Tag Archives: Die Hand Die Verletz

Familiar 11×8: That’s it. It’s too perfect.


 

btiaatjpqusp78hg3su8

Homie don’t play ‘dat.

 

Before I watched this, I had just finished “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18). I’ve been binge-watching The X-Files, but I’ll get into that later.

Anyway. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t get any cornier during the original run than “Teso Dos Bichos”, so if this episode couldn’t prove itself an improvement over that… Well.

One thing that I’ve noticed this rewatch is how, especially in the early seasons, The X-Files made its bones by treading a fine line between “now you see it” and “now you don’t.” Every case left room for plausible deniability, be it from the mouth of Scully or the U.S. government. Every resolution left everything unresolved. Every unmistakable evil could be dismissed as a relatively benign phenomenon. For instance, the possessed doll in “Chinga” (5×10) could easily be mistaken for a charming antique. And then… came Mr. Chuckleteeth. Obvious much?

First of all, who would give a child such a nightmarish doll in the first place? I mean, tell me Mr. Chuckleteeth isn’t the Devil. He makes Chucky look huggable. But, hey, no one seems to be alarmed by the faces of those Bibbletiggles either.

I’m getting my grump on not so that I can make this a rant, but so that I can get it out of the way. You know what? I’m not mad at “Familiar”. As far as the revival goes, it’s a definite hit. Of course, the revival doesn’t go very far… but let me stop.

At least this week I was actually mildly curious as to who was behind it all, which is a vast improvement over every other viewing I’ve had this season. That said, I suspected it was Anna from the beginning and between being right and her only mildly nefarious motives, the ending was somewhat of a letdown.

But again, going back to my rewatch, this episode feels mostly in line with the creepy, mysterious, small-town vibe that characterized Seasons 2 and 3 in particular. Even if I hadn’t been bingeing on the good stuff recently, I still would have been forcefully reminded of “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14). Here’s another town where the history of the New England witch trials run deep and practitioners of this sacrilegious heritage unleash an evil they can’t control. “Did you really expect to conjure up the Devil and expect him to behave?” And here’s another town, like in “Syzygy” (3×13) that (almost) opens with the funeral of a local boy, killed by “black magic”.

I dunno, though. Despite all the creepy smog, blue lighting, and the distinct turn in the right direction that the dialogue takes here, I can’t help but feel that there’s something still distinctly wanting. The form has returned, for which I am grateful. But I’m missing the substance. I’m still missing the heart and soul of the show somewhere.

Verdict:

Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. But Mr. Chuckleteeth isn’t the only thing that’s obvious. The X-Files was never great shakes at social commentary. “Teliko” (4×4) anyone?

I resent Mulder’s implication of “small town justice”. In other words, we’re more likely to hear of injustice in a small town where people are stupid and less sophisticated than… who? The overpaid government workers disguised as bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.?

Anyway, I found “Familiar” a little too familiar, a little too “on the nose”, if you will. But “on the nose” is better than “way off the mark” or, my favorite “so far apart from the mark you never even saw it nor realized it existed.”

I’ll take it.

B+

Clown Shoes:

Looks who’s playing a police officer! It’s the dude who played a police officer in every episode of The X-Files ever. Hello, Roger Cross. 24 crossover like whaaaat.

And it’s Jason Gray-Stanford from Monk. Nice beard.

So now Mulder has a son again, huh? Thanks for that. And thanks for teaching me how not to care.

That “cauldron” joke Scully made in front of the playground, did it feel a little insensitive and out of character to anyone else?

“He’s potentially John Wayne Gacy with a monkey.” Again, this sounds like what would have been a Mulder line.

A magic circle of salt. Say it with me: “Fresh Bones” (2×15).

If the suspect was on record as a sexual predator, even if he was only guilty of youthful indiscretion with someone a little younger than he was, wouldn’t he have been forbidden to work with children? I feel like a career as a children’s entertainer would’ve been about the last thing he’d have done.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Thanks for backing me up out there.

