Tag Archives: Hungry

Lord of the Flies 9×6: You can’t have it both ways.


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What if there was an X-Files/Breaking Bad/Glee mashup?

In which Breaking Bad takes over The X-Files for the second of three times.

But before we get to that, I think I’ve come to a mini understanding. Doggett and Reyes as characters don’t have the comedic capabilities that Mulder and Scully did.

Now, I’m more tired than anyone of hearing myself compare Doggett and Reyes to Mulder and Scully. I prepared myself for change when Season 9 first aired and I’m certainly resigned to change now. My complaint isn’t that we have a new team. No, it’s that this new team isn’t equipped to handle this kind of episode. To put it in layman’s terms, I don’t think they’re ready for this jelly.

Doggett jokes around, sure. But his jokes fall flat because he sounds like an old fogey shaking his head at kids these days. There’s no point at the end of his pitard. Mulder would have delivered those very same lines with a sardonic bite that would have left me giggling.

Scully would have shared knowing or appropriately horrified looks with Mulder at all the right moments, because her character knows how to play up the chaos around her to the best effect. Reyes spends most of the episode looking nothing but bemused, as if this crazed cast of characters genuinely needed the help of the F.B.I..

This episode is not good. But even with its shortcomings it had the possibility of providing us some memorable moments. The scenes in the morgue with Dr. Herb Fountain are still my favorites of the episode. Erick Avari, a veteran character actor who I love, plays Dr. Fountain. He carries the comedic weight of these scenes on his own, and not just because he’s the broad character. Doggett and Reyes give him next to nothing. Their reactions are way too subdued; they shouldn’t be over the top but they need to be appropriately surprised

I know my comparisons are unfair since Mulder and Scully had time to develop a shorthand and a status quo before being thrust into the world of comedy. Yet I still find myself longing for “Humbug” (2×20) and their pitch perfect responses to the madness, and even for “Bad Blood” (5×12) when they showed us they could themselves be the madness.

Frankly, despite the madness that is Dr. Rocky Bronzino, King of the Fake Bronzer, some of the better parts of this episode are watching Scully deal with him. He’s not a great character, but at least he gives Scully something to do besides pine for Mulder and worry about William.

Then again, the low point of this episode is watching Dr. Scully give CPR to a man who’s already breathing. So I guess it’s a wash.

The truth is, “Lord of the Flies” is confused. The basic plot is a serious X-File, but the overall tone is that of an episode of The Lone Gunmen. Why do I say that? I’m glad you asked.

Sadly, The Lone Gunmen only lasted thirteen episodes, but Thomas Schnauz wrote two of them. Two good ones, I might add. A personal friend of Vince Gilligan’s from film school, he was pulled onto The X-Files after the show ended and went from there to… yep, Breaking Bad.

But back to The Lone Gunmen for a moment, Dr. Rocky Branzino is a character perfectly in keeping with the over the top tone of that show. What he’s doing here in an X-File that’s also trying to be both scary and emotional is beyond me. This is a jumbled mess of goals. Is it a broad comedy? Is it a serious murder investigation? Is it a character study in teenage angst? Is it a short horror film? Is it a Twilight Zone mystery with a twist? Is it trying to be all things to all men, that it might by all means win some?

Tonally, “Lord of the Flies” doesn’t know if it’s a real X-File or a light X-File. It’s possible to straddle the fence and it’s been done successfully before, but this isn’t one of those times.

And if you’re going to have a comedic episode with Jane Lynch in it then she should get the chance to be funny. I’m sorry.

Still on the topic of soon to be wildly famous guest stars, if you had told me that the intrepid Sky Commander Winkie would later blow my mind as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, I would have raised a Scully brow. And there’s our Breaking Bad trifecta for this episode: Vince Gilligan produced it, Thomas Schnauz wrote it and Aaron Paul starred in it.

Verdict:

The X-Files has a long tradition of mixing puberty with the paranormal. You know the drill – your body’s going through changes and you don’t know where you fit in, so you electrocute your friend in the parking lot, have an astrological meltdown, or plow your teacher into the cafeteria wall. Or, you can turn into a B movie fly monster and cocoon your enemies, which appears to both the biological fate and freewill choice of Dylan Lokensgard.

Whatever the try-hard philosophical ponderings of the closing monologue, Dylan isn’t sympathetic, or scary, or even interesting. And as such he adds nothing to the Puberty Pantheon. “Hungry” (7×1) was a better take on a monster who wanted to be anything but.

