Tag Archives: Darkness Falls

Medusa 8×13: Hot, sticky and crawling in the dark.


medusa194.jpg

I thought this theme was finished, but “Medusa” brings us back to another classic subclass of X-File, the kind where our two leads mix with a rag tag group of experts in a remote location and stumble upon a dangerous, previously undiscovered organism. I’m thinking, of course, of “Ice” (1×7), “Darkness Falls” (1×19), “Firewalker” (2×9), even “Detour” (5×4) and “Dod Kalm” (2×19). “Medusa” is of the same order, it just takes place not in a primeval forest or in the bowels of a volcano, but in the otherworldly, subterranean realm of the Boston underground. And if Season 8 has been good for anything, and it is good for something, it’s for bringing us back to the classic scare. It’s also good for Scully expressions, but that’s a conversation for a later episode.

I haven’t heard much mention of “Medusa” on the interwebs, so I can only assume it doesn’t get either much love or hate. From me, it gets love. It may not be the most radically inventive episode, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to work.

Maybe it’s the way the neurons fire in my brain, but this skin-eating creature freaks me out. I get involuntary chills every time I see those electric sparks. It’s not the grossest thing The X-Files has ever done, but it bothers me. The irrationally obstinate local authorities are back and they bother me too, but in a different way. It is what it is, I suppose. Someone has to get in the way of our protagonists, but sometimes I wish the antagonism had a legitimate motive. But without an obstacle, our team wouldn’t have anything to team up against.

Scully and Doggett spend most of this episode separate, which is how they’ve also spent most of the season. Up to this point, they haven’t felt like much of a team at all despite being given such a great emotional set up back in “Roadrunners” (8×5). But one of the things I like most about “Medusa” is that I finally feel like Scully and Doggett are working together and not just alongside of each other. Oddly, their separation here bonds them because they’re forced to depend on each other.

This is especially a test for Doggett, who admirably accepts Scully’s refusal to enter the tunnels herself without question and follows her every instruction without resentment, even when she sends him into clear danger. See that? A real man’s man can take orders from a girl without sacrificing any of his manliness.

Doggett has to learn to trust Scully, which so far he hasn’t had reason to do yet. Up until now he’s questioned Scully’s theories and conclusions. He’s questioned her judgment. But in the face of dire circumstances and opposition from a suspiciously contrary lieutenant, Doggett shows remarkable solidarity with Scully.

Scully already has reason to trust Doggett, but she still hasn’t trusted him with the truth of her pregnancy. This is the first time we’ve seen her consciously reluctant to take a physical risk and much of the emotional tension in this episode relies on the audience’s awareness of Scully’s pregnancy and the potential jeopardy to the baby.

This is also the first time that Scully shows real concern and care for Doggett, a care possibly fueled by guilt that by keeping him in the dark she’s putting her partner in more danger. Here she’s asking him to risk dying a gruesome death without her physically present to watch his back and she’s not telling him why. Knowing Doggett, he would’ve done it in a heartbeat, but still.

And let me just say again that I like Doggett. I like his military-bred willingness to do what needs to be done. I like his respect for Scully and her seniority in the X-Files. I like that he’s willing to risk his life to save a jerk who knocked him out and left him for dead. That’s a good guy, right there. And for the first time, I feel like I’m not just watching Doggett I’m actually rooting for him. Scully isn’t the only one who’s becoming emotionally invested in the man.

Verdict:

Much thanks to writer Frank Spotnitz for reminding us that not every X-File is about paranormal phenomena or alien conspiracies. The X-Files division investigates the unexplained, including events with purely scientific causes.

I’m also grateful to see Scully acting something other than bored or sad. Righteously angry and guilty will work for a change of pace. She’s also not acting like Mulder! Whew! For what feels like the first time this season, she’s solving an X-File as Scully the Scientist and not as Scully the Wannabe Mulder.

One weakness I do spot, besides the inexplicably obdurate local authorities, is the miraculous appearance of the little boy in the tunnels. You know, the mute little boy who somehow knows exactly what Doggett is looking for and leads him to it, the one who serves no purpose other than to allow Scully to connect the dots and whose origins are left unexplained. Actually, to be really real, the whole ending is rushed and weak. Somehow, that doesn’t ruin the experience for me, though. Because that’s what it is: a tense, dark, sweaty experience that lasts for a while and then suddenly lets up – A description that applies to several of my favorite episodes.

B+

Seawater:

Hello, Penny Johnson Jerald. I loved to hate you on 24.

Scully asks Doggett to uncover bodies killed by some unknown contagion. Is she nuts? Didn’t she learn anything from “F. Emasculata” (2×22)?

I enjoyed seeing Scully go off on Deputy Chief Karras. She was this close to a Scully Squared ™ moment.

Scully and Doggett share a cute moment in the hospital when Doggett is clearly embarrassed that Scully might see something she shouldn’t while he’s wearing his hospital gown. I can’t help but remember how easily Mulder walked around Scully in his underwear as early as “Fire” (1×11).

Best Quotes:

Deputy Chief Karras: Agent Scully is a medical doctor. Who they tell me has a lot of experience with equivocal deaths.

Melnick: Equivocal? [Laughs] Hey, I mean you’re dead or you’re not, right?

Scully: Deaths for which there may be many explanations or for which an explanation may be hard to find.

Lyle: [To Doggett] What about you?

Doggett: I’m just a good shot.

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Agua Mala 6×14: Don’t all the nuts roll downhill to Florida.


I came down for the weather.

I’ve always had a soft spot for “Agua Mala” because it takes place so near to my own neck of the woods. An X-File in my own South Florida backyard? Score! All those scenes of wind and rainy mayhem leave me feeling quite nostalgic.