Mulder: Yeah, you’re my homie.

Advertisements

Plus One 11×3: Put the pencil down.


 

4cjaIg9

Clearly, there’s a dark influence set loose.

 

Do you hear that?

.

.

.

.

Shhh!!!!

.

.

.

.

It’s the sound of Scully’s biological clock ticking.

.

.

.

.

If you listen closely, it sounds like woodpeckers pecking at fossilized bones in a remote and cavernous ravine.

*Splash*

That was the sound of Scully fishing for compliments. That silence is me drowning.

It’s hard for me to grade this episode since, on its own merits, the plot is shallow and the atmosphere merely passable. If I’m comparing it to Golden Era X-Files, not only does it not pass muster, character development-wise it doesn’t feel like it belongs. If I compare it to the Revival, well, the Revival has stunk worse. Far worse.

I’ve just got a resigned side smirk going on. That’s all.

Let’s start with the jumpy opening teaser. I miss the days of steady camera shots and discrete cuts. It’s not as noticeable when I watch other shows because I expect them to be “other shows.” But when my brain knows I’m supposed to be watching The X-Files, I instinctively find it more jarring.

But I’m an old fogie and I know it, and it’s not too hard to let all that slide, especially when we get some long-awaited, pre-case office banter.  Writer Chris Carter’s reputation suffers many things and by his own hand. But he always was pretty good at writing office banter between Mulder and Scully. My patience has finally been rewarded here (not that it compensates for the many injuries said patience has suffered).

There were several classic elements in this episode – Mulder and Scully’s verbal back-and-forth, them walking down hospital hallways listening to medical explanations for unexplained phenomena, the music (I see you getting back in the game, Mark Snow.) I also thought the scene where Mulder and Scully interviewed Arkie in the jail, while not quite hitting a home run, came close to the old atmosphere I crave. And moments in this episode reminded me of “Sleepless” (2×4), with strange, not-quite-there visions haunting folks into an early death. That wasn’t a stupendous episode either, but it did bring us Krycek…

I wish I could spend more time discussing the plot with you, Philes. But it’s basic and relatively stupid. Twins play a game of Psychic Hangman that results in someone they hate self-destructing at the hands of their own doppelganger. Said twins eventually self-destruct after their children play their own game of Psychic Hangman. And there’s a whole lot of forced UST between Mulder and Scully. The End.

Now, about that UST, we can’t ride the gravy train in reverse. I know Carter wishes he could have Mulder and Scully’s Season 3 relationship back, but it’s not happening. Or, I should say, it’s not happening well.

What the heck was that ridiculous conversation in bed about? Ridiculousness??

Underneath that hollow sound of the woodpeckers, you can also hear the sound of me smothering myself with my own pillow.

Try to follow the logic: In the 16 years since the reunion of Mulder and Scully and the end of The X-Files, Scully wanted to have a baby and would have tried except that she didn’t have a partner and she believed (as did we all) that she was barren and her first child was a miracle. Also, this desire of hers was a surprise to Mulder. This would mean that A) A woman who believed she was barren was on birth control that whole time. Otherwise, they would have at least been open to another child by default, which would render this conversation meaningless since that would mean both of them knew she was definitely barren since she never got pregnant, and barren after “Per Manum” (8×8) established that she had already had her last chance at IVF. Ergo, Scully must have been using birth control in order for pregnancy to have been an unexplored possibility by both of them. B) Mulder wasn’t her partner up until recently.

Wait. Wait. She would’ve liked to have had another child, but claims the problem is she doesn’t have a partner. Well, up until Chris Carter mysteriously and blasphemously broke you two up last season, you had a partner. You have had a partner for years. For years, yo.

