Tag Archives: Irresistible

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.

Founder’s Mutation 10×5: You don’t like cats?


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All right. There were a lot of feelings to sort through for this one. I’m still not sure I’ve sorted them through completely. I’m not sure I ever will.

I was thoroughly bummed out at the end of this episode. And, no. I don’t mean that I was an emotional wreck grieving the plight of Mulder and Scully. I mean I was disappointed, out of joint, and incurably grumpy.

I realize that doesn’t make sense on the surface, especially since the storytelling has undeniably improved this week. “My Struggle” (1×01) was an aging crackpot of an episode, talking loud and fast, writhing in labor and giving birth to wind. But it was a familiar wind, so supersized shenanigans though it was, I couldn’t help but feel the daffy draft as a gentle breeze, cerulean blue style. Yep. Chris Carter put the whammy on me.

The truth is, though, that I never held out much expectation for the premiere to begin with. Most of the bad habits The X-Files ever had were connected to the mythology, and those habits manifested in increasing frequency and strength the longer the show went on. The mythology was epic in its heyday, but it self destructed somewhere in Season 6 and, unlike Mulder, it never made it back from the grave. Nothing could be worse than the mythology of Season 9 and the nosedive nadir of “Provenance” (9×10) and “Providence” (9×11). If my obsession could survive those, it could survive anything.

I was always more of a Monster of the Week gal, anyway. So who cares, right? But what I didn’t realize was that while I had steeled myself against disappointment in terms of the overall six episode storyline, there were still hidden hopes that I didn’t know I had. Those hopes, as always, centered around Mulder and Scully.

Things start out well enough. Better than well, even. There are little things, like the acting and direction around Mulder and Scully being distinctly of a modern style, for better and worse. Some things can’t be helped and when it comes to acting especially, times have changed – Ironically, they’ve changed largely because of the influence of The X-Files and other shows born in that era. I certainly didn’t expect things to be exactly the same and in fact am rooting for the show to evolve. No, we were still good.

Then we get a few cracks about just how 90’s Mulder and Scully are and it’s sorta cute. Okay. And then the show reverses its position and tries to prove that we’re not in the 90’s anymore, Toto. I get it. You can stop namedropping current events. You’re relevant. I know.

Like I said. Little things. Things that didn’t really bother me in and of themselves, just things I noticed. What mattered was that Mulder and Scully were back in my life calmly discussing theoretical science while a cadaver chilled in the background. YES.

The cherry on top was Mulder breaking the rules and stealing evidence. “Rebel.” It was almost like old times. Almost. It was somewhat disguised by the chaos of urgency and exposition in “My Struggle”. But now I’m sure: Something’s missing between Mulder and Scully.

I know, I know. It’s William, you say. Their grief over William has come between them and there’s some tension what with the breakup, that’s all. The distance is supposed to be there!

Maybe that’s what I’m meant to be seeing, I don’t know. But this doesn’t read as tension to me. Tension is not disconnect. There was tension in “My Struggle”, but at the same time there wasn’t this distance between them. There was tension between Mulder and Scully loads of times in the series proper, and sometimes they were going in polar opposite directions personally and emotionally. Yet they were always connected.

This may sound blasphemous, but their chemistry is wanting. There’s a spark missing. Where’s the Mulder/Scully bubble that existed as early as Season 1? That little world between the two of them that they used to create subconsciously? Fear not, NoRoMos. It’s not MSR I’m talking about or looking for, it’s the bond that set the ship a sail.

It probably shouldn’t concern me as much as it does. However, while this is the second episode to air it was the fifth episode filmed. Fifth! And there are only six. Their game should be on point by now. The fact that I’m seeing so little chemistry in what is effectively the penultimate episode… yeah, I am concerned.

You’re never just anything to me, Scully.

You know, there was a time when Dana Scully never had to say a word. I could read her every nuance of emotion, her every changing thought in her eyes. Scully was aloof. Scully was reserved. Scully was composed. Scully was in control. But Scully was not inscrutable. And her mouth wasn’t immovable.

Move your mouth, Scully. You’re allowed. Then again, maybe Scully shouldn’t open her mouth because every time she does, the croak of a ninety-year-old ex-smoker comes out. This bothers me. I’m bothered.

And what do you mean, “My baby”???

Mulder’s voice isn’t much better. And both of them are noticeably lacking in energy. Somebody get them some Wheaties, stat, because things can’t continue like this. I know they’re older and I want them to act like it. They can’t be wide-eyed with wonder the way they were in the early seasons of the show. That would be disingenuous. But that’s no excuse for Mulder and Scully on Valium. They’re middle aged, they’re not aged.

Again, I hear perfectly reasonable voices telling me this is all because of William. They’re emotionally beaten. They’re tired, they’re worn. They’re grief-stricken and world-weary.

Yet the answer that they lost their baby can’t be the excuse for every problem. Their chemistry is lacking – they lost their baby. Scully’s face is frozen – they lost their baby. Their conversations are stilted and subdued – they lost their baby. It gets old fast, doesn’t it? If they’re here to fight then there has to be some fight left in them.

I’ve ranted and I’ve snarked, but in all honesty I’m 80% sure that this discomfiture is a temporary state of affairs. And while I don’t think William should be a blanket excuse, this is an episode about William and it’s Mulder and Scully’s long overdue chance to mourn him.

In fact, the fantasy sequences prove to me that the Mulder and Scully I know and love are still alive somewhere in their own souls. Scully’s still Scully in her head! She even has her voice back! And you know what? Both of their individual scenes with imaginary William were more powerful than all of their scenes so far together.

These daydreams aren’t just fantasies about what life would have been like with William. They’re also their worst nightmares given a voice. Both Mulder and Scully long for their individual relationships with their child, and at the same time, they suspect that William was never theirs at all. Not really. It’s the same fear that torments Scully in “Per Manum” (8×8), that something was wrong with her pregnancy and her child from the beginning. But these are fears that should have been put to rest long ago.

These scenes, beautiful as they are, resolve nothing. They’re exercises in emotion. Mulder and Scully still don’t know whether or not they owe the birth of William to a sinister science, despite the fact that that question was answered in Season 9. (In case you were wondering, Season 9 no longer exists.) And they have absolutely no idea where William is or what’s happening to him, a question that I suspect will be revisited later in the season.

If these poignant daydreams accomplish anything, however, they succeed in amplifying my not so latent frustration over the William storyline. I know the world of The X-Files isn’t exactly family friendly, but I don’t think I’ve crumbled my cracker when I say I can easily imagine Mulder and Scully as parents… good parents. That’s why despite the weakness of “Existence” (8×21), its final scene felt right as a potential series finale.

