Tag Archives: Familiar

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


 

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Homie don’t play ‘dat.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

I’ll take it.

B+

Clown Shoes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

Scully: Thanks for backing me up out there.

Mulder: Yeah, you’re my homie.

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Rm9sbG93ZXJz 11×7: Intruder alert.


 

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Run before the computers start talking for you too.

 

First, I just want to say it: The title of this episode is obnoxious. Apparently, it translates to “Followers” in Base64. Which makes sense as I was wondering why the name of the unmanned restaurant Mulder and Scully ate at was “Follower” or “Followers” in Japanese. How’s that for a heavy-handed hint?

Second, I have to say it: I saw Kristen Cloke’s name in the credits and cold shuddered. Yes, I’m happy to see women writers on The X-Files. No, I haven’t forgotten “The Field Where I Died” (4×5) and the love affair between her and Glen Morgan that birthed it. Yes, I wish them all the best. No, I would prefer not to be reminded of a previous television trauma.

Third, I’m going to confess: The reason this review is late is not that I didn’t watch [insert name here] on the night that it aired and not because I didn’t type up my initial musings that same evening. No. I haven’t bothered to post this review or the review for “Familiar” (11×8) because I’ve been too busy binge-watching The X-Files, The Real X-Files, to stop and slide backwards (forwards?) into entertainment darkness.

In my defense, my intentions were innocent. The overall taste of disappointment and disillusionment this revival has left in my mouth drove me back to the Pilot (1×79). I had to make sure I had seen what I knew I had once seen. I’ve been obsessed with this show for two decades for a reason, dangit. I know there was magic here once.

So off to the Pilot I went. And you know what? There it was. The Magic. Or should I say, there were several different types of Magic gelled to form an overall Magic. Well, one magical exploration led to another, and another, and another. And before I knew it, I was popping episodes like Pringles and I couldn’t stop. I mean, you don’t understand. This was one of those binge-watches where you’re falling asleep and you keep nodding off and rewinding and nodding off and rewinding because your mind won’t let you rest until you know what happens at the end of the episode.

You see the curiosity here? I already know what happens at the end of every episode.

My word. This stuff is like visual crack.

Anyway.

Back to the cold reality of The X-Files in 2018. Writers Shannon Hamblin and Kristen Cloke are taking us where every sci-fi franchise known to man, including The X-Files, has already taken us. (Though I still contend that The X-Files was never truly science fiction, only touching on it occasionally, but was instead more of a romantic mythical quest wrapped up in a paranormal fantasy.) I still remember some bogusly deep paper for a film class in college about some random 70s movie where the AI that ran a “smart house” ran amok a la HAL 9000. You know what? Scully’s Roomba-by-another-name is no HAL. And you know what else? After this latest binge-fest I’ve been on, I think my initial takeaway from this episode was correct, that this episode is too based in reality to recreate the fantastical magic that The X-Files had at the height of its powers. If I laughed at all, it’s because I was ruefully reminded of my own father’s struggles with Alexa, not because I was joyfully taken by surprise. If you’re going to go somewhere with a story, go somewhere right on the edge of an unseen world and partially peel back the curtain, because I’m sitting in a room with a Smartphone, a Roomba, and goodness knows what else and I’m neither afraid nor intimidated since I already know it’s not that bad. Sheesh.

Verdict:

This experiment in minimal dialogue is a cool concept, especially on a famously talky show. But after a minute, it felt forced and gimmicky. They get trapped in a building together and don’t talk? Really?

And I dunno. Once upon a time, Japan was associated with all things high tech. But once upon a time, I went everywhere with my Sony Walkman.

This whole idea would have been a lot cooler in the 90s. And in the 90s, the show would have been in full swing, just waiting for someone to toy with its status quo a la Darin Morgan. A high-concept episode like this needs to exist in the context of a more established series (because let’s face it, the Revival is a new, independent animal), one that’s gliding along like a well-oiled machine. And if it had, it might have worked better.

Then again, I stayed up late the other night because I was more interested in and entertained by the famously low-tech and talky “Space” (1×8) than I was by this entire episode. #TruFax

Even the ending felt falsely sweet. I wish someone would stop feeding me Sweet ‘N Low and telling me it’s sugar.

F

Artificial Intelligence:

When I saw this title on my DVR, I seriously thought it was a glitch.

“You have arrived at your final destination.” I see you, Glen Morgan.

In 20+ years, the voice of Artificial Intelligence hasn’t improved since “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6). No, it hasn’t improved since 2001: A Space Odyssey. Tell me, do computers have to sound like computers?

The Scully Hair has returned sans fanfare or explanation. I guess that’s how it should be.

Scully laughed! Finally.

Scully’s wearing sneakers again for the first time I can recall since Season 3. Unless… I’m trying to think back to “Chinga” (5×10). Those weren’t sneakers, were they?

“Never again!” I see you, Glen Morgan.

Mulder has a map in his car? I didn’t know they still made those.

And now we know: Mulder and Scully aren’t living together.

Who would have walked into that Blade-Runner-on-Lysol restaurant to begin with?

“This Man” makes his second appearance this season.

“Queequeg.” I see you, Glen Morgan.

Does Mulder normally keep a baseball bat by the door?

The warehouse scene with the slowly encroaching robots feels more like something out of Dr. Who. Exterminate.

I thought the running vibrator joke was crass, and it is, but it’s also oddly relevant:

Vulnerable vibrator: Security researchers find flaw in connected toy

I get it. The AIs are like our children. Our followers. They learn by our example, through observing us. Yeeeeaaah, okay. Then why when I type “I’ll have the fish” in Japanese into Google Translate does it still think I’m saying “I am a fish”? How about you follow context?

Best Quote:

Mulder: Why is your house so much nicer than mine?

*Seriously, though. Where would Scully have found this California-style midcentury modern masterpiece in the suburbs of D.C.? Scully has spent most of her adult life working as a grunt for the federal government. Stop this nonsense. Thanks.