Tag Archives: Frank Spotnitz

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


 

IWantToBelieve564.jpg

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?

IWantToBelieve14.jpg

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.

IWantToBelieve36.jpg

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.

IWantToBelieve521.jpg

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?

IWantToBelieve320.jpg

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.

 

Advertisements

William 9×17: You say it as if you have a choice.


William63.jpg

Stop, the love you save may be your own.

Reportedly, the idea for Scully to give William up for adoption was mandated by Carter and Spotnitz. Duchovny, Anderson, and executive producer John Shiban were not happy with this turn of events, due to them being parents and feeling that the action was not realistic, but “grudgingly consented”. – Wikipedia (William)

We have reached the high point of my Season 9 frustration, or the low point of my fandom, however you choose to look at it. I warn you now this will be long.

For all intents and purposes, baby William is gone, Carter said. After all, you can’t have Scully and Mulder chasing aliens in a future movie with a toddler tagging along.

“It was a problem we knew existed, and we couldn’t figure out how we were going to handle it,” he said. “This seemed like the best way.”

“A problem”? And whose fault was that?

There was some debate about what to do and what the best thing to do was. That idea (giving William up for adoption) was from Chris and Frank. It’s a safe place for the baby. I don’t think anybody wanted to continue playing jeopardy for the baby any longer. It started to become for all of us painful. – John Shiban

YES.

“We knew that the fans would be asking why we had Scully go through the pregnancy arc to begin with if she was just going to give the baby up for adoption,” said executive producer Frank Spotnitz.

YES.

“And it was a legitimate question.”

YES.

“I had a lot of reservations about that storyline and about her giving up the baby, and was not at all sure that it was the right thing to do. But in the end, I think it was the right thing to do, because it becomes unsavory. And I think everybody — David and Chris, especially — felt that the baby was going to be an obstacle to us in any future movies.”

Again, whose fault was that?

“The decision was very difficult,” added Spotnitz. “But realistically, in no small way, it made it easier to one day do another movie.

Here’s the thing everyone seems to be missing: It doesn’t matter how well you write the movie if no one wants to see it.

We have to follow you to the theater, remember?

And as painful, unsavory, frustrating and problematic as the storylines surrounding William have been, nothing is worse than after all that taking him suddenly away with a flimsy excuse. This is the kind of story choice that turns people off. All this buildup about William as the second coming and then, boom. He’s gone.

The job the latter half of Season 9 was burdened with was wrapping up emotional loose ends. That’s fine as far as it goes. But if a movie franchise was a goal, then the stories should actually be ramping up towards something epic.

Instead this has a note of finality and there’s no presented reason to wait and see what happens to the budding Mulder brood. Don’t put a period where there should be a comma. If you are going to get rid of William, make it temporary. Give your audience hope, somehow, of a reunion. Or, how about we just let William be a normal baby? He’d be older by the movies anyway! Let him go to grandma’s if he needs a place to hide out.

Like so many unpleasant surprises this season, I had no idea what was coming when “William” first aired. But just like with “Jump the Shark” (9×15), as soon as we hit the end of the teaser, I knew. Last time, I freaked out. This time, I freaked out… and threw my hands over my head in both contempt and surrender. Why shouldn’t one more thing go horribly wrong?

I think it’s safe to say I was too upset to look at the episode objectively, but this time I gave it the old college try. And you know what? Other than the end result being such a source of frustration, the episode is otherwise a pretty good one. It’s quiet with a lot of exposition, but it manages to be surprisingly emotional.

David Duchovny’s back directing and I think he makes some great choices here. Gillian Anderson and Jeffrey Owens also do an impressive job acting, especially Gillian as a thoroughly confused and conflicted Scully. And I’m happy to find out what became of Spender. That, at least, is a welcome surprise here right before the end.

The scene where Scully examines Spender/Miller/Mulder is easily the best in the episode. It’s shot very intimately, intimately enough to let us know that despite her protests, Scully wonders if this might be Mulder too. I try to remind Scully that the network wouldn’t waste David Duchovny’s face like that, but I’m not sure she hears me.

Eventually, grand scheme working according to plan, Spender worms his way to William and injects him some magical form of magnetite. Et voilà! No more Super Baby, no more messiah.

And why does he do it? To save the world? To condemn the world? No, to stick it to his dead(?) dad. And, of course, to get rid of the prophecy plot because even 1013 doesn’t know what to do with it anymore.

The deus ex machina nature of these machinations is frustrating enough, but I could deal and would even be relieved to see the cosmic child plot go no matter how it went. But then… the adoption. Scully lets Spender get into her head and makes a permanent, life-altering decision because of it. 