It starts off as a classic Monster of the Week –  almost as an homage to The X-Files itself. In fact, much of this episode feels like a Season 2 flashback in the best kind of way: the rain, the flashlights, the creature from the blue lagoon…

Trapped in a building with a hidden but deadly monster? I call that freaky. That old, claustrophobic feeling is back, the one we used to get from episodes like “Ice” (1×7) and “Darkness Falls” (1×19). But despite the obvious parallels to those two classics, where Mulder and Scully are trapped with a deadly and previously undiscovered organism, “Agua Mala” actually feels more like the spiritual spawn of Season 2 to me, when the show grew much darker and even more disturbing because of episodes like “The Calusari” (2×21) that opened the door to topics like child on child murder. “Agua Mala” doesn’t subject us to a murder, but it does start out with a young child being strangled by the translucent tentacles of a sea monster. Then there the obvious parallels to iconic episode “The Host” (2×2), which is the last time I can remember Mulder and Scully chasing down a wormlike creature. And with the infested holes this new mutation of a jellyfish leaves in people’s necks, I’d say it’s just as creepy.

Or at least it has the potential to be. “Agua Mala” has the dubious distinction of being a textbook case of “X-Files Lite.”

Unlike the early attempts to meld humor and The X-Files by writer Darin Morgan where episodes like “Humbug” (2×20) and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) were just as frightening as they were hilarious, X-Files Lite is neither frightening nor hilarious. Nor is it self-parody in the vein of “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (3×20). Neither is it the pure comedy that humor heir apparent, writer Vince Gilligan, graced us with in episodes like “Bad Blood (5×12). It’s the next step in the evolutionary process: tongue-in-cheek X-Files. There’s a self-consciousness to the X-Files in Season 6 that didn’t really exist before, or I should say, only poked its nose out of the door occasionally. This self-consciousness is inevitable considering the iconic status the show was enjoying. If it took itself too seriously just think of how silly it would have looked.

After all, the mythology episodes became progressively harder not to smirk at as the story of the Syndicate built to its conclusion. When the conspirators in (necessary) bits of long-winded exposition start unraveling the mythology plot out loud, it’d be denial not to confess that sci-fi can be a little silly. What better way to balance the over-seriousness of a plot to conquer the planet by turning the human race into a set of living incubators than to use the episodic side of The X-Files to cheer things up a bit?

Personally, I don’t have anything against X-Files Light. I’m a fan. But it can cause some confusion in the tone of certain episodes and “Agua Mala”, unfortunately, is one of them. My inclination is that this is supposed to be a serious X-File, but my diagnosis is that it suffers from an overdose of comedic elements.

Scully sparring with Arthur Dales? That’s welcome. The dimwitted Deputy? He’s entertaining. But right about the time we’re introduced to the emasculated father-to-be and his exaggeratedly stereotyped girlfriend, I start to wince. The wannabe militia member is downright overkill.

If only the humor had leaned toward the subtle, dark humor of seasons past. If only “Agua Mala” had taken another page out of the Season 2 playbook. After all, this isn’t the first time Mulder and Scully have conducted an investigation surrounded by a cast of characters. “Excelsis Dei” (2×11) and a nursing home full of withered old perverts comes to mind – another of the darker episodes of Season 2 (the topic of entity rape has a way of bringing down the conversation) leavened with well-placed moments of humor. “Agua Mala” is slightly bogged down by its motley crew.

Fortunately, the banter between Scully and Mulder and Scully and Dales more than makes up for that. I sound like a broken record repeating how much I love Scully this season, but I’m not alone. Arthur Dales loves her too. And watching Mulder’s pride squirm as Arthur Dales lavishes praise on his pretty partner is decidedly satisfying… especially since Mulder really did figure out how to save himself on his own.

The Verdict:

I always liked this episode well enough, but now I think I may actually be a fan of it. I especially welcome the return of Darren McGavin as Arthur Dales and can only shake my head in sad regret that his health prevented him from coming back for more. What an asset his character could have been to Season 7!

The truth is, if it weren’t for a few unfortunate moments of overblown humor, and maybe even despite them, I could call this the most classic X-File of Season 6. In fact, I believe I will. And in case you were wondering, all the nuts really do roll downhill to Florida.

B+

Debris:

Instead of immediately calling Mulder to come down from Washington, D.C., why doesn’t Dales first call the police? Maybe they couldn’t have solved the X-File, but they could have checked to see if the Shipleys were all right.

There’s a bit of an easter egg hidden in this episode. If you watch the scene where Arthur Dales leaves Mulder a message with the closed-captioning on, you’ll find this little treat where the audio ends, “If this is you, Scully, call me on my cell phone. I think you know the number.http://www.insidethex.co.uk/transcrp/scrp614.htm

What’s with the Southern accents? This is South Florida even if it is the west coast of it. Deputies with New York accents would have made more sense. Ironically, to hear a Southern accent you’d have to drive far north of Goodland.

Scully leaving Mulder out in the hallway even once the threat of the gun has passed still rubs me the wrong way.

Best Quotes:

Arthur Dales: Why did you bring her here?
Mulder: Well, she knows your reputation, your early work on the X-Files and she has a knack for getting to the bottom of things.
Scully: [Glances wryly at a trash can full of empty liquor bottles] Apparently, so does Mr. Dales.
Arthur Dales: It’s a good thing I have a reputation. Otherwise, how could it be impugned?

——————–

Scully: Well, what else would we be doing out here on a night like this?
Deputy Greer: You could be looters. For all I know, you could be part of the Manson family.

——————–

Mulder: [In his best narrator’s voice] If the sea is where life began, where our ancestors first walked ashore, then who’s to say what new life may be developing in its uncharted depths?
Scully: You know what? Maybe you are a member of the Manson family.

Detour 5×4: That’s pretty sophisticated for government issue.


All the boys and girls...

We’re going to skip over the issues of preserving the environment and encroachment upon nature in this episode because, well, they already speak for themselves and we have more important things to attend to. Save the earth later, philosophize about Mulder and Scully now.

From the moment we open on our two leads, this episode is already memorable. After many, many days of angst, the team is back together and they’re both very much alive! There isn’t a dark rain cloud hovering conspicuously over their heads either.

That doesn’t mean they’re not in immediate danger, however. They’re on the road headed toward an F.B.I. team-building seminar and if their destination weren’t bad enough, their companions ensure that this will be the road trip from hell. Seeing Agent Stonecypher and Agent Kinsley together, we realize how lucky we are to have Mulder and Scully.

