Tag Archives: Jose Chung’s From Outer Space

Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster 10×3: I forgot how much fun these cases could be.


MulderAndScullyMeetTheWereMonster236.jpg

Yes, this is the moment we’ve been waiting for since 1996. Darin Morgan is back on The X-Files. Tell your moms. Tell your mutants.

Whether you’re an old head or a newbie Phile, if you’ve made it as far as the revival then you already know that writer Morgan is a giant among giants as far as this show is concerned, and nearly as mythical as Big Blue, considering that he all but disappeared no sooner than his genius was recognized, and in the wake of his disappearance a legend was born. After all, what is a legend but magic once witnessed and thereafter unseen?

And herein lies part of this episode’s inescapable hurdle: The expectations for it, and its writer, are so high that it will either inevitably fail to live up to the wishes of the viewer, or it will inevitably succeed in the eyes of the viewer by virtue of the legend, and either way the viewer will inevitably fail to see it for what it is.

So now that we’ve cleared up the vanity of our little exercise, let’s take a look at Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.

As much as I welcome the return of Darin Morgan, what matters to me more than anything is that MULDER AND SCULLY ARE BACK. And Scully, especially my Scully. Her attitude is back. Her facial expressions are back. Her voice is back.

Scully!! There you are! There you are!!! *sobs* Where have you be-e-en! Where were you? WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED YOU???

This is my girl. No, she doesn’t believe this nonsense. But she’s still here. She’s still giving it her all. Why? Because Mulder. And why else? Because there are victims who need her help.

And one more thing: Scully has officially confirmed that she prefers her Mulder bat-crap crazy. Can we let that confession stand now? Can we stop feigning every so often that Scully is turned off by Mulder’s insanity instead of admitting the truth we all know, that she thrives off of it? Okthanksbuhbye.

Yet even as I celebrate Scully, I recognize that this episode is mostly about Mulder. We can call that unfair if we want to, but we all know that this quest began with Mulder, that Scully joined in and jump started a mission he was already on. And, frankly, both he and we needed some reminding that this journey on the X-Files is still about a quest, a quest in search of a reality that most mortals never get to see, a key aspect of the show that the show itself seemed to lose sight of as far back as Season 7.

This confirmation of the quest and the recommissioning of our resident believer comes at an interesting time in my personal fandom as I’ve been in an internal debate with my various selves since the premiere. Yes, much of the success of the early seasons relied on the audience vicariously experiencing Mulder and Scully’s awe and wonder with each new extreme discovery. But how much awe and wonder do Mulder and Scully still need or could they realistically still have at this stage of their lives? As every episode of the revival so far has taken great pains to remind us, they’ve been around the block more than a few times.They’re no longer the upstart non-conformists they used to be. They’re coming back, middle-aged and emotionally scarred, to the institution and authority they once ran from. Can anything still believably surprise them? And if it did, would the joy of discovery still be in it?

Thank you, Darin Morgan, for making the answer a clear “Yes.” That gleam in Mulder’s eye after he finally gets to shake hands with a prehistoric lizard man… well, it’s a gleam I haven’t seen in a very, very long time. But I’ll be a leaping lizard if I don’t still recognize it.

Earlier in the episode, Mulder quotes the Apostle Paul, musing that it might be time to put away childish things.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. – 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NKJV)

But he momentarily forgot that “childish” and “childlike” are two things that shouldn’t be conflated. Childlike faith, childlike optimism, childlike curiosity… suffer the little children, my dear Mulder! Go ahead and grow a brain, but don’t grow up completely. I don’t want you to grow up. I need a Monsters-R-Us kid.

Let’s say the newly skeptical side of Mulder is right. Let’s say most of what he thought and believed in the 90’s is intellectual flotsam and jetsam these days. Even if 99% of what Mulder and Scully encounter on the X-Files is bunk, that 1% can rock the world, or at least, completely change the course of Mulder’s life and give meaning to his own existence, a motivation that he at long last has recalled.

Meanwhile, as the rest of the episode not so subtly draws to our attention, he’s not the only one who needs his life infused with some meaning. Because it wouldn’t be a Darin Morgan episode if said author didn’t poke his finger in the hole of the side of the futility of human existence. The perceived futility, anyway.

Just like having no choice but to see every episode of The X-Files within the context of every other episode of The X-Files, it’s impossible to watch this episode without comparing it to Darin Morgan’s other work on the show, so I won’t try not to. Frankly, as self-referential as this is, it invites comparison. I haven’t seen this many easter eggs since I was seven and on an actual easter egg hunt. There are about twenty too many Easter eggs, if I’m being honest.

For Darin Morgan especially, it’s more than a bit on the obvious side of self-parody. “Humbug” (2×20), the pointed and pointedly underplayed comedy that started it all, opened the door to The X-Files commenting on The X-Files, but it did it in such a way that you could easily miss the elbow to your ribs. It was more like a gentle brush than a jab. “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) was much more obvious, but it also gave itself completely over to biting philosophical commentary. Now that’s a jab to the ribs. “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) was a mad world, but what it lacked in focus it made up for in laughs and memorable moments. And my favorite, Darin Morgan’s pièce de résistance as far as I’m concerned, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) was the perfect balance of everything: deep questions, deep belly laughs, and good-natured self-awareness.

