Tag Archives: Hollywood A.D.

Season 7 Wrap Up – You don’t want me looking foolish.


FirstPersonShooter353

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t mean this insultingly. But if I had to pick one keyword for Season 7, it would be “Self-Indulgent.”

At this point in the series, the cast and crew of The X-Files have been churning out classic television at an unbelievable clip for the past seven years. Their work schedule was famously insane, averaging almost twenty-two one hour episodes a season. Somehow, despite that, they were able to function at such an impressively creative level that the numbers of the show’s fans keep increasing with time, some thirteen years after it went off the air. Not only was it a pop culture phenomenon in its day, but it remains such a present part of the public’s consciousness that Fox is airing a six episode revival of the series starting in January. If it’s successful, there have been hints of more to come.

I know I’ve just jumped from Season 7 into the future, but my point is that the talents behind The X-Files had earned a little self-indulgence by the time Season 7 rolled around. They had worked hard, they had made the show a success and, what was key, they had no idea if they’d be back for an eighth season. Fox didn’t officially renew the series until almost a week before “Requiem” (7×22) aired, meaning the final episode of Season 7 was written and shot without Chris Carter being sure whether he was ending the season or ending his series. From what I’ve read, the vibe behind the scenes was “This may be it.” And if Season 7 was “it,” then it was their last chance to say what they had to say and try what they wanted to try. I can’t blame them and I don’t.

How does Season 7 indulge itself? Let us count the ways.

  • Chris Carter’s Basic Instinct homage in, and frankly all of “First Person Shooter” (7×13)
  • Vince Gilligan creates a crossover of two of his favorite shows in “X-Cops” (7×12)
  • William B. Davis writes himself real screen time with Scully in “En Ami” (7×15)
  • Gillian Anderson cues us to the importance of chakras in “all things” (7×17)
  • David Duchovny hosts a block party in “Hollywood A.D.” (7×18)
  • Mulder & Scully flirting like they didn’t know how to stop in almost every episode
  • A third of the episodes taking place in the production’s home state of California
  • The mythology’s loose threads are ignored in favor of the new alien-gods

Deserved? Yes. And some moments are more successful than others. The overall result, though, is that the season feels largely unfocused. It’s like a free for all. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we get canceled.

I think part of the lack of focus and direction is due in part to the mythology not serving as the series’ backbone any longer. The X-Files is wobbling around without an alien conspiracy to hold it together. Not that there weren’t still unanswered questions about the conspiracy that the fan’s wanted addressed, but they weren’t vital questions and the series seemed content to move forward without answering them. But if “Requiem” proves anything it’s that there was still life left in the pre-Season 7 mythology.

Season 7 doesn’t act like it, but the human race is on the verge of complete annihilation. The threat of alien takeover is still there, it’s just not being addressed. Why isn’t there a fire lit under our heroes? ‘Cause Mulder and Scully certainly aren’t acting like they have anything to be concerned about. They’re flaunting their flirtation at the Bureau’s policy against male and female agents consorting in the same motel room while on assignment. But, they’re together now, as the not-so-subtle jabs to the audience’s ribs often remind us.

And I’m glad of their togetherness, don’t get me wrong. It was well-earned and well-timed. Stringing the fans on too long becomes palpably artificial past a certain point. Season 7 was that point. Stringing Mulder and Scully themselves along would have felt disingenuous too. They had reached a catharsis in their relationship and that’s good. You don’t have to keep ribbing me about it. That’s bad. The end result is that Season 7’s main legacy is the ongoing debate over when Mulder and Scully started having sex. That’s really bad.

So, the mythology is largely resolved. Mulder and Scully are at peace. Samantha’s dead. What are we here for? The Monster of the Week episodes? Most of those have been lackluster and weak. There’s no driving force behind the season, no push or pull, no sense of urgency or adventure. When The X-Files first started, Mulder and Scully were on a quest. Now there is no quest, just a rag-tag mix of episodes. The result is that Season 7 feels like a coda to Season 1-6’s main piece. Mulder and Scully have done all they came here to do and things are winding down.

It may just be the natural progression of things. Everything has a beginning, middle and end. The story and relationship arcs The X-Files started off with have inevitably run their course.

Maybe.

I can’t help but wonder inf 1013 Productions had known early on that there was going to be a Season 8, if they could have planned ahead and plotted out the show’s trajectory for Seasons 7 and 8 the way they did for the mythology of Seasons 4, 5 and 6… I wonder what the show would have been like.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda territory, I know….

We have what we have, and what we have is a stagnant series. Season 7 is standing still instead of heading somewhere. It’s not going backward towards the show’s roots or forward into a new battle for Mulder and Scully. It’s just kind of biding its time, spinning in circles until the show ends.

What I’m seeing on my screen is a show that’s suffering from chronic self-awareness, that’s bored with itself, and that reads a little too much like childish fanfic: “What would I make Mulder and Scully do if I could make them do anything?”

Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the Season 7 Year Itch. When it first aired, there were five episodes I actively resented, and seven more I passively disliked. Twelve out of twenty-two ain’t good. The rest I found middling with a few bright spots dispersed here and there.

I came to a sober realization this rewatch –  most of Season 7 I will never watch again.

On that sad note, here are the awards for the season…

Most Improved

all things

Least Improved

First Person Shooter

Missed Opportunity for Backstory

The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati

Deceptively Deep

Signs and Wonders

Successfully Experimental

Hungry

Overrated

Je Souhaite

Underrated

Theef

Advertisements

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


 

BrandX70

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.