If I were to compare the humor of this scene in the car where Mulder and Scully exchange conspicuously knowing glances to, say, the hilariously underplayed scene in “EBE” (1×16) where we first meet the Lone Gunmen, or even to the entire episode of “Humbug” (2×20), it’s certainly a little more exaggerated and self-conscious than humor on The X-Files used to be. Not that I’m necessarily complaining, because it is funny and at this point, The X-Files is pretty much at the height of its popularity so if they indulge their audience a little bit by playing up Mulder and Scully’s partnership, so be it. It’s been well earned.

This was the meat and potatoes episode I was craving as an emotional resolution to Scully’s cancer after “Redux II” (5×2). Not only is it classic in every sense of the word, it harkens back to The X-Files’ early era. Think of those rag tag team adventures out in the middle of nowhere that Mulder and Scully used to go on in episodes like “Ice” (1×7) and “Darkness Falls” (1×19). We haven’t had one of those since “Firewalker” (2×9), which is a sad shame when you think about it. Then there’s the blessed fact that there’s a lot of  “Scullay!” and “Mulder!” being bandied about which instantly makes for quality entertainment. And finally, where I was looking for a post-cancer “conversation on the rock” a la “Quagmire” (3×22), we get the now famous “conversation on a log.”

God Bless Frank Spotnitz.

Now, here’s the thing about writer Frank Spotnitz: up until Season 8, he rarely ever (officially) wrote episodes by himself. He was Chris Carter’s right hand man when it came to the mythology, so much praise is due. And he was also a member of the “John Gilnitz” trio along with John Shiban and Vince Gilligan, the three of them together penning some of the most memorable episodes of the series including “Leonard Betts” (4×14) and “Dreamland I/II” (6×4/5). But you’ll notice a trend… he was a team player.

“Detour” is his first solo effort since Season 3’s “731” (3×10) and if you can believe it, setting aside the group venture of “Leonard Betts”, his first Monster of the Week episode since Season 2’s “Our Town” (2×24).

Well, we waited long but we were not disappointed. In some ways, “Detour” resembles “Our Town” in its use of dark humor. Where Scully once nibbled on greasy chicken wings while surrounded by boiled human bones, now she and Mulder team-build by piling up corpses rather than office furniture.

Oh, yes. Such hilarious shenanigans would have been enough. But Spotnitz doesn’t stop there. Instead he delivers one of the most memorable scenes between Mulder and Scully that The X-Files ever graced us with. You all already know where this is going.

Just like the writer was brave enough to stop the story and give Mulder and Scully a few minutes to have at it over nothing for the audience’s sake, I’m about to stop in the middle of this review to post this little conversation in the entirety of its glory… because it deserves it… and because I’m about to discuss it at length.

Prepare to scroll.

Disclaimer: The following is not intended to encourage sleeping bag nakedness in any way. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Scully: You were an Indian guide, help me out here. [Trying to light a fire]
Mulder: Indian guide says maybe you should run to the store and get some matches.
Scully: I would but I left my wallet in the car.
Mulder: What are you doing?
Scully: Trying to open my gun. If I can separate the shell from the casing, maybe I can get the powder to ignite.
Mulder: And maybe it’ll start raining weenies and marshmallows.
Scully: Do I detect a hint of negativity?
Mulder: No! Yes. Actually. Yeah.
Scully: Mulder you need to keep warm, your body’s still in shock.
Mulder: I was told once that the best way to regenerate body heat is to crawl naked into a sleeping bag with somebody else who’s already naked.
Scully: Maybe if it rains sleeping bags you’ll get lucky.
Mulder: ……
Scully: You ever thought seriously about dying?
Mulder: Yeah, once, when I was at the Ice Capades.
Scully: When I was fighting my cancer… I was angry at the injustice of it, at its meaninglessness. And then I realized that that was the struggle, to give it meaning, to make sense of it. It’s like life.
Mulder: I think nature is supremely indifferent to whether we live or die. I mean if you’re lucky you get 75 years. If you’re really lucky you get 80 years. And if you’re extraordinarily lucky you get to have 50 of those years with a decent head of hair.
Scully: I guess it’s like Las Vegas. The house always wins. Oh! [Separates the shell from the casing] Taa-daa!
Mulder: Go girl. Hey, who did you identify with when you were a kid, Wilma or Betty?
Scully: I identified with Betty’s bustline.
Mulder: Yes! I did, too.
Scully: Could never have been married to Barney, though. Their kids were cute.
Mulder: But where are they today?
Scully: [Powder flashes but doesn’t ignite.] Moth Men. Really?
Mulder: Yeah. But there seem to be only two of them.
Scully: [Scully maneuvers Mulder into her lap.]
Mulder: I don’t want to wrestle.
Scully: Come over here, I’m going to try to keep you warm. [Strokes his arm]
Mulder: [Winces]
Scully: Sorry.
Mulder: One of us has got to stay awake, Scully.
Scully: You sleep, Mulder.
Mulder: You get tired, you wake me.
Scully: I’m not gonna get tired.
Mulder: Why don’t you sing… something?
Scully: No, Mulder…
Mulder: If you sing something I’ll know you’re awake.
Scully: Mulder, you don’t want me to sing. I can’t carry a tune.
Mulder: [Mumbling] Doesn’t matter, just sing anything.
Scully: …Jeremiah was a bullfrog.
Mulder: [Slowly and silently looks up.]
Scully: Was a good friend of mine. Never understood a single word he said… but I helped him drink his wine…
Mulder: Chorus.
Scully: Joy to the world… All the boys and girls…. Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea… Joy to you and me…

Oh, dear. Now I feel a little teary eyed.

If I had one wish for The X-Files in retrospect, it would be that we could have had just a smidgeon more of moments like this. In fact, if some subsequent seasons lacked anything it was a chance to listen to Mulder and Scully shoot the breeze with each other for more than just a line or two. Scenes like the one above, where Mulder and Scully just sit back and kick it in conversation, should’ve happened at least once a season.

