Tag Archives: Fight the Future

My Struggle 10×01: Now you got my number.


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Babies!!

These musings are a mixed bag of television emotions. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to some… not disappointment but, let’s say, validation of my carefully regulated expectations. But this is my longed for Mulder and Scully, The New Adventures of Moose & Squirrel we’re talking about. Even so, it is well with my soul.

This truly feels like a reboot, and by that I mean that Chris Carter & The Spooky Bunch have taken things back to the old school. This isn’t just Mulder and Scully getting back together, this is The X-Files rediscovering its Season 1 roots. This is the original vision revisited. This is “Deep Throat” (1×1), “Conduit” (1×3), “Fallen Angel” (1×9) and “E.B.E.” (1×16) reborn in the 21st Century and polished with a digital shellac.

I’m probably a bigger fan than most of Seasons 1 & 2, so I’m excited about that.. excited and still slightly concerned. “My Struggle” is all out distrust of everything and everyone with money or power, written by a generation scarred and jaded by Watergate, a generation with a knee-jerk distrust of authority. We’re back to vague government cover-ups and father figure informants hedging their words in the dark. There’s something nefarious going on, but it’s nameless, faceless, and overarching.

Unlike the later focus and consistency of the mythology as it evolved in Seasons 3-5, this is a veritable kitchen sink of conspiracy. Why do I suspect Chris Carter’s been saving up random newspaper clippings for years like he was Fox Mulder, just waiting for the chance to info dump them on us all? In less than five minutes we get a condensed history of conspiracy theory from the end of Season 9 to now. It’s a mad burst of baloney.

Right now this new X-Files world is without form and void. Darkness covers the face of the Deep (Throat). Until this conspiracy is given a shape, it’s impossible to declare it good or bad. The only question right now: is all this teasing intriguing enough to hook a brand new audience?

Chris Carter has always been the king of high sci-fi drama. Like he did when he wrote and directed the Pilot (1×79), he can make you believe something world-changing is happening even though you’ve seen next to nothing and heard even less. “My Struggle” isn’t so much about establishing a new mythology as it is whetting our appetites to want to know what in the good Green Goblin is going on.

And this rediscovered scope means that Chris Carter can take the series in all sorts of directions again, the same way the show first found its footing by refusing to be tied down to one idea or one genre. That’s promising enough, but for any great good there must be something sacrificed and that something here is the history of the show.

Mulder and Scully getting back to basics means invalidating the mythology as we’ve known it to this point. It means Mulder and Scully have been deceived for over twenty years and we’ve been deceived for thinking they’re trustworthy investigators. It means Mulder and Scully have to go back to being merely partners and friends.

This certainly isn’t the first time Chris Carter has turned the mythology on its ear. Starting with “Gethsemene” (4×24), Mulder spent almost all of Season 5 believing that there were no aliens but that for years he had been led around like a (really cute) puppy on a paranormal string. Then it was clear that Mulder and Scully had already seen too much to be mistaken about the existence of extraterrestrial life. But now? Now that we know alien life is real but that the colonization story is false, does that make everything we ever knew clear or does that leave the whole thing fuzzier than a kiwi?

How does Mulder’s latest theory jive with Fight the Future and the aliens gestated by the Black Oil that the Syndicate was clearly afraid of? Because if aliens weren’t out to colonize the planet, Well-Manicured Man died for nothing. Of course, it’s entirely possible that there was a conspiracy above the Syndicate, that someone was deceiving the deceivers and using them to conduct tests on human subjects. Regardless, because of episodes like “One Son” (6×12), it’s undeniable that the Syndicate, at least, truly believed in a coming alien takeover via virus. If it wasn’t the aliens, who took their family members hostage and for what? Who exactly took Samantha?

And how does any of this fit with the mythology of Seasons 8 & 9? Where do the Alien Bounty Hunters come in? The Super Soldiers? William the Ubermensch and the messianic Navajo prophecies???

I’m asking these questions but I’m not foolish enough to expect to get the answers in the very first episode. I’m just wondering where it all leads and hoping it’s headed someplace good. The new broadness allows for flexibility. The lack of focus could potentially end in failure. I’m rooting for you, 1013.

The implications aren’t limited to the plot either. How do Mulder and Scully process as characters the fact that they fought to the death and back, sacrificed everything, and it turns out they’ve been on a fool’s errand for twenty plus years? Mulder and Scully are our heroes. What do we do when it turns out they didn’t know what they were doing for nine seasons? Climactic plot changes are cool and all, but I’m not a Clippers fan. I need to root for a team that wins.

Speaking of my team, by now you’ve heard about the big breakup. I have to say, it went down easier than I expected, probably because I was emotionally prepped for it… and there was champagne. But while I’m relieved that they didn’t go the I Want to Believe route, that Mulder and Scully’s romantic rumble didn’t become the focus of the episode, I still can’t say I’m behind it. Why? I’m glad you asked.

Mulder: How many times have we been here before, Scully? Right here. So close to the truth. And now with what we’ve seen and what we know to be right back at the beginning with nothing.

Scully: This is different, Mulder.

Mulder: No, it isn’t! You were right to want to leave me! You should get as far away from me as you can! I’m not going to watch you die, Scully, because of some hollow personal cause of mine. Go be a doctor. Go be a doctor while you still can.

Scully: I can’t. I won’t. Mulder, I’ll be a doctor but my work is here with you now… Look… if I quit now, they win. – Fight the Future

————-

Mulder: Scully, I was like you once – I didn’t know who to trust… In the end, my world was unrecognizable and upside down. There was one thing that remained the same. You were my friend, and you told me the truth. Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant… my touchstone.

