Tag Archives: John Doe

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

Release 9×16: I wanted to get close to you, Agent Doggett.


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Luke, he is your father.

I’m happy for Doggett. And I’m even happier for myself because I think I’ve finally learned to like this episode. I don’t know how readily I’d pop it in the player to pass the time, but I think this episode reads much better when you’re not impatiently waiting for the show to end and Mulder to return and big explosions and stuff.

The thing that turned me off of it initially, besides great expectations, was the same thing that threatened to turn me off again this time. I realize that Rudolph Hayes is supposed to be annoying. Heck, if Reyes says you’re annoying, you’re annoying. But the actor’s brutal attempts to be weird gnaw at me at moments.

Still, I’m trying to milk the show for all it’s worth this rewatch so I pushed past that and was rewarded. It had to be done, really. Out of our two new leads Doggett has been around longer and has more of a backstory. Consequently, we’re more invested in him as an audience. It would have been a real disappointment if after all the time we’ve spent getting to know and like him, we never found out what happened to his son.

Because as I said way back in “Patience” (8×4), I do really like Doggett. I liked him back when the show first aired too. He’s a very well fleshed out character and from what I’ve read, Robert Patrick genuinely enjoyed playing Doggett and was happy to be a part of The X-Files. I think that shows in his performances.

Also, we needed to wind things up with Follmer as well who we haven’t seen since “Providence” (9×11). I don’t know if I completely buy that he would give up everything, including his career and his precious image, to kill Regali in such an open and indefensible way. But it’s good that he has something genuinely emotional to play. I’m only realizing now that he was never really utilized as a character other than to get in the way of the leads and create tension for them. In other words, he took over Kersh’s role from last season. He’s just slimier while he does it.

And, as usual, the most interesting parts of Reyes are connected to Doggett’s history. We finally find out why she dumped Follmer. It turns out that she caught him in bed with the mob. And one of the mob guys he was connected to was an associate of the man who kidnapped Luke. The mob associate that was paying off Follmer caught the kidnapper abusing Luke, and after being seen by Luke, kills him. That’s quite an interesting set of coincidences, isn’t it? I’ve played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon more convincingly.

Though that’s not nearly as much of a stretch as a mentally unstable man successfully applying for and getting into the F.B.I. Academy under a false identity, past all the interviews, psychological testing and background checks, then contacting Doggett on the down low and managing to finagle a class with Doggett’s good friend and former partner. :::sings::: I smell a contriva-nce!

Okay, the force-fit the puzzle pieces together. But it still works somehow and I think Patrick’s performance has a lot to do with that. Doggett is the believer this episode, yet that sudden turnaround works because you can feel that he wants to believe. He needs closure at all costs and he’s willing to open his mind to get it. The same thing that caused him to be stubborn in the face of extreme possibilities, the death of his son, is now the thing that drives him to consider them.

And Reyes’ about face in the face of his about face I find a welcome change of pace. Again, it doesn’t come out of nowhere. You can tell that what’s driving her is the overwhelming desire to protect Doggett from more pain. She’s a good fit for him. Even Doggett’s ex-wife thinks so.

Which is a little awkward, no? But if they didn’t make it clear that Doggett’s first marriage was peacefully over, it would be impossible to both introduce his ex-wife who he’s been through so much with and push him into Reyes’ arms by the end of the episode. There would be romantic drama when we’re supposed to be focused on finding Luke.

In that regard, I find the last two scenes especially satisfying. Doggett hears what happens to his son’s death directly from the killer. And I really must have been into it this time because by that time I was calmly encouraging Doggett to shoot him. “Go ahead. No court in this land will convict you.” But Follmer takes the decision out of mine and Doggett’s hands.

So see? Everyone’s free. Regali’s freed from his body. Follmer’s free from the psychological noose around his neck. Doggett and the former Mrs. Doggett are free to mourn their son. And Doggett is free to propel himself into Reyes’ arms somewhere on what is clearly the California coast. Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen.

