Tag Archives: Little Green Men

I Want to Believe: I don’t think I’m the one who’s changed.


 

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This wasn’t the plan. Within a year of the series finale, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz were brainstorming an idea for the next installment in what everyone assumed would be The X-Files’ continuing feature film franchise. The release would be sometime in 2004. The fandom was out there.

But then, there were delays, and negotiations, and delays, and scheduling issues, and more delays… and a lawsuit. By the end of all that, Carter and Spotnitz were left to work with a small budget, an unsupportive studio, and a dwindling fan base; the cultural zeitgeist of the 90’s had passed and even if it hadn’t, Seasons 8 and 9 had laid waste to much of the public’s interest in The X-Files. Oh, and they lost all their plot notes so they had to scrap their previous ideas and start the script from scratch. Oh, and there was a writer’s strike during filming which meant they couldn’t fix any of the script’s problems.

I Want to Believe was a brainchild born under less than ideal circumstances. It’s little wonder then that it wafts whiffs of the smoke of disappointment. When I squint at it mentally, I see a middle aged man looking nostalgically back on his promising youth and trying to keep hope alive for the future.

But is it good?

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One plan that stayed alive from the beginning was to make this movie an extended Monster of the Week episode, a stand-alone, rather than write it as part of the larger mythology. This way audiences who didn’t know the series could get into it; it could generate general interest and pave the path for more films. As a fan who always leaned more toward the stand-alone episodes, I was and am all for this.

IWTB is an atmospheric, contained, pensive film. That’s what it needed to be, especially on a small budget. Personally, I wasn’t looking for loud explosions or dramatic special effects. I needed a Monster of the Week, not that was bigger and badder, but that was better than what I got in a typical episode.

To that end, the film is shot beautifully. The production went back to Vancouver and the director of photography from the series, Bill Roe, was brought back for this big screen effort so it looks like The X-Files. Someone new to the franchise would get a quick and easy idea of its trademark aesthetic. The setting, the chill, the darkness, it’s all perfect. And for a while, it convinces me I’m back home, imaginatively speaking.

But the difficulty in making this a MOTW is that it creates continuity issues for long time fans. When we last saw Mulder and Scully some six years previously, Mulder was on the run for his life after being given the death penalty by the F.B.I.. After being a part of the plan to help him escape, Scully ran off with him, and I don’t suppose she handed in her resignation either. We left them in a hotel room in New Mexico, hiding from an alien infiltrated government and on their way to Canada, ready to give everything in order to prevent alien colonization before D-Day 12/22/12.

In order for this to be a proper MOTW and still fit into the framework of the mythology, I assumed they would still be on the run or in hiding, but would somehow stumble upon an X-File, an outbreak of platonic paranormal activity or some such. I was sort of right about their being in hiding. Mulder’s hiding out in his home office while Scully lives openly, not under an assumed name, and works in a private Catholic hospital. There’s no underlying sense of urgency. (I’m sorry… when did the Super Soldiers stop posing a threat? I don’t need a mythology rundown, just a wee bit of context, please.)

After all that build up Season 9 about the government being out to kill Mulder, after Carter painted these two characters into the ultimate corner where they have no choice but to leave everything and everyone behind to take on the world by themselves, the threat is magically gone, just like Scully’s cancer, just like Mulder’s brain disease, and just like William. It’s safe for Mulder to walk into F.B.I. headquarters now. There are no Super Soldiers hiding in plain sight there. And the government doesn’t care about him one way or the other. “Just do us this favor and we’ll pretend none of it ever happened, Mulder.” Well, I’m going to do this plot a favor and pretend this issue was resolved in a much more satisfactory fashion.

In the grand scheme of things, how they get to this point is not a big deal. All that matters to me is that Mulder and Scully have an X-File to solve again. Mulder and Scully. Mulder and Scully.

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Is it too much to ask to see Mulder and Scully solve an interesting case… together? That’s all I want. That’s what I tuned into The X-Files to see every week. Instead we have Scully at first urging Mulder back into the land of the living only to retreat herself just as things get interesting. If IWTB is anything, it’s a character study, but not of Mulder, of Scully.

