Tag Archives: How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

Season 6 Wrap Up: Maybe I did want to be out there with you.


This is one of those seasons in terms of its popularity that gets polar opposite responses depending on which faction of the fandom you ask about it. It’s trying too hard to be funny, it’s not funny, it’s hilarious. Too much MSR, not enough MSR, just the right amount. I miss the Syndicate, I was sick of the Syndicate, what’s with this new mythology?

You can’t please all the people all the time, especially if your name is Chris Carter.

Personally, I adore Season 6. But I can understand why some fans don’t. If Season 5 would throw fans a knowing smile every so often, Season 6 is constantly, flirtatiously winking at us. The X-Files has become not only much more self-conscious and self-referential, it also acknowledges its fan base and fan expectations in a more direct way than before.

Previous episodes like “Small Potatoes” (4×20) have toyed with the ever-present subtext of Mulder and Scully’s burgeoning romantic relationship (MSR). But fast-forward to “The Rain King” (6×7) and it’s not a subtext, it’s the only text, and the characters around Mulder and Scully directly confront them with the feelings fans had been harboring for years.

I mean… you spend every day with Agent Scully, a beautiful, enchanting woman. And you two never, uh…? I… confess I find that shocking. I… I’ve seen how you two gaze at one another.

Not even a kiss?

Sorry, my NoRoMo friends. You’ll have to forgive me for indulging in some MSR talk. It’s a major, major component of Season 6 that can’t be ignored. In fact, I don’t think it’s a reach to say it’s the main component. Not only does it drive many stand-alone episodes, the Mulder-Scully-Fowley love triangle becomes such a major issue that it largely drives the mythology this season. You can’t discuss Season 6 without discussing MSR.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m about to plagiarize myself since I can think of no more effective way to explain my position.

Back in the not so distant day, a Shipper had to hunt for little romantic gems in an episode. A brief hand-hold here, a golden moment of banter there… it was a game looking for these affirmations of the Shipper faith since it wasn’t as though the writers were putting them there on purpose. We had to take what we could get. Now, however, the game has changed completely and after the events of the movie, Chris Carter & Co. could no longer believably ignore either the mounting anticipation of their audience or the romantic tension that they inadvertently created between their two lead characters. So, what to do, what to do? They had no choice, really, but to officially script the MSR subtext into the series. Now Shippers no longer have to hunt for sustenance like wild animals, it’s being fed to us in golden bowls like house pets.

If that sounds like a complaint, please know that it’s not. As I said, I don’t see how the show could have believably evolved any other way. What could Chris Carter have done? Turned back the clock and pretended that millions of people had never seen that scene outside of Mulder’s apartment? Or worse, should he have taken character development back a few seasons in order to halt the progression of this budding romance between his leads? Never. Looking back it was inevitable that the romantic undertone of the series would become more overt. And however people may complain that it made The X-Files look silly, it would have looked a heck of a lot sillier if they had stubbornly ignored the obvious.

And in the profound words of Mr. Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

The only check mark in the negative column against Season 6 is that while the great majority of episodes, as individual episodes, are great, on the whole it may be slightly unbalanced. Particularly in the beginning of the season, the scales are tipped toward the lighter side of things which is a disappointment, I’m sure, to the fans who prefer grittier Monster of the Week and Mythology episodes. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if episodes like “Tithonus” (6×9) had come along sooner rather than later if Season 6 would still have quite as featherweight a reputation. After all, for the shortest season ever (twenty episodes) Season 5 gave us its fair share of less than super serious material: “Unusual Suspects” (5×1), “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6), “Detour” (5×4), “Bad Blood” (5×12), “Folie a Deux” (5×19). And that’s not even counting Mulder’s hilarious phone calls to Scully in “Chinga” (5×10).

I calculate Season 6 at 40% funny vs. Season 5’s 30%, give or take. Perhaps the team at 1013 wanted to leaven the heavy drama of the mythology episodes this season by giving the fans an emotional break during the stand-alone episodes. I still consider “Arcadia” (6×13) a humble apology for forcing us to watch Mulder and Scully nearly split up for good in “One Son” (6×12). That fight was so bad even the Lone Gunmen had to look away. And while we’re at it, maybe Chris Carter meant “Triangle” (6×3) to be a peace offering after he had Mulder nearly take back in “The Beginning” (6×1) everything he said to Scully in the hallway last summer. You bet your cheap weave Mulder owed Scully more than one “I love you” after that.

Speaking of “I love you’s”, somewhere along the way this season, probably without us even noticing, I believe Mulder and Scully passed the point where a love confession was even necessary.

I can safely say that by the events of “Biogenesis” (6×22) Mulder knows that Scully is in love with him and not just because he can conveniently read minds. I don’t know by what work of the Devil I didn’t talk about this in my “One Son” review, but Mulder knows. Even the first time I saw it, I was certain of it. It’s all in the way he says, “No. Actually, you hide your feelings very well.”