Verdict:

I know it’s too little, too late but I’ll say it again: These cases that are less fantastical are better suited to Doggett and Reyes. There’s nothing truly paranormal happening here. No, we don’t get all the answers as to how Rudolph Hayes made the connections. But it’s entirely possible that his obsessive Schizophrenia allowed him insight that others missed because of his almost inhuman focus. It’s crazy but it’s not that crazy.

The F.B.I. scam really is crazy, though.

Whatever it takes, I guess. Because this is as close to a happy ending for Doggett and Reyes as we’re going to see. I’m only sad that these characters seem to be catching their stride just as we’re about to go.

B+

Notes from the Institution:

The call backs to what we already learned in “Empedolces” (8×17) are appreciated. However, suddenly Luke’s been dead nine years? I thought that sounded off and I checked. Before, we were told he died in 1997.

Doggett pawing in the putty reminds me of “Grotesque” (3×14).

There was, of course, no room to deal with the fact that Scully had just lost her own son. Even if there had been, this episode was actually filmed before “William” (9×17). If it had been filmed before, I’m sure Gillian Anderson would have found a way to work those emotions into her face regardless.

I knew Follmer had a heart. I guess he drew the line at mob guys killing babies.

Doggett’s wife is played by Robert Patrick’s real life wife. You’ve seen her before… or at least, you saw her sleeping form in “John Doe” (9×7).

Doggett wouldn’t have gone to arrest him Rudolph Hayes. He’s too close to the case. If the suspect had been killed or something, he would’ve come under fire.

Unlike Doggett, his ex has made her peace with not knowing what happened and is determined to move on and not dwell on her son’s death. That’s cool. She’s kind of annoying, though. How’s the man supposed to get absolute proof if you don’t help him?

Out of the two of them, you would think she would be more likely to feel guilty, not because it’s her fault, but because she was the one watching Luke at the time. She’s almost too far past the entire event.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: Cadet, you should know there’s a real good chance you’re nuts.

——————–

Follmer: Is it me or, uh, is this becoming an odd conversation?

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.

Hellbound 9×4: I just know I need to solve this.


 

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Can you imagine how uncomfortable this must have been?

“Hellbound” is The X-Files’ third take on the subject of reincarnation after “Born Again” (1×21) and “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). Out of the three episodes, this is definitely the best. I still don’t think it’s great, however.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate what’s here, it’s what’s not here that leaves me feeling mildly disappointed. I know nothing more about Agent Monica Reyes at the end of the episode than when I first started this little showcase piece for her character. I know nothing more about her personality or her personal motivations.

All I know is that her reincarnated soul has been unsuccessfully chasing the same bad guy since the 1800s. Or rather, she chased the original bad guys and then the bad guy that they created through their evil actions. I don’t know what about these crimes in particular so compels her soul. Is it the unusual level of violence that troubles her? Does she have some kind of relationship with the perpetrators? Does she just have a strong, motivating sense of justice? If she does, I’d like to know.

I know that she feels things, but I already knew that. Other than telling her that there’s something fishy going on, do these feelings of hers ever actually solve cases? Because right now these “feelings” she gets in the presence of evil don’t have a great track record when it comes to being useful. Nothing was resolved in either “Empedolces” (8×17) or “Daemonicus” (9×3) and she barely makes a dent in the evil here.

What I don’t know is why she’s on the X-Files. I mean, yes, I know she’s there because Doggett needed an ally and he trusts her both personally and professionally. But her history with Doggett tells me a lot more about Doggett than it does about her.

And I know that her expertise is Religious Studies and that she investigated crimes with a seeming Satanic bent. That sure sounds like it makes her a good fit for the basement office. But I also know that by her own admission, she’s never seen evidence of real Satanic activity. Then why is she so interested in the X-Files? Why is it her “dream job” according to her conversation with Follmer in “Nothing Important Happened Today” (9×1)? Is she here because she’s looking to find evidence of real activity? Is she here because she does or doesn’t believe in Satan?

And further back, what brought Reyes to Religious Studies in the first place? Ironically, thanks to the Doggett-centric “John Doe” (9×7), I know she was raised in Mexico, a predominately catholic country. Did she study religion because she was a good catholic girl? Because she wasn’t a good catholic girl? How did she end up so new agey?

