Tag Archives: Emily

I Want to Believe: I don’t think I’m the one who’s changed.


 

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This wasn’t the plan. Within a year of the series finale, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz were brainstorming an idea for the next installment in what everyone assumed would be The X-Files’ continuing feature film franchise. The release would be sometime in 2004. The fandom was out there.

But then, there were delays, and negotiations, and delays, and scheduling issues, and more delays… and a lawsuit. By the end of all that, Carter and Spotnitz were left to work with a small budget, an unsupportive studio, and a dwindling fan base; the cultural zeitgeist of the 90’s had passed and even if it hadn’t, Seasons 8 and 9 had laid waste to much of the public’s interest in The X-Files. Oh, and they lost all their plot notes so they had to scrap their previous ideas and start the script from scratch. Oh, and there was a writer’s strike during filming which meant they couldn’t fix any of the script’s problems.

I Want to Believe was a brainchild born under less than ideal circumstances. It’s little wonder then that it wafts whiffs of the smoke of disappointment. When I squint at it mentally, I see a middle aged man looking nostalgically back on his promising youth and trying to keep hope alive for the future.

But is it good?

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One plan that stayed alive from the beginning was to make this movie an extended Monster of the Week episode, a stand-alone, rather than write it as part of the larger mythology. This way audiences who didn’t know the series could get into it; it could generate general interest and pave the path for more films. As a fan who always leaned more toward the stand-alone episodes, I was and am all for this.

IWTB is an atmospheric, contained, pensive film. That’s what it needed to be, especially on a small budget. Personally, I wasn’t looking for loud explosions or dramatic special effects. I needed a Monster of the Week, not that was bigger and badder, but that was better than what I got in a typical episode.

To that end, the film is shot beautifully. The production went back to Vancouver and the director of photography from the series, Bill Roe, was brought back for this big screen effort so it looks like The X-Files. Someone new to the franchise would get a quick and easy idea of its trademark aesthetic. The setting, the chill, the darkness, it’s all perfect. And for a while, it convinces me I’m back home, imaginatively speaking.

But the difficulty in making this a MOTW is that it creates continuity issues for long time fans. When we last saw Mulder and Scully some six years previously, Mulder was on the run for his life after being given the death penalty by the F.B.I.. After being a part of the plan to help him escape, Scully ran off with him, and I don’t suppose she handed in her resignation either. We left them in a hotel room in New Mexico, hiding from an alien infiltrated government and on their way to Canada, ready to give everything in order to prevent alien colonization before D-Day 12/22/12.

In order for this to be a proper MOTW and still fit into the framework of the mythology, I assumed they would still be on the run or in hiding, but would somehow stumble upon an X-File, an outbreak of platonic paranormal activity or some such. I was sort of right about their being in hiding. Mulder’s hiding out in his home office while Scully lives openly, not under an assumed name, and works in a private Catholic hospital. There’s no underlying sense of urgency. (I’m sorry… when did the Super Soldiers stop posing a threat? I don’t need a mythology rundown, just a wee bit of context, please.)

After all that build up Season 9 about the government being out to kill Mulder, after Carter painted these two characters into the ultimate corner where they have no choice but to leave everything and everyone behind to take on the world by themselves, the threat is magically gone, just like Scully’s cancer, just like Mulder’s brain disease, and just like William. It’s safe for Mulder to walk into F.B.I. headquarters now. There are no Super Soldiers hiding in plain sight there. And the government doesn’t care about him one way or the other. “Just do us this favor and we’ll pretend none of it ever happened, Mulder.” Well, I’m going to do this plot a favor and pretend this issue was resolved in a much more satisfactory fashion.

In the grand scheme of things, how they get to this point is not a big deal. All that matters to me is that Mulder and Scully have an X-File to solve again. Mulder and Scully. Mulder and Scully.

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Is it too much to ask to see Mulder and Scully solve an interesting case… together? That’s all I want. That’s what I tuned into The X-Files to see every week. Instead we have Scully at first urging Mulder back into the land of the living only to retreat herself just as things get interesting. If IWTB is anything, it’s a character study, but not of Mulder, of Scully.

For first time viewers, it no doubt doesn’t matter. But for obsessive Philes, we know that Scully has a long history of being a paying passenger on Mulder’s crazy train. She’s briefly fantasized about normalcy in episodes like “Emily” (5×7) and “Dreamland” (6×4). And she’s questioned her life choices a few times in episodes like “Never Again” (4×13) and “all things” (7×17). But as in the ending of “all things”, she has reaffirmed her decision to continue tilting at windmills with Mulder over and over again. She did it, for example, in “Quagmire” (3×22), “Tooms” (1×20), “Paper Clip” (3×2), “Memento Mori” (4×15), Fight the Future, etc. etc. Scully wasn’t dragged into this quest and she hasn’t been dragged along. She’s invested in the journey.

Heck, she even reconfirmed her commitment in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). It’s a strange day indeed when I have to use TFWID as evidence of anything good and true…

Anyway, the last time we saw Scully in “The Truth” (9×19/20) she was doing what she does best after debunking Mulder’s theories and that’s keeping him in the fight, like she did in “Little Green Men” (2×1), “One Son” (6×12), and “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4), to mention a few episodes of note. Scully is the official Keeper of Mulder’s Faith. And that’s why reading between the lines of the script, I believe ITWB was designed to turn the tables, that it’s meant to show us a weary Scully who now has to be urged back into battle herself by Mulder and by God.