“Detour” is one of the best examples of why I love Season 5. This is tense, this is scary, this is touching, this is imaginative, and above all else, this is fun. Not even fun just for us as the audience, but for the characters too! There they are, lost in the woods with no food and water, one of them injured, and being hunted by Moth Men. And yet, I’ll be darned, Mulder and Scully are enjoying themselves.

Fundamentally, here is what makes The X-Files great. Some shows try to be scary and succeed. Some try to be funny. Some try to be mysterious. But how many can work in all the elements with such balance to give you 42 minutes of television that leave you grinning the whole time? Somebody tell me. Most lean too hard in one direction or the other. The X-Files knows just what to do.

Verdict:

You can put me down as one very satisfied customer. I’ll even sign the guestbook for this one.

Is the X-File itself that compelling? Well, the Moth Men are about as interesting as boogey men ever are, but the episode isn’t so much about how freaky they are as it is creating a threat that pushes Mulder and Scully into a precarious corner because that’s where we can watch them shine.

Make no mistake, “Detour” is a post-cancer arc celebration. It’s written all over Mulder and Scully’s faces how glad they are to be back in form. Maybe that’s why being lost in the woods doesn’t bother them so much. And the truth is, they’re only reflecting what the audience is already feeling. This episode is a really satisfying way of acknowledging that sentiment.

And Chris Carter, if you’re reading this and there’s an X-Files 3, a mere five minutes of Mulder and Scully shooting the breeze wouldn’t hurt anybody. Much love. Peace.

A+

Musings:

Scully’s “How could you leave me here??” face when Mulder ditches her in the car with the Geek Squad = Awesome.

Scully is openly flirting. Now we can be sure she really did have a near death experience.

Mulder clearly wasn’t expecting a response to that line about sleeping bags. Who here thinks the look on his face spoke volumes? Just us shippers?

That little factoid Scully delivers about ticks really freaks me out.

Mark Snow does a particularly great job with the score in this one. Those primitive drums…

Fact: Mulder picks up on things no normal human should.

Best Quotes:

Agent Kinsley: I couldn’t believe how hard it was not to use the word “but!”
Mulder: I’m having that same problem right now!
Agent Stonecypher: Have you ever been to a team seminar, Agent Mulder?
Mulder: No. You know, unfortunately around this time of year I always develop a severe hemorrhoidal condition.

———————-

Scully: Mulder. We’ve got this conference. They’re waiting.
Mulder: Yeah. How do I say this without using any negative words, Scully?
Scully: You want me to tell them that you’re not going to make it to this year’s teamwork seminar.
Mulder: Yes. You see that? We don’t need that conference. We have communication like that, unspoken. You know what I’m thinking.

————————

Scully: You know, Mulder, sometimes I think some work on your communication skills wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
Mulder: I’ll be back soon and we can build a tower of furniture. ‘Kay?

————————

Scully: It sure is beautiful, though.
Jeff Glaser: That’s what happens. People get to looking around, next thing they know something eats them.
Scully: What do you think killed those men?
Jeff Glaser: Nature is populated with creatures either trying to kill something they need to survive or trying to avoid being killed by something that needs they to survive. If we become blinded by the beauty of nature we may fail to see its cruelty and violence.
Scully: Walt Whitman?
Jeff Glaser: No, When Animals Attack on the Fox Network.

————————-

Mulder: Witnesses described them as primitive looking men with piercing red eyes. Became known as the Moth Men. I got an X-File dated back to 1952 on it.
Scully: What would that be filed next to? The Cockroach that ate Cincinnati?
Mulder: No, the Cockroach that ate Cincinnati is in the C’s. Moth Men is over in the M’s.

————————–

Mulder: Too bad we don’t have any office furniture. [Piling up corpses]
Scully: I can see us now.
Mulder: Go team! There’s plenty more bodies, we may have won the honey-baked ham.

Guest Post – X-Files: A Shipper Guide, Part 5


*Editor’s Note: Nina is a long time X-Phile and shipper extraordinaire. (Seriously. You guys thought I was rabid.) You can find more of her humorous insights into The X-Files, Supernatural, 24 and other fandoms on her tumblr at myspecialhell.tumblr.com. Here’s the final installment of her Season 1 analysis. You can check out parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 herehere, here and here. Agree/disagree with her observations? Duke it out in the comments section. We can’t wait to hear what you guys think!

And with that, take it away, Nina!

Biased, completely personal, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Tooms

~ It’s amazing how things change, isn’t it?
 – Mulder (Tooms)

Eugene Victor Tooms is one of the most beloved mutants among the Philes, and Tooms is the episode all the Philes recall for two things mostly: the introduction of Assistant Director Walter Skinner[1], a character who would become more and more important in the show, and for the infamous conversation in the car.

Just out of curiosity: what’s the what with Mulder, Scully and stakeouts, anyway? Between Tooms and Pusher one can’t help but wonder!

I remember when I first saw Tooms and the conversation in the car. I remember that my jaw hit the floor. For a moment I really thought they were going to go at it. I mean, usually, when a scene like that happened in another show, next we knew the two lead characters were kissing like there was no tomorrow.

How naive, uh?

Even before the scene in the car, it was clear that Mulder and Scully had truly become partners  at work: there was trust, there was complicity. Scully didn’t hesitate to put herself on the line for Mulder, when talking to Skinner.

She was supposed to be the spy, she was supposed to be the tool to close the X-Files…and yet, there she was, defending Mulder.

Skinner had ordered Scully to make sure things were done by the book, and yet when she went to Mulder, while he was checking on Tooms, it wasn’t the job she was worried about. Do you remember Deep Throat? In the episode she was worried about what she was going to write in her report. She had come a long way from that night…and she showed it.

SCULLY: Mulder, you know that proper surveillance requires two pairs of agents, one pair relieving the other after twelve hours.

MULDER: Article 30, paragraph 8.7?

