Tag Archives: Cover-ups

Max 4×18: Where I come from, that’s what we call a whopper.


<mourn>Pendrell</mourn>

Here’s the thing about this episode: It’s hard to believe our military is a match for beings who can literally stop time.

It’s partially because of this that I can’t help feeling there should be something more at stake here than suddenly wimpy aliens trying unsuccessfully to recover technology that the mean ol’ humans stole. And despite my best efforts to take myself back to a Season 1 mentality, where conspiracies were just conspiracies unto themselves and the Cigarette Smoking Man had nothing to do with them, conspiracies where some opaque and sinister organization called “The Military” was solely responsible for inscrutable reasons, it still feels as though the aliens must be holding back their wrath as a part of some grander purpose that ties into the plans of the now conspicuously AWOL Syndicate. Yet somehow, with the military handling the cover-up so poorly that even the TSA can see through it, it’s hard to believe the old wise men of the Syndicate are pulling the strings on this one.

I enjoyed myself, as I always do (or nearly always) watching The X-Files. But I found myself asking questions the entire time, questions that will never have an answer.

The aliens took the assassin in the end because he was literally “holding the bag,” right? So then, they took Max for the same reason and not because he was a repeat abductee? Are these then the same aliens that have been abducting Max or another race/community altogether? And if they returned Max, why didn’t they return Pendrell’s assassin?

But most of all, why couldn’t the aliens have broken into whatever facility the mysterious objects were kept at in the first place rather than mugging innocent commuters in midair? Surely creatures that can halt planes in the middle of the open sky can breach a government security system or two!

S’kay though. When it comes to certain types of X-Files episodes, it’s best not to think on the whys and wherefores but so long. We wouldn’t want to ruin it for ourselves. So leaving issues of incredulity behind, there are only a couple of minor things that struck me.

For the first time since “Memento Mori” (4×15), Scully’s cancer comes back as a plot point. Blink and you’ll miss it because her brief nosebleed is barely a point of reference; it’s only there to remind us that they haven’t forgotten. “Yes, she still has cancer. No, we’re not ready to do anything about it yet.”

I’m actually quite glad that they didn’t fall into the emotional trap of milking Scully’s cancer to death. Then again, moments like this feel a little awkward since Scully et. al. have been acting as though her cancer didn’t exist for the past two episodes and after this will again ignore it for another two. Possibly it would have been smoother if Scully’s cancer hadn’t stopped and started in fits and spurts. Perhaps a mention of a doctor or medication here or there? I’m happy she wasn’t  a chronic victim, but these out of the blue reminders make her cancer seem more like an incidental fact to keep in mind rather than a life-changing experience. Then again, having the cancer be a constant presence would have been irritating in the extreme. Oh, I don’t know what I want. I’m just looking for a happy medium.

On a final note, I only want to bring up this:

Mulder: …the object which ultimately brought down this plan, the cause which has eluded you.

“The cause which has eluded you?” No one talks like that. No one.

Mulder: Something happened. Something went terribly wrong, something unimaginable.

Mike Millar: Okay…

Okay…” indeed. Maybe once in a while, Mulder should just come out with it.

And the Verdict Is…

I’m not sure that The X-Files can ever go home again. The “Tempus Fugit”/”Max” two-parter is a nice change of pace and a welcome nod to things past, but it inadvertently highlights just how much the central core of The X-Files has evolved over the years. At it’s heart, it’s still all about conspiracy and mistrust, but with a web of lies that’s grown almost confusingly intricate it’s possible that an episode like “Max” either undoes the threads or falls itself into the trap. Does this prove that the mythology has already gone too far? That it’s taken on too much? Or does this one-off just pale in comparison? I’m still not sure myself. Possibly both.

“Max” is lacking the high stakes games that were ever present in Season 3, but then again, with the exception of “Tunguska” (4×9) and “Terma” (4×10), the rest of Season 4’s mythology has so far suffered the same fate. Mulder and the Search for the Holy Grail of Scully’s Ova in “Memento Mori” is great fun, but it never felt particularly urgent to me since it’s not like Scully was every really going to die that same night.

Overall, despite my lingering doubts, I’d say “Max” is a worthwhile experiment. Sure, I’ve never gotten over the fact that Agent Pendrell dies off screen without so much as a parting pout for Scully, but if they have to cut back on the mythology revelations to save some goodies for Season 5 and for the upcoming movie, so much the better. At least they spread the goodness out rather than watered it down… for the most part.