Scully: And you are mine. – “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4)

————-

Scully: You say this is greater than us, and maybe it is. But this is us fighting this fight, Mulder, not you! It’s you and me. That’s what I’m fighting for, Mulder. You and me. – “The Truth” (9×19/20)

————-

Scully: It’s what made me follow you… and why I’d do it all over again. – “The Truth”

Constants don’t bail because things get difficult. Constants don’t leave you when you’re down. True friendship is born in selflessness and self-sacrifice, because greater love hath no man than this. I have a hard time believing that Scully left a depressed Mulder for the sake of her own sanity, but I’m trusting it’s more nuanced than that and we’ll get the details later. Maybe she left him for his own good and not merely because she was sick of the darkness, because that’s been there, IWTBed that. Whatever the cause of this forced drama, one look at the two of them and you know they can’t stay apart for long, if they’re even really apart at all.

And you can call me Forest Gump because that’s all I have to say about that.

Verdict:

I was driving along on the way to work this morning thinking about The X-Files… you know, like any other day. And I realized that my musings were no longer about The X-Files as a piece of history. These are my musings on a real, live, brand spanking new episode. Hot. Dog.

Last night was the most excited I’ve been about television since The X-Files went off the air. I’ve never been so happy to hear a voiceover in my life. Mulderlogues… I even missed those!!! The first beat of that dulcet monotone and there was dancing and twirling and the raising of hands. And no, it was not a church service.

“My Struggle” isn’t perfect and I know it. But as a Phile, it’s mine and I’ll thank you for it. The clunky and obtuse dialogue, the conversations that threaten major revelations but never actually reveal them, the unceremoniously snipped plot threads… all mine.

The X-Files has its own rhythm, it’s own distinctive style of sci-fi drama. And you have to be able to appreciate the subtle camp of it in order to love it. Or maybe, you have to love it in order to appreciate the subtle camp of it. In terms of the history of the mythology, this doesn’t compare to anything that came between Seasons 2-5. But then, this was all just an excuse to get Mulder and Scully back anyway. Their reasons for working the X-Files are basically the same as before: There’s something big… big, big, big going on, something deeply sinister. And stopping it is personal for them both. Frankly, they both look like they could use some excitement, and so could I.

It’s funny, but as a long time fan, there are both more problems and fewer problems with this episode. More problems because we know the history of The X-Files, fewer problems because we have a history with The X-Files that trumps everything. In the words of the great theologian W. E. Houston, “It’s not right, but it’s okay.”

Despite Chris Carter’s best attempts to make government conspiracies relevant to a new generation, this was about drowning ourselves in a cool pool of nostalgia on a hot summer’s day. What a glorious way to go.

It’s not just the government. Everyone’s out to get you. Now go to sleep.

C+

Superfluous Comments:

Cigarette-Smoking Man – Phantom of the Space Opera

Sveta pulls a Gibson Praise on Scully. And like Gibson before her, she’s the “key to everything.”

“Gethsemene” turned the mythology upside down, put Mulder and Scully at odds, and presented more questions than answers too, but it was much more satisfying as a standalone episode, possibly because it came within the broader context of the series and not at the start of something new.

Mulder needs to stop picking on my “finally in the opening credits” Skinner!

If I were Scully, the fact that I had followed Mulder into a lie would have been a bigger emotional hurdle than his depression. Shouldn’t she have issues with trusting him? She’s lost her sister, alienated herself from the world, and gave up their son because she believed in Mulder and he was sure of what he believed. And speaking of William, the fact that she and Mulder live without fear for their lives means she could have kept him after all.

Not to be a troublemaker, but I wonder if Glen Morgan’s name getting top billing with Chris Carter’s in the closing credits has anything to do with the reverse trajectory of the show…

Mulder first heard from his Old Man informant ten years ago. That means he was onto the jagoff shoeshine tip before IWTB.

We even get a classic Mulder phone ditch. The earth does orbit the sun.

The Asian scientist –  I recognize him as the Asian scientist from “Firewalker” (2×9) and the Asian scientist from “Synchrony” (4×19). I wonder if he puts “plays a mean Asian scientist” on his resume.

You know what I could’ve lived without? I could’ve lived without Tad O’Malley hitting on Scully. You know what else I could’ve lived without? I could’ve lived without Scully mistaking Sveta for Mulder’s new love interest. Yeah. I could’ve lived without that just fine.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: My name is Fox Mulder. {Yeah it is!!!}

———————

Scully: It’s fear mongering, isolationist claptrap, techno-paranoia so bogus and dangerous and stupid that it borders on treason. {But what do you really think about The X-Files, Scully?}

———————

Mulder: She’s shot men with less provocation. {Yeah she has!!!}

Tad O’Malley: Funny. I heard you were funny.

———————

Tad O’Malley: Do you miss it at all? The X-Files?

Scully: As a scientist, it was probably some of the most intense and challenging work I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt so alive.

O’Malley: You mean working with Mulder?

Scully: Possibly one of the most intense and challenging relationships I may ever have. And, quite honestly, the most impossible.

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.

 

Trust No 1 9×8: You can’t do that to me!


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I always feel like somebody’s watching meeee!

No.

No, no, no, no, no.

Noooo.

Nope.

The first time I saw this episode I remember thinking, “Somebody, END THIS.”

Funny. Fourteen years later and nothing has changed.

As a genuinely grateful and devoted fan, I planned to watch till either The X-Files died or I did. And as of “Trust No 1”, death by cancellation was preferable, anything was preferable to watching the sanctity of MSR desecrated by paint gallons of pink tinted goop. Ending it is the only mercy left.

Oh, who am I kidding? I wanted the show to end after “Existence” (8×21).

But this, THIS, was worse than I ever imagined it could get.

“Dearest Dana”?!?!?!?!?!

Who are these people?????

They must be alien replicants. They can’t be Mulder and Scully. Mulder fell in love with “Scully” and “Scully” she shall be.

This woman is an imposter. This woman is an idiot. This woman leaves her Super Baby unattended while she goes to see about somebody else’s baby. This woman not only invites strangers into her apartment when her baby’s under threat, she lets them spend the night. This woman let’s them spend the night alone in the same room with the baby. This woman.