SCULLY: This isn’t about doing it by the book. This is about you not having slept for three days. Mulder, you’re going to get sloppy and you’re going to get hurt. It’s inevitable at this point.

MULDER: A request for other agents to stake-out Tooms would be denied. Then we have no grounds.

SCULLY: Well, then I’ll stay here. You go home.

(Mulder sighs.)

I’ve always loved how Mulder seemed genuinely concerned about Scully’s career in the scene in the car. I think that was the first time Mulder actually voiced concern about Scully’s career. He had come a long way too from the pilot episode and the infamous lines:

“So, who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully”

And

MULDER: That’s pretty good, Scully.

SCULLY: Better than you expected or better that you hoped?

MULDER: Well… I’ll let you know when we get past the easy part.

When Scully was assigned to the X-Files, she had basically zero experience on the field, Mulder had seen her becoming a good agent, one whose career he felt the need to protect, feeling his was already in the crapper. The fact that he acknowledged that he had put Scully’s career and reputation and her possible future within the Bureau in jeopardy, spoke volumes of the depth of their bond at that point.

MULDER: They’re out to put an end to the X-Files, Scully. I don’t know why, but any excuse will do. Now, I don’t really care about my record, but you’d be in trouble just for sitting in this car and I’d hate to see you to carry an official reprimand in your file because of me.

After such an opening from Mulder, it was no surprise that Scully felt the need to do the same.

(Scully sighs.)

SCULLY: Fox…

Why did she call him Fox?

Why was she embarrassed while she said his name?

They were venturing into an unknown territory. Mulder and Scully sucked at those kind of emotional displays, if we choose to consider the original timeline of the series, they had been working together for two years, yet, that was the first time either of them opened up that way. Mulder had just told Scully that he valued her work, that he valued her both as a person and an FBI agent and Scully wanted to…open up as well, by calling him Fox.

(Mulder laughs. Scully looks at him.)

MULDER: And I… I even made my parents call me Mulder. So… Mulder.

I think Mulder was panicking. He was surprised by Scully, by the shyness in her voice, and by the sudden turn that conversation was taking…so he panicked. It’s not a fanwank, it’s not fanon…it’s the only plausible explanation I’ve ever been able to give to what he said…

Although I think Mulder fell for Scully at first sight, I really don’t think he was ready to explore the feelings he had for his partner, he didn’t have the energies to focus on anything else that it wasn’t the X-Files.

I believe, I strongly believe that at the time the events of Tooms took place, Mulder was in full denial, as far as his feelings for Scully were concerned.

He had too much going on through his head, his life was devoted to a cause that was not only time consuming but demanding everything out of him. It took him a couple of tragic events to wake up and smell the coffee.

So Mulder panicked, and babbled about making even his parents call him Mulder. Scully, though, needed to tell her truth, for once.

SCULLY: Mulder, I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you.

Mulder’s look when Scully told him those words was priceless: he was floored by Scully’s admission.

In “Squeeze” Mulder had said that the need to mess with people outweighed the milestone of humiliation. While I think that he wasn’t lying to Scully when he  told her that, I also believe that at that point, Mulder needed someone to trust…and needed someone to have faith in him, to trust him.

Mulder had been alone for quite some time, whether it was willingly or not, is not important…his work on the X-Files had slowly shaped into a crusade, I’d wager Mulder felt the loneliness, the frustration that came from being unheard. I don’t think he gave a damn about what people thought of him, but the human need to be believed, especially knowing that he was telling the truth, had to be quite a burden.

He had accepted the loneliness as one of the prices to pay, to sacrifice at the altar of his faith: the truth. He hadn’t lied to Scully when he had said he had a life…the X-files were his life. However, to hear such a line, bearing an implicit trust, a commitment, and mostly faith in him, I think it floored him.

Mulder had another proof that he wasn’t alone in his search, that there was someone who would look for the truth with him, someone who, finally, believed him, believed in him.

MULDER: If there’s an ice tea in that bag, could be love.

SCULLY: Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer.

(Mulder kiddingly sighs.)

You’re delirious. Go home and get some sleep.

He reacted with humor. That’s a coping mechanism Mulder used all the time. When things got difficult he eluded fear and panic with humor.

My God, how much I still love the guy!

I don’t think Scully was hurt by Mulder’s reaction. I mean…c’mon, she had eyes! And she could read him pretty well…she knew that he had gotten the message, and she knew it was appreciated.

Maybe that’s a fanwanking…but I’ve always loved how Mulder didn’t let Scully go after Tooms. On a practical reason, I know it was because of Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy, but to me that was other than a very sweet gesture, just another proof of how protective Mulder had become of Scully…especially if you compare this with such episodes as Ghost in the Machine.

The final scene let us understand that things were going to change very soon, for Mulder and Scully. Mulder watched a caterpillar cocoon and commented on how amazing it was how things changed.

He said a change was coming for them…

Of course he was talking about the X-Files…but the caterpillar cocoon symbolized their relationship as well.

The X-Files had to be shut down, their relationship had to die a little for it to really blossom.

The Erlenmeyer Flask

Aka: they’re shutting us down

~ I should know by now to trust your instincts.

Why? Nobody else does

 – Mulder and Scully (The Erlenmeyer Flask)

The Erlenmeyer Flask was a painful episode for me to watch. It was the first mytharc episode, it was the episode where Deep throat[2] died. Mulder and Scully had their first taste of hell…of the conspiracy in its glory, and they were burned by it, badly.

Scully came to a few important understandings concerning Mulder and his crusade. In the pilot episode he had told her that there were people who were trying to cover up the truth. I’ve always thought that she hadn’t really believed …not even when their motel rooms were burned down…but the episode showed Scully that there was indeed a conspiracy, that Mulder was nowhere near as paranoid as he appeared.

She witnessed things…for the first time and she felt the need to apologize to Mulder, who, on the other hand didn’t think apologies were necessary.

The look in Mulder’s eyes when Scully apologized to him, was priceless…in Tooms she had told him that she wouldn’t put herself on the line for anybody else…and in The Erlenmeyer flask, she told him she believed him, she told him that she trusted his instincts.