*cough*MoreVinceGilligan*cough*

C+

Pheromones:
What kind of pheromones are Mulder and Scully excreting that they keep attracting entomologists with silly names?

Mothers are women too, Scully. “I’m with someone,” would have been a more definitive answer.

The teenage romance doesn’t sell. It rarely does in real life either.

When was the last time we had an ending voiceover/case report?

Once again, Scully is a distraction from Doggett and Reyes. Worse, she’s outshining them.

I have no idea why Dylan’s little love interest suddenly feels affection toward the murderous nerd once he’s gone.

No, really. Who hits on somebody by talking about shared menstrual cycles?

FYI, Breaking Bad’s first takeover was “Drive” (6×2) and the next will be “John Doe” (9×7).

Best Quotes:

Dr. Fountain: Well, it’s the kid’s parents. They’re suing everyone.
Reyes: For what?
Dr. Fountain: Everything. They’re suing the county for making the street too steep, the supermarket he stole the shopping cart from, the company that made the helmet he was wearing.

——————–

Dr. Rocky Bronzino: Dr. Scully? This is so exciting. I’ve never had a partner before.
Scully: I have.

Redrum 8×3: I’m sorry it’s not under better circumstances.


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“Casey” and the Sunshine Band

I can’t watch “Redrum” and not hark back to “Mind’s Eye” (5×16), an episode that is similar in a lot of ways. It features a guest star well-respected in movies and television. The featured guest star plays the protagonist rather than the focus being on our two leads. It’s also a fairly quiet, psychological mind game of an episode. Like “Mind’s Eye”, “Redrum” both works and doesn’t work for all the above reasons.

This was the third episode filmed but the sixth episode aired of Season 8. I actually can’t imagine this playing right after “Without” (8×2) as the episode that introduces Scully and Doggett as a partnership. For one thing, it wouldn’t make sense for us to see Scully and Doggett working fairly comfortably together without seeing how that evolution happened. For another thing, in order for a series to temporarily ignore its leads, its leads have to be so established and their relationships so understood by the viewers that you can take a storytelling detour without the audience losing interest or getting lost. That’s why “Hungry” (7×1) could tell its story completely from the monster’s perspective, because the audience knows Mulder and Scully like the back of its proverbial hand.

Truth is, it’s still too soon. With only three episodes as partners under their belt, we still don’t know Scully and Doggett very well at all. Sixth is better than third, but it’s not great.

The bigger issue for me, though, is that Scully and Doggett aren’t merely peripheral they’re replaceable. There’s nothing about this episode that requires the characters of John Doggett or Dana Scully. Martin Wells could’ve had any old friend who was in law enforcement, anyone who would have been willing to let him stay the night at his place. There’s nothing about Doggett in particular that makes him necessary for this episode. And as for Scully, she’s just tagging along. She too could have been anybody. That tacked on speech about how Martin Wells may already have the answers within him is just that, tacket on. It doesn’t make sense in context that she would humor him and believing his story under the circumstances is not like Scully at all. No, those thoughts had to occur to Martin Wells for the plot to go forward and Scully was just the vehicle used to bring them to him.

To compare again, “Mind’s Eye” required Fox Mulder. No one else would have responded to protagonist Marty or have known how to help her even if they did. And back to “Hungry”, the forward movement of the plot is dependent on the particular rhythms of the way in which Mulder and Scully solve cases. It depends on us to know those rhythms and to be able to follow along without sheet music, without having to hear Mulder and Scully say what they’re thinking.

I’m sure this sounds unfairly minute and it probably is. I do think “Redrum” is a good piece of television but I don’t think it’s a great X-File. It would have made a better television movie, extended and without token appearances by our two leads.

Guest star Joe Morton’s acting is great and the concept is good. The message is thoughtful: Painful though it may be, you need to face up to who you are before it’s too late because justice is coming.

Even so, I remember being bored with it the first time I saw it. All I wanted was some more information on Mulder’s whereabouts, pleasethankyou. In lieu of that I would take a creepy campfire tale. This time it kept my interest, but I still wasn’t engaged. I wasn’t exactly engaged with “Invocation” (8×6) either, but at least that gave me atmosphere and more information about Doggett. At least I was watching characters I was already emotionally invested in.

Verdict:

And that’s all I have to say about that. “Redrum” is neither here nor there for me. I like it as a piece but I don’t feel it an an X-File, so there’s nothing to get worked up about. Oh, except for a Danny Trejo sighting. Because I love it when The X-Files and Breaking Bad meet.