B+

Nagging Questions:

What in the heck was Mulder thinking by recreating the perfect storm? Didn’t Max already crash an entire plane by boarding it with that mysterious object in tow? What exactly did he suppose would happen if he bought himself a ticket on another one???

Unnecessary Comments:

Let me get this straight, the gunman, Pendrell’s killer, never bothered to change his bloody pants even a day or so later? Mulder should have smelled him walking down the gangplank.

One thing you can always count on Carter and Spotnitz for is some great Mulder and Scully dialogue.

Best Quotes:

Mike Millar: You’re saying, in effect, that Flight 549 was in the grip of a sort of UFO tractor beam?
Mulder: That’s a Hollywood term… but, yes.

———————–

Mulder: Do you know where she is?
Scully: In a mental institution.
Mulder: I, I’d go with you but I’m, I’m afraid they’d lock me up.
Scully: Me too.

———————–

Mulder: More people are trying to get their hands on this thing than a ‘Tickle-Me Elmo’ doll.

———————–

Mulder: I’m standing outside an airplane bathroom where I’ve got the man who shot Pendrell locked up.
Scully: What?
Mulder: Yeah and looks like I’m going to miss the in-flight movie. And it was something starring Steve Guttenberg.

———————–

Scully: Actually, I was thinking about this gift that you gave me for my birthday. You never got to tell why you gave it to me or what it means, but I think I know. I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women, and extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals, that what can be imagined can be achieved, that you must dare to dream, but that there is no substitute for perseverance and hard work… and teamwork. Because no one gets there alone. And that while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifice of those who make these achievements and leaps possible.
Mulder: I just thought it was a pretty cool key chain.

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F. Emasculata 2×22: This is Smokey and the Bandit.


Hey, Mister...

“F. Emasculata” is famous for being one of the grossest, if not the grossest episode that The X-Files has ever done. It even outdoes “The Host” (2×2). Whatever synapses are misfiring in my brain, I actually love this episode for its gratuitous distaste. I scrunch up my mouth and watch through my fingers every time.

This episode relies largely on the distrust of Big Pharma that was pervasive in the ‘90s. Who are we kidding? It still is. Somehow, it’s easy to believe that a big, faceless corporation would be willing to subject the human race to anything to build its empire. We Americans in particular are distrustful of any large concentration of power and money. I’m only touching on this lightly, but it’s exactly that collective fear that is at the heart of the mythology; there’s a small group of men hoarding their power and saving themselves at the expense of the little guy.

I have to say I had forgotten how much overlap there was in early seasons between the overarching mythology and minor, mini conspiracies perpetrated by the Federal Government. CSM is back for the first time since “One Breath” (2×8) not because extra terrestrials are involved but to give the goings on in this episode a diabolical edge. Enjoyable as it is to see him, I’m not so sure his presence serves the plot. Scully later reiterates everything he says but in a less sinister fashion and with more conviction. Regardless, once again the government is running secret tests on innocent civilians only this time they have a partner.

Those who have been following for a while know that I refer to these types of episodes as “Half-Caff” X-Files. They’re not paranormal or supernatural, instead there’s a science or technology that the government is trying desperately to control. “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) was the first of its species. I enjoy these types because they tend to be a little more scientific. “F. Emasculata” is not. The science of the disease is never explained. Why should it have been? The thrill isn’t in discovering its cause it’s in watching those horrible boils explode.

Speaking of a lack of science, how can Scully possibly be as stupid as she’s presented??? She’s a doctor. She knows that germs can be spread in a multitude of ways, yet in the face of a contagion whose method of communication is unknown, she opens up a sealed body bag with only a pair of gloves and a cheap mask. If it’s bad enough that the bodies are being incinerated, it’s bad enough that you should put on a containment suit, woman. And then she takes off her mask!! I’m incredulous, that’s what I am. If we’re going to be perfectly honest, it’s because of Scully’s recklessness that Dr. Osbourne dies.

Maybe to make up for the sheer lunacy of her actions in that scene, we later get a glimpse of Heroic Scully. Why does Scully keep from Mulder that she might be dying? Either that’s too heavy a conversation to have over the phone and/or she knows Mulder would stop what he’s doing and go to her rather than put his full effort into stopping this thing. Even if Scully’s stupid, she is sweet.