For Mulder especially, who had spent the entire series trying to make sense of the loss of his sister and the destruction of his family, to find through his quest the family he had lost, to find something he was willing to leave the X-Files behind for, to find the very meaning he had been searching for in the X-Files, that was a great evolution for his character. In many ways, I think Mulder needed fatherhood more than Scully needed motherhood, despite the fact that the focus has forever been on “Scully’s baby”, even here where Scully still refers to William as her own. Yet, as sweet as Scully’s scenes with her imaginary son were, Mulder’s were gut-wrenching. That was exactly how I’d always imagined he’d be as William’s dad. And now I’m emotional all over again. Thank you, everyone. Thank you soooo much.

And thank you for making me more sure than ever that William” (9×17), the adoption, and the entire plot surrounding Mulder and Scully’s son was the worst sin The X-Files ever committed. I know it would have been harder to write our leads crusading against epic alien invasions with a baby in tow (Colonization with The Mulders), but good things don’t come easy. And you know what? The epic alien invasion never happened, which only adds insult to unmitigated injury.

Scully is already a bad mother shut-your-mouth. But if she had been fighting for her home, her family and her baby, she would have been a BEAST. It could have been done. It should have been done. It has been done… in my head.

Verdict:

As you can see, the William issue doesn’t make me sad so much as it makes me resentful and indignant. I can’t cry over it. I’m too annoyed to cry.

Mulder and Scully don’t seem to have moved on either. This episode was not a catharsis. It was not a release like “Closure” (7×11). This was a glossy 8×10 of sadness and guilt put in a pretty picture frame and hung on a wall for all to see. If an angst party was the point, they have proven it. They have partied the house down.

And so my resentment roosts in an episode that is otherwise decent. It’s not great television but it’s a distinct improvement over last week. The case itself is only moderately interesting and the resolution even less so, but the theme of it ties in perfectly to the William storyline and consequently, “Founder’s Mutation” is an emotional continuation of the premiere. Now I understand why they moved this episode up from when it was originally scheduled to air. Per “My Struggle”, Mulder and Scully got back in this paranormal rat race in order to investigate the genetic manipulation of humans with alien DNA, a horror that hits all too close to home for them. This episode connects their work in the paranormal to the mythology at large as well as to their individual lives and their relationship. They have ample reason to be back on the X-Files.

Now if they would just get back that old Black Magic…

Then again, it occurs to me that diamonds are born under pressure. Since I’ve already exposed myself as a heretic, before I close I’ll add some wood to my own flames. It’s quite possible that the intensity of the Mulder and Scully relationship was directly tied to the intensity of the circumstances Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny found themselves in. They were young, relatively inexperienced actors who were hungry for work. They were on a show that wasn’t just a hit, it was a cultural phenomenon. They spent nearly nine months a year, sometimes eighteen hours a day, being Mulder and Scully. Gillian has even said (somewhat facetiously?) that she spent more of her 20’s as Scully than as herself. On top of that, the show itself became progressively more intense plot-wise, and their characters progressively more isolated together.

It’s no secret that under those high pressure circumstances, David and Gillian didn’t always get along. But they always managed to perform like their lives depended on it. Maybe they did. And maybe… though this is pure speculation on my part… maybe that tension drove them into a place where they had to be Mulder and Scully in order to git-r-done. Because on screen, they would go into a mental and emotional place between the two of them where they became just the two of them. And all the way up to the series finale, these characters and their relationship flowed from them like it was second nature.

Now we’re down to six episodes from up to twenty-four. Now everyone’s in a great place emotionally and relationally. And our leads only see each other every once in a while. In summary, it’s quite possible that our favorite duo will never be the same outside of the extreme possibility of circumstance that created them.

I’m at peace with that… I think? Or am I pouting because I wanted this MOTW to feel like old times? It kinda, sorta, almost did there for a minute. I know we can’t go back again and we shouldn’t. Consciously, I don’t want to. It wouldn’t be believable or even healthy. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keenly feel the bitter in the bittersweetness of “Founder’s Mutation”.

B

Mutated Musings:

Kyle Gilligan. Kyle “Gilligan”. GILLIGAN.

Skinner’s beard is everything to me right now. It’s the unsung hero of the episode.

Closely followed by Scully’s 9ft. legs in Mulder’s office. Dang, our cast is hot.

Help me, Darin Morgan. You’re my only hope. #GreatWhiteHope

It’s good seeing them in Skinner’s office again, though it’s almost jarring how easily Skinner accepts their crazy theories now.

The new, modern office is right, but it’s going to take a little getting used to. Meanwhile, the F.B.I. must be flush with cash.

The new “I Want to Believe” poster in the back corner… I guess we’ll hear that story soon.

I’m sorry. I was watching The X-Files when the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver showed up. Did I cross fandom beams?

And now that I think of it, this episode would fit well in the X-Men universe.

The scene in the bar was an excuse for some much needed humor. It didn’t end up being relevant to the plot.

To me, this feels more like modern TV does The X-Files than The X-Files does modern TV. Yes, Virginia, there is a difference.

I don’t just hate that she says, “my baby,” I hate the way she says it. I keep hearing it on repeat. Anybody got a letter opener?

Why does Scully stand outside the school just to say hi and bye?

There are echoes of Mulder’s brain pains in “Demons” (4×23) here and of the victims’ symptoms in “Drive” (6×2). There’s also a government conspiracy behind the genetic manipulation of babies in vitro as early as “Eve” (1×10).

Scully takes Kyle into custody a little too easily considering his powers. And Mulder recovers the pain without showing any signs of having been in any.

Sister Mary was Scully’s psychologist in “Irresistible” (2×13) and “Elegy” (4×22).

What are the odds that Kyle Gilligan would get a job working as a janitor at the same mental hospital that his mother was institutionalized at?

Best Quotes:

Scully: I’m a doctor. You can tell me anything.

—————–

Mommy Gilligan: Bad things happen when the birds gather.

—————–

Scully: This is dangerous.

Mulder: When has that ever stopped us before?

—————–

Mulder: All we can do, Scully, is pull the thread and see what unravels.

 

Empedolces 8×17: The pizza man is not above suspicion.


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My regular pizza man.

“Empedolces” is one of my favorite episodes of Season 8. The X-File itself isn’t all that engaging, but Agent Reyes is established as a trustworthy character, Doggett’s backstory is at long last revealed, and we get more pure Mulder and Scully interaction in this one episode than in any other episode from the time of Mulder’s return to the season finale.