This is potentially a very interesting and welcome moment of personal evolution for her character. Characters, like real people (and Scully is real), evolve and change. But if Scully’s going to jump from “Let’s fight the darkness, Mulder” to “I don’t wanna fight the darkness, Mulder” then we need some kind of context as to how and why.

I remember in the script stage talking a lot about what Scully could say and couldn’t say to [Mulder], that it couldn’t be selfish, her refusal to join him and wanting him to stop. She had to have legitimate reasons about where she was in her life. – Spotnitz, Blu-ray Commentary

Did going on the lam test her faith and her patience? Did she miss her family? Is that why she and Mulder settled down and she took a regular job again? Scully says that she and Mulder have a home and that she doesn’t want the darkness to creep back into that home. Is it that she and Mulder have finally found happiness and she doesn’t want to lose it? Or is it the relative peace that she values? ‘Cause they don’t exactly look like they’re living in non-marital bliss…

Is it that she’s rediscovered her calling as a physician? Are we supposed to understand she’s found fulfillment elsewhere now that she and Mulder aren’t chasing monsters anymore and that her work helping others has replaced the necessity of her work on the X-Files? Maybe it’s her relationship with young Christian, who is not so subtly named “Christian” and comes to represent both her lost son and the Christian faith she questions as she thinks on both her own losses and this young boy’s suffering.

If all that is the case, then I’m sad to say it doesn’t prove particularly effective as character motivation. The fate of the wide world rests on Mulder and Scully’s shoulders, but having Mulder out of the house for this case is too much for her to take? So she threatens to leave the only person who understands everything she’s been through? The person who she’s saved and who has saved her more times than she can count? Really? Well just roll me into a ball of confusion.

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When did Scully become that chick? When did she become the clingy girlfriend or the stereotypical cop’s wife for whom no emergency is worth her husband missing dinner? The woman who from the outside male perspective doesn’t appear logical, but purely hormonal? Scully’s suddenly the type to emotionally manipulate Mulder into doing what she wants by holding their relationship over his head?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a very low tolerance for onscreen relationship drama. Breakup or don’t. I have things to do.

I think the tension between Mulder and Scully would have worked much better if it had stayed centered around the case. We’re used to seeing Mulder and Scully at odds. The tension between them comes from their different perspectives, which actually work in a sort of harmony to drive the plot forward. There’s no need to force feed us marital drama. If there’s tension between them, let it be about the work itself, not their personal romance.

After all, as ever, they’re ultimately after the same thing. Scully is trying to save a life and so is Mulder. Not only is she after the same thing, she’s going after it in the same way – by exploring extreme possibilities. Even if Scully is wrapped up in what she’s doing at the hospital, there’s no legitimate emotional reason given for why she wants Mulder to give up trying to save these women and come back home and be a good househusband. (Oh, are you losing Mulder’s attention? I am so sorry.)

But that’s enough of my sarcasm because this isn’t a horrible movie. In fact, it starts off really well. There’s a creepy murder. Mulder and Scully are on a new mission – the team is back together. Mark Snow’s music is as effective as ever. It’s dark, it’s atmospheric, Mulder’s spouting mumbo jumbo nobody cares about and Scully looks worried about him. All is well in my world.

I especially like how the movie keeps us guessing as to the current status of Mulder and Scully’s relationship. Is it just that she knows how to find him for the F.B.I. or that they’re in regular contact? Are they in regular contact or is she at home in that house? Even at the end of the movie, is Scully moving out and saying goodbye or is she leaving for another day at work? See how things don’t have to be out in the open to stay interesting?

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Unfortunately, though, the movie hops over the boredom line at about the halfway mark. As the relationship drama ramps up, the mystery itself winds down. Instead of taking time to develop the villain or up the stakes of the plot, IWTB focuses on Mulder and Scully’s adventures with the peodophile priest. Father Joe is played convincingly and even sympathetically by Billy Connolly. But the overall plot is sacrificed to the themes of persistence and redemption that Father Joe represents. I love those themes, but isn’t there still supposed to be a mystery here worth solving?

Father Joe is here more than anything to be the voice of God for Scully, to convince her not to give up on young Christian or her faith. But, Scully’s like the prophet Jonah. Some people she’d rather not see God forgive. There can’t be a more unregenerate soul than a priest turned pedophile, right? If so, then the theme that absolutely anyone can be redeemed and anyone who presents themselves available can be used by God comes through loud and clear. By the end, Scully seems to have accepted the message on behalf of us all. 

As ever in The X-Files, God, Providence is at work behind the events. These are themes Chris Carter keeps coming back to, no doubt because they’re a part of him.

Verdict:

It’s not great, it’s not horrible. It’s just okay. But “okay” isn’t a satisfying comeback after six years. And “okay” doesn’t get you a third movie.

I remember seeing this in the theater for my 25th birthday. One of my best friends had come down to help me celebrate my quarter life crisis and what perfect timing! Mulder and Scully were back. After the way Season 9 ended and the amount of time that had passed, I had assumed all momentum was gone and that there would be no movie franchise forthcoming. Imagine the thrill when I found out we were getting a new movie, and a MOTW at that!

I was duly giddy with excitement, but I couldn’t help noting that we were about the only ones in the theater. And while the movie started out great, even as I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was happy to be seeing Mulder and Scully onscreen even when I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying myself, I knew even then that this wasn’t the kind of movie that spawned yet another movie. Mulder and Scully waved to me and I waved back to them (shamelessly) with the sad knowledge that this likely really was the end this time.