I’d like to know Monica Reyes, please.

Her character started off with real potential and I still like her well enough. But she’s quickly turning into a stock believer. Mulder believed because of certain experiences, certain information, and certain hypnosis sessions. He believed because he needed to. Am I to take it that Reyes believes solely because she feels things??? That’s a character cop out, 1013.

There was a lot of room for exploration in this episode for themes of sin and redemption, destiny and freewill… in other words, plenty of chances to get inside Reyes’ head and figure out what makes her tick, what motivates her, and what she thinks her purpose in life is or if she’s still trying to find one. Maybe she’s unsure of the state of her own soul and that’s why this case is so important to her.. Heck, maybe she’s on the X-Files because she wants to understand the nature of evil. How about that?

In an odd twist, I personally enjoy this episode more than Doggett’s “John Doe”, but coming straight off of that episode into this one highlights its weaknesses in the character development department.

In both episodes, our two new leads set out to discover their individual identities. Doggett has his memories taken from him and, by sheer force of will, takes back what belongs to him, pain and all. His display of character and integrity even when he’s been stripped to nothing tells us a lot about who he is as a person.

Reyes, on the other hand, finds out she had an identity she didn’t know existed. That knowledge doesn’t shock her, scare her, inspire her, drive her… she comes to a conclusion about the events of the case and then the end. The events have no bearing on the rest of her life and reveal no new side of her. I can only guess that at some point she wonders if she committed a great sin in a past life, but if she does, we don’t see any signs of an internal conflict.

Verdict:

All right. I know I’ve belabored the point. It’s just that in retrospect, I know this is Reyes’ one chance to distinguish herself as a character and I’m disappointed on her behalf.

Reyes: Whoever I was, I failed. In 1868, in 1909, in 1960… I failed. I was always there, but I couldn’t stop the killings. And he knew that. And somehow he knows my deepest fear: that I’ll fail.

I guess this is the closest I’ll come to the answers I’m looking for. Perhaps Reyes is sensitive to evil in all its forms because she’s spiritually connected to a particular evil. Perhaps her regret and fear of failure drive her forward in the pursuit of defeating evil. Perhaps?

The X-File itself is okay. Actually, I think the premise had real promise. A group of men bound together in hell, which is spiritual and physical death on repeat, want to be redeemed but aren’t allowed to be. As mentioned earlier, the themes are ripe for the plucking.

Instead, I went searching for depth and all I got was this lousy T-shirt:

Everything you ever wanted to know about skinning people but were afraid to ask.

But while it’s a unique form of death even for The X-Files and I can tell the crew worked hard, it must be said that the makeup is less gross than shocking in its completeness. And it looks like a special effects job the whole time.

B-

Comment:

I like the short scene between Scully and Dr. Mueller. It reminds me of other times Mulder and Scully consulted a retired detective about an old case. “Squeeze” (1×2), “Tooms” (1×20), “Travelers” (5×15)… There are more, I’m just too sleepy to remember them.

Question:

Reyes was able to save one soul, but the killer continues into the next life with the other victims. Is that enough to break the cycle? Reyes doesn’t need to follow him in death? I guess one of our leads killing themselves would put a damper on the show, huh?

Best Quotes:

Scully: My name is Dana Scully. I’m with the FBI. I want to ask you some questions about a John Doe you did an autopsy on in 1960.
Dr. Mueller: You honestly expect me to recall some case from way back when? I’m 84 years old.
Scully: Sir, this particular victim was skinned alive.

———————-

Dr. Mueller: The victim was a John Doe, a nobody. Carl Hobart, the county sheriff, figured he was a drifter. Hobart said he didn’t want to stir up the community.
Scully: And no one called him on that?
Dr. Mueller: I tried. The sheriff had other things on his mind, I suppose.
Scully: Why do you say that?
Dr. Mueller: Well, it wasn’t long after that he put a bullet through his head.

John Doe 9×7: I’ll take the bad as long as I can remember the good.


