Tag Archives: D.P.O.

Scary Monsters 9×12: I want to believe.


ScaryMonsters253.jpg

Scully: Do I detect a hint of negativity?

Mulder: No! Yes. Actually. Yeah. – “Detour” (5×4)

The announcement that The X-Files would be ending at the end of the season came after “John Doe” (9×7) aired, but it also came while “Scary Monsters” was in production. How much of the writing team’s understandable feelings of disappointment, loss and rejection made it into what was probably an already completed script, I can’t say. But whether the timing was purely coincidental or not, “Scary Monsters” gives us insight to some of 1013’s conflicted feelings about the fandom that both loved them and betrayed them by disappearing in droves.

Leyla Harrison: Agent Mulder wasted no time closing that case. I just try to think like him. What would Agents Mulder and Scully do if they were in this situation?

Doggett: Agents Mulder and Scully aren’t in this situation. Agents Doggett and Reyes are.

————-

Gabe Rotter: [Looking at Mulder’s ID badge] So, this is Johnny Fabulous, huh? “Oh, Mulder’s so smart! Mulder’s so dreamy!” That’s all Leyla ever talks about. “Mulder and Scully, Scully and Mulder.” Blah, blah, blah.

————-

Leyla Harrison: I really do have to commend you, Agent Doggett. You solved this case. If it weren’t for you … I don’t even like to think what would have happened. I have to say, it’s clear to me now that you were better equipped for this challenge than even Agent Mulder would have been, absolutely. I mean, your lack of imagination saved our lives.

Doggett: Gee, thanks.

————-

[In the basement office]

Gabe Rotter: So, this is where the magic happens?

Leyla Harrison: It still happens. I’m happy it’s in good hands.

 

Um…. Fellas, you know I love you, but my nose hasn’t been tickled by pixie dust in a good long while now.

I’m not sure if “Scary Monsters” is a defense of the advent of Doggett and Reyes or a concession that Doggett and Reyes couldn’t quite cut it in the hearts of fans. Judging by the way the episode ends, I’m more inclined to consider it the former, one final argument to say that everyone from the actors to the crew have been doing a great job all along, but we fans, as represented by Leyla Harrison, have been too infatuated with Mulder and the way things used to be to recognize that.

“It’s been a very strange season,” Carter said. “We lost our audience on the first episode. It’s like the audience had gone away, and I didn’t know how to find them. I didn’t want to work to get them back because I believed what we are doing deserved to have them back.”

Weeellll.

Let’s consider just this episode for a moment since “Scary Monsters” is technically what we’re here to talk about.

The character of Leyla Harrison is back and she’s brought a friend. I already discussed my conflicted feelings about Leyla in the review for “Alone” (8×19), but suffice it to say, she was created as a representation of the fans and was named after a deceased fan. Despite the sweetness of the concept, she wearies one in her execution.

Even Scully looks awkward to see her.

Yet here she is, making sure to maintain the meta in a final countdown to the series finale that’s already fraught with meta. “Improbable” (9×14) was meta and “Sunshine Days” (9×18) will be meta squared. Still, Leyla is around as both another genuine tribute to the fans that have stuck out Season 9, and as a way of not-so-subtly telling those fans to give it up already and come around to the charms of Doggett and Reyes.

I submit that the fans that are still watching are not the ones who need to hear that message. That’s preaching to the choir.

And if you haven’t had your fill of self-awareness, there’s Tommy. Tommy is your average little boy… with an imagination so vivid and powerful that the people around him buy into the reality of his creations wholeheartedly. Oh, and he goes around saying, “I made this.”

Sounds like a little show I know.

It’s a cute idea. The whole episode is a relatively cute idea and I’m not mad at it. But it’s not particularly anything outside of a self-referential jab to the ribs. I’m neither scared nor moved nor very amused, even though the scenes between Scully and Gabe Rotter are the best parts of the episode.

Gabe Rotter feels more like an over-the-top goofy character off of The Lone Gunmen, which was the same for the character Dr. Rocky Bronzino in “Lord of the Flies” (9×6), also written by Thomas Schnauz who wrote for both shows. “Scary Monsters” is only slightly more sure of its footing than “Lord of the Flies”, but it’s still unconvincing in tone.  According to my copy of LAX-Files, Thomas Schnauz admits it was written in “basically panic.” Considering The X-Files’ famous production schedule, I can believe that. The problem is, it shows.

It’s been showing. The ratings must have been a disappointment but the ratings tell the story. If the audience had come back would they have been excited? Satisfied? Thoroughly entertained?

