Tag Archives: Jump the Shark

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

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William 9×17: You say it as if you have a choice.


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Stop, the love you save may be your own.

Reportedly, the idea for Scully to give William up for adoption was mandated by Carter and Spotnitz. Duchovny, Anderson, and executive producer John Shiban were not happy with this turn of events, due to them being parents and feeling that the action was not realistic, but “grudgingly consented”. – Wikipedia (William)

We have reached the high point of my Season 9 frustration, or the low point of my fandom, however you choose to look at it. I warn you now this will be long.

For all intents and purposes, baby William is gone, Carter said. After all, you can’t have Scully and Mulder chasing aliens in a future movie with a toddler tagging along.

“It was a problem we knew existed, and we couldn’t figure out how we were going to handle it,” he said. “This seemed like the best way.”

“A problem”? And whose fault was that?

There was some debate about what to do and what the best thing to do was. That idea (giving William up for adoption) was from Chris and Frank. It’s a safe place for the baby. I don’t think anybody wanted to continue playing jeopardy for the baby any longer. It started to become for all of us painful. – John Shiban

YES.

“We knew that the fans would be asking why we had Scully go through the pregnancy arc to begin with if she was just going to give the baby up for adoption,” said executive producer Frank Spotnitz.

YES.

“And it was a legitimate question.”

YES.

“I had a lot of reservations about that storyline and about her giving up the baby, and was not at all sure that it was the right thing to do. But in the end, I think it was the right thing to do, because it becomes unsavory. And I think everybody — David and Chris, especially — felt that the baby was going to be an obstacle to us in any future movies.”

Again, whose fault was that?

“The decision was very difficult,” added Spotnitz. “But realistically, in no small way, it made it easier to one day do another movie.

Here’s the thing everyone seems to be missing: It doesn’t matter how well you write the movie if no one wants to see it.

We have to follow you to the theater, remember?

And as painful, unsavory, frustrating and problematic as the storylines surrounding William have been, nothing is worse than after all that taking him suddenly away with a flimsy excuse. This is the kind of story choice that turns people off. All this buildup about William as the second coming and then, boom. He’s gone.

The job the latter half of Season 9 was burdened with was wrapping up emotional loose ends. That’s fine as far as it goes. But if a movie franchise was a goal, then the stories should actually be ramping up towards something epic.

Instead this has a note of finality and there’s no presented reason to wait and see what happens to the budding Mulder brood. Don’t put a period where there should be a comma. If you are going to get rid of William, make it temporary. Give your audience hope, somehow, of a reunion. Or, how about we just let William be a normal baby? He’d be older by the movies anyway! Let him go to grandma’s if he needs a place to hide out.

Like so many unpleasant surprises this season, I had no idea what was coming when “William” first aired. But just like with “Jump the Shark” (9×15), as soon as we hit the end of the teaser, I knew. Last time, I freaked out. This time, I freaked out… and threw my hands over my head in both contempt and surrender. Why shouldn’t one more thing go horribly wrong?

I think it’s safe to say I was too upset to look at the episode objectively, but this time I gave it the old college try. And you know what? Other than the end result being such a source of frustration, the episode is otherwise a pretty good one. It’s quiet with a lot of exposition, but it manages to be surprisingly emotional.

David Duchovny’s back directing and I think he makes some great choices here. Gillian Anderson and Jeffrey Owens also do an impressive job acting, especially Gillian as a thoroughly confused and conflicted Scully. And I’m happy to find out what became of Spender. That, at least, is a welcome surprise here right before the end.

The scene where Scully examines Spender/Miller/Mulder is easily the best in the episode. It’s shot very intimately, intimately enough to let us know that despite her protests, Scully wonders if this might be Mulder too. I try to remind Scully that the network wouldn’t waste David Duchovny’s face like that, but I’m not sure she hears me.

Eventually, grand scheme working according to plan, Spender worms his way to William and injects him some magical form of magnetite. Et voilà! No more Super Baby, no more messiah.

And why does he do it? To save the world? To condemn the world? No, to stick it to his dead(?) dad. And, of course, to get rid of the prophecy plot because even 1013 doesn’t know what to do with it anymore.