Scully’s baby has been under threat for a long time now. If anything, she’s recently found out that the Super Soldiers don’t actually want to harm her baby, though they do want him for their own purposes. Why would she suddenly decide to give William up based on the word of Spender who is a confirmed liar like his father before him?

And let’s say danger will rear its seven heads from time to time. We’re supposed to believe the Super Soldiers are everywhere and they are legion. They can’t find a baby on a farm? They found a pregnant Scully out in the middle of nowhere before in “Existence” (8×21). They will eventually find William in Wyoming too. You’re really telling me Mulder and Scully aren’t better equipped to protect him than Farmer John?

“God has His reasons and His ways.”

So does Chris Carter, but it’s much harder to submit to his.

Verdict:

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in the book of 2 Kings, lived a woman we only know as the Shunamite woman. She was a barren woman, but she had long ago made her peace with that. She was also a good woman, a god-fearing woman, a pleasant woman. And she was married to a man older than Sean Connery.

One day she asked Sean Connery saying, “Honey, you know the prophet has to travel through our area quite often. Wouldn’t it be nice to add a guest room he could stay in? We’ve been talking about fixing the house up anyway.”

So Sean Connery agreed because, like all wise wives, she allowed him to think it was his idea. The addition was built and the prophet Elisha stayed in it and found it quite a bit more comfortable than the Holiday Inn. Grateful for her unsolicited generosity, the prophet asked the Shunamite woman if there was anything he could do for her, any way he could help her. After all, she’d been such a blessing to him. But the Shunamite woman said no, she had everything she needed, thanks ever so.

Then the prophet’s servant spilled the beans: Not only was the Shunamite woman barren, her husband was older than Sean Connery. Surely a child, a child would bless her.

The prophet then goes back to the Shunamite woman and tells her that he will pray to God and God will give her a son. But the Shunamite woman protests. After all, she’d made her peace with being childless long ago. She couldn’t stand to get her hopes up for nothing. But sure enough, soon she had a baby boy.

Sean Jr. grew up healthy and strong, but one day when he was still a young boy, he got a headache, and he sat on his mother’s lap all day. And in the evening, he died. The Shunamite woman took him and laid him on his bed and locked the door behind her. Then, instead of the minivan, she asked her husband for the keys to the Mustang. She had a quick errand, she said, nothing to worry about. 

The Shunamite woman gunned that engine and drove straight to the prophet. After speeding through many a stop sign, she barged into his office unannounced. “You gave me this child. I didn’t ask for him,” she said. “You gave him to me and you give him back.”

The prophet, of course, complied.

My point is simple. William was not our idea. We didn’t ask for him. We were fine without him. But you, Dear 1013, brought him into this. You brought him into this and I’d like him back… please.

B

Snippets:

The above is the Salome Paraphrase Version of the Bible. Not available for purchase.

I was in denial for a while after this. I really thought Mulder and Scully would search for ways to get their baby back, or that his adopted parents would be killed by the Super Soldiers and there would be a rescue mission.

Chris Owens got the worst makeup jobs on this show.

Even after having watched and knowing what Spender is really up to, it’s hard to see someone do things they shouldn’t to a baby.

The Mulderisms that Spender makes are an especially nice touch.

It actually would have been more compelling if William were taken and Mulder and Scully had to get him back.

See what happens when you make a baby, Chris? All subsequent decisions have to be filtered through the lens of parenthood. That includes parent writers.

And then she sang “Joy to the World” just to torment us all.

What verification do we have that the injection worked? ‘Cause no, a still mobile doesn’t count.

The decision doesn’t make instinctive sense. A mother would sooner go into hiding with her baby than give him up.

I watched Independence Day, however much Mulder may have desecrated the poster. It is possible to have youngins running around and still have an epic alien battle.

We now have DNA evidence that Mulder isn’t Bill Mulder’s son, but Cigarette-Smoking Man’s.

I do like hearing “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” at the end. That’s a sweet, sentimental touch. Ergo, it must’ve been David Duchovny’s.

If Spender’s telling the truth, and William was the one thing the aliens needed to effect colonization, then we can all pack it up and go home.

Jump the Shark 9×15: Guys like that, they live forever.


9.15.png

The Wrath of John

Spotnitz: Some months after the show had gone off the air, I was listening to The Wrath of Khan commentary and at the end of that movie, if you recall, Spock dies. And the producer, Harv Bennett, says that they tested it and people hated them, were so mad that they killed Spock. And then they went back and they added the scene which is the hopeful, optimistic scene, with Kirk on the bridge. And it changed the perception of the movie entirely. And I’ll say, looking back at this episode now, that’s one thing I might’ve done differently is found some way to give you that sense of uplift at the end, because it is just… grindingly sad at the end of this.

Too late. I AM BROKEN.

