Tag Archives: Cultural Myths

Alpha 6×16: Don’t mind him, he’ll go on forever.


Bad dog.

“Alpha” holds a special place in my heart.

I realize that probably sounds strange to you, so allow me to explain.

About a year and a half ago, after I had recently completed the rewatch that spawned this one, I was nostalgically flipping through my book of X-Files DVDs, bemoaning the fact that I had watched every episode I wanted to watch and there was nothing left. Lo and behold, my eyes dropped down and I saw something I had never noticed before.

“Alpha”… What’s an “Alpha”?

I searched my extensively detailed mental database of X-Files and I could not for the life of me remember the plot of this episode.

Did I miss this? Is that possible?? What in the heck is “Alpha”???

So of course, I popped the DVD back in the player thinking I must be having a mental block, possibly due to low levels of caffeine in the blood.

Sweet Mulder on a cracker… have I ever even seen this episode?

You see, that’s when I realized I have this habit of pulling the DVD from the player directly after “Arcadia” (6×13). Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.  Do not watch “Alpha”.

There are certainly episodes that I’ve been known to skip out of dislike, others I pass over due to impatience. But “Alpha” remains the only X-File whose actual existence I’ve wholly forgotten. It’s a dubious distinction indeed. In fact, I’m not even positive I saw this episode on its first run because my memories of it are so vague they may be retroactive counterfeits. Perhaps the VCR malfunctioned one Sunday night. I’ll have to dig out my old VHS tapes one day to be sure.

The benefit to this oversight, and there was a benefit, is that it essentially became a Lost X-File for me. Imagine waking up one day and finding out there’s another Mulder and Scully adventure out there for you to enjoy, one that you never knew about. Score!

Right?

Wrong.

I wanted to love “Alpha”. I wanted to have a new X-File to treasure. But yegads, I couldn’t. I suspected that if I couldn’t remember it there was probably a good reason and my instincts were correct.

Even on this rewatch, when I honestly tried more than ever to like it, it only got worse. Coming after the pitch perfection of “Monday” (6×16) and the fun of “Arcadia”, its failures are especially hard to accept. I found myself shaking my head involuntarily with irritated boredom before the episode was through. Frankly, it had me thinking nostalgic thoughts about “3” (2×7)…

This is our second episode in a row with an underwhelming monster. But whereas “Arcadia” had copious amounts of humor to fall back on, “Alpha” has no such crutch.

As I was watching this episode (for what may be only the second time ever), I started to smell the distinctively noxious odor that comes out of the kitchen when too many cooks are cooking in it. I wasn’t there and I can’t prove it, but I highly doubt that 70% of the script belonged to writer Jeffrey Bell, though the credits may tell me otherwise. The script feels disjointed, as if several different people worked on it, all with different points of focus. At least, that’s the excuse I’m giving because not much else can explain this fiasco.

But I’m complaining without giving any details. So… “Alpha”. This is an episode about territoriality, both human and non-human. There’s a noticeable amount of pissing and marking going on, but the hind legs being lifted up aren’t owned by any alpha male, but by a couple of frustrated women, one aggressive and the other passive-aggressive. One is Scully, the other is the newly introduced Karin Berquist, one of Mulder’s shadowy internet friends.

Karin is a socially maladapted loner who would rather be, and has been, living in the wild with wolves than walking on two legs amongst her fellow humans. Probably because he’s socially maladapted as well, and certainly as bright, she’s made a connection to Mulder and it’s because of information she feeds him that Mulder and Scully are on this case in the first place.

Karin, Karin, Karin. I’m all for geeks and losers, but Karin is a little too awkward to be sympathetic. Sadly, she’s just annoying. Which is a shame because I feel I should be rooting for this woman a little. After all, she’s dying, she has no life, and a man like Fox Mulder is giving her some attention. Can I blame her for trying to drag this situation out? However, her manner is off-putting. I realize it’s supposed to be, that she’s written that way, but I don’t believe it serves the story as well as if she had been either a clear object of empathy or a full on nemesis for Scully.

