in its grossness.

I don’t think we’ve seen Scully have a proper freakout since “Wetwired” (3×23).

Mulder wasn’t mentioned at all this episode…

Best Quotes:

Scully: What did you put in me?! I’m going to get every last one of you bastards!

Mr. Milsap: No! You’ll love us. You’ll protect us. You’ll teach us, make us better than we are. We’re taught not to envy, but I do envy you so… that you’ll soon be one with him.

Scully: Him?! That thing in my spine is a “him“?!

————————-

Doggett: [On phone] Just talked to a guy who had a gun in his pocket and I don’t mean he was happy to see me.

Within 8×1: Nice to meet you, Agent Doggett.


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Hallo from the outside.

Aliens are eliminating evidence. The X-Files department is over budget. Cigarette-Smoking Man is… dead? Krycek’s not. Skinner’s a believer. Scully’s pregnant. Mulder’s been abducted by aliens. Chris Carter got us into this mess, how’s he going to get us out?

And so begins the much maligned Season 8 of The X-Files. I’ll admit I was filled with as much trepidation as anyone at the prospect of a season half without Mulder. Mulder! Chris Carter swore he wouldn’t do The X-Files without David Duchovny, but contract negotiations are a fickle thing. Anyway, there was no way my viewership was about to drop off. I needed resolution. I needed Mulder back.

Scully does too because she’s having his love child. (Boy, I never thought I’d have to type that sentence.) She’s not supposed to be able to get pregnant, so there’s some mystery surrounding that, but Scully seems not to be overly concerned with that right now. Her first priority is finding her baby daddy. Fortunately-Unfortunately for Scully, she and Mulder are still so connected that she’s witnessing his alien torture sessions in her sleep. I’m glad to see that psychic link the two had in “The Blessing Way” (3×1) is still live and intact.

In keeping with Scully’s new position as the Queen of Angst, she’s been given new theme music so that every time she thinks sad thoughts about Mulder we can know about it. It’s good. It’s mournful. Slightly hopeful. It gets old fast. Fast. For those of you who are starting Season 8 for the first time, just you wait, Henry Higgins, just you wait.

For the sake of interest, Chris Carter can’t let Scully find Mulder too quickly or easily. Here to serve as roadblocks are the newly promoted Deputy Director Kersh, back as the Boss from Hell, and Agent John Doggett, Kersh’s current golden boy who’s been assigned to find Mulder.

We haven’t seen Deputy Director Kersh since “One Son” (6×12), when he was still Assistant Director Kersh and he handed the X-Files back over to Mulder and Scully, and Mulder and Scully back over to Skinner. Kersh was always a bit of a mystery, since he never quite appeared to be a part of the Syndicate conspiracy, yet he was an unsympathetic obstacle who wouldn’t give Mulder and Scully a break. It seemed he was written to thwart them for thwarting’s sake.

And now? Well, he’s here to thwart Skinner. I’m sure of that. Skinner’s a new believer in aliens, and like any good convert, he wants to share his convictions with the world. Kersh has made it clear that if he does his job is finished. Scully can’t afford to lose both of the g-men in her life, so she persuades Skinner to stay in the closet for the time being. We’ll see how this mini drama plays out over the course of the season, because for the life of me I can’t remember.

Kersh is also here to thwart Scully. I’m sure of that too. What I’m not sure of is whether he’s doing it because he’s a grumpy old man who likes to be difficult or whether he’s receiving orders from on high. If he’s receiving orders from someone, who? CSM is dead(?). The Syndicate is dead. Is there a new conspiracy we need to know about? Please let there be a conspiracy…

As for Doggett, I’m not going to get into a comparison of him and Mulder just yet. We’ll wait until he’s officially Scully’s partner. For now, all we know about him is that he’s capable, trusted, and his experience and assignment both put him at odds with Scully.

What I will talk about are the ridiculous ideas that come out of his mouth. Ideas that make no sense. Ideas that we all know Chris Carter put in his mouth just to tick me off. Because he’s a sadist and he enjoys frustrating his fans.

Doggett implies that Scully may not know Mulder as well as she thinks she does and he keeps on implying it. It becomes a theme of the season: Make Scully doubt her relationship with Mulder.

First of all, Doggett is making the same mistake that Diana Fowley made back in “Biogenesis” (6×22). Never question Mulder’s trust in Scully. That kind of crap she can smell without wind.

And then, what? Mulder was dying before he disappeared? What???

Stop it, Chris Carter. You stop it right there.

What in the Good Queen Bess are you trying to do to me now? It’s not enough that Mulder’s gone, you’ve gotta ruin the memories too? Stop retroactively killing what little joy I found in Season 7! He was happy in Season 7! This doesn’t even fit the timeline!