The deus ex machina nature of these machinations is frustrating enough, but I could deal and would even be relieved to see the cosmic child plot go no matter how it went. But then… the adoption. Scully lets Spender get into her head and makes a permanent, life-altering decision because of it. 

Scully’s baby has been under threat for a long time now. If anything, she’s recently found out that the Super Soldiers don’t actually want to harm her baby, though they do want him for their own purposes. Why would she suddenly decide to give William up based on the word of Spender who is a confirmed liar like his father before him?

And let’s say danger will rear its seven heads from time to time. We’re supposed to believe the Super Soldiers are everywhere and they are legion. They can’t find a baby on a farm? They found a pregnant Scully out in the middle of nowhere before in “Existence” (8×21). They will eventually find William in Wyoming too. You’re really telling me Mulder and Scully aren’t better equipped to protect him than Farmer John?

“God has His reasons and His ways.”

So does Chris Carter, but it’s much harder to submit to his.

Verdict:

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in the book of 2 Kings, lived a woman we only know as the Shunamite woman. She was a barren woman, but she had long ago made her peace with that. She was also a good woman, a god-fearing woman, a pleasant woman. And she was married to a man older than Sean Connery.

One day she asked Sean Connery saying, “Honey, you know the prophet has to travel through our area quite often. Wouldn’t it be nice to add a guest room he could stay in? We’ve been talking about fixing the house up anyway.”

So Sean Connery agreed because, like all wise wives, she allowed him to think it was his idea. The addition was built and the prophet Elisha stayed in it and found it quite a bit more comfortable than the Holiday Inn. Grateful for her unsolicited generosity, the prophet asked the Shunamite woman if there was anything he could do for her, any way he could help her. After all, she’d been such a blessing to him. But the Shunamite woman said no, she had everything she needed, thanks ever so.

Then the prophet’s servant spilled the beans: Not only was the Shunamite woman barren, her husband was older than Sean Connery. Surely a child, a child would bless her.

The prophet then goes back to the Shunamite woman and tells her that he will pray to God and God will give her a son. But the Shunamite woman protests. After all, she’d made her peace with being childless long ago. She couldn’t stand to get her hopes up for nothing. But sure enough, soon she had a baby boy.

Sean Jr. grew up healthy and strong, but one day when he was still a young boy, he got a headache, and he sat on his mother’s lap all day. And in the evening, he died. The Shunamite woman took him and laid him on his bed and locked the door behind her. Then, instead of the minivan, she asked her husband for the keys to the Mustang. She had a quick errand, she said, nothing to worry about. 

The Shunamite woman gunned that engine and drove straight to the prophet. After speeding through many a stop sign, she barged into his office unannounced. “You gave me this child. I didn’t ask for him,” she said. “You gave him to me and you give him back.”

The prophet, of course, complied.

My point is simple. William was not our idea. We didn’t ask for him. We were fine without him. But you, Dear 1013, brought him into this. You brought him into this and I’d like him back… please.

B

Snippets:

The above is the Salome Paraphrase Version of the Bible. Not available for purchase.

I was in denial for a while after this. I really thought Mulder and Scully would search for ways to get their baby back, or that his adopted parents would be killed by the Super Soldiers and there would be a rescue mission.

Chris Owens got the worst makeup jobs on this show.

Even after having watched and knowing what Spender is really up to, it’s hard to see someone do things they shouldn’t to a baby.

The Mulderisms that Spender makes are an especially nice touch.

It actually would have been more compelling if William were taken and Mulder and Scully had to get him back.

See what happens when you make a baby, Chris? All subsequent decisions have to be filtered through the lens of parenthood. That includes parent writers.

And then she sang “Joy to the World” just to torment us all.

What verification do we have that the injection worked? ‘Cause no, a still mobile doesn’t count.

The decision doesn’t make instinctive sense. A mother would sooner go into hiding with her baby than give him up.

I watched Independence Day, however much Mulder may have desecrated the poster. It is possible to have youngins running around and still have an epic alien battle.