Too bad Mulder has man ears and not dog ears, or else he would have been able to hear the high pitched sounds coming from the mental catfight between Scully and Karin. Men are so oblivious to the ever-present subtext between females. Now, I know that it would be easy to interpret Scully’s actions here as the product of jealousy, but I don’t believe jealousy is what motivates her in any real sense. Mulder isn’t sexually, or even emotionally, interested in Karin and Scully knows that. Scully is being territorial, protective even, over poor, ignorant Mulder who is about to be caught in a web of womanly wiles. Scully essentially gives her the talk that big brothers give to their little sisters’ dates: I’m watching you. See, she perceives in a way that only a fellow woman can what Karin’s true motivations are and she resents them, not because they exist but because of Karin’s covert methods. Oh, and because Scully has been dragged all the way across country to California, probably on a red-eye flight since they arrived on the scene so soon, all so Karin can get the chance to moon over Mulder in person. I’d be a little resentful too.

The scene where Scully confronts her with this knowledge, where she gives her the old “I’m watching you” schtick, falls flat, however. Not because Scully isn’t a force to be messed with, but because Karin isn’t really worth having a woman-to-woman talk with. She’s no Diana Fowley. Scully’s righteous indignation is wasted on a woman who barely registers as human.

Alright. Enough griping about Karin because I’ve decided she’s not anywhere near my least favorite aspect of this episode. The next contender? Well, that would be the werewolf wannabe itself, the Wanshang Dhole. I’ve said before that The X-Files never handled exotic or foreign myths very well. It’s hard to introduce the audience to an unfamiliar legend and convince them to be afraid of it in the same 45 minute window. It can be done, of course, but it isn’t here. The playful pit bull my aunt used to own was scarier than this Wanshang Dhole, in human or in “canid” form. You can give a dog glowing eyes but you can’t make me fear it.

I was reading that one of the original ideas for this dog tale was to make the X-File about a kid who worked at a dog pound whose anger was expressed through the dogs there. Now, a pack of vicious dogs chasing Mulder and Scully down darkened streets? That could’ve worked. It could’ve been like “D.P.O.” (3×3), only with the SPCA involved.

But even the underwhelming monster in this Monster of the Week isn’t what dooms “Alpha” for me. It’s the painfully lackluster “climax” of the episode. Scully’s napping and Mulder’s reading a magazine while a mortally ill woman who tricked them into inaction with a see-thru lie uses an even more see-thru trap to easily defeat what’s supposed to be the smartest dog ever known to man.

I can’t even with this stuff.

I’ve read another draft of the script. I know there were better ideas out there both for the climax and for the episode in general. Maybe budget and time constraints forced them to resort to this nonsense, I don’t know. But it’s a doggone shame.

Verdict:

The best few minutes in “Alpha” come right after the opening credits when Mulder regales both Scully and us with a handful of bad dog jokes. Yes, even they fall flat, but this is the first time we’ve seen Mulder and Scully back in the basement office since they were reassigned to the X-Files. It looks a little bare, but Mulder’s hard at work making it feel homey again. It’s just missing one thing…

Mulder’s I Want to Believe poster.

Now, it’s about time we got it back. It’s just too bad that we get it back at the hands of a less than memorable character. If Karin Berquist is going to go down in history as the person who gave Mulder his poster back I want to have some kind of emotional connection to her. Instead, I spent the last few seconds of the episode resenting her spiritual intrusion into the basement office.

“Alpha” is still better than “Space” (1×8). I’ll give it that… and only that.

D

Claw Marks:

If the cage in the teaser hadn’t been opened and they didn’t know the animal was missing and that it had killed two of his crew, why does the captain or whoever he is say, “I don’t know how this happened. It makes no sense. We found the cage still locked. Two of our men are missing?” It makes no sense to me either.