This X-File isn’t a fright fest, it’s a springboard for character and therefore audience discussion. There is an evil that leaps on a person when they’re emotionally vulnerable and can cause them to commit acts they never thought themselves capable of. I’m feeling echoes of “Irresistible” (2×13) in Mulder’s musings on the nature of evil, that once again, evil isn’t something so easily explained by psychology. Perhaps sometimes there’s an actual force behind it and people are open to that force at certain moments. Some things mommy issues can’t account for.

This X-File also finally lets us into Agent Doggett’s world. We now know how he and Agent Reyes met. They met on the case of Doggett’s missing son who was later found dead. It turns out, Doggett does have some previous experience with the paranormal, he just talked himself out of believing it. He and Reyes both saw a vision of his dead son burned to ashes that matches visions Reyes is having again on this new case.

It’s about time now for Doggett to start believing at least a little bit. He’s seen things he can’t explain all season. He’s even experienced things personally in “Via Negativa” (8×7) and physically in “The Gift” (8×11). No, what’s holding him back from belief isn’t lack of knowledge or experience, it’s the nagging guilt that if the paranormal is real then there’s another avenue of help that he failed to use to try and save his son.

Fortunately for him, Reyes is an unlicensed therapist and a pushy one at that. She’s not going to let him get away with lying to himself any longer. And she’s not going to let Mulder get away with ignoring Doggett’s plight.

You would think that since Reyes is a believer she and Mulder would get along. And they kinda do in the end. But the new-agey, spiritual type has always annoyed Mulder as evidenced by his relationship with the late Melissa Scully. Then again, Mulder’s also annoyed by the Doggetts of the world and this particular Doggett is not only stubborn in the face of loose coincidences but this non-believing heretic is in charge of his precious X-Files. Mulder only hears Reyes out in the first place because he thinks she’s going to give him some dirt on Doggett. It takes a lot for Mulder to swallow his pride and learn to tolerate Doggett, but he does this episode. He’s still not sold on him, but he does make overtures of peace.

When you think about it, these two men have experienced similar losses. They both know what it’s like to have a missing loved one and for that loved one to turn out to be dead. If anything, Doggett’s loss as a father is even greater than Mulder’s. Mulder and Doggett have already been established as very, very different men so I think giving them this single point of contact was a good choice. It forces Mulder to recognize Doggett as a man and not just as an interloper. Mulder shows stirrings of empathy after hearing what Doggett’s been through, but the only thing that manages to fully convince him to make an effort to help Doggett is Scully.

Scully is off the playing field this episode by virtue of the football in her tummy. Like in “Via Negativa”, Scully is sidelined by threatening the pregnancy. But whereas in “Via Negativa” that felt like a poor plot device to get her out of the way and one that distracted the audience from the plot at hand, I’m not as mad at it here because it serves a purpose other than just getting Scully out of the way.

Drugged out, bedridden Scully becomes the fount of all wisdom, leading Doggett and Mulder toward each other on the path to peace. Seeing how far Scully’s come in her own beliefs causes Doggett to reevaluate his own fear of believing and Mulder to reevaluate Doggett’s potential. Scully being in the hospital also forces Mulder to shift his focus off of being separated from his precious X-Files.

This is the first time we’ve seen Mulder engaged with Scully’s pregnancy. Between bringing a very personal gift for the baby and holding a vigil at her hospital bedside, he’s no longer the disinterested and distracted Mulder of “Three Words” (8×18). If anything, he resents Reyes bringing him this X-File that takes his attention away from caring for Scully and the baby.

Scully: I feel like I’m stuck in an episode of Mad About You.
Mulder: Well, uh, yeah. But, small technicality: Mad About You was about a married couple and we just work together.

ER Nurse: Who are you? The husband?
Mulder: No.
ER Nurse: Then you wait outside.

Mulder’s being set up to make a choice. He can choose to prioritize the X-Files and keep running and running and running, or he can choose to define his relationship with Scully and focus on protecting her and the baby, on making sure that she doesn’t lose anything else because of this quest of his. That was the choice he was in the middle of making back in “Requiem” (7×22) right before he was abducted, to stop fighting for the X-Files and let Scully have her life back because “there has to be an end.”

It may seem odd to think of Mulder being seriously tempted by the possibility of domestic bliss, but this is the same Mulder who dreamt of dropping out of this conspiracy rat race, settling down and having kids in “The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati” (7×2). Even as far back as “Home” (4×3) he showed signs of longing for the simple life. Perhaps these latent desires are merely bubbling back to the surface.

What will Mulder do? He has until the end of the season and David Duchovny’s contract to tell us. But I’m pretty sure that look of joy and wonder on his face as he feels the baby in Scully’s tummy is what they call “a clue.”

Verdict:

In some ways this is the reunion of Mulder and Scully that “Three Words” couldn’t be because Mulder had to deal with the immediate aftermath of his abduction. Their banter is as golden as ever, maybe better after Mulder’s long absence. Mulder seems to be more at peace with his situation now and even more so by the end of the episode, which is part of the point. All of the episodes from Mulder’s return to the season finale are about fleshing out interpersonal relationships. There’s very little by way of spooks and scares. There isn’t even much conspiracy.

There are rumors about the pizza delivery man and those are worth every second of this episode. However much 1013 may be trying to tease us and milk the “Who’s the Baby Daddy?” plot up to the very last second, “Empedolces” makes it obvious that Mulder and Scully at least believe this baby is theirs, Mulder’s insinuations about the pizza man notwithstanding.

I only have two nitpicks with this episode besides the lackluster X-File and the cheesy 80’s horror movie special effects.

The resolution is more than a bit of a copout. We go straight from “We have to find the connection, Doggett!” to “Don’t worry about finding the connection, Doggett!”. I mean, really. But as I said, this doesn’t exist as a story unto itself so much as it’s a vehicle to set up the characters. There’s a time crunch to phase out Mulder and Scully and establish Doggett and Reyes before the season ends, so these developments don’t happen as gradually and naturally as one might have wished.

The other nitpick is Doggett and Reyes. I like them and I can see that they’re going to be a good team. But in this episode they’re paralleled against the best, skeptic and believer to somewhat reformed skeptic and believer. Doggett and Reyes can’t possibly shine in comparison. Sorry, guys. My screen actually lights up when Mulder and Scully are on it.

A-

Stray Observations:

Scully’s reduced role also allows Reyes to get some needed airtime.

Mulder’s final Elvis joke… I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

The scene where Mulder puts his hand on Scully’s belly reminds me of Scully putting her hand on Mulder’s chest to feel him breathe in “Deadalive” (8×15).