On a last film school related note, much of this episode is filmed in shadow. I know, I know. That’s pretty much every episode of The X-Files. But even more so here, when CSM first appears on the scene, he’s filmed almost entirely in the dark except for his eyes. At other moments, actors are lit from a single light source such as the fire from the incinerator or a slot through a cell door creating a heightened sense of tension and drawing our minds away from any holes the story might have. It’s no surprise that we have Rob Bowman to thank for this.

Conclusion:

How much should people know? Does the public have a right to know everything? Does knowledge always help, or can it sometimes endanger? “You can’t protect the public by lying to it.” Oh, Mulder, you know better. At least Scully is able to talk some sense into him. This means CSM was right too, for once. Could he be right when it comes to the mythology as well?? If you take it as a whole, “F. Emasculata” is arguing for full disclosure, only I’ll give it credit for acknowledging the risk involved.

Now, while I thoroughly enjoy this episode I’ll be the first to tell you that the whole premise is faulty. Mulder claims Pink Pharmaceuticals conducted this secret experiment to avoid having to go through years of FDA trials and get their drug on the market faster. The whole point of FDA trials, first of all, is that they are a line of defense between manufacturers and the American public that can’t be circumvented; you have to show proof of all your collected data. Ergo, a secret experiment is useless when it comes to getting FDA approval. But what really gets me is that I don’t know what Mulder’s on about since there’s no drug being tested at all! So what would they get approved? They’re spreading a disease just to see what it will do, to understand the science behind it (which vaguely reminds me of the Tuskeegee Experiments). It’s not a stretch to conclude that they’re creating a problem so that they’ll have a jump on the competition in learning how to solve it and eventually earn themselves revenue. But there are some serious variables involved before that can happen, as the events of this episode bear out.

I bet you think after all that griping I’m about to downgrade this episode. How could I do that when I enjoy it so much? So the plot has some pitfalls. Whatever excuse they need to bring me those boils a-poppin’ is just fine.

A-

Questions:

Wouldn’t Pink or the government have warned the U.S. Marshalls that there’s a contagion? These escaped men pose a threat to their testing as they’re outside of the focus group and unmonitored. The situation is tumbling out of control, something they don’t want because that would only draw more attention to what they’re doing. You would think that they’d make more of an effort to contain the situation by preventing others from being infected, if only so that no one would catch on to what’s actually happening.

Comments:

It’s interesting to see Dean Norris (U.S. Marshall) in his younger days before Breaking Bad, a series he stars in that’s written and created by fellow X-Files alum Vince Gilligan. Plug.

Best Quotes:

Scully: According to the briefing, prisoners escaped by hiding in a laundry cart.
Mulder: I don’t think the guards are watching enough prison movies.

——————–

Smoking Man: In 1988 there was an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in Sacramento California. The truth would have caused panic. Panic would have cost lives. We control the disease by controlling the information.
Mulder: You can’t protect the public by lying to them.
Smoking Man: It’s done every day.
Mulder: I won’t be a party to it. [To Skinner] What about you?
Smoking Man: You’re already a party to it. How many people are being infected while you stand here not doing your job? Ten? Twenty? What’s the truth, Agent Mulder?

——————–

Mulder: What about you? Where do you stand?
Skinner: I stand right on the line that you keep crossing.

——————-

Skinner: Agent Mulder, I’m saying this as a friend. Watch your back. This is just the beginning.

Red Museum 2×10: It’s kind of hard to tell the villains without a score card.


Where's mine??

This isn’t usually appreciated as a mythology episode, probably because it’s hard to decipher what elements of the mythology it contains. That and the mythology proper doesn’t really exist at this point in the series. “Red Museum” is little more than vague confirmation of what we first learned in “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23) and what’s already been reconfirmed since: The government is running tests on innocent civilians using alien genetic material.

The government is testing out “Purity Control,” that mysterious alien substance introduced in “The Erlenmyer Flask,” which is a carrier for a virus. We saw the effects of one test in the Season 1 finale, but apparently the conspiracy as several pots boiling and they picked this town in rural Wisconsin as a focus group of sorts. Based on what we know from later on in the series, this is probably another effort to create a vaccine against the alien virus.

The problem, which seems to be cropping up a lot in recent episodes, is that there are too many red herrings, far too many clues that lead nowhere. One or two is fine, but past a certain point the audience can’t tell what’s important and what’s not. By the time of the big reveal the significance is lost.