We now have DNA evidence that Mulder isn’t Bill Mulder’s son, but Cigarette-Smoking Man’s.

I do like hearing “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” at the end. That’s a sweet, sentimental touch. Ergo, it must’ve been David Duchovny’s.

If Spender’s telling the truth, and William was the one thing the aliens needed to effect colonization, then we can all pack it up and go home.

Jump the Shark 9×15: Guys like that, they live forever.


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The Wrath of John

Spotnitz: Some months after the show had gone off the air, I was listening to The Wrath of Khan commentary and at the end of that movie, if you recall, Spock dies. And the producer, Harv Bennett, says that they tested it and people hated them, were so mad that they killed Spock. And then they went back and they added the scene which is the hopeful, optimistic scene, with Kirk on the bridge. And it changed the perception of the movie entirely. And I’ll say, looking back at this episode now, that’s one thing I might’ve done differently is found some way to give you that sense of uplift at the end, because it is just… grindingly sad at the end of this.

Too late. I AM BROKEN.

I almost don’t know where to begin with how sad this episode makes me. Some fourteen years after it aired and my face was all contorted like Jimmy Bond’s while I was watching this. There was jumping involved. And desperate whining. And, no. I’m not ashamed. It was the least I could do to mourn these guys.

Part of me gets it. I’m just geeky enough to have listened to the John Gillnitz (a portmanteau of writers John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, and Frank Spotnitz) commentary a few times over the years (don’t judge). I understand what they were thinking – The Lone Gunmen series had been canceled. The X-Files was ending. And while John Gillnitz may not have created the Lone Gunmen, that honor belongs to writing partners Glen Morgan and James Wong, they had taken the characters and run with them, given them a backstory, more prominence in the main series, and eventually their own show which John Gillnitz ran. They loved them like only fathers can and, with the fictional world the Gunmen lived in imploding around them, they wanted our geeksome trio to go out with a bang rather than fade into obscurity.

But they didn’t have to die.

I didn’t see it coming either. There I was, innocently enjoying the bountiful blessing of another Morris Fletcher voiceover, the only kind I like, when we get to the end of the teaser and I realize: They’re going to kill my boys!!! NOOOO!!!!

Honestly, at this point there was so little joy left in the show that losing the bright spot that the Lone Gunmen always provided felt like a finishing blow. (It felt like a finishing blow. The real finishing blow awaited us the next week.) Even so, and even though I’m still genuinely and unrepentantly bitter about the outcome of this episode, I can’t say it’s a bad episode. It’s actually the most engaging we’ve had in far too long.

Mainly, I want more of Michael McKean all the time. I want to dream about him in my sleep. I want to hear him when my alarm goes off in the morning. I want him to serve me my coffee at Starbucks (Sorry, Priscilla). For those who, like me, rank “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II” (6×5) among their favorite episodes, and those who, like me, enjoy The Lone Gunmen spinoff series, no heroic demise would have been complete without this most lovable of villains.

It’s such a perfect reunion of The Lone Gunmen’s main characters, including the always memorable Kimmy the Geek, twin brother of Jimmy the Geek. Why did it have to be wasted on such a tragedy?

If you listen to the DVD commentary, desperately looking for answers, as I have, then you’ll get the distinct impression that not only was the Fox network not fully behind The Lone Gunmen spinoff, but they also couldn’t have cared less about allowing for a closure episode on The X-Files. It sounds like part of the way John Gillnitz finally sold the idea successfully was by promising the big bang of the trio’s deaths. They had to promise this episode would be special.

“This episode almost never was because there was zero support for doing it,” Frank brings to light. “The studio was hostile to the idea and it was a constant fight to get the money and negotiate with the actors because they did not want to do it. We were determined, since this was the last year of The X-Files, that we were going to have our farewell with these characters. When we finally decided that this would be their death, it became a much stronger argument with the studio.” LAX-Files, pg. 218

Spotnitz: We wanted this to be very special and, sad to say, the way to do that, we realized, would be to make this their final appearance. It wouldn’t just be another Lone Gunmen episode, it would be the Lone Gunmen episode.

There are times when I feel resolution is overrated.

