Tag Archives: Elegy

Founder’s Mutation 10×5: You don’t like cats?


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All right. There were a lot of feelings to sort through for this one. I’m still not sure I’ve sorted them through completely. I’m not sure I ever will.

I was thoroughly bummed out at the end of this episode. And, no. I don’t mean that I was an emotional wreck grieving the plight of Mulder and Scully. I mean I was disappointed, out of joint, and incurably grumpy.

I realize that doesn’t make sense on the surface, especially since the storytelling has undeniably improved this week. “My Struggle” (1×01) was an aging crackpot of an episode, talking loud and fast, writhing in labor and giving birth to wind. But it was a familiar wind, so supersized shenanigans though it was, I couldn’t help but feel the daffy draft as a gentle breeze, cerulean blue style. Yep. Chris Carter put the whammy on me.

The truth is, though, that I never held out much expectation for the premiere to begin with. Most of the bad habits The X-Files ever had were connected to the mythology, and those habits manifested in increasing frequency and strength the longer the show went on. The mythology was epic in its heyday, but it self destructed somewhere in Season 6 and, unlike Mulder, it never made it back from the grave. Nothing could be worse than the mythology of Season 9 and the nosedive nadir of “Provenance” (9×10) and “Providence” (9×11). If my obsession could survive those, it could survive anything.

I was always more of a Monster of the Week gal, anyway. So who cares, right? But what I didn’t realize was that while I had steeled myself against disappointment in terms of the overall six episode storyline, there were still hidden hopes that I didn’t know I had. Those hopes, as always, centered around Mulder and Scully.

Things start out well enough. Better than well, even. There are little things, like the acting and direction around Mulder and Scully being distinctly of a modern style, for better and worse. Some things can’t be helped and when it comes to acting especially, times have changed – Ironically, they’ve changed largely because of the influence of The X-Files and other shows born in that era. I certainly didn’t expect things to be exactly the same and in fact am rooting for the show to evolve. No, we were still good.

Then we get a few cracks about just how 90’s Mulder and Scully are and it’s sorta cute. Okay. And then the show reverses its position and tries to prove that we’re not in the 90’s anymore, Toto. I get it. You can stop namedropping current events. You’re relevant. I know.

Like I said. Little things. Things that didn’t really bother me in and of themselves, just things I noticed. What mattered was that Mulder and Scully were back in my life calmly discussing theoretical science while a cadaver chilled in the background. YES.

The cherry on top was Mulder breaking the rules and stealing evidence. “Rebel.” It was almost like old times. Almost. It was somewhat disguised by the chaos of urgency and exposition in “My Struggle”. But now I’m sure: Something’s missing between Mulder and Scully.

I know, I know. It’s William, you say. Their grief over William has come between them and there’s some tension what with the breakup, that’s all. The distance is supposed to be there!

Maybe that’s what I’m meant to be seeing, I don’t know. But this doesn’t read as tension to me. Tension is not disconnect. There was tension in “My Struggle”, but at the same time there wasn’t this distance between them. There was tension between Mulder and Scully loads of times in the series proper, and sometimes they were going in polar opposite directions personally and emotionally. Yet they were always connected.

This may sound blasphemous, but their chemistry is wanting. There’s a spark missing. Where’s the Mulder/Scully bubble that existed as early as Season 1? That little world between the two of them that they used to create subconsciously? Fear not, NoRoMos. It’s not MSR I’m talking about or looking for, it’s the bond that set the ship a sail.

It probably shouldn’t concern me as much as it does. However, while this is the second episode to air it was the fifth episode filmed. Fifth! And there are only six. Their game should be on point by now. The fact that I’m seeing so little chemistry in what is effectively the penultimate episode… yeah, I am concerned.

You’re never just anything to me, Scully.

You know, there was a time when Dana Scully never had to say a word. I could read her every nuance of emotion, her every changing thought in her eyes. Scully was aloof. Scully was reserved. Scully was composed. Scully was in control. But Scully was not inscrutable. And her mouth wasn’t immovable.

Move your mouth, Scully. You’re allowed. Then again, maybe Scully shouldn’t open her mouth because every time she does, the croak of a ninety-year-old ex-smoker comes out. This bothers me. I’m bothered.

And what do you mean, “My baby”???

Mulder’s voice isn’t much better. And both of them are noticeably lacking in energy. Somebody get them some Wheaties, stat, because things can’t continue like this. I know they’re older and I want them to act like it. They can’t be wide-eyed with wonder the way they were in the early seasons of the show. That would be disingenuous. But that’s no excuse for Mulder and Scully on Valium. They’re middle aged, they’re not aged.

Again, I hear perfectly reasonable voices telling me this is all because of William. They’re emotionally beaten. They’re tired, they’re worn. They’re grief-stricken and world-weary.

Yet the answer that they lost their baby can’t be the excuse for every problem. Their chemistry is lacking – they lost their baby. Scully’s face is frozen – they lost their baby. Their conversations are stilted and subdued – they lost their baby. It gets old fast, doesn’t it? If they’re here to fight then there has to be some fight left in them.

I’ve ranted and I’ve snarked, but in all honesty I’m 80% sure that this discomfiture is a temporary state of affairs. And while I don’t think William should be a blanket excuse, this is an episode about William and it’s Mulder and Scully’s long overdue chance to mourn him.

