Tag Archives: Harsh Realm

Sein Und Zeit 7×10: If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.


 

x-files-017

The Easter Bunny is fair game.

Last we saw Teena Mulder she was selling her son to the Devil in drag, Cigarette-Smoking Man as you might call him, in “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4), an issue that was never, ever discussed. I had a few questions for her then, I don’t mind telling you. Well, I have several more questions on my mind now.

Why is it, somebody tell me why, that just as characters start to get interesting on The X-Files, they die? Deep Throat, X, Agent Pendrell (sob!), Diana Fowley (dry eyes), Jeffrey Spender… Is there an unwritten rule somewhere? Is it written into the actors’ contracts? I realize no one ever really dies on The X-Files, but do they have to die at all?

It’s not that I was ever particularly attached to Teena Mulder, or even attached at all. But…  dagnabit, woman!

Did you have to leave your son to cry with that face?

Was her disease about to disfigure her in the next few days that she couldn’t have waited to die until she talked to Mulder? She’d rather leave him floundering, wondering forever than take an extra day or two to give him what answers she has? And she couldn’t just die without saying anything she had to burn what little proof Mulder would have found? Why did she let him flail about like an idiot looking for Samantha for so many years when she knew she was already dead? There are answers I need from this woman.

And that final phone message. Do parents, even emotionally distant parents, speak to their children with phrases like, “I hoped you’d call upon your return,” with anything other than irony? Then again, Mulder and his mother have always seemed to have an affectionate, but slightly formal and distant relationship. Very New England. It doesn’t help that every member of the Mulder family seems to have secrets. Except for Mulder. He’s an open book. Too open at times.

Well, I’m done kvetching at a fictional dead woman. But I still think that after watching her burn the last pictures that she had of Mulder and Samantha that she killed herself more from guilt than fear of a painful death. Also, think of the timing. This missing girl case has clearly rattled her.

Ah, Amber Lynn LaPierre. The JonBenet of The X-Files. Even her doting parents are duly under suspicion. Not that the police don’t have reason to suspect them. Their story is suspect. And Mrs. LaPierre is the one who wrote the not-quite-ransom note, after all.

We’ve had missing girl cases before: “Conduit” (1×2), “Oubliette” (3×8) and “Paper Hearts” (4×8). All of them make obvious parallels to Samantha and Mulder’s continued emotional turmoil over her loss. Scully warns Mulder in “Sein Und Zeit” that he’s personalizing this case. But Mulder personalizes every case. Or at least he used to. I miss the days when Mulder looked emotionally invested in an X-File.

When Scully first shows up at Mulder’s California motel room I’m a little worried she’s going to turn into an insensitive nag the way she did in “Conduit” and “Oubliette”. She doesn’t, thank goodness. She’s just a little annoyed that Skinner has sent her all the way across country just because Mulder refused to pick up his phone. She tries to keep Mulder from going off the edge and lectures him about playing well with others, but she always does that.

Scully’s sensitivity actually shines in this episode and the next. That scene where she has to break the news to Mulder that his mother’s suicide was real, not staged, when Mulder breaks down and she steps in seamlessly to comfort him… X-Files Gold.

Finally! Some meat! Season 7 is cute and all but a girl can’t live off of popcorn and Skittles. I need some sustenance. I need an X-File with protein. I need something to get excited about.

Skinner: Billie LaPierre is asking for him. She’s got something to say and she’ll only talk to Mulder.

Scully: It’s not a good…

Mulder: What is it?

Skinner: This case has heated up. I’ve booked two flights for us.

Scully: Well, then you better book three.

My girl.

All that said, this is an episode that’s hard for me to enjoy absolutely, not because it isn’t a good episode, but because it’s a dark one. Not darkly titillating like the previous “Signs and Wonders” (7×9), but darkly somber. There’s a sense, even from the opening teaser, that sweet little Amber Lynn is never coming home. From Amber Lynn’s disappearance and the specter of Samantha’s continued disappearance, to Teena Mulder’s suicide and the shocking final shot of a field full of tiny graves, the grimness of death hovers over this episode.

I confess I can’t wrap my heart around this walk-in version of the afterlife (and there have been many competing, conflicting, and even coexistent versions of the afterlife on The X-Files). The short story goes like this: The walk-ins are good spirits who step in… sometimes… when they see a child about to die a horrible and painful death. They spare the child that painful experience changing them from matter into energy, effectively taking them straight from life to death without the nasty business of dying. Their energy resides and manifests itself in starlight, occasionally making return visits to earth and to their unsuspecting parents’ bedrooms. Said parents may or may not be blamed for their child’s disappearance adding yet another layer of tragedy to their loss. I thought the walk-ins were supposed to be helping?