Now, I will often, in the heat of my Fangirl passion, yell things at Mulder and at my television screen and “Stupid” is an adjective I use for him regularly. However, Mulder is not actually stupid. He’s a very intuitive, very perceptive character. He couldn’t have helped but read the not so subtle subtext during Scully’s heated interchange with Fowley in the aforementioned episode. That wasn’t purely righteous indignation on Cassandra’s behalf that Scully was acting out there. And even before that, he was in that hallway too. He knew she was about to kiss him just as sure as he was about to kiss her, though judging by his somewhat nervous confession in “Triangle” I’d say he wasn’t confident as to whether she’d be willing to start a relationship or not.

But, I digress. Mulder knows and I believe that’s part of why Padgett’s “Agent Scully is already in love” pronouncement in “Milagro” (6×18) doesn’t elicit a major response from him. It also doesn’t elicit a response from Scully because she knows too. And, at this point, I think she knows that Mulder knows and that he knows that she knows. I think there’s mutual knowing all around. Mulder certainly didn’t wrap his arms around her in “The Unnatural” (6×20) like a man who thought his attentions might not be desirable.

A question less easy to answer is does Scully know how Mulder feels about her? To that I’d give a qualified “Yes.” She knows he loves her dearly; he did go to Antarctica to rescue her after all. She knows he’s attracted to her since he’s not too subtle with his looks in either “Two Fathers” (6×11) or “One Son”. There’s even something about the look on her face when Mulder tells his tall tale in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) that makes me think she knows she’s supposed to be “Lida”, the brooding yet heroic “Maurice’s” ethereal love. But, ah, that Fowley woman. I don’t think Scully’s going to pick up what Mulder’s puttin’ down as long as Fowley is around. Cue Season 7.

And on a final note, how awesomely amazing is Scully this season? She steals the show pretty much from beginning to end. From being boldly faithful to slapping suspects, from becoming open-minded to learning how to play baseball, my girl has been on fire. If we could say nothing else in favor of having a comedy-heavy season, I’m so glad it affords Scully the opportunity to show us all her different sides.

——————

Assuming your teeth aren’t already aching with sweetness, you tell me:

And the Awards go to….

“How could you do this to me, Chris Carter?”

The Beginning

“You’re forgiven, Chris Carter.”

Triangle

“Most Underrated”

Drive

AND

Trevor

“Most Overrated”

How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

“Not Rated”

Alpha

“Best Use of a Guest Star”

Dreamland/Dreamland II

“Scully for Queen”

Tithonus

“Coulda Been a Contender”

Agua Mala

“Don’t Judge Me”

The Rain King

“David Duchovny, why won’t you love me?”

The Unnatural

Field Trip 6×21: I thought we had a good time?


Them bones, them bones, them dry bones.

This is another one of those Season 6 episodes where I wasn’t sure what to make of it for the first few minutes. Okay, make that the first twenty minutes. (An alien in the bedroom? What?) Long gone are the days when a Monster of the Week episode had to involve an actual Monster.

We open with an odd couple at odds. This petite redhead and her lanky Mr. Stud seem a little mismatched and hearing their argument, one wonders how they ever came together in the first place. But the genuine affection between them more than makes up for any superficial differences and they quickly reach an understanding… just in time to die.

That’s where Mulder and Scully come in.

From that point on, the rest of the episode is essentially a lengthier repeat of what happens in miniature during the teaser. Oh, except for the dying part.

Pretty Redhead? Check.
Studmuffin? Present.
Oddly matched personalities? Doubtless.
Silly argument? Yep.
Shared acid trip? Dude.
Compromise and renewed mutual appreciation? Score.

It’s no surprise to see Mulder and Scully paralleled so nonchalantly with a married couple. It’s not even really gratifying at this point either because it’s old news. The writers don’t even bother to draw too much attention to the similarities. Mulder and Scully passed the honeymoon phase a long time ago and it was starting to look like everyone but them realized how settled and “married” they already were.

To emphasize how settled their routine is, the customary slideshow is resurrected. This is the first time it’s been used since Mulder and Scully have been back in the basement office and only the second office slideshow since “Bad Blood” (5×12), which is interesting since “Field Trip” is essentially a more serious treatment of the fuel that fired that episode – Mulder and Scully’s contrasting viewpoints.

Well, maybe it’s the curse of the Seven Year Itch but the routine seems to be getting to them. One of the major tensions of the season has been Mulder’s frustration with Scully’s continuing refusal to believe. Now I think it becomes clearer that his issue isn’t so much that Scully’s a skeptic so much as he takes her skepticism personally as a lack of faith in him.