Lupus is a disease I’ve been around a lot in my life. How Scully, a pathologist, not a rheumatologist, diagnosis this disease with so little information and such ease is beyond me.

This dog is supposed to be so smart, yet he falls into Karin’s trap so easily. And how could she have been sure they’d fall back hard enough to land on the fence post? That fence is some distance from the house.

“I think that I believed her very quickly.” Yes, Mulder, you have a tendency to do that.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Aren’t you going home?
Mulder: I am home. I’m just feathering the nest.

——————-

Scully: What happened to the dog?
Mulder: Dog gone… Dog gone… Doggone.
Scully: Yeah, I got it.

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El Mundo Gira 4×11: I just met a girl named Maria.


Remind anyone of their fridge?

This episode always brings back memories of El Chupacabra sightings that made the local news so often when I was in Junior High, sightings that no one outside the Latin American community seemed to take seriously. Funny, but despite its political grandstanding, this episode doesn’t take the legend seriously either.

Last time I watched “El Mundo Gira” I decided I enjoyed it. Maybe I was feeling nostalgic about the Spanish soap operas that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. I never understood them, but you didn’t need to understand Spanish to pick up on the melodrama. Or maybe I just finally decided that the Chia Pet style fungus in this episode is more satisfying than I had originally thought.

But upon a fresh rewatch and coming off of the notable success that is “Paper Hearts” (4×8), its errors are harder to ignore.

First, and most obviously, Season 4 seems to be when the team at 1013 Productions decided that along with the great power of The X-Files’ success came the great responsibility of social commentary. We saw them try to sneak it in the back door with “Teliko” (4×4) and they’ll soon try to force it in the front in “Unrequited” (4×16). Unlike a movie where they would have a couple of hours to let the story speak for itself and therefore could allow the audience to slowly put the pieces of the message together, a 42 minute running time means that in order to make their point we get heavy-handed lines such as…

Scully: Nobody’s examined the body?
Mulder: Nobody cares, Scully. The victim and many of the witnesses are illegal immigrants, migrant farm workers.

And…

Skinner: You would think that with the resources we have we’d be able to find these men. I’m not hearing a good explanation why this hasn’t happened.
Scully: Well, sir, they have a way of being almost invisible.
Mulder: The truth is… nobody cares.

And…

Scully: Mulder, I know you don’t want to hear this but I think the only aliens in this story are not the villains. They’re the victims.

The only thing Illegal Immigrants and Little Green Men have in common is a word that ties them together by sound, no longer by connotation. Giving the Chupacabra an alien shaped head does not a parallel make, and so it’s hard to choke down what they’re trying to force feed us. On top of that, such a serious pathos undermines the pseudo-comical melodrama of a Spanish soap opera that the episode is trying to imitate, resulting in a haphazard tone a la “Syzygy” (3×13).

It’s already difficult enough to take a distinct cultural legend and translate it to an “alien” audience in a way so that it carries emotional force. That experiment is rarely effective as evidenced by episodes like “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) and “Hell Money” (3×19).  But combining serious political observations with the “Mexican soap opera” theme that many may find unfamiliar is a recipe for disconnect.

Conclusion:

I still enjoy this one though, despite itself. At the very least it gives us a few memorable lines. And one thing I’ve always loved about The X-Files is how it’s able to give the strange a scientific foothold. This is one of those episodes where neither Mulder nor Scully are correct but together they make a new scientific discovery.

By the end the story morphs yet again, this time into a Rashomon style fairy tale. I can’t help feeling that if they had taken that tone all the way through, it could have been more successful. But then again, “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) has already been done.

C

Randomness:

If this is a community of illegals, why report Maria’s death at all? Surely that would have brought the cops around long before Mulder and Scully came on the scene.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Witnesses described a bright flash about 30 degrees off the horizon, then a hot yellow rain fell from a cloudless sky. Fortean researchers call these “liquid falls.” Black and red rains are the most common, but there have also been reported cases of blue, purple and green rains.
Scully: Purple rain?
Mulder: Yeah. Great album. Deeply flawed movie, though.