It feels like a saccharine fairytale to me – Children rescued from pain, living and playing (eternally?) in the starlight. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather spend eternity with my loved ones in heaven.

But I think the idea touches a spiritual nerve. That nerve that tells us that life can’t be defeated by death. The life of these children may be over here on earth, but it’s not over ‘cause it’s over. Ironic given the source of the episode’s title.

Forgive me for waxing philosophical here since I’m not qualified to do so. It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve taken a class or touched a book on the subject. However, given the direction this story is taking I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the meaning of Sein Und Zeit or “Being and Time” in English. It’s a reference, one can only assume, to philosopher Martin Heidegger’s magnum opus, in which he, well, philosophizes over what it means “to be.” From what little I know about it, a simplified version of his conclusion might be that existence is fundamentally linked to time, or rather, that being is time and that human existence is the span from birth to death and that to truly live, we have to live with a conscious anticipation of the end of our existence.

I suppose that sounds deep on some level, but “Sein Und Zeit” is really about the continuation of souls, in starlight if you must, whose existence can’t be defined or swallowed up by death. They exist now outside of time, not hemmed in by in, and ride on waves of light that started eons ago. Chris Carter seems to be getting back to his “I Want to Believe” roots, with spiritual hunger and the desire for hidden truths overrule the need for scientific proof. This sense of hope, that one should hope, is dauntless and compelling. Universal and compelling.

Verdict:

After seven seasons, we’re finally nearing the truth of a mystery that’s been a bedrock of the show since the Pilot: what happened to Samantha.

We’ve found out bits and pieces, there’s been a lot of red herrings and misinformation, outright lies, in fact. But with all this talk about walk-ins and starlight you should be getting the nagging feeling by now that Mulder will never see Samantha on this side of terra firma again.

And don’t make yourself interesting on The X-Files. It’s a death sentence.

A-

Automatic Writings:

Besides the scene in Mulder’s apartment, my next favorite part of this episode would be the teaser, when Chris Carter uses Bud LaPierre to defend his doomed series, Harsh Realm, that was canceled after only three episodes made it to air.

Bud LaPierre: [Watching Harsh Realm] This is great.

Or maybe this part…

Bud LaPierre: I was watching TV in here.

Mulder: What were you watching?

Bud LaPierre: I never heard of it before. It was good.

That moment when Chris Carter sneaks in yet another indignant defense of Harsh Realm.

Watching the authorities swarm the LaPierre residence, for the first time it occurs to me that there must’ve been a similar scene in the Mulder household when Samantha was taken. Even if Samantha’s parents knew the truth about her abduction, for appearance’s sake there would have been police all over – questioning, searching.

How did Teena Mulder understand the connection between Amber Lynn and Samantha when the information about the ransom letter hadn’t yet been revealed in the media? I have even more questions about this next episode…

Boy, Mulder keeps making awfully good time on those cross-country flights. I know this was pre-9/11, but still.

Those little graves in the final shot make for a startling image. But one has to wonder, why didn’t he bother burying them deeper? No one goes back there? He must really not have been concerned about getting caught.

I may be the only one who cares, but the guy who plays Bud LaPierre is definitely the cult leader from “Red Museum” (2×10).

And to top that nugget off, “Red Museum” was when the topic of walk-Ins first came up.

One wonders how Skinner ever explained to his superiors how he, Scully and Mulder discovered “Santa” and his field full of graves. “Well, sir, we went to interview the LaPierres again and the mother said she’d had a vision of Amber Lynn repeating the number ‘74,’ then we drove up Route 74 and Scully saw one of those year-round Christmas places on the map and she remembered the letter, so we stopped and there were videos and the man ran and… graves.”

Aubrey 2×12: A woman senses these things.


N.O.W. just revoked my membership.

“Aubrey” is estrogen driven. It’s penned by one of the few female writers to grace the series, Sara B. Charno. The guest lead is Deborah Strang who is so good as B.J. Morrow that Chris Carter put her in for an Emmy. And most importantly, Scully’s observation skills outshine Mulder’s for once. Hurrah for womankind. Manly men may want to turn back now.

OK, I exaggerate. But this episode does take the idea of woman’s intuition and gives it a paranormal spin. Is B.J. just really, really good at subconsciously putting pieces together or rather than intuition, is she herself a victim of instinct? Outside of discussing animal behavior, these two ideas, intuition and instinct, are often blended to where they’re interchangeable. For instance, if I were to say “I have a gut instinct,” many would take that to mean that I’ve taken in some information, processed it, and come to a informed if unprovable conclusion. This episode explores the frightening premise that even our instincts are not our own but that they’re passed down in families along with near-sightedness and crooked teeth.