And then it wasn’t…

“I think we always had the desire that we would potentially do a third feature. I think we all felt that the second one that we did wasn’t necessarily the right way for us to end.” – Gillian Anderson

“I feel like we didn’t end on the right note before.“ – Gillian Anderson

I so agree. And I’m so, so grateful that it didn’t end here. If this had been a mediocre episode of the series, I could’ve shrugged off some of its failings much easier. When I thought it was The X-Files’ last gasp, it was a more painful thought. I’ve gone through ups and downs in my feelings about IWTB, but I think I’ve finally learned to accept it for what it is.  IWTB sounds like an instrument tuning back up. But you don’t listen to the orchestra tune up without then sitting through the concert. This was The X-Files getting a feel for itself again. This was the actors connecting with the characters again. This wasn’t a fully satisfying outing that left you feeling like Mulder and Scully’s journey was complete.

In the end, I’m glad IWTB wasn’t sufficient to launch another movie. In the end, the only satisfying way to finish out this series is to finish it out as a series. A couple of hours of screen time isn’t going to cut it to resolve everything that needs to be resolved. We don’t know where this new miniseries will lead, if it will lead to other miniseries. But if I can see the old team solving cases together one more time, it’ll all be worth it.

C+

Misplaced Bush Jokes:

“This stubbornness of yours… it’s why I fell in love with you.” I HATE this line. It’s the low point of the movie and one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the entire franchise. And no, I’m not surrendering my shipper card.

Enough with the free ads for Google. Google’s doing just fine on its own.

Realistically, this stood no chance being released during The Dark Knight’s massive reign.

A gay man kills innocent people to harvest limbs for transplant for his lover as part of a Russian medical conspiracy. They really thought that would work as a plot, huh?

Amanda Peet and Xzibit don’t feel like X-Files characters.

Speaking of which, what was the point of Agent Whitney’s toothless Mulder crush? I mean, other than kinda grossing me and Scully out?

Scully’s abilities as a doctor were always suspect given her resume. But when did she find time while on the run from the government to undergo training in pediatrics? And now the pathologist is poking around in the brains of the living? Scully does a quick Google search then wheels the boy into the OR for an experimental procedure the same day?

And, really? We’re going to bring Scully back to Seasons 1 & 3 with the “Samantha is Mulder’s only motivation” schtick?

THE BEARD, THO.

I can’t believe the Russians would successfully do those surgeries in those kind of unsanitary conditions.

“Write it down. Put it in a book.” – HUH???

William left me with an emptiness that couldn’t be filled either. Let’s see what happens now…

Dear Revival – As you can see, we’ve already been there, done that with the breakup idea.

Movin’ On Up:

The Skinner Hug. Squeal me.

I remember the actress who plays the missing agent from “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6). TPMP – My eternal debt to Chris Carter.

Between this and TPMP, it’s clear Chris Carter has a Frankenstein fetish.

Father Joe can’t have visions with Scully in the room. Echoes of the Stupendous Yappi in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4).

The hospital asks Scully to let go of her case, Scully asks Mulder to let go of his.

I love the effortless elegance of Scully’s hair.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: If it were me, I’d be on the guy 24/7, I’d be in bed with him kissing his holy ass.

Whitney: Father Joe’s a convicted pedophile.

Mulder: …Maybe I’d stay out of bed with him.

——————–

Scully: What is this?

Whitney: Dorms for habitual sex offenders.

Scully: Dorms?

Whitney: They manage the complex and police themselves. Father Joe lives here voluntarily with his roommate.

Mulder: Just avoid the activities room.

——————–

Scully: What are you doing?

Mulder: [Walks off] I’m trying to ignore you. {Editor’s Note: ME TOO.}

——————–

Skinner: I know Mulder. He’d get to a phone and call first. He wouldn’t do anything crazy.

Scully: [Looks at him]

Skinner: Not overly crazy.

 

Per Manum 8×8: Don’t make me guess.


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Never give up on a miracle.

Questions. I have so, so many questions.

I don’t know if this will end up being a review or a loosely organized series of interrogatives. You have been warned.

Season 8 has a glaring problem, other than the absence of Mulder, a startling trend that I’ve noticed. Instead of propelling the story forward with new developments, it goes back to plots that the audience thought they understood and turns them inside out by reinventing the past. This is a shortcut to drama since 1013 already knows that we’re emotionally invested in Mulder and Scully and the things that they’ve been through. But it’s potentially dangerous because this method of manufacturing interest by pulling the rug out from under your audience creates instability. They’ve already done it once with the “Mulder was dying” plot. Now they’re doing it again with Scully’s baby.

“Per Manum” exists mainly to rock any assumptions we might have naturally made about the paternity of Scully’s baby. When we first found out about the baby in the Season 7 finale “Requiem” (7×22), it had already been confirmed in “all things” (7×17) that Mulder and Scully were sleeping together and based on that knowledge and Scully’s choice of words and facial expressions when she announces her pregnancy to Skinner, it was safe to assume that Scully at least believed she had conceived this baby with Mulder the old fashioned way. She was supposed to have been barren so it was a shock, but it was a happy shock, a miracle.

Then comes Season 8 when 1013 tries to convince us that nothing was ever as it seemed. Mulder and Scully weren’t as blissfully happy as they looked in Season 7. Mulder was dying almost that whole time.