Right up until the end. You almost made it, Chris Carter. Right up until the end, this episode’s biggest crime was that it mostly bored me. Now it offends me. Scully pouts her way back into Mulder’s arms because she’s insecure about aging? Because we all know she’s steps away from being a washed out old hag. And to add insult to injury, Carter manufactures this lame excuse for a cathartic conversation between our two leads that doesn’t even make sense. Yes, my heart hurt listening to it, but not with nostalgia. We were frightfully close to “Trust No 1” (9×8) territory. Remember when Chris Carter intimated that Scully first slept with Mulder because of loneliness and desperation. No? Well, you’re welcome.

Verdict:

Maybe I’m just thick, but I can’t understand why it’s so difficult to just let them love each other naturally in the background.

“Put a dimmer on that afterglow.” – I gagged. Really.

And if Scully is going to have a midlife crisis, Chris Carter should not be the one to write about it. Only he could make it as simplistic as: “I can’t have babies anymore and men want women who can make babies so I guess I’m going to die alone.”

I love you, Chris. You just don’t know it. But you see this?

“You tappin’ that, Special Agent? Or can Chucky bust a move?”

This right here? This should never have happened.

C

Scoot in My Boot:

So wait, wait. They aren’t back together again? And the last episode meant… what? I’m so done, Chris Carter. I am so done.

More Scully/Silence of the Lambs parallels. Only she’s having poop-poop-pee-doop tossed at her instead of, well, you know.

Praise be. Scully looks more like herself again this episode. At least she was spared an insult in the aesthetics department.

I don’t mind Chris Carter indulging his doppelganger/twin obsession (See: “Fight Club” (7×20) and the boredom that is Miller and Einstein), I just wish he’d do it well.

Opening car crash = echoes of “Fresh Bones” (2×15) and even “Salvage” (8×10).

I appreciated the shoutout to The Patty Duke Show.

Catholic Scully doesn’t believe in evil anymore? At least CC had the grace to recognize this didn’t seem in keeping with her previous characterization. She believed in evil even when Mulder didn’t.

The quick, out of the blue resolution reminds me of “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2x), but without the genuine creepiness that made that episode memorable.

Did you recognize Karen Konoval? No? Well, it’d be hard to see her underneath all that makeup as Mrs. Peacock in “Home” (4×3) and hard to recognize her looking mostly normal as Madame Zelma in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4).

Best Quotes:

Scully: But if you eliminate the impossible, whatever is remaining, even if improbable, must be the truth.

Mulder: No sugar, Sherlock.

* This is really just a little cross-fandom love.

SaveSave

Surekill 8×9: Calling Clark Kent


Surekill23.jpg

Meanwhile, Scully’s wardrobe choices have been excellent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

Stupid ain’t cute.

C+

Rats:

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

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

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

Doggett makes an Elvis reference… I miss Mulder!!

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

Did you spot James Franco?

Best Quotes:

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

——————–

Doggett: Calling Clark Kent.

Sanguinarium 4×6: I hope those instruments were properly sterilized.


Vanity, Vanity...

I remember how my heart sank when the Orthopedist told me I was going to have to have surgery on my knee. You’d think if one was going to tear their ACL in a skiing accident, one would have been sailing down the Blue slopes at least, instead of ending up in a pile at the bottom of the lift before one technically set foot on Blue ground. There should at least be a glamorous War Story to go with a Battle Scar. But I digress.

Even though I was raised by a Physician and have never been queasy about the practice of medicine or medicines themselves, surgery is one of those events I’ve hoped since childhood never to participate in. Maybe it’s the loss of control, maybe it’s the horror stories I’ve heard about reactions to anesthesia, maybe it’s the fact that even the best Surgeon can fumble and that unexpected curveballs can be thrown once the human body is opened up, but I’ve mentally shied away. Which is why it’s been difficult for me to wrap my head around our skyrocketing plastic surgery rates here in the U.S.

After all, surgery is surgery. And this episode touches on the (usually) unspoken fears of patients and the platitudes that they comfort themselves with; “It’s a routine procedure”,  “routine” meaning that nothing bad can happen. “Sanguinarium” highlights the ultimate vulnerability of patient’s situation, plays on that anxiety, and then takes us on a tangent of horror that serves the story better at moments than at others.