For first time viewers, it no doubt doesn’t matter. But for obsessive Philes, we know that Scully has a long history of being a paying passenger on Mulder’s crazy train. She’s briefly fantasized about normalcy in episodes like “Emily” (5×7) and “Dreamland” (6×4). And she’s questioned her life choices a few times in episodes like “Never Again” (4×13) and “all things” (7×17). But as in the ending of “all things”, she has reaffirmed her decision to continue tilting at windmills with Mulder over and over again. She did it, for example, in “Quagmire” (3×22), “Tooms” (1×20), “Paper Clip” (3×2), “Memento Mori” (4×15), Fight the Future, etc. etc. Scully wasn’t dragged into this quest and she hasn’t been dragged along. She’s invested in the journey.

Heck, she even reconfirmed her commitment in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). It’s a strange day indeed when I have to use TFWID as evidence of anything good and true…

Anyway, the last time we saw Scully in “The Truth” (9×19/20) she was doing what she does best after debunking Mulder’s theories and that’s keeping him in the fight, like she did in “Little Green Men” (2×1), “One Son” (6×12), and “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4), to mention a few episodes of note. Scully is the official Keeper of Mulder’s Faith. And that’s why reading between the lines of the script, I believe ITWB was designed to turn the tables, that it’s meant to show us a weary Scully who now has to be urged back into battle herself by Mulder and by God.

This is potentially a very interesting and welcome moment of personal evolution for her character. Characters, like real people (and Scully is real), evolve and change. But if Scully’s going to jump from “Let’s fight the darkness, Mulder” to “I don’t wanna fight the darkness, Mulder” then we need some kind of context as to how and why.

I remember in the script stage talking a lot about what Scully could say and couldn’t say to [Mulder], that it couldn’t be selfish, her refusal to join him and wanting him to stop. She had to have legitimate reasons about where she was in her life. – Spotnitz, Blu-ray Commentary

Did going on the lam test her faith and her patience? Did she miss her family? Is that why she and Mulder settled down and she took a regular job again? Scully says that she and Mulder have a home and that she doesn’t want the darkness to creep back into that home. Is it that she and Mulder have finally found happiness and she doesn’t want to lose it? Or is it the relative peace that she values? ‘Cause they don’t exactly look like they’re living in non-marital bliss…

Is it that she’s rediscovered her calling as a physician? Are we supposed to understand she’s found fulfillment elsewhere now that she and Mulder aren’t chasing monsters anymore and that her work helping others has replaced the necessity of her work on the X-Files? Maybe it’s her relationship with young Christian, who is not so subtly named “Christian” and comes to represent both her lost son and the Christian faith she questions as she thinks on both her own losses and this young boy’s suffering.

If all that is the case, then I’m sad to say it doesn’t prove particularly effective as character motivation. The fate of the wide world rests on Mulder and Scully’s shoulders, but having Mulder out of the house for this case is too much for her to take? So she threatens to leave the only person who understands everything she’s been through? The person who she’s saved and who has saved her more times than she can count? Really? Well just roll me into a ball of confusion.

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When did Scully become that chick? When did she become the clingy girlfriend or the stereotypical cop’s wife for whom no emergency is worth her husband missing dinner? The woman who from the outside male perspective doesn’t appear logical, but purely hormonal? Scully’s suddenly the type to emotionally manipulate Mulder into doing what she wants by holding their relationship over his head?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a very low tolerance for onscreen relationship drama. Breakup or don’t. I have things to do.

I think the tension between Mulder and Scully would have worked much better if it had stayed centered around the case. We’re used to seeing Mulder and Scully at odds. The tension between them comes from their different perspectives, which actually work in a sort of harmony to drive the plot forward. There’s no need to force feed us marital drama. If there’s tension between them, let it be about the work itself, not their personal romance.

After all, as ever, they’re ultimately after the same thing. Scully is trying to save a life and so is Mulder. Not only is she after the same thing, she’s going after it in the same way – by exploring extreme possibilities. Even if Scully is wrapped up in what she’s doing at the hospital, there’s no legitimate emotional reason given for why she wants Mulder to give up trying to save these women and come back home and be a good househusband. (Oh, are you losing Mulder’s attention? I am so sorry.)

But that’s enough of my sarcasm because this isn’t a horrible movie. In fact, it starts off really well. There’s a creepy murder. Mulder and Scully are on a new mission – the team is back together. Mark Snow’s music is as effective as ever. It’s dark, it’s atmospheric, Mulder’s spouting mumbo jumbo nobody cares about and Scully looks worried about him. All is well in my world.