I almost don’t know where to begin with how sad this episode makes me. Some fourteen years after it aired and my face was all contorted like Jimmy Bond’s while I was watching this. There was jumping involved. And desperate whining. And, no. I’m not ashamed. It was the least I could do to mourn these guys.

Part of me gets it. I’m just geeky enough to have listened to the John Gillnitz (a portmanteau of writers John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, and Frank Spotnitz) commentary a few times over the years (don’t judge). I understand what they were thinking – The Lone Gunmen series had been canceled. The X-Files was ending. And while John Gillnitz may not have created the Lone Gunmen, that honor belongs to writing partners Glen Morgan and James Wong, they had taken the characters and run with them, given them a backstory, more prominence in the main series, and eventually their own show which John Gillnitz ran. They loved them like only fathers can and, with the fictional world the Gunmen lived in imploding around them, they wanted our geeksome trio to go out with a bang rather than fade into obscurity.

But they didn’t have to die.

I didn’t see it coming either. There I was, innocently enjoying the bountiful blessing of another Morris Fletcher voiceover, the only kind I like, when we get to the end of the teaser and I realize: They’re going to kill my boys!!! NOOOO!!!!

Honestly, at this point there was so little joy left in the show that losing the bright spot that the Lone Gunmen always provided felt like a finishing blow. (It felt like a finishing blow. The real finishing blow awaited us the next week.) Even so, and even though I’m still genuinely and unrepentantly bitter about the outcome of this episode, I can’t say it’s a bad episode. It’s actually the most engaging we’ve had in far too long.

Mainly, I want more of Michael McKean all the time. I want to dream about him in my sleep. I want to hear him when my alarm goes off in the morning. I want him to serve me my coffee at Starbucks (Sorry, Priscilla). For those who, like me, rank “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II” (6×5) among their favorite episodes, and those who, like me, enjoy The Lone Gunmen spinoff series, no heroic demise would have been complete without this most lovable of villains.

It’s such a perfect reunion of The Lone Gunmen’s main characters, including the always memorable Kimmy the Geek, twin brother of Jimmy the Geek. Why did it have to be wasted on such a tragedy?

If you listen to the DVD commentary, desperately looking for answers, as I have, then you’ll get the distinct impression that not only was the Fox network not fully behind The Lone Gunmen spinoff, but they also couldn’t have cared less about allowing for a closure episode on The X-Files. It sounds like part of the way John Gillnitz finally sold the idea successfully was by promising the big bang of the trio’s deaths. They had to promise this episode would be special.

“This episode almost never was because there was zero support for doing it,” Frank brings to light. “The studio was hostile to the idea and it was a constant fight to get the money and negotiate with the actors because they did not want to do it. We were determined, since this was the last year of The X-Files, that we were going to have our farewell with these characters. When we finally decided that this would be their death, it became a much stronger argument with the studio.” LAX-Files, pg. 218

Spotnitz: We wanted this to be very special and, sad to say, the way to do that, we realized, would be to make this their final appearance. It wouldn’t just be another Lone Gunmen episode, it would be the Lone Gunmen episode.

There are times when I feel resolution is overrated.

Gilligan: We did. We had many discussions about the ending, period, whether they should die or not. And I gotta say I never, I never wanted it to happen. But I think it’s absolutely the right way to end it… None of us did it lightly, to be sure… Ending with these three guys dying… there was a lot of hours of discussion about it: should we even do it, should we not. And at the end I think Frank and John are right about doing it because, as much as I love these characters, you want to see them go out as heroes. And we knew damn well, pardon my French, we’re never gonna see them again and, you know, that the series was coming to an end. We’re never gonna get The Lone Gunmen series going again so why not have them go out with a blaze of glory?

I get the perverse logic, I do. And it might’ve been one thing if they were any other recurring characters or dramatic guest stars. But the Lone Gunmen were such a sweet presence. They were like the lovable Lost Boys to Mulder’s Peter Pan. This is a fictional slaughter of the innocents.

Then having it happen as almost the coup de grace to a season full of disappointments… But I have to admit that, in some ways, it made the end of the series go down easier. How can the X-Files world keep spinning without the Gunmen? Yes, it is that serious.

The Lone Gunmen were also indispensably useful. I couldn’t imagine Mulder and Scully successfully countering government conspiracies and alien colonization without their hacking skills, especially now that Mulder’s out of the F.B.I.. Everyone needs a techno geek they can trust.

That’s how central to the story they had become that it was hard to imagine the action going forward without them involved in some aspect of it. I mean, what’s next? Skinner goes down swingin’? God forbid!!

Oh, X-Files. Everyone’s in agreement – It’s time to pack it in and call it a day. What is it called when you’ve passed jumping the shark? Hopping the whale? Skipping the giant squid?

Verdict:

You know what really kills me? Mulder wasn’t there. Scully and Skinner were barely there. (Though I understand there were scheduling issues so I’m giving everyone an emotional pass.)