The X-Files used to be great all the time, magic almost all the time, but lately it’s been chronically good to middling. Sometimes it’s downright confusing and aggravating. As sad as it makes me to admit it, I would argue that Season 9 was destined to fail.

There’s a sentimental moment at the end of “Scary Monsters” when Leyla and Gabe come face to face with Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster. We all want to believe, which is why like the characters who get so wrapped up in Tommy’s imagination that it becomes real to them, some of us find ourselves passionately loyal to a television show. We believe in it because we want to.

And we’re still here.

Verdict:

I wasn’t sold on the X-File itself, but I did think the resolution to the case was well done. Mulder would have believed in Tommy’s reality. Doggett succeeds because he couldn’t believe in it. When it comes to solving X-Files cases, there’s more than one way to skin a giant bedbug…

Which is why I’ve been saying since Season 8 that it wasn’t necessary to so exactly repeat the Skeptic/Believer dynamic, but let me hop back off my soapbox.

It’s kinda nice to have one more creepy kid story before we go. Still, I can’t help thinking one good spanking would’ve nipped this all in the bud long ago.

B-

Pure Imagination:

Why wouldn’t Mulder’s ID have been turned in the day he was fired from the F.B.I.?

Cats have imaginations?

Mulder’s fish tank is in Scully’s apartment again.

So that ending… Is that a subtle hint to stop watching so much TV because it’s stifling our imaginations? ‘Cause that’s, sadly, about to be arranged.

Mostly, I’m pretty sure the ending is a homage to “D.P.O.” (3×3), which is also mentioned by Leyla earlier in the episode.

Advertisements

Rush 7×6: Bear with us ‘cause we’re old and stupid.


The Temple of Doom.

“Rush” is another one of those Season 7 episodes the plot of which I only ever vaguely remember, never mind that I’ve seen it three or four times. Even now, thanks to the rewatch, that I’ve seen it five or six, I don’t expect that to change.

What I do remember from when this episode first aired was the nagging, gnawing worry in the pit of my stomach. We’re five episodes in and Season 7 has yet to produce an X-File that’s magic from start to finish. Are there magical moments? Of course! But they’re moments. I want to be excited for the whole episode.

But there I go complaining again when I’m actually still enjoying myself. “Rush” has nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a solid offering from writer David Amann who previously gave us “Terms of Endearment” (6×6) and “Agua Mala” (6×14). I have to say that this third script of his, though emotionally not my favorite of the three, is actually the best in terms of consistent storytelling.

“Rush” is the most recent installment in The X-Files’ Teenage Dirtbag tradition. The first and the best was, of course, “D.P.O.” (3×3). After that, things took a memorably downward turn in “Schizogeny” (5×9). But “Rush” is an upward turn in this genre’s trajectory. All the disparate elements that an X-File needs to succeed seem to be here: an unexplained phenomenon, a gruesome death and a couple of suspiciously well-dressed F.B.I. agents. Throw in an inexplicably and unreasonably ornery local law enforcement official and it’s borderline classic. There’s really nothing wrong with it, and the production is, as always, beautifully done.

If there’s a glitch in the Matrix, it’s that I have a tough time feeling either sympathetic toward or repulsed by the teenagers that make up the heart of this story. I was a teenager myself when I first watched this episode and I felt even more ambivalent about them back then. On the surface, they’re pitch perfect. Pseudo-villain Max Harden is especially well played by Scott Cooper.

But perhaps that’s the problem. These characters feel like a paint-by-numbers rendition of teenage angst. We have the bad boy who rebels because he’s bitter that the authority figures in his life overlook his potential. On his arm we have the gum-cracking, eye-rolling Moll. And then, of course, there’s the innocent new kid eager to be corrupted. If these roles had been something more than stereotypical I think it would have elevated this episode. As it stands, their characters service the job but nothing more.

The most interesting part of “Rush” isn’t the characters or The Matrix style special effects, it’s the focus on how painfully slow the progress of time is for the young. I was just reminiscing with someone recently about how wonderfully long summers used to drag. Remember when time moved slowly? When it took forever to get from your birthday to Christmas and back again? Now I wish Father Time would get back to hobbling and give up jogging.

I say all that to say that I wish “Rush” had spent a little more time focusing on why these kids were addicted to speed, how life at a normal pace is unbearable as it is when you’re that age, let alone after having a taste of the fast life.

Verdict:

Good. Solid. Standard. Those are the adjectives that come to mind when I think of “Rush”. I know that’s not very exciting sounding, but “Rush” isn’t a particularly exciting episode. Compared to its fellow teenage angst themed episodes, it’s much more coherent than “Schizogeny” but markedly less memorable than “D.P.O.” Don’t let it’s name fool you.