In fact, the fantasy sequences prove to me that the Mulder and Scully I know and love are still alive somewhere in their own souls. Scully’s still Scully in her head! She even has her voice back! And you know what? Both of their individual scenes with imaginary William were more powerful than all of their scenes so far together.

These daydreams aren’t just fantasies about what life would have been like with William. They’re also their worst nightmares given a voice. Both Mulder and Scully long for their individual relationships with their child, and at the same time, they suspect that William was never theirs at all. Not really. It’s the same fear that torments Scully in “Per Manum” (8×8), that something was wrong with her pregnancy and her child from the beginning. But these are fears that should have been put to rest long ago.

These scenes, beautiful as they are, resolve nothing. They’re exercises in emotion. Mulder and Scully still don’t know whether or not they owe the birth of William to a sinister science, despite the fact that that question was answered in Season 9. (In case you were wondering, Season 9 no longer exists.) And they have absolutely no idea where William is or what’s happening to him, a question that I suspect will be revisited later in the season.

If these poignant daydreams accomplish anything, however, they succeed in amplifying my not so latent frustration over the William storyline. I know the world of The X-Files isn’t exactly family friendly, but I don’t think I’ve crumbled my cracker when I say I can easily imagine Mulder and Scully as parents… good parents. That’s why despite the weakness of “Existence” (8×21), its final scene felt right as a potential series finale.

For Mulder especially, who had spent the entire series trying to make sense of the loss of his sister and the destruction of his family, to find through his quest the family he had lost, to find something he was willing to leave the X-Files behind for, to find the very meaning he had been searching for in the X-Files, that was a great evolution for his character. In many ways, I think Mulder needed fatherhood more than Scully needed motherhood, despite the fact that the focus has forever been on “Scully’s baby”, even here where Scully still refers to William as her own. Yet, as sweet as Scully’s scenes with her imaginary son were, Mulder’s were gut-wrenching. That was exactly how I’d always imagined he’d be as William’s dad. And now I’m emotional all over again. Thank you, everyone. Thank you soooo much.

And thank you for making me more sure than ever that William” (9×17), the adoption, and the entire plot surrounding Mulder and Scully’s son was the worst sin The X-Files ever committed. I know it would have been harder to write our leads crusading against epic alien invasions with a baby in tow (Colonization with The Mulders), but good things don’t come easy. And you know what? The epic alien invasion never happened, which only adds insult to unmitigated injury.

Scully is already a bad mother shut-your-mouth. But if she had been fighting for her home, her family and her baby, she would have been a BEAST. It could have been done. It should have been done. It has been done… in my head.

Verdict:

As you can see, the William issue doesn’t make me sad so much as it makes me resentful and indignant. I can’t cry over it. I’m too annoyed to cry.

Mulder and Scully don’t seem to have moved on either. This episode was not a catharsis. It was not a release like “Closure” (7×11). This was a glossy 8×10 of sadness and guilt put in a pretty picture frame and hung on a wall for all to see. If an angst party was the point, they have proven it. They have partied the house down.

And so my resentment roosts in an episode that is otherwise decent. It’s not great television but it’s a distinct improvement over last week. The case itself is only moderately interesting and the resolution even less so, but the theme of it ties in perfectly to the William storyline and consequently, “Founder’s Mutation” is an emotional continuation of the premiere. Now I understand why they moved this episode up from when it was originally scheduled to air. Per “My Struggle”, Mulder and Scully got back in this paranormal rat race in order to investigate the genetic manipulation of humans with alien DNA, a horror that hits all too close to home for them. This episode connects their work in the paranormal to the mythology at large as well as to their individual lives and their relationship. They have ample reason to be back on the X-Files.

Now if they would just get back that old Black Magic…

Then again, it occurs to me that diamonds are born under pressure. Since I’ve already exposed myself as a heretic, before I close I’ll add some wood to my own flames. It’s quite possible that the intensity of the Mulder and Scully relationship was directly tied to the intensity of the circumstances Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny found themselves in. They were young, relatively inexperienced actors who were hungry for work. They were on a show that wasn’t just a hit, it was a cultural phenomenon. They spent nearly nine months a year, sometimes eighteen hours a day, being Mulder and Scully. Gillian has even said (somewhat facetiously?) that she spent more of her 20’s as Scully than as herself. On top of that, the show itself became progressively more intense plot-wise, and their characters progressively more isolated together.

It’s no secret that under those high pressure circumstances, David and Gillian didn’t always get along. But they always managed to perform like their lives depended on it. Maybe they did. And maybe… though this is pure speculation on my part… maybe that tension drove them into a place where they had to be Mulder and Scully in order to git-r-done. Because on screen, they would go into a mental and emotional place between the two of them where they became just the two of them. And all the way up to the series finale, these characters and their relationship flowed from them like it was second nature.

Now we’re down to six episodes from up to twenty-four. Now everyone’s in a great place emotionally and relationally. And our leads only see each other every once in a while. In summary, it’s quite possible that our favorite duo will never be the same outside of the extreme possibility of circumstance that created them.

