Tag Archives: Improbable

Babylon 10×4: I resent that characterization and I don’t even know what it means.


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Don’t bother adjusting your antennas, ladies and gentlemen.

Mulder: Hi. Einstein? I need you to do me a favor so we can save the world. I’d like you to feed me some quasi-legal magic mushrooms to get me high. Because if I get high and reach that higher plane of consciousness that the Beatles only dreamed of, I can communicate with a comatose terrorist currently in a lower plane of consciousness. I’d ask Scully but she never lets me have nice things. She said no to the Star Wars wedding too. Can you rush down here, please? Thanks. #TrippingAgainstTerrorism

Well, shave my knuckles and call me “Curly.” That was a bunch of mechanical bull.

And you know what? Horrible as it is, it barely even got my shackles up. I mean, I’m not happy, but to break out that venerable and ancient stick called Brutal Honesty: this is what I had braced myself for. I had hoped for better, but I had suspected worse.

If you’ve been gracious enough to read some of my mental meanderings disguised as reviews, then you know that I’ve been rooting for Chris Carter to prove himself again to the fandom.  I’m a fan of both his writing and directing and am usually game for his experimental pet projects. “Babylon” is one of those, v. SMH16.

Fourteen years after the original end of the series and it’s obvious that Chris Carter has a lot he wants to say, he just doesn’t have 8,562 hours to do it in. This is a television program, not a New York Times op-ed piece. Go ahead. Throw out an idea, an opinion or two. Heck, indulge a little and make it three or four. Paint us a visual portrait of your life philosophy. But don’t try to force feed the audience over a decade’s worth of your cultural observations in a single episode of television. They’ll only vomit it all back up.

This forcefully reminds me of “First Person Shooter” (7×13), also directed by Chris Carter, which tried to ally itself with the feminist cause only to disgrace it in yet another failed attempt by the top ‘o the heap at solidarity with the social underdog.

Now, I’m not insensitive to the issues of stereotyping “Babylon” tries to raise having grown up with practicing Muslims in my own family. I’ve also been blessed both to travel and to know people in my own neck of the woods who grew up in predominantly Muslim countries (you might find it awkward to know how many of whom are more paranoid about Islam than most Middle America Americans are, but let me not pull on that thread). If Chris Carter really wants to prove how relevant The X-Files still is then here’s a thought: How about the highly religious young Muslim guy has nothing to do with terrorism??? Too radical?

I know I’m kvetching, but the truth is that for about the first half of “Babylon”, I was following along with an open mind, even if some of the early moments I didn’t understand…

Scully: Since when do you believe in God, Mulder?

Since when did you stop watching your own show, Chris? “Signs and Wonders” (7×9), “Closure“(7×11), “Existence” (8×21), “The Truth” (9×20/21), I Want to Believe… did I imagine you took Mulder through a spiritual evolution or did you imagine I’d forget?

Scully: You know that prophecies like this have been going on for centuries, failed prognostications of doom, failed prophecy – even in the Bible.

Mulder: Yeah, God told Adam that if he at the forbidden fruit he’d die. And he lived 930 years. Top that.

He lived 930 years and then he died… right?

Anyway.

Then of course, I see Mulder and Scully doppelgangers, think “Fight Club” (7×20), and immediately get nasty chills. To my relief, Agents Miller and Einstein aren’t at “Fight Club” levels of irritating. They also aren’t interesting at all. The way Einstein is written, she’s overdone. Miller comes across as little more than an over-eager frat boy. Mulder and Scully were young and full of wonder once, but they managed to radiate capability and intelligence beyond their years. And now I know: The X-Files couldn’t have been created in or with this generation.

But what am I stalling for, right? We all know what the baloney in this sandwich is… Mulder tripping through the tulips with a 10-gallon hat on his head and an Elvis in his pelvis. My concern waxed and then waned something like this:

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And they’re trying to pass this off as the much anticipated return of the Lone Gunmen?

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Call me crazy, but I don’t think badonkadonk hony tonk, inaccurate Biblical allusions, and unoriginal socio-political commentary together a cake bake. Frost it with a heavenly horn section and I am officially unamused. That’s right. God Himself just signed off on MSR and my reaction was:

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I suppose there were a few vestiges of the thoughtful television The X-Files used to be. Do thoughts have weight? Do words have weight? Can anyone feel the weight of my thoughts like an Acme piano falling from a roof?