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Every time I try to walk away…

Here’s the thing about “John Doe”. It’s a beautifully crafted hour of television. Writer Vince Gilligan and his soon to be collaborator on Breaking Bad, first time director Michelle MacLaren, present us with an episode that looks like it’s ready for the big screen. Robert Patrick outdoes himself now that Doggett is finally given something interesting to do again, and he’s flanked by a motley crew of impressively convincing supporting actors.

The thing is, I’m incurably bored by “John Doe” and like the Eagles said, I can’t tell you why.

Is it the slow pace? Is it the token nature of the supernatural element slipped perfunctorily in at the end of the episode? Is it the atmosphere of heat and exhaustion?

Whatever it is, it puzzles me. But try though I might, by the ten minute mark I always tune out. I can never watch this episode in a single sitting. I get distracted and then rewind, distracted and then rewind. It’s a sad cycle.

It’s sad because there’s a lot of good going on here. First of all, as only the second time a woman has directed an episode of The X-Files since Gillian Anderson’s “all things” (7×17), it’s somewhat historic. Visually, it’s also an obvious homage to the film Traffic with all of its washed out outdoor scenes.

Speaking of film, I’ve always thought Vince Gilligan’s work on the show had a cinematic edge. That is to say, his X-Files often came across as stories that could easily be adapted for the big screen. His episodes are uniquely suited to Mulder and Scully, made more impactful by Mulder and Scully, but quite a few of them could be reworked without Mulder and Scully and still stand as independent stories. For example, “Unruhe” (4×2), “Pusher” (3×17), “Tithonus” (6×9), “Drive” (6×2), “Roadrunners” (8×5), etc.

“John Doe” feels even more like a mini movie, especially since unlike the days when the X-Files were run by Mulder and Scully, there’s no need to follow the show’s standard storytelling format. There’s nothing perfunctory about it like, say, a Scully autopsy. This isn’t familiar. And not only does our lead not know who he himself is, neither do we, really. We’re still getting to know John Doggett.

It is nice to see more of Doggett, to see more of his relationship with his son. Now we know he also had a wife. Whatever happened to Mrs. Doggett I wonder? I assume that one day she woke up and got out of their marital bed. I’m also assuming we’ll find out before the season wraps up, along with more of the details of Luke Doggett’s kidnapping. Meanwhile, more than anything, we learn a lot about Doggett’s character. Even without his memory and without his bearings, he keeps his integrity… and his skillset. And he’s not afraid of pain, not even the pain of the loss of his son, because he knows that his experiences have shaped him and he can’t lose that pain without losing himself.

All that sounds great, doesn’t it? They’re still doing new and different things on The X-Files, aren’t they? So what’s wrong with me, then?

I’m starting to think these kinds of amnesia tales just don’t interest me, personally. I LOVE “Demons” (4×23), in which Mulder has a limited amnesia. But when someone forgets how they wound up in hell and the audience watches them find out, that’s an interesting mystery. When someone forgets who they are and the audience already knows who they are, that’s not as much of a mystery. That’s a character study. We’re watching John Doggett remember John Doggett.

How he even came to be in no man’s land Mexico, while supposedly the big reveal of the story, is almost irrelevant to the story. The villains are obvious early on. The only question is how they did it, and even the how is given only brief screen treatment. A memory vampire? Really? It’s probably better that they didn’t spend too long dwelling on that, now that I think of it.

No, this is all just a showcase for Doggett the man. And maybe, Doggett, she’s just not that into you.

Verdict:

There’s no real X-File here. It could have been a memory vampire. It could have been a mugger who knocked him down so that he hit his head. The result is the same.

Then again, I think this recent crop of episodes is proving that Doggett and Reyes aren’t that suited to traditional X-Files. They needed something new built around them.

And it’s for that reason that I respect “John Doe” even if my attention span refuses to bend to my will. We needed episodes that sought to differentiate Doggett and Reyes from Mulder and Scully and create a unique bond between them and the audience. The X-Files needed to feel different in their hands.