And this is the problem I remember having with Season 7 when it first aired and that I’m starting to have again. We’ve had a few solid episodes all in a row, but nothing that inspires my imagination to keep thinking about it afterward. I know I’m about to sound like a petulant child, but where’s the magic? “D.P.O” probably isn’t as good of an episode technically. But you’d be hard pressed to forget the way Jack Black’s character dies in that one. Images… emotional images like that stick with you and elevate a meat and potatoes, typical sort of episode into something worth watching again and again.

I’m not complaining… per se. Okay, maybe this is a complaint, which makes me feel bad because on the surface, The X-Files is doing everything right. Just please don’t make me start belting out “The Thrill is Gone.”

B

Lingering Questions:

Here’s something that puzzles me. When we get a glimpse of what these supercharged teenagers see when they’re “high”, the world seems to be moving in a painfully slow fashion. If anything, wouldn’t their super speed only serve to make the already slow world they move in seem slower than ever? You would think their ability would heighten the sense that time is running like molasses, not alleviate it. But the ending where a recovering Tony Reed watches the clock hand inch forward, doomed to spend the rest of his life slow-poking around now that the cave is gone, would indicate otherwise.

Lingering Comments:

I was also listening to The Doors at that age.

Is it just me or is Scully looking more and more uninterested with each passing episode?

For some reason I remembered that cute, flirty moment where Scully plays with Mulder’s tie as a lot cuter and flirtier than it actually is.

My new favorite moment of this episode is right at the end when Mulder says, “What if we’re too old?” to Scully and she makes the most pathetic face.

If Hardin had all those fractures and injuries he would have to have been treated long before the events of this episode and someone would already have been suspicious as to what he was up to or not. If he hadn’t, fast or slow, he wouldn’t have been able to move. Period.

The speed effect that’s used here looks an awful lot like the effect they’ll later use in “Requiem” (7×22).

Man, those The Matrix style special effects were ubiquitous a decade ago.

This is one of those rare cases where Mulder’s initial theory is completely off. I love it when that happens.

It seems that the character of Chuck Burke was missed. This marks his second appearance in six episodes after having been AWOL for a good long while.

Best Quotes:

Max Harden: [To Scully] You must have been a Betty back in the day. [He leaves]
Scully: A “Betty”?
Mulder: Back in the day.

——————–

Scully: Well, you and I were both in there and nothing happened to us. We’re still slow-poking around.
Mulder: What if we’re too old?
Scully: [Sad Face]

Trevor 6×17: I just wanted another chance.


Don’t we all?

Scully: Spontaneous human combustion.
Mulder: Scully…!
Scully: Well, isn’t that where you’re going with this?
Mulder: Dear Diary, today my heart leapt when Agent Scully suggested spontaneous human combustion…
Scully: Mulder, there are one or two somewhat well-documented cases…
Mulder: [Makes an effort at a conciliatory expression]
Scully: Mulder, shut up!

And I could end this review right here.

Believe it or not, my favorite part of that moment isn’t the “Dear Diary” hilarity. It’s when Mulder says, “Scully,” like she just paid him the sweetest compliment he’s ever been given, or rather like she just surprised him with two front row tickets to the Knicks game. He’s inordinately touched.

From the inspired banter to a socially backward antagonist in charge of the forces of nature, “Trevor” is about as classic an X-File as you can get. I may even have to take the title of “Most Classic of Season 6” away from the well-intentioned but flawed “Agua Mala” (6×14) to give it to the more well-rounded “Trevor”.

Its success shouldn’t be a surprise since one half of its writing team is former X-Files production crew Property Master Ken Hawryliw. Having worked on the show in Vancouver for five years, if anyone is familiar with what constitutes an X-File, he is. We’ve seen this kind of behind-the-scenes to front of the class success before with Special Effects Supervisor Mat Beck’s “Wetwired” (3×23) and Executive Producer R.W. Goodwin’s “Demons” (4×23). All three episodes are among the best of their respective seasons, all three are underappreciated. For this one, Hawryliw teams up with writer Jim Guttridge so I can’t forget to spread the credit around, but I am again amazed by the multi-tasking talent on this show.

I’ve never loved Season 6 quite this much before. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed it. I was never a Season 6 hater. But I’m especially struck this rewatch by how frighteningly consistent it is in quality. Okay, there are some slight missteps as there are in every season, but there’s only one trip and fall – “Alpha” (6×16). Other than that, it’s one near perfect hour of television after another.

“Trevor” continues that trend though you may not guess it based just on how often episodes are discussed on the boards. Somehow, this little gem seems to slip under the radar of fans. I can only think that in a season full of more attention grabbing episodes like “Triangle” (6×3)  that it’s easy to get lost in the mix.