“I’m physically shaking right now seeing your words.”

You know what I’m physically doing? I’m physically pressing the pause button because I need a minute to compose myself.

Let me try to focus.

The NSA is watching… everyone. That includes Scully. One NSA agent tasked with spying on Scully and his wife come to Scully for help. They have a baby showing similar signs of abnormality as the little uber Scully. The NSA agent’s supervisor has been trying to contact Mulder on his behalf both to give him information and hopefully receive some answers. It’s too bad the supervisor, the Shadow Man, is actually a Super Soldier trying to lure Mulder out into the open so he can kill him because as he cryptically states, “Mulder must die. Mulder or your son.”

To which I state, “Well then why don’t you just kill her son since Mulder appears to be unavailable?”

Come to think of it, I haven’t watched Season 9 in so long… do we find out before the series ends why the Super Soldiers keep eschewing chances to kill William? Will I care once we get there?

If I may indulge in one more shipper tinted rant, I’m as disgusted as Scully at the thought that she and Mulder’s first time together was watched. I also hate the idea that after all they’ve been through, Scully initiates a relationship with Mulder because she’s lonely one night and doesn’t want to sleep alone. So desperation was the final nail in the coffin, eh?

I’ll yet repeat my oft repeated request of Season 8: Please stop going back and adding drama where there was none instead of propelling the story forward in new and interesting ways. Thank you for your consideration.

I’m not going to drag my complaints out. The bottom line: watch at your own risk. I’m sure there are fans out there who enjoy or can at least tolerate Mulder and Scully’s newfound Hallmark card sentimentality. If you’d rather skip it, all you need to know is that the Super Soldiers’ weakness has been discovered and it’s magnetite, not to be confused with kryptonite. When around it they shake like a Weeble having a seizure and then they blow apart. Now you know.

Verdict:

The one thing that does work for me in this episode is the teaser, and that despite the highbrow language. The weight and history of Mulder and Scully’s relationship actually stands up to the heaviness of the words. But the retrospective is a poignant reminder of what we’re missing and consequently sabotages the rest of the episode when it’s supposed to set it up. Yes, I do remember when magic happened here. What did happen to the comfort and safety we shared for so brief a time?

Melissa Scully: She’s dying. That’s perfectly natural. We hide people in these rooms because we don’t want to look at death. We have machines prolong a life that should… that should end!

That’s probably what happened.

To the fans for whom this is a happy indulgence and felt they needed a little more gross affection out of Mulder and Scully, I judge you not. Neither do I judge Messrs. Carter and Spotnitz. In fact, I beg your forgiveness and understanding of my ravings. I’m known to get protective of characters that don’t belong to me. I’m working on the problem.

Until next time, I remain forever yours…

D

Surveillance:

They keep changing taglines, yet I’m not intimidated.

If I believed that this episode ever happened, and I don’t, I’d suspect the “one lonely night” of being the day Scully came home with bad news in “Per Manum” (8×8).

It’s Terry O’Quinn again. Chris Carter, understandably, loved to use him in his various shows. For The X-Files alone he appeared three times. The original movie and “Aubrey” (2×12) were the first two.

Doggett can’t seem to catch a clean shave.

No explanation is given for when or why the NSA started surveilling all the people at all times. It’s more important that every shamelessly sappy emailed word be read and savored.

There’s no real tension in this trip Scully takes at the insistence of Shadow Man. I’m supposed to feel something might happen to her, but I never do. Are we to be impressed with this dated subterfuge?

And I still don’t get why he blows up the car. If there was tracking on it, they’ll still know where to find you.

Doggett and Reyes feel more like Scully’s sidekicks than the new leads.

Shouldn’t an infant that young be sleeping in the room with mom?

Mulder and Scully prearranged the manner of his return before he left. So Mulder knew before he left that the Super Soldiers were vulnerable to magnetite and picked a train that would pass a quarry that contained it?

Whatever Happened to Baby Joy?

 

Alone 8×19: I appreciate your enthusiasm.


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How do I get you aloooone?

“Alone” makes me want to cry and not for sentimental reasons.

It was lovingly crafted as a nostalgic look back at the Mulder and Scully era and as a tribute to the fans by the Godfather of The X-Files, Frank Spotnitz, who both wrote and directed it. It’s dotted with tender little nods toward some of the show’s most memorable moments, a “Dreamland II” (6×5) reference in particular being especially appreciated by me.

But… and I feel like an ingrate and a heel when I say this… I don’t like it.

This episode marks Scully’s departure from the X-Files, Mulder having said goodbye to the basement office last episode. This is the very last Monster of the Week episode of Season 8 and the very last Monster of the Week episode before Mulder’s official departure from the series. Yes, that means that for both Mulder and Scully this is their last chance to solve an X-File together. This is our last chance to see them solve an X-File together, only they don’t.

That’s Doggett’s job now and Doggett’s job “Alone.” So Mulder and Scully are splitting precious screen time with Doggett as he investigates an X-File that was never designed to hold our interest in and of itself.

*whines* Why do they have to share??

I say Doggett’s alone in his new job, but he’s been temporarily assigned a rather green partner. Don’t worry, she won’t last but an episode. Her name is Leyla Harrison which, in a very sweet and genuine tribute, is the name of a fan of The X-Files who passed away from cancer. Her name and this character come to represent all the X-Philes out there and the mutual love between them, the characters and the creators of this amazing, amazing show. I’m not overstating my own emotions when I say I personally consider The X-Files a gift from God.

That’s why I feel horrible when every time I see the Leyla Harrison character onscreen I instinctively resent her and recoil. She’s an annoyance and a distraction. She’s also too literal a representation. I wasn’t too insightful back in the day as a teenager watching this show, but even my dense self realized the wide-eyed Agent Harrison was a stand-in for The X-Files’ legion of fans. 1013… are we really a bunch of silly, awkward little groupies to you? I know I’m slavishly devoted and I squeal a lot, but really. This is insulting.

