Tag Archives: Kim Manners

Brand X 7×19: They say these things kill people.


 

BrandX70

I’m having War of the Coprophages flashbacks.

I was really excited to watch “Brand X” again. Honestly, my memories of the last few seasons are a lot fuzzier than the early parts of the series. (You can probably guess which episodes I watch more often.) The hidden blessing in that is getting to relive episodes afresh. And what I did remember of “Brand X” was good. Very good.

We have Skinner in play, and he so rarely gets to move from behind his desk. I think Mitch Pileggi was brought on the court mainly because Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny were still busy in post-production for “all things” (7×17) and “Hollywood A.D.” (7×18) respectively, but I’ll take any excuse to see more of Skinner.

I also haven’t seen a Half-Caff episode in nigh forever and I’ve missed them. For those who don’t know, Half-Caff is my own obsessive-compulsively subclassed category of X-File that involves a newly discovered science or technology with world-changing implications. Here-to-fore, however, they’ve also included a government conspiracy to get a hold of or control said science. “Brand X” is slightly different since there’s no government conspiracy, only a corporate one. But I’m counting it because I can.

Morley Tobacco takes the place of the government this episode and so is appropriately shady and secretive. Except for the good Dr. Voss, who shows signs early on of wanting to switch allegiances to the good side of the Force. He smirks in response to Mulder’s sarcasm at the conference table, anyway. But Dr. Voss has a problem. He and Dr. Scobie’s noble experiment, to genetically engineer a tobacco plant that wouldn’t cause cancer when smoked or inhaled, backfired. Oh sure, they developed a non-toxic plant. However, the tobacco beetles evolved to match the new supply and now their eggs are being inhaled along with the smoke. Needless to say, it’s not a pretty picture when the eggs hatch. Just ask the late Dr. Scobie.

Initially, we think Dr. Scobie’s been killed because he’s a whistleblower and the company didn’t want him revealing their nefarious secrets to the world. Whistleblowers were a hot topic in the 90’s and so was Big Bad Tobacco. I wonder if generations of X-Philes to come will recognize the plot of The Insider buried in all this. Even if they don’t, in a world where the GMOs vs. Non-GMOs debate has only gained traction over the years, this episode is oddly still relevant. Can we make nature better? Will we kill ourselves trying?

For first time writers on the show, Steve Maeda and Greg Walker give us a pretty classic X-File, the anomaly of Skinner being out in the field notwithstanding. Steven Maeda will go on to write several more episodes including one of my later season favorites, “Audrey Pauley” (9×13).

There are lots of little moments, especially in the beginning, that I enjoy about this episode. I love the opening shot of smoke billowing out of a chimney and how it subtly introduces our subject. Seeing Dr. Scobie’s glass of icy water with pinkish swirls of blood floating around in it gives me a delicious sense of foreboding. It also warms my Philish heart to see Mulder and Scully coming to Skinner’s aid. I realize he’s their boss and technically they have to show up whether they want to or not, but it’s nice that they want to. Oh, and it’s the first time, probably all season, that I’ve felt like either Mulder or Scully were in real danger. “Signs and Wonders” (7×9) didn’t convince me. This actually feels like Mulder’s on the verge of death.

The atmosphere, particularly in the indoor scenes where they could block out the L.A. sunlight, is perfect. (The X-Files was gorgeous.) The villain is vile. (That’s right. You go ahead and smoke your neighbors to death. ‘Cause this is America, man. E Pluribus uh…) The deaths are disgusting. (And I take perverse viewing pleasure in that.)

Everything’s moving with tense, expectant energy and then… the ending flattens like Coke in a cup.

Sigh. It pains me to admit it, but the 4th act starts to fizzle right when it should sizzle. It’s a sad reminder of what happened to “Theef” (7×14), another episode this season that was leading somewhere good and then choked right at the climax.

In particular, that scene where Skinner can’t make up his mind to take down Daryl Weaver goes on two minutes too long. I mean, I get it. If Daryl keeps on living he’ll keep on smoking and more people will inhale tobacco beetle eggs and die. And if Daryl dies then the doctor’s may not get the scientific answers they need to save Mulder and anyone else who might get infected. But Skinner is an Assistant Director at the F.B.I. I’m pretty sure he knows how to shoot a suspect so as to disable them rather than kill them, especially when that suspect is standing still. His hesitation, no, procrastination doesn’t make sense. Not to mention, Daryl’s bad guy speech would have been much more effective cut in half.

Verdict:

Is it too late to create a “Coulda’ been a contender” category? Because “Brand X” had the potential to be a classic. Instead, it’s just a really solid offering. Warts and all it’s still a far sight more entertaining than most of what I’ve seen this season.

B+

Bugs:

Skinner makes the idea of killer bugs sound so fantastic. Wasn’t he around for “Zero Sum” (4×21)? I know, I know. The bees carried a virus. They still behaved abnormally.

Are those pencils in the office ceiling the same ones from “Chinga” (5×10) or does Mulder still get bored often?

Correction, Scully. If Mulder were to pick up that pack of Morley’s he wouldn’t be taking up smoking, he’d be falling off the wagon. Mulder smoked back in “Travelers” (5×15).