One (more) thing that did bother me was the not so subtle depiction of Texans and American law enforcement as a bunch of bigoted bullies. I mentioned “First Person Shooter”, infamous for attempting to elevate women by making men look like a bunch of hormone crazed idiots. “Babylon” sympathizes with a repentant terrorist to the point of making the victims, the citizens filled with righteous indignation, look mean for being angry. They absolutely should forgive and I’m not trying to suggest they shouldn’t or that bigotry against Muslims isn’t real or dangerous. But this episode wants the masses to offer forgiveness without conceding that there’s anything that needs to be forgiven. Yep. Knotted issues too big to be picked apart in less than an hour of television.

Verdict:

In the immortal words of those ladies of the barenaked variety: It’s all been done.

In the past fourteen years since the show ended, terrorism on television has been brought forward, pulled back, flipped out, dissected, intersected, and vivisected. I wanted, I so wanted, for this to be something fresh and new – something we were promised the revival would be; it was never supposed to be purely about nostalgia, remember? Instead I’m mortified to report that “Babylon” comes across as a desperate attempt to seem progressive, relevant, sexy and wise.

I can’t help but think back to “Improbable” (9×14) and Chris Carter’s last off-the-wall attempt to define God for a television audience. Then God was a dancing, prancing, grinning Burt Reynolds – low in authority, high in laughter. Now God is an angry tyrant who set man off on his path of confusion but will occasionally speak to the mankind He cast away through dissonant elephant calls – if you care to listen.

I won’t vouch for either interpretation. And the thoughts expressed all throughout this episode are so random and disjointed that I can’t even engage them in debate. I will only say that this doesn’t feel like the same Chris Carter who wrote “Irresistible” (2×13), but I know he’s still in there. I want to believe.

F

The 7th Trumpet:

That final shot is basically a redo of the final shot of “Improbable”, minus Burt Reynolds.

Mulder’s conversation with Einstein wandered very close to Tulpa territory and the mysteries of creation that make up “Milagro” (6×18).

Making Einstein jealous of Scully and then using that as motivation for her to assist in Mulder’s little experiment cheapens the character almost immediately.

The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 involved neither anger nor violence, either on the part of God or man. So I’m not sure where Chris is coming from on the premise of this entire episode.

“You were 50 shades of bad.” – Absolutely. Freaking. Not.

Season 9 Wrap Up – There’s a lot of crap to cut through.


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Unbreak my heart.

“Working on a demanding show like The X-Files can take its physical toll on a person. I kept at it pretty regularly for the entire nine seasons,” Chris continues. “All I can say is on the last season of the show, I was writing or re-writing a lot and I would take a nap every day. As the season went on, it became two naps a day. Those nine years caught up with me pretty fast.” – LAX-Files, pg. 220

I would love to officially close out this rewatch of Season 9 and say that it was wonderful, tragically underestimated and that it exceeded my expectations. I would love to be able to conclude that our two new leads stole the show in every sense of the expression, that in the history of The X-Files, Season 9 was a new creation; old things had passed away, all things had become new.

But I can’t. I’d be lying. A new creation was what we needed, but it’s not what we got.

I don’t want this to turn into a diatribe on Season 9, and I also don’t want to expend any more mental energy on Season 9 than I have to for the sake of completion. So we’ll focus on a few main things that I think might have made the season better.

We needed a new mythology.

Because, no. Tacking on the Super Soldiers to the old mythology did not suffice.

I listed a series of questions in the review for “One Son” (6×12) that the Syndicate mythology still had left to answer when it ostensibly ended. But as of Season 6, the mythology had already grown way past anything the 1013 staff had originally hoped for and lasted well past what they had originally envisioned. It had grown large and unwieldy and Chris Carter decided to scrap it and do something new rather than dig a deeper hole and make it even more confusing. Um, that was the goal, anyway.

He did something “new” in “Biogenesis” (6×22) with alien gods, but it was still directly related to the mythology we were already familiar with. Then, with Mulder bowing out in Season 8, the Super Soldiers were introduced so that the new team, Doggett and Reyes, would have something fresh and scary to go up against. But the mystery of the Super Soldiers was tied to the mystery of the alien gods – was tied to the mystery of the Syndicate – was tied to the era of Mulder and Scully. We don’t have to play a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with it, either. The Super Soldiers went directly after Mulder and Scully’s baby and are working for the alien colonists that Mulder and Scully are working against. You can’t think of the Super Soldiers without thinking of the history of Mulder and Scully.