————————-

Agent Lozano: Let’s see… Okay. We have a Jose Feliciano. We have Juan Valdez. We have Cesar Chavez. We have Placido Domingo here. But I don’t see any “Eladio Buente.”

————————-

Mulder: They think he’s the Chupacabra.
Agent Lozano: That may be. But I will tell you with a tremendous degree of certainty this guy is not Erik Estrada.

————————-

Agent Lozano: This guy is better than Erik Estrada.

————————-

Mulder: Scully, I’ve been thinking. I know that’s dangerous, but just bear with me.

Teliko 4×4: Deceive, Inveigle, Obfuscate.


There's a Michael Jackson joke in here somewhere...

Airplane bathrooms are scary enough without a Monster of the Week attacking you.

Unfortunately, this is the scariest moment “Teliko” has to offer. Once the “monster” reveals himself, it’s downhill from there.

I’ve mentioned before in “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) and in “Hell Money” (3×19), that so-called “ethnic” legends often don’t translate well to a mainstream American audience. (I can’t really speak for the response of other countries). The problem is that the viewer has to be convinced that they should be scared in the first place; there’s no built-in point of reference as there is for say, the bogeyman that hides under your bed. The advantage an overused conceit such as The Wolfman has over The Teliko is that the audience already knows what they’re scared of and why, all the writers have to do is take advantage of their anticipation and manipulate their adrenaline. The Teliko, in comparison, is such a vague notion that it takes getting used to before you can inch your way over to being afraid of it.

All that could be overcome, however, if the monster at hand were actually frightening. In this instance, the sad fact is that he has a few things standing in his way. A few… or maybe two.

Two main problems:

  1. Samuel Aboa isn’t scary.
  2. “White Face”

In short, the X-File itself sucks.

On the problem of our villain, Samuel Aboa, is awkwardness, something the other characters don’t seem to notice, forcibly reminds me of Eugene Victor Tooms. Only he’s traded a willfully idealistic psychologist for the naïveté of an immigration counselor. Again, the benefactor only exists to be the ultimate victim. Not to mention, both monsters can squeeze themselves into small, dark places.

Alas, The X-Files keeps trying to repeat the success of “Squeeze” (1×2). “2Shy” (3×6), while it had it’s faults and in some ways wasn’t as good of an episode of television, is oddly more successful. The “Tooms Quotient” usually means that the Monster of the Week is more or less a man, an evolutionary mutant that has to kill to survive; invariably there’s something he’s… missing. We’ll see it again later on; Season 4 is kind of a 2-for-1 package deal. The motif starts to slow down after Season 5.

But enough about that. Back to Samuel. He’s just not convincing. Tooms radiates evil. Virgil Incanto in “2Shy” is sadistic and cruel. But Samuel Aboa? He’s blank. His whole set up just isn’t effective. Not to mention, if he needs melanin to survive, he very well should have kept his butt in Africa. Surely he was aware of the fact that blacks are a minority in the U.S.; picking off a small population was bound to draw attention, for all Mulder cries conspiracy.

All that being said, I could have gotten over Samuel’s generic attitude if his crimes had been sinister enough. What could undermine something as evil as paralyzing someone and then picking through their brains as they look on helplessly? “White Face.” Sigh.

Black men covered in baby powder do not albinos make. Or is it chalk? Either way, Scully’s comment, “I’m sorry, I thought you said that Owen Sanders was black”, is an eye-roll inducer. The body in the photo, the body before and all the bodies thereafter, are so obviously black that to allow for the premise that these men were unrecognizable requires a suspension of disbelief that I apparently do not possess.