Yes, I got that memo.

Now, they’re telling us that not only is the paternity of Scully’s baby up in the air, the circumstances leading up to the conception cast doubt not only on the timeline of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, but even on if it was what we thought it was.

It all starts off with Scully remembering a conversation with Mulder on an elevator. This is the first we’ve seen Mulder and Scully together since “Requiem” and what should be one of my happiest fangirl moments ever is… awkward. It’s actually awkward. I mean David Duchovny looks physically uncomfortable taking part in this ridiculous conversation in which best friends and possible lovers discuss fertility failures and an ova rescue.

Scully admits to Mulder that she’s a little upset over hearing the news that she’s definitely barren. Mulder then admits to Scully that he funky poached her ova back in “Memento Mori” (4×15) and has been hiding them and the secret that they’re no good from Scully.

Scratch the record.

I’m sorry, but didn’t Mulder already confess that to Scully in front of a judge in “Emily” (5×7)?

Right. Moving on.

So Scully gets a second opinion and visits Dr. Parenti. How did that wind up happening? How did she just happen to end up with a doctor who specializes in implanting alien fetuses in women who are alien abductees? I say alien fetuses, but I’m supposed to be assuming that these are a part of the alien-human hybrid experiments, yes? Those experiments are continuing even though the Syndicate is dead, plans for colonization are continuing and the aliens have been criss crossing the country to destroy all evidence of the hybridization project as of “Within” (8×1)? Who is continuing these experiments and why? And how did they manipulate Scully into visiting Dr. Parenti originally?

Regardless of what I don’t know, Scully is told that she might have a shot, she just needs to find a semen donor. Naturally, she asks Mulder, a moment which wisely takes place off screen. Mulder gives it some thought before agreeing and they have an incredibly lovely interaction that makes up for their previous scene together and that leaves me totally confused.

This must take place in Season 7. I know it can’t be so far out as Season 6 because the treatments have to be recent enough before Scully’s pregnancy in order for them to be a viable option for how she got pregnant. That means it would make the most sense for this conversation to take place late in Season 7. Late in Season 7 we know that Mulder and Scully were romantically involved.

Yet the vibe here between Mulder and Scully, while as close as ever, is not one of lovers. Their relationship is left ambiguous – on purpose, I’m sure. But if Mulder and Scully were already in an exclusive romantic relationship, would she ask him to help her have a baby or would she in effect be asking him to start a family? Would Mulder’s response be that he’s flattered, or rather would it be strange for her to want to have anyone else’s baby when she’s in a relationship with him? Would Mulder be worried whether her carrying his baby would come between them, or would he be worried about whether he’d even get to see the baby seeing as how he’s dying and he probably won’t live long enough for it to come between them?

Maybe they were lovers before this conversation, maybe after. Who knows? 1013 is purposefully playing coy with the cannon. It’s like, oh, I dunno, they want us to keep watching to the end of the season to receive confirmation that Mulder and Scully are an item and that this is their baby. Funny. I thought we’d been there done that in Season 7. Whatever. I have more questions.

If Scully had been receiving IVF treatments, and receiving them recently enough that she believed this pregnancy could possibly be a result of them, why would she look so shocked at the end of “Requiem” (7×22)? Gillian Anderson didn’t play that scene like a woman who had been trying to get pregnant and found out that despite what the doctors had told her she was successful. She played it like a woman who thought pregnant was the last thing in the world she would ever be.

I just… I can’t. My head hurts.

After all my questions, only one really matters: Scully became pregnant per manum, by hand, but was it by the hand of man or the hand of God?

Verdict:

Hello, mythology! Where did you go? Are we going to continue to explore this theme? Is this the next stage? Are they going to take this elaborate conspiracy anywhere, or does this plot merely serve as a means to make us worry about Scully’s pregnancy and question the paternity of her baby? Why do I suspect it’s the latter?

Well, I’m not giving up on my miracle. Whatever ridiculata may surround them, Mulder and Scully are gold. Pure gold. That thing that they have that resists definition, it’s a gift from God to television watchers everywhere. There was that hiccup on the elevator, sure, but the rest of their scenes together only reminded me how much I miss their connection. I also desperately miss Mulder and the humor and humanity he brought to the show. I may or may not have sobbed his name several times during the watching of “Per Manum”.

If there’s any bright side to the unnecessary drama it’s Gillian Anderson’s performance. In the opening shot after the teaser, she shows us a beautiful mixture of wonder and joy and sadness as Scully contemplates the life growing inside her and the absence of its presumed father. Then there’s a brilliant shot of Scully over the shoulder of Mr. Haskell as he recounts his wife’s story. You see Scully’s face shift from skepticism to recognition as the camera pans across Mr. Haskell from behind. That was a bit of brilliance. Thank you, Kim Manners.

And that’s it. I’ve worn myself out. All I have left to say is that mind games are fine in their place, but when you change the past to fit the present, chaos ensues.

B+

Even More Questions:

Scully was afraid the F.B.I. would force her to stop looking for Mulder if they found out she was pregnant. Well, they’re going to find out soon no matter what, so it’s high time she got a move on before she starts showing and she’s physically unable to look for Mulder. There’s been a time crunch this whole time that Season 8 has ignored.

Scully’s only fourteen weeks along? Huh? Scully found out she was pregnant in May. We know this episode is after the date on the pre-recorded ultrasound tape. That means it takes place in late November at the earliest. Baby timeline…. I give up.