You know what else kills me? The Gunmen knew what they were about to do. Why didn’t they run?? Someone, dive for it! Something!!!

There must be something really special about these guys that all these years later and I’m still yelling at my television screen. Or…. there’s something really “special” about me. Either way, I’m okay with that.

If they were going to take them out, I am glad that they died heroes. In the end, the Gunmen didn’t mess up at all. They kept Yves from killing the wrong man, for one. And if she had killed the wrong man, John Gillnitz would’ve been able to kill thousands of people without suspicion, for two.

Ah, John Gillnitz, our villain who symbolically dies along with the Gunman… just like our real life villains, the John Gillnitz trio who killed them. Those are the real Lone Gunmen, who despite my ravings I appreciate dearly. (The bitterness is real, it’s just compartmentalized.) And, hey, word on the street is that the Lone Gunmen are back from the dead in some capacity or other. Maybe one of these days John Gillnitz will resurrect too.

Vaya con Dios, amigos… And welcome back.

A-

Kung Fu:

So I take it Morris Fletcher and his wife broke up for good.

Oh, that’s right. Despite having read every X-File, Doggett wouldn’t have known about the “Dreamland” events since time reversed like it never happened.

I love the name Lois.

Teletubbies = Mind control

Please note that Vince Gilligan was the lone hold out against killing the Gunmen.

The actor who plays Dr. Houghton was also “Cobra” in “En Ami” (7×15).

That death scene – Is the space really airtight if they can hear each other?

All I want, all I want in life right now is a t-shirt that says:  “Langly Lives!”

Best Quotes:

Morris: Let me give you a hint. I used to work at Groom Lake, Nevada. Area 51? I was a man in black. “The” Men in Black. What you’ve never heard of us?

Doggett: I saw the movie.

Morris: Yeah, well… there were a lot of technical inaccuracies in that thing. Anyway, I’m ready to make a deal.

Doggett: What deal would that be?

Morris: The one that saves my furry pink ass.

———————–

Morris: This is pointless. These three monkeys couldn’t find stink in an outhouse.

———————–

Morris: Agents, I’m tellin’ ya, you don’t want these three involved. I mean, they don’t even have their ridiculous tinker toy gizmos. This place is like “How The Grinch Stole Radio Shack.”

 

Daemonicus 9×3: Like a snake eating its own tail.


Screenshot10-4.jpg

50 bonus points.

I had a theory going into this rewatch of Season 9 that it’s biggest problem was not the introduction of Doggett and Reyes and not even the flagging mythology. I thought that what Season 9 needed was to cut off the Mulder and Scully umbilical cord and let our new team fly free as the next generation.

I still believe that. But even as the voices whisper to Kobold, I’m feeling a slightly less demonic breeze in my ear. I had no idea, no, not even with my concerning level of devotion to these fictional characters, how necessary Mulder and Scully really were, as a team, to the show as a whole. With their wide-eyed sense of wonder and discovery, particularly in the early years, and their irrepressible banter, they made even the most out there concepts seem believable, even the scariest fears approachable, their shared intensity elevating the absurd. Remember the possessed sewer cats???

Scully: Oh my God, Mulder! It smells like… I think it’s bile!
Mulder: Is there any way I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?

The cases weren’t great just because they were creepy, they were great because Mulder and Scully sold them.

I’ve heard The X-Files described as a supernatural police procedural, and while I get that on one level and used to agree, I now believe it isn’t. That’s why we couldn’t exchange Mulder and Scully for Doggett and Reyes so easily. If it were an endlessly continuable procedural designed to investigate an interminable parade of paranormal problems, then changing the leads wouldn’t have mattered. No, The X-Files was a quest with a distinct beginning, middle, and a forcefully dragged out end. It had a sell-by date. The truth can’t be out there in perpetuity.

Mulder and Scully had a routine, yes. But they weren’t solving cases they were exploring the universe. Many a time they didn’t solve or resolve anything, they just watched the impossible unfold around them. Other times they found answers which led to more questions with no answers. All that mattered was that I felt like I was discovering the universe with them.

I know it sounds like I’m way off topic for a review of “Daemonicus” but there’s a reason for the ramble.

I used to appreciate this episode much more. In fact, it’s long been one of my favorites of the season. It still is. Yet, it’s not too often that I like episodes less with the passage of time and the accumulation of rewatches. Maybe there is genuinely something wrong with me, but when I went to start this episode and heard Mark Snow’s “Lamenta” on the DVD menu screen I felt like crying.

For the first time, it really feels like the good old days are gone. Maybe it’s because it’s Doggett and Reyes’ first Monster of the Week episode and I was always partial to those. Maybe it was my mood after hearing such haunting music. But now I feel like I see in this forty-three minutes of still pretty well-done television why The X-Files couldn’t continue this way and why Season 9 failed.