Not to keep bringing it up but “The Erlenmeyer Flask” did a much better job of weaving together a complicated story like this. It has lots of clues that are initially disconnected, but sooner or later they all connect. And voila, we have a solution to the mystery with some details cleverly left ambiguous and uncertain. That’s how you do it, folks.

Apart from a convoluted conspiracy plot there’s a sub-plot about the nature of prejudice and presumption in this small community, prejudice on both the side of the meat-eaters and the white-wearers. Mulder and Scully themselves are a little too easily convinced that Odin is capable of hurting these children based on his beliefs. Come to think of it, do they arrest him because they had real evidence against him or because they were creeped out when their car was surrounded by Odin’s followers? In the end, everyone was wrong about the church. The very children that were ridiculing and bullying their members were the ones they opened their doors to protect. A community being preyed on by outside forces put aside their differences and came together when it counted.

Conclusion:

I don’t have much to say about this episode because it didn’t have much to say to me. Or rather, it tried to say so much that it said nothing at all. Sure, we know Purity Control is still in the mix, but so what? Is there anything new to reveal? Are the experiments progressing? Do Mulder and Scully know who the players are? Yawn.

The most interesting thing about this episode is a brief moment that leads me to not so brief contemplation of the Mulder and Scully relationship timeline.

My theory walking into this season was that Mulder and Scully go from being buddies to being almost like brother and sister during this period. And I still think that. But… there are moments such as in this episode, when Mulder wipes BBQ sauce off of Scully’s face and she has a small but thoughtful reaction, that make me think that Scully at least considered the possibility that their relationship could go either way. I could be reading way too much into this, and if so, it’s all Gillian Anderson’s fault. Darn those unnaturally expressive eyes of hers! But now that I’m older and I’m watching this show as a woman (or so they tell me) and not a teenage girl, I’m seeing different signs and making new inferences. It would be a rare woman indeed who had a guy in her life as devoted to her as Mulder is to Scully who wouldn’t flit the idea about her mind for a bit. I still don’t think that Scully considered it overly much as the risk was too high, especially after her abduction when the depth of their relationship took on spaceship-like proportions. Though methinks Scully reacts to that moment a half a second too long…

C

Questions:

Why is the fact that this town has become the local rape capital only mentioned in passing? This episode had so many elements that it couldn’t possibly treat them all with dignity.

Comments:

The guy who plays Gird Thomas reminds me forcefully of Martin Short. Paul Sand, if you’re reading this, I like your face.

Digging the Chuck Colson shout out. I love listening to him on the radio.

It looks like Chris Carter was looking into the idea of Walk-Ins long before “Closure” (7×11).

They missed an opportunity when Odin mentioned “the dawning of the age of aquarius.” The entire case should have broken out in song.

Best Quotes:

Scully: So, you started to tell me about walk-ins, but I’m not sure if I grasped the finer points.
Mulder: It’s kind of a new aged religion based on an old idea, that if you lose hope or despair and want to leave this mortal coil you become open and vulnerable.
Scully: To inhabitation by a new spirit.
Mulder: A new enlightened spirit. According to the literature, Abe Lincoln was a walk-in. And Mikail Gorbachev and Charles Colson, Nixon’s adviser.
Scully: But not Nixon?
Mulder: No. Not even they want to claim Nixon.

Sleepless 2×4: Wrap the body to go.


Put 'er there.

For anyone who might be watching the series for the first time, you’ll just have to take my word for it that this episode is much more significant looking backward than it is watching the series from the beginning. Be forewarned, there’s a great surprise at the end of the episode that you won’t want to ruin for yourself. This is definitely a case where you should watch before reading any summaries or reviews.

This is our second government cover-up episode in a row but with a twist. For conspiracies that have nothing to do with the greater mythology I have a special category: Half-Caff. These types of episodes generally involve a dangerous cutting edge science or technology that the government it trying, and failing, to control. This episode, however, doesn’t quite fit into any category. There is a cover-up, yes, but the mythology is also a much stronger presence in this episode than we’ve had since “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23). Since Skinner has rebelled, it seems CSM has roped himself a new puppet. And he’s a doozie.

We start off with what may be one of the series’ most compelling and mysterious intros to date. We, the audience, know we just saw a fire ravage a man’s home. So where did it go? From the teaser, we segue into a “Mulder the Jackass” routine and this is where I’d like to pause for a minute.