I especially like how the movie keeps us guessing as to the current status of Mulder and Scully’s relationship. Is it just that she knows how to find him for the F.B.I. or that they’re in regular contact? Are they in regular contact or is she at home in that house? Even at the end of the movie, is Scully moving out and saying goodbye or is she leaving for another day at work? See how things don’t have to be out in the open to stay interesting?

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Unfortunately, though, the movie hops over the boredom line at about the halfway mark. As the relationship drama ramps up, the mystery itself winds down. Instead of taking time to develop the villain or up the stakes of the plot, IWTB focuses on Mulder and Scully’s adventures with the peodophile priest. Father Joe is played convincingly and even sympathetically by Billy Connolly. But the overall plot is sacrificed to the themes of persistence and redemption that Father Joe represents. I love those themes, but isn’t there still supposed to be a mystery here worth solving?

Father Joe is here more than anything to be the voice of God for Scully, to convince her not to give up on young Christian or her faith. But, Scully’s like the prophet Jonah. Some people she’d rather not see God forgive. There can’t be a more unregenerate soul than a priest turned pedophile, right? If so, then the theme that absolutely anyone can be redeemed and anyone who presents themselves available can be used by God comes through loud and clear. By the end, Scully seems to have accepted the message on behalf of us all. 

As ever in The X-Files, God, Providence is at work behind the events. These are themes Chris Carter keeps coming back to, no doubt because they’re a part of him.

Verdict:

It’s not great, it’s not horrible. It’s just okay. But “okay” isn’t a satisfying comeback after six years. And “okay” doesn’t get you a third movie.

I remember seeing this in the theater for my 25th birthday. One of my best friends had come down to help me celebrate my quarter life crisis and what perfect timing! Mulder and Scully were back. After the way Season 9 ended and the amount of time that had passed, I had assumed all momentum was gone and that there would be no movie franchise forthcoming. Imagine the thrill when I found out we were getting a new movie, and a MOTW at that!

I was duly giddy with excitement, but I couldn’t help noting that we were about the only ones in the theater. And while the movie started out great, even as I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was happy to be seeing Mulder and Scully onscreen even when I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying myself, I knew even then that this wasn’t the kind of movie that spawned yet another movie. Mulder and Scully waved to me and I waved back to them (shamelessly) with the sad knowledge that this likely really was the end this time.

And then it wasn’t…

“I think we always had the desire that we would potentially do a third feature. I think we all felt that the second one that we did wasn’t necessarily the right way for us to end.” – Gillian Anderson

“I feel like we didn’t end on the right note before.“ – Gillian Anderson

I so agree. And I’m so, so grateful that it didn’t end here. If this had been a mediocre episode of the series, I could’ve shrugged off some of its failings much easier. When I thought it was The X-Files’ last gasp, it was a more painful thought. I’ve gone through ups and downs in my feelings about IWTB, but I think I’ve finally learned to accept it for what it is.  IWTB sounds like an instrument tuning back up. But you don’t listen to the orchestra tune up without then sitting through the concert. This was The X-Files getting a feel for itself again. This was the actors connecting with the characters again. This wasn’t a fully satisfying outing that left you feeling like Mulder and Scully’s journey was complete.

In the end, I’m glad IWTB wasn’t sufficient to launch another movie. In the end, the only satisfying way to finish out this series is to finish it out as a series. A couple of hours of screen time isn’t going to cut it to resolve everything that needs to be resolved. We don’t know where this new miniseries will lead, if it will lead to other miniseries. But if I can see the old team solving cases together one more time, it’ll all be worth it.

C+

Misplaced Bush Jokes:

“This stubbornness of yours… it’s why I fell in love with you.” I HATE this line. It’s the low point of the movie and one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the entire franchise. And no, I’m not surrendering my shipper card.

Enough with the free ads for Google. Google’s doing just fine on its own.

Realistically, this stood no chance being released during The Dark Knight’s massive reign.

A gay man kills innocent people to harvest limbs for transplant for his lover as part of a Russian medical conspiracy. They really thought that would work as a plot, huh?

Amanda Peet and Xzibit don’t feel like X-Files characters.

Speaking of which, what was the point of Agent Whitney’s toothless Mulder crush? I mean, other than kinda grossing me and Scully out?

