Tag Archives: Greg Walker

Surekill 8×9: Calling Clark Kent


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Meanwhile, Scully’s wardrobe choices have been excellent.

Whelp, Season 8’s been going along at a fairly good chop, especially considering the ship is sailing without Mulder. But every season has to bomb sometime. And for Season 8, that time is now.

This is only writer Greg Walker’s second X-File. The first one was the very promising “Brand X” (7×19). “Brand X” had many classic X-File elements and was on the verge of greatness, but I’m sorry to say that despite also harkening back to earlier seasons in style and substance, “Surekill” left me bored.

“Surekill” centers around two fraternal twin brothers, Dwight and Randall Cooper, who together run a pest extermination business, human pests included. In some strange twist of fate or science, Randall was born with super eyesight, x-ray vision, in fact. Dwight got the short stick and was born legally blind. Either the force is seeking balance or Randall got some of what belonged to Dwight. On the flipside, Dwight clearly got all the brains. Because of that, and likely because of guilt over having taken the eyesight that rightfully belonged to his brother, Randall is completely under his thumb. Dwight exploits his brother’s x-ray vision and his slow wits by having him shoot drug dealers through walls, ceilings and other places unseeable. Then the two go in and steal the money someone else already illegally earned.

All that I understand. But if Randall somehow got his superpower at the expense of his brother, one would think Dwight would have been born completely blind and not just legally blind. As it is, Dwight only acts like he can’t see when he feels like it.

Anywho, trouble comes in the form of a woman, Tammi, who works for them and plays a classic femme fatale trope. She’s the femme fatale who acts like a damsel in distress and robs you behind your back. Dwight sleeps with her while Randall stares at her… and stares at her… and stares at her…

Really, is x-ray vision sexy? Because I’ve seen x-rays and they’re not sexy. But Randall’s vision has a funny way of stopping just where he wants it to, and it appears he can stop at Tammi’s flesh without seeing through to her bones. Which I suppose is why he rented the apartment next door to hers so that he can stare through the walls at her taking a shower. Randall was somewhat sympathetic before that little scene. But I find it hard to sympathize with the Ultimate Peeping Tom, however Scully may think it’s romantic that he only wanted to look at Tammi. What an absurd way to try to make the story emotionally compelling as an afterthought.

The problem with “Surekill” is that it spends a lot of time on the Surekill Exterminations team and I’m not interested in any of them. I don’t like them. I don’t hate them. I don’t feel pity or anger toward them. I’m certainly not interested in their little love triangle. If nothing more is at stake than one of them killing each other, what does that matter to me?

If anything, the characters are off-putting and I’d be happy to see them destroy each other. Dwight is skeevy and Randall’s creepy, Dwight demanding what sounds like yet another round of obligatory sex from Tammi in his office while he knows Randall’s looking on through the door. Yep. I hope they do die.

Worse than that, there’s nothing that distinguishes the plot either. The teaser starts off fabulously; a terrified man runs into a police station asking for protection from an assassin and is killed in a locked cell while in police custody. That definitely qualifies as an X-File. Sadly, from there the story slowly peters out, becoming less and less interesting until, by the end, I don’t really care how it’s resolved.

Verdict:

X-Ray vision alone isn’t enough to build an X-File upon, it seems. So a criminal uses his superpowers to spy on a girl and kill other criminals. So what?

I complained in “Patience” (8×4) that the baggage of building Scully and Doggett’s relationship got in the way of the plot a little bit. Here, I wish it had. At least then I’d have something to think about. Scully and Doggett are already acting like they have a routine. Well, when did they get a routine and I missed it?

And I might add, Scully and Doggett observe without doing much to actually solve the case. Dwight, Randall, and Tammi all stay one step ahead of them.

Stupid ain’t cute.

C+

Rats:

I understand that Randall can see through walls, but how is it that those bullets of his can go through anything and everything?

These guys don’t sound like they’re from Massachusetts.

The way this case resolves itself while Scully and Doggett play catch up reminds me of “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14).

Doggett makes an Elvis reference… I miss Mulder!!

Dwight Cooper is played by Michael Bowen of, you guessed it, Breaking Bad. Because you know I love my X-Files/Breaking Bad connections.

Did you spot James Franco?

Best Quotes:

Dwight: I sent him a ham every Christmas till he finally told me he was a Jew.

——————–

Doggett: Calling Clark Kent.

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Brand X 7×19: They say these things kill people.


 

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I’m having War of the Coprophages flashbacks.

I was really excited to watch “Brand X” again. Honestly, my memories of the last few seasons are a lot fuzzier than the early parts of the series. (You can probably guess which episodes I watch more often.) The hidden blessing in that is getting to relive episodes afresh. And what I did remember of “Brand X” was good. Very good.

We have Skinner in play, and he so rarely gets to move from behind his desk. I think Mitch Pileggi was brought on the court mainly because Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny were still busy in post-production for “all things” (7×17) and “Hollywood A.D.” (7×18) respectively, but I’ll take any excuse to see more of Skinner.

I also haven’t seen a Half-Caff episode in nigh forever and I’ve missed them. For those who don’t know, Half-Caff is my own obsessive-compulsively subclassed category of X-File that involves a newly discovered science or technology with world-changing implications. Here-to-fore, however, they’ve also included a government conspiracy to get a hold of or control said science. “Brand X” is slightly different since there’s no government conspiracy, only a corporate one. But I’m counting it because I can.