But I’m not one to talk because I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated “Trevor” before either. I thought about why for a minute and I figured it out: I had never watched it directly after “Alpha” before because I always (accidentally, I swear) skip “Alpha” and go straight to the next DVD and watch “Trevor” right after “Arcadia” (6×13). Watching the already weak “Alpha” crumble like a stale cookie at its climax leaves me with all the greater relief at the tension and emotional high stakes of “Trevor”. This climax delivers. Where I rolled my eyes at Scully’s look of pity for Karin at the end of “Alpha”, Mulder’s bittersweet empathy here for the doomed Pinker Rawls strikes a chord.

You see, Pinker is both the antagonist and the protagonist. He’s the villain and the hero, the victim of his own personal Greek tragedy. All Pinker wants is a second chance at life and the son that was stolen from him represents that possibility. Sure, he’s a cold-blooded psychopath, but psychopaths need love too.

I don’t think there’s ever any question that this man isn’t fit to be loose in society. But it’s hard to fault his desire for fatherhood and the normalcy that comes with it. In Trevor he imagines his chance to finally become the man a young boy would want as a father. It’s only when he sees Trevor’s terror at the end in that phone booth that he realizes he himself is destroying his own chances of experiencing real fatherhood.

On the other hand, June, his former lover whose family he terrorizes in an effort to find Trevor, is far less sympathetic than Pinker. Ostensibly, her only real crime is having hooked up with Pinker Rawls. She’s just a girl trying to make it out of the trailer park and onto Park Avenue. However, she hasn’t chosen to hand over the raising of Trevor to her sister out of some emotional aversion to mothering Pinker’s child but because it’s hard to catch a good man when you’re saddled with a kid.

She’s not trying to become something else so much as she’s trying to pretend she’s someone else. In contrast, Pinker knows he’s a killer and doesn’t attempt to suddenly reform now that he’s loose. But he’s a killer that wants to be more than just a killer and June ultimately takes that hope away from him, not once but twice, the last time for good. Nope, I can’t say I like June.

Verdict:

Please understand that if you’re ever randomly gifted with freaky “gods of Olympus” style powers you cannot use them to force someone to be with you. That’s a no-no. We’ve seen this type of situation go badly before.

There are echoes of “D.P.O.” (3×3) here, not only because we have an… er… less than morally adept gentleman who can control the forces of nature because he survived a freak storm, but because that same dude keeps chasing after someone he can’t have and leaves destruction in his wake. It’s that desperation for another human being who would be good for them but who they themselves are no good for that links Darren Peter Oswald and Wilson Pinker Rawls in spirit. They’re like X-Files blood brothers, both unsympathetic and yet tragic at the same time.

Yes, the look Mulder gives June at the end of the episode says it all: Killing Pinker Rawls was unnecessarily cruel. He had already let Trevor go. Then again, Pinker allows her to do it. I guess he realizes all his chances are gone.

Undeserving though Pinker is, in that moment you know he’s been robbed of something precious.

A

I want what’s mine:

Since when do people board up for tornadoes? Shouldn’t they be bunkered in a basement somewhere? And if a tornado is coming, who has time to pick a fight?

Is it supposed to be ironic that Pinker went to prison with so many condoms on hand meanwhile he had a kid he didn’t know about? Or am I finding things that aren’t there?

Wow. Scully knows the ICD9 billing code for c-sections. That’s ridiculous.

Shouldn’t Pinker have been able to reach his hand through the metal part of the phone booth?

Is Jackie dead?? Pinker seems to be able to touch people like a normal fella when he so chooses. Perhaps all that’s left of Jackie’s face is an ashen hole. Perhaps not.

Give me my son:

That’s a pretty O, Brother, Where Art Thou? style prison we open upon.

I love the way Scully reaches for Trevor’s hand right before they run for the phone booth.

If a naked man is chasing after you in the dark of the Mississippi night, it’s a good idea to run even if he can’t walk through walls.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Should we arrest David Copperfield?
Mulder: [Nods] Yes, we should. But not for this.

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.

Schizogeny 5×9: Talk about puttin’ down roots.


It's kinda like Children of the Corn except... not.

Here we have an X-Files episode about some emotionally disturbed teens in control of the forces of nature. Sound familiar? It should. It has strong similarities to Season 3’s “D.P.O.” (3×3).

Here we have an X-Files episode where a single and socially isolated woman unwittingly channels the personality and desires of an evil male ancestor, so much so that she even takes on his voice and perpetrates his crimes. Sound familiar? It should. It has strong similarities to Season 2’s “Aubrey” (2×12).