Despite the public’s many concerns over “Home” (4×3), this is the first time I’ve personally found an episode a little too gross. While I’m not squeamish, something about a bath full of blood screams, “overkill” to me. Then there’s that whole “watch a man peel off his own skin” thing.

Aside from questionable content, it’s actually well done, thanks, no doubt, to The X-Files’ go-to man for horror, director Kim Manners. The scene when Nurse Waite coughs up those straight pins is particularly nicely shot. The police lights add to the chaos and adrenaline of the moment while disguising what amounts to a cheap theatrical trick under a cover of half-darkness. For me it’s the most memorable moment of the episode.

Sans blood and gore, much of the episode is spent in exposition about the current state of healthcare, the rise of plastic surgery that’s gone hand in hand with the fall of medicine in general.

Dr. Shannon: Our practice has been affiliated with Greenwood for 13 years. Now the ASU accounts for over 50% of this hospital’s revenue. Do you know what that means?

Scully: It means that while Doctors in other fields have seen their earnings fall because of managed healthcare you’ve all managed to become wealthy.

Whatever the situation was in 1997, it’s far more pronounced now. Where I was raised is both one of the Cosmetic Surgery capitals and Geriatric capitals of the U.S., which makes for an odd combination. People regularly take out massive loans to pay for superfluous procedures in cash or put it on credit and add years’ worth of debt to their lives, but it’s not uncommon to visit a General Practitioner’s office and overhear someone refusing to pay their $20 Co-pay… someone who’s clearly been pulled and stuffed once too often.

Why put ourselves in such a precarious position for nothing more than vanity? Surgery is still surgery after all. But it’s easy to get caught up in the culture, as Mulder is evidence of in this episode. His prodding in the mirror is a cute diversion. Though I find myself raising a skeptical eyebrow at the fact that they expect us to believe that someone who looked like Fox Mulder/David Duchovny would actually consider changing his face.

This is one of those episodes where Mulder and Scully don’t put a stop to the evil. Sure, they figure out what Dr. Franklyn, now Dr. Hartman, was up to. But he’s clearly going keep up his Blood Rejuvenation scheme for a very, very long time.

And the Verdict is…

In the end, things turned out better for me than they did for Mulder and Scully. By the Grace of God, my knee was healed, much to the shock of my Orthopedist. Surgery was rendered unnecessary and I was spared the experience of, well, surgery.

“Sanguinarium” is a solid sort of episode, I suppose. But it’s gross without being satisfying the way an episode of The X-Files usually is. Which is not to say that I don’t like it because I do, it’s just not quite enough to get the taste of “The Field Where I Died” (4×5) out of my mouth.

B

Leftovers:

Why doesn’t Dr. Shannon want to be operated on and why do Mulder and Scully try to stop it? If they didn’t take that stuff out, wouldn’t she just have thrown it up and died anyway?

Maybe to make up for the Wiccan outcry over “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14) we have a “good” witch in this story. Although, it turns out there was an even larger outcry over this one…

I saw you checking out that nurse, Fox Mulder.

Best Quotes:

Dr. Franklyn/Dr. Hartman: I like to say that whoever God didn’t get around to creating in His own image, it’s our job to recreate in ours.

———————

Scully: There’s magic going on here, Mulder. Only it’s being done with silicone, collagen, and a well-placed scalpel.

———————

Dr. Lloyd: I think this patient… is finished.

———————

Mulder: Are you aware that Dr. Lloyd is claiming that he was possessed during the incident?
Nurse Waite: I guess it’s cheaper than malpractice insurance.

Syzygy 3×13: Sure. Fine. Whatever.