Scully: Mulder, can’t you just for once, just… for the novelty of it, come up with the simplest explanation, the most logical one, instead of automatically jumping to UFOs or Bigfoot or…?
Mulder: Scully, in six years, how… how often have I been wrong? No, seriously! I mean, every time I bring you a new case we go through this perfunctory dance. You tell me I’m not being scientifically rigorous and that I’m off my nut. And then in the end who turns out to be right like 98.9% of the time? I just think I’ve… earned the benefit of the doubt here.

I want to take my usual position on Scully’s side of the argument here, but in good conscience, I can’t. Okay, his declaration sounds arrogant, it does. But Mulder’s not exactly wrong. The 98.9% number he throws out may be just a tad high, especially since while he’s usually closer to the truth than Scully he often has to amend his initial hypothesis, but Mulder has proven over and over that his instincts are uncanny. And while Scully’s natural instinct is to gravitate toward the most logical explanation, she’s seen enough at this point to know better than to make instant assumptions.

What makes a tense moment worse is that Mulder’s not really angry, he’s hurt, and slightly offended that she’s still so dismissive of his theories after all this time. Scully is so taken aback by his unexpected response, or perhaps by his depth of feeling, or perhaps by her own guilt, or most likely all three that she has nothing to say in self-defense.

And it’s here, in this brief moment of disharmony, that I pause.

There’s a thing, a rumor, an idea that’s been floating around the interwebs in recent years and it disturbs me. It’s the fanfic-sprouting notion that Mulder and Scully are in a co-dependent relationship.

Somewhere, someone’s been skimming through too many pop psychology paperbacks while sunk a little too deep in their armchair. Remember Maurice in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8)? He was a hack, a hack with an agenda. He took a modicum of truth about Mulder and Scully, threw it out there as “intimacy through co-dependency” and the glory of MSR has been tarnished by it ever since.

Co-dependency has no official definition that I’ve been able to find. Instead there are long lists of signs and symptoms with some definitions choosing to focus more on certain characteristics than others. There is a common theme, though: a missing sense of self apart from another person to the point where one will do almost anything that person wants you to. The problem is that the lack of self identity required for co-dependency is too easily mistaken for the more honorable character trait of self-sacrifice. A wife gives up a part-time job she likes because her husband says they don’t spend enough time together anymore and he misses her. Self-sacrifice or self-loathing? Wise or shortsighted?

If I may say so, and I will say so, though I say so not as a mental health professional… it seems to me that the difference between a healthy, mutual reliance and co-dependency has a lot to do with one’s sense of self. Do the sacrificial acts come from a place of self-aware love, of confidence? Or do they stem from a desperate need to hold on to somebody, anybody?

What would make Scully co-dependent is if she became a knee-jerk believer in order to please Mulder. What would make Mulder co-dependent is if he gave up his convictions in order to keep Scully around. Those would be signs of an unhealthy relationship. But this?? If “Field Trip” is anything it’s proof positive that neither Mulder nor Scully have changed one iota for the other and that’s a good thing.

I say “one iota” for dramatic effect and, yes, their fundamental personalities are the same as ever. But they have changed in that they’ve grown wise enough to realize that neither of their perspectives, while valuable independently, are independently sufficient to get to the truth. They realized that long ago, Mulder openly admitted as much in the feature film. But somehow, maybe because of the trust issues they’ve been having all season, they’ve momentarily forgotten how valuable the other’s perspective is. Ah, but in a bit of karmic brilliance facilitated by an overgrown fungus, suddenly they’re each faced with an overdose of their own opinion. That’ll cure ‘em.

It’s hilarious to watch both of them start questioning their respective hallucinations only once their opinions are universally affirmed and unquestioned. When Hallucination Scully meekly declares, “You were right. All these years, you were right.” I can almost hear Mulder’s brain synapses go off like bombs – Does not compute.

What I love about these dream sequences is how straight they’re played. Scully really believes Mulder is dead, and she really acts like she believes. The emotional honesty of it helps prolong the mystery. We know something’s not real, but what’s not real and where/when did it start? About the only thing I don’t like about these sequences, the only thing I don’t like about the whole episode, actually, is the Jell-O mold morph. Those special effects just don’t match up to the real-world green goo in the field.

But that’s a minor quibble. I can’t hold it against the episode that is probably the purest and most direct explanation of what makes Mulder and Scully “Mulder and Scully” and why they’re so effective together. Frankly, they are dependent on each other. They rely on each other’s separate strengths without neglecting their own. Neither of them would have survived this X-File alone. It takes Scully to initially realize what’s going on and Mulder to realize it’s still going on. So, yes, they need each other. What of it?

Despite what some think, and despite what Mulder and Scully themselves are sometimes tempted to think, their partnership doesn’t need perfecting. They don’t need to change. Two heads, two very different heads are better than one. I don’t care what anyone says – If this is co-dependence, then someone please sign me up for some.