Scully’s abilities as a doctor were always suspect given her resume. But when did she find time while on the run from the government to undergo training in pediatrics? And now the pathologist is poking around in the brains of the living? Scully does a quick Google search then wheels the boy into the OR for an experimental procedure the same day?

And, really? We’re going to bring Scully back to Seasons 1 & 3 with the “Samantha is Mulder’s only motivation” schtick?

THE BEARD, THO.

I can’t believe the Russians would successfully do those surgeries in those kind of unsanitary conditions.

“Write it down. Put it in a book.” – HUH???

William left me with an emptiness that couldn’t be filled either. Let’s see what happens now…

Dear Revival – As you can see, we’ve already been there, done that with the breakup idea.

Movin’ On Up:

The Skinner Hug. Squeal me.

I remember the actress who plays the missing agent from “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6). TPMP – My eternal debt to Chris Carter.

Between this and TPMP, it’s clear Chris Carter has a Frankenstein fetish.

Father Joe can’t have visions with Scully in the room. Echoes of the Stupendous Yappi in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4).

The hospital asks Scully to let go of her case, Scully asks Mulder to let go of his.

I love the effortless elegance of Scully’s hair.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: If it were me, I’d be on the guy 24/7, I’d be in bed with him kissing his holy ass.

Whitney: Father Joe’s a convicted pedophile.

Mulder: …Maybe I’d stay out of bed with him.

——————–

Scully: What is this?

Whitney: Dorms for habitual sex offenders.

Scully: Dorms?

Whitney: They manage the complex and police themselves. Father Joe lives here voluntarily with his roommate.

Mulder: Just avoid the activities room.

——————–

Scully: What are you doing?

Mulder: [Walks off] I’m trying to ignore you. {Editor’s Note: ME TOO.}

——————–

Skinner: I know Mulder. He’d get to a phone and call first. He wouldn’t do anything crazy.

Scully: [Looks at him]

Skinner: Not overly crazy.

 

Folie à Deux 5×19: See, if you’re not smiling, they can hear it.


The Natural Look

Vince Gilligan is a television genius and this episode has his sense of humor written all over it, rendering it unnecessary to even check the credits for his name. Telemarketing Zombie Grasshoppers? C’mon. We all know who’s responsible for this.

These… insects… are like something out of a 1950’s B sci-fi movie. It’s only one halting step away from the anonymous office worker who took off his hat one day and revealed an over-large pair of red compound eyes. Maybe the charm of that is lost on you, maybe it isn’t, but the zombies aren’t actually the focus of this episode anyway. They’re just a vehicle to showcase the current depth of Mulder and Scully’s partnership – I say “partnership” but it’s more like an “unbreakable psychic bond.”

Think about the way the events of the episode unfold: Mulder bewails his fate. Scully attempts to share Mulder’s fate. Mulder spares her his burden. Scully insinuates herself anyway. Mulder admits he needs Scully. Scully saves Mulder. Scully bewails her fate.

Yes, actually, I have pretty much described the entire series, I Want to Believe included.

One thing I especially love about Vince Gilligan’s episodes of The X-Files, or one person I should say, is Scully. Underneath the comedic icing of episodes like “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and “Bad Blood” (5×12) are subtly nuanced views of her character. This episode, even though the focus is ostensibly on Mulder, is no different. Where Mulder’s character falls into a foreseeable and highly anticipated decline consistent with everything he’s always been, it’s Scully who takes another imperceptible and yet vital step forward in a progression that will be significant in not only the immediately following season finale, but in the movie and the next season to come.

I bet you think this is where I explain how important and gratifying it is that Scully has come to trust Mulder, how she’s almost substituted his instincts for her own. But what’s more significant for Scully’s character is how far Mulder is now able to trust her. If Mulder’s computer-induced daydream of a roundhouse kicking Scully comes to save the day in “Kill Switch” (5×11) was just that, a daydream. Here’s the real thing.

Scully believes in Mulder so strongly that she can see what he sees. Similarly to the events of this episode but with less humor, Scully was worried about Mulder’s sanity in “Grotesque” (3×14), but she didn’t fall down the rabbit hole with him back then. Now their simpatico is such that she can’t help but adopt his psychosis. Surely, it’s not the phenomenon itself she comes to believe in, even if she does see it with her own eyes. Afterward she falters in her explanation of it before Skinner like a guilty schoolgirl. No, rather, Scully has reached the point where it doesn’t matter if what she sees is real or not, what matters is that she and Mulder are seeing the same thing.