How does “MASMTWM” fit into this overall picture? Well, I think if we took “Humbug’s” preference for the freakish over the mundane, mixed in a hefty dose of “JCFOS’s” spoofishness, added a dash of “CBFR’s” sentimentality and middle-aged it just right, we might approximate something close to what we have here.

We’ve arrived back again at the irrationality of humanity. Guy Mann echoes every above-mentioned episode when he tells us that human behavior makes so little sense, it’s frightening. Humans with their 9-5’s, their plans for futures they’d rather not live, their pants – they’re the freaks. The comedy here is the tragedy of the invisible question mark that hovers over most people’s heads. But whereas once, Morgan seemed to make fun of Mulder for trying to make sense of it all in “JCFOS”, he now seems to be anointing Mulder to go and make sense of it. For all our sakes.

In one of the more obvious spiritual parallels of the show, Mulder has always been out to prove that there’s something out there, something more than the banality of mundane human existence. This episode is a moment of validation to affirm that not only is that exactly what he’s doing, that’s exactly what he needs to be doing. If there’s nothing more, what in the paint-filled bag are we doing this for? So go to it, Mulder and Scully. Find a rhyme and reason for lives that seemingly have neither.

#HowMulderAndScullyGotTheirGrooveBack

All that said, and as genuinely relieved and amused as I am at this episode, it’s so loaded down with easter eggs oozing gooey chocolate that it doesn’t match the depth and profundity of Morgan’s earlier work, not that I truly expected it to, I just kinda hoped it would. And before you say it, I do realize that not everything needs to be deep or profound or even perfect. But “MASMTWM” actually attempts anchor itself in the depths of shrewd observation and winds up treading the shallow waters of long-winded exposition. A slightly more balanced “show” to “tell” ratio would have increased its impact dramatically.

Don’t get me wrong, It’s the clear best we’ve seen from the revival so far. It justifies both by its very existence and by its content the resurrection of these characters. But maybe part of the reason it’s forced to rely on in-jokes so much is because a dramatic series needs time to develop rhythms and patterns before those rules can effectively be broken in the name of comedy. Darin Morgan’s reign as a writer on The X-Files didn’t commence until the show had already firmly established its routine and its aesthetic. And as Chris Carter likes to remind us in nearly every single interview, this isn’t a reboot. This revival is a fresh creation and it’s saying and doing things the series proper never dreamed of. I suspect I would have found “MASMTWM” even funnier if it hadn’t harkened back to the old days as much as it was rooted and grounded in the new.

Verdict:

Mulder and Scully have met a Silurian from Dr. Who and I think the game is officially afoot, Watson. Mulder has his sense of wonder back and Scully her sense of adventure, two things we both historically got and desperately needed from both characters. They’ve changed, they’ve grown, they’ve endured, but at least we know we still know them. (Though I submit the show is overdoing the awkward middle-aged, post-90’s thing a little. It’s not like our two leads are pre-computer dinosaurs. Heck, they’re not even retirement age. They’re smart people and I’m sure they would have learned how to work smart phones right along with the rest of us.)

It’s funny, but it’s impossible to know yet whether this will be an enduring masterpiece. It will have to endure for us to tell. For me, it isn’t only not “CBFR”, it’s not even at a “Bad Blood” (5×12) level of funny. Then again, I was a freak who thought “Bad Blood” was only okay the first time she saw it. So take my opinion for what you will. Humans are truly the unfathomable creatures.

But if this episode gets credit for anything, besides for reigniting my love for these two characters, it’s for its note perfect tribute to the late, great Kim Manners whose aesthetics as a director, without exaggeration, were foundational in shaping the show into what it became. I’m merely one of the unprivileged masses who never knew the man personally, yet somehow I’m quite sure that he would have gotten a kick out of Mulder stealing flowers for him and getting drunk at his grave. I’m pretty sure that’s the highest known form of flattery.

B+

Comments:

I’m not going to bother with all the easter eggs because we’d be plopping them into our baskets all night. But I think the first one was the best one: The stoners from “Quagmire” (3×22) and “WOTC”.

The scene between Scully and Guy Mann in the phone store started off funny and quickly devolved into much too much. That was one of those moments that took me out of the episode.

Be-Puzzlements:

Mulder hears a panicked cry of “Monster!” but takes the time to put his shirt on so he’s presentable before he goes to investigate?

Again, Scully’s in trouble, and Mulder takes the time to put his suit jacket back on before running with the cavalry to her rescue?

How does Guy Mann know not only about Shakespeare, but about the history of folios? Did those instincts download in the bite of an animal control officer too?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I’m just looking for some kind of internal logic.

Guy Mann: Why? There isn’t an external logic to any of it.

———————–

Guy Mann: Because if there’s nothing more to life than what we already know, then there’s nothing but worries, self-doubt, regret and loneliness.