Mulder can be a bit of a self-important jerk at times. True, Krycek will turn out to be far worse than that, but Mulder doesn’t know that. No, he has no excuse for his arrogance. We can only explain it by assuming that Mulder doesn’t want Krycek to interfere when he uncovers some diabolical plot or some paranormal oddity. Not to mention Mulder is fed up with the FBI and isn’t interested in making friends. But are those the only reason Krycek’s getting the cold shoulder?

No one wants to shake Krycek’s hand figuratively or physically, not even Scully. During the autopsy, Mulder and Scully carry on one of their intensely whispered conversations as if Krycek wasn’t even there. Why does he get the brush off when he hasn’t done anything wrong? It’s not about whether he’s good, bad, or pathetic. Mulder works with Scully or he works alone. He doesn’t trust anyone but her. For her part, Scully isn’t comfortable with the idea of Mulder taking on a new partner either. Could, horror of horrors, Krycek replace her in Mulder’s estimation? Scully goes so far as to fish shamelessly for confirmation of Mulder’s continued affection. Judging from his sheepish response, the loneliness is quite mutual. At one point, they act like 13-year-old sweethearts who can’t get off the phone even though it’s 1 in the morning and the conversation has long since gone quiet.

I still think their relationship is platonic at this point, but judging from that conversation, I can see why my fellow Shippers might feel differently. They’re certainly not hiding the fact that they’re lonely and bored without each other. As I mentioned last episode, they’re much sweeter to each other than they were last season. However, if their relationship was a budding romance Krycek would be no threat and neither Mulder nor Scully would have much reason to resent him. After all, he doesn’t represent a potential rival love interest for Mulder (despite what Slashers may think). The truth is, at this point what Mulder and Scully have is no more or less than a perfect partnership. That’s why Krycek coming in as a new partner is enough to rattle them both. It means that Scully could be displaced.

As long as Mulder doesn’t officially have to work with anyone else, Scully can be his unofficial partner on the side. But will it be the same if he, Scully and Krycek work as a threesome? Of course not. And what if, God forbid, he actually starts to prefer open-minded Krycek? That might be Scully’s worst nightmare. She prides herself on being useful to Mulder. She need not worry. The Mulder we met in the “Pilot” (1×79) may have been looking for a more Krycek-like partner. But after learning to relish the challenge that Scully represents, Mulder would be bored out of his mind with a Yes Man.

But enough about Krycek, there’s more fresh meat in this episode. Finally, Mulder’s new, nameless informant steps out of the shadows. We only know him as Mr. X. A far cry from Deep Throat, X acts like there’s nothing he’d rather not be doing than helping Mulder. He has no intention of becoming another martyr to the cause and ominously hints that Mulder is in danger himself, and not just of being fired. X himself oozes danger. No surrogate father figure is he. Whatever fuzzy feelings Mulder might have had for Deep Throat, X isn’t poised to resurrect them. When Scully questions whether or not Mulder trusts him, Mulder can only sigh.

I’m glad the writers decided to take X in a completely different direction from Deep Throat as an informant. A simple 1 for 1 replacement would have been boring. Between X, Krycek, and CSM’s growing presence, The X-Files is quickly taking on thriller-like proportions.

…And the Verdict is:

“Sleepless” owes a little something to The Manchurian Candidate and that’s a good thing. I’m glad to add this to the list of episodes I enjoyed more this time around. Before I had slept on the plot (pun intended) and had forgotten how good the interpersonal dynamics are.

More than that, I had forgotten how perfect a set-up this episode is for the 3-episode arc that follows. I might even go so far as to say that “Sleepless” should always be watched before “Duane Barry” (2×5) to get the full effect. It certainly makes the ensuing events more sinister. Now we know that something bad is going to happen to Scully and Krycek is at the root of it. He knows what Mulder and Scully know, that he can’t fully ingratiate himself to Mulder with Scully still around. She’s too much competition.

I don’t know that this episode does its job as a stand-alone, but as a part of the series as a whole it’s valuable and effective.

B+

Randomness:

Dr. Grissom’s sleep disorder center seems behind the times considering the man has already figured out how to render sleep unnecessary. You’d think that these lesser sleep issues would be a quick fix.

CSM has reading glasses. That’s so not diabolical.

Did Krycek kill Cole on purpose? I believe so. But Cole was also purposefully trying to get killed.