If the situation was dangerous enough that Skinner needed to put a detail on Dr. Voss’ family for their safety, why did he let Dr. Voss travel home alone?

Is there any particular reason we’re supposed to believe Morley Tobacco would go so far as to kill Dr. Scobie for testifying against them? When did the mafia take over Big Tobacco?

PSA: It was implied by this episode but never directly stated that the smoke and tar from tobacco plants causes cancer, not nicotine. The smoke chronically irritates the lungs, leading to cancer and a whole other host of issues. Cigarette smoke also contains over forty known carcinogens, marijuana smoke over thirty. Though whether or not marijuana directly leads to lung cancer is still under debate. It’s been linked to testicular cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer and leukemia in the babies of women who smoked while pregnant, though.

Actor Tobin Bell, who plays Daryl Weaver, is our second Goodfellas alumnus of the season and our second 24 alumnus. Or at least, he’s the second of each that I’ve recognized and counted.

The actors must have killed themselves coughing from this episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: [Looking at a gruesome picture of Dr. Scobie’s corpse] Can’t blow the whistle with a mouth like that.

———————–

Mulder: Mr. Weaver, did you see or hear anything unusual last night?

Daryl Weaver: Little Korean fellow down the hall dresses like Wonder Woman. But that’s every night.

———————–

Daryl Weaver: Toodles.

 

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Tempus Fugit 4×17: Let me buy him a drink too.


"Welcome back, Kotter!"

I’m going to start with a bit of an unusual premise here and say that “Tempus Fugit” and it’s follow up episode “Max” (4×18) aren’t really mythology episodes at all, instead they’re more like the pre-mythology conspiracy episodes of Season 1; think “Deep Throat” (1×1), “Fallen Angel” (1×9), and “EBE” (1×16). Taken at its most basic, this is your standard The Aliens are Here and the Government Won’t Admit It fare. What elevates the story is that this time it’s personal. “Tempus Fugit” is an episode about the casualties of war, the lives that are being lost whose deaths and whose pain will be meaningless unless Mulder and Scully can ultimately find a way to unravel this whole alien thing. Otherwise, Mulder and Scully could just as easily go the way of Max and Pendrell, and all those who were collateral damage will have died in vain.

The actual and potential loss, largely represented by the incredibly realistic crash site, is sobering. Mulder and Scully have precious few family members left for Chris Carter to kill off so he had to find another way to remind the audience of what’s at stake in this quest that Mulder and Scully are on and he did so by killing two friends and a whole plane full of people. It’s not all fun, games and Black Oil.

Speaking of the Black Oil, where is it? Here, not only is a character from Season 1, Max Fenig, brought back, but the mythology plot is subject to a rewind as well. There’s no Syndicate, no CSM dropping ash all over the place, no Krycek simpering. It’s just a straight up alien abduction meets government cover up. Mulder back to unreservedly and unwisely blasting his opinions from the rooftops rather than playing his hunches close to the vest, another throwback to earlier Seasons when Mulder got on his superiors’ nerves not by his actions but with his words. He never knew when to reel it in.

In the sense that they hark back to a simpler time in The X-Files, these elements are welcome. But in some ways it’s a little too late because now I’ve been conditioned to expect otherwise. Consequently, I spent the entire episode trying to figure out how what’s happened to Max fits into the overall mythology at large. The problem is I’m not sure it does. It’s more like a side plot.

Are the aliens that abducted Max the same ones that are working with the Syndicate? I find that hard to believe since the Syndicate seems to be secretly scared to death of those aliens, but a lone fighter pilot easily defeats these aliens. Speaking of which, how is it that creatures who possess technology we can only dream of and who can manage to travel light years to earth without a problem are no match for our military? That takes the bloom off their rose, doesn’t it?

I have no proof, but I’d be greatly surprised if these are the same aliens behind the plans for colonization. They’d need a lot more power. And besides, if I were them, I’d start colonization early if those human peons started shooting down my ships.

And the Verdict is…

I confess that I’m still not completely sure how I feel about this one, and I’ve been stewing on it for a good while. On the one hand, it’s good to see Max again and I enjoy that element of continuity and the nod to long time fans by giving them the payoff of bringing back a much loved, if oft forgotten character. On the other hand, why do I still feel a little bored?

Sure, we get that great birthday scene between Mulder and Scully, opening the window a little more into their quite comfortable and predictable relationship. That’s worth the price of admission. And Mulder’s short but sweet vigil beside Max’s body is poignant and memorable. Likewise, Scully’s last tender moments with Pendrell are just shy of heartbreaking. But still, I can’t help feeling like all of this isn’t leading much of anywhere. This is only the first in a two-parter, however, so I guess we’ll see.

In regards to the more technical end of things, director Kim Manners has almost outdone himself with that airplane crash. It’s almost too realistic… I have to not watch it too closely lest I have flashbacks during my next airplane flight. And that crash scene looks exactly like what we saw a few times too many on the news during the 1990’s. It’s just stellar work from everyone involved.

But did they have to kill Pendrell??? I’m going to miss that little geek.

B+

Nagging Questions:

How could Max’s sister’s motel room fall from 29,000 feet as Mulder says? Wouldn’t the aliens have had to take the whole motel lest someone notice a few walls missing? Forget that, why not just take the person alone???