Didn’t Babs say it best? “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Verdict:

In the grand tradition of “Wetwired” (3×23), “Demons” (4×23), and “Folie a Deux” (5×19), “Field Trip” is not just the penultimate episode of the season, it’s the emotional finale before the season finale. This reaffirmation of Mulder and Scully’s trust in and reliance on each other is absolutely the perfect lead-in to the next set of angsty problems they’re about to face.

That’s it. It’s done. I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly when it happened. Perhaps it was “One Son” (6×12), perhaps “Milagro” (6×18). But this show is no longer about aliens, assuming it ever even was. It’s about two people who love each other.

And in the end when Mulder reaches for Scully and she responds without even opening her eyes because she just knows… here I go again chanting I Love You’s to people without flesh and bones.

A

The Peanut Gallery:

The lab results on the “bog sludge” come back absurdly fast.

How could I forget the moment where Scully drives a Dodge pickup?

Scully is so Scully. Even when she’s about to break down after finding out Mulder is dead, she’s still asking investigative questions. Immediately.

Who are all these people who would actually mourn Mulder? When did he get friends? That right there should have tipped Scully off.

How incredibly uncomfortable must this episode have been for Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. Buried alive in dirt and slime? Really? Who’d they piss off to get stuck with this detail?

There’s never an explanation for how these hallucinations can be shared, but OK.

Best Quotes:

Scully: UFOs. Extraterrestrial visitors from beyond who apparently have nothing better to do than buzz one mountain over and over again for 700 years.
Mulder: Sounds like crap when you say it.

——————–

Frohike: We’ll make that monkey pay.

How the Ghosts Stole Christmas 6×8: I just gave myself chills.


The romance is the first thing to go.

I have had a revelation. It only took thirteen years and several cups of coffee.

“How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” is essentially the story of what happens when Mulder tries to romance Scully in his own strange, Mulderish way. Back in the day, I used to think he’s merely lonely and wanting for company, but he plans this evening. This isn’t a spur of the moment outing brought on by boredom. And then he tries to impress Scully with the spooky atmosphere of his story the way that normal men take their dates to scary movies in hopes that their ready arms will look more masculine and appealing when their date has no place else to run to. Why else take her on a scary Christmas Eve rendezvous traditionally taken by lovers?

Notice the way writer and director Chris Carter chooses to shoot both characters from the back as Mulder weaves his winter’s tale in the dark car. No sooner does he start discussing the story of Maurice and Lyda than Mulder and Scully are framed in a rather romantic looking portrait. Oh, yes. Brooding hero Maurice is Mulder and Lyda of the sublime beauty is Scully. Perhaps as a Christmas present to the fans, Chris Carter doesn’t even attempt to be subtle about it. Thank you, Chris.

Mulder: His name was Maurice. He was a… a brooding but heroic young man beloved of Lyda, a sublime beauty with a light that seemed to follow her wherever she went. They were likened to two angels descended from heaven whom the gods could not protect from the horrors being visited upon this cold, grey earth.

Yeah, methinks Mulder was trying to get his mack on. Well, sorta. I’m not trying to say that Mulder was about to put the moves on Scully. But does he know what he’s saying when he tells her the story of Maurice and Lyda? Oh yeah. He’s acting the teenage boy here, no doubt about it, and that’s the backdrop for our story at hand. Any excuse to bring television legends Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin into The X-Files family is just fine. They’re supposed to steal the show here and indeed they do.

Actually, Ed Asner was originally intended for the role of Clyde Bruckman in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4), but glory be, Peter Boyle owned that character and we still get to relish Ed Asner’s charm in the role of Maurice. See? Everyone wins.

Already Season 6 has set itself apart with an impressive list of guest stars. Bryan Cranston before he was famous in “Drive” (6×1), Michael McKean and Nora Dunn in “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II” (6×5), Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin here, next up will be Bruce Campbell in “Terms of Endearment” (6×6) closely followed by Victoria Jackson in “Rain King” (6×7), and it won’t end there.

To what do we owe the pleasure? It has to be the move to L.A. Now there are all sorts of actors willing to share screen time with Mulder and Scully who wouldn’t have been available for the trek to Vancouver. And I suppose it doesn’t hurt that Season 6 was the heyday of a television phenomenon. Who doesn’t want to be a part of history? It’d be like turning down a guest spot on Star Trek.

Whatever the sentimental loss over the built-in atmosphere of Vancouver and the original production crew that turned The X-Files into the legend it became, we can’t deny that the move to L.A. has not only brought great side benefits like impressive actors, the production quality hasn’t suffered in the least. The set of “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” is absolutely stunning; it’s a character unto itself. This is especially important because ninety percent of the action happens in this one place with only four actors involved, the smallest cast of any episode of the series. The cast is so small and the action so relegated to one spot that it feels very much like a stage play. And if going off with the family to watch a staged performance isn’t Christmas, I don’t know what is.