I’m at peace with that… I think? Or am I pouting because I wanted this MOTW to feel like old times? It kinda, sorta, almost did there for a minute. I know we can’t go back again and we shouldn’t. Consciously, I don’t want to. It wouldn’t be believable or even healthy. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keenly feel the bitter in the bittersweetness of “Founder’s Mutation”.

B

Mutated Musings:

Kyle Gilligan. Kyle “Gilligan”. GILLIGAN.

Skinner’s beard is everything to me right now. It’s the unsung hero of the episode.

Closely followed by Scully’s 9ft. legs in Mulder’s office. Dang, our cast is hot.

Help me, Darin Morgan. You’re my only hope. #GreatWhiteHope

It’s good seeing them in Skinner’s office again, though it’s almost jarring how easily Skinner accepts their crazy theories now.

The new, modern office is right, but it’s going to take a little getting used to. Meanwhile, the F.B.I. must be flush with cash.

The new “I Want to Believe” poster in the back corner… I guess we’ll hear that story soon.

I’m sorry. I was watching The X-Files when the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver showed up. Did I cross fandom beams?

And now that I think of it, this episode would fit well in the X-Men universe.

The scene in the bar was an excuse for some much needed humor. It didn’t end up being relevant to the plot.

To me, this feels more like modern TV does The X-Files than The X-Files does modern TV. Yes, Virginia, there is a difference.

I don’t just hate that she says, “my baby,” I hate the way she says it. I keep hearing it on repeat. Anybody got a letter opener?

Why does Scully stand outside the school just to say hi and bye?

There are echoes of Mulder’s brain pains in “Demons” (4×23) here and of the victims’ symptoms in “Drive” (6×2). There’s also a government conspiracy behind the genetic manipulation of babies in vitro as early as “Eve” (1×10).

Scully takes Kyle into custody a little too easily considering his powers. And Mulder recovers the pain without showing any signs of having been in any.

Sister Mary was Scully’s psychologist in “Irresistible” (2×13) and “Elegy” (4×22).

What are the odds that Kyle Gilligan would get a job working as a janitor at the same mental hospital that his mother was institutionalized at?

Best Quotes:

Scully: I’m a doctor. You can tell me anything.

—————–

Mommy Gilligan: Bad things happen when the birds gather.

—————–

Scully: This is dangerous.

Mulder: When has that ever stopped us before?

—————–

Mulder: All we can do, Scully, is pull the thread and see what unravels.

 

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Tithonus 6×9: You’re a lucky man.


The gift that keeps on giving.

Oh, Vince Gilligan. Why you make me love you so???

I watched an interview not long ago where Gilligan (humbly) admitted that when it came to writing X-Files episodes, he edited other people’s stories – no one edited his. Watch “Tithonus” and understand why.

It’s been so long since the days of “Paper Hearts” (4×8) and “Unruhe” (4×2) that I’d almost forgotten Gilligan writes serious tales too, and writes them well. Similarly to “Elegy” (4×22), this is one of the few episodes in a show populated week after week by gruesome deaths that is actually about death. Or, more accurately, about life and at what point death could be preferable.

Like “Unruhe” and another previous episode, “Oubliette” (3×8), the action in “Tithonus” revolves around that unnerving staple of modernity, that casual bit of creepiness that hides in plain sight: Photography. There’s something so much more… invasive about an old-fashioned camera like the one Alfred Felig uses, something that’s been lost with the advent of the pocket digital camera, something that is fundamental to the success of stories like this where the camera is a villain in its own right – an uninvited violation, a soulless enemy. We say the lens “captures” an image and it’s a subtle way of acknowledging an unspoken discomfort. Between the blinding flash and the disorienting sound, the subject of the photograph is momentarily vulnerable. A part of them has been “possessed” by the camera whether they were willing participants in the event or not.

And who is more vulnerable than those who are already half dead? That’s where Alfred Felig comes in. The man that time forgot. In echoes Clyde Bruckman before him, this is a man saddled with a curse that anyone on the outside looking in would think is a gift, and it’s taken all the joy out of living.

Unlike the mythological Tithonus, the eponymous source of this episode’s title, who lives forever but shrivels up with age until he turns into a cricket, Felig doesn’t physically grow old and withered. But he is cursed to live forever without the heart of youth, the heart that desires, as Scully says, to learn and experience and love. Tithonus’ immortality becomes a curse because his goddess lover forgot to add eternal youth to the gift of eternal life and, abandoned by his love, he longs for death. Felig has the opposite problem in that he has a form of eternal youth without the substance of it; he’s been dead a long time, he just can’t convince his body to follow. As Agent Ritter says, “He’s always been a geezer.” He scoffs at Scully’s suggestion that love is worth living for. What use is love to him?

But what if Felig hadn’t forgotten the name of his long deceased wife? If Mrs. Felig could have lived eternally with her husband in wedded bliss, would he still have hunted death so relentlessly? Would invincibility still feel so cold a curse?

I submit that someone who merely possessed immortality would be cursed, but someone imbued with eternal youth may feel differently. Either way, who would want to live forever in this world? Perhaps one of the greatest acts of mercy God ever bestowed on mankind was to curse them with death in the Garden of Eden; they wouldn’t spend eternity in a world corrupted by evil. Even if, like Felig, death refused to touch you, you’d live to watch generations of others suffer. No, only the disturbed are in a hurry to leave but no one in their right mind wants to stay indefinitely either. Well, except for me. But then, no one said I was in my right mind.