Would Mulder have remembered Scully’s birthday if Scully wasn’t dying?

Random Observations:

It’s only funny when Mulder says, “We’re not gonna make it” because we know very well that he is.

I sincerely doubt Mulder and Scully would have been allowed in that TSA meeting or even less likely at the crash site.

On a related note, I realize that in order to keep things fresh and interesting, Mulder and Scully constantly have to be forced into new situations. Even so, why does Mulder going diving without experience feel like too much of a stretch to me? Combine that with Mulder and Scully’s free access to an airplane crash investigation and I’m starting to wonder how much disbelief I can suspend. It’s somehow less jarring to my rational mind to watch a mutant grow a new head.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Mulder, you have never remembered my birthday in the four years I’ve known you.
Mulder: That’s the way I like to celebrate them, every four years. It’s like dog years that way.
Scully: Dog years? Thank you.
Mulder: You’re welcome. Oh, I got something for you.
Scully: Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.
Mulder: It’s just something that reminded me of you.
Scully: What? An alien implant?
Mulder: Two actually. I made them into earrings.

————————–

Scully: Oh, please tell me this isn’t leading to something really embarrassing.

————————–

Scully: You sure know how to make a girl feel special on her birthday.

————————–

Motel Manager: Look at this! I don’t know what kind of game she was playing in here. She blew the door right out of the jamb. I doubt insurance will cover it.
Mulder: Does your policy cover the acts of extraterrestrials?
Scully: We’ll take care of it.

————————–

Bruce Bearfield: Have you worked at this depth before?
Mulder: Not exactly.
Bruce Bearfield: What exactly is your experience?
Mulder: Once I got a quarter off of the deep end of the Y pool.

Kaddish 4×12: You look like you might be one yourself.


"I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me."

Racism makes its second appearance on The X-Files this season. Maybe really its first since it was talked about but never actually seen in “Teliko” (4×4) despite Mulder’s insinuations to the contrary. Thankfully, this is a much more successful attempt at weaving societal issues into a paranormal tale, even if the end product is only moderately memorable.

Despite different trappings, this is really just another “revenge from beyond the grave” episode in the vein of “Born Again” (1×21) and “The List” (3×5). Only this time our avenger is a Hasidic Jew with one of my favorite names ever, Isaac (It means laughter. How can you not love that?). The other significant difference being that Issac didn’t come back on his own, he was brought back, not to feed hate, but out of love.

This episode reminds me of “Born Again” not just in content but in tone, which can be no coincidence since both episodes are written by Howard Gordon. Gordon’s work tends to have a quiet, somber feel to it, think “Dod Kalm” (2×19), so this episode has little by way of action but lots of contemplation. Maybe it’s because part of me instinctively compares this episode to The Golem, but I do wish the monster had been a little more menacing. That could have helped make up for the fact that it’s a legend unfamiliar to many, and having to familiarize an audience with a legend and then try to scare them with it is a tall order.

Adam was created from the dust of the earth, but then God breathed into him the breath of life. The problem with the Golem isn’t the mud he came out of, it’s that he missed out on that last part, the breath of life, and is doomed to walk around sans soul and wrecking havoc. That’s what happens when man takes things into his own hands, which is the moral lesson behind the tale: Man can only imitate God in shadows and not substance, and hubris is a dangerous form of pride.

But as I said, Ariel created Isaac’s Golem out of love which adds a poignancy to the proceedings. In fact, dare I say this episode isn’t even really meant to be frightening? It’s a story about lost love and that’s the emotional cue we’re being invited to identify with. Even the social commentary is a little distracting since the racists we’re exposed to are a little toothless and so don’t really serve the story in any meaningful way. It’d be nice if I could hate them rather than dismiss them but since they’re so pathetic…

Possibly this episode’s main source of salvation is how beautiful it is. Kim Manner’s usually directs the more gruesome episodes but he does a great job here not with horror but in expressing sadness through his camera choices. Those scenes at the graveyard in particular are stunning. I might go so far as to say that most of the pathos here comes from the way the episode was shot and less from the story or even the characters. The X-Files may have reached that incredible plateau where you can watch it with the sound off and still fully enjoy it.

Verdict:

There is a bit of an elephant hanging in the air over this episode. We just came off of “Memento Mori” (4×15) and there’s absolutely no indication that Scully’s tragic diagnosis is at all on her mind or even Mulder’s. But there’s a very good reason for that… this episode was shot three episodes before “Memento Mori”, but partially because of the Super Bowl broadcasting shuffle, was aired afterward. If they’re acting like Scully doesn’t have cancer, it’s because she doesn’t.

I think that actually works out well and I’m glad because that delicate plot line could have easily been worried to death through overkill. A mention or a reminder every other episode or so until the storyline reaches its boiling point is more than sufficient. Besides, at the end of “Memento Mori” Scully makes it clear that she wants to get back to work, and isn’t she doing just that?

Certainly though, back when I didn’t realize all that and even though I still appreciated their not working Scully’s cancer into the ground, a part of me wondered why this tale of death and separation didn’t hit home with Mulder and Scully at all. And just taking things as they aired, part of me still thinks they should have been able to relate just a tad more. Not in a lovey dovey sort of way, but in that here are two people who just had the promise of their lives together cut short. It’s not like Mulder and Scully’s work is done and they’ve found the answers they’re looking for. And now they’re running out of time.