If I’m to be honest (there’s no need to be but it’s Christmas so why not?), I never much cared for this episode before this rewatch. Not to say that I didn’t like it, but I always felt that something was missing, that it was a little soulless, perhaps. I didn’t see that it had a point. And it doesn’t, really. It’s a festive frolic, a Christmas card to the fans, and that’s all it’s meant to be. And why not? Episodes previously had acknowledged the Christmas season, “Beyond the Sea” (1×12), “Christmas Carol” (5×5), but neither of those had ever acknowledged the audience on the other side of the television screen. Now The X-Files has reached its zenith and is understandably a little self-conscious about its legion of fans, enough that rather than scare them it deems it better to send a little Christmas spirit their way. An episode like this couldn’t have been attempted in any season previous except possibly Season 5; it’s too meta for a show that doesn’t know its own power.

There’s another element of this episode that The X-Files never would have attempted before it was an official piece of pop culture history. Back in the not so distant day, a Shipper had to hunt for little romantic gems in an episode. A brief hand-hold here, a golden moment of banter there… it was a game looking for these affirmations of the Shipper faith since it wasn’t as though the writers were putting them there on purpose. We had to take what we could get. Now, however, the game has changed completely and after the events of the movie, Chris Carter & Co. could no longer believably ignore either the mounting anticipation of their audience or the romantic tension that they inadvertently created between their two lead characters. So, what to do, what to do? They had no choice, really, but to officially script the MSR* subtext into the series. Now Shippers no longer have to hunt for sustenance like wild animals, it’s being fed to us in golden bowls like house pets.

If that sounds like a complaint, please know that it’s not. As I said, I don’t see how the show could have believably evolved any other way. What could Chris Carter have done? Turned back the clock and pretended that millions of people had never seen that scene outside of Mulder’s apartment? Or worse, should he have taken character development back a few seasons in order to halt the progression of this budding romance between his leads? Never. Looking back it was inevitable that the romantic undertone of the series would become more overt. And however people may complain that it made The X-Files look silly, it would have looked a heck of a lot sillier if they had stubbornly ignored the obvious. As it is I believe the writers did an excellent job of utilizing the MSR subtext without relying on it. “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” works because it’s funny. If you happen to understand the layer of meaning just beneath the surface then so much the better.

I must admit, though, that watching this episode when it originally aired was my first “Danger, Will Robinson” moment. Why? I’m glad you asked.

First there was “Triangle” (6×3), a lighthearted tale meant to cleanse the palette after the high emotional tension of “The Beginning” (6×2) and to reward the fans whose hopes were thwarted during that infamous hallway scene in Fight the Future. It was incredibly well done and almost universally praised. Do you see a problem there? No? I didn’t think so.

Directly after that was “Dreamland”. Sure, two lighthearted episodes in a row is unheard of on The X-Files but production order gets switched around sometimes and besides, “Triangle” wasn’t really a comedy. Ah, but then we have “Dreamland II” which of course must follow part 1. We can’t find fault with that, can we? It just so happens that having three of these episodes in a row is the way things played out.

But now we’re at “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” and a disturbing pattern begins to emerge. Yes, I’ve already said that I appreciate that the show was willing and able to do something fun for Christmas for once. I’m all for it. And yet… part of me is starting to worry. No, nothing has been bad by any means. This string of episodes has been fabulous! Still, my spidey sense is atingle: where are the X-Files? At what point does the show become too self-conscious?

Verdict:

A quick word of caution about this episode: the whole thing is tongue-in-cheek. Yes, that seems obvious and why would I warn you about that? But I fear that the pop psychology invoked here, the witty observations of Maurice and Lyda that Chris Carter never intended to be taken as gospel truth, has been accepted a little too literally over the years. Read the fanfic, don’t let it corrupt you.

Yes, Mulder is prone to a self-centered form of tunnel vision. But a narcissist? Hardly that. And while Scully may enjoy a good intellectual tête-à-tête with Mulder, who would believe that she’s spent so many years with him risking life and limb merely for the right to say “I told you so?” Part of the point of this episode is that Maurice and Lyda misread Mulder and Scully, assuming that they’re much lonelier and less balanced than they actually are.

However, if you want to take away anything about the psychology of the characters please note that Scully does admit she really wanted to be out there hunting things she doesn’t even believe in with Mulder. Yet again Chris Carter sets up the tension between Scully’s overt desire for normality and her unacknowledged desire to travel a bumpier road with Mulder. For some reason, Scully has a hard time understanding herself and why she’d rather suffer with Mulder than live out her life in peace with anyone else.