So here’s what I learned about our new leads this episode –

They’re both more worldly than either Mulder or Scully were.
They’re both ready for a firefight.
They’re both built Ford tough.

The end.

I think Reyes is due for her own character episode now, isn’t she?

B+

Factoids:

It was after this episode aired that Chris Carter announced this would be the final season of The X-Files.

He should have done that after “Trust No 1” (9x).

Michelle MacLaren would go on to direct for both Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead among many other shows. Go ‘head, girl.

Mrs. Doggett is played by the real life Mrs. Patrick. Aww.

According to Wikipedia, Mulder’s old apartment set was dressed up and reused as the Mexican hotel set. Symbolic?

Scully is completely useless here. Yes, that counts as a fact.

The actor who plays Domingo, Frank Roman, does an incredible job. Also a fact.

Just One Question:

Why was Doggett investigating without Reyes in the first place?

Best Quotes:

Reyes: Y acerca de las drogas? Están en su inventario también? Usted ya sabe… cocaina, AGCO, John Deere?
Molina’s Lawyer: I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.
Molina: She says I sell drugs.
Molina’s Lawyer: Please don’t speak Spanish anymore.

———————–

Caballero: Why would you want to remember? You can’t tell me you’re happier now, because you recall your life. I saw it all. So much pain. Why would you want to struggle, so long, and hard to get that pain back?
Doggett: Because it’s mine.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

*cough*MoreVinceGilligan*cough*

C+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

——————–

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

Demons 4×23: Can I see what’s in the bag now?


Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits.

This episode always satisfies me. Scully gets to play doctor. Mulder gets to play dumb. And Chris Owens gets to play Cigarette-Smoking Man in flashback again. What’s there to complain about?

It’s not a Fright File. It’s not meant to be scary, but it is meant to make you lean forward in your chair and I think it certainly succeeds at that. Temporary amnesia is a motif that’s been done, many, many times over in every kind of pop culture medium; television, movies, books, comics, etc. But since a sense of displacement and a lack of self-knowledge are endlessly disconcerting concepts, this theme can be replayed countess times without being as boring as it probably should be. In fact, The X-Files will tackle temporary amnesia again come “John Doe” (9×7).

This is one of the best in the category of “Mulder is an Impossibly Infuriating Idiot” episodes. For one thing, Mulder seems to make it his personal mission here to self-destruct. For another, this episode features one of his worst Scully-ditches ever when he leaves Scully stranded at his mother’s house in a highly awkward situation.

David Duchovny does a great job here dabbling in what Season 4 is famous for, angst. But I have to say, Scully is my favorite part of this episode. I love Scully when she’s like this: Mama Bear Mode. Mulder isn’t just legally innocent in her mind he is innocent and she won’t believe otherwise unless someone can show her a picture of him with a smoking gun in his hand. Even then, she’d think of some way to find him not responsible. She’s too loyal to willingly believe anything truly horrible of him or to allow anyone else to either and I dare say her fierceness only would have accelerated had The Powers That Be tried to go forward with Mulder’s prosecution. And when she’s a mere heartbeat away from putting a hurtin’ on Dr. Goldstein during that scene where she confronts him in the back of the police car? Golden. No wonder he coughed up the information.

Speaking of coughing up the goods, we’ve already heard that Bill Mulder made the choice that Teena Mulder couldn’t make, the choice to give up Samantha to the Colonists rather than Mulder as a sort of living guarantee that he wouldn’t betray the project, a hostage, really. Now it looks like there was more to the story than just playing Eeny Meeny Miney Mo to decide which Mulder had to go. There was vague innuendo back in “Talitha Cumi” (3×24) that there may have been more history between Cigarette-Smoking Man and Teena Mulder than he and Bill. For those that need a refresher, here’s a clip from their conversation:

Teena Mulder: I have nothing to say to you.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: Really? We used to have so much to say to each other. So many good times at the Mulder summer place… your kids young and energetic. I remember water-skiing down there with Bill. He was a good water-skier, your husband. Not as good as I was but then… that could be said about so many things, couldn’t it?
Teena Mulder: I’ve repressed it all.