B

Commentary:

So is Mulder Jewish? I guess we’ll have to wait till Season 7 for that answer too. Let’s put that on the back burner along with Scully’s ovaries, shall we?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Yeah, spectral figures are not often known to leave fingerprints. Casper never did.

———————

Scully: You haven’t heard the rumors?
Curt Brunjes: What rumors?
Mulder: That Luria is back from the dead. That he’s risen from his grave.
Curt Brunjes: What kind of Jew trick is this?
Mulder: A Jew pulled it off two thousand years ago.

———————

Mulder: What’s this? A little bedtime reading? [The book bursts into flames]

Sanguinarium 4×6: I hope those instruments were properly sterilized.


Vanity, Vanity...

I remember how my heart sank when the Orthopedist told me I was going to have to have surgery on my knee. You’d think if one was going to tear their ACL in a skiing accident, one would have been sailing down the Blue slopes at least, instead of ending up in a pile at the bottom of the lift before one technically set foot on Blue ground. There should at least be a glamorous War Story to go with a Battle Scar. But I digress.

Even though I was raised by a Physician and have never been queasy about the practice of medicine or medicines themselves, surgery is one of those events I’ve hoped since childhood never to participate in. Maybe it’s the loss of control, maybe it’s the horror stories I’ve heard about reactions to anesthesia, maybe it’s the fact that even the best Surgeon can fumble and that unexpected curveballs can be thrown once the human body is opened up, but I’ve mentally shied away. Which is why it’s been difficult for me to wrap my head around our skyrocketing plastic surgery rates here in the U.S.

After all, surgery is surgery. And this episode touches on the (usually) unspoken fears of patients and the platitudes that they comfort themselves with; “It’s a routine procedure”,  “routine” meaning that nothing bad can happen. “Sanguinarium” highlights the ultimate vulnerability of patient’s situation, plays on that anxiety, and then takes us on a tangent of horror that serves the story better at moments than at others.

Despite the public’s many concerns over “Home” (4×3), this is the first time I’ve personally found an episode a little too gross. While I’m not squeamish, something about a bath full of blood screams, “overkill” to me. Then there’s that whole “watch a man peel off his own skin” thing.

Aside from questionable content, it’s actually well done, thanks, no doubt, to The X-Files’ go-to man for horror, director Kim Manners. The scene when Nurse Waite coughs up those straight pins is particularly nicely shot. The police lights add to the chaos and adrenaline of the moment while disguising what amounts to a cheap theatrical trick under a cover of half-darkness. For me it’s the most memorable moment of the episode.

Sans blood and gore, much of the episode is spent in exposition about the current state of healthcare, the rise of plastic surgery that’s gone hand in hand with the fall of medicine in general.

Dr. Shannon: Our practice has been affiliated with Greenwood for 13 years. Now the ASU accounts for over 50% of this hospital’s revenue. Do you know what that means?

Scully: It means that while Doctors in other fields have seen their earnings fall because of managed healthcare you’ve all managed to become wealthy.

Whatever the situation was in 1997, it’s far more pronounced now. Where I was raised is both one of the Cosmetic Surgery capitals and Geriatric capitals of the U.S., which makes for an odd combination. People regularly take out massive loans to pay for superfluous procedures in cash or put it on credit and add years’ worth of debt to their lives, but it’s not uncommon to visit a General Practitioner’s office and overhear someone refusing to pay their $20 Co-pay… someone who’s clearly been pulled and stuffed once too often.

Why put ourselves in such a precarious position for nothing more than vanity? Surgery is still surgery after all. But it’s easy to get caught up in the culture, as Mulder is evidence of in this episode. His prodding in the mirror is a cute diversion. Though I find myself raising a skeptical eyebrow at the fact that they expect us to believe that someone who looked like Fox Mulder/David Duchovny would actually consider changing his face.

This is one of those episodes where Mulder and Scully don’t put a stop to the evil. Sure, they figure out what Dr. Franklyn, now Dr. Hartman, was up to. But he’s clearly going keep up his Blood Rejuvenation scheme for a very, very long time.

And the Verdict is…

In the end, things turned out better for me than they did for Mulder and Scully. By the Grace of God, my knee was healed, much to the shock of my Orthopedist. Surgery was rendered unnecessary and I was spared the experience of, well, surgery.

“Sanguinarium” is a solid sort of episode, I suppose. But it’s gross without being satisfying the way an episode of The X-Files usually is. Which is not to say that I don’t like it because I do, it’s just not quite enough to get the taste of “The Field Where I Died” (4×5) out of my mouth.

B

Leftovers:

Why doesn’t Dr. Shannon want to be operated on and why do Mulder and Scully try to stop it? If they didn’t take that stuff out, wouldn’t she just have thrown it up and died anyway?

Maybe to make up for the Wiccan outcry over “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14) we have a “good” witch in this story. Although, it turns out there was an even larger outcry over this one…

I saw you checking out that nurse, Fox Mulder.

Best Quotes:

Dr. Franklyn/Dr. Hartman: I like to say that whoever God didn’t get around to creating in His own image, it’s our job to recreate in ours.