In case this hasn’t already clued you in, “Schizogeny” is an exercise in The X-Files By the Numbers. Mind you, there’s no disparagement when I say that because there’s nothing at all wrong with a tried and true X-File. The problem is that with this one, someone forgot Number 10: The Plot Makes Coherent Sense.

Sure, for a hot minute we think there might actually be something interesting going on. But the plot quickly melts into a mishmash of teenage angst, ghostly possession and sentient plants. Throw in issues of child abuse, a mental health practitioner projecting their own issues onto their patients and some Daddy complexes and now we have ourselves an unfocused jumble of ideas.

Even with its complexity against it, I think if Karin Matthews’ character had been a bit more fleshed out the episode might have pulled through. My natural instinct to compare Karin to B.J. Morrow in “Aubrey” doesn’t come out in her favor. You can feel the conflict within B. J. Morrow that makes her sympathetic while Karin Matthews is an emotional blank. I realize she’s a psychiatrist and she’s supposed to have control over her feelings, but I don’t sense any depth of character with her, there’s nothing going on under the surface.

To compare “Schizogeny” with something outside of The X-Files realm, there are also echoes of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho here, only instead of a mummified Mummy in the cellar, it’s Daddy Dearest who’s been preserved in the dark recesses of a creepy old house. And where Janet Leigh’s character overhears Norman Bates argue with his “mother” in Psycho, Lisa is kept awake listening to Karin Matthews’ long deceased father verbally humiliate her. In fact, the more I think about it, the more this episode comes off as a well-intentioned homage to Hitchcock. The X-Files certainly makes an excellent backdrop to attempt Hitchcock’s style.

But style is about all “Schizogeny” has going for it since there’s no substance. There really isn’t much going on in this episode of interest, and consequently, there isn’t much to discuss. So I’ll take this opportunity to wax analytical instead.

Mulder: Hey, Scully, is this demonstration of boyish agility turning you on at all?

Listen up, fellas, because I have a theory and I’m sticking to it: Mulder was Scully-crushing Season 5. Think I’m wrong? I’m not. And the beginning of Season 6 will prove me right.

Chris Carter may not have intended it, David Duchovny may not have meant it, the writers may not even have purposed it, but television has to be accepted as the sum total of what we as the viewers end up seeing. And after all the editing is said and done, the overall impression is that Mulder harbors some feelings for Scully in Season 5 that edge ever so perceptibly away from the platonic.

I know, I know, Mulder’s always been a flirt. But his jokes have an edge of earnestness to them now that, in my opinion, they didn’t have before. Take the above quotation, for instance. Sure, Mulder might’ve teased her with something like that in Seasons 3 or 4. But this time Mulder doesn’t just flippantly throw this line out there, he actually looks down to make sure Scully’s paying attention, as if to say, “Well, is it?” I realize that’s a small moment but try adding it to the next several episodes in particular and it starts to equal something more than merely playful.

Not that I’m about to advocate the fantasy of some dime store romance style piece of fanfic that would lead you to believe Mulder is crying in his Wheaties every morning wishing Scully would finally notice him, I’m just saying that Mulder’s heart is more obviously on his sleeve this season when it comes to Scully, that’s all. After that cancer scare coupled with the loss of all he believes in, who could blame him? Scully’s the last thing he has left.

Verdict:

I don’t hesitate to say “Schizogeny” is the nadir of Season 5. It’s noticeable even in the middle of a streak of so-so episodes. But unlike episodes like “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) that implode in a blaze of glory or episodes like “3” (2×7) that inspire righteous indignation, “Schizogeny” commits no grave sin outside of being plain old boring. There’s nothing memorable going on here one way or the other. I could wish that it were either hot or cold but being lukewarm I just want to spit it out. Like most other lackluster episodes, it’s forced to rely on the failsafes of Mulder/Scully banter and The X-Files’ gorgeous cinematography.

Underneath it all I believe there’s supposed to be a message here about the cycle of abuse, but the plot connections are so tenuous that it’s hard to take any social commentary seriously. Worse, it’s hard to side with these kids and fault the parents when all I want to do is reach through the screen myself and give Bobby a good slap.

D+

Here nor Theres:

The shots of the bare, wintry orchard are so lovely I could wish it had been used as the backdrop to a better episode.

There’s a joke in here somewhere about psychologists needing psychologists, I just can’t seem to find it.

Interestingly enough considering the parallels this episode has to “Aubrey”, Sarah-Jane Redmond who plays Karin Matthews appeared in that episode as well.

If that weren’t enough, the actress who plays Lisa’s Aunt played Darin Peter Oswald’s mother in “D.P.O.” At this point, it’s almost creepy.