“Folie à Deux” is a partnership-focused episode and in it The X-Files firmly establishes just how far Mulder and Scully have come in their relationship since the beginning, a not so subtle reminder right before “The End” (5×20). It’s especially significant in light of the emotional upheaval Scully’s about to experience with the advent of She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Mulder just affirmed Scully’s place in his life in the most explicit terms he ever has. Does she believe him? I don’t see why she wouldn’t. Will she continue to? That’s complicated.

Scully questions why she follows Mulder back in “Quagmire” (3×22), she pouts over it in “Never Again” (4×13), she’ll complain the fruitlessness of it all innumerable times in the future, and yet she stays. Bottom Line: Scully doesn’t believe in the mission, she believes in the man.

Verdict:

If there’s one complaint, one reason why this episode doesn’t garner as many accolades as it could, it’s that those silly insects, the villains of the story, are so cheesy it’s distracting. But then, after all, how scary can a giant bug be? A spider the size of your hand, that’s scary. Once a pest passes the size of a soccer ball, it crosses the Rubicon into comical. The whole thing would have been more of a fright fest if Pincus had been a straight zombie or vampire and they had bypassed the insect angle altogether, but I don’t think that was ever Gillligan’s intent. The comedic undertones are intentional. And considering our arch-villain Pincus is a man-sized grasshopper, I think the visual effects team did an impressive job.

Dial and smile, Gary.

A-

Zombieland:

Telemarketers or zombies, what’s scarier? Their monotone scripts sound like zombie-speak anyway.

How in the round world did Scully get to Chicago so fast?? She hung up with Mulder just before he was taken hostage yet she arrives in front of the building while the SWAT team is still organizing itself. Just once, couldn’t someone write some actual time into the timeline?

Shirley Temple and Bo Jangles are on the television in one scene. Way to combine classic moments in pop culture.

Nice bit of continuity – Mulder’s finger is still broken from the last episode. Vince Gilligan was always a master of continuity nods.

It’s an episode that starts off seemingly about a crazy man holding people hostage and then turns into another thing altogether. Echoes of “Duane Barry” (2×5), anyone?

This is another classic case of Mulder manipulating Scully into an autopsy.

Why is it that every episode where Mulder “frees” Scully from having to jump into the fray with him, she ultimately refuses to stay away? “Tooms” (1×20), “Little Green Men” (2×1), “End Game” (2×17).

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Monsters? I’m your boy.

———————

Mulder: I must have done something to piss him off.
Scully: What do you mean?
Mulder: Get stuck with this jerk-off assignment. Or have I finally reached that magic point in my career where every time somebody sees Bigfoot or the Virgin Mary on a tortilla, I get called out of my basement ward to offer my special insight on the matter.
Scully: You’re saying “I” a lot. I heard “we.” Nor do I assume that this case is just a waste of our time.
Mulder: Well, not yours anyways. There’s no reason both of us should go to Chicago. I’ll take care of it. [Walks away]
Scully: Mulder?
Mulder: I’m Monster Boy, right?

———————

Mulder: Scully at the risk of you telling me “I told you so”, I think it’s time for you to get down here and help me.
Scully: I told you so.

———————

Mulder: Scully, you have to believe me. Nobody else on this whole damn planet does or ever will. You’re my one in five billion.

Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man 4×7 – This isn’t the ending that I wrote.


You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

“No one would kill you, Frohike. You’re just a little puppy dog.”

Oh, if he only knew.

Mssrs. Morgan and Wong are back in a slightly different format this time. Rather than co-writing, Morgan authors the script while Wong sits in the director’s chair. In fact, for his directing debut Wong would go on to win the Emmy for Best Direction. That’s no mean feat.

As they would in all four of their offerings this season, Morgan and Wong try their best to think outside of the frame of a typical X-Files episode, in this case changing up both form and content. Besides giving us an almost Shakespearean play quite clearly delineated into four acts, there’s a fluctuating tone to the tale so that we’re never quite sure from one act to the next whether we’re watching a history or a parody, if this is CSM’s view of himself, Frohike’s view, or the view put forth by the seedy magazine Frohike nabbed the story from.