For her part, Scully doesn’t understand Felig because she’s still so full of energy and curiosity. You can tell from her reaction that she finds his, shall we say, unappreciative view of life a little depressing.  She hasn’t grown tired yet the way the aged do. I remember how my 90-odd-years-old grandmother used to tell me that being old was exhausting, not because she wasn’t happy to live a long life, but because at some point, living takes effort. Felig is just tired. And when he’s eventually allowed to stop, to be at peace, you can see the relief on his face. Felig’s dying moments, when he’s reunited with death, are like a master class in acting from guest star Geoffrey Lewis.

But I know what many long time fans are wondering, will Scully ever even know what that feels like? Way back when, X-Files legend Darin Morgan penned this oft discussed exchange between Scully and psychic Clyde Bruckman for “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4):

Scully: All right. So how do I die?
Clyde Bruckman: You don’t.

Does this mean that “Tithonus” confirmation of the long held speculation that Scully is immortal? By looking at death in Scully’s place, does Felig cause Scully to take his place in the land of the perpetually living?

While Vince Gilligan is famous for throwing clever references to earlier episodes in his scripts and so it wouldn’t be beyond him to do something like this, the clear message of this episode is that too much life is no life at all and I suspect Gilligan loves Scully too much to make her immortal. And I can’t find the interview, but I know he’s said that wasn’t what he was implying. Besides, he would have already known that Darin Morgan never intended to hint that she was either:

“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” contained several lines of dialogue that sent fans into a frenzy pondering their meaning. The first came when Bruckman told Scully she wouldn’t die. “Some people took it to mean that Scully was immortal, but the meaning was that Clyde knows how Scully’s going to die, but he likes her so much he’s not going to tell her, because telling her would ruin her life, whether she believed it or not. Telling someone they’re not going to die is one of the nicest things you can say. That’s why he says it to her. It had nothing to do with whether she was immortal or was going to be hurt in the show.”

http://web.archive.org/web/20020220130917/http://www.morganandwongonline.com/darin2.html

Though I admit that if it were true it’d be some kind of poetic justice considering everything Scully’s been through in recent years. And that’s why it makes emotional sense that this X-File was handed to Scully and not to Mulder. Scully and Felig’s interaction is all the more poignant because Scully is very aware of her own mortality, because she’s someone who wants to live and not too long ago fought desperately against the violating evil of her own cancer. Only someone who has fought so hard for life would be a fitting foil for someone fighting just as hard for death.

Verdict:

I won’t lie to you. For all that philosophizing, my favorite part of this episode is watching Mulder pout with envy. But it’s his own fault – he created a monster.

Scully, while she will ever be Scully, is far more open than she used to be. No, she’s not the instant believer that Mulder is, but after considering all the evidence she’s surprisingly willing to admit that something supernatural is at work here.  She already proved she could handle an X-File on her own back in “Chinga” (5×10), but she’s less unsure of herself in “Tithonus”. She’s so sure of herself that it’s a joy, I repeat, a joy to watch her stand up to Agent Ritter, the Anti-Mulder.

Mulder needn’t have worried. If anything, pairing Scully with Ritter only highlights the weaknesses of any other partnership but Scully and Mulder. When Scully trades places in the car with a by-the-book Ritter, I can’t help but take my mind back to “Tooms” (1×20) when her less orthodox stakeout with Mulder was far more entertaining. I also can’t help but think back to “Squeeze” (1×2) when Mulder and Scully first discover a man who has lived way beyond his years and how they similarly trace his history through low-tech means. Ritter is smart enough to realize there’s a case here, but not as brilliant… or as accepting… as Mulder and so can’t get past the surface of Felig’s situation to the real truth. Even his haircut is square. He’s like vanilla ice cream to Mulder’s Rocky Road. I mean, good grief, his name is Payton.

This is one of the rare Scully-centric episodes that I actually love. In fact, it might be the only one. Yeah, I’ll say it – This is a more well-rounded episode than “Never Again” (4×13).

A

P.S. I can’t leave without mentioning Mulder’s not so veiled threat to Ritter, ‘cause y’all know Mulder would’ve literally killed him if Scully had died, right? He says it so calmly, he’s like Michael Corleone in The Godfather. That’s how you know he means it. Ritter knows it too.

P.P.S. Mulder and Scully and the thumb war. That is all.

Background Checks:

From Cherish the Past: Undoubtedly, the biggest line item for visual effects producer Bill Millar was the postproduction transformation into black-and-white instead of color of the individuals, including Scully, whom Felig sees as doomed. “We used a technique very similar to the one used to wreck all those old movies by colorizing them,” said Millar. “In fact, it’s basically the same, only in reverse.” …Millar, who first used this method on an episode of the short-lived NBC series, Nightmare Cafe in 1992, noted that the hit movie Pleasantville, released within a week or two of the night “Tithonus” first aired, was much praised for its innovative use of decolorization, while its employment on “Tithonus” passed virtually without notice. “Interesting, don’t you think?” Millar said wryly.

If you have the DVDs, this is one of those rare episodes with deleted scenes to watch to help you extend the magic. Go ahead. Live a little.