Let me try to get this straight. In Season 7, Mulder and Scully are sleeping together, but she has no idea he’s traveling nearly four hundred miles round trip every weekend. Mulder’s dying of an incurable disease, but devastated as he was when his mother killed herself after hiding her illness, he plans to keep his disease a secret from Scully. Scully and Mulder are happy as clams almost all of Season 7, but what we didn’t know was that Mulder was merely hiding his suffering. He was showing “clear signs of decline” but they didn’t catch that when Mulder went to the hospital in “Signs and Wonders” (7×9) and “Brand X” (7×19), just to name a couple of times. Things are so dire that he already had his name etched on the family grave stone. And all this he manages to hide from Scully, a doctor so brilliant she can diagnose nearly any disease from a single symptom despite never having practiced medicine.

I call revisionist BS.

You know how I know it’s BS?

“You were my constant, my touchstone.”

That’s how I know. So stop trying to mess with my head. Scully doesn’t appreciate it.

But back to Doggett. His practical methods only emphasize the loss of Mulder who is anything but practical. 1013 is taking the “make it hurt good” approach. They don’t merely leave a hole where Mulder once was, or fill said hole with a replacement of the same ilk; they give us someone completely different so that we’ll feel Mulder’s loss more keenly, so that we’ll resent Doggett and resent him but good. They want to heighten our resentment so as to let it run its course as quickly as possible.

If we had to lose Mulder, I think that the characterization of Doggett and Robert Patrick’s approach to playing him was a perfect choice. As I said, I’m going to hold off on discussing his character a little bit until we get to see him on a real X-File, but he serves as a foil to Scully in her current state; Scully, who misses Mulder so much that she’s trying and failing to become him. I guess that’s supposed to be an interesting bit of character development. I find it annoying and easy, which is why it’s too bad that it’s another theme that sticks around for a while.

Scully is emotionally overwhelmed. She’s so desperate for Mulder, she’s falling asleep in his bed in one of the saddest scenes that ever aired on The X-Files. She’s lashing out at Agent Doggett as though resenting him will somehow bring Mulder back. And she’s referring to the basement office as “Mulder’s office.” Huh? Since when?

Mulder’s become a larger presence absent than he ever was in person.

Verdict:

This can only loosely be called a mythology episode. What it really is is an emotional exploration of the aftermath of Mulder’s disappearance. And it’s a setup for a new web of relationships. It also introduces new recurring themes for the season, mostly centered around Scully’s emotional journey. Lastly and only just barely, it leads us into the next chapter of the mythology.

Interspersed we get a few shots of Mulder Torture. I feel bad for him and all, but I told him not to get on that ship.

On top of that, I’m a little concerned that they might not be using David Duchovny’s eleven episodes wisely. But this is just the beginning of the season and only the first in a two parter. They’ll give him much more to do than this. Right? Right?

For all my irritation and misgivings, I’m relieved. I’m relieved to be into the storyline again. I’m relieved to care. At last, something’s at stake.

B

Fish Food:

The new opening credits are a little on the nose, don’t you think?

The teaser was too, but I liked the lead in from the beating heart of Scully’s baby to Mulder’s heart racing as he’s in the clutches of the aliens. And love that Scully is somehow a conduit for them both.

I know they were making a point of it, but that cup of water to Doggett’s face felt good.

Scully, you’re a doctor. Wash your hands in between touching the toilet and wiping your face.

The idea is to find Mulder’s ship. What do they do once they do? Do they climb aboard? Do they call him to come down?

So Skinner’s calling Scully “Dana” now?

Kersh’s reintroduction is delicious. He starts off nice just to be extra cruel.

The way to ingratiate Doggett to the fans is not by using him to drive an arrow through the heart of the memory of what Mulder and Scully once were. Thanks for that. Thank you soooo much.

The jump from spaceship sightings over Arizona to Gibson Praise is a big jump. How does Scully know he’s still in Arizona?

I assume Gibson’s at a school for the deaf so he doesn’t have to listen to people say things they don’t mean.

Best Quotes:

[Morning in Mulder’s apartment]

Scully: [From Mulder’s bed] What are you doing here?

Doggett: I could ask you the same.

Scully: I came by to feed Mulder’s fish.

Doggett: And then you got tired and decided to take a nap.

————————–

Scully: [In front of the fish tank] What do you want to get on me, Agent Doggett? What is it you hope to find?

Doggett: I’m just trying to find Mulder.

Scully: You wouldn’t know where to look. [Searches shelves for fish food]

Doggett: It’s in the desk, middle drawer.