It’s that kid, Jay Underwood, from that Disney movie Not Quite Human and its sequel. He also showed up in Chris Carter’s Millennium.

I also recognize Denise Crosby from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Her second claim to fame is that she’s Bing Crosby’s granddaughter.

That last line of Scully’s, though. That was a little on the nose, dontcha think?

Best Quotes:

Reyes: What if this is a thread of evil… connecting through time, through men, through opportunity, connecting back to you. In India, in Africa, in Iran, in the Middle East, in the Far East, most of the world… they take it as a given. They see evil in death the way other people see God in a rose.
Mulder: I saw Elvis in a potato chip once.

———————–

Scully: Mulder?
Mulder: What?
Scully: I was just about to jump in the shower but I was waiting for the pizza man.
Mulder: You got something going on with the pizza man I should know about?
Scully: The pizza man?
Mulder: Well, correct me if I’m wrong but you just said you were waiting for the pizza man to jump in the shower.
Scully: No, what I mean was the pizza man’s usually late, and so… You want to come in?
Mulder: Thank you.

———————–

Mulder: You miss your regular pizza man, don’t you?
Scully: [Meekly] Yes.
Mulder: [Feigns devastation]
Scully: [Cheerful now] That’s okay. He’s coming by later.

Paper Hearts 4×8: Tell me about this dream.


"Tut, tut, child! Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it."

Writer Vince Gilligan first popped up on The X-Files’ roster with Season 2’s “Soft Light” (2×23) before breaking out with the hallmark episode “Pusher” (3×17) in Season 3. It turns out that Gilligan began as a screenwriter and was a fan of The X-Files as a regular ole’ viewer long before he came on staff. This explains both his predilection for cinematic stories and why this episode is almost unnervingly cannon in content.

For a man who claimed that mythology episodes weren’t his strong suit, Gilligan is awfully accurate about the myriad of X-Files facts that he scatters throughout “Paper Hearts”, an episode that uses the mythology as its base even though it’s certainly not a mythology episode and can barely be categorized as a Monster of the Week. It’s more a psychological study than anything else, along the lines of “Irresistible” (2×13) and “Grotesque” (3×14). But I digress. Every fact except Mulder’s birthday makes its way in here through such fleeting references as a mention of Mulder’s former mentor Reggie Perdue who was killed in “Young at Heart” (1×15) and a quote from the episode “Aubrey” (2×12). That’s not even counting the word-for-word recreation of Samantha’s abduction with adult Mulder inserted into the mix, a scene that’s perfectly done.

Clearly, “Paper Hearts” is written by a man who understands the language of fandom.

And like the fans, Vince Gilligan is well aware that the whole premise of The X-Files hinges on Mulder’s belief that his sister Samantha was abducted by aliens. If indeed she turned out not to be, the payoff wouldn’t be as grand. And indeed, eventually it wasn’t.

That’s why this episode isn’t pretending to be a legitimate explanation for what happened to Samantha but an exploration of the possibilities. What Gilligan is tapping into is that seed of doubt. Mulder himself stated back in “Little Green Men” (2×1) that he wasn’t sure if his memories of Samantha’s abduction were real, and since then he’s run into a couple of different versions of “Samantha”, or at least her clone.

What is Mulder to believe? Is she still out there somewhere? Is this whole alien conspiracy a ruse as Scully claims in “Paper Clip” (3×2) so that the men behind a set of secret and sadistic experiments can hide their crimes?  It’s an issue that will come up again for Mulder later in the season and will be explored at length in Season 5. But I digress.

Part of the reason I used to not enjoy this episode was because I could so easily dismiss the idea of a serial killer being responsible for what happened to Samantha. The main reason is that I always go into Monster of the Week Withdrawal around this point in the series. We haven’t had a really satisfying one since “Unruhe” (4×2) and “Paper Hearts”, while technically a Monster of the Week episode, is more of a character driven episode than a scary or paranormal one.

That said, it’s satisfying in its real world horror in the same way that “Irresistible” is. And it’s far more satisfying than the one note insanity of “Grotesque”. In the same vein of both of those episodes, there’s very little of the supernatural to speak of, if indeed anything of it exists at all. And that’s just fine because the implication of what Roche is doing to these little girls is worse than the vague fetishism of Pfaster in “Irresistible”.

Not only that, but similarly to what Mulder experienced with Modell in Gilligan’s other masterpiece, “Pusher”, this is an adversarial game. There’s a vast difference between having a Monster to hunt and a Monster to be outwitted. The villains that are a match for Mulder in terms of cleverness always turn out to be the most memorable. (This is why Samuel Aboa in “Teliko” (4×4) can’t pull off what Eugene Victor Tooms does in “Tooms” (2×20). For one thing, he doesn’t have three names. That’s always a tip off.)

Roche is more than just your run-of-the-mill sociopath; he’s a match for Mulder intellectually. It’s another game of which genius can outplay the other. One almost thinks Mulder and Roche could have been friends… if Roche wasn’t a sadistic pervert. At the very least they get each other. Admittedly, the “nexus” idea is a little weak as a plot device. But I suppose Gilligan had to give some sort of a name to their unusual connection. And, after all, this is The X-Files. Something has to remain unexplained.

Conclusion:

This season is low on scares but high on character development. It makes sense because the show is a major hit at this point in its run; this means that the writers are trying to keep themselves out of a rut, the audience is calling for more information on their favorite characters and the actors are looking for a way to show off their skills. It only makes sense to give Mulder and Scully more time to shine than they have on their average case.

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny were more than up to the task. And that Tom Noonan as Roche… whew! He’s so cavalier that he almost transcends being creepy.

And I just love the way that Gilligan has written these characters. I particularly love Scully in his episodes as she’s almost always a woman to be reckoned with. Here her barely restrained anger is palpable and even Roche seems a little afraid of her. Her eyes were saying something along the lines of “I will drop you.” Not only that, when it comes to her partner she knows when to hold ’em and knows when to fold ’em. She chastises him when necessary and ignores his mistakes when the situation calls for it. The strength of her compassion for Mulder in this episode is memorable and considering what episode is coming up in just a few days, it’s an emotional buoy of sorts.

Now Mulder, well, what’s most interesting is that Mulder is coming to the more rational conclusion that his sister was simply kidnapped, not abducted by aliens. Yet he’s coming to a rational conclusion in the most irrational way so that at least we know he hasn’t changed… at all.

David Duchovny really should have gotten an Emmy for his performance in this one.

Scully: You’re right, Mulder. It’s not a match. It’s not her.

Mulder: It’s somebody though.