A-

P.S. Speaking of Christmas, I suppose you already know what day it is. So allow me to wish a very Merry Christmas to you and yours! A huge thank you to all of you who follow along because you make this a blast. See you in the new year!

Armchair Psychology:

How can Mulder possibly be surprised that Scully doesn’t believe in ghosts? Wasn’t he there for the events of “Shadows” (1×5)?

Did anyone else catch the moment where Mulder pauses during the telling of his gothic tale to wiggle his eyebrows?

I love that telltale heart moment.

The shot where you can see Scully’s face through that hole in Maurice’s head still impresses me. I wonder how much that cost…

So, Chris Carter knows exactly what Mulder and Scully gave each other for Christmas and he refuses to tell. Scrooge.

*MSR – Mulder/Scully Romance

Best Quotes:

Scully: I see. The dark, gothic manor the, uh, omnipresent low fog hugging the thicket of overgrowth… Wait… is that a hound I hear baying out on the moors?
Mulder: No. Actually that was a left cheek sneak. {Editor’s Note: I JUST got that. Sometimes I wonder about myself.}

———————-

Maurice: You drink? Take drugs?
Mulder: No.
Maurice: Get high?
Mulder: No.
Maurice: Are you overcome by the impulse to make everyone believe you?

———————-

Maurice: My specialty is in what I call soul prospectors, a cross axial classification I’ve codified by extensive interaction with visitors like yourself. I’ve found you all tend to fall into pretty much the same category.
Mulder: And what category is that?
Maurice: Narcissistic, overzealous, self-righteous egomaniac.
Mulder: Wow, that’s a category?
Maurice: You kindly think of yourself as single-minded but you’re prone to obsessive compulsiveness, workaholism, antisocialism. Fertile fields for the descent into… total wacko breakdown.
Mulder: I don’t think that pegs me exactly.
Maurice: Oh, really? Waving a gun around my house? Huh? Raving like a lunatic about some imaginary brick wall? You’ve probably convinced yourself you’ve seen aliens. You know why you think you see the things you do?
Mulder: Because I have seen them?
Maurice: ‘Cause you’re a lonely man. A lonely man, chasing paramasturbatory illusions that you believe will give your life meaning and significance and which your pathetic social maladjustment makes impossible for you to find elsewhere. You probably consider yourself passionate, serious, misunderstood. Am I right?
Mulder: Paramasturbatory?
Maurice: Most people would rather stick their fingers in a wall socket than spend a minute with you.
Mulder: All right, now just, uh… Just back off for a second.
Maurice: You spend every Christmas this way? Alone?
Mulder: I’m not alone.
Maurice: More self-delusion.
Mulder: No, I came here with my partner. She’s somewhere in the house.
Maurice: Behind a brick wall? How’d you get her to come with you? Steal her car keys?
Mulder: [Guilty silence]

——————–

Scully: Not that, uh, my only joy in life is proving you wrong.
Mulder: When have you proved me wrong?
Scully: Well… Why else would you want me out there with you?
Mulder: You didn’t want to be there? Oh, that’s, um… That’s self-righteous and… narcissistic of me to say, isn’t it?
Scully: No, I mean… Maybe I did want to be out there with you.

Triangle 6×3: I would’ve never seen you again, but you believed me.


And it’s Skinner for the win.

This is the first of, well, quite a few episodes in Season 6 that strike me as officially stamped productions of fanfic. Brilliant fanfic, mind you, but fanfic nonetheless. And I mean this as the best possible sort of compliment.

If there’s one common complaint about Season 6 is that it’s largely dominated by “X-Files Light” episodes, episodes in the vein of “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) that are more fluff pieces than hardcore Monster of the Week scare fests. These episodes aren’t always necessarily overt comedies, but they purposefully lack depth in an effort to give the audience a break both from mythology angst and MOTW seriousness.

It’s a far cry from the types of episodes that dominated Season 1 and Season 2, but if you look at the direction The X-Files has taken since Season 3 I don’t see much cause for indignant surprise. And considering the show has just come back after the climax of a hit feature film, a little self-conscious indulgence has been well earned. How could The X-Files pretend that it’s not iconic? That Mulder and Scully aren’t beloved stereotypes? If the show didn’t start poking fun at itself on the regular or throw out knowing winks and nods to its bulging audience it would implode in unvaried solemnity.

“Triangle” is one such wink and nod and it’s quite possibly the best of them. The whole adventure feels like a reward, a thank you card if you will, to a long-suffering audience; as if Chris Carter knows that we love these characters and decided to treat us to a fantasy. Like Mulder we’re having a really cool dream where all our favorite people are transplanted into unusual circumstances, but that’s exactly its charm.