How did Miss Hendershot know about Scully and where she lived?

Why did Skinner and Scully call Doggett out in the middle of the night just to tell him that Scully was taking leave? If you weren’t going to tell him anything, you could’ve not told him at the office.That said, by telling him earlier that Dr. Parenti was her doctor, wasn’t Scully admitting to being pregnant anyway? Why get shy now?

The conspirators appear to have wanted access to Scully all along which is why they sent Haskell and were willing to give up Miss Hendershot and her baby to get at Scully. But didn’t they already have access to Scully through Dr. Parenti? Why warn Scully that something might be wrong with her baby at all? She would be completely pliable if she remained ignorant.

Comments:

Anne!! It’s Anne! Megan Follows from Anne of Green Gables plays the doomed Mrs. Haskell in the opening teaser. That series of books was my first true love. Ah, I love it when obsessions collide.

We as the audience know this wasn’t all in Scully’s head. We saw the alien babies. We heard Haskell’s phone call and we know the doctors or somebody is after Scully’s baby. That would only be the case if they believed her baby to be alien.

That Duffy Haskell twist was a good one.

The actor who plays Duffy Haskell was also in “Demons” (4×23). It’s good to see an actor from the Vancouver era again.

This marks the first appearance of Knowle Rohrer.

It’s good to realize that Scully is vulnerable in her condition. You feel for her and are scared with her.

Did you spot Mark Snow?

Best Quotes:

Doggett: Your assistant said you were going to get right back to me about this David Haskell fingerprint.
Knowle Rohrer: I’ve got a day job, John. The government gets suspicious if I work at too fast a pace.

Season 5 Wrap Up – Do you think it’s too soon to get my own 1-900 number?


"A Howler? But this isn't Harry Potter..."

Season 5 is The X-Files at the height of its powers.

I couldn’t possibly tick off all of the memorable moments: Mulder and Scully dancing in “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6), Mulder nearly eating Scully’s hand off in “Redux II” (5×3), Scully jonesing for buck teeth in “Bad Blood” (5×12), Stephen King joining the party in “Chinga” (5×10), Scully hunting for bimbos in “Kill Switch” (5×11). I’m teary-eyed with nostalgia just thinking about it all.

No. Really. I am.

However, I don’t want to drench you all with my gushing. So before I get too carried away, let me lay out the one main negative, if you can call it that, which Season 5 has.

Frankly, there are fewer significant mythology events than in seasons past. As far as revelations go, compare it to Season 3 where there was both a fresh answer and a fresh mystery every mythology episode then it comes up lacking. Episodes like “Christmas Carol”/”Emily”, “Patient X”/”The Red and the Black” and even my beloved “Redux”/”Redux II” were more like character studies disguised as mytharc than they were plot progressors.

Not that the plot of the mythology stayed stagnant, oh no. Krycek returned from the hallowed halls of a Russian concentration camp only to become Well-Manicured Man’s errand boy. Cigarette-Smoking Man’s fellow conspirators attempt to have him assassinated and fail only to bring him back when they fail at yet another assassination. Scully finds out she’s barren and discovers she has a child only to lose her and return to childlessness. Mulder went from belief in extra-terrestrials, to disbelief, and back again. But all this amounts to is shuffling.

Where’s the sense of deepening mystery? It’s there. It just comes in the form of new faces rather than old favorites.

The Alien Rebels: Who are they? Why are they fighting against the colonists and killing innocent abductees in the process? Most importantly, how is it that they look like The Alien Bounty Hunter after an attack by angry Silly Putty?

Jeffrey Spender: CSM is his deadbeat father. It may be too little too late to turn that relationship around, but CSM’s sure trying by secretly pulling strings in order that Jeffrey can more quickly advance at the F.B.I… at Mulder’s expense. Jeffrey isn’t quite a villain, but he’s not shaping up to be Mulder’s best friend either. It’s doubtful he has any idea who CSM really is. What will he do when he finds out?

Cassandra Spender: Currently MIA. If CSM is her baby daddy, that automatically lends credence to her tall tales of (benevolent?) alien abductors. But what’s his angle in all this? And was he ever married to the woman? It’s not easy picturing them together at the family table.

Gibson Praise: The Official Key to Everything. Gibson’s “more human than human” mind hasn’t saved him from the machinations of the Syndicate. Mulder’s proof has been snatched from his grasp yet again, but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of this munchkin.

Diana Fowley: We haven’t seen the last of her either. She drops out of nowhere, mainly to stir the pot between Mulder and Scully. Could she serve another, slightly less nefarious purpose as well?

See? It isn’t all fun and games. There are actual developments occurring as well. But Chris Carter can’t give too much away when major excitement has to be reserved for the upcoming feature film. Instead, he’s maneuvering his pawns into place so that they’ll be in the right position for the movie and then for the season beyond it. Mulder has to believe in aliens again or how can he chase them? CSM has to come back from the dead or what will the film do for a villain? Scully has to be childless or, what’s she going to do? Stick the kid in daycare while she dallies across the big screen with Mulder for two hours?

Trouble is, he has to create something intriguing enough to make you run to your local theater, present something in said theater that will satisfy long-time viewers and attract fresh meat, then bring it all home for the new season opener in such a way that both the previous season’s finale and the stand-alone movie both make sense. I get anxious just thinking about it.