Oh, what a powerful scene. In a season that’s going to give me lots of reasons to hate Mulder, thank you, David Duchovny for reminding me that I love the heck out of this character.

In closing, I’d just like to note that this episode is another strike against the “Mulder as Jackass” stereotype that’s hijacked his legacy over time. Mulder closes a potential door to the answers he’s seeking in order to save a little girl, just as he’s closed doors and will continue to close more doors for Scully’s sake. Mulder is a deeply flawed human being, but he’s an incredibly humane one as well.

A

Questions:

The nexus theory still doesn’t explain how Roche knew what model vacuum cleaner The Mulders had in their house.

Comments:

In another point of continuity, remember the scene in “Conduit” (1×3) where Scully tries to stop Mulder from digging up the potential grave of Ruby Morris, another little girl lost. Even their positions are the same. The difference in this case is that rather than hinder him, or even just watch him break the rules, Scully puts Mulder’s emotions above procedure and digs right alongside him. I heart these two.

Yep. It’s true. David Duchovny sunk that shot on the first take.

I almost committed a travesty of justice by failing to mention The Magical Mystery Tour of Whimsy that Mark Snow’s score takes us on this episode. Consider it mentioned.

Best Quotes:

Scully: You said it yourself once. You said that a, a dream is an answer to a question we haven’t learned how to ask.

———————

Scully: Don’t you think the car might have been searched at least once already?
Mulder: Not by me.

———————

Mulder: Sixteen victims, John. How come you said there were only thirteen?
John Roche: I don’t know. Yeah, thirteen sounds more magical, you know?

———————

John Roche: How about this? Sink one from there and I’ll tell you.
Mulder: [Nothing But Net]
John Roche: Trust a child molester?

———————

Roche: This man, this man hit me!
Guard: I didn’t see it.
Scully: I did.

———————

Roche: It was Karen Ann Philiponte. She lived in a green rancher in… East Amherst, New York. Minter grew outside her window. I stood outside her window atop springs of mint. It smelled wonderful.
Scully: [Through gritted teeth] What year?
Roche: July… 1974. I had her mother on the hook for an Electrovac Argosy, but at the last minute she said, “Thanks but no thanks.”
Scully: [Drops pen in disgust]
Roche: Oh well.

Grotesque 3×14: You never fit your own profile.


Art Therapy

“Grotesque” is a unique episode and admirably ambitious, yet I can’t help feeling that it takes itself a little too seriously at moments. And that, of course, just makes me want to roll my eyes at the most inappropriate times. I appreciate the plot and the concept and while it’s mostly successful, I feel slightly disengaged when I watch it. It’s sort of Mulder’s answer to the Scully-centered episode “Irresistible” (2×13) where the line between the paranormal and natural human evil is blurred, but this one is psychological rather than emotional. Good, and admirably ambitious, but not great.

Last time we actually saw Mulder care about someone’s negative opinion of him we were still somewhere in Season 1, when the memory of his former glory days at the F.B.I. weren’t far behind him and you could tell that the occasional dig still hit a nerve. Skepticism directed at Mulder’s abilities/sanity is nothing new. “Squeeze” (1×2) and even “Lazarus” (1×14) give us a glimpse at how often there’s sniggering behind his back. But every time we meet one of Mulder’s former colleagues, Jerry in “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and Reggie in “Young at Heart” (1×14), they have a healthy respect for Mulder’s capabilities. Heck, later on there will be Diana Fowley, another former partner who, er, recognizes Mulder’s strength. Between what we know of these characters’ relationships with him and his current partnership with Scully, to know Mulder is to love Mulder, or at least to learn to appreciate him despite himself. This is the first time we’ve seen someone who worked alongside Mulder actually dislike him. And it’s the first time in a long time that Mulder has reacted to anyone’s dislike. So what is eating Agent Patterson?

We never really find out why Mulder irritates Patterson so. But I remember having this genius friend in High School who aced Latin even though she spent 99% of every class passing notes with me, when she even came to class that is. Our teacher couldn’t stand her. I suspect something similar is going on with Patterson and Mulder. Either that or he’s the stereotypical 1950’s father who can’t tell his son how proud he is of him but put a few drinks in him and he’ll have no problems telling the rest of the world. I’m leaning towards the former as his venom toward Mulder denotes both admiration and jealousy.

His relationship with Scully in this episode isn’t much better. The further down the rabbit hole he goes the more he consciously shuts her out. Season 3 has seen the writers as a whole putting distance between Mulder and Scully in quite a few episodes. Things were too perfect between them in Season 2 to continue that way; they’d lack depth in the long run. But maybe there’s too much distancing going on now. Too often only one of them has enough of a personal connection to solve a specific case. Whatever happened to them figuring it out together? That hasn’t really occurred since “2Shy” (3×6) or possibly “The Walk” (3×7). Even “Nisei” (3×9) and “731” (3×10) saw them going down different investigative paths and drawing different conclusions. I submit that such a device makes logical sense in mythology episodes where the writers need to disseminate lots of material to the audience, and it allows both Mulder and Scully to grow as characters. But at some moments this season I’m left wondering why they’re even partners when they’re not working together.

I think soon the collective writing club at 1013 Productions comes to realize the Mulder and Scully seesaw is tilting too far in one direction and they start adding weight to the other side for the last half of the season, a development which I’m forever grateful for. It’s not that I don’t agree that Mulder and Scully should have independence, autonomy and interests apart from each other and even apart from the X-Files. That was part of what I enjoyed about “Revelations” (3×11) was that Scully had a supernatural niche all her own. I just miss seeing them work as a team rather than acting as an antagonist of sorts in each other’s individual drama.

The Verdict:

Besides the less than inspirational interpersonal dynamics, my other bone to pick with this episode is that the solution is too clear from the beginning. Only someone from the crime team knew the ins and outs of the murders? Then someone from the crime team committed the murders. And it’s certainly no shock when Patterson, obsessed with finding the killer, turns out to have found his killer’s obsession instead. In fact, we’re expecting it. With the 1980’s/1990’s rise to prominence of Criminal Profiling, the tale of an investigator becoming what he hunts isn’t exactly fresh and new. I couldn’t say for sure, but I don’t believe it was fresh in 1995 either.