Change is good and even when it isn’t good, sometimes it’s necessary. But while this remained in many ways a good show after the Mulder and Scully era, it was no longer magically delicious.

In order for it to become so again our two new leads have to create their own magic, but they haven’t worked out how to do that yet. I know it’s early. I do. But let’s see how promising they are.

Where Mulder used to interpret a situation. Reyes “senses” things. When she says, “Not once did I find anything to support evidence of genuine satanic activity”, what she means is that she never got really creepy vibes before. It’s good and interesting that they’re separating Reyes from Mulder even in the role of believer. But it’s much more difficult to pull off Reyes’ pseudo-psychic feelings and make them the foundation of investigation than it was Mulder’s evidenced based hunches, as hard as those stretches of plausibility were to swallow sometimes.

Not to mention, Reyes has lost the self-deprecating goofiness and awkwardness that made her so approachable when she was first introduced in Season 9. Suddenly she’s less childlike and distinctly more womanly. The jury’s still out on how well this plays in the long run.

As for Doggett, he isn’t just a skeptic. Same as last season, he’s resentful of the paranormal, resentful of its implications. Scully was frustrated and puzzled sometimes investigating with Mulder, but rarely angry. And her banter with Mulder kept the reserved Scully from coming off too cold and aloof. Doggett is marching in place as a character, and for what? What truths are frightening him?

Kobold: I’m wondering, why a skeptic such as yourself would accept an assignment to an obscure unit of the FBI devoted exclusively to the investigating of paranormal phenomena… Ordinarily men do not pursue occupations against their own inclinations unless there’s some strong countervailing reason. Seeking the love or approval of a woman, perhaps? Agent Reyes may have affection for you, but you for her…?

————————

Kobold: I’ve been thinking a lot about you, Agent Doggett… about why someone so ill-suited would draw this duty. Clearly, you have feelings for her. But you can’t compete with the long lost Agent Mulder… his easy good looks, his Oxford education… Mulder has what you can’t have. But you stumble forward, the flat-footed cop, thinking he can put handcuffs on demons. You want her, but she feels sorry for you. They both do.

————————

“I really wanted a character who could not just tell us again what the X-Files were after nine seasons, but tell us something about who Doggett, Reyes, and Scully were,” said Frank Spotnitz.

————————

“From the beginning Doggett has tremendous respect for Scully and I think that respect has blossomed into something else,” says Carter. “That was always our intention, that we would have a sort of triangle.” “From the beginning Doggett has tremendous respect for Scully and I think that respect has blossomed into something else,” says Carter. “That was always our intention, that we would have a sort of triangle.”
I think the madness speaks for itself, yes?

For her part, Scully’s back teaching at the F.B.I. Academy, a gig she had before she ever met Mulder or heard of an X-File. The move makes sense both in terms of continuity and of character. She has a baby at home to take care of and if the writers’ seem to have ignored her maternity leave benefits, then I’m glad they recognized that it’s time for a more regular schedule and a less risky job. What’s more, I’m glad to see Scully has again found her happy medium between skepticism and belief.

That said, Scully is a heavy weight that’s holding everybody down. Her presence isn’t necessary in this plot, but she’s here because Gillian Anderson is contracted to be here. Worse, her presence is a constant reminder of what no longer is when I’m trying my darndest to concentrate on Doggett and Reyes and give them a fair shake. Yet they keep going back to her like Jedi Knights to Yoda instead of learning to fly on their own.

I really think they could, you know… fly, if the right winds were blowing. I’m going to need some drive, though. And I’m not talking about romantic competition with the absent Mulder. Doggett needs to want to be here and Reyes’s take it or leave it attitude when it comes to getting definitive answers needs to go. Make me believe that it matters. Make me believe it all means something.

Verdict:

This all sounds dank and depressing, I’m sure. But I’m not mad at “Daemonicus”, I just think it needs a lift, something to shine a soft light into the darkness. But like Kobold says, Doggett doesn’t possess Mulder’s easy manners and humor. And he and Reyes aren’t two wide-eyed young agents on a journey of discovery. Still, everybody’s got their something and I want them to find theirs and fast. I need a little yeast to leaven this lump.

Visually, I think this episode is great. This is only Frank Spotnitz’s second time directing and while the direction draws more attention to itself than it did in “Alone” (8×19), I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that, like Reyes, our spidey senses are supposed to be tingling and that’s manifested in the hyper-reality of the clouds. I also think the mental hospital set is gorgeous.

It’s a good effort, ladies and gentleman.

But enough with the love triangles or quadrangles or whatever this nonsense is you have planned.