I won’t yet speak for the movie or the seasons to come, but in regards to Season 5, all I can say is that I’m truly and well satisfied. Nearly every episode is a fun-filled adventure. There is the occasional, expected hiccup (“Shizogeny”, I’m looking at you.), but overall it’s hour after hour of solid television – that is when it isn’t being hour after hour of amazing television.

But Enough About Trivialities:

If you haven’t already read, and if you’ve read you’ve probably read it so many times your eyes are strained with rolling, I have a theory that Mulder Scully-crushed Season 5. Her cancer is gone, the clouds have broken, Mulder’s interactions/reactions to his partner have been noticeably tinged with boyish admiration. Sure, one or two of those sentimental moments I could write off as Shipper fantasy. But four, five and six? I see a trend.

So, what say you?

And last but not least, the Awards…

“The Well-Intentioned Misstep”

Emily

“Underappreciated and Underwatched”

The Pine Bluff Variant

AND

Folie à Deux

“Please, sir, I want some more”

Detour

“The Riskiest Experiment”

Travelers

“Best Cameo Performance”

Unusual Suspects

“Biggest Disappointment”

Kitsunegari

“The Mini Summer Blockbuster”

Kill Switch

“Pure, Unadulterated Television Joy”

The Post-Modern Prometheus

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!

Emily 5×7: Now, are you two the parents?


A Toy Story.

Emily just isn’t that interesting. Yeah, I said it. “Emily” the episode isn’t much better.

To start with, one of these days I’m going to make a top 5 list of worst opening monologues. This one is an obvious contender for the prize. Usually, they leave me rolling my eyes but this one actually makes me gag a little. For some reason, all that shifting sand reminds me of the hourglass from the opening of Days of our Lives. Worse, Scully’s reading sounds like the Dear Diary entry of a 13-year-old.

I don’t buy this new version of Scully who’s all alone in life with no one to understand her. Scully may be a little distant, a little protective of herself, but is she really that pathetic? She had a close, if sometimes volatile relationship with her sister. Her mother may be very different from her but she seems to understand her almost better than she does herself. I don’t think I even need to go into the depth of her relationship with Mulder. No, I don’t think there’s any valid explanation for this turn in characterization accept that it makes a nice backdrop for gaining and losing the unconditional love of a child. Whether or not being able to raise Emily would have truly left Scully any less isolated we’ll never actually know.

Emily, the enigmatic child of the enigmatic doctor who was never meant to be, actually has her origins explained more clearly than one would dare hope for The X-Files. Not that the writers didn’t dance around the answers for as long as they could hold out the note.

We had this conversation back in the comments section of “Memento Mori” (4×15) before, but sometimes The X-Files has this habit of resorting to hilariously obtuse dialogue. To quote MScully:

“Generic example with made up but probably not too far from accurate dialogue:
[Scully has just discovered something earth-shattering that she must share with Mulder immediately!]
Scully: Mulder, I’ve found something. Something unbelievable. Something I’m still trying to understand. Something I just can’t quite believe…
Mulder: What is it, Scully?

For real! What is it! If you discovered something that profound, wouldn’t you just call him up and SAY it?”

In hindsight, that’s almost prophetic because in this episode we have:

Scully: Then why are you here?
Mulder: Because I know something that I haven’t said, something that they’ll use against you to jeopardize your custody of Emily. No matter how much you love this little girl, she was a miracle that was never meant to be, Scully.

Oh, out with it, man!

But silly dialogue aside and in all seriousness, both “Christmas Carol” (5×5) and “Emily” suffer a bit from the same syndrome as “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). It’s hard to accept a one-off character as being a major part of our central characters’ lives. The relationship between Scully and her “daughter” Emily is so complicated that it leans more toward awkward than touching. How does Scully feel about suddenly becoming a mother? How should she feel? And how are we as the audience supposed to feel about the situation?

“I felt in the end that I was a little low energy, a little too melancholy. It was hard to find the right attitude for Scully in dealing with a child that’s apparently hers; to find the right flavor of relationship to her and this disease she’s going through, all mixed up with the aspect of the paranormal. Another trouble was that she had no history with this child so I couldn’t play the kind of attachment I would feel if my own daughter, Piper, were going through the same thing.” – Gillian Anderson (Meisler, Andy (1999). Resist or Serve: The Official Guide to the X-Files Volume 4. Harper Prism. pp. 70–71.)

I hate to say it, but that vagueness shows. Honestly, in a real way it works because how else could Scully feel except uncertain about how she should feel? The situation is too impossible for anything more concrete. The only thing that’s certain is that Scully wants justice for this little girl. Not that this is unusual for Scully whose fighting spirit shows up whenever she sees someone in need of an advocate. But it’s personal this time. She wants to protect her baby… and Mulder wants to protect his… and I mean that in the most platonic way possible. Sort of.

Mulder, who was reduced to a cameo appearance last episode, is making up for it by inserting himself everywhere this time around. He’s holding evil clones at gunpoint, flirting with old women, and ruining science experiments. And while his compassion for Emily is on his sleeve the whole time, he makes it clear that his first priority is making sure that Scully’s alright. Even his efforts to get help for Emily feel more like efforts to get Scully what she wants: a life with her little girl. What we have here is a follow up to the guilt we first saw from him over Scully’s barren condition in “Memento Mori”.