———————–

Dr. Rumanovitch: No matter how overwhelming our anxieties might be, they will soon be resolved when we’re dead and buried for all eternity.

———————–

Annabell: They think I’m on crack.

Mulder: Are you?

Annabell: Yeah!

———————–
Scully: Mulder, the internet is not good for you.

This is Not Happening 8×14: No frickin’ way.


ThisIsNotHappening293.jpg

They’re coming to take me away, ha ha.

Not that it was intentional as they weren’t filmed in this order, but “This is Not Happening” effectively and emotionally winds up as the second of a three-parter, being sandwiched between “Per Manum” (8×8) in which Mulder’s paternity of Scully’s baby is questioned for the first time and “Deadalive” (8×15) in which Mulder… well, spoilers. “Per Manum”, besides making our heads hurt with timeline questions, builds the unction and the drive to find Mulder and makes us ready for this episode. Now Scully has to find Mulder so that together they can figure out whether what’s growing inside her is a baby or an abomination.

Joining Scully, Skinner and Doggett in the hunt for Mulder is Doggett’s friend, the quirky Agent Monica Reyes. I honestly didn’t remember that this was the moment she first showed up. I skip so much of Season 8 so often that I had forgotten. Shame on me.

Monica Reyes is our new resident believer since David Duchovny’s, and therefore Fox Mulder’s, days on the show are numbered. Played by Annabeth Gish, Reyes is a breath of fresh air. She’s childlike. No, she’s not childish, but she’s childlike. She has an awkward, cheerful air about her and a naturally open and trusting disposition. Unlike Mulder’s brooding belief in the paranormal, Reyes’ take on the supernatural has more of a spiritual, New Aged tinge. And whereas Mulder’s humor was pointed and sardonic, it’s Reyes’ unintentional goofiness that gives her a certain charm.

How good her chemistry proves to be with Doggett remains to be seen, but at least she isn’t a copycat of Mulder just like Doggett isn’t a copycat of Scully. I’m still not convinced that the Unbending Skeptic/Knee-Jerk Believer dynamic is fundamentally necessary to The X-Files, that it’s not merely the way the Mulder/Scully dynamic expressed itself instead of being in and of itself a requirement for solving strange cases. But Fox and 1013 Productions appear to be unwilling to move forward without the familiarity of this established dynamic and, if that’s the case, Doggett and Reyes are about as good a team as I could ask for. I still fear that echoes and ghosts of Mulder and Scully will only prove to be the show’s undoing, however. It’s impossible to compare two very similar partnerships and not find one wanting.

I am impressed by how effectively and efficiently they introduced Reyes considering how much else is going on in this episode. We also have the introduction of Absalom, the return of Jeremiah Smith who we haven’t seen since “Herrenvolk” (4×1), and most importantly of all, the hunt for Mulder has reached its crescendo.

The threat to Mulder has multiplied triple fold. Not only is he at the mercy of the aliens, not only does he have a brain disease, but now we find out the abductees are being returned dead, a development we’ve never seen before in The X-Files. That means that even if Scully finds Mulder she’s likely to find him dead. And even if she finds him and finds him alive, he’s likely to die anyway. This is what Doggett means when he says Scully’s afraid to find Mulder. At least with him missing, there’s a vague hope that he can be saved.

Scully is afraid and we don’t see her like this often. It’s heartbreaking watching her realize what Mulder must have gone through, and even worse, watching her realize that she probably won’t be able to save him. Her vulnerability is a great excuse for some much needed Skinner/Scully bonding, but Skinner’s slightly awkward ministrations only remind me that he can’t comfort Scully like Mulder can.

Doggett feels for Scully too, but from a distance. He’s still too new in her life to reach out to her the way he seems to want to. There are more hints courtesy of Reyes that Doggett has experienced the loss of a loved one and can identify with what Scully’s going through. But it still remains to be clarified exactly what that loss was. You have to feel bad for Doggett, though. He really wants to help Scully but he can’t give her what she needs. What she needs is Mulder.

Meanwhile, Mulder… is already dead. Despite the seeming close call of the emotional ending, Scully first realizes Mulder is dead when she has that dream of him looking decayed in his torture chair. Then she sees his soul in starlight which is a dead giveaway (no pun intended). It’s even confirmed later in “Deadalive” that Mulder was dead for days before they found him.

I kinda wish that hadn’t been the case, not only because seeing Mulder’s spirit visit Scully from the beyond felt like a knife through my heart, but because knowing Mulder is already dead takes away from the tension and anticipation of finding him. Absalom and Jeremiah Smith had already indicated that if Teresa Hoese had died it would have been too late for them to help her. If that was the case, then a dead Mulder was already beyond saving and all that was left for me was to watch Scully’s heart break in two. And boy, did it break.

Gillian Anderson gave one of her best performances of the series in this episode; actually, in this episode and the next. There are so many little moments… like when you see the tears in Scully’s eyes as she questions Absalom. And then there are the big moments… like the very tangible anguish of Scully finding Mulder dead and trying and failing to bring Jeremiah Smith to save him.

THE PAIN.

Ugh. Why must The X-Files keep trying to kill me? I’m only a fangirl. I’m not indestructible.