We now have Follmer pawing at Reyes, Scully pining after Mulder, and Doggett dreaming of Scully. What’s next, Reyes flirting with Doggett?

Oh.

B-

Scrabble:

I really like the black opening of riding in the car with Reyes.

So… remember that time Doggett and Reyes walked into the padded cell of a crazy man and closed the door behind themselves?

What did he just vomit up? Niagara Falls?

The checkmate ending feels… awkward.

Nest of Bile can be found here – “Squeeze” (1×2)

Possessed Sewer Cats can be found here – “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18)

Best Quotes:

Reyes: Did Dr. Richmond display any knowledge of Satanic lure, or speak of demonic possession?
Dr. Sampson: No, he was perfectly cogent. He didn’t suffer from those kinds of delusions.
Reyes: I’m not really asking about delusions. When you last spoke to him did he seem himself?
Dr. Sampson: Seem himself?
Reyes: I mean did he display a personality other than his own? Speaking tongues or in any language which he didn’t know?
Dr. Sampson: You’re asking me if he was possessed? This is the 21st Century, Miss Reyes. We stopped looking a long time ago to demons to explain mental illness.
Reyes: I’m not really talking about mental illness.

——————–

Reyes: What if it’s ectoplasm?
Doggett: Ectoplasm?
Reyes: You’ve heard of it, Agent Scully?
Scully: Agent Mulder used to refer to it as “psychic plasma”: a residual by product of telepathic communication. In theory, it would have inorganic properties that couldn’t be explained otherwise.
Doggett: So what are we talking now? The Ghostbusters?

Alone 8×19: I appreciate your enthusiasm.


alone466

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.

Medusa 8×13: Hot, sticky and crawling in the dark.


medusa194.jpg

I thought this theme was finished, but “Medusa” brings us back to another classic subclass of X-File, the kind where our two leads mix with a rag tag group of experts in a remote location and stumble upon a dangerous, previously undiscovered organism. I’m thinking, of course, of “Ice” (1×7), “Darkness Falls” (1×19), “Firewalker” (2×9), even “Detour” (5×4) and “Dod Kalm” (2×19). “Medusa” is of the same order, it just takes place not in a primeval forest or in the bowels of a volcano, but in the otherworldly, subterranean realm of the Boston underground. And if Season 8 has been good for anything, and it is good for something, it’s for bringing us back to the classic scare. It’s also good for Scully expressions, but that’s a conversation for a later episode.

I haven’t heard much mention of “Medusa” on the interwebs, so I can only assume it doesn’t get either much love or hate. From me, it gets love. It may not be the most radically inventive episode, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to work.

Maybe it’s the way the neurons fire in my brain, but this skin-eating creature freaks me out. I get involuntary chills every time I see those electric sparks. It’s not the grossest thing The X-Files has ever done, but it bothers me. The irrationally obstinate local authorities are back and they bother me too, but in a different way. It is what it is, I suppose. Someone has to get in the way of our protagonists, but sometimes I wish the antagonism had a legitimate motive. But without an obstacle, our team wouldn’t have anything to team up against.

Scully and Doggett spend most of this episode separate, which is how they’ve also spent most of the season. Up to this point, they haven’t felt like much of a team at all despite being given such a great emotional set up back in “Roadrunners” (8×5). But one of the things I like most about “Medusa” is that I finally feel like Scully and Doggett are working together and not just alongside of each other. Oddly, their separation here bonds them because they’re forced to depend on each other.

This is especially a test for Doggett, who admirably accepts Scully’s refusal to enter the tunnels herself without question and follows her every instruction without resentment, even when she sends him into clear danger. See that? A real man’s man can take orders from a girl without sacrificing any of his manliness.

Doggett has to learn to trust Scully, which so far he hasn’t had reason to do yet. Up until now he’s questioned Scully’s theories and conclusions. He’s questioned her judgment. But in the face of dire circumstances and opposition from a suspiciously contrary lieutenant, Doggett shows remarkable solidarity with Scully.

Scully already has reason to trust Doggett, but she still hasn’t trusted him with the truth of her pregnancy. This is the first time we’ve seen her consciously reluctant to take a physical risk and much of the emotional tension in this episode relies on the audience’s awareness of Scully’s pregnancy and the potential jeopardy to the baby.

This is also the first time that Scully shows real concern and care for Doggett, a care possibly fueled by guilt that by keeping him in the dark she’s putting her partner in more danger. Here she’s asking him to risk dying a gruesome death without her physically present to watch his back and she’s not telling him why. Knowing Doggett, he would’ve done it in a heartbeat, but still.

And let me just say again that I like Doggett. I like his military-bred willingness to do what needs to be done. I like his respect for Scully and her seniority in the X-Files. I like that he’s willing to risk his life to save a jerk who knocked him out and left him for dead. That’s a good guy, right there. And for the first time, I feel like I’m not just watching Doggett I’m actually rooting for him. Scully isn’t the only one who’s becoming emotionally invested in the man.