I agree with him. While she’s fighting a deadly disease is probably not the proper time to tell your closest friend that you have a vial of her ova in your pocket. Neither was when she was on her death bed. And why would you ruin the joy of her miraculous recovery by bringing up sterility in conversation? Poor Mulder found himself stuck with this secret.

…Or so he thinks. Scully already figured out that she’s barren and why (my puzzlement over that is below). So why Mulder doesn’t decide to tell her now that there’s hope, that he has her ova chilling out in his fridge is beyond me. Maybe once Emily dies, the moment has passed yet again.

Speaking of death, I’m not sure how I feel about Mulder and Scully’s choices at the end of this one. It harkens back to Melissa Scully’s argument for taking Scully off the respirator in “One Breath” (2×8), that sometimes we go to far by artificially preserving a life that should end, but what about preserving a life that could be painful? Is that the same thing?

It’s doubtful the mysterious green substance Mulder found would have ultimately saved Emily. The effect would probably only have lasted till the next dose was due. And then what would Mulder and Scully have done? Chased down more Bounty Hunters till they got their hands on some more? But it’s still interesting to think of the “What Ifs.” Maybe Mulder wondered what if Scully could have held her child a little longer.

But just like in “Memento Mori”, Mulder is still keeping secrets, still trying to protect Scully from heartache to the best of his meager ability. Once again, Mulder’s left holding the vial.

And the Verdict is…

I hate this episode a lot less than I let on. In fact, I don’t hate it at all, I just wouldn’t turn it on “just because.”

What with the advent of William, the tragedy of Emily has been all but forgotten. Maybe if this two-episode arc had been more monumental, the story of Emily and her potential identical sisters would have been revisited. But despite this episode’s best intentions and a solid performance from Gillian Anderson, this is a plot lacking in emotional investment. There’s something too surreal about Emily’s existence for it to pack a power punch.

To its credit, “Emily” is livelier than the melancholy “Christmas Carol”, though not by much. The climax is barely distinguishable from the rest of the story, but the music cue changes, so there you go.

B

Nags:

Mulder acts like the fact that Scully has never given birth is proof of conspiracy, but objectively, that wouldn’t prove that Scully hadn’t at one time given/sold her ova willingly.

How in the heck does Frohike know what hormones pregnant women have in abundance? I know the Lone Gunmen are almost an encyclopedic resource when it comes to some subjects, but that’s just too much. That sounds like a line that would have originally given to Scully before a script rearrangement.

There are so many issues with these elderly women carrying babies to term. Merely doping them with hormones wouldn’t be enough to combat their frailty, or the large number of risks involved when older women give birth, assuming they’re even giving birth since the babies seem to be growing outside the womb. And on that note, since they’re ultimately going into test tubes, why not just raise them from the beginning in a petrie dish? Why use the women at all?

So, Scully knew that she was barren because of her abduction, but she didn’t realize they had extracted her ova? It doesn’t make sense that the doctors figured out she couldn’t have children without investigating why. We’re not talking about a woman who was actively trying to conceive children so this isn’t a condition they would randomly stumble upon, they would have had to check her out.

Heres and Theres:

What if you were raised to believe you were a normal human child and then later found out what you were? How were the other clones and hybrids that we met in “Colony” (2×16) and “Herrenvolk” (4×1) raised?

Sorry. We’ve already done the moving fetus thing. I didn’t jump this time, I was only counting the seconds till Mulder did.

We haven’t seen the Bounty Hunter in a while and we still don’t get to see him in his true form. Now there are at least two of them.

Best Quotes:

Frohike: [On the Phone] Are you in adoption services, Mulder?
Mulder: No, I’m at the maternity ward.
Frohike: Any… fetching young mothers in there?
Mulder: Yeah, I think you might have a shot here, Frohike. You know anything about pharmaceuticals?
Frohike: Medicinal or… recreational?

———————

Scully: Who were the men who would create a life whose only hope is to die?
Mulder: I don’t know. But that you found her and you had a chance to love her… maybe she was meant for that too.

Christmas Carol 5×5: She must’ve dialed 1-800-The-Great-Beyond.


Visions of Sugar Plums??

A rare glimpse into Scully’s life outside of the X-Files confirms that she’s just as reserved off the job as she is professionally. Can we blame her? The Scully family table, seen again for the second time since “Gethsemene” (4×24), isn’t exactly the warmest place in the world. You could cut the underlying tensions with the proverbial butcher’s knife.

It’s Christmas time in X-Files land. You know what that means: Ghosts.

Well, maybe not a physical one exactly.

I’ve never given much credence to the “Scully as Latent Psychic” interpretation of The X-Files, but I must say, the woman does see/hear an awful lot of dead people. First she has a vision of her father right after his death in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12), then she dreams of Mulder barely back from the dead in “The Blessing Way” (3×1), next she sees dead strangers in “Elegy” (4×22), and now in “Christmas Carol”, she’s receiving phone calls from beyond the grave care of a deceased sister who was creepier alive than she is dead.

At this rate, I’d say Scully averages about one dead vision per season. We could also count her hospital visions in “One Breath” (2×8), but then she was already half dead herself. Even so, I can’t help but think of “One Breath” when I watch this two-episode arc, not only because Melissa Scully makes a return appearance, but because they’re both lessons in death, or more specifically, conversations on whether or not it’s more humane to preserve life or allow it to end. Oh, and then there are all the “Baby Dana” flashbacks…

Speaking of “Baby Dana”, it would seem that even as a child Scully was the type to keep her thoughts to herself, at least that’s the picture that’s painted for us here. There’s a trend that started in Season 4 with Scully’s cancer where Scully is progressively characterized as isolated and even somewhat anti-social. Oh, she’s not lacking in social graces the was Mulder is, but we get the feeling as time passes that she’s a little trapped in her own head.