Verdict:

The mythology seems to be headed somewhere, but it’s still unclear whether we’re going backwards to answer questions raised by characters like Jeremiah Smith years ago or whether we’re going forward into something new or both. This is the last we ever see of Jeremiah Smith, but before he leaves he and Absalom drop some knowledge on us: that the invasion is still on and that it looks different than we thought it would.

Right now we think Jeremiah Smith was saving the abductees from death, we’re about to find out he was saving them, and the world, from a lot more than that. We were told in “Requiem” (7×22) and in “Within” (8×1) that the aliens were taking these abductees in order to clean up evidence of the hybridization project. If that were the case, they wouldn’t be dumping the abductees back to earth. No, it appears we were deceived, but it’s one of the lesser reneges of Season 8. The aliens weren’t cleaning up, they were restarting the project in a new form. And Mulder’s a part of it.

A-

Random Musings:

Really though, that moment when Mulder visits Scully in starlight is physically painful.

Reyes is a less aggravating, more intelligent take on the late Melissa Scully with all her talk of “cosmic energies.”

Reyes recognized this guy Absalom after seeing him from a distance in the dark?

The phrase “This is not happening” also showed up in “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20).

Wait. This counts as one of David Duchovny’s eleven episodes doesn’t it? Dagnabit.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: I got 46 of your followers rounded up out there at your compound. You make me go to them for a straight answer it’s only going to make it worse for you.

Absalom: How many times can I tell you?

Doggett: Night’s early. Coffee’s hot.

———————–

Scully: What is it you specialize in again? Ritualistic crime?

Reyes: Right. Satanic ritual abuse. Or, I should say claims of it. We never found any hard evidence.

Scully: We should talk sometime.

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


Redrum80.jpg

“Casey” and the Sunshine Band

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

B

Musings:

I could’ve done without that spider just fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mercy triumphs over justice.

Best Quotes:

Trina: M… Mr. Wells, I…

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

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

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

———————–

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

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

Agua Mala 6×14: Don’t all the nuts roll downhill to Florida.


I came down for the weather.

I’ve always had a soft spot for “Agua Mala” because it takes place so near to my own neck of the woods. An X-File in my own South Florida backyard? Score! All those scenes of wind and rainy mayhem leave me feeling quite nostalgic.

It starts off as a classic Monster of the Week –  almost as an homage to The X-Files itself. In fact, much of this episode feels like a Season 2 flashback in the best kind of way: the rain, the flashlights, the creature from the blue lagoon…

Trapped in a building with a hidden but deadly monster? I call that freaky. That old, claustrophobic feeling is back, the one we used to get from episodes like “Ice” (1×7) and “Darkness Falls” (1×19). But despite the obvious parallels to those two classics, where Mulder and Scully are trapped with a deadly and previously undiscovered organism, “Agua Mala” actually feels more like the spiritual spawn of Season 2 to me, when the show grew much darker and even more disturbing because of episodes like “The Calusari” (2×21) that opened the door to topics like child on child murder. “Agua Mala” doesn’t subject us to a murder, but it does start out with a young child being strangled by the translucent tentacles of a sea monster. Then there the obvious parallels to iconic episode “The Host” (2×2), which is the last time I can remember Mulder and Scully chasing down a wormlike creature. And with the infested holes this new mutation of a jellyfish leaves in people’s necks, I’d say it’s just as creepy.

Or at least it has the potential to be. “Agua Mala” has the dubious distinction of being a textbook case of “X-Files Lite.”

Unlike the early attempts to meld humor and The X-Files by writer Darin Morgan where episodes like “Humbug” (2×20) and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) were just as frightening as they were hilarious, X-Files Lite is neither frightening nor hilarious. Nor is it self-parody in the vein of “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (3×20). Neither is it the pure comedy that humor heir apparent, writer Vince Gilligan, graced us with in episodes like “Bad Blood (5×12). It’s the next step in the evolutionary process: tongue-in-cheek X-Files. There’s a self-consciousness to the X-Files in Season 6 that didn’t really exist before, or I should say, only poked its nose out of the door occasionally. This self-consciousness is inevitable considering the iconic status the show was enjoying. If it took itself too seriously just think of how silly it would have looked.

After all, the mythology episodes became progressively harder not to smirk at as the story of the Syndicate built to its conclusion. When the conspirators in (necessary) bits of long-winded exposition start unraveling the mythology plot out loud, it’d be denial not to confess that sci-fi can be a little silly. What better way to balance the over-seriousness of a plot to conquer the planet by turning the human race into a set of living incubators than to use the episodic side of The X-Files to cheer things up a bit?

Personally, I don’t have anything against X-Files Light. I’m a fan. But it can cause some confusion in the tone of certain episodes and “Agua Mala”, unfortunately, is one of them. My inclination is that this is supposed to be a serious X-File, but my diagnosis is that it suffers from an overdose of comedic elements.

Scully sparring with Arthur Dales? That’s welcome. The dimwitted Deputy? He’s entertaining. But right about the time we’re introduced to the emasculated father-to-be and his exaggeratedly stereotyped girlfriend, I start to wince. The wannabe militia member is downright overkill.