Verdict:

With the exception of the actual X-File itself, this would be a solid episode. “Home” (4×3) was a welcome departure but this has all the hallmarks of a happy return home to the normal routine. It should be comfort food, and at moments it is, but ultimately, it’s like finding out your mac and cheese is soggy. The idea behind it is tried and true, but it’s not so compelling this reheat.

It’s not quite the bomb that I remembered, however. It’s nice to see Scully called in for her expertise instead of Mulder. And something about that first scene as we watch her walk into Skinner’s office makes me smile. I’m home.

Oh, and this episode contains my favorite Agent Pendrell scene of all.

I want to love it, and my estimation of its charms has improved, but it still could have been better. I’m not so sure this one deserved the honor of a changed tagline. In fact, it didn’t.

C+

Questions:

Mulder just happens to stumble upon the right construction site because of the asbestos clue? How many construction sites are there in Philadelphia I wonder?

Why is Mulder the only victim that can move his eyes?

What is this alien among us crap? What does that have to do with this story? The CDC seemed to be genuinely trying to help. The Minister tries to hide what happened in hopes that it would disappear, not out of any sinister motive. It’s like writer Howard Gordon was trying to turn this into a message on race relations, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how race actually plays a role outside of the melanin issue.

Comments:

I’m not sure what Marita Covarrubias is doing here except to remind the audience that she exists and is supposed to be important.

Mulder is at least aware of Pendrell’s feelings. What about Scully?

Ah, a welcome return to the field journal.

It’s a good thing they were near an opening in that vent. Mulder is twice Scully’s size. Modern woman or no, there’s no way she could have carried him.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: There’s a Michael Jackson joke in here somewhere but I can’t quite find it.

———————

Mulder: Scully, has it occurred to you that this might just be a little PR exercise?
Scully: I’m sorry?
Mulder: To divert attention from the fact that young black men are dying and nobody seems to be able to bring in a suspect. The perception being that nobody cares.
Scully: Mulder, not everything is a labyrinth of dark conspiracy and not everybody is plotting to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate.

———————

Agent Pendrell: Shouldn’t we wait for Agent Scully? I just don’t want to have to repeat myself.
Mulder: She’s not coming.
Agent Pendrell: Why not?
Mulder: She had a date.
Agent Pendrell: [Looks dejected]
Mulder: Breathe, Pendrell! She’s with a dead man. She’s doing an autopsy.

———————

Scully: Where are you going, Mulder?
Mulder: Off to water the seeds of doubt. Bye bye.

———————

Scully: Mulder, even if you’re right, I mean especially if you’re right, why would he leave his own country to come here?
Mulder: Free cable.

Hell Money 3×19: I’m more haunted by the size of my mortgage payment.


Boo.

I mentioned in the last episode the fact that The X-Files had nary a success with stories that relied on an ethnic/cultural myth. There will be others that fail similarly, “Teliko” (4×4) and “Alpha” (6×16) come to mind, but none is a better example than “Hell Money”. The reason is that “Hell Money” takes what would actually be a frightening premise for your typical police procedural and attempts to turn in into an X-File by clouding it in Chinese ghost stories only to present the whole thing to an audience who isn’t actually frightened by Chinese ghost stories.

There’s a cultural disconnect when it comes to the cursed remains of ancestors in “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) and fake money paid to ward off spirits here in “Hell Money”. Most often, someone who isn’t raised on these myths and legends has a hard time taking them seriously. So not only does the episode first have to educate and explain the significance of the myth, something that already takes away from it’s ability to frighten, but then it has to convince us why we should be scared. That’s a rather discouraging combination.

That’s all too bad because it takes away from an episode that could have worked wonderfully, just probably on a different show. This is one of the few X-Files episodes where absolutely nothing paranormal happens outside of a few anesthesia induced hallucinations. Like “Grotesque” (3×14) earlier in the season, the story is about human evil, except that in “Grotesque” evil possesses a man almost against his will while in “Hell Money” evil takes the form of men consciously preying on the desperate. I don’t have to tell you which picture of evil is more disturbing.