Even the title of this episode is obtuse. “Schizogeny” isn’t a word, but “Schizogony” refers to the asexual reproduction of protozoans. Maybe the substitute of “geny” is a reference to “progeny” since this episode is all about the difficulties of parent-child relationships?

The Creepy Woodsman red herring is a little overdone. Scully backs away from him one too many times and it feels forced.

Factiod: “Scully’s line about the town getting ‘400 inches of rain a day’ is a reference to a comment David Duchovny jokingly made about Vancouver during his appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, getting himself into a lot of hot water with the people of Vancouver. ‘Now that’s a bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think?’ was a perfect comeback by Mulder, given the circumstances.” http://cleigh6.tripod.com/CTP/CTP-schizogeny.html

Best Quotes:

Mulder: All that came out of his stomach?
Scully: Most of it. The small amount in his lungs is what killed him.
Mulder: Is it possible that he took the term “mud pie” literally?

———————

Mulder: Then how did the victim swallow 12 pounds of this stuff?
Scully: Well, when you fight for air a vacuum is created and maybe once he sucked down a mouthful of mud it turns his esophagus into a siphon. And with his head pushed down it filled all his passages like a gas can.
Mulder: [Grins and nods in amusement]
Scully: [Sheepishly] Well, you asked me for answers. These are the best ones I’ve got.

——————–

Scully: His mother says that Bobby can’t make friends. He’s been in therapy for his anger since 1995.
Mulder: That could be me.

Piper Maru 3×15: High Noon in Hong Kong.


I've got a little something in my eye.

The legendary Black Oil makes its first appearance on The X-Files. Huzzah!

Now, I’m as excited as the next Phile about the introduction of new levels to the overall mythology mystery. But I’m beginning to notice a trend where the writers are giving us new information every mythology episode without necessarily providing new answers. We learned about the UFO at the bottom of the ocean in “Nisei” (3×9) and we found out about the disk in “Anasazi” (2×25), but we still haven’t found out what’s on the disk besides the location of the UFO let alone the significance of the downed UFO itself. Instead, Carter and Spotnitz bring in the Black Oil which is more than sufficient to distract us from the fact that we still know nothing. This isn’t a complaint because I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. But I’m starting to understand why cracks in the mythology’s wall expanded in later seasons. Some holes have to be plugged before you can drill new ones.

Apparently the writers are planning to introduce a new foreign power in every mythology episode, just so we’re constantly reminded that this is a global conspiracy. “Paper Clip” (3×2) belonged to the Germans, “Nisei” to the Japanese and now the French make an appearance, the first non-WWII Axis power to do so. What exactly do the French want with the UFO anyway? More than likely, they just want to become “a player”, as CSM would say. Other than that, they don’t seem to have any kind of historical stake in the conspiracy. I suppose that’s why they don’t last long since I don’t believe we ever hear from the French again. We move onto the Russians in Season 4. I’m still wondering why we never hear from the Italians. Too romantic?

But enough rambling. Krycek is back and we have to enjoy him and his sliminess because after this arc we won’t see him again for almost a full season. It looks as though he’s managed to crack the security protocols on that Defense Department disk he ran off with in “Paper Clip”. This means he’s one of the few people in the world who know the scope and scale of the conspiracy outside of the Syndicate. He’s capitalizing on that, literally, by selling the Syndicate’s secrets to the highest bidding government. Meanwhile, no one in the Syndicate outside of CSM knows that Krycek is even alive and that the disk hasn’t been destroyed. Surprise!

On the emotional end of things, Scully finally gets to grieve for her sister Melissa. When Skinner mentions that it’s only been 5 months since her death (another case of 1013 Production’s date smudging) there’s a sense of incredulity I feel every time I hear that. Scully lost her sister but essentially went through the last 12 episodes without showing any signs of loss, sadness or melancholy. Odd, yes But I don’t believe it’s an oversight. Season 3 is the season where not only does the mythology take on a recognizable form and continuing narrative, it becomes distinct, even completely separate from the stand-alone episodes. Except for a passing comment in “D.P.O.” (3×3) where Scully references “all we’ve been through”, Mulder and Scully act as though most major mythology events never happened… until they reach the next mythology episode and things pick up where they left off. It’s not a bad thing, really. It allows the viewer to breathe for stretches of time and just enjoy the more genre specific episodes without worrying about keeping up with overall storyline.