The X-Files meets Carrie

I confess, this is a tough one to analyze for me. Mainly because I’m not sure what to make of it myself. It’s like a cross between the broad clichés of “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14) and the humor of “War of the Coprophages” (3×12). But since it’s neither as frightening as the Morgan & Wong penned “DHDV” or as funny as the Darin Morgan outing “WOTC” it’s difficult to digest in parts. Not to say that it’s horrible. It certainly has some memorably funny moments. And one thing Chris Carter could always do better than any other writer on the show was Mulder/Scully banter. Their digs at each other are the highlight of the episode.

But they’re also the lowlight. By that I mean that the comedy in “Syzygy” relies almost solely on exaggeration. Scully isn’t just a skeptic she’s purposefully obtuse. Mulder doesn’t just wonder at Scully skepticism he berates her for it. It’s as if he found a new friend on the playground in the blonde detective and together they started making fun of his old pal. It’s funny because it’s absurd that these two people who are so close end up nearly hating each other for an episode. But at times it’s hard to watch them be so disrespectful of each other, even through the laughs.

Because of that I’m not sure if coming off of “WOTC” helps or hinders the plot. In defense of it helping, the tension between Mulder and Scully picks up where it left off. However, that only lends this fight more credibility, as if the damn has snapped and Mulder and Scully are letting loose on each other some long held resentments. If so, some of those resentments are pretty serious and that’s part of why “Syzygy” is hard to watch at moments.

That said, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me laugh. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny have incredible comedic timing that The X-Files has only had a few chances to exploit so far in the series. Part of me enjoys hating Mulder so much. Truly, Mulder deserves to be shot in this episode, not because he unwittingly (for the most part) seduces Detective White but because of the snide remarks he makes at Scully’s expense.

Moving away from Mulder and Scully, Margi and Terri aren’t exactly the most compelling Monsters of the Week. And, frankly, their absurd characterization is what throws the episode off at points. Whose idea was it to name these girls “Margi” and “Terri”? From their names to their clothes to the words that come out of their mouths, it’s as if someone who didn’t know any teenage girls in real life took an 80’s stereotype, electrocuted it and threw it in front of the camera.

…And the Verdict is:

I don’t take this episode as seriously as I used to. It’s an aberration. A fluke. If it weren’t, Mulder and Scully could have potentially caused an irreparable rift in their relationship. While I enjoy the contention in the spirit of comedy, past a point the hurt feelings exposed and generated would have to be addressed and dealt with. Instead, when the clock strikes 12 and the syzygy is over, Mulder and Scully turn back into regular old mice; they’re in sync again and all is right with the world. Well, mostly. There’s still that little argument in the car on the way back.

If, however, we keep “Syzygy” within the context of the series, then the tension that began at the end of “WOTC” continues through this episode even to “Grotesque” (3×14); Mulder and Scully are in a state of chronic miscommunication. This is not Season 2’s Mulder and Scully. There are times when that tension is particularly unpleasant to watch, but the end result is Season 4’s Mulder and Scully so all is forgiven.

This episode attempts something similar to “WOTC” but less successfully; its tone isn’t always consistent. I think it’s clear by the end, though, that the content of this episode is meant to be enjoyed and then forgotten. Nothing Mulder or Scully say or do in this episode should be held against them in the long run. It’s an astrological anomaly.

By the by, I do believe that moment in the hallway after Mulder sniffed Scully was the closest he ever came to death.

B

P.S. Is Scully jealous? That’s easy. Yes. But in her defense, any woman whose partner ditched her for a leggy blonde and made jokes at her expense to impress said leggy blonde would have a similar reaction.

Superfluous Questions:

Are the stars to blame for why none of the investigating officers picked up on Margi and Terri’s fake tears and inconsistent affects? They weren’t even convincing sociopaths.

Wasn’t Mulder drunk not a few minutes before he drove away from the motel? I take it the look of barely restrained fury on Scully’s face sobered him up?

Superfluous Comments:

The absurd opening funeral scene is reminiscent of “Humbug” (2×20), no?

This is where I learned what a “screwdriver” was. I remember walking out into the family room to ask dear old Dad what Mulder was doing with that orange juice.