Did you see that scene where Scully saves the hooker? Did you see it? I’m going to start thinking of her as “Slap-a-Pimp Scully” from now on.

The way the room is lit during the interrogation of Alfred Felig is absolutely stunning. It’s like something out of a Film Noir handbook.

What does Agent Ritter shoot an unarmed Felig for anyway? It’s not like you could mistake that bulky camera for a gun when the light is behind you.

Scully has a rather sentimental look in her eye when she asks Felig about love and her disappointment at his answer is obvious – don’t make me say it.

Between this and “Unruhe”, methinks Vince Gilligan has a not so secret fascination with photography.

Best Quotes:

Scully: [Answers cell] Scully.
Mulder: [In affected voice] Hi, my name is Fox Mulder. We used to sit next to each other at the F.B.I.

——————–

Agent Ritter: You know, Kersh warned me about you.
Scully: Uh, he did?
Agent Ritter: Yeah, you and your partner. God knows his reputation precedes him so I guess I should have seen this coming. You muck up my case, and Kersh’ll hear about it. Are we clear, Dana?
Scully: Scully. And we’re done with this conversation. {Editor’s Note: Bam! My girl.}

——————–

Mulder: Now we’re talking about a guy for whom the phrase “life in prison” carries some seriously weighty connotations.

All Souls 5×17: I’m immune to your mockery.


All the captions I think of feel somehow sacreligious…

Ah, the Enigmatic Dr. Scully. It turns out that on the sly, or in between commercial breaks, however you choose to see it, the formerly lapsed Catholic has been attending church almost on the regular since the events of “Redux II” (5×3).

Why do I suspect Mulder knows nothing about this development?

But why doth our lovely doctor look so solemn on Easter Sunday of all days? Could it be there’s a little Catholic Guilt weighing her down.

More than it is a spiritual follow up to “Revelations” (3×11), “All Souls” is an emotional follow up to “Emily” (5×7). Scully is questioning the decision she made at the end of “Emily” not to fight to save her own daughter, but to allow her to die a relatively peaceful death rather than live in potential agony only to have certain death to look forward to. Scully feels very sure at that moment of a decision that I on the other side of the television screen still have qualms about, but now it seems that her conviction has grown thin. I wonder how she’d feel if she knew about that little green vial Mulder kept hidden from her…

Scully now wonders whether it was really God’s will that she allow Emily or the young disabled girl to die, whether she was working as His instrument or not. And more than that, she’s having a Job moment; Scully can’t understand why God has allowed these girls and herself to be in such a painful position in the first place, why the innocent sometimes reap the reward of the guilty.

It’s a question older than the Book of Psalms and one that writers Spotnitz and Shiban wisely don’t attempt to answer. Instead, they choose to reaffirm Scully’s faith that reasons exist even if she doesn’t know what they are.

Yet despite it’s worthy motives, “All Souls” falls somewhat flat. Maybe if more time had been spent elaborating on the implications, spiritual and otherwise, of the apocryphal legend of the Nephilim. Or maybe if there weren’t quite so many red herrings leaving the viewer even more unsure of what just happened than Scully herself. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s a little boring and a tad confusing. Even Gillian Anderson’s valiantly acted angst fails to completely pull me in to the story.

Speaking of which, I think I’ve officially had my quota of Sad-Eyed Scully for one season.

I always thought that up until Season 8, Season 4 was Scully’s angstiest season but it appears I always thought wrong. I can think of 3 episodes in Season 4 where Scully faced some sort of emotional crossroad: “Never Again” (4×13), “Memento Mori” (4×15) and “Elegy” (4×22). Season 5 is already at 4: “Redux II”, “Christmas Carol” (5×5), “Emily” and “All Souls”. This isn’t even counting the emotional slap in the face she’ll receive in “The End” (5×20)…

I realize that Scully’s lovely when she’s somber but would it have been possible to have an episode centered around her faith that left her cheerful rather than crying in a confessional booth?

Maybe because I have a tendency to skip both “Revelations” and “All Souls” on my usual rewatches, I never appreciated how exactly the director referenced the previous episode’s shots of Scully in the confessional – just in case we missed the fact that both episodes center around Scully’s Catholicism. “All Souls” even ends exactly like “Revelations” with Scully beautifully lit in a confessional booth giving us a pithy statement about faith. It’s not quite as compelling the second time around, but the continuity is noted and appreciated.

And the Verdict is…

Amazing how Mulder flat out refuses to believe there’s anything spiritual going on when it comes to Christianity. Vampires? Sure. Werewolves? Why not. Jesus? You must be kidding.

I’m sorry, but Mulder, my dearest Mulder, is a right and proper jerk this episode. Didn’t he learn anything from the ending of “Revelations” when he realized that he’d been wrong to write off those involved in the case as religious wackos and that he’d alienated his partner through his insensitivity?

Judging between the two episodes, and a couple of earlier ones, I think Mulder’s problem is that when he’s skeptical, which isn’t often, he has the undiplomatic habit of scoffing at other people’s credulity. It’s not pretty. Scully, for all she may raise an eyebrow at Mulder’s theories, usually respects the man if not the idea. Mulder has a way of dismissing both the message and the messenger.