By the time we get to Season 9, not only are we more confused than ever by the connections between the conspiracies, but Doggett and Reyes aren’t on their own turf, they’re still effectively playing in Mulder and Scully’s sandbox. They’ve inherited a through-line so convoluted that:

“I looked at what many people had written about the mythology,” Spotnitz said, “and I was alarmed at how many people who are extremely knowledgeable about the show and had followed it religiously had drawn false conclusions and false connections between things… It was an amazingly complicated, sometimes convoluted conspiracy. I’m just astonished people stuck with it for as long as they did.”

But when I say that we needed a new mythology, I don’t just mean a plot that was brand new for Doggett and Reyes and for the audience. I mean we needed a new mythology because this one’s plot was a complete failure. The most interesting thing about it was how hard it bombed.

Please, no more alien gods. No more alien babies. No more god-like alien baby messiahs. And for the love of all that is Scully, if you’re going to write in a miracle child, don’t erase him like you wrote him on a whiteboard. No takesies backsies!

We needed the leads to star in their own show.

I think the plan to attach the fans to Doggett and Reyes by bonding them to Mulder and Scully, while it may have been the only plan available in Season 8, backfired. They became in effect, sidekicks; the less interesting sequel to a massive summer blockbuster.

I do believe they could have stood on their own as characters and that they had their own chemistry as a partnership. Yes, they started off as a reheated rehash of the Skeptic-Believer dynamic, which as I explain in the review for “Daemonicus” (9×3), probably should have stayed unique to Mulder and Scully. But they did prove in episodes like “4-D” (9×5), “John Doe” (9×7), and  “Audrey Pauley” (9×13) that they could hold their own and had the potential to build a unique dynamic. They needed cases that were suited to their strengths as a partnership rather than Mulder and Scully’s strengths. They needed to be free of Scully as the third wheel and free from the shadow of MSR. And they needed a quest all their own.

With Mulder and Scully, they had their marching orders from the Pilot (1×79). We knew why they were here and what they were doing. And while they were waylaid by Monster of the Week pitstops, we knew they were searching for something bigger in the X-Files and that these cases were merely detours or the chance to pick up small pieces of a larger puzzle. And both agents had not only a larger truth to prove or disprove, but they had personal reasons for being invested in their work; Mulder because of his sister and Scully because of her science.

Doggett and Reyes are never given their own mission or personal impetus to investigate the X-Files – No, Doggett’s crush on Scully doesn’t count as a personal impetus, nor does Reyes’ interest in Doggett.

Their fight against the Super Soldiers is an inherited fight. The closest thing Doggett has to a connection with the conspiracy is that an old, somewhat distant friend turned out to be a Super Soldier. Reyes? That her boss and former lover is nebulously aware of a conspiracy that he’s not directly a part of. If we’re being honest, the only reason they’re here is because they’ve become friends with Mulder and Scully. Considering what’s on the line, I don’t think that’s enough.

It was touched on in “Empedolces” (8×17), the idea that Doggett might be here because he wants to prove that there was nothing in the X-Files that could have helped his son. Unfortunately, this was never fully developed as a concept. Reyes’ reasons for investigating are even less developed. She gets “feelings” about cases and has a background in Religion. That makes the X-Files her dream assignment.

A genuine quest all their own, and motivations that carried real emotional weight – those two things could have made a world of difference.

We didn’t need Scully.

We didn’t need Scully or the little uber Scully. They should have run off with Mulder.

Not only did her presence force episodes to take precious time away from developing Doggett and Reyes as characters, her presence also inevitably invited comparison, conscious or not, to the time when Mulder and Scully used to investigate the X-Files. That inevitable comparison inevitably came out in Mulder and Scully’s favor, to the detriment of Doggett and Reyes’ budding partnership.

In fact, episodes like “Trust No 1” (9×8) and “Providence” (9×11) downright turned Doggett and Reyes into Scully’s sidekicks. They became supporting players in the continuing saga of Mulder and Scully instead of leads in their own, less melodramatic drama.

And even when the story had nothing to do with Scully, the script had to make room for her, whether she was useful to the plot or not. Most of the time, she wasn’t.