B

Musings:

I could’ve done without that spider just fine.

Doggett, I’m pretty sure that entry was unlawful.

There are echoes of “Monday” (6×15) here too, but there the same day repeated until someone made the right choice. Here, someone sees the future their actions lead to and gets a chance to do the past over.

Timeline Problems – This episode takes place in December. Scully found out she was pregnant in May. Thoughts?

I know he’s been in just about everything, but Joe Morton imprinted on me in childhood as Whitley’s one-time love interest and Dwayne’s rival on A Different World.

Also, the actress who plays his attorney, Bellamy Young, gives me Law and Order flashbacks.

“So put on that engineering hat, Casey Jones, because you’ve got a whole lot of trains to be pulling…” – The strangest cultural reference to ever come out of the mouth of a fictional prison roommate.

Someone fact check me, but isn’t this the second time we’ve heard the phrase “This is not happening”? The first time was “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20). The third time I’d rather not remember at the moment.

Mercy triumphs over justice.

Best Quotes:

Trina: M… Mr. Wells, I…

Martin Wells: Trina, you knew about the Nanny-cam, didn’t you? You told the killer about it. You must have given him my key card, too.

Trina: Mr. Wells, I.. I… I wasn’t even there that night.

Doggett: First thing you’re supposed to say is: “What nanny-cam?”

———————–

Martin Wells: Are you trying to tell me that your brother is not a drug dealer?

Cesar Ocampo: My brother was a busboy when you sent him up. He had two strikes on him. He wasn’t dealing no more. You sent him up for who he used to be… and ’cause it was easy.

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


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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

Millennium 7×5: See, you had me up until there.


All hail the Fangirl Flail.

Sadly, Chris Carter’s second born television baby Millennium didn’t last until the Millennium it was named after. In what I can only assume was a result of steadily dropping ratings, Millennium was canceled in the Spring of 1999, just in time to prevent hero Frank Black from stopping the coming apocalypse.

Back in the day, and up until the recent present, I was not a Millennium watcher. (I’m sorry, Chris.) It was one of those shows I intended to tune into eventually, but I never got around to it and then boom, it was gone. I told myself that this time, before I watched this episode I would complete the series so as to have a better sense of what’s really going on here. Well, I haven’t completed it yet, though I’m currently watching the final season, but my eyes have been opened to two things about The X-Files’ first crossover episode:

  1. Frank Black is pretty cool.
  2. You really don’t need to have seen five minutes of Millennium to get it.

I’m sure Carter must’ve been hard-pressed to both conclude Millennium in a way that stayed true to what that show was about and would please its loyal, disappointed fans and yet keep The X-Files’ aesthetic, focusing on giving an audience mostly comprised of people looking for The X-Files and not Millennium what they wanted.

It would be nearly impossible to tie up three years’ worth of Millennium in one hour of television solely dedicated to that purpose, let alone if that hour were shared with another series that had its own long history of story, character and aesthetic. That’s why I think it’s wise that Chris Carter didn’t even attempt it.

Oh, sure. He gives us an update on what’s happening in Frank Black’s life, where he’s at personally and professionally, etc. We learn a little bit more of what’s happened to the Millennium Group in the series’ absence. But what we really get in “Millennium” is an emotional coda rather than a resolution. It doesn’t conclude the plot of Millennium, but I think it allows fans to say goodbye knowing that Frank Black is going to be okay.

The only thing I have trouble with is that it’s hard to take the images that we’re seeing, independently compelling though they are, and mentally tie them to a worldwide apocalypse. Zombies in the basement are such a small-scale problem when compared to Armageddon.

Also, this episode is a perfect example of how Season 7 is, understandably, more self-conscious than any season before it. The show has been around for a long time at this point and while ratings may be falling, it’s still aware of its own status as a cultural phenomenon. When Frank, Mulder, and Scully stand together as a threesome perfectly framed by the camera, it’s with an awareness that two fictional worlds with a cult-like following are colliding. And when Mulder punctuates he and Scully’s hard earned first kiss with a, “The world didn’t end,” it’s with the knowledge that the audience at home is saying the same thing.

Alright. Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s move on to what we’re all really here for, shall we? After seven long, very long, years of unresolved frustration… more so on the part of fans than Mulder and Scully themselves… The Kiss.