Even more significantly, this is the first episode where David Duchovny doesn’t make an onscreen appearance. He’s essentially limited to a book-ending set of voiceovers. Gillian Anderson narrowly misses this technicality by appearing in a single scene in flashback. At first watch, I remember missing Mulder and Scully. Over a decade later, I appreciate getting a more in depth look at such a fabulous character.

Certainly CSM deserves it by now.

Part I – An Extraordinary Man

Here’s where everything starts going Forest Gump on us. We always knew CSM was a significant man behind the scenes, but just how significant is he? Well, it turns out that he was the lone gunman that day on Dealey Plaza. Oh, and he didn’t always smoke cigarettes.

Actor Chris Owens makes his X-Files debut here. He would go on to play CSM again in flashback, as well as two other memorable characters, The Great Mutato and Jeffrey Spender. He plays the role with such seriousness that you can believe in this young CSM, that he wasn’t always evil, just pragmatic and ambitious, and that it was a downhill spiral from there.

Part II – A Jack Colquitt Adventure

And now we jump forward in time to CSM the would-be Civil Rights activist, AKA author Raul Bloodworth.

This CSM has successfully and speedily climbed his way up the middle management ladder of the netherworld. Young though he is, he’s powerful enough to chastise J. Edgar Hoover to his face. It seems that the F.B.I. has been under his control since long before Mulder and Scully came into play.

But what’s striking is how typically unfulfilling his day job is. He spends his nights typing pathetic manuscripts living off of beer, cigarettes, and unfulfilled dreams. And while his job description requires that he root out Communism in all its forms, he secretly sympathizes with liberal dreamers, thinking so highly of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that he honors him with a more… personal assassination.

At this point, I’m starting to believe we’re hearing less of Frohike’s news article while more of CSM’s sense of self-importance is creeping in.

Part III – Buffalo Wants it Bad

If we thought CSM was stuck in a crappy boardroom job before, now his position has rusted into the downright mundane. CSM has successfully defeated the Communists. But like every man who reaches the pinnacle of his profession and finds there’s nowhere else to go, he’s left weary and unfulfilled. He goes from killing presidents to rigging football games because, well, what else is there to do? Now it’s hard to see this as anything but a parody.

Getting to see Deep Throat again is a real treat. And their brief, opaque and slightly comical conversation is the highlight of the whole episode. It’s hard to put much stock in their talk, however, as some points don’t agree with the larger mythology arc. But since this is fantasy anyway, you can take and leave what you will.

Part IV – Pack of Morleys

And now, like any great hero, it’s time for CSM to have his heart broken.

I love that they work in that flashback to the “Pilot” (1×79), where CSM was more an enigmatic if ominous presence rather than the Darth Vader that he’s become. This way we can consider who he was and who he’s come to be.

He’s no longer an idealist. He’s not even a realist. He’s just a middle-aged man stuck in a shallow life whose memories of youthful dreams grow duller with every year.

I remember at the age of 14 how my best friend and I found that monologue hilarious. In fact, I had it memorized… and tacked up on my wall. That’s 14 for you. Always drawn to the innocent and uplifting.

Now it’s a bit tedious, and, dare I say it? It tries too hard. It’s amazing how our tastes change.

Conclusion:

Originally, the title was supposed to be “Memoirs of a Cigarette Smoking Man”, reflecting Morgan’s intention that this be a true account of CSM’s past. Chris Carter came in and added both ambiguity in the title and in the narration. Not only can we not be sure of the accuracy of CSM’s memories, we can’t even be sure the plot is being driven by CSM’s mind or by Frohike’s.

The seriousness of the story was supposed to be driven home by the killing of Frohike at the end of the episode, a plot point that 1013 Productions justifiably balked at. While I enjoy that Morgan and Wong weren’t afraid of thwarting the party line, the desire to kill off Frohike represents a serious misjudgment of the tone of the series. Sure, Chris Carter liked to claim that no one’s really safe on The X-Files. But then, he also likes to say that no one ever really dies on The X-Files either. Just like Deep Throat in this episode, ghosts return without warning.

Why? Because Deep Throat’s presence adds value to the series’ development at this point? No. Because the fans love him and nostalgia is a powerful force.