They had really come a long way from the pilot episode. In Ice, Mulder had told Scully that he wanted to trust her, but throughout the first season Scully had never really said anything about trust.

Of course, she had showed her trust to him, in such episodes like Young at Heart, EBE, Darkness Falls.

It was somewhat heart breaking to hear Mulder’s reply to Scully’s words: “Why? Nobody else does.”

I love how Mulder, who apparently brushed off Scully’s words, showed how he actually took them into consideration…he showed it when talking with Deep Throat and told him to cut the crap and talk already, to skip the whole Obi-wan kenobi routine…

It showed how Mulder valued Scully’s words, how important they were to him. She had been assigned to the X-Files to be a spy, but in the end she had become his only ally, the only one who would tell him the truth.

But Scully did more than telling Mulder that she trusted his instincts, she risked her career, her life, to save Mulder when he was kidnapped.

At the end of Tooms, Mulder had said he felt a change was near, and never truer words were spoken. The last scene of the first season finale…is heart breaking, the circle closed with two scenes similar to the final scenes of the pilot episode: Mulder called Scully to tell her that the X-Files had been shut down.

They’re shutting us down

There is a world in this line. As much as Chris Carter’s writing became sloppy in the latter seasons, as much as I still have issues with him, the final scene of the last episode of the first season is so powerful that it took my breath away and it still does. The scene is very dramatic, but in pure X-Files fashion is downplayed, to let the viewers absorb the blow.

“They’re shutting us down”

For Mulder, Scully had become part of the X-Files, for Mulder, Scully had become his partner. The X-Files were the core of Mulder’s life… for him to include Scully, to acknowledge her role in them, was a testament of how much she meant to him.

Scully was incredulous at the news: she had really come to love her job, she had really come to an understanding about her job, she knew that she would always be Mrs. Spooky, chasing little grey men, to people, but she knew as well that their job, was important. They had become partners and friends…and their new found strength was taken away from them.

The X-Files were closed, but their relationship was going to enter a new level very soon.


[1]              Played by Mitch Pileggi

[2]              Played by Jerry Hardin

Irresistible 2×13: I’ll pay extra if that’s something out of the ordinary.


I’m sorry, did that fangirl squeal come from me?

[Disclaimer: The following is the work of a rabid fan and does not necessarily express the opinions of Mulder and Scully, 1013 productions, or anyone else with a modicum of sense. The writer understands that none of the above were on the Good Ship this early on in the series but, by the Grace of God, all later came to see the error of their Noromo ways.]

I have to warn you, dearest reader, that this is bound to fail. I am emotionally incapable of giving a sound and objective review of this episode.

If you’ve been reading my reviews carefully… and I know who you are… you already know a bit of my X-Files autobiography. The first glimpse I got of The X-Files was “Gender Bender” (1×13) and I was intrigued. I tuned in and out after that but once I saw “Darkness Falls” (1×19) I tried not to miss an episode. It wasn’t until “Irresistible”, however, that I became a Phile in its most extreme definition. I was literally jumping up and down with joy by the end yelling, “I love this show!” to my poor family’s befuddlement. Over-enthusiastic? Possibly.

“Irresistible” is about as close to a straight police procedural as The X-Files ever got. It says something that a series about the paranormal doesn’t have to rely on shock value to give us a memorable episode. The show has now reached such a level that it doesn’t even have to give us an actual X-File. A creepy villain and a chance to get inside Agent Scully’s head for 45 minutes is more than sufficient for quality television. There’s only the merest hint that there may be more to Donnie Pfaster than meets the naked eye, and even that may have only been in Scully’s head. As Scully says in her voiceover, it’s easier to believe in monsters of the supernatural kind than in human ones.

There have been some complaints from fans over the years that Scully is reduced to the role of the “Damsel in Distress” in this episode, waiting for Mulder to save her from the big, bad boogey man. I beg to differ. Scully was abducted and left for dead only some months back. Instead of taking time off to work through the inevitable psychological trauma, Scully jumps right back into the job. In fact, if the series’ timeline is to be believed, she goes back to work about a week after being in a coma. Riddle me that.

My point is that Scully has some issues waiting to be dealt with, issues of her own mortality and vulnerability that she’s put off for far too long. The fact that she’s having a hard time with the death and desecration of these young women is only natural, it doesn’t make her weak. That’s a lesson that Scully needs to learn. Trying to be a big girl in a boy’s club at the F.B.I. has cost her. Even strong, intelligent women need a shoulder to cry on sometimes. Finally, she allows herself to openly depend on Mulder without fear of what others will think of her… or what she may think of herself. Like “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) before it, this episode emotionally invests the audience in Scully’s personal journey. How could Chris Carter have ever denied that this show was primarily about the characters?

If this episode has any flaw it’s that you have to stretch your imagination fairly far to feel the same horror at Pfaster’s crimes that the characters do. Pfaster represents a serial killer of Jeffrey Dahmer’s ilk, which is alluded to in the episode itself. The problem is that Dahmer’s atrocities were still too taboo for network television at the time. Consequently, Pfaster’s character morphs from a necrophiliac into a “Death Fetishist”, a man who only takes benign souvenirs from the dead. Call me callous, but I’m more horrified by atrocities committed on the living. Not that I’m complaining, truthfully. I rather miss the days when TV didn’t spell everything out in graphic detail. This episode addresses its subject matter in a roundabout manner and that’s about as close as I ever want to get. It’s just that the writing requires the viewer to make the jump and connect the dots as to what’s really going on. Scully isn’t having a visceral reaction because of fingernail clippings.

…And the Verdict is:

Now that we’ve discussed some of how awesome this episode is in its awesomeness, can we talk about Mulder and Scully here for a minute? I realize that Mulder and Scully aren’t shipping, but I’m shipping. Noromos, consider yourselves warned.