I don’t think “freshness” is a concern here regardless. It’s a vehicle to let David Duchovny strut his emotional stuff, which he certainly does a solid job of. This episode is about exploring more of the tragic side of Mulder’s nature and his ability to intuitively understand people, the gift that’s actually a curse. Writer Howard Gordon, even more so when working with partner Alex Gansa, has a propensity toward the solemn and the serious when it comes to giving us X-Files. His previous offerings include “Conduit” (1×3), “Born Again” (1×21) and “Sleepless” (2×4), all episodes with a rather grim sense of loneliness, a theme echoed again here. He also successfully adds poeticism into the mix in “Dod Kalm” (2×19). “Grotesque” reminds me a lot of “Dod Kalm” in tone and theme; both show us a man slowly turning into what he hated and both are continually swathed in blue light.

After all that tepid to cold praise, I do like this episode. It’s a brave departure from the norm. I just wouldn’t turn it on to have a good time.

B

Peanut Gallery:

It’s a little difficult to believe Mulder went that crazy that fast, but then, they only have 43 minutes.

I kinda dig the exploration of insanity vs. demon possession. Which is which and how do we know? Like “Irresistible” before it, we don’t get a straight answer in the end.

Didn’t Mulder already have his tortured soul moment in “Oubliette” (3×8)? Maybe that doesn’t count since this one brought up Samantha and this one has absolutely nothing to do with his sister issues?

Scully’s one moment of glory in this episode, as she cocks her chin in Skinner’s office, is my favorite part.

Best Quotes:

Scully: So you’re not going to tell me when your love affair with Patterson ended?
Mulder: Patterson never liked me.
Scully: I thought you were considered the fair-haired boy when you joined the bureau.
Mulder: Not by Patterson.
Scully: Why not?
Mulder: Didn’t want to get my knees dirty. Couldn’t quite cast myself in the role of the dutiful student.
Scully: You mean you couldn’t worship him.
Mulder: Something like that, yeah.

——————–

Mulder: Patterson had this saying about tracking a killer. If you wanted, uh, to know an artist, you have to look at his art. What he really meant was if you wanted to catch a monster you had to become one yourself.

——————–

Agent Patterson: I have to tell you, I am really disappointed in you.
Mulder: Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint you by not disappointing you.

——————–

Agent Patterson: My advice to you, Scully: Let Mulder do what he has to do. Don’t get in his way and don’t try to hold him back… because you won’t be able to.

——————–

Skinner: Are you worried about him, Agent Scully?
Scully: No, sir.
Skinner: Off the record.
Scully: [Cocks her head]
Skinner: So am I.

Revelations 3×11: You never draw my bath.


Confession time.

I was looking forward to watching “Revelations” with a fresh pair of grown up eyes, a pair I apparently didn’t posses when I last watched it as recently as eight months ago. But I confess some trepidation about what I’d actually have to say about it and worse, what it might say to me about the inconsistent spirituality of The X-Files. Funny that it turns out I’m in love with “Revelations” right at this moment. I say all this to explain why I’m about to go into a long and rambling treatise about an episode I never much cared for.

As the episode begins, we think we might be in for another dog and pony show along the lines of “Miracle Man” (1×17) where a church service in the Deep South bears a striking resemblance to an Elvis impersonator’s concert. Similarly, the Reverend (played by R. Lee Ermey) in the opening scene of “Revelations” has a dressing room complete with a stage mirror rather than an office. Even the cross in the sanctuary is a lit up set piece. Therefore it’s no surprise when the Reverend’s stigmata turns out to be no more than a staged play.

The last time The X-Files addressed religion it did it through what was largely a caricature. Not that it was wholly ineffective, but I suspect the writers consciously tried not to take the plot too deep so as not to offend either their religious or secular audience with philosophical meanderings. Consequently “Miracle Man” was less about faith as a conviction than it was a Christlike allegory run amok.  It did plant an intriguing seed, however, because that episode is when we learn that Scully was raised a Catholic and while she doesn’t appear to be practicing, she shows some spiritual sensitivity that we hadn’t seen from her up to that point.

And yet, except for that brief moment, the series has never explored why or if faith is still important to Scully; Scully, who always wears her cross but acts more as though science were her god. We never find out what it was that caused Scully to drift from the church, but we can imagine it was the usual. Growing self-reliance, doubts, the desire to fit in with the culture at large, complacency, the distractions of life… any number of factors could have culminated in Scully, not walking away from her faith, but forgetting about it over time.

Suddenly she finds herself confronted by realities she wasn’t sure if she still believed in. And the one person she can usually turn to in her vulnerability, Mulder, is shockingly unreceptive to Scully’s desire to believe. Mulder! Mr. There Isn’t So Ridiculous a Theory That I Won’t Shout it from the Rooftops! It’s a puzzle, that’s for sure. But it’s a nice change of pace, even so. It’s so rare that Mulder’s the skeptic and Scully’s the believer and I confess I relish the fact that his almost inerrant intuition is completely off base for once. Still, why is Mulder so resistant to the idea that these so-called religious fanatics could be right? It’s not that he’s completely adverse to religion. He was appreciative enough of Albert Hosteen’s ministrations in “The Blessing Way” (3×1) and was quick enough to believe in Eastern European cult religious practices in “The Calusari” (2×21). So what gives? Could it be that Christianity is the issue?

This is such a massive topic that I’m going to turn to a source far more clever than I to make my point. A few months back I discovered the amazing reviews over at The A.V. Club (www.avclub.com). It’s by geeks, for geeks so if you’ve never checked it out, please do. Every television show and movie worth watching, and many that aren’t, are reviewed over there so there are hours worth of entertainment for any nerdy little heart. Zack Handlen wrote a review there on “Revelations” from a self-described Mulderish point of view that I think perfectly explains why someone like Mulder would be more resistant to this case than to the average X-File:

I have a hard time lumping Christian faith in with the usual kind of x-files we see. I’m guessing that’s partly to do with the prejudice I mentioned earlier. To me, Christianity is different than monsters, and less fun. (Although I had no problems with “Die Hand Die Verletzt,” which approached the problem from the other direction, which shows you what side I’m playing on, I guess.) Guys who can squeeze into weird shapes, flecks of light that eat unwary lumberjacks, punk kids who can control lightning, these are all weird, but they don’t suggest a comprehensive philosophy. They’re anomalies, and even if their existence implies a potential for greater occult possibilities, that implication isn’t restrictive. There really isn’t a “squeeze guy, light flecks, lightning punk” Bible out there, and belief in any or all of these creatures doesn’t require a massive overhaul of one’s notion of existence.

Having proof there are angels and demons and God, though, that’s a lot trickier. If there’s a Christian God in the X-Files universe, doesn’t that trump just about everything else that Mulder and Scully have spent their time on? (Maybe that’s why Mulder’s so pissy about it. Nobody likes discovering their pet cause isn’t the shiniest.)