The above are the complaints of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person. If you’re Frank Spotnitz, I know you were expressing love and I’m sorry. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Moving on to a less sensitive subject, by Frank Spotnitz’s own admission in the DVD commentary, the monster is the least interesting part of this episode by design. The plot merely gives us an excuse and a way to say a bittersweet goodbye to what The X-Files was with Mulder and Scully and to look ahead toward an unknown but promising future with Doggett. It strikes me on this rewatch that the same can be said for every single episode of Season 8 after Mulder’s return.

Did it need to be done? Well, it is and was complicated.

From what I know of Season 8, and please someone correct me where I’m mistaken, the status of the show was in limbo very much like it had been in Season 7. All the way through the writing and filming of the season finale, it remained unknown whether the show would be back for Season 9. What was known was that whether it came back or not, David Duchovny had made it clear that he wouldn’t be back. That means that the Mulder and Scully era would officially end with the Season 8 finale regardless of whether or not Gillian Anderson, whose contract was also up at the end of Season 8, signed up for Season 9. Heck, even Chris Carter was in the midst of contract negotiations with Fox and wasn’t certain to be coming back. He actually swore he wouldn’t do a season without David Duchovny.

I know that’s hard to keep track of, but what it all means is that the latter half of Season 8 needed to serve as both a goodbye to Mulder and Scully and still pave the way for a Season 9 with a new team, just in case there was a Season 9. So instead of a clear and focused goodbye, we’re also getting a rushed and anxious hello, anxious to make sure we love Doggett and Reyes enough to stick around and watch them.

Which brings us to “Alone” and a less than successful attempt to make us as the audience willing to pass the baton on to Doggett as easily as Mulder and Scully appear to be willing to. Doggett’s a good guy and I like him, but all his scenes with Agent Leyla Harrison make me feel is impatient that they’re taking up my time when I could be watching Mulder and Scully. If Mulder and Scully weren’t here at all it might be different, but teasing me with their legendary chemistry in a few brief scenes and then giving me Clint Eastwood and Goldie Hawn is a recipe for discontent.

What I was hoping to see was Mulder and Scully solve an X-File one last time. What I now know is that the last time I would ever see them hunt a traditional monster or villain together in a stand-alone episode was way back in “Brand X” (7×19). Surprise! You never knew it was over.

One thing I would like to be over is this hemming and hawing over whether or not Mulder and Scully are a couple. Take the scene where Mulder picks Scully up for Lamaze class:

Now, at this point, we still had not revealed the paternity of Scully’s baby, although Mulder and Scully presumably knew whether they had consummated their relationship. And so this scene is meant as a tease: Did they or didn’t they? You know, it could well be that Mulder’s just a good, close friend helping her go to Lamaze or it could be more. – Frank Spotnitz

I always thought Scully’s “Thank you for doing this with me” line felt off. Why would she thank the father of her child for participating in the pregnancy and birth? Now I know it wasn’t me, it was 1013.

Trust me, fellas. I was already watching to the bitter end. There was no need to bait me.

Verdict:

I was actually quite emotional by this point in the show’s run knowing that I was about to lose Mulder and Scully. I still get emotional here towards the end of Season 8. You know it’s coming and you know it has to come, but it hurts, dang it. Maybe that’s why I’m so grouchy.

Doggett certainly doesn’t deserve my attitude. It’s not his fault he got stuck with the superfan.

Uncle Frank doesn’t deserve my attitude either, since this is a heartfelt and polished looking effort from the first time director.

No, it’s all sweet but it’s a little too direct.

The best part of the episode has to be Mulder and Scully arguing about how they got back from Antarctica in Fight the Future. That was still a little meta for me, but it was cute. Mulder and Scully can’t help but be cute.

Ugh. I’m gonna miss these two. My poor heart.

C+

Musings:

I believe this was our last Mulder phone ditch. *sniff* *sniffle* *sob*

“Sunshine Days” (9×19), which will end up being not only the penultimate episode of its season but of the series, will give us another take on fans, fandom and nostalgia.

They let Leyla solve the mystery. So there’s that.

Mulder and Doggett have to work together and take a huge risk to defeat the monster, so there’s that too.

What was it the old man told his son to take care of in the teaser?

Mulder’s attitude during he and Scully’s last autopsy together is priceless. It’s not, “I’m gonna miss this, Scully.” It’s, “We’ve got better things to do, Scully.”

Best Quotes:

Scully: How do you know all these things, Mulder?
Mulder: I’m unemployed. I have a lot of time on my hands. Oprah. I watch a lot of Oprah.

———————–

Harrison: Agent Doggett. What happened?
Doggett: I lost my grip… with a little help from the man upstairs.

Vienen 8×16: How about a twenty count?


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It’s been real.

“Vienen” feels like The X-Files’ version of a buddy flick, only the buddies aren’t buddies.

Mulder and Doggett started to bond slightly in “Empedolces” (8×17) but I think it’s safe to say they still irritate each other more than they understand one another. Ironically, they were psychically and emotionally closer before they ever actually knew one another back in “The Gift” (8×11).

“Vienen” is designed to bring Mulder to the place where he’s willing to give Doggett his blessing and pass the X-Files torch. Considering where the two characters are in their relationship at the beginning of the episode, that’s a long bridge to cross over. Somehow they manage it, though. More or less.

The other thing “Vienen” does is close the door on the Black Oil plot. You remember the Black Oil, the alien virus that possessed people’s bodies and minds and would sometimes use them as gestation pods for angry baby aliens. The Black Oil was supposed to be the means of alien invasion, the viral infection spreading throughout the human race until no humans remained.