He doesn’t say, “Willikers, Scully, we both know that stranger things have happened but I just don’t think this is the case here and here’s why.” Oh no. Instead he makes quips about psychotic believers convinced they’re hearing from a non-existent God – a category that Scully is uncomfortably forced to conclude she falls into.

No doubt about it, Mulder has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the church. Praise be, he’ll later redeem himself (no pun intended) in “Signs & Wonders” (7×9) after “Orison” (7×7) softens him up a bit.

B

Apocrypha

I’ve seen “All Souls” probably 6 or 7 times but I only just figured out that the Seraphim is a separate entity from the demon caseworker – a clear reflection of my level of interest in this episode.

I’m not Catholic so I’m no expert, but why were Dara’s parents having her baptized on a dark and stormy night 6 years down the road rather than immediately or thereabouts after she was adopted? Like baptizing an infant, wouldn’t they have wanted some insurance for her soul sooner instead of later?

Scully goes to church on Easter Sunday, stops at the family’s house and learns about their daughter, then goes to the pathologist’s office on the same day. That’s one busy little bee.

Mulder doesn’t even show up until 14 minutes into the episode not counting commercial interference. And once he shows up I’d rather he weren’t there.

Best Quotes:

Scully: As much as I have my faith, Father, I am a scientist, trained to weigh evidence. But science only teaches us how… not why…

——————

Mulder: Look, Scully, I know you don’t… really want my help on this, but can I offer my… professional opinion? You got a bona fide super-crazy religious wacko on your hands.

——————

Mulder: I know people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones blah blah blah, but that guy is paranoid!

Demons 4×23: Can I see what’s in the bag now?


Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits.

This episode always satisfies me. Scully gets to play doctor. Mulder gets to play dumb. And Chris Owens gets to play Cigarette-Smoking Man in flashback again. What’s there to complain about?

It’s not a Fright File. It’s not meant to be scary, but it is meant to make you lean forward in your chair and I think it certainly succeeds at that. Temporary amnesia is a motif that’s been done, many, many times over in every kind of pop culture medium; television, movies, books, comics, etc. But since a sense of displacement and a lack of self-knowledge are endlessly disconcerting concepts, this theme can be replayed countess times without being as boring as it probably should be. In fact, The X-Files will tackle temporary amnesia again come “John Doe” (9×7).

This is one of the best in the category of “Mulder is an Impossibly Infuriating Idiot” episodes. For one thing, Mulder seems to make it his personal mission here to self-destruct. For another, this episode features one of his worst Scully-ditches ever when he leaves Scully stranded at his mother’s house in a highly awkward situation.

David Duchovny does a great job here dabbling in what Season 4 is famous for, angst. But I have to say, Scully is my favorite part of this episode. I love Scully when she’s like this: Mama Bear Mode. Mulder isn’t just legally innocent in her mind he is innocent and she won’t believe otherwise unless someone can show her a picture of him with a smoking gun in his hand. Even then, she’d think of some way to find him not responsible. She’s too loyal to willingly believe anything truly horrible of him or to allow anyone else to either and I dare say her fierceness only would have accelerated had The Powers That Be tried to go forward with Mulder’s prosecution. And when she’s a mere heartbeat away from putting a hurtin’ on Dr. Goldstein during that scene where she confronts him in the back of the police car? Golden. No wonder he coughed up the information.

Speaking of coughing up the goods, we’ve already heard that Bill Mulder made the choice that Teena Mulder couldn’t make, the choice to give up Samantha to the Colonists rather than Mulder as a sort of living guarantee that he wouldn’t betray the project, a hostage, really. Now it looks like there was more to the story than just playing Eeny Meeny Miney Mo to decide which Mulder had to go. There was vague innuendo back in “Talitha Cumi” (3×24) that there may have been more history between Cigarette-Smoking Man and Teena Mulder than he and Bill. For those that need a refresher, here’s a clip from their conversation:

Teena Mulder: I have nothing to say to you.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: Really? We used to have so much to say to each other. So many good times at the Mulder summer place… your kids young and energetic. I remember water-skiing down there with Bill. He was a good water-skier, your husband. Not as good as I was but then… that could be said about so many things, couldn’t it?
Teena Mulder: I’ve repressed it all.

So is Mulder right when he accuses his mother of adultery? Did Cigarette-Smoking Man force Teena to give up Samantha because she was Bill Mulder’s child rather than his own? Is Mulder really a Mulder??

Was Samantha abducted by aliens or by men? Was she abducted for extraordinary reasons such as the survival of the human race, or for mundane ones like being born to an adulterous mother?

The questions raised in this episode tie in nicely with the Season Finale coming up next. When we leave our hero at the end of “Demons”, he has no way of differentiating between the truth and the lies. With all the tinkering he’s done to his own mind through regression hypnosis and, er, other means, he can’t be sure that his own memories aren’t skewed beyond recognition. And a question for a future date, how does he know the memories he does have weren’t given to him through some nefarious purpose, a way of keeping him under control?

Frankly, this episode doesn’t give us any answers, only tantalizing suggestions that will shortly be exploited even further. Think of it as a primer of sorts. It does have some good news buried in it, however: At least Mulder can trust Scully when he can’t trust himself.