If only the humor had leaned toward the subtle, dark humor of seasons past. If only “Agua Mala” had taken another page out of the Season 2 playbook. After all, this isn’t the first time Mulder and Scully have conducted an investigation surrounded by a cast of characters. “Excelsis Dei” (2×11) and a nursing home full of withered old perverts comes to mind – another of the darker episodes of Season 2 (the topic of entity rape has a way of bringing down the conversation) leavened with well-placed moments of humor. “Agua Mala” is slightly bogged down by its motley crew.

Fortunately, the banter between Scully and Mulder and Scully and Dales more than makes up for that. I sound like a broken record repeating how much I love Scully this season, but I’m not alone. Arthur Dales loves her too. And watching Mulder’s pride squirm as Arthur Dales lavishes praise on his pretty partner is decidedly satisfying… especially since Mulder really did figure out how to save himself on his own.

The Verdict:

I always liked this episode well enough, but now I think I may actually be a fan of it. I especially welcome the return of Darren McGavin as Arthur Dales and can only shake my head in sad regret that his health prevented him from coming back for more. What an asset his character could have been to Season 7!

The truth is, if it weren’t for a few unfortunate moments of overblown humor, and maybe even despite them, I could call this the most classic X-File of Season 6. In fact, I believe I will. And in case you were wondering, all the nuts really do roll downhill to Florida.

B+

Debris:

Instead of immediately calling Mulder to come down from Washington, D.C., why doesn’t Dales first call the police? Maybe they couldn’t have solved the X-File, but they could have checked to see if the Shipleys were all right.

There’s a bit of an easter egg hidden in this episode. If you watch the scene where Arthur Dales leaves Mulder a message with the closed-captioning on, you’ll find this little treat where the audio ends, “If this is you, Scully, call me on my cell phone. I think you know the number.http://www.insidethex.co.uk/transcrp/scrp614.htm

What’s with the Southern accents? This is South Florida even if it is the west coast of it. Deputies with New York accents would have made more sense. Ironically, to hear a Southern accent you’d have to drive far north of Goodland.

Scully leaving Mulder out in the hallway even once the threat of the gun has passed still rubs me the wrong way.

Best Quotes:

Arthur Dales: Why did you bring her here?
Mulder: Well, she knows your reputation, your early work on the X-Files and she has a knack for getting to the bottom of things.
Scully: [Glances wryly at a trash can full of empty liquor bottles] Apparently, so does Mr. Dales.
Arthur Dales: It’s a good thing I have a reputation. Otherwise, how could it be impugned?

——————–

Scully: Well, what else would we be doing out here on a night like this?
Deputy Greer: You could be looters. For all I know, you could be part of the Manson family.

——————–

Mulder: [In his best narrator’s voice] If the sea is where life began, where our ancestors first walked ashore, then who’s to say what new life may be developing in its uncharted depths?
Scully: You know what? Maybe you are a member of the Manson family.

Bad Blood 5×12: Anyway, I was drugged.


“And then he sort of flew at me like a flying squirrel.”

All right. We’re here. We’ve reached what is arguably the best beloved X-Files episode of all time, penned by Master of the Pen Vince Gilligan and consistently named as a favorite of Gillian Anderson herself. It’s “Bad Blood”.

That means it’s also time for a full confession: I didn’t care much for “Bad Blood” the first time I watched it.

.

.

.

Go ahead. Choke.

.

.

.

Still coughing?

.

.

.

Don’t kill yourself.

.

.

.

Now, if you’re quite finished…

The problem was that I really didn’t know how to take this one at first. The situation they’re in is too deadly serious for Mulder and Scully to be taking it so lightly, hilarious though their reactions are. If I were potentially going to jail for impaling a minor and if the Federal Government were being sued for $446 million dollars due to my idiocy, I wouldn’t be kicking a trash can I’d be banging my head against padded walls in the mental institution I’d been hauled to after my breakdown. But that’s me taking this too seriously so I’ll stop now.

About halfway through my initial viewing I loosened up. But I still had to watch it a few times to get the full effect.

Please don’t be afraid. A baker’s dozen worth of years later and I still laugh out loud at this episode. Loudly.

Unlike other famed X-Files alum Darin Morgan’s “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) which also shows one set of events from multiple perspectives, “Bad Blood” doesn’t carry a subtly serious undertone in its similarly Rashomon style storytelling. Instead of a despairing sense that the real truth will remain forever buried within the bias and faulty memories of those who experienced it, “Bad Blood” proves that yet again, despite themselves, Mulder and Scully do uncover the truth and neither of them could ever do it alone. The truth consistently lies somewhere in between their two versions of reality.

But then, lightheartedness is one of Vince Gilligan’s strengths just as Darin Morgan’s underlying sense of seriousness is his. One specializes in screwball comedies while the other draws comedy organically out of the sadness in life. For instance, if you compare Gilligan’s “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and Morgan’s “Humbug” (2×20), both us the social and physical outcast for our comedic enjoyment, but Gilligan lovingly pokes fun at his misfit while Morgan uses his misfits to poke the eyes of society at large. One is secretly social commentary while the other is pure entertainment. Me, I’ll take a double scoop of both.