———————

Scully: There’s magic going on here, Mulder. Only it’s being done with silicone, collagen, and a well-placed scalpel.

———————

Dr. Lloyd: I think this patient… is finished.

———————

Mulder: Are you aware that Dr. Lloyd is claiming that he was possessed during the incident?
Nurse Waite: I guess it’s cheaper than malpractice insurance.

Home 4×3: There’s something rotten in Mayberry.


A hero falls.

There may be something deeply flawed in me but I’ve never found this episode disturbing. Not because I’m any proponent of infanticide, I’m not even pro-choice, but it all takes place in a context that’s distinctly “horror” and I just can’t take any of its inflammatory subject matter more seriously than any other piece of popcorn entertainment.

If anything, the only thing that remotely bothers me is that these victims of generations of inbreeding are reduced to caveman like monsters, mere bogeymen. Are victims of genetic mutations little more than savage beasts? Have we forgotten The Elephant Man so quickly? But I can easily put the blinders on for this issue because it’s worth it.

This episode is gorgeous. I don’t know what suddenly happened to the show’s budget and I certainly know nothing about camera work, etc. but the picture quality has suddenly improved triple fold. The whole effect is downright glossy. Director Kim Manners, may he rest in peace, was generally the go-to man for horror episodes, and he was no stranger to landmark episodes having previously directed “Humbug” (2×20), an episode as freaky as it is funny. But he outdoes himself on this one. The way he films the famous murder of the Taylors with near wordless poeticism is memorable even if you’re not a fan. And visiting the bowels of the Peacock house is like dropping down to Dante’s 6th circle of hell… and the theme of that circle is The Civil War.

In a way, I feel sorry for these throwbacks and I believe we’re meant to. The Peacocks are just trying to hang on to the last vestiges of life as it has been. Like they did in “Humbug”, Mulder and Scully represent the encroachment as life as it eventually will be for all; perfect looking uber humans floating on a sea of unnecessary technology. As sick, twisted, and perverse as their family is, there’s something sad and poignant about the downfall of the Peacocks because it’s the simultaneous downfall of all that the town of Home represents.

How many enclaves are left where one can keep oneself unspotted from the world? Where young boys can ride their bikes to pick up games in the field instead of being driven from lesson to lesson in their mothers’ black SUVs? Where people know that murder, kidnapping, and rape exist but don’t trouble themselves by worrying about them because they only take place in theory?

This idea collapses after a certain point because the Peacocks, in trying to preserve what they have, end up destroying it (or nearly so) and the town of Home along with it through a series of acts that are monstrous for humans, if not unacceptable in nature. The trouble is, they see themselves as survivors, and morality and survival are often strange bedfellows.

There’s a fine line, I suppose, between incest and inbreeding. One is a forced, violent, or at the very least manipulative act. The other is institutionalized a la the Pharaoh’s of Egypt. For the Peacocks, what they practice is more the latter. This is a way of life to them. At some point they realized no one else was going to willingly marry into the family, so they had to make do with what they already had. Really, this whole thing is a crude form of practicality.

Verdict:

This was X-Files legends Morgan & Wong’s first episode back on The X-Files since leaving in Season 2 to produce their own Space: Above and Beyond. I’m sad to say that as much as I love their work, when they came back in Season 4 they almost seemed to be writing for a different show. Each of the four episodes they wrote on their return were “out of bounds” in one way or another. “Home” I think steps over the line the most successfully.

I love it when Mulder and Scully takeover a small town. There’s nothing shocking about evil in the city, but when it lurks in the cellars of corn-fed middle America there’s always something more sinister about it.

I love Tucker Smallwood as the likeable and wise Sheriff Andy Taylor. I love that Mulder and Scully are making more wise-cracks than usual. And, most of all, I love Johnny Mathis.

True, Johnny Mathis wouldn’t lend his voice to this episode because of its content so it’s actually a Johnny Mathis wannabe that we’re hearing, but it has the same effect.

This was the first X-Files episode to come with a viewer discretion warning for graphic content (the second, “Via Negativa” (8×7), would be more deserving if you ask me). Consequently, the Fox network refused to show it in reruns for the longest, giving the episode an extra layer of mystery to add to its charms.

I can understand why objectively, it’s just hard to understand in reverse since now we live in a world filled with Law & Order: SVU reruns and incest in all its forms is a topic that’s been beaten to death, infanticide too. And the brutal beating? It hardly seems graphic anymore.

It’s not a celebration of such things, it’s an exploration of them. That’s where I draw the line.

A+

Randomness:

So the seed of “Mommy Scully” has been planted. Bearing the future of Season 4 in mind, could that just be a coincidence? I highly doubt it. By now Chris Carter was in the midst of feverishly planning for the upcoming movie. In order to do that, they had to have the trajectory of the mythology for the next couple of years already planned out. Morgan & Wong referenced in interviews that they wrote their episodes at the beginning of the season with a mind to where the writing staff was aiming to have Mulder and Scully at the end of the season. I appreciate the subtle continuity.

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you with this episode number and neither am I. Once The X-Files took off, the production schedule was never the same again. This is the third episode of Season 4 but the second one aired.