[gush]This episode is when my Ship sailed. Not that I wasn’t rooting for Mulder and Scully before, but previous to this I thought that Mulder and Scully were just supposed to happen, that the writers had written them that way and I, as the viewer, was just waiting for the inevitable to be revealed. I cared but within decent proportions. “Irresistible” changed all that. I went from vaguely interested to unhealthily invested with one flicker of Scully’s eyelashes. Honestly, how could you be immune??[/gush]

Stepping away from Shippiness for a moment, just as friends and partners, Mulder’s quiet concern for Scully here is everything it should be. He spends the entire episode watching her with knowing eyes. I don’t know how Scully thought she could avoid his notice. He’s not Oxford educated in Psychology for nothing. Mulder may have his faults but being an indifferent to Scully is not one of them.

Mulder isn’t just giving her the “Let me know if you want to talk” speech. He’s not “a shoulder if you need it.” He’s not waiting passively, he’s looking for an opportunity to help her. He wisely doesn’t force the issue but you can see him shrewdly looking for a sign that she’s ready to let him comfort her. Again, if you look back at “Beyond the Sea”, Mulder does reach out to Scully but it’s more the passive sort of comfort that I just described. There he gave the impression of someone who’s concerned, but here he’s not just concerned, he’s invested. They’ve moved on to where they’re not just there for each other, they can trust each other to share the other’s weakness. Doesn’t everyone need a friend like that?

There’s a great difference between someone who lets you hold their hand when you’re afraid and someone who grabs your hand back. When it comes to Scully, Mulder’s the latter. He’s not just letting her cry, he’s helping her cry. For homework, check out the hug scene in the “Pilot” (1×79) and compare.

I should insert something intelligent here about the quality of Chris Carter’s writing or the unsettling darkness of David Nutter’s direction or the cold creepiness of Nick Chinlund’s Pfaster, but as I said before, I’m not capable.

Just go watch it.

A

Thoughts:

Agent Busch makes a brief appearance as an admirer of Scully. A precursor to Agent Pendrell perhaps?

Best Quotes:

Scully: Why do they do it?
Mulder: Well, some people collect salt and pepper shakers. Fetishists collect dead things, fingernails and hair. No one quite knows why. Though I’ve never really understood salt and pepper shakers myself.

———————

Scully: It took us three hours to get here. Our plane doesn’t leave until tomorrow night. If you suspected…
Mulder: Vikings versus Redskins, Scully. 40-yard line in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. You and me.

———————

Mulder: Are you staying on there, Scully?
Scully: No. I’m coming back tonight.
Mulder: Look, I know this is a pretty horrific case, but if…
Scully: I’m okay with it, Mulder. Anyway you could use my help.
Mulder: Always. (Swoon)

Firewalker 2×9: Do you always greet people this way?


"Were not exactly proper channels."

Judging from the teaser, you would think this episode was about a heat-seeking Bigfoot; a pre-historic monster straight out of Journey to the Center of the Earth. The X-Files is about to bring us the monster of all Monsters of the Week.

You would be wrong.

Instead “Firewalker” is another science saga; essentially “Ice” (1×7) and “Darkness Falls” (1×19) swirled together. In fact, it’s even directed by the same person as “Ice”, David Nutter. And I didn’t go back and check, but I’m positive that 90% of the soundtrack is the same too. So what, if anything, is the difference? Firewalker, is less claustraphobic, for one. But “No,” you say, “What’s the difference that warranted making this episode?” That I can’t answer.

I actually don’t think this is a bad episode at all. But only a season and a half into the series and already this motif is starting to smell stale. I believe that the writers and the producers realized that after this and we never see an isolated group of scientists lost in the wilderness again.

But for now this is what we have and even if it is a rehash, it’s done pretty well. This is the first episode with Scully back on the X-Files after her abduction and Howard Gordon, the writer, does a good job of touching on issues raised in “One Breath” (1×8) and making this a subtle transition back to normal for Mulder and Scully.

Mulder spent 90% of the last episode wrestling with his guilt over Scully’s abduction and subsequent condition. After all, she was put in that position because of his personal agenda. Mulder finally admits to himself that the cost of finding the truth may be too high, it may cost him his only friend. And when faced with the opportunity to learn the truth about what happened to Scully, he opts to forgo the truth, and vengeance, just to stay at Scully’s side and be a comfort to her. Sounds like a changed man, right? Well…

He certainly has no intention of losing her again and his hovering concern over her in this episode is sweet. It’s good to see them back together. But Mulder seems to have recovered from his angst quite well. Now that Scully’s been returned, he may be protective but he’s not about to beg her off the X-Files or insist that she run away and save herself before it’s too late. Who can blame him, really? If you had a Scully, would you let her go?

Well, just in case Mulder is about to forget the risks, along comes Trepkos who is essentially Mulder meets Apocolypse Now. Trepkos is literally having a mental breakdown because of his own search for the truth. And once he finds it, he realizes it’s not such a wonderful thing. In fact, he sacrifices himself, and his team, in order to prevent the truth from being revealed. Even his girlfriend Jessie dies a victim of his obsessive search. Sound familiar? In case you didn’t catch the inferred parallels, Trepkos expressly states to Mulder that the truth isn’t always worth the cost and that some truths should remain hidden, for everyone’s sake. He even asks Mulder a question that echoes his conversation with CSM in “One Breath”: “You still believe you can petition heaven to get some penetrating answer. If you found that answer, what would you do with it?” Mulder still doesn’t have a response. However, some part of the message does sink in and in the end he allows Trepkos to keep his secret and fade away, never to be seen again.

….And the Verdict is:

It’s not a home run, but it’s not a bad episode even if the plot is a little stale. The gross-out factor is certainly used to full effect. And I do appreciate the continuity from Scully’s abduction arc; that they didn’t pretend that the emotional issues raised there didn’t occur and instead let them hang in the air in this episode as well.

The only real issue I have with this episode is that there are more red herrings than actual clues. Even more confusing, it’s difficult to figure out where the people end and the parasite begins. Mulder is initially attacked by Ludwig, presumably because the parasite wants to use Mulder as a new host. Then the parasite, through Ludwig, decides that it would be better to be rescued and come into contact with more people. So why doesn’t Tanaka feel the same? The last thing he wants is to be taken home. And Jessie is the only one who seems truly frightened at what’s happening to them.