She spends the majority of the season doe eyes tearily wet with thoughts of Mulder. Either that or she’s crying out, “My baby! My baby!” O Scully, Scully. Wherefore art thou, Scully? What happened to the feisty redhead I once knew? The enigmatic doctor? The lofty example of female intelligence?

Just like that, the legacy of television’s favorite duo is cheapened into a tale of star crossed lovers and their accursed love child.

There has to be an end, Scully.

“If you ask me, we should have ended it two years ago,” Anderson said when the news was announced. “They couldn’t have found two better actors than Robert and Annabeth to take over, but the show was about Mulder and Scully.”

It was about Mulder and Scully and, unfortunately, it never stopped being about Mulder and Scully even when Mulder and Scully were gone. “The Truth” (9×19/20) only confirmed that fact. I second Gillian’s feelings – Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish did an excellent job. The failure of the show wasn’t Doggett and Reyes’ fault. The failure had everything to do with business, the logistics of network television, and most of all, the writing.

In order for Season 9 to have worked, we needed a clean break with the past. We needed two new heroes on a new quest with new perspectives, new dynamics and new enemies. Instead, we got Doggett, Reyes, Skinner, Follmer, Frohike, Langly and Byers playing the dwarves to Scully’s Snow White. (I would have included Kersh, but that’s not seven anymore, is it?)

What we needed, really, was a spinoff. Now, I know very well that wouldn’t have happened, but in an ideal world and all that.

It was just a shame to see this iconic, legendary show that provided so much joy over the years end its run on a low note. Then again… without a proper death, resurrection means nothing. I’m so glad I can look back and say this wasn’t really the end.

On that note of hope, here are the final set of awards for the series proper:

Give it Another Shot

Sunshine Days

Gave it Another Shot

Improbable

No More Shots

Provenance

Best Shot

Audrey Pauley

Long Shot

Underneath

Shoot Me

Jump the Shark

Shoot the TV

William

Scary Monsters 9×12: I want to believe.


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Scully: Do I detect a hint of negativity?

Mulder: No! Yes. Actually. Yeah. – “Detour” (5×4)

The announcement that The X-Files would be ending at the end of the season came after “John Doe” (9×7) aired, but it also came while “Scary Monsters” was in production. How much of the writing team’s understandable feelings of disappointment, loss and rejection made it into what was probably an already completed script, I can’t say. But whether the timing was purely coincidental or not, “Scary Monsters” gives us insight to some of 1013’s conflicted feelings about the fandom that both loved them and betrayed them by disappearing in droves.

Leyla Harrison: Agent Mulder wasted no time closing that case. I just try to think like him. What would Agents Mulder and Scully do if they were in this situation?

Doggett: Agents Mulder and Scully aren’t in this situation. Agents Doggett and Reyes are.

————-

Gabe Rotter: [Looking at Mulder’s ID badge] So, this is Johnny Fabulous, huh? “Oh, Mulder’s so smart! Mulder’s so dreamy!” That’s all Leyla ever talks about. “Mulder and Scully, Scully and Mulder.” Blah, blah, blah.

————-

Leyla Harrison: I really do have to commend you, Agent Doggett. You solved this case. If it weren’t for you … I don’t even like to think what would have happened. I have to say, it’s clear to me now that you were better equipped for this challenge than even Agent Mulder would have been, absolutely. I mean, your lack of imagination saved our lives.

Doggett: Gee, thanks.

————-

[In the basement office]

Gabe Rotter: So, this is where the magic happens?

Leyla Harrison: It still happens. I’m happy it’s in good hands.

 

Um…. Fellas, you know I love you, but my nose hasn’t been tickled by pixie dust in a good long while now.

I’m not sure if “Scary Monsters” is a defense of the advent of Doggett and Reyes or a concession that Doggett and Reyes couldn’t quite cut it in the hearts of fans. Judging by the way the episode ends, I’m more inclined to consider it the former, one final argument to say that everyone from the actors to the crew have been doing a great job all along, but we fans, as represented by Leyla Harrison, have been too infatuated with Mulder and the way things used to be to recognize that.

“It’s been a very strange season,” Carter said. “We lost our audience on the first episode. It’s like the audience had gone away, and I didn’t know how to find them. I didn’t want to work to get them back because I believed what we are doing deserved to have them back.”

Weeellll.

Let’s consider just this episode for a moment since “Scary Monsters” is technically what we’re here to talk about.