There isn’t much to discuss as far as character development because the mythology is quickly becoming a mini action adventure series within a series where Mulder and Scully, for the most part, are just stand-ins for the audience. They’re there to solve the mystery and don’t have much time to explore their own inner workings, though that starts to change again in Season 4. But I have to give one last note on my man Skinner. We’ve already seen Skinner battle Mr. X on Mulder’s behalf in “End Game” (2×17), now it’s Scully’s turn to earn Skinner a beating. Skinner’s attitude with CSM’s goons is so awesome, but he’s turned into such a noble hero that it’s not surprising when later on the writers decide to put some cracks in his armor with “Avatar” (3×21). Maybe he’s gotten a little too cool for school. I don’t know, but I enjoy it so I don’t care. Skinner’s a bear and Mulder and Scully are his cubs. Play at your own risk.

Final Verdict:

These Season 3 mythology episodes are some of Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter’s best work on the show. They were able to strike the right balance of emotional and thrilling moments. Since this rewatch I’ve made it my mission to understand the ins and outs of the mythology plotline I’m enjoying it even more. But even back when I understood nothing I loved the Black Oil. Who wouldn’t? Throw in a cowardly Krycek and noble Skinner into the mix and I’m sold.

Oh, and that vision of a pilot kept alive by an alien entity banging on his plane window at the bottom of the ocean? Awesome.

A

Lingering Doubts:

That a man Scully new briefly in her past, that she wasn’t even close to, would hold key, first-hand information about the Black Oil situation is a real stretch to me. Carter and Spotnitz really make it work, though, and that flashback scene is effective.

It’s kind of a copout that Krycek was magically able to get the disk translated and copied when it was supposedly impregnable. But, then again, that was only a plot device in “Paper Clip”. In “Anasazi” Scully was able to print out the information to have it translated.

In the “Nisei”/”731” arc it’s hinted that the ship Talapus was on a mission to salvage a UFO and now that’s been confirmed. They salvaged it and CSM had it moved knowing that the disk with the secret of the UFO’s location was on the loose. But if Talapus had already made it to where the Black Oil crash landed with the UFO, why didn’t the Black Oil come up to the surface with one of the men of Talapus instead of staying with the P-51 Bomber? I can only assume that Talapus never sent a man down there but somehow brought it up by purely mechanical means, but that seems a stretch.

Random Tidbits:

A very young Michael Bublé is recognizable as one of the men aboard the submarine Zeus Faber.

I like that the teaser doesn’t necessarily read as a mythology episode. We have no way of knowing if this strange black entity is alien or if it’s just a new, freaky phenomenon that Mulder and Scully will have to investigate.

Best Quotes:

Scully: I’m just constantly amazed by you. I mean, you’re working down here in the basement, sifting through… files and transmissions that any other agent would just throw away in the garbage.
Mulder: Well, that why I’m in the basement, Scully.
Scully: You’re in the basement because they’re afraid of you, of your relentlessness. And because they know that they could drop you in the middle of the desert and tell you “The Truth is Out There” and you’d ask them for a shovel.
Mulder: That’s what you think of me?
Scully: Well, maybe not a shovel. Maybe a backhoe.

————————

Wayne Morgan: What the hell is that?
Mulder: Looks like the fuselage of a plane.
Scully: It’s a North American P-51 Mustang.
Wayne Morgan: Yeah, sure is.
Mulder: I just got very turned on.

————————

Skinner: Who are you guys?
Grey-Haired Man: We work for the intelligence community.
Skinner: Remind me not to move there.

————————

Krycek: I didn’t kill your father.
Mulder: Now you tell me.
Krycek: It wasn’t me.
Mulder: Oh yeah. Then who was it?
Krycek: I don’t know.
Mulder: Either way, Krycek, you’re a liar.

D.P.O. 3×3: No, man, not the cows again.


Thor: The Prequel.

“D.P.O.” marks the first in a series of episodes revolving around adolescent turmoil that continues all the way to Season 9’s “Lord of the Flies” (9×6). Is something so pedestrian as teenage angst the right choice after the mythology has whipped The X-Files’ audience into a fan frenzy?

Personally, I’m not averse to it. With this episode the series slips right back into the status quo, only taking a brief moment from the mouth of Scully to acknowledge the events immediately preceding it. That might irk some and I can understand why it’s hard to accept it when the adrenaline stops pumping. But unlike later shows like Lost, The X-Files never intended for the mythology to evolve every episode but gives us breaks in between; not to mention there are several different genres contained within one series here and the episodes fluctuate between types. I admit I’m biased because I love Monster of the Week episodes and while this one may not be as memorable as earlier ones such as “The Host” (2×2) I do find it’s surprisingly good at times.