That plot has already been superseded by the new, unnamed infection that threatened Mulder and transformed Billy Miles into who-knows-what in “Deadalive” (8×15), a new infection that in some ways is a rehash of the old. Again a virus is the means of invasion, except instead if it possessing humans or turning them into flesh and blood cocoons it’s physically replacing them in a way that has yet to be defined.

Really, they should have wrapped up the one plot before bringing in the next. A mere few episodes ago I was still looking for answers about the Black Oil and wondering whether that plot had died. Well it had. Bringing it back from the dead to kill it again is redundant.

Besides, we learn nothing new about it. A store of the Black Oil has been accidentally tapped into by the unsuspecting crew of an oil rig. All of them are now possessed except for a couple of genetically immune indigenous natives. (See that? The human race could have survived invasion all along.) The Black Oil is receiving instructions from the Mothership via the oil rig’s communication system. Instructions to do what, we don’t know. But in the end the drilling is forced to stop. Voila, no more Black Oil.

However, there’s nothing here to convince me that the Black Oil is now irrelevant and no longer a threat. I realize that’s what they’re telling me, but I’m not convinced. We’ve been led to believe that the Black Oil is buried all over the earth, that it beat us to the planet. It’s been found everywhere from Texas in Fight the Future to Russia in “Tunguska” (4×9). Just because this well is closed off, why does that mean it can’t bubble to the surface of the earth some place else?

And as far as its irrelevance, what I need to hear is that the aliens know that humanity has a working vaccine for the Black Oil and found the need to use a new, unstudied virus to continue with their plans for colonization. Of course, then that would make this new plan for invasion look awfully silly in the face of “Deadalive” since the new virus was already bested by not a carefully engineered vaccine but by a regular course of known antivirals. That would make it even less dangerous than the Black Oil.

“Vienen” is more of a soft afterthought of a goodbye to the Black Oil than any sort of real explanation or resolution. The Black Oil is merely a means to an end to force the old guard to recognize the new. Mulder’s era ends right along with the Black Oil and a new conspiracy, investigated by Doggett, becomes the focus of The X-Files from here on out. New virus, new man.

Mulder and Doggett never quite gel, it seems to me. But they do develop a grudging respect for one another. In the end, I’m not sure whether Mulder has real confidence in Doggett or whether he’s just tired of the whole thing and Doggett’s there and wants the job.

It’s almost hard to believe it took this long for Mulder to get fired, but he doesn’t really care that it’s happened. He’s not even sentimental over his precious X-Files. Mulder has bigger fish to fry than to fight with the F.B.I.. There’s a little uber Scully in the oven.

Verdict:

I have to say, just like I preferred watching Skinner and Doggett to Scully and Doggett, I was more interested in watching Mulder and Doggett spar for one episode than I’ve been in Scully and Doggett’s partnership all season. It makes me wish we’d had more opportunities for all male match ups on The X-Files. I would’ve gladly taken more Mulder and Krycek too.

But as interested as I am in the two of them, I’m not interested in the overall plot. Maybe it’s just too little too late. We haven’t seen the Black Oil since Fight the Future and the momentum has been lost.

And even the evolution of Mulder and Doggett’s relationship is a little forced and rushed. Forced because Mulder’s working hard to be himself at his most aggravating and Doggett doesn’t bother to attempt an open mind the way he did with Scully. Rushed because they can barely stand each other two scenes before Mulder shakes Doggett’s hand and walks out of the X-Files office without a second look.

The baton was passed because it needed to be, but it was little more than perfunctory.

Only three more episodes left to say goodbye to my main man. Let’s hope the remaining ones leave me feeling full and satisfied instead of like I had to leave the table after the appetizers.

B

Niggles and Wiggles:
As Mulder and Doggett are having their opening argument, you can see the ritual symbol from “The Gift” on the board behind Doggett. That symbol also represents their potential for understanding.

Mulder’s face as he realizes Doggett has read every X-File is hilarious.

So Doggett knows a little Spanish.

Why is the virus dead now? Is it because of the man’s immunity?

Now Doggett’s seen the Black Oil too. He’s seen a lot. Is he starting to bend yet?

My favorite part of this episode is Mulder and Scully talking on the phone, Mulder being his irreparably reckless self even knowing that Scully’s pregnant, and Scully not even in fear or anger but exasperation effectively saying, “I can’t with you right now. Put Doggett on the phone.”

What are the aliens trying to do? Are they trying to get the infected men to land so that they can infect the populace? If they are, then why do they blow the rig?

They could’ve infected Mulder and Doggett by letting the oil seep through the door.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: We got to quarantine this rig.
Scully: No Mulder, you need to get off the rig. Have Agent Doggett give the order. We can quarantine you and the crew when we get back here.
Mulder: Scully, if these men are infected the last place we want to is onshore where they can infect other people. You’re sitting on the answer right there, Scully. The body, you find the virus, you can find what knocks it out, you can find what kills it.
Scully: And what if I can’t?
Mulder: When he’s old enough… tell the kid I went down swinging.
Scully: [Exasperated] Let me talk to Agent Doggett.

————————-

Doggett: I never would have believed it. These stories about you.
Mulder: Really, what stories are those?
Doggett: That you can find a conspiracy at a church picnic.
Mulder: What church?

En Ami 7×15: Here’s a story to warm the cockles of your heart.


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The devil went down to Virginia.

The title basically gives the crux of this episode away. Is C.G.B. Spender, aka Cigarette-Smoking Man, acting “en ami,” “as a friend?” Or is he, as ever, Scully’s enemy?

When “En Ami” first aired I remember liking it alright, but overall feeling a little disappointed. I’m happy to report that it improves upon rewatching, provided one keeps one’s expectations in check; this isn’t designed to be fright fest or a fast-paced adventure or even a true mythology episode. It’s really a quiet study in psychological intrigue. Somehow or other, CSM is able to wear down Scully’s mind to the point where she believes him. Him! A confirmed liar and the father of them.