Oh, how do I even start? It was chaste but not dead, sweet but not sugary, self-conscious but still self-deprecating, too friendly to be lustful but too lingering to be friendly, open without spilling secrets, meaningful without digging too deep, loaded yet casual, joyful yet not manic. In short, it was so much all that it needed to be that Chris Carter is lucky I didn’t hunt down his place of residence and kiss him myself.

I won’t confess how many times I’ve watched this scene and out myself as a closet sentimentalist. Suffice it to say that Mulder and Scully bring out the inner girl buried somewhere underneath layers of Teenage Ninja Turtles and Mortal Kombat, and this is coming from the child who never cried at Bambi.

I just can’t with these two. The flailing. The flailing!

I said in the review for “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4) that Mulder and Scully essentially said their vows at the end of the episode, that the only formal barrier left between them was the physical one and it was only a matter of time before that one dropped as well. If you weren’t sure then that they had an “understanding,” please pay close attention to the way this kiss goes down.

Mulder doesn’t look at Scully as if he’s just realizing how he feels about her, nor does he kiss her as if he’s declaring his feelings. I love (love) the way he looks at her and mischievously contemplates the kiss as if to say, “Why not?” Why not indeed, Mulder? Now is as good a time as any. What’s holding you back any longer? The conspiracy is dead. Diana is dead. Y2K never lived. Go on and kiss the girl.

And please notice that on Scully’s part, after Mulder kisses her, her face doesn’t say, “Mulder! Does this mean you have feelings for me? I never knew!” No, no, no, no, no. Her face says, “That was nice. What brought that on?” There’s only mild surprise at Mulder’s spontaneity. There’s no shock, no emotional breakthrough. They already know.

What I love about the fact that it’s taken so long for Mulder and Scully to get their romantic act together is that there’s almost no conscious choice involved. By the time it happens, it has already happened. It passed the point of possibility and crossed the Rubicon into inevitability some time ago while neither of them was paying attention. They don’t need a declaration, or fanfare, or even a hallway the walls of which must be painted with some sort of aphrodisiac it causes so much romantic yearning. At this point, they just are, and I can’t express in words how much I love that. You’d just have to count the flails.

Verdict:

I’ve tried to ask myself, “What would I think of this episode if there were no kiss in it?” Let me tell you, that question is harder to answer than it sounds. “Millennium” feels right, it looks right, it tastes right. And I’m especially glad that zombies finally took their rightful place in The X-Files’ repertoire. But I also must confess that while I’ve seen this episode multiple times over the years, I still failed to remember the general plot apart from the fact that it involved people coming back from the dead. Even without a kiss tacked onto the end it’s a solid episode, but in what may turn out to be my official lamentation for Season 7, it’s lost that lovin’ feelin’. Take the kiss away and I have no real reason to set my trigger finger to “Rewind.” “Hungry” (7×1) is good without being great and I’m afraid “Millennium” hasn’t broken that pattern.

But that’s okay. I don’t watch it for the actual episode anyway.

B+

Kosher Salt:

It’s interesting to note, this is the first of four episodes this season that deals with overtly religious themes. That’s right, I said “four.” On average there’s about one per season, if that, and while I doubt there was any conscious decision in the writers’ room to work things out this way, that fact struck me as I was watching this time.

I can’t help but think Chris Carter must’ve really enjoyed teaming up his three heroes, especially Mulder and Frank Black who, as Scully points out, share some similarities in character. It never happened, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if Frank Black had made another guest appearance in later years. Despite the differences in tone and theme between The X-Files and Millennium, he was a good fit on the show.

Frank Black still has his famous red Jeep. Three cheers for continuity.

I heard you throw in that Millennium music, Mark Snow!

Confession time – I make no secret about my love for this kiss, but a part of me still twinges in disappointment every time. Why? Well, it has nothing to do with unfulfilled expectations. No, it’s that there’s a moment after the kiss where Scully looks just a little too bored and I find myself wondering if Chris Carter wasn’t trying to drive home the point that the Mulder and Scully thing was never a big deal after all. And that makes me a little sad because it is a big deal. In the realm of television history and in the world of teenage girlhood it is a very big deal, my dears.

Am I the only one who finds John 11:25 being repeated over and over again incredibly relaxing?

Best Quotes:

Scully: Mulder, you been spreading rumors?
Mulder: Why? You hear any good ones lately?

———————

Scully: The year 2000 is just their artificial deadline and, besides, 2001 is actually the start of the new millennium.
Mulder: Nobody likes a math geek, Scully.