I actually consider “Bad Blood” The X-Files’ first true slapstick comedy. “Small Potatoes” was close, but while it crossed a humor line in terms of silliness that the show hadn’t crossed before, there was more of a sense of the events occurring in the real world than we get here where “reality” is peppered by green-eyed nomadic vampires populating trailer parks. This isn’t a funny X-File or an X-File that happens to be humorous so much as it is a pure comedy, which makes sense considering Gilligan took his inspiration for this one from The Dick Van Dyke Show. But how did he do it and still remain true to the show and the series at large? It’s as though Gilligan took all the rhythms of a typical X-File and then multiplied them to the tenth power so that you can recognize in every hilarious moment where if it were scaled back a notch it would be just another meat and potatoes episode. For example:

Mulder: Sheriff, you say this man is exactly as you found him?
Sheriff Hartwell: Yes, sir. To the letter.
Mulder: Have you noticed that this man’s shoes are untied??
Sheriff Hartwell: Yeah, they sure are.
Scully: Mulder, what’s your point?
Mulder: This means something. Sheriff, do you have an old cemetery in town, off the beaten path, the creepier the better?
Sheriff Hartwell: Uh, yeah.
Mulder: [Snaps fingers] Take me there. Now!
Scully: Mulder?
Mulder: Scully, we’re going to need a complete autopsy on this man, the sooner the better.
Scully: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! What am I even looking for?
Mulder: [Grabs Scully by both shoulders and looks her seriously in the eye] I don’t know. [Leaves abruptly]
Scully: [To Sheriff Hartwell] He does that.

Mulder notices some random clue that no one else thinks is a clue? Check. Mulder can’t or won’t explain its significance? Check. Mulder sends Scully off on an impromptu autopsy? Check. Mulder expects Scully to find something but won’t tell her what? Check. Mulder leaves abruptly without an adequate explanation? Check. Check.

Sometimes I wonder if Gilligan didn’t take a script he was already working on for a regular, serious episode and out of boredom one day decided to amplify it for fun because Mulder and Scully and a third party have had that same exchange, beat for beat, more times than I can count.

But, of course, the real joy of “Bad Blood” isn’t watching Gilligan cleverly poke fun at The X-Files’ own formula, it’s watching Mulder and Scully coyly turn each other into mental caricatures and in so doing give us insight into how they see themselves and each other. More than likely, Mulder and Scully don’t even believe their own tales with total sincerity. Instead, they’re emphasizing and exaggerating certain facts in order to better irritate the other.

Gilligan always did have an amazing grasp when it came to characterization and here I think he understands Mulder and Scully better than they know themselves… I mean, assuming they actually existed and could know anything at all. That said, watching them morph themselves into innocents in turn is revelatory and while Mulder’s idea of himself is way off, I’m not so sure his version of Scully isn’t too far from the truth…

Verdict:

I’ve searched and searched for a clip of Fox’s promo for “Bad Blood” but I haven’t been able to find it. You see, I’m trying to satisfy my curiosity as to whether or not I was warned about the comedic tone of this episode the week before or whether I had any excuse for coming to my first viewing of it wholly unprepared. Alas, YouTube has failed to answer my question.

It really doesn’t matter anymore, however, and thank goodness. I enjoy “Bad Blood” and no distinct lack of reality is going to ruin suspension of disbelief for me. No siree Bob.

All I can say is that when I think that I’m already well past the halfway point of Season 5, I get a little sad.

A

“One of my favorite things about ‘Bad Blood’ was that Agent Scully gets to smile.” – Vince Gilligan

Fiddle Faddle:

I remember when I first saw this episode easily recognizing Patrick Renna, AKA Ronnie Strickland, from that classic television gem called Salute Your Shorts. But he’s better known to most from The Sandlot.

Maybe Ronnie Strickland tried to kill Mulder because he left him a $0.02 tip. Miser.

For those keeping score, this is the second episode in a row where Scully comes to Mulder’s rescue.

I don’t think motels like the Davey Crockett Motor Lodge/Sam Houston Motor Court even still exist. What happened to the seedy motels of the American landscape?

How does Scully get those toxicology results back so fast all the time?

I’m trying, probably too hard, to remember the last episode where Mulder used a slideshow and I can’t.

May I just say that the discomfort Sheriff Hartwell causes Mulder makes my day… and again points to the fact that Mulder nurses a little schoolboy crush on Scully Season 5. Not that he takes it so seriously that he isn’t willing to leave her alone with the man, though I think that points more to his comfort level with Scully than to jealousy or a lack thereof.