Even aside from emotional reasons, killing Frohike would have ill fit the tone of the episode, which lent itself to something just short of a parody. Taken as a whole, it makes CSM, as Chris Carter so appropriately put it, “sort of a silly person.” I’m not so sure he can be silly and frightening at the same time, despite the fact that Morgan’s goal was to make CSM a real threat again:

“I told Chris, ‘Look, the Cancer Man is becoming a bore. When you get to episode one hundred and he and Mulder have the guns to each other’s heads, I’m not going to worry, because the Cancer Man has never done anything. I’m telling you right now, you’ve got the Cancer Man as a wuss ball. He’s nothing. He’s got to do something dangerous.’”

Maybe they missed that CSM had both men exposed to the Black Oil’s radiation killed and his henchman, Luis Cardinal killed in “Apocrypha” (3×16). Or that he keeps trying with all sincerity to kill Krycek. Or that he just had X killed in “Herrenvolk” (4×1).

The truth is, whatever the pile of murders on his conscience, the audience will never seriously believe that he’ll kill either Mulder or Scully. We’d have no show if he did. It’s enough to show that he’s willing. Suddenly turning things deadly serious by killing Frohike would have lent credence to the whole tale, which would have made some obvious issues of cannon more of an issue.

Besides, Morgan and Wong created the Lone Gunmen. Why so eager to kill one of them off? (As an aside, it’s interesting how in television you can create something only to find that it’s no longer yours. Not only do they characters take off on their own based on an audience’s response and interpretation of them, but production companies and film studios end up having more of a say in their future than you do.)

The best thing about this episode is that it’s clever, in both form and content. Is it great? I can’t quite call it that because I still get bored at moments, but I appreciate what Morgan and Wong were trying to do here. Once again, they’re pushing the boundaries of the show. In that regard, it’s not as successful as “Home” (4×3) but it’s surely not as polarizing as “The Field Where I Died” (4×5)… thank goodness.

At times the story is a little bogged down by the nitty gritty of History. Because of this, it moves slowly. And there’s nothing paranormal to speak of save for a fleeting view of a dying alien. But looking back on the history of the show, it’s nice to have this change of pace, if only to prove that The X-Files could do it.

B+

Comments:

Whatever details Morgan and Wong may have missed, there’s a nice thread of continuity with Deep Throat. He mentions having served in Vietnam and in “Little Green Men” (2×1), Mulder claims to have seen his funeral at Arlington Cemetery. That explains that.

Even the acts are filmed in different colors. Saturated 1960’s hues for the Kennedy assassination, black and white for the second act, reflecting the majority of photos of the Civil Rights era.

Questions:

Who is CSM writing a letter of resignation to? How do you resign from The Syndicate? Do they have a payroll? And why is he purposefully leaving a paper trail??

Best Quotes:

William Mulder: My one year old just said his first word.
Smoking Man: What was the word?
William Mulder: JFK.
Smoking Man: Catch you later, Mulder.

———————–

Smoking Man: What I don’t want to see is the Bills winning the Super Bowl. As long as I’m alive that doesn’t happen.
Third Man In Black: Could be tough, sir. Buffalo wants it bad.

————————

Smoking Man: So did the Soviets in ‘80.
Third Man In Black: What? You saying you rigged the Olympic hockey game?
Smoking Man: What’s the matter? Don’t you believe in miracles?

————————

Deep Throat: I’m the liar, you’re the killer.
Smoking Man: Your lies have killed more men in a day than I have in a lifetime. I’ve never killed anybody.
Deep Throat: Maybe I’m not the liar.

————————

Smoking Man: Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you’re stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there’s nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there’s a peanut butter cup or an english toffee but they’re gone too fast and taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits of hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. If you’re desperate enough to eat those, all you got left is an empty box filled with useless brown paper wrappers.

————————

Smoking Man: I can kill you whenever I please… but not today.

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


I'll take door #2, Monty.

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

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

Here’s a reference for the pop culturally challenged:

Not as painful as it looks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic? Yes. Effective? YES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

End Game 2×17: Did you tell her what she needed to know?


Mulder, say it ain't so!