Verdict:

Much thanks to writer Frank Spotnitz for reminding us that not every X-File is about paranormal phenomena or alien conspiracies. The X-Files division investigates the unexplained, including events with purely scientific causes.

I’m also grateful to see Scully acting something other than bored or sad. Righteously angry and guilty will work for a change of pace. She’s also not acting like Mulder! Whew! For what feels like the first time this season, she’s solving an X-File as Scully the Scientist and not as Scully the Wannabe Mulder.

One weakness I do spot, besides the inexplicably obdurate local authorities, is the miraculous appearance of the little boy in the tunnels. You know, the mute little boy who somehow knows exactly what Doggett is looking for and leads him to it, the one who serves no purpose other than to allow Scully to connect the dots and whose origins are left unexplained. Actually, to be really real, the whole ending is rushed and weak. Somehow, that doesn’t ruin the experience for me, though. Because that’s what it is: a tense, dark, sweaty experience that lasts for a while and then suddenly lets up – A description that applies to several of my favorite episodes.

B+

Seawater:

Hello, Penny Johnson Jerald. I loved to hate you on 24.

Scully asks Doggett to uncover bodies killed by some unknown contagion. Is she nuts? Didn’t she learn anything from “F. Emasculata” (2×22)?

I enjoyed seeing Scully go off on Deputy Chief Karras. She was this close to a Scully Squared ™ moment.

Scully and Doggett share a cute moment in the hospital when Doggett is clearly embarrassed that Scully might see something she shouldn’t while he’s wearing his hospital gown. I can’t help but remember how easily Mulder walked around Scully in his underwear as early as “Fire” (1×11).

Best Quotes:

Deputy Chief Karras: Agent Scully is a medical doctor. Who they tell me has a lot of experience with equivocal deaths.

Melnick: Equivocal? [Laughs] Hey, I mean you’re dead or you’re not, right?

Scully: Deaths for which there may be many explanations or for which an explanation may be hard to find.

Lyle: [To Doggett] What about you?

Doggett: I’m just a good shot.

The Gift 8×11: Are you calling Mulder a liar?


thegift015

Sniffle.

We’ve had a string of episodes I don’t care for and they culminate in this, “The Gift”. I warn you here and now that I have mixed feelings about it. That said, maybe because I’ve been so bored lately, or maybe because I missed Mulder more than I realized, but seeing his face in the opening teaser is such a joy and relief. In fact, I may have teared up a little.

I used to think I hated “The Gift” but I realize now that isn’t true. I only have one problem with the gift, it’s just a really, really big problem: The entire premise rests on a storyline I despise. That’s right. Not only is Mulder missing, even if he weren’t missing, he’d be dead or dying. Mulder has a deadly brain disease that he never saw fit to tell a soul about. So go ahead, steal Mulder back from the aliens. His eventual death remains inevitable.

I’ve already expressed my opinions on this ridiculous, horrible, abomination of a distraction from the primary plot in my review for “Within” (8×1). It went a little like this.

“It’s not enough that Mulder’s gone, you’ve gotta ruin the memories too? Stop retroactively killing what little joy I found in Season 7! He was happy in Season 7! This doesn’t even fit the timeline!

Let me try to get this straight. In Season 7, Mulder and Scully are sleeping together, but she has no idea he’s traveling nearly four hundred miles round trip every weekend. Mulder’s dying of an incurable disease, but devastated as he was when his mother killed herself after hiding her illness, he plans to keep his disease a secret from Scully. Scully and Mulder are happy as clams almost all of Season 7, but what we didn’t know was that Mulder was merely hiding his suffering. He was showing “clear signs of decline” but they didn’t catch that when Mulder went to the hospital in “Signs and Wonders” (7×9) and “Brand X” (7×19), just to name a couple of times. Things are so dire that he already had his name etched on the family grave stone. And all this he manages to hide from Scully, a doctor so brilliant she can diagnose nearly any disease from a single symptom despite never having practiced medicine.

I call revisionist BS.”

My feelings remain unchanged.

So now we’re back to that, are we? Doggett has suddenly and conveniently remembered that X-Files assignment aside, he’s still charged with the task of finding Mulder. He remembers just as the audience is starting to grow restless… though I’m sure the timing of this episode and bringing David Duchovny back had nothing to do with that… or with February sweeps.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. The thought of Mulder dying makes me cranky, that’s all.

Let me focus on the positives because, as I said, I don’t hate this episode the way I thought I did.

Like #1: Skinner and Doggett make a good team.