In a welcome turn, Scully is the object of everyone’s attentions and affections this episode. Though the real stars of “En Ami” are Scully’s breasts.

I kid.

No, I don’t.

A few gratuitous shots of Scully’s cleavage aside, it feels good to watch her launch her own investigation for the first time in a long time. Well, I guess it’s not really an investigation. CSM sets Scully up from the beginning by orchestrating a series of events designed to trick her into showing up at a particular meeting place, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to get his hands on the cure to his disease.

He starts by curing Jason, a little boy diagnosed with cancer whose parents don’t believe in traditional medicine for religious reasons. Jason is visited one night by “angels” who implant a chip in his neck, triggering his immediate recovery. CSM draws Scully’s attention to this little miracle, knowing that because of the chip she’d had in her own neck and her battle against cancer after she had it removed, she wouldn’t be able to ignore the implications.

Once Scully is duly intrigued, CSM announces his presence, telling Scully that Jason isn’t the first and he doesn’t have to be the last. In what feels like a clear-cut case of the devil masquerading as God, CSM claims that he has the cure to cancer and he’ll give it to Scully and only to Scully. Enough of that Mulder. He doesn’t know what’s good for him.

The feeling is mutual as Mulder is done listening to CSM and warns Scully that she shouldn’t fall for his mind games either. Here’s where Scully gets really radical, not because she decides to go on a road trip with CSM, but because she lies to Mulder and thinks she can get away with it.

Now, I’m all for Scully ditching Mulder. Heaven knows he deserves it after the untold times he’s left her flapping in the wind of ignorance while he ran headlong into danger. But did Scully really think Mulder wouldn’t catch on immediately? Mulder, who as far back as “Paper Clip” (3×2) she had a psychic connection with. Notice she can’t look him in the face and lie, she has to do it over an answering machine.

No, it seems like a battle she knew she’s lose; she was merely buying time to get away with CSM. The benefit her foolishness affords us is a great scene in Scully’s hallway between Mulder and Scully’s building super. Also, there’s a fabulous moment when Skinner is on the phone with Scully and Mulder reaches for the phone, but she hangs up rather than talk to him. Burn.

But I’m getting off topic. Back to the plot.

Scully and CSM run off together and leave Mulder pacing the floor with worry. CSM introduces Scully to another one of his success stories, Marjorie Butters, a one hundred and eighteen year old woman who doesn’t look a day over seventy. How we went from the cure for cancer to the secret of eternal life, I don’t know. But for some reason, Scully the doctor is convinced, not by scientific proof, but by anecdotal evidence. Maybe she wants to believe.

Now that she does believe, and this is a jump in logic I’m never quite able to make, CSM also convinces her that there’s a contact they have to meet who holds the science that Scully needs to save the world. I thought CSM already had the cure? No? Well, I’m going to give the plot the benefit of the doubt and assume that CSM had access to the chips, but not the (alien) science behind the technology, and that’s what he promised Scully.

Anywho, after a very skeevy moment where Scully falls dead asleep in the car and CSM puts gloves on before staring at her… dangerously, they arrive at a quaint little hotel in the idyllic middle of nowhere. Did CSM drug her? Please, for the love of applesauce, somebody tell me changed her own clothes and put herself in bed. ‘Cause Scully and I are both a little freaked out right now.

It’s over a candlelit dinner when The Girls and Scully, their co-star, are told by CSM that this technology will not only cure cancer but it’s the cure to all that ills. No one comes out and uses the word “panacea,” but I suppose that would make the idea sound farfetched. And no one wants The X-Files to sound farfetched. Perhaps, though, this explains Marjorie Butters.

The more interesting thing is that CSM spills his guts. Well, okay. I’m overstating that. But he does reveal a secret longing for human love. Supposedly, near death’s door as he is, he wants to leave behind something good. He regrets choosing a life of bitter loneliness. Whether he says this out of genuine remorse, or whether this is part of his scheme to trick Scully, or whether he has unrealistic hopes of seducing Scully, you be the judge.

We do know he’s up to something, however, as Black-Haired Man from Fight the Future is back and secretly doing his dirty work. Scully also has a secret admirer who slips her a note in the restaurant, telling her to meet him at dawn. Actually, he calls it “first light,” but we all know that’s purely for flair.

Scully goes to meet him out on the lake and he turns out to be “Cobra,” a man wanted by the federal government and who was involved in some shadow project at the Department of Defense. As Mulder and the Lone Gunmen find out separately, “Cobra” has been emailing Scully for the past six months. He thought she was emailing him back. She wasn’t. Somebody, who probably looks a lot like CSM, hacked her computer, intercepted the emails and responded as Scully. That same somebody set up this meeting at the quaint little hotel in the idyllic middle of nowhere.

“Cobra” gives Scully a disk that supposedly contains the secret to utopia on it and drops some not so subtle hints about he and Scully creating their own private utopia. He’ll have to make due with that last glance at our fair heroine, alas, as Black-Haired Man promptly shoots him from his hidden position in the woods almost as soon as he hands over the disk. He takes aim at Scully too – after all, all they wanted was the disk and Scully was merely the lure to draw Cobra out – but the shot we hear ring out kills him instead. It looks like CSM has a soft spot for Scully after all. Whether he intended to save her from the beginning… I have my doubts. But it would appear that CSM’s more emotionally attached to his sworn enemies than his minions. Funny how relationships can develop like that.

Safe and sound, Scully hands the disk over to CSM who duly gives it back to her because, after all, the whole point was to get this information into Scully’s hands. Back in Mulder’s apartment, Scully looks hopefully up at Mulder who was ready to call out the National Guard over his missing partner. The expression on his face as he looks up and away from her is priceless. He says nothing with his mouth but his eyes say, “I can’t even talk to you right now.” All’s not forgiven yet.