Mulder makes a selfish demand of Scully in regards to the autopsy, knowing she’ll drop everything and help him. Already it starts.

Best Quotes:

Krycek: I paid off your cab. I don’t appreciate being ditched like somebody’s bad date.
Mulder: Sorry if I hurt your feelings.
Krycek: Where do you get off copping this attitude? I mean, you don’t know the first thing about me.
Mulder: Exactly.
Krycek: You know, back at the academy, some of the guys used to make fun of you.
Mulder: Oh, stop it, or you’re going to hurt my feelings.

————————-

Scully: Sounds like your new partner’s working out.
Mulder: He’s alright. He could use a little more seasoning and some, uh, wardrobe advice. But he’s a lot more open to extreme possibilities than…
Scully: Than I was?
Mulder: …than I assumed he would be.
Scully: Must be nice not having someone questioning your every move, poking holes in all your theories?
Mulder: Oh… oh yeah. It… it’s great. I… I’m surprised I put up with you for so long.

————————–

Smoking Man: What about Scully?
Krycek: Reassigning them to other sections seems only to have strengthened their determination. Scully’s a problem. A much larger problem than you described.
Smoking Man: Every problem has its solution.

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


Postal meets Paranoia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

C+

Best Quotes:

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

———————

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

———————

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

———————

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

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


“This must be the place.”

…And the Verdict is:

B

It’s alive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Erlenmeyer Flask 1×23: I know it’s not Silence of the Lambs, but it’s what we do.


Maybe this time we can just cut out the Obi Wan Kenobi crap.

This is it, we’ve finally reached “The Erlenmeyer Flask” AKA “Scully Takes a Stand, Then Takes it Back” AKA “People Die on This Show.” Recurring themes to follow.

We open with a high speed chase, mainly to prove that X-Files don’t just hang out in dank, dark corners anymore. Apparently, neither does the show’s budget. The story takes place on a grander scale than any other X-Files episode up to this point. As a mystery, the pacing of this episode is great. In the beginning there are lots of clues, but as Scully points out, no connection, which is how I like it. Anticipation is better than fruition. Well, when it comes to well-written mysteries, anyway. But this is not just the beginning of real action on The X-Files, it’s the beginning of the mythology. Hip hip hooray! The series’ backbone is starting to take shape like a supersoldier’s spinning metal spine.

That crucial revelations in this episode take place at 1616 Pandora St. is so perfect one would assume the writers had to make it up, but my sources tell me they didn’t. (By “sources” I mean one source and by “source” I mean the DVD documentary.) Regardless, it’s an appropriate location for secrets to start to shake loose. And like the original Pandora, Mulder is delving into mysteries that can hurt as quickly as they can help. As asked earlier in Season 1, what will he do with the information once he has it? He wants to go public for the sake of the freedom of information. Yet, it doesn’t sound like he’s bothered to ask himself what good that will actually do. But I digress.

Why Mulder trusts Deep Throat again after the debacle that occurred in “E.B.E.” (1×16), that’s the true X-File. Nothing here to counter my theory that Mulder is actually trusting by nature, if a little jaded. The man’s loyalty outstrips his reason. It’s as obvious as Gillian Anderson’s baby bump. But I digress. Again.

Once more Scully is the voice of reason, airing doubts about Deep Throat that any rational person would be thinking. Only this time she’s wrong. So wrong. It’s only occurred to me for the first time this go-around, but Deep Throat must’ve known he couldn’t blackmail his fellow conspirators, not without giving up his life. This is why he is so insistent that he physically make the trade for Mulder and not Scully. Mulder refers to himself as the “dutiful son” early on in the episode. I suppose Deep Throat wants a chance to repay his trust by sacrificing himself like the father figure Mulder once thought him to be. His final speech to Scully while he’s still in the car is, in essence, a passing of the baton. He’s hoping that if he gets Mulder released, Mulder will find out the truth and put a stop to these men. Something that whatever strings he can pull, Deep Throat can’t seem to do himself.