The character of Leyla Harrison is back and she’s brought a friend. I already discussed my conflicted feelings about Leyla in the review for “Alone” (8×19), but suffice it to say, she was created as a representation of the fans and was named after a deceased fan. Despite the sweetness of the concept, she wearies one in her execution.

Even Scully looks awkward to see her.

Yet here she is, making sure to maintain the meta in a final countdown to the series finale that’s already fraught with meta. “Improbable” (9×14) was meta and “Sunshine Days” (9×18) will be meta squared. Still, Leyla is around as both another genuine tribute to the fans that have stuck out Season 9, and as a way of not-so-subtly telling those fans to give it up already and come around to the charms of Doggett and Reyes.

I submit that the fans that are still watching are not the ones who need to hear that message. That’s preaching to the choir.

And if you haven’t had your fill of self-awareness, there’s Tommy. Tommy is your average little boy… with an imagination so vivid and powerful that the people around him buy into the reality of his creations wholeheartedly. Oh, and he goes around saying, “I made this.”

Sounds like a little show I know.

It’s a cute idea. The whole episode is a relatively cute idea and I’m not mad at it. But it’s not particularly anything outside of a self-referential jab to the ribs. I’m neither scared nor moved nor very amused, even though the scenes between Scully and Gabe Rotter are the best parts of the episode.

Gabe Rotter feels more like an over-the-top goofy character off of The Lone Gunmen, which was the same for the character Dr. Rocky Bronzino in “Lord of the Flies” (9×6), also written by Thomas Schnauz who wrote for both shows. “Scary Monsters” is only slightly more sure of its footing than “Lord of the Flies”, but it’s still unconvincing in tone.  According to my copy of LAX-Files, Thomas Schnauz admits it was written in “basically panic.” Considering The X-Files’ famous production schedule, I can believe that. The problem is, it shows.

It’s been showing. The ratings must have been a disappointment but the ratings tell the story. If the audience had come back would they have been excited? Satisfied? Thoroughly entertained?

The X-Files used to be great all the time, magic almost all the time, but lately it’s been chronically good to middling. Sometimes it’s downright confusing and aggravating. As sad as it makes me to admit it, I would argue that Season 9 was destined to fail.

There’s a sentimental moment at the end of “Scary Monsters” when Leyla and Gabe come face to face with Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster. We all want to believe, which is why like the characters who get so wrapped up in Tommy’s imagination that it becomes real to them, some of us find ourselves passionately loyal to a television show. We believe in it because we want to.

And we’re still here.

Verdict:

I wasn’t sold on the X-File itself, but I did think the resolution to the case was well done. Mulder would have believed in Tommy’s reality. Doggett succeeds because he couldn’t believe in it. When it comes to solving X-Files cases, there’s more than one way to skin a giant bedbug…

Which is why I’ve been saying since Season 8 that it wasn’t necessary to so exactly repeat the Skeptic/Believer dynamic, but let me hop back off my soapbox.

It’s kinda nice to have one more creepy kid story before we go. Still, I can’t help thinking one good spanking would’ve nipped this all in the bud long ago.

B-

Pure Imagination:

Why wouldn’t Mulder’s ID have been turned in the day he was fired from the F.B.I.?

Cats have imaginations?

Mulder’s fish tank is in Scully’s apartment again.

So that ending… Is that a subtle hint to stop watching so much TV because it’s stifling our imaginations? ‘Cause that’s, sadly, about to be arranged.

Mostly, I’m pretty sure the ending is a homage to “D.P.O.” (3×3), which is also mentioned by Leyla earlier in the episode.

Improbable 9×14: I’m gonna leave you here to figure that out.


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Chris, I love you for sentimental reasons.

Here’s the thing, however. I personally don’t do wacky well. I’m usually more of a situational comedy kinda gal. I try with “Improbable”. I try… and then Burt Reynold starts lipsyncing. And then I can’t try anymore. My suspension of disbelief is always suspended at the same spot.

I have a certain amount of fan-guilt over this for several reasons.

  • This is one of Chris Carter’s signature high concept episodes, which I’m usually down for.
  • Season 9 has been mostly weeping and gnashing of teeth so you think I’d appreciate a little levity. I’m such an ingrate.
  • I know Chris Carter is sending a heartfelt farewell message to his audience of which I’m one.