And the Verdict is…

“Demons” is the only episode Executive Producer R.W. Goodwin ever wrote though he directed quite a few, including the very next episode, the season finale, “Gethsemene” (4×24). Along with Special Effects Supervisor Mat Beck’s underappreciated “Wetwired” (3×23), I wonder very seriously why Chris Carter didn’t move more of the crew to the writing staff.

In a way, this set of episodes that ends Season 4 and begins Season 5 feels like a four-parter because starting with “Demons”, certain themes are continuous and one episode’s story arc flows into the next. In fact, I never watch “Gethsemene” without watching “Demons” first. It sets the mood.

Even though it’s technically separate, it’s emotionally tied to the three-part season finale/season premier. But is it a mythology episode? Well, it’s a character study. This is about Mulder and his past. And since his past is inexorably linked to the mythology… well, it’s mythology by default. Certainly, it presents information that will prove important to the mythology plot later on, but whether or not that information is true, whether or not Mulder’s memories are real, is a subject up for debate and that debate is about to come to the forefront of The X-Files very quickly.

Scully: [Voiceover] …but I am concerned that this experience will have a lasting effect. Agent Mulder undertook this treatment hoping to lay claim to his past, that by retrieving memories lost to him he might finally understand the path he’s on. But if that knowledge remains elusive and if it’s only by knowing where he’s been that he can hope to understand where he’s going, then I fear Agent Mulder may lose his course and the truths he’s seeking from his childhood will continue to evade him, driving him more dangerously forward in impossible pursuit.

A

Comments:

Does anyone else love that moment when Dr. Goldstein invites Mulder and Scully to sit down and they both smirk at him and keep standing?

All I can think when I see Dr. Goldstein is, “Hey! It’s that dude from Men in Black!”

Season 4 may just have set a record for use of flashbacks.

This is why Scully shouldn’t drive: what a horrible parking job.

“It’s my risk,” he says? For shame, Mulder. Where’s the solidarity you demanded from Scully at the end of “Elegy” (4×22)? He’s not exactly spilling the beans to Scully about these colorful visions of his any more than she confessed to him, “I see dead people.”

Nags:

Scully walks into the motel room and handles all these objects, a gun that’s been fired, a bloody shirt, that might be evidence of a crime, with her bare hands.

It’s really not clear why the abductees, or even Mulder, want to kill themselves. Are the memories just that painful? Why kill yourself just as you’re finally figuring your life out?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I had those peoples’ blood on my shirt, Scully. I was missing for two days. I have no recollection of my actions during those two days. There were two rounds discharged from my gun. I had the keys to this house, the keys to their car. Do the words Orenthal James Simpson mean anything to you?

—————————-

Mulder: What did you do to me?
Dr. Goldstein: I told you…
Mulder: You treated me. I asked you to treat me, to recover my past.
Dr. Goldstein: I did nothing wrong.
Mulder: You put a hole in my head!
Dr. Goldstein: A slight electrical stimulation…
Mulder: Triggered my memory.
Dr. Goldstein: Yes, as you had hoped.
Mulder: Now, I want you to finish the job.

Elegy 4×22: I’m just a human being after all.


That's right, G-Woman.

Most X-Files episodes involve death but only a handful are actually about death. That makes “Elegy” pretty unique among the many variations of ghost stories in The X-Files’ repertoire.

Speaking of ghost stories, we haven’t had a proper one since Season 2’s “The Calusari” (2×21) believe it or not. Sure, “Kaddish” (4×12) brought a dead man back to life as a mud monster, but that’s not quite the same thing, now is it?

I don’t hesitate to say this is my second favorite episode out of writer John Shiban’s solo efforts on The X-Files. The last one he have us, “El Mundo Gira” (4×11), was a good idea but the story’s intentions became a little muddied in the execution. The next one coming up, “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18), is a humdinger and my favorite of all, but I digress.

The solemnity Shiban brings to his episodes, think “The Walk” (3×7) and “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18), really works here because, well, it’s a story about death. More specifically, it’s about coping with death and even more specifically, it’s about coping with the upcoming death of one of our leads.

Memento Mori” (4×15) dealt with a lot of the issues that come up here in a more direct way, but since then, probably for the sake of not beating this storyline into the ground, we haven’t had much more than a passing mention of Scully’s predicament, if it’s even mentioned over the course of an episode at all. So we haven’t really had a chance to see how she’s progressing both in living with her disease and fighting it.

It would appear that nothing much has changed. Mulder hasn’t stumbled upon any answers in his precious X-Files, Scully goes back and forth to the doctor but all they seem to be doing is monitoring her, and Skinner hasn’t been able to pry any information out of Cigarette-Smoking Man’s wrinkled, cold hands despite the fact that he sold his soul to the man for Scully’s cure.

In other words, time is running out.

Surely, Scully realizes this and it’s her desire not to acknowledge the fact that death is imminently approaching that forms the basis for the sub-plot of this episode. Well, really, it’s the main plot, if you ask me. Everything else that happens feels more like an excuse to bring up Scully’s cancer. Not that ghostly apparitions in the neighborhood bowling alley don’t in and of themselves make for excellent television.

Scully’s in denial about seeing the dead girl because, well, she’s in denial about dying. Sure, in a detached, medical way she recognized immediately that this disease would kill her sans some kind of miracle. But even though she knows that fact she has so far refused to own it. We know that Mulder his holding out for a miracle, an answer, or a cure, but what is Scully holding out for? She’s in limbo between acceptance and denial. She knows she’s sick but she refuses to acknowledge it in some attempt to avoid any appearance of weakness.