Best Quotes:

Scully: First of all, if the family of Ronnie Strickland does indeed decide to sue the FBI for, I think the figure is $446 million, then you and I both will most certainly be co-defendants. And second of all… I don’t even have a second of all, Mulder! $446 million! I’m in this as deep as you are, and I’m not even the one that overreacted! I didn’t do the [stabbing motion] with the thing!
Mulder: I did not overreact. Ronnie Strickland was a vampire!
Scully: Where’s your proof?
Mulder: You’re my proof! You were there! [Scully sighs] Okay, now you’re scaring me. I want to hear exactly what you’re going to tell Skinner.
Scully: Oh, you want our stories straight.
Mulder: No, no, I didn’t say that! I just want to hear it the way you saw it.
Scully: I don’t feel comfortable with that.
Mulder: Prison, Scully! Your cellmate’s nickname is going to be Large Marge, she’s going to read a lot of Gertrude Stein.

———————–

Sheriff Hartwell: [In flashback] You really know your stuff, Dana.
Mulder: [In present] Dana?! He never even knew your first name!
Scully: You going to interrupt me or what?
Mulder: No. You go ahead… Dana

———————–

Scully: What do you mean you want me to do another autopsy? And why do we have to do it right now? I’ve just spent hours on my feet doing an autopsy, all for you. I do it all for you, Mulder. You know I haven’t eaten since six o’clock this morning and all that was was half of a cream cheese bagel. And it wasn’t even real cream cheese it was light cream cheese. And now you want me to run off and do another autopsy…? [Notices Mulder is covered in mud] What the hell happened to you?

El Mundo Gira 4×11: I just met a girl named Maria.


Remind anyone of their fridge?

This episode always brings back memories of El Chupacabra sightings that made the local news so often when I was in Junior High, sightings that no one outside the Latin American community seemed to take seriously. Funny, but despite its political grandstanding, this episode doesn’t take the legend seriously either.

Last time I watched “El Mundo Gira” I decided I enjoyed it. Maybe I was feeling nostalgic about the Spanish soap operas that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. I never understood them, but you didn’t need to understand Spanish to pick up on the melodrama. Or maybe I just finally decided that the Chia Pet style fungus in this episode is more satisfying than I had originally thought.

But upon a fresh rewatch and coming off of the notable success that is “Paper Hearts” (4×8), its errors are harder to ignore.

First, and most obviously, Season 4 seems to be when the team at 1013 Productions decided that along with the great power of The X-Files’ success came the great responsibility of social commentary. We saw them try to sneak it in the back door with “Teliko” (4×4) and they’ll soon try to force it in the front in “Unrequited” (4×16). Unlike a movie where they would have a couple of hours to let the story speak for itself and therefore could allow the audience to slowly put the pieces of the message together, a 42 minute running time means that in order to make their point we get heavy-handed lines such as…

Scully: Nobody’s examined the body?
Mulder: Nobody cares, Scully. The victim and many of the witnesses are illegal immigrants, migrant farm workers.

And…

Skinner: You would think that with the resources we have we’d be able to find these men. I’m not hearing a good explanation why this hasn’t happened.
Scully: Well, sir, they have a way of being almost invisible.
Mulder: The truth is… nobody cares.

And…

Scully: Mulder, I know you don’t want to hear this but I think the only aliens in this story are not the villains. They’re the victims.

The only thing Illegal Immigrants and Little Green Men have in common is a word that ties them together by sound, no longer by connotation. Giving the Chupacabra an alien shaped head does not a parallel make, and so it’s hard to choke down what they’re trying to force feed us. On top of that, such a serious pathos undermines the pseudo-comical melodrama of a Spanish soap opera that the episode is trying to imitate, resulting in a haphazard tone a la “Syzygy” (3×13).

It’s already difficult enough to take a distinct cultural legend and translate it to an “alien” audience in a way so that it carries emotional force. That experiment is rarely effective as evidenced by episodes like “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) and “Hell Money” (3×19).  But combining serious political observations with the “Mexican soap opera” theme that many may find unfamiliar is a recipe for disconnect.

Conclusion:

I still enjoy this one though, despite itself. At the very least it gives us a few memorable lines. And one thing I’ve always loved about The X-Files is how it’s able to give the strange a scientific foothold. This is one of those episodes where neither Mulder nor Scully are correct but together they make a new scientific discovery.

By the end the story morphs yet again, this time into a Rashomon style fairy tale. I can’t help feeling that if they had taken that tone all the way through, it could have been more successful. But then again, “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) has already been done.

C

Randomness:

If this is a community of illegals, why report Maria’s death at all? Surely that would have brought the cops around long before Mulder and Scully came on the scene.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Witnesses described a bright flash about 30 degrees off the horizon, then a hot yellow rain fell from a cloudless sky. Fortean researchers call these “liquid falls.” Black and red rains are the most common, but there have also been reported cases of blue, purple and green rains.
Scully: Purple rain?
Mulder: Yeah. Great album. Deeply flawed movie, though.

————————-

Agent Lozano: Let’s see… Okay. We have a Jose Feliciano. We have Juan Valdez. We have Cesar Chavez. We have Placido Domingo here. But I don’t see any “Eladio Buente.”

————————-

Mulder: They think he’s the Chupacabra.
Agent Lozano: That may be. But I will tell you with a tremendous degree of certainty this guy is not Erik Estrada.

————————-

Agent Lozano: This guy is better than Erik Estrada.