Detective White is Mulder’s second potential love interest in a row. Is Season 3 his season or what?

I can’t decide whether the funniest moment in the episode is Mulder desperately pressing “0” for the operator in a drunken attempt to evade Detective White’s advances or the expression on Scully’s face when Mulder says, “It must be Detective White.”

Zirinka the Astrologist almost steals the show.

Best Quotes:

Scully: And you have physical evidence of these rituals being conducted?
Detective White: No. No, just the murder victims.
Scully: So you have nothing concrete to connect these things to Satanists?
Detective White: [Shakes head]
Mulder: If, uh, you detect a hint of skepticism or incredulity in Agent Scully’s voice it’s because of the overwhelming evidence gathered by the FBI debunking virtually all claims of physical abuse by satanic cults.
Detective White: [to Scully] Is that true?
Scully: [Starts to speak]
Mulder: Don’t ask me.

———————
Scully: Let me guess. They told you about a wild beast entering in on a black mass, the drinking of blood, the sacrifice of an infant… or a blonde virgin.
Detective White: Yeah. That’s right. Excuse me.
Scully: Where’s she going?
Mulder: You don’t suppose she’s a virgin, do you?
Scully: I doubt she’s even a blonde.

———————

Mulder: Let me drive.
Scully: I’m driving.
Mulder: Scully, it’s not what you think.
Scully: I didn’t see anything anyway.
Mulder: Will you let me drive?
Scully: I’m driving. Why do you always have to drive anyway? Because you’re the guy? Because you’re the big, macho man?
Mulder: No, I was just never sure your little feet could reach the pedals.

———————

Mulder: When we were here before…
Zirinka: I’m just waiting for authorization.
Mulder: I’m a Federal Agent!
Zirinka: Last I heard, the federal government couldn’t pay its bills. Okay, you’re good for up to 300 bucks.
Mulder: All right.
Zirinka: How can I help you?

The Calusari 2×21: My grandfather used to take that for his stomach.


99 Luft Balloons.

Once again we start of with a dysfunctional family. (By way of an aside, I once read someone complain that The X-Files is full of unhappy nuclear families and that the only happy ones we see get destroyed. I thumbed my nose at that before, but I’m starting to think whoever wrote that isn’t far off base. I don’t think the show has anything against happy families, but it wouldn’t be frightening if we only saw happy families that stayed happy, would it?) What kind of parents, one might ask, would mindlessly take a balloon from one child and preferentially give it to another? No wonder he becomes something out of The Omen. The creepiest part of the episode is that opening teaser: Kid has balloon. Parents give balloon away. Kid wants balloon. Kid gets balloon.

As Season 2 progresses, it’s getting easier to recognize subcategories of X-Files. We’ve seen poltergeist tales before. Heck, Season 1 was on ghost overload. Even episodes that ostensibly didn’t involve a ghost like “Space” (1×8), “Born Again” (1×21), and “Roland” (1×22), were just ghost stories called by another name to see if they would smell as sweet. Probably because of that Season 2 has only had one poltergeist plot so far, “Excelsis Dei” (2×11).

This episode reminds me a lot of “Roland”, not because they’re similar in style or substance but because they have the same basic foundation: twin brothers who can’t truly be divided, even by death. I have to say that “The Calusari” tackles the premise more successfully, mainly because it’s a straight up mini horror flick. It has all the requisite elements of the genre; spooky kid, witch-like old woman, secret rituals, bloody deaths, and, of course, a malignant spirit back from the grave. In fact, out of all the examples I listed above, and a few I didn’t list, this is the most satisfying episode in terms of the fear factor.

The fear factor is really all “The Calusari” exists for. This isn’t an introspective character study or story to further the mythology, Mulder and Scully don’t grow either as individuals or in their partnership, there isn’t an underlying message about societal ills or a warning about human hubris. Even “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14) had an embedded caution not to play with fire. No, with this one the writers are just trying to freak you out… which isn’t a bad thing. I’m impressed even now at how The X-Files pulls off something of this scale in roughly 43 minutes.  To get this kind of a scare you generally have to go to a movie theater and buy an obscenely priced ticket.