Ah, the introduction of David Duchovny’s “Elvis” cut…

Best Quotes:

Scully: Meanwhile I’ve quit the Bureau and become a spokesperson for the Ab-Roller.

———————–

Scully: Mulder, if you had to do without a cell phone for two minutes you’d lapse into catatonic schizophrenia.
Mulder: Scully, you don’t know me as well as you think you do. You know, my work demands that I live in a big city, but if I had to settle down, build a home, it’d be in a place like this.
Scully: It’d be like living in Mayberry.
Sheriff Taylor: Agents Mulder and Scully… Hi, I’m Sheriff Andy Taylor.
Mulder: For real?

————————

Mulder: Is there a history of genetic abnormalities in your family?
Scully: No.
Mulder: Well, just find yourself a man with a spotless genetic make up and a really high tolerance for being second-guessed and start pumping out the little uber-Scullys.
Scully: What about your family?
Mulder: Aside from the need for corrective lenses or the tendency to be abducted by extraterrestrials involved in an international governmental conspiracy, the Mulder family passes genetic muster.

————————-

Scully: You still planning on making a home here?
Mulder: No. Not if I can’t get the Knicks game.
Scully: Well, just as long as a brutal infanticide doesn’t weigh into your decision.

————————-

Mulder: Scully, would you think me less of me as a man if I told you I was a kind of excited right now? There some secret farmer trick to get these things moving?
Scully: I don’t know. Baa-ram-ewe. Baa-ram-ewe.
Mulder: Yeah, that’ll work.
Scully: I babysat my nephew this weekend. He watches Babe fifteen times a day.
Mulder: And people call me Spooky.

————————

Scully: Way I think it goes here is that Edmund is the brother and the father of the other two.
Mulder: Which means that when Edmund was a kid he could ground the other two for playing with his things?

Teso Dos Bichos 3×18: Some things are better left buried.


My sentiments exactly.

Last we heard from writer John Shiban he gave us “The Walk” (3×7), a well-liked if not loved episode. This time around he doesn’t fare as well. Personally, John Shiban wouldn’t win me over as a solo writer until “Elegy” (4×22). When he, Frank Spotnitz and Vince Gilligan worked as a team it was usually to great results but his individual efforts aren’t among my top favorites, the glorious exception of “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18) not withstanding… not that I possess that much talent in a single strand of my DNA you understand.

Still, the sad truth remains that The X-Files hasn’t bombed this badly since Season 1. Even “3” (2×7) is better at least in terms of production value. By the end of the teaser the episode is already a non-starter. Not one thing about the opening is successful. The guys at 1013 had been sipping too much yajé if they thought this would work. From the second I see the mysterious shaman or whoever he is draped in red, ominously looking down from his lofty perch with his cane in hand, my eyes roll of their own accord.

This is The X-Files we’re watching so we already know the curse is real and even so, we’ve seen scarier. Before the episode even starts all chance at real tension is lost. As it continues, a cast of characters parade before us that range from annoying to boring. Not a one of them makes it all the way to “vaguely interesting.” And we need for them to be because the premise behind this episode is less then compelling and the typical “Western invasion of the sacred” politics are a bit of a turn off.

I have this theory I’ve mentioned before that The X-Files never really tackles “ethnic” myths and legends in a believable way. “Fresh Bones” (2×15) more or less succeeds but that’s only because Voodoo is already a familiar concept to the Western mind. The writer didn’t try and tie Voodoo to Hatian culture specifically so much as he created a regular mini-horror flick where explanations and motivations were rendered unnecessary. The thing is that it’s hard to make an audience care about something they don’t understand the significance of and that’s what usually happens in these “ethnic” X-Files.  In case you think I’m relying on a fluke for evidence, my suspicion is about to be confirmed twice in a row. But we’ll discuss “Hell Money” (3×19) tomorrow.

Back to the plot, I had always assumed that the Jaguar spirit had stowed away on a plane or the like to finish up its revenge in North America and that the tabby cats were just its minions or something. I come to find out this rewatch that the killers are actually the stray cats; the last vestige of credibility this episode had in my mind is gone.

Even Kim Manners’ knack for directing horror episodes couldn’t save this one. Something about the Jaguar/Cat special effect is hokey, almost like something out of Season 1 except that Season 1 pulled off something similar much more successfully in “Fallen Angel” (1×9). And poor Gillian Anderson had to be stabbed at with fake cat paws on sticks to film the climax scene because of her cat allergy. It’s a metaphor for the entire episode, really.

After filming Kim Manners had shirts made up for the crew that read “Teso Dos Bichos Survivor” and “Second Salmon”, the second quote being a reference to the number of rewrites the script was subjected to; each rewrite was color coded and they made it to the color Salmon… twice. Says it all, doesn’t it?

Here’s what I think is the biggest problem: It isn’t a story worth telling in the first place. There are some funny lines and some scenes that are clearly aiming to give us an “iconic X-Files” moment. Yet it’s not enough to have the disparate elements without glue to bind them together, namely an interesting premise. The X-Files cannot live by flashlights alone.