————————-

Mulder: Scully, I’ve been thinking. I know that’s dangerous, but just bear with me.

Season 3 Wrap Up: Are you sure it wasn’t a girly scream?


On the Big Picture Front

Season 3 is a perennial fan favorite, for obvious reasons. It’s during this era that The X-Files went from a cult hit to a primetime sensation. Far from being a specific genre show, it proved it was capable of changing styles from week to week and still maintain consistency and continuity. One week Mulder and Scully are on the brink of discovering alien life, and the next they’re being overrun by mutant cockroaches. Season 3 is at turns a sci-fi show, a psychological drama, a comedy and a parody.

And more than anything else, it’s the Season of Darin Morgan. Sure he debuted back in Season 2 as the writer of the landmark “Humbug” (2×20) and even earlier than that he provided the story for “Blood” (2×3) and even donned a body suit to play The Flukeman in “The Host” (2×2). But three out of the four episodes he officially wrote for the series aired in Season 3. That’s not even counting his uncredited contributions to episodes like “Revelations” (3×11) and “Quagmire” (3×22), two episodes that delve deeply into the psychological background of Mulder and Scully, laying the basis for years to come for other writers who would take their characters even further.

His presence on the staff actually transformed the show into something that was pliable and therefore viable. How long would The X-Files have lasted if things had stayed as serious as they did in Season 1 and most of Season 2? I daresay there’s an audience for that, myself included, but Darin Morgan introduced an era where The X-Files could lovingly poke fun at itself; this meant that the audience didn’t have to. After all, if you bring up your faults before anyone else can, it serves as a first level of defense. “Fox Mulder is off his rocker, you say? We already know. We called him on it ourselves and beat you to it.” Once that’s out of the way, everyone can sit back and enjoy without their being an elephant in the room.

Self-parody is also a sign of success. “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) could never have happened in Seasons 1 or 2. The X-Files wasn’t set it its ways enough to exaggerate its own image. The audience could laugh at Mulder and Scully being ridiculous because they already take them seriously. And even though it’s not one of my favorites, this is a turning point in the show because from here on out, anything was game. Starting in Season 3, you can see how later episodes like “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6) would evolve from this series. The writers could stretch The X-Files and it wouldn’t break.

On the Relationship Front

If you’ve been reading and watching along, you’ve probably already guessed what I’m going to say. I’m no sentimentalist, but the tension that was written into Mulder and Scully’s relationship for much of this season isn’t exactly my bag. It’s true that they couldn’t go on in the hyper-idealized way that they were in Season 2, where the other could almost do no wrong. And it’s also true that a certain amount of tension and drama creates interest, and I’m all for that. But there were moments this season where I wondered why they were even partners at all since they didn’t seem to work well together. Heck, at moments they were downright antagonistic.

The good side of this is that when Mulder or Scully are divided, it almost invariably means that one or the other is about to benefit from some serious character development. Mulder moves beyond Samantha in “Oubliette” (3×8), even if he doesn’t move beyond the “Samantha Protocol”, and he shows off his criminal profiling genius in “Grotesque” (3×14), a skill that Scully can’t possess at the same emotional and psychological level. For her part, Scully matures in issues of faith in “Revelations”, a spiritual journey you’d think that Mulder would be able to relate to but instead is surprisingly antagonistic toward. And dividing them up for the mythology episodes was a wise decision. More information gets disseminated to the audience for one thing. And for another, Scully begins to develop her own methods of investigation. It’s a nice contrast watching them stumble upon parallel bits of information and come to wildly different conclusions. Neither one of them would get to the truth alone.

But after all that division, the writers reel it back in toward the end of the season and I’m forever grateful. “Pusher” (3×17) and “Wetwired” (2×23) remind us that Mulder and Scully still do have an almost spiritual bond that’s survived the losses and divisions of Season 3. It’s a sweet but brief respite, however. Season 4 will bring Mulder and Scully both closer and further apart than ever before, a rollercoaster I’m currently bracing myself for emotionally.

On the Whole

Season 3 is arguably when The X-Files hit its peak. Looking back, I’d say that it is… but it’s not when The X-Files hit its prime, a point of semantics that I’ll get into much later.

I say this is its peak because at this point, the mythology still feels as though it’s heading somewhere, that the answers we’re waiting for are just around the corner. Anticipation is at its highest point, I believe. Will Mulder lose his mother and soon be the only Mulder left? Will Scully be able to face the details of her abduction? Will they get to the bottom of this Smallpox vaccination drama? Stay tuned.

On the New Tip

I’ve decided to start handing out awards this season. So without further ado…

“Most Improved”
Revelations

“Desperately in need of a rewrite”
Syzygy

“Victim of too many desperate rewrites”
Teso Dos Bichos

“The Copycat”
2Shy

“The Sleeper Hit”
Wetwired

“It doesn’t matter how many times I see it I still won’t like it”
Oubliette

So now my question to you, dear reader, is which episode out of the Darin Morgan era is the one that speaks to you the most?  Is one the best but you hate it? Is one the worst but you love it? And if you have any awards of your own to hand out, please do so below!