Scully has incurred Mulder’s ire to no avail. There’s nothing on the disk. CSM switched them somehow, giving Scully a blank disk and keeping the disk with the information on it he needs to save his own life. That’s all this was ever about. The fake office building, the fake miracles, all of it. It was an elaborate rouse to save himself.

Why, then, does he toss the disk into the water? Could it be that not everything he told Scully was a lie? Maybe he doesn’t really want to live, not if he continues to live a meaningless and lonely life.

Verdict:

Whew! I know I don’t usually recap this much. But with so much intrigue, it seemed easier to combine my comments with the plot for the most part. This isn’t a traditional mythology episode, but there are almost as many twists and turns.

The ambiguity of it all is actually one of this episodes weak points, or strong points depending on how you look at it. Back in the day, The X-Files used to leave its audience hanging on the regular. This was our first and only offering of a script from William B. Davis (heavily edited by Frank Spotnitz) who, understandably, wanted to get inside CSM’s head a little bit. And, even more understandably, wanted some more screentime with Gillian Anderson. The thing is, CSM tells us things about himself, but it’s hard to decide which lie to believe. In the end, we’re not any closer to knowing who he is. Unless, of course, like me you think he truly is a lonely man with a soft spot for Scully and Mulder.

As I said before, it’s a quiet, thoughtful sort of episode without any fireworks or mayhem. But I like it because even if it doesn’t offer concrete insight, it gives me several good laughs and moments of tension.

Hee-Haws –

  • The Lone Gunmen in drag
  • “Do you know how many people have died in there?”
  • Mulder so ticked at Scully he can’t even look in her direction

Uh-Ohs –

  • Black-Haired Man masquerades as the Mailman
  • Did CSM just see Scully naked???

There’s a bit where CSM tries to psycho-analyze Scully that I could have done without. However, at least there’s some emotional continuity with “Never Again” (4×13). Not that CSM knows Scully as well as he thinks he does, not based on her eyebrow raise after he accuses her of living “a life alone.” Hmm…

Long story not so short, I think it’s good. The plot can be a little hard to follow, it’s hard to believe Scully would fall for CSM’s lies on so little evidence, and it’s a little tame, so I’m torn between grades. With the aftertaste of “First Person Shooter” (7×13) still in my mouth, I’m almost inclined to upgrade it in comparison. But I think I’ll have to go with a:

B+

Blank Disks:

Seriously though, I love Mulder’s wounded housewife routine. “Where were you? You should have called!”

You really can’t blame CSM for taking a shot. Gillian Anderson looks especially gorgeous this episode. I’m glad they gave her the chance to dress up at least once in the series.

Scully makes secret tape recordings for Mulder. Tapes. Remember those?

That scene where Scully’s asleep in the car with CSM and he reaches over to touch her reminds me, perversely, of “Pusher” (3×17).

This was director Rob Bowman’s final episode before leaving the show.

Scully’s motivations – Maybe she falls for it all so easily because CSM knew which buttons to push. He focused on her compassion as a doctor, her sense of justice as a law enforcement agent, her curiosity as a scientist, and her empathy as a cancer survivor. No wonder he went to her and not to Mulder.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I’ve just got to know whether it was Roma Downey or Della Reese.

————————

Scully: What the hell are you doing?

CSM: God’s work, what else?

————————

Apartment Manager: Tenant like having an FBI agent in the building. Gives them a sense of security.

Mulder: Do you know how many people have died in there?

Apartment Manager: Oh, we don’t really talk about that.

———————–

Mulder: Who the hell is Cobra? Scully would have told me about him.

Langly: Well, it looks like she’s gone to great lengths to keep this from you.

Mulder: I don’t believe that. She knows that I’d find her, no matter what. {Editor’s Note: He can back that up too, y’all.}

 

Drive 6×2: At this point, I want to see him alive even more than you do.


Space: The Final Frontier

You should know that before I wrote up this review I spent my morning watching a longwinded interview of Vince Gilligan by the Archive of American Television, the joy of which may be found here.

I want to upfront about this because yes, watching this may have slightly elevated my bias, but I want to assure you that this highly favorable and unbalanced accounting of my thoughts has in no way been altered from it’s original intent which was already decidedly favorable and unbalanced. Thank you for understanding.

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 I love this episode, and I may even love it a little bit harder knowing that I’m somewhat alone in my regard for it; someone has to make up the fan slack. All I can say is that between “Drive” and Breaking Bad, when writer Vince Gilligan and actor Bryan Cranston get together good things seem to happen.

True to his unofficial title on The X-Files as the King of Continuity, Gilligan opens on Mulder and Scully this episode by cluing us in to the fact that our two leads are working Domestic Terrorism now. This (belatedly) explains the entire beginning of Fight the Future and why Mulder and Scully were in Dallas searching for a bomb in the first place. Since Mulder and Scully haven’t earned reassignment on the X-Files, they’re still stuck in this department. And, unfortunately for Mulder in particular, most of their work isn’t as exciting as combing federal buildings for bombs. However, why are Mulder and Scully being sent places like Dallas and Iowa? The local field offices can’t handle that? Think of the expense! No wonder our government’s in debt.

Another one of the more clever ideas used in this episode is that not only are Mulder and Scully investigating separately as they sometimes do, but they’re stripped of the crutch of constant communication with each other. Mulder’s cell phone dies a painful death on the highway and Scully is forced to figure out what Mulder is up to from a distance based on vague clues in his behavior. Not only does this highlight the different ways that Mulder and Scully have of getting to the truth, with Mulder intuitively piecing together clues as to how to keep Crump alive and Scully using her science to find the source of the problem, but it also shows just how great a team Mulder and Scully are even apart and how far they’ve come to trust each other that Scully is so easily able to interpret Mulder’s puzzling actions from afar.