———————

Mulder: The world didn’t end.
Scully: No, it didn’t.
Mulder: Happy New Year, Scully.
Scully: Happy New Year, Mulder.

———————

Mike Johnson: I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead…
Frank Black: …yet shall he live. Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.

Hungry 7×1: I don’t believe in monsters.


The New Atkins Diet

Leave it to Vince Gilligan to give us a mutant with an eating disorder.

I swear, I don’t know how I watched unaware of these patterns back in the day, but this rewatch has gotten to the point where I can think ahead to episodes I haven’t even rewatched yet, the credits of which I’ve never before paid attention to, and successfully match up the writer to the story. Their signatures are that distinctive sometimes and Vince Gilligan is by far the quirkiest of them all. (Love you, Vince.) In “Hungry” he gives us something that The X-Files has been threatening to give us since “Leonard Betts” (4×5): A Monster of the Week episode from the Monster’s point of view.

“Leonard Betts” was the first episode to show us a reluctant mutant, with the camera occasionally choosing to follow the eponymous monster and his story instead of Mulder and Scully. Later on, “Terms of Endearment” (6×6) would half-heartedly attempt to make its audience identify with villain Wayne Weinseider. But the episode’s perspective waffled too much between Wayne’s point of view and, well, everyone else’s. That schizophrenia made it less successful than it could have been. Combine the reluctant killer of “Leonard Betts” with the decisive camera perspective that “Terms of Endearment” was looking for and voila, “Hungry”.

I have to take my proverbial hat off to Chad Donnella of the charming voice crack for being able to carry this episode all on his skinny shoulders as Rob Roberts. That’s a hard enough job when the fill-ins for Mulder and Scully are familiar and beloved characters like Skinner or the Lone Gunmen or even the Cigarette-Smoking Man. “Travelers” (5×15) is largely ignored by fans for daring to replace Mulder with his spiritual progenitor, Arthur Dales. For a stranger and a villain to fully take over the role of protagonist is unprecedented on this show and Donnella does a great job. I wonder if it’s merely a coincidence that he goes on to star in famous X-Files alumns Morgan and Wong’s Final Destination. Hmm.

And I must say, maybe it’s because of Vince Gilligan’s now infamous skill when it comes to characterization, but probably the best thing about this episode is how recognizable Mulder and Scully are even when viewing them from the outside. I get a smug satisfaction from being able to tell what they’re thinking, and successfully surmise what kind of conversations they’ve been having at the coroner’s office based purely on their expressions. If Season 7 has an angle, it’s that it openly celebrates the glorious routine of Mulder and Scully’s partnership. “Hungry” starts that trend in a quiet way by highlighting how by the numbers their investigations have become, and well it should because routine has its own charm.

Speaking of the way we see Mulder and Scully, I’ve never appreciated how frightening it must be to be on the wrong side of them. Mulder especially is more than a little intimidating and the camera highlights that fact. For instance, there’s a great moment in Rob’s apartment building when Mulder and Scully seem to gang up on him from either side of the stairs, one above and one below him. It has the effect of watching two Jack the Rippers slowly advance toward you – there’s no escape. And later on in the scene where Mulder and Scully interrogate Rob Roberts they’re shot from right over Roberts’ shoulder. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen both of them, in the same shot, head on like that before. It’s almost startling to see them so clearly from someone else’s point of view. Usually the audience is more of a fly on the wall, that is if we’re not seeing things clearly from Mulder and/or Scully’s perspective, so this is a fun departure for me.

I quite like this episode, but I can’t seem to love it as much as I do respect its uniqueness. Despite this episode’s best intentions and my best attempts to stay open minded, fifteen minutes into the action and the inevitable always happens. I can’t help it. I miss Mulder and Scully. I said above that Chad Donnella carries this episode well and I meant that but… I still miss them.

Really, The X-Files is just doing what it’s done for the last couple of seasons right after an emotional season premiere – it takes a step back from the Mulder and Scully dynamic, possibly to give the audience a breather. Since Season 5, we usually have to wait a couple of episodes until we get a sort of emotional coda to the events of the premiere. Season 5 it was “Detour” (5×4), Season 6 it was “Triangle” (6×3), and this season it’ll be “Millennium” (7×5). Me, personally, I don’t need a breather. Go ahead and suffocate me with Fangirl emotion.