I’m convinced with this episode that The X-Files is starting to hit its stride. The writers and producers are confident as to what makes an X-File an X-File. The feel of the show is more consistent than Season 1 and the Mulder and Scully dynamic is positively golden. Earlier episodes like “Space” (1×8) couldn’t be saved by Mulder and Scully’s relationship because it didn’t exist as such yet.  Episodes this season have a built-in failsafe in that when all else is lost, watching Mulder and Scully interact is all the audience needs.

Not that “Aubrey” needs a failsafe. Even this early on in the series the episodes are beginning to feel like mini-films. This time around it’s thanks in large part to the stellar direction of Rob Bowman. From the first shot of the teaser the story is told from creative angles. One of his best moments is when he chooses to shoot over Lt. Tillman’s shoulder so that we can both watch Tillman’s face as he eavesdrops and watch the conversation he’s eavesdropping on at the same time. It’s lovely, ironic and darkly hilarious.

The acting is also taking a consistent turn for the better as well. Terry O’Quinn is given a rather two-dimensional role as B.J.’s married lover, but he somehow makes it memorable and gives the character presence and depth. Deborah Strang is also good as the vulnerable, self-doubting B.J.

There’s also an extra mystery in this episode. Scully mentions to B.J. having experience in the inter-office relationship department. Is this an early reference to what we learn about Scully in Season 7’s “all things” (7×17)? I’m not so sure. For one, we already know that Scully has had a relationship with someone at the F.B.I. before. That came out in “Lazarus” (1×14). But more than that, I suspect that Scully isn’t much empathizing with B.J. so much as she’s conducting an investigation. It reminds me of the stunt she pulled in “Shadows” (1×5) when she made Lauren Kyte believe that she believed in ghosts too. Note how Scully reports right back to Mulder with what she discovered. Perhaps it was all an effort to stick it to Mulder and prove that her intuition just checkmated his.

And so…

Overall, I really enjoy this episode but it seems to be among the forgotten and I’m not sure why. Perhaps there’s too much horror and not enough science? Regardless, it’s a good example of a classic X-Files episode. In other words, this is one you might show a newbie if you wanted to give them an instant feel for the series.

Mind you, it’s not without its faults and there are a couple of hokey moments. Scully breaks out a “scanner” that can read words carved into bone so easily I thought for a second that CSI had interrupted my regularly scheduled program. But deus ex machina is a necessary evil when it comes to TV writing so we’ll let that go. Also, the scene where B.J. becomes Cokely and attacks Mrs. Thibedeax doesn’t read well. She’s not convincing as a man.

But here’s my main beef: Terry O’Quinn’s talents should not have been squandered on a stand-alone. Yeah, I know, he comes back for the 2008 film. But he comes in, makes an impact in only 2 minutes, and then he’s gone. Yeah, I know, he makes another guest spot in the Season 9 episode “Trust No 1” (9×6), but does anyone really remember that? And yeah, I know, Chris Carter made good use of him in his other series, Harsh Realm and Millennium, but didn’t The X-Files have seniority? All these prime 1013 opportunities and the man ends up best known for Lost. Yeah, we been gypped, yo.

A-

Questions:

One wonders if Lt. Tillman is still with his wife. Did he adopt the child as B.J.’s faithful friend or as the “baby daddy?”

Why did B.J. tell anyone about finding the body in the field? She could have left the open grave there for someone else to discover. I suppose it’s that her instincts as a detective kicked in and she felt responsible to both report and investigate the crime.

Comments:

While B.J. is a great character and well played, somehow she doesn’t feel like a female detective. She doesn’t have the strength and confidence of someone like Scully, which is no doubt why she finds herself in such a delicate situation as the episode starts.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Well, I’d like to know why this police woman would suddenly drive her car into a field the size of Rhode Island and for no rhyme or reason dig up the bones of a man whose been missing for 50 years. I mean unless there was a neon sign saying ‘Dig Here’.
Scully: I guess that’s why we’re going to Aubrey.
Mulder: Yes, and also… I’ve always been intrigued by women named B.J.

———————-

Scully: Mulder, I don’t think BJ was in the woods that night because of engine failure.
Mulder: What are you talking about?
Scully: Well the Motel Black would have been a perfect meeting place. Away from town, away from his wife.
Mulder: What do you mean?
Scully: It’s obvious BJ and Tillman are having an affair.
Mulder: How do you know?
Scully: A woman senses these things.

———————–

Mulder: Well, I’ve often felt that dreams are answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask.

———————–

Mulder: You mean a hunch?
Scully: Yeah, something like that.
Mulder: That’s a pretty extreme hunch.
Scully: I seem to recall you having some pretty extreme hunches.
Mulder: I never have.