Since there isn’t too much going on here I don’t have much left to add except for a note about what little characterization we do get to see. As much as I love her, Scully’s arrogance is a somewhat grating in this episode. It is funny in parts. Some of the cracks she gets to make in her scenes with the newly introduced Dr. Chuck Burks are cute. But her usual reactions to Mulder’s theories lack the “eye-rolling” attitude she displays here.  Her resistance is all a set up, however, and the payoff is that in the end she finally sees something paranormal happen with her own eyes rather than just hear the tale told later by Mulder. We never do hear her final reaction so who knows whether she explained it all away or whether remembering the events of “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) she ultimately admitted to herself that “ghosties” and “beasties” exist.

…And the Verdict is:

Not to belabor the point but you really don’t want to look too hard for anything meaningful in this episode. It’s not that deep. It is good, though, for what it is. And if there are still quite a few questions by the end, well, that’s what The X-Files is famous for. Not only that, it wouldn’t be a “horror film” if it made any real sense.

If “The Calusari” has a weakness it’s that they threw everything into this episode except their fuzzy slippers. It wasn’t necessary to use every cliché the horror genre has in order to scare folks. Wait. I take that back. They didn’t use every cliché. There were no over-sexualized teenagers killed in the making of this episode.

B+

Issues:

Mulder’s trained in psychology but he’s never heard of Munchausen by Proxy? I realize they have to come up with devices to get information to the audience without obvious exposition, but at least come up with something a little more clever.

If we go by what we learn later in the episode, the bratty child in the teaser isn’t necessarily Charlie but his dead brother Michael posing as him. But if that’s the case, who was the poltergeist pulling the balloon? Or if it is Charlie, why so cold? He doesn’t react so dispassionately when his father and grandmother are killed and the nurse attacked. Instead, he pleads with Michael to stop.

Random Thoughts:

The 90s projectile vomited all over that house.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: You see this is a helium balloon here, and the one thing I did learn in kindergarten is when you let them go they float up, up and away. But you see this is moving away from him. Horizontally.
Scully: Did you learn about wind in kindergarten?

——————–

Chuck: In 1979 I witnessed a guru named Sai Baba create an entire feast out of thin air.
Scully: Too bad you didn’t take a picture. You could have run it through your computer and seen the entire Last Supper.

——————–

Calusari: The evil that is here has always been. It has gone by different names through history. Cain, Lucifer, Hitler. It does not care if it kills one boy or a million men. If you try to stop us the blood will be on your hands.

Die Hand Die Verletz 2×14: Better hide your Megadeth albums.


Is it raining men?

This episode flips the typical on its ear. For starters, the teaser doesn’t present a crime or even a mystery. Instead, it just leaves us with an unsettling image: Leaders of the community gathered together in solemn prayer… but not to God, to the Devil. The Devil worshippers are the religious, hyper-sensitive and hypocritical ones. God punishes the evil-doer? No, the Devil punishes the evil-doer for not being evil enough. Even water goes down the drain the wrong way.

Instead of a typical nitpick of conservative Christians, which is where we think this episode is going for the first 60 seconds or so, this story is about a group of Satanists whose faith has gone stale. You don’t hear many rumors about occultist practices anymore, but these issues were a much bigger deal in the early 90’s. Young though I was, I remember hearing news stories/exaggerated rumors about children falling victim to Devil worshippers. Then there was the hot button issue of the occult in movies, TV and music. I gather that most people didn’t put much stock in the rumors and even if they had, they didn’t imagine the likes of what we see in “Die Hand Die Verletz.”