I used to think that Jessie handcuffs Scully to herself because she’s afraid and doesn’t want to be abandoned to die. But the story indicates that this parasite, through Jessie, is looking for a new host. I suppose that’s scarier in a sense but it’s less compelling than a woman so frightened she would pull someone under the water with her rather than drown alone.

B

Questions:

What created the shadow Firewalker filmed in the volcano? Is it supposed to be Trepkos? How would he survive the heat?

How did the disabled Firewalker get brought back up to a shallower depth?

Comments:

“I told her it would change her life.” Trepkos says of Jessie as he looks at her dead body. This reminds me suspiciously of the end of “Darkness Falls” when Mulder pronounces over the unconscious Scully, “I told her it would be a nice trip to the forest.” In fact, Mulder and Scully are even quarantined again. Yeah… that’s enough of this scenario.

Best Quotes:

Trepkos: The possibility of this new, or perhaps unfathomably old, life form has left me sleepless, wondering if I haven’t lost all perspective. If my intense desire to find the truth hasn’t finally eclipsed the truth itself. Our meddling intellect misshapes the beauteous forms of things. We murder to dissect. My mind is a tangled knot I can no longer untie. Daily I fight the urge to sever it completely to stop this dissent.

——————

Mulder: I’m going to go find Trepkos.
Scully: What if he’s already dead?
Mulder: Then he’ll have a tough time answering my questions.

——————

Trepkos: I say the Earth holds some truths best left buried.
Mulder: Like the spore?
Trepkos: Who are you?
Mulder: I’m Special Agent Mulder. I’m with the FBI.
Trepkos: You don’t look like a policeman.
Mulder: I came down here to investigate Ericson’s death.
Trepkos: That’s not why you’re here. You still believe you can petition heaven to get some penetrating answer. If you found that answer, what would you do with it?

Darkness Falls 1×19: It was gonna be a nice trip to the forest.


Duane Barry: The Prequel

I had a similar reaction at the ending of “Darkness Falls” to the one I had at the end of “Gender Bender” (1×13). “Gender Bender” left me overwhelmingly curious as to what kind of show this could be. What kind of writers would let an audience waste an hour only to not give them any answers in the end? Wasn’t the whole point of a mystery to solve it? Similarly, Darkness Falls had me wondering if this kind of television was even legal. There’s a rule, possibly written on a tablet of stone, which says that heroes must solve the crime and escape in the end by the skin of their wits. There was no escape for Mulder and Scully in this one. They just got lucky.

Paint me easy to please, but I love it when the action takes place is a dark, dense forest right out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. One can believe almost anything frightening in a forest at night. The dark claustrophobia reminds me of “Ice” (1×7) and there are quite a few parallels between the episodes. Mulder and Scully are stranded in the middle of nowhere, trapped like mice with a dangerous bug on the loose. Their companions may or may not be stable and there’s palpable tension within the group. Oh, and Scully can’t be too sure about Mulder’s sanity… though that’s every episode, really.

The tension between the two of them doesn’t last, however. After they let off a little steam they quickly realize they’d better stick together. And they do that almost literally. Before we knew it, Mulder and Scully have already started having conversations with their heads mere fractions of an inch apart. These two people just do it for me, I don’t know what else to say. Maybe it’s the way Mulder talks to her so earnestly and the way she responds; she looks at him with expressions that are so childlike, so trusting.

Speaking of trust, I have already contended that Mulder is a trusting soul, haven’t I? Well, here again he follows his instincts instead of his judgment by believing Spinney, the man of cartoon mustache and Droopy Dog eyelids. Maybe the eyes are what win Mulder over. Regardless, it’s very like him to store all his eggs in one basket without sitting down to check it for holes. Yet, once more, it’s Mulder’s instincts that save the day. Spinney did come back and if he hadn’t brought them as far down the mountain as he did, maybe the rescue team wouldn’t have found them in time.

And the Verdict is…

I remember the first time I watched “Darkness Falls” being shocked that Mulder and Scully were actually overcome by the insects. That’s not supposed to happen! As I said before, you don’t see protagonists defeated often on TV now and you certainly didn’t see it back then. That’s part of why I’ve always enjoyed this one. It’s not a hallmark episode, but it’s solid and it’s effective, which helps soften the disappointment I feel over the previous two episodes.

Also in the plus column, the little green mites aren’t overdone and so the special effects aren’t dated in the way that they could be. Not to mention, that cocoon thing is a horrifying concept.

A

Issues:

Why don’t the lights from the car save Spinney? They’re brighter than the light that was in the cabin.

Why don’t they try patching the tire from the start?? They could have patched it the second day and then driven out first thing in the morning on the third. Maybe those mites had started nibbling away at their brains.

For that matter, if Spinney could get out, they all could have.

On the second night, Spinney leaves the group to go to sleep in his own room. His own, very dark room…

The insects have spread out that fast? They can travel a day’s journey from their origin just to attack? If that’s the case, how do they know they’ll be safe if they just get off the mountain? What’s to stop the insects from following them further?

General Thoughts:

Interesting that there are actually two X-Files episodes (see “Detour” 5×4) where tree ring dating comes up as a topic. Whatever course Chris Carter took in college that left him fascinated, the professor must’ve been hot.

The fog in this episode is priceless. Anything a production crew can do God can do better.

I just finally understood that the “party favors” Mulder was referring to was a bag of pot. It only took me ten or eleven rewatches. But do you really want to be working heavy equipment while you’re high? That’s like asking to be maimed.

There is no way, no way on this side of Jordan that I would find myself cutting into a giant cocoon. What if there were baby spiders in there or something??

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Take a good look, Scully.
Scully: What am I looking at?
Mulder: 30 loggers working a clear-cutting contract in Washington state. Rugged, manly men in the full bloom of their manhood.
Scully: Right. What am I looking for?
Mulder: Anything strange, unexplainable, unlikely… boyfriend.

———–

Scully: I think it’s a male.
Mulder: Barely.