Which is why on a lot of levels this episode does work. Despite the overabundance of exposition there are moments that are frightening, just not in the paranormal sense. Certainly this idea of a lottery where kidneys and eyeballs are at stake is fabulous. (I can’t quite believe I just typed up that sentence.) And the corruption of authority, in this case, police corruption, is never too old a tale. Not to mention if the cruelty and callousness of the game doesn’t grab you there’s the whole burning men alive in the incinerator bit.

The Verdict:

This episode feels like a script from Law & Order was cut and pasted into an X-File with random lines about ghosts thrown in. With the possible exception of a frog crawling out of a corpse, there’s no moment where I say to myself, “This must be an X-File.” Why were Mulder and Scully called in to begin with? There was nothing supernatural/abnormal about the initial murders other than that they were gruesome serial killings so I don’t see why they would have peaked even Mulder’s interest. The ghost symbol wasn’t even known about till Mulder and Scully arrived on the scene.

It’s a good story and a scary story, it just suffers from being presented on the wrong platform and with an unnecessary excess of cultural baggage. I can’t say I don’t enjoy it more than a few other episodes this season.

I also have to give this episode credit for having one of the most horrific endings ever on The X-Files. It’s truly terrifying, more than enough to bump it up a grade.

B

The Comments:

This was writer Jeffrey Vlaming’s second and last episode on the show. His first was “2Shy” (3×6).

That a man being burned alive would be able to write anything at all, let alone anything legible, let alone that his last message would be some vague reference to Chinese lore…

Hsin’s motivations never completely make sense to me. Just from the nature of the game, it’s only a matter of time until you lose something more valuable than a spare kidney. Risk of death aside, if he loses both eyes, for instance, he could end up spending as much on his own care and rehabilitation as he needs for his daughter’s surgery. The same goes for everyone else in the game. But I don’t suppose we’re meant to ruin this whole schtick by imposing logic on it.

You can win a lot more than 2 million dollars in the Powerball and you don’t have to risk life and limb. I’m just sayin’.

I can’t let this episode pass without mentioning the appearances of a young Lucy Liu and a young B.D. Wong. Consider them mentioned.

The Questions:

Does Mulder purposefully skip days between shaves?

Detective Chao bled out all over the place when the “ghosts” kill Johnny Lo in the teaser, that’s why they had to replace the carpet. So why is it that he failed to replace the carpet padding? If you’re going to do it, do it right.

The Best Quotes:

Scully: His name was Johnny Lo. He moved here about six months ago from Canton, still in the INS application process. He was a dishwasher in Chinatown.
Mulder: How many dishes do you have to break before your boss tosses you in an oven?

——————-

Scully: So now we’re chasing ghosts?
Mulder: “Who you gonna call?” Ghosts or ancestral spirits have been central to Chinese spiritual life for centuries.
Scully: So you’re saying the ancestral spirits pushed Johnny Lo into the oven and turned on the gas?
Mulder: Well, it sure would teach him to respect his elders wouldn’t it?

——————–

Scully: Do you know how much the human body is worth, Mulder?
Mulder: Depends on the body.

Teso Dos Bichos 3×18: Some things are better left buried.


My sentiments exactly.

Last we heard from writer John Shiban he gave us “The Walk” (3×7), a well-liked if not loved episode. This time around he doesn’t fare as well. Personally, John Shiban wouldn’t win me over as a solo writer until “Elegy” (4×22). When he, Frank Spotnitz and Vince Gilligan worked as a team it was usually to great results but his individual efforts aren’t among my top favorites, the glorious exception of “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18) not withstanding… not that I possess that much talent in a single strand of my DNA you understand.

Still, the sad truth remains that The X-Files hasn’t bombed this badly since Season 1. Even “3” (2×7) is better at least in terms of production value. By the end of the teaser the episode is already a non-starter. Not one thing about the opening is successful. The guys at 1013 had been sipping too much yajé if they thought this would work. From the second I see the mysterious shaman or whoever he is draped in red, ominously looking down from his lofty perch with his cane in hand, my eyes roll of their own accord.