Still, my viewing of “Hungry” would work out perfectly if not for one thing. Maybe if I could I could fully sympathize with Rob Roberts the way I’m supposed to. Maybe if he had shown enough control not to kill Sylvia, or even if he had struggled with it more, if he had cried right before he killed her instead of looking determined and unapologetic. Maybe then I could have felt bad for him when he died and I could love “Hungry” the way I want to.

Everyone he kills previous to Sylvia is a jerk so I don’t begrudge him those moral lapses. But Sylvia was warm, friendly, and relatively helpless. Outside of the therapist, she’s the only person we see show Rob some genuine kindness. And whereas the therapist is somewhat vapid in her Hallmark Card sweetness, Sylvia is engaging and somewhat vulnerable thanks to that hilarious little snippet she shares about her ex-husband. After that last kill, I agree with Mulder and with Rob himself. He can’t help himself. He has to go.

Verdict:

Ostensibly, this episode’s message is that you can’t be something you’re not. Ostensibly. Rob Roberts is what he is and nothing can change that. This makes Mulder almost villainous in his determination to stop this man who’s only following nature’s orders.

Yet in the end, doesn’t Rob prove that he’s more than merely his biological drive with his dying act, his suicide by cop? Whatever his instincts, his conscience, his humanity is what won out, causing him to prefer death to fighting a losing battle against his impulses. It’s more honorable to die a righteous man than live to be an evil one, right? If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better to enter heaven with one eye than sink down to hell with both.

Rob’s death is ultimately an act of self-control, ironically a character trait he’d been desperately seeking this entire episode. And if we do have sympathy for Rob, it’s for this reason. If he had accepted who he was from the beginning and relished his killer instinct a la Tooms, we wouldn’t be able to identify with him at all. “You can’t fight Bi-o-lo-gy,” he says. But it’s Bi-o-lo-gy he overcomes in the end.

I guess after all he’s his own man, and he controls everything he does.

B+

I’ll Have Fries with That:

I don’t know how it took me so many years to recognize this dude, but this rewatch my subconscious just wouldn’t let go until I Googled. The actor who plays Donald Pankow, the customer service nightmare who’s killed in the teaser, is Chase Hampton formerly of The Party fame. I know I’m not the only one here who was watching The All New Mickey Mouse Club back in the day. MMC like what.

Speaking of the teaser, this is one of my favorite openers of the season. I love that creepy Lucky Boy mascot.

Mulder’s intuition is in overdrive… again. A proboscis? Really?

I know I don’t usually go there, but Scully looks amazing this episode. I’m digging the longer hair after all this time. It makes me feel nostalgic for Season 3 Scully.

Meanwhile, does Scully always look this bored?

Lingering Questions:

Wouldn’t there have been surveillance cameras that captured the entire attack at Lucky Boy’s?

If Mulder knows Rob Roberts is the killer and he knows he kills out of compulsion, why in the heck does he keep putting himself in a position to be alone with him? Has Mulder gotten that cocky? I know he baited Tooms back in “Tooms” (1×20) but that was in public, not it the privacy of the killer’s apartment where he could take you without anyone seeing.

How much blood could Rob Roberts possibly have gotten on that shirt?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: What if this man’s brain was eaten? It’s not sociologically unheard of. There are certain tribes in New Guinea that consider human brains a delicacy.
Scully: Yeah, but Mulder, we’re in Orange County.
Mulder: Yeah, what’s your point?

———————–

Mulder: Oh. Hello. Look at this. Does that look like blood to you?
Scully: Yes, looks like it.
Mulder: What is that? Next to it. Is that, uh… oh my… ugh. Is that brain? Is that brain matter there?
Scully: No, I’d say that’s ground beef.

———————–

Derwood Spinks: Uh, since this is farewell, when nobody was looking… I used to dip my boys in the cole slaw. Bon appetit!

———————–

Rob Roberts: I’m sorry, but this is like good cop… insane cop.

———————–

Rob Roberts: I, I guess it’s the taste I respond to the most, salty and juicy… kind of buttery. The, the texture of it inside of your mouth… You know you, your teeth just sink into it like this juicy cloud, and it tastes so good you don’t, you don’t even want to swallow it. You just want to work it around your taste buds until your eyes roll right back into your head… Anyway, it’s a real problem.

———————–

Sylvia: He said I was too fat to ride in his sports car, that I’d just mess up the springs. So, I sat on the hood and I bounced. And I didn’t stop until the police showed up.