Deep Throat has good reason to believe that Mulder won’t rest until he’s exposed every last conspirator. Chris Carter has stated that Mulder’s search for his sister, his search for extra-terrestrial life, is a pseudo-religious experience. He goes from being your average guy (albeit with excellent prospects) to alienating himself from family, friends and colleagues all for the zealous pursuit of his “cause.” He clearly doesn’t think God can offer him any answers. Perhaps he thinks the aliens will? I wonder if at this point in the series the character bothers to ask himself what he would do if he found Samantha, if he was able to confirm the existence of other life out there… somewhere. What would he do then? He’d hitchhike a ride on a space ship for some god-forsaken reason and goes who knows where, that’s what. But that’s a rant for another episode. Suffice it to say that Deep Throat can go to his grave assured that Mulder will let it all hang out one day.

There isn’t too much to say on the Mulder and Scully partnership front, except that we see Scully being refreshingly vulnerable with Mulder by admitting that she was wrong and confessing that she’s not sure she can trust her beloved science anymore. But Scully need not fear. This show is based on science, really. What makes The X-Files stand out from the paranormal pack of vampire slayers is that it uses science to give creditability to the spiritual; it uses science to prove what science hasn’t been able to prove up to this point. That’s its intelligent allure. The only reason Scully believes Mulder is because science has proven he’s right. So maybe she need not give up her belief in science, just remember that science hasn’t finished revealing its secrets.

Chris Carter is a sucker for parallels and bookended stories (I am too), and so the episode ends just like the “Pilot” (1×79), with Scully in bed taking a midnight call from Mulder. Only this time, instead of distancing herself from Mulder, she finds that they’ve been ripped a part by outside forces as punishment for getting too close to the truth. It’s like when God confused people’s languages at The Tower of Babel because they could do too much damage when they were unified and left to their own devices. (Except that God was justified.) Similarly to the human race, broken up or not, Mulder and Scully will find a way to make trouble together anyhow. Thank goodness.

Final Answer:

Mythology episodes, even though this can only loosely be called one, have a reputation for suggesting much and revealing little. A reputation that’s been well-earned. So let’s take a moment and take stock of what the writers did give us, shall we?

  1. There is a conspiracy. (But you guessed that, didn’t you?)
  2. This conspiracy is about more than the existence of alien life. (Bet you didn’t guess that one.)
  3. Alien life, at least its DNA, exists. (What would be the point otherwise?)
  4. This DNA is being tested on the population without their knowledge. (This is what makes the bad guys “The Bad Guys.”)
  5. The conspiracy revolves around cloning a virus. (Because the world needs more of those).
  6. Those involved in the conspiracy may or may not bleed green blood and have super powers. (It’s a bird, it’s a plane…)
  7. The conspirators have the cure for cancer but have no intention of sharing. (Maybe if we ask nicely.)
  8. The conspirators also have no intention of making the conspiracy successful. (That would ruin everything.)
  9. Even the conspirators aren’t safe. (No honor among thieves and all that.)

All in all, it’s not a bad set of revelations. It’s certainly more than we’ve gotten the whole season long. Up to this point, the conspiracy has been suggested but hasn’t shown any real signs of taking form. Truthfully, it still won’t until Season 2 rolls along. You can’t see it, but I’m rubbing my hands together gleefully.

A-

Random Thoughts:

Mulder’s penchant for B Sci-fi is far preferable to his predilection for porn.

Mulder is incurably snarky even when he’s blind and in the hand of his captors.

Mulder says, “Skinner!” with the vehemence of a mental patient.

I could be wrong, but I believe this is Danny’s first “appearance.”

Scully holds an alien fetus in her hand and a reputable, objective scientist tells her that she’s stumbled upon alien DNA. And yet, she doesn’t believe for another 6 seasons or so…

Unanswered Questions:

What makes Mulder pick up that random flask to get tested, anyway?

How did Scully sneak that Alien baby out of the facility? Stuff it in her pocket?

Who else thinks Dr. Carpenter would’ve called the CDC and made copies of her findings before she went home for fried chicken with the family??

Is the green blood toxic or isn’t it? The officer that shoots Dr. Secare at the beginning of the episode is unaffected, while Mulder later folds like a schoolgirl. Scully steps in alien blood herself, but only her shoe is the wiser. Maybe the blood has to be uber fresh? This will be one of my standing questions for years to come.

Did Scully leave Deep Throat’s body there in the street, or did she call the Police? And if she called the police, how in the heck did she explain what went down?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: You think he does it because he gets off on it?
Scully: No, I think he does it because you do.

—————-

Scully: OK, Mulder, but I’m warning you… if this is monkey pee, you’re on your own.

—————-

Scully: I should know by now to trust your instincts.
Mulder: Why? Nobody else does.