This is The X-Files we’re watching so we already know the curse is real and even so, we’ve seen scarier. Before the episode even starts all chance at real tension is lost. As it continues, a cast of characters parade before us that range from annoying to boring. Not a one of them makes it all the way to “vaguely interesting.” And we need for them to be because the premise behind this episode is less then compelling and the typical “Western invasion of the sacred” politics are a bit of a turn off.

I have this theory I’ve mentioned before that The X-Files never really tackles “ethnic” myths and legends in a believable way. “Fresh Bones” (2×15) more or less succeeds but that’s only because Voodoo is already a familiar concept to the Western mind. The writer didn’t try and tie Voodoo to Hatian culture specifically so much as he created a regular mini-horror flick where explanations and motivations were rendered unnecessary. The thing is that it’s hard to make an audience care about something they don’t understand the significance of and that’s what usually happens in these “ethnic” X-Files.  In case you think I’m relying on a fluke for evidence, my suspicion is about to be confirmed twice in a row. But we’ll discuss “Hell Money” (3×19) tomorrow.

Back to the plot, I had always assumed that the Jaguar spirit had stowed away on a plane or the like to finish up its revenge in North America and that the tabby cats were just its minions or something. I come to find out this rewatch that the killers are actually the stray cats; the last vestige of credibility this episode had in my mind is gone.

Even Kim Manners’ knack for directing horror episodes couldn’t save this one. Something about the Jaguar/Cat special effect is hokey, almost like something out of Season 1 except that Season 1 pulled off something similar much more successfully in “Fallen Angel” (1×9). And poor Gillian Anderson had to be stabbed at with fake cat paws on sticks to film the climax scene because of her cat allergy. It’s a metaphor for the entire episode, really.

After filming Kim Manners had shirts made up for the crew that read “Teso Dos Bichos Survivor” and “Second Salmon”, the second quote being a reference to the number of rewrites the script was subjected to; each rewrite was color coded and they made it to the color Salmon… twice. Says it all, doesn’t it?

Here’s what I think is the biggest problem: It isn’t a story worth telling in the first place. There are some funny lines and some scenes that are clearly aiming to give us an “iconic X-Files” moment. Yet it’s not enough to have the disparate elements without glue to bind them together, namely an interesting premise. The X-Files cannot live by flashlights alone.

Believe it or not, I was actually looking forward to reviewing “Teso Dos Bichos” more than “Pusher” (3×17) even because I believed that like most of the episodes I disliked previously, it would benefit from a fresh set of eyes this rewatch, that looking at from a more critical point of view would help me appreciate some of its finer points. Yeeeeaaah.

In a way though, I was right. I’ve discovered that this episode’s redeeming quality is that it’s hilarious, just not on purpose. “Teso Dos Bichos” may take itself too seriously, but don’t you as the audience make the same mistake. Mulder and Scully face off against killer sewer cats. For pete’s sake, laugh.

Verdict:

No.

D

Questions:

How did Dr. Bilac sneak yajé into the U.S.?

If the Native Indians of Ecuador are so paranoid about disturbing the rest of their dead, what are they doing working at an excavation site?

Comments:

The way Dr. Bilac talks drives me nuts. I feel like scratching out my ear canals every time he comes on screen.

Everyone knows there’s something a little evil about cats.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Personally, if someone digs me up in a thousand years, I hope there’s a curse on them, too.

—————–

Scully: So you think Bilac’s innocent? That the victim wasn’t even killed at all? That he was devoured by a mythological jaguar spirit?
Mulder: Go with it, Scully.

—————–

Scully: Label that.
Officer: As what?
Scully: Partial rat body part.