So is Mulder right when he accuses his mother of adultery? Did Cigarette-Smoking Man force Teena to give up Samantha because she was Bill Mulder’s child rather than his own? Is Mulder really a Mulder??

Was Samantha abducted by aliens or by men? Was she abducted for extraordinary reasons such as the survival of the human race, or for mundane ones like being born to an adulterous mother?

The questions raised in this episode tie in nicely with the Season Finale coming up next. When we leave our hero at the end of “Demons”, he has no way of differentiating between the truth and the lies. With all the tinkering he’s done to his own mind through regression hypnosis and, er, other means, he can’t be sure that his own memories aren’t skewed beyond recognition. And a question for a future date, how does he know the memories he does have weren’t given to him through some nefarious purpose, a way of keeping him under control?

Frankly, this episode doesn’t give us any answers, only tantalizing suggestions that will shortly be exploited even further. Think of it as a primer of sorts. It does have some good news buried in it, however: At least Mulder can trust Scully when he can’t trust himself.

And the Verdict is…

“Demons” is the only episode Executive Producer R.W. Goodwin ever wrote though he directed quite a few, including the very next episode, the season finale, “Gethsemene” (4×24). Along with Special Effects Supervisor Mat Beck’s underappreciated “Wetwired” (3×23), I wonder very seriously why Chris Carter didn’t move more of the crew to the writing staff.

In a way, this set of episodes that ends Season 4 and begins Season 5 feels like a four-parter because starting with “Demons”, certain themes are continuous and one episode’s story arc flows into the next. In fact, I never watch “Gethsemene” without watching “Demons” first. It sets the mood.

Even though it’s technically separate, it’s emotionally tied to the three-part season finale/season premier. But is it a mythology episode? Well, it’s a character study. This is about Mulder and his past. And since his past is inexorably linked to the mythology… well, it’s mythology by default. Certainly, it presents information that will prove important to the mythology plot later on, but whether or not that information is true, whether or not Mulder’s memories are real, is a subject up for debate and that debate is about to come to the forefront of The X-Files very quickly.

Scully: [Voiceover] …but I am concerned that this experience will have a lasting effect. Agent Mulder undertook this treatment hoping to lay claim to his past, that by retrieving memories lost to him he might finally understand the path he’s on. But if that knowledge remains elusive and if it’s only by knowing where he’s been that he can hope to understand where he’s going, then I fear Agent Mulder may lose his course and the truths he’s seeking from his childhood will continue to evade him, driving him more dangerously forward in impossible pursuit.

A

Comments:

Does anyone else love that moment when Dr. Goldstein invites Mulder and Scully to sit down and they both smirk at him and keep standing?

All I can think when I see Dr. Goldstein is, “Hey! It’s that dude from Men in Black!”

Season 4 may just have set a record for use of flashbacks.

This is why Scully shouldn’t drive: what a horrible parking job.

“It’s my risk,” he says? For shame, Mulder. Where’s the solidarity you demanded from Scully at the end of “Elegy” (4×22)? He’s not exactly spilling the beans to Scully about these colorful visions of his any more than she confessed to him, “I see dead people.”

Nags:

Scully walks into the motel room and handles all these objects, a gun that’s been fired, a bloody shirt, that might be evidence of a crime, with her bare hands.

It’s really not clear why the abductees, or even Mulder, want to kill themselves. Are the memories just that painful? Why kill yourself just as you’re finally figuring your life out?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I had those peoples’ blood on my shirt, Scully. I was missing for two days. I have no recollection of my actions during those two days. There were two rounds discharged from my gun. I had the keys to this house, the keys to their car. Do the words Orenthal James Simpson mean anything to you?

—————————-

Mulder: What did you do to me?
Dr. Goldstein: I told you…
Mulder: You treated me. I asked you to treat me, to recover my past.
Dr. Goldstein: I did nothing wrong.
Mulder: You put a hole in my head!
Dr. Goldstein: A slight electrical stimulation…
Mulder: Triggered my memory.
Dr. Goldstein: Yes, as you had hoped.
Mulder: Now, I want you to finish the job.