The last time we saw Scully like this emotionally was in “Irresistable” (2×13), so how fitting then that her therapist from that episode, Karen Kosseff, should make a return appearance. Really, it’s just an excuse to allow Scully’s character to speak for herself since she’s usually defined so much by what she doesn’t say. But I love having a peak into what Scully’s thinking and I especially enjoy it when my suspicions are confirmed.

See, Scully does need Mulder. That’s why she’s still working on the X-Files. It’s so easy to understand why Mulder needs Scully since he’s really pretty pathetic without her. But so often when the writers go to explain why such a normal, well-adjusted human being as Dana Scully would stay by Mulder’s side her motivations turn into dangerously co-dependent mush.

I’ll save my arguments as to why Mulder and Scully being co-dependent might not be such a bad thing, but for now I’ll just say that even before her cancer arrived, it was clear that she got something out of her relationship with Mulder that she didn’t get elsewhere. Call it excitement, call it mystery, call it passion, it can have so many names. But whatever part of Scully that is a believer, the part that she normally subdues for the sake of science, that part of her that she still needs in order to survive, responds to Mulder almost against her will. And if her scientific mind won’t allow her to believe that her cancer is treatable, maybe the part of her that loved reading Moby Dick (“Quagmire”) and that still remembers what she learned in catechism (“Revelations”) needs to be around someone whose faith will nurture her own.

And the Verdict is…

I really, really like this episode. I like it especially because of how honestly it treats death and dying. People who are dying go through a grieving process themselves and the people around them don’t necessarily walk on eggshells to please them either, as the dying don’t automatically turn into saints. By the end of the episode, Mulder is openly frustrated with Scully, and perhaps out of his fear that he won’t be able to help her, he chastises her soundly for keeping him out of the loop.

I can actually understand that. Even though, mind you, Scully is the one who’s dying here. The thing is though, she’s not dying alone.

A

Questions:

Forgive me if my memory deceives me, but didn’t Scully have a vision of her father at the time of his death in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12)? He also was trying to tell her something. And now she’s having visions of the dead again so near the time of her own? You’d think that even if she were reluctant to confess the reality of the situation out loud, she’d have a hard time denying to herself what she’s seen.

Comments:

Scully looks way too uncomfortable in those bowling shoes. That’s what Mulder should’ve done for her birthday, taken her out for a good game.

There are echoes of “Roland” (1×22) here. Again, I’m impressed at how respectfully The X-Files was able to portray developmental disabilities.

Another reason I think this outing is more successful than Shiban’s previous efforts is that the plot isn’t weighed down at all by political undertones. Death is heavy enough without dragging politics into it.

There are so many repeat guest stars in this one I almost don’t know where to start. Angelo Pintero was also Dr. Bugger in “War of the Coprophages” (3×12). Martin Alpert was also in “Deep Throat” (1×2), “Sleepless” (2×4) and “731” (3×10). Kate Braidwood (Tom Braidwood’s daughter) makes and appearance in this one and will show up again in “The Pine Bluff Variant”. And finally, Harold’s attorney was the hilarious pathologist in “Shadows” (1×5) as well as Nurse Wilkins in “One Breath” (2×8). Not to mention, we’ll see her again in I Want to Believe.

Best Quotes:

Angelo Pintero: Look, I’m not making this up.
Mulder: No one is suggesting that you are, Mr. Pintero.
Angelo Pintero: I saw the look on her face.
Mulder: Can I ask you a favor? Can I get a soda, a cola, something like that?
Angelo Pintero: Sure. Yeah.
Mulder: What is that look, Scully?
Scully: I would have thought that after four years you’d know exactly what that look was.

————————

Karen Kosseff: You’ve kept working?
Scully: Yes. It’s been important to me.
Karen Kosseff: Why?
Scully: Why? Um… Agent Mulder has been concerned. He’s been supportive through this time.
Karen Kosseff: Do you feel that you owe it to him to continue working?
Scully: No. I guess I never realized how much I rely on him before this. His passion. He’s been a great source of strength that I’ve drawn on.

————————

Scully: I saw something Mulder.
Mulder: What?
Scully: The fourth victim. I saw her in the bathroom before you came to tell me.
Mulder: Why didn’t you tell me?
Scully: Because I didn’t want to believe it. Because I don’t want to believe it.
Mulder: Is that why you came down here? To prove that it wasn’t true?
Scully: No. I came down here because you asked me to.
Mulder: Why can’t you be honest with me?
Scully: What do you want me to say? That you’re right? That I believe it even if I don’t? I mean is that what you want?
Mulder: Is that what you think I want to hear?
Scully: No.
Mulder: You can believe what you want to believe, Scully, but you can’t hide the truth from me because if you do, then you’re working against me… and yourself. I know what you’re afraid of. I’m afraid of the same thing.
Scully: [Voice cracking] The doctor said I was fine.
Mulder: I hope that’s the truth.

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


My sentiments exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

No.

D

Questions:

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

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

Comments:

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

—————–

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

—————–

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

—————–

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

—————–

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

—————–

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