I’m also impressed that since the move of the entire production to L.A., the crew at 1013 has been able to keep the interiors dark and the aesthetic of The X-Files intact even though the blinding California sunlight is hard to ignore. There’s also a great, otherworldly scene where Scully and a group of scientists go investigating Crump’s trailer at night, a great way to avoid the issue of glaring sunlight altogether. Between the eerily lit anti-contamination suits and the myriad flashlight beams the trip to the trailer looks like a walk on the moon. And if we have to be in California, they might as well put California to good use which they do by taking us all the way to the Pacific Ocean in that lovely finale to Mulder’s roadtrip with Crump.

All of these things are good things and already more than sufficient for an enjoyable episode, but the real heart and soul of “Drive” is Patrick Crump himself, played by the then relatively unknown Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle wouldn’t premier for over another year).

His character is an odd mix of red neck and patriot and provides an interesting foil to the East Coast ease of Fox Mulder, not that the two men are completely different. In fact, there are times when Mulder doesn’t sound much saner than Crump himself. But when even Fox Mulder rolls his eyes at your conspiracy theories, you know a hard line has been crossed. The unlikable Crump makes for an unlikely character to drive (no pun intended) the story, but he successfully does this for a couple of reasons.

First, despite Crump’s overt racism, you get the feeling that underneath the garbage he’s been taught beats the heart of a true man. Why? Because of his determination to live, and more than that, to live with dignity and without interference from outside forces. It’s not the same desire to survive that we see in the Syndicate, a sort of sinister selfishness. Crump wants to live because it’s his American, scratch that, his human right to do so. Just like it’s his right to let trash spill out of his mouth if he so chooses.

Second, Crump’s philosophies aren’t all that dissimilar to our beloved Mulder’s which creates a chemistry and connection between the two men, despite their overt antagonism, that’s fun to watch. They have a certain mutual understanding and respect by the end of the episode, a bromance, if you will. Despite their obvious differences in lifestyle and opinion, both men have attitude in spades and both men possess a fierce determination to survive and by doing so, stick it to a government that invaded their lives and tore them apart.

Yet, Crump doesn’t seem to get much love on the internet and a guest spot that probably deserves legendary status in retrospect is largely ignored. Could it be that Bryan Cranston does so good a job that some in the audience take his racist rantings seriously? I don’t think that’s the spirit in which it was intended. You’re meant to roll your eyes at his nonsense, not shake your fist.

For me, it’s the strength of character, the determination in this otherwise offensive man that gives him enough recognizable humanity so that I can’t help but sympathize. By the end I’m rooting for him wholeheartedly and the moment when both Mulder and we realize that he’s not going to make it is unexpectedly heartbreaking.

At least Scully bravely standing up to Kersh, who proves in this episode to be just as inflexible and unsympathetic as his expression promises in “The Beginning” (6×1), lightens the emotional load in the final moments of this episode. I can’t wait to see what other plans he has to make Mulder and Scully’s lives miserable.

Verdict:

Would “Drive” make my top 10 list of favorite episodes? Probably not. But that’s not because I can find anything wrong with it. And I absolutely do get a kick out of it, several in fact. From Mulder’s classic impatience in the beginning to Scully’s deliciously gross autopsy and one heck of a guest star, I can’t see where it makes a misstep. Well, except for maybe that hokey newscast it opens with. But that’s easily forgiven, especially as I suspect it was meant to be cheesy.

Both the sense of urgency here and the, well, head-explosions remind me forcefully of “F. Emasculata” (2×22) and that’s a good thing. But I hesitate to call this a Half-Caff episode because while there is a dangerous science involved, the government isn’t seeking to control it but instead may have accidentally and unknowingly unleashed it. The jury is still out as to whether Crump and his wife were unofficial or inadvertent test subjects for the Navy.

Either way, this is an unexpectedly poignant story about citizens losing their dignity at the hands of a government that’s supposed to preserve it.

A

Sugar Beets:

Fun Moment – When Virgil Nokes opens the door for Mulder and Scully only to let it slam back on them.

Am I the only one that gets a kick out of the fact that Mulder says “stoopid” rather than “stupid?”

When Crump first notices his nose bleed a high pitched ringing is cleverly inserted into the score, mimicking Crump’s symptoms for the entire audience. That’s brilliant. Except that I’m surer than ever that tinnitus could drive a person mad.

The scene where Scully calls Mulder when Crump has him at gunpoint and he calmly answers as if nothing’s wrong forcefully reminds me of “Herrenvolk (4×1). But that time it was Scully being held hostage by the Alien Bounty Hunter and Mulder calling her on the phone, oblivious.

Oh, how I begged Scully to stop poking around in that dead woman’s ear.

I’m digging Mulder’s knew haircut. The Elvis look was wearing thin.

There are clear echoes of the movie Speed here, which makes me want to take a trip down pre-adolescent lane and go rewatch it.

How about that needle Scully’s sporting is the stuff of nightmares?

Best Quotes:

Scully: Uh, Virgil Nokes? I’m Agent Scully. This is Agent Mulder. We’re with the F.B.I.
Virgil Nokes: Jehovah’s Witness?
Scully: No, sir, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Mulder: But we do have a free copy of the Watchtower for you, if you’d like.

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Mulder: If you stop moving you die? I think I saw this movie.

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Mulder: Crump? Crump, what else can you tell me about what’s happening to you?
Patrick Crump: Mr. Crump. You call me by my last name, you say Mister in front of it.
Mulder: Mister. I got you.
Patrick Crump: Not Crump. Mr. Crump.
Mulder: I can think of something else I’d like to call you. I could put Mister in front of that too if you’d like.
Patrick Crump: You know, what kind of name is Mulder, anyway? What is that, like… like, Jewish?
Mulder: Excuse me?
Patrick Crump: Jewish. It is, right?
Mulder: It’s Mr. Mulder to you, you peanut-picking bastard.

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Mulder: Well, on behalf of the international Jewish conspiracy I just need to inform you that we’re… almost out of gas.