This is why I say it feels like fanfic because it’s usually fanfic that fans have to resort to in order to see their favorite characters loosen up or imagine how they’d behave outside of their usual context. Now, this way of consciously acknowledging the audience and of lovingly nudging itself in the ribs can be a trap for any show, especially for one with such a serious and dramatic premise as The X-Files. But “Triangle” is so well done that I think we can ignore those fears for now and just enjoy the gift.

I can’t get over how gorgeous this episode is, it is absolutely lush. The colors saturate the screen. When I think of how far The X-Files’ production quality… and budget… has evolved from Season 1, I shake my head in amazement.

“Triangle” was shot in a series of especially long takes, which gives it a very fluid, very urgent feel. It forced the Carter & Crew to use some creative staging in order to avoid revealing production details that are normally disguised by cuts, and also to disguise the cuts themselves with creative editing. Visually, I adore this method as I love those moments where the camera conveniently looks away to avoid revealing trade secrets and I particularly I love the smoothness of the camera movement throughout.

But my favorite aspect of this episode has nothing to do with technique. My favorite part of this episode is Scully. In fact, this is my favorite episode of all for Scully’s character. Why? Because she’s so much fun! And how often does Scully get to be fun? You know I love her, but our girl is generally a stick-in-the-mud. Every so often she’s allowed to crack a joke or suppress a smirk and if we’re really lucky, she’ll tell off a madman or two in that impressively authoritative voice of hers.

What a joy it must have been for Gillian Anderson to play a different sort of Scully. Not that she’s out of character here, but how often does Scully get to show us such a huge range of facial expressions in one episode? How often is she flustered? Or angry? On top of that, 1939 Scully is Rosie the Riveter rather than a medical doctor which means she’s allowed to be even more feisty. My favorite part is the entire second act where we follow Scully up and down the halls of the F.B.I. as she tries, yet again, to save her incurably foolish partner.

And, of course, she’s ultimately successful both in the past and present. Scully saves Mulder, literally, in the past and in the present she saves him metaphorically because of the same reason: she believes him. Scully has to believe Mulder; the woman can’t help herself, it’s a compulsion. Whether in an alternate universe, alternate dimension or alternate time stream, it’s in her job description and on her business card: Mulder Believer.

That’s the ultimate beauty of this episode and the reward that I think Chris Carter was trying to give fans, validation of their belief in the Mulder/Scully partnership that at this point beats as the heart of the series. There’s a certain amount of destiny involved in all of Mulder’s relationships as presented because Mulder can’t avoid the people in his life, good or bad but they follow him even in unconsciousness. But when it comes to Scully in particular, her belief in him is instinctive rather than rational which again lends itself to the idea that these are two people with a God-given understanding of each other that was foreordained. This mystery of the unexplained is probably unsolvable, but it’s also worth more than all the other truth Mulder so stubbornly seeks and it’s nice to know he finally realizes that too.

And the Verdict is…

It would have been too much to expect that Chris Carter would allow his characters to kiss at this stage of the game, and I can’t blame him for refusing to indulge his needy audience (of which I was one) quite that far. But I’ll take a kiss between Mulder and “Scully” in shadow any day. The truth is that I’m glad the kiss happens mostly in the dark because I love that romantic air of mystery and I’m even gladder that Mulder and Scully didn’t become a television couple yet. Else what would I have had to look forward to? Besides, Mulder kissed her like a man who had thought long and hard about doing this before. That’s more than enough for me. And with a love confession on top of it? I remember nearly collapsing in shock and joy – I do believe there was screaming.

So does any of what we see on the 1939 version of the Queen Anne actually happen? The split screen moment between the two Scullys and Mulder’s ginger touch to his cheek would certainly have us believe so. Though the references to The Wizard of Oz sprinkled all through the episode and the fact that we see our hero conked out at the beginning would indicate that this is all a very realistic fantasy inside Mulder’s head, or maybe a world that is real but is only real because he created it.

I don’t care, really. I just want this episode to come out in HD so that my life can be complete.

A+

P.S. You know she punched him because she enjoyed that kiss a little too much, right?

Puddin Tame:

Mark Snow’s score is like another character in this episode.

For that matter, so is the camera.

I hadn’t noticed before that the guy who plays Thor’s Hammer in 1939 is the same Agent who overhears part of Scully’s conversation with the Lone Gunmen in 1998.

I can’t figure out how Kersh’s character winds up in the bowels of the ship in 1939. How does that represent his position in Mulder’s life? Well, I suppose no one would have believed he was a Nazi…

I have ransacked my brain and I can only think of two episodes where Scully ever wears a dress, this one and “En Ami” (7×15).

Agent Fowley is absent from this whole play. Interesting. Perhaps that brewing love triangle would have distracted too much from the action. I tend to think so.