Yet, with all Mulder’s talk about belief and faith and this massive search for the truth, for The X-Files not to explore religion and Christianity itself would seem like a gross oversight. But this does explain why Chris Carter never honed these themes to a fine point. How could he? The answers to such a monumental question, if he feigned to have them, would certainly outshine any alien conspiracy… well, he does try to join the two concepts in Season 7… and then largely backs off because religion and space aliens are tough bedfellows.

This also explains the resistance of someone like Mulder even though his life motto is “I Want to Believe.” Like all of us, he wants to believe in something, just within certain parameters. I find it refreshingly realistic that Mulder is open in some ways and closed in others, just as Scully is except in the opposite direction. He’s willing to believe the word of psychotic abductees, why not a religious zealot? And Scully, she’s usually preaching to Mulder about the sanctity of evolution and yet she’s almost never without her cross. Isn’t that how most people are? Full of contradictions? We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t.

It’s not a perfect episode. The reason behind all of these spiritual machinations is never explained. There’s a war between good and evil but we never find out why Kevin is involved or what spiritual encounter Gates had in the Holy Land that turned him into a flesh burning assassin. There’s also some flawed theology but there’s no use in nitpicking because that’s not what this episode is about. Whatever its shortcomings, it ends with a haunting and quietly powerful impression:

Priest: Sometimes we must come full circle to find the truth. Why does that surprise you?
Scully: Mostly it just makes me afraid.
Priest: Afraid?
Scully: Afraid that God is speaking… but that no one’s listening.

…And the Verdict is:

Mulder claims to be looking for miracles, but maybe sometimes he doesn’t find them because he’s only looking through a particular paradigm; the way that Scully often doesn’t see the same evidence he sees when they’re investigating because she’s looking through the lens of science. Never have Mulder and Scully seemed so far apart in essence as they do in this episode. Not in an antagonistic way, but it’s apparent that there’s a chasm when it comes to religious faith that neither of them can cross to reach each other.

Faith in God is the one aspect of Scully’s character that’s not accessible to Mulder. Even her science he relates to on some level in that he needs it to prove what’s never been proven. But Scully’s talk of catechism class is foreign to him and his immediate dismissal of it makes her uncomfortable. She looks almost sheepish as she suggests these things to Mulder. I can relate to her reluctance since I can remember having a similar experience in college. “You don’t really believe that do you? Not you.” By the final scene, she shuts him out.

We never get a reaction from Mulder in the end. Did he admit that Scully was right all along? Did he regret ragging on her a bit? It seems to me that he’s just a little bit sad. Maybe he too realizes that a gulf has opened up between him. But I guess we’ll never know exactly what goes through his head.

Funny how some of the least memorable episodes are the most interesting to discuss. Now please excuse me while I go break out some St. Augustine.

B+

Nitpicks:

St. Ignatius was not in the Bible. Scully wasn’t paying close enough attention in catechism class.

Once again, Mulder and Scully are at the crime scene way too soon, otherwise the coroner would have already discovered the fake blood.

Musings:

This was the final X-Files episode for director David Nutter who gave us such fabulous television memories as “Ice” (1×7) “Beyond the Sea” (1×12), “Irresistible” (2×13) and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4). With that resume, it seems fitting that his swan song should be a Scully-centered episode.

It’s also fitting that this is one of the few X-Files episodes penned by a woman, writer Kim Newton. She would also go on to give us “Quagmire” (3×22), another episode famous for delving into Scully’s background and psychology. I suspect if there had been a few more women on staff, Scully would have been more likable that she usually is in stand-alone episodes.

There was a great moment at the mental institution where Kevin’s father speaks in tongues and Scully understands her while Mulder only hears gibberish. I kind of wish they hadn’t shied away from keeping that scene in.

Mulder goes through a spiritual evolution himself over the course of the series, which is interesting as well, although it progresses at a much slower pace. It’s a bit satisfying that Scully has this corner of The X-Files to herself.

Gillian Anderson has one of her most effective moments ever in that final scene.

Best Quotes:

Owen Jarvis: I was only asked to protect the boy.
Mulder: By who? Who asked you to protect him?
Owen Jarvis: God.
Mulder: [Scoffs] That’s quite a long distance call, isn’t it?
Owen Jarvis: You don’t understand. Unless someone protects Kevin…
Mulder: It’s the end of the world as we know it, right?
Owen Jarvis: He who has ears, let him hear.

——————–

Owen Jarvis: You believe me don’t you? I mean, you must wear that as a reminder.
Scully: Mr. Jarvis, my religious convictions are hardly the issue here.
Owen Jarvis: But they are! How can you help Kevin if you don’t believe? Even the killer, he believes.
Mulder: And the townsfolk wonder why I sleep in on Sunday.
Owen Jarvis: Mass on Christmas, Fish on Friday… you think that makes you a good Christian? Just because you don’t understand sacrifice, because you’re unwilling, don’t think for a moment that you set the rules for me! I don’t question His word. Whatever He asks of me, I’ll do.

——————

Scully: Well isn’t a saint or a holy person just another term for someone who’s abnormal?
Mulder: Do you really believe that?
Scully: I… believe in the idea that God’s hand can be witnessed. I believe He can create miracles, yes.
Mulder: Even if science can’t explain them?
Scully: Maybe that’s just what faith is.
Mulder: Well I wouldn’t let faith overwhelm your judgment here. These people are simply fanatics behaving fanatically, using religion as a justification. They give bona fide paranoiacs like myself a bad name. They are no more divine or holy than that ketchup we saw on the murdered preacher. And I think that once you’ve finished your autopsy, you’ll come to the same conclusion.

——————

Scully: How is it that you’re able to go out on a limb whenever you see a light in the sky but you’re unwilling to accept the possibility of a miracle? Even when it’s right in front of you?
Mulder: I wait for a miracle every day… but what I’ve seen here has only tested my patience, not my faith.

Season 2 Wrap Up: I’ve been working out. I’m buff.


I'll take door #2, Monty.

Season 2 is one of my favorite seasons as a whole. I can watch any episode confident that I’m going to see stranger and stranger things unfold over the next hour, like a grotesque Alice in Wonderland. It gives us a long string of episodes that are all dark and disturbing, much more so than the first season. The writers aren’t afraid to “go there” with their subject matter. Child rape, teenage suicide… nothing’s taboo. Ghosts don’t just haunt you this season, they rape you. People aren’t just murdered, their bodies are desecrated. Is it too much? Not for me. I enjoy the fact that The X-Files can go boldly in this direction with intelligence and, dare I say, taste.

Think of Season 2 as the Stretch Armstrong of The X-Files.

Here’s a reference for the pop culturally challenged:

Not as painful as it looks.