Every thundercloud has its rainbow and the rainbow in the storm of Mulder’s disappearance is Skinner. Our dear A.D. needed to get out more and it’s good to see him investigating a case again. This is a trend that started towards the end of Season 7 with “Brand X” and “Requiem” (7×22) and I see no reason for it to stop. Besides, he and Doggett have more onscreen chemistry than Scully and Doggett. They genuinely challenge each other instead of just assuming the position.

If we’re going to lose Scully for an episode and have an abundance of untempered testosterone, then I’m glad it went down like this. I would hate to see her absence wasted.

Like #2: The monster is unsettling.

And so are the monstrously selfish humans. Yes, the monster is gross, but more than anything it makes you wonder how far you yourself would go if you found yourself incurably ill, if you could live with saving yourself at the expense of someone else’s pain. Are the suffering entitled to the sin-eater’s help? Is their desperation excusable?

There’s a Christlike allegory in here somewhere…

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a Man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-5 (NIV)

The difference is that while Christ died willingly, the sin-eater has no choice. He’s dying a constant death because no one is brave enough to bear their own suffering, not when there’s someone else who can pay the price instead.

It may sound like I’m pulling this out of nowhere, but I think this is actually a parallel that writer Frank Spotnitz wanted us to see, especially in the scene of Mrs. Hangemuhl’s deliverance.

Watching the sin-eater stretch its mouth to eat her alive while her husband recites The Lord’s Prayer in the background, I’ll admit it’s pretty disturbing. It’s supposed to be.

Like #3: Mulder makes sense.

His dying makes no sense, but if he were dying, it would be completely in character for Mulder to destroy the means of his own salvation if by doing so he could save someone else.

One thing the series has lost sight of as of late is the original vision Chris Carter had of Mulder and Scully as romantic heroes, and I do mean romantic in the literary sense. Their main purpose is to seek the truth and to do right even if it costs them. To that end, Scully was originally imbued with a strong sense of justice, Mulder with compassion. Sometimes Mulder empathizes with victims to an almost frustrating extent, but that’s who he is. He’s a compassionate human being who would rather die than force someone else to suffer for him.

Heck, when Scully was dying in “Redux II” (5×2) he wouldn’t let her take the blame for his killing a man who was spying on him. He wouldn’t let her reputation suffer for him even though she wouldn’t be alive to feel it. That’s my Mulder.

Like #4: Doggett bonds with Mulder.

This is The X-Files. You don’t ever have to have met to develop a spiritual connection.

Somehow, despite having been a confirmed skeptic as recently as the last episode, Doggett puts together the pieces of this case so well you would think he was reading from Mulder’s playbook. While that does move my eyebrow up toward my hairline a tad, I’m glad that if Doggett finally experienced the paranormal in his own person, it’s Mulder who led him there. Mulder is the emotional and spiritual center of the X-Files, which started out as the expression and fulfilment of his own passion, the vehicle for his quest. He’s the one who initiated Scully on this journey of discovery, and it’s only fitting that he should initiate Doggett, even if it’s in his absence.

Doggett also finishes what Mulder was trying to do. Through Doggett’s death he saves the sin-eater. Ah, there’s that cycle again: death – resurrection – salvation.

In saving the sin-eater an emotional link is created between Mulder and Doggett. Mulder shoots it to save it, Doggett stands up for it and is shot. I’ve avoided this episode for so long that I didn’t remember the ending. I had forgotten that Doggett died and came back. I like it.

Mulder’s a good man. John Doggett’s a good man too.

Verdict:

I’m both relieved that they brought Mulder back and more than slightly resentful that they brought him back this way and to serve the purposes of this storyline. But it is what it is and if it has to be, at least “The Gift” makes better use of the characters than the last several episodes.

Well, most of the characters. Mulder could’ve remained completely unseen and the story wouldn’t have suffered at all.

For the love of all that is Scully, stop wasting David Duchovny’s eleven episodes!!!

A-

The Peanut Gallery:

All this time and no one had given Mulder’s apartment a proper search before?

So, in order to be healed, you get eaten and come back as monster vomit.

The monster vomit and the yellowish underground caves remind me of “Gender Bender” (1×13). That was my very first episode of The X-Files.

We’re getting so much of the Lone Gunmen this season that I’m starting to feel spoiled. Another silver lining to the Mulder is Missing rainbow.

There’s a great shot director Kim Manners does in the hospital scene. We can see Mr. and Mrs. Hangemuhn lovingly celebrating her recovery in Doggett’s reflection. That’s a beautiful shot.

That rustic woman’s accent throws me off.

Best Quotes:

Byers: We learned what we could. This is somewhat short notice, of course.

Frohike: And a little outside our area of expertise.

Langly: Plus the fact we were sleeping.

Doggett: You wearing pants, Langly?

Langly: Uh… yeah.