We all know there’s nobody out there conjuring up the devil… right? I mean, not really. A snake can’t eat a man that fast, you’re letting your imagination run away with you. The thunderclap wasn’t a portent, it just happened to sound at the right dramatic moment. Flesh-eating disease? A freaky coincidence. But for once, what if they’re not paranoid? What if you’re not paranoid enough? The X-Files is inviting us to let ourselves get caught up in the hysteria, if only for a moment. What safer way to do that than through a TV show?

If there’s any point of irritation it’s that this episode has a distractingly neon disclaimer tacked to its forehead. The writers want to make sure that an audience potentially made up of people interested in the occult won’t be driven away by the over-the-top treatment of this subject matter. In other words, we know we’re using an arguably offensive cliché so we’ll be sure to tell the audience how lovable real witches are these days and hopefully that will appease the masses. “Even the church of Satan has renounced murder and torture.” (Then what, praytell, is the point of being the church of Satan??) At least the occultists in the story admit what they are.

On the Mulder and Scully partnership front, there’s a lot going on but it all happens in the span of about 2 seconds. It’s that scene in the shower room when Mulder and Scully are about to be killed. Notice that when the bullets start flying Mulder covers Scully with his own body. Blink and you’ll miss it. Would it have done any good in the face of a shotgun blast? Hardly. But it’s always struck me because Mulder did it almost instinctively. There was no deep moment of contemplation, no close-up of our hero’s face as he makes a dramatic decision. It was almost like a reflex, the way a mother would grab her child if she heard a loud noise.

It’s probably not significant to most people, but I think there’s a difference between being willing to risk your life for someone and being willing to actually stand between them and the bullet. The latter takes it to a whole other level, a level that, somewhere along the line, Mulder and Scully have quietly reached. There’s no fanfare or fireworks. In true Mulder and Scully form, I doubt they ever mention the incident between themselves.

Conclusion:

Try not to take this one too seriously. It’s exaggerated on purpose. Not that this is a distinctly humorous episode. We won’t see that until “Humbug” (2×20) later this season. But it is a self-conscious tale and I think that’s its strength.

This is an episode I enjoy watching as much for the outlandishness of the subject as anything else. Writers Morgan and Wong were leaving the show to produce Space: Above and Beyond and I suspect they wanted their last outing to be as extreme an X-File as ever there was. They can rest assured that they went out with a bang.

Fortunately, we don’t have to live without them for too long. They’ll be back.

B+

Random Musings:

For a woman who just came off of “Irresistible” (1×13), where seeing bodies whose hair and nails had been cut off was a trauma to her, Scully’s doing awfully well with a corpse that’s had its eyes and heart cut out.

Be on the lookout for a great moment when Ausbury (AKA: Frasier’s Bulldog) gives a monologue that I think has some great truth hidden in it.

I’m ashamed to admit that as many times as I’ve seen this episode I never appreciated that Mrs. Paddock wasn’t just controlling the snake, she became the snake and ate Ausbury whole. There may be something wrong with me, but I thoroughly enjoyed that.

Iconic moment alert: It’s raining frogs. Funny how even the worst episodes have memorable visuals.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: So… lunch?
Scully: Mulder! Toads just fell from the sky!
Mulder: I guess their parachutes didn’t open.

——————–

Scully: The FBI recently concluded a seven year study and found little or no evidence of the existence of occult conspiracies.
Pete Calcagni: And J Edgar Hoover never admitted to the existence of the Mafia.
Scully: Look, if the number of murders attributed to occult conspiracies were true, it would mean thousands of people killing tens of thousands of people a year, without evidence, without being exposed. It would be the greatest criminal conspiracy is the history of civilisation.
Jim Ausbury: Finally. You people understand what we’re up against.

——————–

Mulder: But you are responsible. You knew the possibilities contained in your beliefs no matter how watered down. Did you really expect to conjure up the devil and ask him to behave?

———————

Mulder: “There are tracks in the dirt. They’re from a snake.
Scully: “That’s impossible. It would take a large python hours to consume and weeks to digest a human being.
Mulder: You really do watch The Learning Channel.