Every element of the show is pulled, twisted and bent out of shape, just not to the point that it’s unrecognizable. Let’s start with our leads, shall we?

Both Mulder and Scully’s families take on a more substantial role in the series. We meet the entire Mulder clan, well, except for Samantha. We only met her clone and if we’re keeping score, she probably only counts for half a person. The Scully family is revisited with Captain Bill Scully coming from beyond the grave to finally say goodbye to his daughter and Maggie and Melissa Scully giving a memorable turn during Scully’s abduction.

Why is family life coming up and why now? For one, it shows us that Mulder and Scully don’t exist in a vacuum. They have histories and loved ones and when not chasing aliens, it’s possible that they even go home for Thanksgiving. You see, it’s really not about the families it’s about delving more deeply into Mulder and Scully’s characters.

And delve we do. Scully gave us a glimpse of her inner workings in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) but Season 2 is Mulder’s turn. He runs the emotional gamut what with the X-Files being ripped from him, Scully’s abduction, his sister’s return and then final mental breakdown in the season finale “Anasazi” (2×23). Scully mostly stares doe-eyed up at Mulder this season, but she also has an incredible emotional moment in “Irresistible” (2×13) and downright steals the show in “Anasazi.” Season 3 will be her season to grow a few flaws. Right now she’s still Mulder’s idealized Samantha stand-in.

Another reason Mulder and Scully get to shine is that they have new friends to play with. Krycek and Mr. X join the party while Skinner and CSM get upgraded to First Class and the Lone Gunman crawl out of the storage compartment. The X-Files still isn’t an ensemble show but the cast of characters is phenomenal and there’s combustive chemistry to go around. I’m just waiting for Skinner to stick it to CSM. Fortunately, I won’t have to wait very long.

This is where Gillian Anderson’s unexpected pregnancy and Scully’s abduction turned out to be brilliant: it allowed these minor characters to take on a major role and breathe new dynamics into the show. I find myself looking forward to which surprise guest is going to show up for the next episode. Skinner in particular I can’t get over this season. Dude is bad.

The content of the show was also stretching the boundaries of good taste. If “Eve” (1×10) gave us murderous children, “The Calusari” (2×21) gives us a child murdering a child. Well, it was a ghost child. Same difference. To continue, the ghost stalker of  “Shadows” (1×5) gives way to ghost rapists in “Excelsis Dei” (2x). Then, of course, The X-Files has completely outdone itself in the gross department. How can a liver-eating mutant shock us when there are giant sewer worms on the loose and these humongous, pus-filled boils are spouting off in people’s faces like mini volcanoes? But it’s not just in extremes that the show grew, it’s also covering new ground. “Irresistible” proves The X-Files can successfully give us a non-paranormal story while “Humbug” (2×20) proves it can be utterly hilarious.

My personal highlights were, as ever, “Irresistible” and “Humbug”. A pleasant surprise this time around was the Duane Barry arc, which I previously found 70% boring. (No stones, please.) The lowlight was “3” (2×7), not because I’m a shipper, but just because it’s “3”.

There are also quite a few episodes in the “Better Than I Remembered” category such as “Little Green Men” (2×1), “Sleepless” (2×4) and “Red Museum” (2×10). The mythology is worlds better than most of Season 1 because, well, it actually exists! There’s a rhyme, reason, and backstory to the conspiracy now that gives it substance. Season 1 was full of Roswell-like isolated events almost to the very end. It’s certainly more satisfying to see a single thread spun into a recognizable picture. While this is Chris Carter’s baby and all credit is due, I also think the new mythology collaborations between Chris Carter and David Duchovny have something to do with it. It certainly explains Mulder’s character having more to do.

Even while all this expansion is happening, in comparison, Season 2 is relatively low key; it doesn’t have the cinematic grandeur of later seasons. But that’s what’s so charming about it. This is classic X-Files before anyone knew they had a classic on their hands.

The word “classic” would indicate that something has consistently recognizable and desirable traits and that’s certainly true here; the less loving among us would call it a rut. I personally don’t mind the classic formula, it’s familiar and comforting and it goes a little something like this: Mulder presents details of an inexplicable event, Scully informs him of how explicable it actually is, Mulder surprises her with an even more inexplicable anomaly, Scully is shocked into silence, Mulder and Scully set out on the case and Mulder proposes a wild theory, Scully shoots down his theory, events occur that make Mulder revise his theory, Scully finds a scientific certainty that she can’t explain, Mulder intuitively figures out the truth, one or both of our leads ends up in mortal peril, they escape by the skin of their teeth and the case remains unsolved. The End.

Basic? Yes. Effective? YES.

The question remains, why doesn’t the audience get bored when they essentially already know how the story is going to go down? The answer: Mulder and Scully. Mulder and Scully’s relationship is in the middle of developing from touching to powerful. We knew that they were deeply attached to each other by the end of last season and that was expressly confirmed in “Little Green Men”. But over the course of Season 2 we’ve watched them grow from friends and confidants, allies even, to something much more difficult to define.

I said earlier that Scully has become a replacement Samantha for Mulder, but that’s only part of it. Mulder is almost like family to Scully, but at the same time he’s on the outside of it as evidenced in “One Breath” where he’s often invited to join the Scullys but purposefully refuses to intrude on certain moments. That doesn’t mean, of course, that he feels any less strongly than they do. It’s as though Mulder and Scully’s relationship exists outside of family, friends and even work. That’s why no one in Scully’s family, besides the all-wise Maggie Scully, understands who Mulder is to Scully. Their relationship resists definition.

Now to the meaty stuff: Are they in love? No, but they are infatuated. They’ve romanticized each other without being romantic. Honestly, they barely have one real disagreement the whole season up until the finale and that last one doesn’t count since Mulder is drugged out of his mind. They’re getting along like mayo and mustard in chicken salad. I daresay if we could pull Season 2’s Agent Mulder out of the TV screen and asked him to name just one fault that Scully has he wouldn’t be able to do it. The writers are quickly getting bored with this love fest, though, as we’ll see in Season 3.

Whatever they are, Mulder and Scully have reached that level where they wouldn’t just sacrifice for each other in theory, they’ve done it in fact. Throw in the subtle smirks and glances and we have TV gold. They were good together in Season 1 but now they’re just pure joy to watch.

So, I gotta ask. Who is your favorite recurring character of Season 2?

Is there some aspect of Season 2 that I missed either out of human error or gross negligence? Are you ready to sue me for malpractice or lock me up like Dr. Conrad Murray? Right the wrongs of the universe and fill in your opinion below.