—————–

Mulder: Do we know for sure it’s Lewton?
Scully: Yeah, by what he had for lunch; corn chowder and it looks like he’d been snacking on sunflower seeds all afternoon.
Mulder: A man of taste.

—————–

Dr. Winters: When I dissected the dog’s stomach, I found an undigested fragment of intestine, which appears to be feline.
Scully: The dog ate a cat.
Dr. Winters: I also found what appears to be bits of rat fur. I think the rat ate the poison.
Scully: Cat ate a rat.
Mulder: And the dog ate the cat.

—————–

Scully: So what are we talking here, Mulder? A possessed rat? The return of Ben?

Shapes 1×18: Don’t you ever get the creeps?


Can't quite light my fire.

Campfire tales don’t suit The X-Files well. The X-Files does better when it takes a frightening idea and turns it inside out, heightening its poignancy by turning it into something intelligent; making it even, dare I say, scientific.

With that said, I present to you three episodes: “3” (2×7) – Vampires, “Shapes” – Werewolves, and “Shadows“(1×5) – Ghosts. All three are consistently listed among the worst episodes of the series. What does that say? It says that, despite what one might expect based on the premise of The X-Files, traditional monsters make a hard sell on this show. (One exception is Bad Blood (5×12) where the topic of vampires was covered with much aplomb. However, the whole episode was tongue-in-cheek and therefore doesn’t count.) Very specifically, werewolves in particular can’t seem to catch a break… or a fan. The show tries one more time with “Alpha” (6×16), which may very well be the worst episode of the entire series. You have, of course, begun to notice a trend.

Maybe the types of monsters that children dress up as for Halloween are a little to kitsch for such a grown-up, sophisticated show. They’re too straightforward. These archetypes are already so ingrained in the popular imagination that it’s hard to take the story any deeper than a mindless scare. They needed a bigger twist to pull this off than just the Native American connection, though that was a large leap in the right direction. Sadly, the Manitou was in practice no different than the werewolves of TV and literature that we’re already familiar with. What the Manitou needed was a diabolical or scientific twist to set it apart. Classical horror filming techniques combined with a more modern monster could’ve made for great television.

In the plus column, the Vancouver Rain again steals the show as the not-so-surprise guest star of the week. The scene where Lyle Parker actually transforms into a werewolf is well done. We see just enough and not too much. Too clear a picture of the werewolf and the visual effects would have made him comical. Most of all, I do like seeing Mulder and Scully make their way by flashlight through a dark and foreboding interior. Any excuse to see that will do.

And the Verdict is…

Shapes isn’t one of those episodes I get the urge to watch just for the heck of it. Now that I’ve watched it for the review, it’ll probably take another four years and a marathon session before I bother to break it out again. Even the acting is lackluster and I can’t help but feel bored and sleepy every time I see it. Yet, it’s a story about a werewolf. That means I’m supposed to be bundled under my covers and jumping at imaginary noises when it’s on. I’m sorry to say that despite what one might naturally expect, traditional scares aren’t an X-Files forte.

So without further ado, Shapes in five sentences or less: Man gets attacked by werewolf. Man becomes werewolf. Man kills as a werewolf. Man is killed as a werewolf. Mulder makes friends with the Native Americans.

D+

Nagging Questions:

Let me get this straight, the rest of Joe Goodensnake’s body returned to normal after he died but his teeth remained canine?

Random Comments:

Dude! It’s the guy from Danger Bay!

Is it insulting that Native Americans are almost always depicted as distrusting “the man”?

For the second episode in a row, autopsies are taboo. It’s getting too easy.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: How’d you know?
Ish: I could smell you a mile away.
Mulder: Well, they told me that even though my deodorant’s made for a woman it’s strong enough for a man.

———–

Ish: I sense you are different FBI. You are more open to Native American beliefs than some Native Americans. You even have an Indian name, “Fox.” Should be Running Fox or Sneaky Fox.
Mulder: Just as long as it’s not Spooky Fox.