I had hoped that Chris Carter’s experimental episodes, you know, the ones he helmed from beginning to end, would be a once-a-year occurrence, but alas. We get a similarly experimental if not quite as ambitious episode later in the season in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) but the next time Chris Carter gives us a distinctly “Chris Carteresque” episode will be Season 9’s “Improbable” (9×14), so you might want to unbuckle your seatbelt for that wait.

No Germans were harmed in the making of this episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Well, you… you can relax. There’s no war going on. The world is at peace. There’s a little trouble over at our White House, but that’ll blow over… so to speak.

———————-

Scully: I want you to do me a favor. It’s not negotiable. Either you do it or I kill you, you understand?
Spender: You okay, Agent Scully?
Scully: No. I’m not. I’m a gun ready to go off so don’t test me, Spender. Don’t even think about trying to weasel me.

———————–

Kersh’s Secretary: I was sent to come get you.
Scully: Yeah, I was waiting for Agent Spender, he was, uh… I’m supposed to pick up a delivery from him.
Kersh’s Secretary: Agent Spender is with Assistant Director Kersh.
Scully: That rat bastard!

———————–
Mulder: Hey, Scully.
Scully: Yes?
Mulder: I love you.
Scully: Oh, brother.

Shadows 1×5: It’s a big bell with a big crack.


These are our "interested" faces.

This is the second outing for Morgan and Wong, though it’s ultimately not as memorable as Squeeze (1×2). Looking back, the episode spent too much time focused on the victim, Lauren Kyte. My understanding is that the network wanted to see Mulder and Scully helping people through their cases and this was Morgan and Wong’s response. Consequently, Mulder and Scully do more to help Lauren Kyte reach an emotional breakthrough than they do to catch the ghost. Fox probably should’ve kept its opinions to itself.

I have to say that overall, this is an episode I don’t have much at all to say about. It’s not particularly frightening, neither is it absolutely boring. There are quite a few humorous moments and some memorable side characters what with the pathologist and the graveyard caretaker. Scully starts throwing in the one-liners, which is a bonus. There’s also Mulder and Scully’s wild ride…

Part of the problem is that we, as the audience, know that the poltergeist is Howard Graves from early on. Mulder and Scully are playing catch up, which diminishes some of the excitement the episode should have had. Their investigation is sound, just boring because we already have the answers.

Most disappointingly, there isn’t much to observe about character development because, well, there is none. Mulder and Scully’s evolution is traded for Lauren Kyte panicking and sniffling. I suppose I can’t say there’s no character development. Scully does reveal that she’s an undiscovered actress. She certainly fooled Lauren Kyte. Mulder, for his part, if he isn’t angry at Scully for the charade, does seem a little disappointed that his partner would use Lauren Kyte’s belief to manipulate her. We all know that believing in ghosts is sacrosanct. Let’s go the positive route and say that Scully was trying to find a way for everybody to win.

At least Mulder and Scully learn to live a little… while they’re alive. This is the first time we see them just killing time together with Mulder’s suggested field trip to the Liberty Bell. Maybe they did learn a lesson from “The Jersey Devil” (1×4).

And the Verdict is…

Let’s just say the tone of this review isn’t negative but rather a little uninterested. I’ve seen this episode I don’t know how many times and still have the same reaction. Not that there aren’t some decent moments, but the story overall isn’t engaging.

Certainly the bathtub scene is creepy. It feels like something out of a horror movie. And like in Carrie, watching people get thrown around by an invisible force is always good for some fun.

Shadows does bear the lonely moniker of being the first, and maybe only real, X-Files ghost story. The later episode, “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) was more of a jolly romp than a paranormal nightmare. Fun, mind you, but not frightening. This episode was influenced by the greats that came before it: Carrie, Poltergeist. In case we’re unsure of what the writers had in mind, the characters reference those films directly. It was a good attempt if not a rousing success.

At least we can be sure a truly platonic love existed somewhere in The X-Files universe.

C-

Bepuzzlements:

Why didn’t Graves exact his revenge from the beginning?

Who knew Mulder was a photographer? Why didn’t this knowledge pop up in later episodes like “Unruhe” (4×4) for instance?

General Observations:

Mulder’s first Elvis reference!

Scully in that green jacket and peach blouse… she looked like pumpkin pie on a Christmas dinner table.

During the interrogation scene, Mulder and Scully have his and her pink and black mugs. Hilarious.

Scully conveniently can’t get out of her seatbelt and so misses the poltergeist party. Is it predictable yet?

Did anyone else feel that Dorland was propositioning Lauren… just a tad?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I would never lie. I willfully participate in a campaign of misinformation.

——————

Scully: Psychokinesis? You mean how Carrie got even at the prom?

——————-

Mulder: You know how difficult it is to fake your own death? Only one man has pulled it off: Elvis.

——————-

Mulder: Hey, Scully, do you believe in an afterlife?
Scully: I’d settle for a life in this one.