Believe it or not, I was actually looking forward to reviewing “Teso Dos Bichos” more than “Pusher” (3×17) even because I believed that like most of the episodes I disliked previously, it would benefit from a fresh set of eyes this rewatch, that looking at from a more critical point of view would help me appreciate some of its finer points. Yeeeeaaah.

In a way though, I was right. I’ve discovered that this episode’s redeeming quality is that it’s hilarious, just not on purpose. “Teso Dos Bichos” may take itself too seriously, but don’t you as the audience make the same mistake. Mulder and Scully face off against killer sewer cats. For pete’s sake, laugh.

Verdict:

No.

D

Questions:

How did Dr. Bilac sneak yajé into the U.S.?

If the Native Indians of Ecuador are so paranoid about disturbing the rest of their dead, what are they doing working at an excavation site?

Comments:

The way Dr. Bilac talks drives me nuts. I feel like scratching out my ear canals every time he comes on screen.

Everyone knows there’s something a little evil about cats.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Personally, if someone digs me up in a thousand years, I hope there’s a curse on them, too.

—————–

Scully: So you think Bilac’s innocent? That the victim wasn’t even killed at all? That he was devoured by a mythological jaguar spirit?
Mulder: Go with it, Scully.

—————–

Scully: Label that.
Officer: As what?
Scully: Partial rat body part.

—————–

Mulder: Do we know for sure it’s Lewton?
Scully: Yeah, by what he had for lunch; corn chowder and it looks like he’d been snacking on sunflower seeds all afternoon.
Mulder: A man of taste.

—————–

Dr. Winters: When I dissected the dog’s stomach, I found an undigested fragment of intestine, which appears to be feline.
Scully: The dog ate a cat.
Dr. Winters: I also found what appears to be bits of rat fur. I think the rat ate the poison.
Scully: Cat ate a rat.
Mulder: And the dog ate the cat.

—————–

Scully: So what are we talking here, Mulder? A possessed rat? The return of Ben?

Guest Post – The Shipper ‘Issue’


Alright, kiddos, we have a new guest poster this week and he has a great topic for us! Eamon is an X Files-lifer and has his own blog dedicated to the entire works of 1013 Productions called “I Made This” which you should definitely go and check out. Yours truly comments over there on the regular. You can also follow him on Twitter for updates at @IMadeThisCC.

Have we Shippers taken over the fandom? Does The X-Files have any lasting legacy other than Mulder and Scully? Even if it does, do we care? Don’t forget to tell us what you think below!

Puking worms. I guess you could say it started with the puking of worms. Okay, that sounds disgusting when you put it like that, but the moment when I realised I was in love was when the sanitation worker puked up a worm in the shower, but only after eating half a tube of toothpaste. Just to clarify I wasn’t actually in love with a sanitation worker, I was in love with the show he was appearing in, The X Files.

It all started about a year earlier actually, flicking through my television when I came across the Jersey Devil stalking the forests of…well…New Jersey (clue in the name I suppose) and being killed for her troubles. It was so unlike anything I had ever seen before, the dark lighting, the moody music score, and plus there was something very appealing about the red head helping the tall, lanky guy who seemed to be the lead character. It was the start of a major obsession, and it played that way all throughout that first season, but it would take the unfortunate shower scene before I’d realise that it was love, pure and simple, a love that would come to define me and my life for years to come. As sad as it sounds, The X Files would play an important part of my life, I could name major parts of my life as they ran concurrent with episodes and storylines of the show (I would have my first girlfriend during the early stages of season eight, when Scully missed Mulder, but then break up with her during the later stages when Scully got him back, oh the irony).

I think it shows how pop culture can be important and somewhat scarily impactful when you care more about a television series or a film than yourself, but it’s true, The X Files ran through my head nearly 24/7. I would buy the comic book, tape and endlessly re-watch episodes of the show, save my pocket money for the latest video tape releases (these were the days before DVD of course) and magazines, in fact I seem to recall buying not just the Official Magazine/Comic Book (they were combined in the UK, one half the comic, the other half interviews, features and the like) but any magazine that displayed the series, which took up too much space in my bedroom as always but which I would devour again and again. Nothing ever took hold of me in the way the adventures of Special Agents Mulder and Scully did and whilst other pop cultural phenomena have played an important part in my life, I don’t think anything has ever topped Chris Carter’s magnum opus. My back wall was a basic shrine to the series, images of David, Gillian, Mitch Pileggi, Robert Patrick and nearly everybody that appeared in the show littered my back wall. I say a shrine but it was more like a mini museum of X Files posters, post cards and anything else you can imagine, with the centre piece being the Fight the Future theatrical poster.

As the series became more sucessful and more popular, many fans, who termed themselves as shippers (I might be wrong here but it might have been with The X Files that the term was coined), documented to a large degree the partnership at the heart of the show, focusing on all those little looks that linger on for a moment longer than normal, a hand holding scene, the little hint of physical contact between Mulder and Scully and that near kiss in Fight the Future. As the years went on and the series entered its sixth and seventh seasons, the series started to play a little bit more with the relationship, episodes like The Rain King starting to more than hint at a romantic interest between the pair whilst season five finale The End introduced Agent Fowley, prompting a jealousy in the character of Scully. The character got the shippers beyond angry despite the fact that in actuality the character only appeared in seven of the two hundred and two episodes of the show, yet scarily seems to have made quite an impact.