I’m not sure what brought this characterization on, exactly, except that it created more drama during her cancer arc for Scully to keep her emotions to herself and then it continued from there. If you look at Season 1, particularly in episodes like “Squeeze” (1×2), “The Jersey Devil” (1×4) and “Lazarus” (1×14), we get the impression that Scully likes and is liked by people. Over the course of this current two-parter, the Scully we meet acts like she’s never had a friend in the world.

So then what about Mulder? It looks like there are aspects of herself that Scully is still unwilling to share. I’m not so sure that makes her isolated and alone so much as it makes her a normal human being. How could you possibly fully explain the workings of your own heart to another living soul? We’re too complicated for that, but I digress.

Scully reverts back a little to her old ways with Mulder, wanting to reach out to him but hanging up the phone instead. Is she too proud to admit she needs help and support? Does she not want to sound crazier than he does? Probably both, but we’ll never know exactly. Scully’s relationship with Mulder is hardly the focus of this episode.

And so to the crux of the matter: I can honestly say that in my teenage naïveté I didn’t originally see the twist coming at the end, and I should have. But I must say that I believe I stifled a groan at Scully’s microwave pack of Instant Motherhood intruding into my X-Files world.

Not that the topic of Scully and motherhood is completely sudden. Ever since a carefully crafted conversation on a public bench in “Home” (4×3) the topic has been up for discussion, even more so since Mulder literally stumbled upon the secret of Scully’s infertility in “Memento Mori” (4×15).  Now that Scully’s cancer plot is behind us, it’s only right that we watch her deal with the emotional aftermath and her fertility is as good a place as any to start.

And yet… even after all these years I’m still not sold on the idea of Scully becoming a mother out of the clear blue sky. We’re not even talking about an ooey, gooey little baby that she has to accept, but a fully formed child well into her developmental years. And Emily is so lacking in interest and personality… Can Scully really feel such an instant, strong connection to a stranger? Can we as the audience feel connected enough to the child to believe that she is Scully’s? Can we even enjoy them together? I can only speak for myself when I say that later on, watching Scully’s motherhood being just as suddenly stripped away only adds to my sense that it didn’t belong to begin with.

Verdict:

This one is a bit of a Christmas fantasy of sorts. Who hasn’t wished that they could hear a lost loved one’s voice on the line one last time? Who hasn’t been afraid they’d forget the nuances, the timber of that voice before too much time had passed? For exploring that idea alone I’ll give this episode the most credit.

Okay, so “Christmas Carol” is not one of my favorite episodes of Season 5. It’s a little… subdued for my taste since, if you’ve read my reviews at all, I’m a sucker for an exciting, adventuresome X-File. Give me a romp in the deep, dark woods anytime. In comparison, this sleepy little story doesn’t make my finger twitch over the rewind button.

But another part of me is quite proud that this show can vary itself so drastically from week to week. We just went from a black and white fantasy horror fest to a quiet, contemplative and incredibly contained mystery in a mere 7 days. If that’s not good television I don’t know what is.

There’s one thing that still nags at me: Where are all the other little Emilys? Surely the Syndicate, responsible for clones upon drones, didn’t stop at one little Uber Scully.

B

Flotsam and Jetsam:

Wait, when did Scully learn she can’t have kids and more than that, when did she find out that her abduction was the cause? Mulder knew as of “Memento Mori” , but he doesn’t tell Scully about that little discovery of his until “Emily” (5×7) and even then he doesn’t explain in detail until Season 7. Sure, her doctors could have told her there was something wrong, but how did she know it was a result of her abduction and that her sterility wasn’t brought about by her cancer treatments?

I know I’m cold-hearted, but Scully giving Emily her cross so easily always irked me.

This has to be one of Gillian Anderson’s best looking episodes ever. Well, except for that jacked up weave they put on her head.

It’s comforting to know Bill Scully, Jr. was always a punk, even in childhood.

It’s amazing how streamlined the adoption process was made for Scully. Then there’s the fact that the things Scully confesses to the caseworker would have gotten her name scratched off of any respectable list. Ah, the miracle of creative license.

“Danny” still makes an appearance at this late date.

Best Quotes:

Mini Scully: This has got to be it! It’s got to be “Hotel California!”

———————–

Bill Scully, Jr.: You really think Melissa had a baby?
Scully: Yes. I do.
Bill Scully, Jr.: She called you from beyond the grave to tell you that? Sounds like something that partner of yours would say.

———————–

Tara Scully: Oh! Oh, that was a good one!
Bill Scully, Jr.: What? Is he kicking?
Tara Scully: Oh, he’s kicking! He’s kick-boxing! Well you had boys and girls, so which one kicked more?
Margaret Scully: Oh, I had some pretty tough little girls.

———————–

Scully: I don’t believe in fate. I think we have to choose our own path.
Melissa Scully: Well, just don’t mistake the path with what’s really important in life.
Scully: Which is what?
Melissa Scully: The people you’re gonna meet along the way. You don’t know who you’re gonna meet when you join the F.B.I. You don’t know how your life is gonna change… or how you are gonna change the life of others.