Gilligan: We did. We had many discussions about the ending, period, whether they should die or not. And I gotta say I never, I never wanted it to happen. But I think it’s absolutely the right way to end it… None of us did it lightly, to be sure… Ending with these three guys dying… there was a lot of hours of discussion about it: should we even do it, should we not. And at the end I think Frank and John are right about doing it because, as much as I love these characters, you want to see them go out as heroes. And we knew damn well, pardon my French, we’re never gonna see them again and, you know, that the series was coming to an end. We’re never gonna get The Lone Gunmen series going again so why not have them go out with a blaze of glory?

I get the perverse logic, I do. And it might’ve been one thing if they were any other recurring characters or dramatic guest stars. But the Lone Gunmen were such a sweet presence. They were like the lovable Lost Boys to Mulder’s Peter Pan. This is a fictional slaughter of the innocents.

Then having it happen as almost the coup de grace to a season full of disappointments… But I have to admit that, in some ways, it made the end of the series go down easier. How can the X-Files world keep spinning without the Gunmen? Yes, it is that serious.

The Lone Gunmen were also indispensably useful. I couldn’t imagine Mulder and Scully successfully countering government conspiracies and alien colonization without their hacking skills, especially now that Mulder’s out of the F.B.I.. Everyone needs a techno geek they can trust.

That’s how central to the story they had become that it was hard to imagine the action going forward without them involved in some aspect of it. I mean, what’s next? Skinner goes down swingin’? God forbid!!

Oh, X-Files. Everyone’s in agreement – It’s time to pack it in and call it a day. What is it called when you’ve passed jumping the shark? Hopping the whale? Skipping the giant squid?

Verdict:

You know what really kills me? Mulder wasn’t there. Scully and Skinner were barely there. (Though I understand there were scheduling issues so I’m giving everyone an emotional pass.)

You know what else kills me? The Gunmen knew what they were about to do. Why didn’t they run?? Someone, dive for it! Something!!!

There must be something really special about these guys that all these years later and I’m still yelling at my television screen. Or…. there’s something really “special” about me. Either way, I’m okay with that.

If they were going to take them out, I am glad that they died heroes. In the end, the Gunmen didn’t mess up at all. They kept Yves from killing the wrong man, for one. And if she had killed the wrong man, John Gillnitz would’ve been able to kill thousands of people without suspicion, for two.

Ah, John Gillnitz, our villain who symbolically dies along with the Gunman… just like our real life villains, the John Gillnitz trio who killed them. Those are the real Lone Gunmen, who despite my ravings I appreciate dearly. (The bitterness is real, it’s just compartmentalized.) And, hey, word on the street is that the Lone Gunmen are back from the dead in some capacity or other. Maybe one of these days John Gillnitz will resurrect too.

Vaya con Dios, amigos… And welcome back.

A-

Kung Fu:

So I take it Morris Fletcher and his wife broke up for good.

Oh, that’s right. Despite having read every X-File, Doggett wouldn’t have known about the “Dreamland” events since time reversed like it never happened.

I love the name Lois.

Teletubbies = Mind control

Please note that Vince Gilligan was the lone hold out against killing the Gunmen.

The actor who plays Dr. Houghton was also “Cobra” in “En Ami” (7×15).

That death scene – Is the space really airtight if they can hear each other?

All I want, all I want in life right now is a t-shirt that says:  “Langly Lives!”

Best Quotes:

Morris: Let me give you a hint. I used to work at Groom Lake, Nevada. Area 51? I was a man in black. “The” Men in Black. What you’ve never heard of us?

Doggett: I saw the movie.

Morris: Yeah, well… there were a lot of technical inaccuracies in that thing. Anyway, I’m ready to make a deal.

Doggett: What deal would that be?

Morris: The one that saves my furry pink ass.

———————–

Morris: This is pointless. These three monkeys couldn’t find stink in an outhouse.

———————–

Morris: Agents, I’m tellin’ ya, you don’t want these three involved. I mean, they don’t even have their ridiculous tinker toy gizmos. This place is like “How The Grinch Stole Radio Shack.”