For that, I have to give credit mostly to guest stars Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black, both of whom play younger versions of the types of roles they’ll later become famous for. Ribisi gives us a frighteningly convincing Darren Oswald, a brooding loser seemingly passed over by a life he was never interested in living in the first place. Jack Black is, well, Jack Black. Here they call him “Zero” but that’s merely a formality. Thankfully, he gives us a hint of his dramatic capabilities and, even more thankfully, he doesn’t sing. Actually, my favorite scene in the episode is Zero’s death scene which is surprisingly tragic. I actually pity the anti-freeze addled adolescent as he begs for his life in a voice edged with real panic.

Not that Darren cared. Darren didn’t care about anything or anyone besides the object of his obsession, Mrs. Kiveat. In fact, he’s so disconnected from reality that he doesn’t evoke the sympathy that underdogs typically do. He’s greasy and gross and one look at him almost compels you to snub him. One gets the feeling that before lightning transformed him into something out of X-Men, he got his kicks through porn and cow-tipping. Did it matter to him that Mrs. Kiveat was teaching him remedial math? He resents being thought so little of by his mother, but not with any sense of drive to prove her wrong but with the cold knowledge that he could zap her like a fly.

Darren kills just like he’s killing insects, without any more regard. Or maybe, more accurately, he kills as though he were defeating a video game opponent and with just as little expression. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t rank up there will villains like Tooms; he kills for amusement rather than for evil, like a bratty two-year-old who just learned how to annoy the cat.

Consequently, his obsession with Mrs. Kiveat doesn’t hold much emotional punch either. After all, it’s not as though he’s clinging to the one person who gave him hope or some such drivel; she’s hot and he’s coveting his neighbor’s wife and that’s that. The actress who plays Mrs. Kiveat is perfect for the role because she’s lovely enough that you can understand Darren’s teenage obsession but you can also feel her physical revulsion to him and her guilt as a teacher for feeling that kind of repulsion toward a student. She goes with him in the end at least in part to prevent him from being shot, but she goes as a lamb to the slaughter and ultimately can’t go through with it.

And who could blame her? For once, here’s a teenager who isn’t absolved of his guilt by parents being blamed or by casting aspersions on a neglectful society. Darren Oswald was just nasty to begin with and there’s no sense trying to rehabilitate him; his brain is already fried like an egg. The lightning is really a physical manifestation of his rebellion and anger, anger that empowers him and gives him confidence not to take part in society, but to act out his Mortal Kombat fantasies.

So…what?:

This is a very solid episode. Maybe it’s not what most were hoping for during the series’ initial run, but I think that looking back, without the urgency of solving the mystery of the mythology, it can be appreciated for what it is.

Darren Oswald may not be the most strikingly evil villain, but he’s memorable just the same. He causes destruction because it amuses him, as if he’s channeling every negative teenage impulse along with that lightning. And, really, what would be more frightening than a teenage boy with superhuman powers? A teenage boy who isn’t Clark Kent?

Come to think of it, I wonder if that’s how this started; maybe writer Howard Gordon thought about what would happen if wholesome farm boy Clark Kent were actually a hick pervert with too much boredom on his hands. Antifreeze: The New Kryptonite.

In the end, like a video game, he self-destructs, and it is a little unsatisfying that Mulder and Scully are powerless to stop him. That last shot at the end is one of the most creative final shots the series ever gave us, however, with Darren mindlessly changing channels as Chris Carter’s name pops up on the screen. At this point The X-Files was quickly becoming a phenomenon and it shows. The production value is better and Scully’s suits actually fit her at the waist.

If it wasn’t for the fact that the climax fizzles out so abruptly I’d grade it even higher.

B+

Questions:

Why is EMS about to jump-start a man’s heart when he hasn’t stopped breathing yet?

Comments:

That car in the parking lot should have/would have been taken away long before Mulder and Scully arrived. For a while there the writers had Mulder and Scully on a semi-realistic timeline, but I see that’s over.

Best Quotes:

Scully: I don’t understand.
Sheriff Teller: That’s as clear as glass.

——————-

Scully: Feel free to jump in any time.
Mulder: Why? You were doing just fine.

——————–

Darren Oswald: Why do you want to watch all that stuff anyway? They’re all a bunch of losers.
Mrs Oswald: Cause they’re on TV. I don’t see you on TV.

——————-

Darren Oswald: Hey, you know, I think you ought to be some place else right now. Cause I’m in the mood for a little barbeque.
Bart Liquori: No, man, not the cows again.

——————-

Scully: Here we go. Well, considering it’s a partial imprint, there’s a lot of information here.
Mulder: That’s great, now can you make me a little cherub that squirts water?
Scully: The tread looks like a standard military boot. Men’s… size 8 1/2.
Mulder: 8 1/2? That’s pretty impressive, Scully.
Scully: Well, it says it right here on the bottom.