Morley Tobacco takes the place of the government this episode and so is appropriately shady and secretive. Except for the good Dr. Voss, who shows signs early on of wanting to switch allegiances to the good side of the Force. He smirks in response to Mulder’s sarcasm at the conference table, anyway. But Dr. Voss has a problem. He and Dr. Scobie’s noble experiment, to genetically engineer a tobacco plant that wouldn’t cause cancer when smoked or inhaled, backfired. Oh sure, they developed a non-toxic plant. However, the tobacco beetles evolved to match the new supply and now their eggs are being inhaled along with the smoke. Needless to say, it’s not a pretty picture when the eggs hatch. Just ask the late Dr. Scobie.

Initially, we think Dr. Scobie’s been killed because he’s a whistleblower and the company didn’t want him revealing their nefarious secrets to the world. Whistleblowers were a hot topic in the 90’s and so was Big Bad Tobacco. I wonder if generations of X-Philes to come will recognize the plot of The Insider buried in all this. Even if they don’t, in a world where the GMOs vs. Non-GMOs debate has only gained traction over the years, this episode is oddly still relevant. Can we make nature better? Will we kill ourselves trying?

For first time writers on the show, Steve Maeda and Greg Walker give us a pretty classic X-File, the anomaly of Skinner being out in the field notwithstanding. Steven Maeda will go on to write several more episodes including one of my later season favorites, “Audrey Pauley” (9×13).

There are lots of little moments, especially in the beginning, that I enjoy about this episode. I love the opening shot of smoke billowing out of a chimney and how it subtly introduces our subject. Seeing Dr. Scobie’s glass of icy water with pinkish swirls of blood floating around in it gives me a delicious sense of foreboding. It also warms my Philish heart to see Mulder and Scully coming to Skinner’s aid. I realize he’s their boss and technically they have to show up whether they want to or not, but it’s nice that they want to. Oh, and it’s the first time, probably all season, that I’ve felt like either Mulder or Scully were in real danger. “Signs and Wonders” (7×9) didn’t convince me. This actually feels like Mulder’s on the verge of death.

The atmosphere, particularly in the indoor scenes where they could block out the L.A. sunlight, is perfect. (The X-Files was gorgeous.) The villain is vile. (That’s right. You go ahead and smoke your neighbors to death. ‘Cause this is America, man. E Pluribus uh…) The deaths are disgusting. (And I take perverse viewing pleasure in that.)

Everything’s moving with tense, expectant energy and then… the ending flattens like Coke in a cup.

Sigh. It pains me to admit it, but the 4th act starts to fizzle right when it should sizzle. It’s a sad reminder of what happened to “Theef” (7×14), another episode this season that was leading somewhere good and then choked right at the climax.

In particular, that scene where Skinner can’t make up his mind to take down Daryl Weaver goes on two minutes too long. I mean, I get it. If Daryl keeps on living he’ll keep on smoking and more people will inhale tobacco beetle eggs and die. And if Daryl dies then the doctor’s may not get the scientific answers they need to save Mulder and anyone else who might get infected. But Skinner is an Assistant Director at the F.B.I. I’m pretty sure he knows how to shoot a suspect so as to disable them rather than kill them, especially when that suspect is standing still. His hesitation, no, procrastination doesn’t make sense. Not to mention, Daryl’s bad guy speech would have been much more effective cut in half.

Verdict:

Is it too late to create a “Coulda’ been a contender” category? Because “Brand X” had the potential to be a classic. Instead, it’s just a really solid offering. Warts and all it’s still a far sight more entertaining than most of what I’ve seen this season.

B+

Bugs:

Skinner makes the idea of killer bugs sound so fantastic. Wasn’t he around for “Zero Sum” (4×21)? I know, I know. The bees carried a virus. They still behaved abnormally.

Are those pencils in the office ceiling the same ones from “Chinga” (5×10) or does Mulder still get bored often?

Correction, Scully. If Mulder were to pick up that pack of Morley’s he wouldn’t be taking up smoking, he’d be falling off the wagon. Mulder smoked back in “Travelers” (5×15).

If the situation was dangerous enough that Skinner needed to put a detail on Dr. Voss’ family for their safety, why did he let Dr. Voss travel home alone?

Is there any particular reason we’re supposed to believe Morley Tobacco would go so far as to kill Dr. Scobie for testifying against them? When did the mafia take over Big Tobacco?

PSA: It was implied by this episode but never directly stated that the smoke and tar from tobacco plants causes cancer, not nicotine. The smoke chronically irritates the lungs, leading to cancer and a whole other host of issues. Cigarette smoke also contains over forty known carcinogens, marijuana smoke over thirty. Though whether or not marijuana directly leads to lung cancer is still under debate. It’s been linked to testicular cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer and leukemia in the babies of women who smoked while pregnant, though.

Actor Tobin Bell, who plays Daryl Weaver, is our second Goodfellas alumnus of the season and our second 24 alumnus. Or at least, he’s the second of each that I’ve recognized and counted.

The actors must have killed themselves coughing from this episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: [Looking at a gruesome picture of Dr. Scobie’s corpse] Can’t blow the whistle with a mouth like that.

———————–

Mulder: Mr. Weaver, did you see or hear anything unusual last night?

Daryl Weaver: Little Korean fellow down the hall dresses like Wonder Woman. But that’s every night.

———————–

Daryl Weaver: Toodles.