I consider myself a bit of a shipper,  as the years have went on I’ve developed more of a love for the central relationship of the series, albeit not in a way that it became my sole reason for loving the series. Truthfully the basis of my love of The X Files has stemmed of my love of science fiction, horror and mystery and in many ways no show before or since has managed to mix these elements as well as Chris Carter and his talanted team of writers did. There have been other shows since that have tried to take on the mantle of “the next X Files” and have succeeded in many ways, namely Fringe and Supernatural, although Fringe is predominantly more science fiction whilst Supernatural is more of a horror series, both shows started off flying in the coat tails of The X Files, mixing stand alones and mythology tales, but they have really flown brighter when branching of in their own directions, developing their own mythology and story arcs, whilst still retaining a sense of that X Files DNA (the late great Kim Manners of course was one of the executive producers on Supernatural).

It’s these elements that have made these shows a success, taking The X Files formula of great mystery and great characters and fashioning great shows, and it’s a great legacy the series has left behind.  Despite controversies over its casting changes and the direction the mythology took, becoming more and more confusing and inconsistant with story revelations, the series has genuinely made a long term impact and it’s played an important part in spearheading the next generation of genre television.

Yet I can’t help but feel that for all the intelligence, all the brilliant storytelling that went on in The X Files, it usually  gets forgottten about in favour of the relationship. I’m not a non-romantic, I love the realtionship between Mulder and Scully. I even love watching the wonderful work that you can see on You Tube, some of the most romantic moments on the show played out to strains of some of the best love songs you can think of (a personal favourite of mine is played to the beautiful melody Love Remains the Same by Gavin Rossdale), my biggest problem with the whole shipper thing is that it seems to dominate the fanbase, the discussions and dissections of the show, that a two second moment of screen time where Mulder and Scully hold hands gets more attention than the frequently ingenious plotting and filmmaking that made the series as great as it was. If you were to describe the story beats of an X Files episode to someone it would sound like a great series, it was this sort of thing that made the series the sucess that it was, with somebody watching it, telling their friends, who then told their friends who then told their friends and so on and so forth (just imagine the split screen moment in Wayne’s World to know what I’m talking about) and yet, despite how thought provoking, intelligent, wonderful and truly, frequently brilliant this show was, it does appear that many get stuck on the one thing when discussing the series, namely “the relationship”.

I don’t think it would really be a problem, but all one has to do is look at season’s eight and nine to see why this could be construed as an issue. David Duchovny’s contract in season eight meant he would only be appearing in half the episodes, season nine he wouldn’t appear at all until the final episode when it was decided the series would shut up shop for good. I’ll not lie about this, I think the penultimate and final seasons of the show have a lot to recommend it. Season eight would see the series re-discover it’s horror roots and it’s brilliant. Roadrunners, Via Negativa, Redrum, they’re great and when Mulder comes back in the second half, the series reformats itself into a serial, building up to the birth of William, whilst season nine has some truly great stand alones (Scary Monsters, 4-D, Audrey Pauley, Release), although the mythology had completely lost it by then, but the stand alones make up for it, yet these last two seasons are largely ignored because of the lack of Mulder and if they do come up it’s largely the Mulder episodes that get the attention, with very little attention given to the great work by the writers, directors, or Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish, who slot into the series nicely. Hell, some fans took an instant dislike to Patrick that seems to have never let up mainly because he took over the mantle of leading man in place of Duchovny.

Look, nobody worships Mulder and Scully more than me, I still have a poster of them on my wall to this day because they’re more than just fictional characters to me, they’re icons, but there was more to the show than whether or not they would ever get it together and the wonderful work by Robert and Annabeth in those last two years shows that the series could function without this “romantic” element, that the writing and direction, feature film-esque production values and atmosphere were as part of the show’s success than the chemistry. Robert Patrick’s performance was a wonderful one, full of dignity and respect and was quitely and understatedly superb. I know Annabeth Gish seems to get a hard time of it from a lot of fans and critics, but I have a thing for quirky brunettes and I’ll fly the flag for Monica Reyes (if she ever releases a CD of Whale Song, I’m first in line), and look at it this way, it’s Reyes who showcases in 4-D and Audrey Pauley, they’re predominantly vehicles for the character and from what I remember they were the most acclaimed episodes that season (both written by Steven Maeda who really seems to shine quite brightly amongst the writing staff those final two years).

In some ways I understand, the Shippers come in a large army and they speak the loudest, and yet I feel that they have too much of a say in the legacy the series has had. One of the things I love about Salome’s blog is that as a reviewer she gets the balance right. {*Editors Note: I didn’t make him say it. I swear.} Wonderful analysis of the tales themselves with a love and respect of the relationship, but more often than not the majority of reviews and analysts from other X Philes are one sided, as if the show is a romantic one, not a scary one, so I beg everyone watching the show to remember, it’s a genre show, always has been, always will be. It was created to be a scary sci-fi show, not a romantic one, the romance becoming a bonus that the series only focused on more in the later years. Chris Carter wanted to create a scary show and that’s how I’ll always think of it.

I suppose it’s probably better that I don’t mention that I’m a big fan of 3 and really like Diana Fowley, those are stories for another day.