When I think about it, this is actually a perfect theme for the final standalone episode written and directed by Chris Carter. After all, what has The X-Files been except for a giant allegory for the search for God? Chris has freely admitted that Mulder is in many ways a stand-in for himself; Mulder, an intelligent free spirit who thinks he can get to the ultimate Authority by rebelling against every authority between him and that Authority.

Which is why I find it interesting that there’s nothing authoritative about Burt Reynolds. Campy, kooky, charming, yes. Authoritative, certain, powerful, no.

And possibly because I was so disinterested in the episode, I don’t think I figured out that it was God he was supposed to be playing until nearly the end. That does give “Improbable” a certain deep underbelly of meaning, but… I may be of the wrong generation to appreciate the cosmic charm of Burt Reynolds.

Back to the deep underbelly of meaning, though. Jumbled up in a certain zany joy are ideas I suspect of being Chris’s life philosophies. Or rather, his life philosophies include zany joy, which is excellent. From what I can gather, it goes something like this:

There is a God. → God gives a logical order to the universe, patterns and numbers, math, if you will. → He sets up these patterns as a sort of game for mankind to discover and play. → Every person is dealt a different hand, aka genetics and the situations they find themselves born into. → God wants people to win the game of life but He doesn’t have direct influence on our lives. → Rather than giving away the game outright, God drops hints and tricks. → People either make the right choices and win or make the wrong choices and lose. → God loves the losers and the winners, the sinners and the saints. → It makes God sad to see people lose. → It makes God happy to see His creation enjoying itself. → God enjoys Himself.

Some of that I can agree with, some of it I certainly disagree with, some of it I find the nuance slightly off. But whichever way you come down on the profundity of it all, out of “Improbable” spring forth the issues of life. Who do you want to be, Wayne-O or Scully?

Verdict:

I get a lot of style and some disjointed substance which doesn’t make for a satisfying television meal for yours truly. There’s so much going on that I can’t tell whether the episode lacks focus or I do.

I feel bad for being so disconnected from the material because I can tell this is a message directly from Chris Carter’s heart. And there’s a lot here that I would love to see explored and engage with philosophically over tea and crumpets. But I’m just not into it. What can I say?

Thanks though, Chris, for all the joy.

C+

P.S. Dio ti ama.

Numbers and Patterns:

I listened to the DVD commentary for this one, which I highly recommend. And Chris Carter mentions that the festival depicted at the end, the San Generro Festival, wasn’t held in New York that year because of the events of 9/11. The last musical scene is meant as a tribute and, “…a celebration of life, of beauty, and ultimately of God who is everywhere. And that no matter what we destroy, we can’t destroy Him.”

The “Produttore Esecutivo” really is cute, though.

The butt wiggle wasn’t as cute. It was a little try-hard. The whole episode was trying hard.

A slideshow! We haven’t seen one of those since “Patience” (8×4).

At least Scully cracks a smile. I don’t think I’ve seen one of those since Season 8 either.

Mr. Burt: Einstein. Now there’s a winner.

Scully: Look, Agent Reyes, you can’t reduce all of life, all creation, every piece of … of art, architecture, music, literature… into a game of win or lose.

Reyes: Maybe the winners are those who play the game better. Those who see the patterns and the connections, like we’re doing right now.

So the winners are the intellectuals who “figure out” God’s patterns in science and art? Hmm.

Did Reyes just frisk God?

Actor Ray McKinnon, who plays Mad Wayne/Wayne-O, has been in so much my head spins thinking of his resume.

I’m not sure how, if there’s an intelligence capable of creating not only the known universe but the theorized universes beyond it, we can catch up with it intellectually and figure out His “game.” One day we’ll be smart enough to climb an equation like a ladder all the way to all truth? Didn’t they build a tower in Babel once?

On a related note, I had a pastor who used to say, “God isn’t just a little bit smarter than you are.”

Best Quote:

Mr. Burt: You know your problem, my friend? It’s not the cards. It’s playing the hand you were dealt. Well, you guys get a bad deal, it’s all in what you do with it. You know what I’m saying, pardner? You can think. Cards can’t. they just lie there. You gotta make them work for you.

———————-

Mad Wayne: Go to hell.

Mr. Burt: Are the reservations in your name?

———————-

Mr. Burt: You know, there’s a secret to this game, Wayne-O, and I’m gonna tell you what the secret is: Choose better.

———————-
Mr. Burt: Can’t show ‘em what they can’t see.

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.