In the aftermath of Scully’s abduction by the alien Bounty Hunter (her second one just this season), Mulder’s investigative instincts finally start kicking in and he begins to question Samantha’s story. According to her, the clones are aliens. Clones of two original aliens who came to this planet some years back. They’re waiting out human beings so they can possess the planet. Meanwhile, they’re forced to separate themselves because 50 people who look exactly the same living in close proximity to each other would be sure to attract notice. In order to differentiate themselves physically, they’ve been working to hybridize their DNA with human DNA. If it works, they’ll be able to live together as a colony. The Bounty Hunter comes from the original alien race who considers mixing alien DNA with sub-par human DNA anathema.

An interesting story, one that I’m pretty sure we can disregard in its entirety. Moving on… to earlier in the episode…

Y’all have to pray for me. I enjoy watching fake Mulder beat up Scully way too much. I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to give me the thrill it does. That can’t be healthy.

Interesting how Scully knows which Mulder is the fake Mulder. You would think, skeptic that she is, she would assume the Mulder standing in front of her is real since a voice is easier to fake than an entire body. And even though she realizes there are identical men running around, the clones, she has no idea about the shape-shifting alien. That she instinctively realizes the man in front of her is not Mulder and acts accordingly reveals something about her character. She may not always understand what’s going on and she may not believe it, but Scully follows the evidence to wherever it leads her. This must be what Mulder was talking about back in “Squeeze” (1×2) when he says that she “respect[s] the journey.”

For all her bravery in that scene, Scully is obviously afraid. Check out her body language in that scene on the bridge and, in particular, the way she sinks into the seat after she’s released and goes to the car. Vulnerable Scully has made a brief reappearance. And why shouldn’t she? She’s been held hostage by a very large shape-shifting alien.

Here’s the real kicker. Mulder is willing to risk Samantha’s life to get Scully back. Samantha, the younger sister whose disappearance all those years ago tore a part his family and continues to tear at his sanity. This is where my theory comes in. Ready? Let’s go.

After Scully’s abduction, Scully went from being Mulder’s closest friend and ally to being a surrogate Samantha to him. Both women were taken from him and he was helpless to stop it. Both were idolized in his mind, Samantha because she was taken so young, before she was able to do anything truly wrong or to tarnish herself in her brother’s eyes and Scully because she became even more valuable to him once they had been separated through the closure of the X-Files. If in doubt, check the way they moon over the loss of each other for about the first half of the season. There are too many moments in too many episodes to cite. Absence certainly makes the heart grow fonder. Furthermore, now that Scully’s been returned Mulder is noticeably more protective and affectionate. But why brotherly affection? Can’t this just be a budding romance, you say?

Doubtful. Or should I say, starting a romance would take their relationship off of the pedestal that both Mulder and Scully seem to have put it on. They both suffer from idealization of the other to the extreme until we reach Season 3. That’s when the writers decide that they’ve had enough of this honeymoon. But I digress. Suffice it to say that Scully is still too lofty in Mulder’s mind for him to downgrade her to dateable material. It’s true that Mulder occasionally mentions her looks, but in such a benign way that I’m reminded of the things close male friends and relatives say about the women in their lives. No, Mulder ain’t shippin’, he’s trippin’.

My whole, long-winded point is that Mulder is willing to trade Samantha for Scully because the women are of equal worth to him. You might even argue that Scully already means more to him whereas Samantha is a stranger outside of his imagination seeing as how she’s been gone so long, but I won’t be so bold. Again, it’s interesting that while Mulder is upset over losing Samantha he doesn’t show any real regret over his choice and he’s certainly not the angry wreck he was over Scully in “One Breath” (2×8). Part of the reason has to be that deep down he was suspicious of Samantha, her story, and her motives.

But let’s get to the real star of this episode, shall we? The Skin Man. You could have narrowed down the entire episode to two scenes, when Mulder beats up Scully and when Skinner and X beat up each other, and I still would have been happy. There are a lot of fisticuffs flying on The X-Files these days. Anyway, how can you not love a man who takes, and dishes, a beating for Mulder? And with such radical coolness?? Skinner is officially one of the good guys. Welcome to the team, dude.

…And the verdict is:

I daresay it’s this episode arc that actually created the mythology. Before this, the conspiracy was disjointed and far too varied. Any and every strange happening could be and was the result of a government cover-up, often without much rhyme or reason. Scully’s abduction arc hinted at what was possible, but here the show delivers.

Are there any flaws? A few. The scene when Mulder breaks the news about Samantha to his father doesn’t read quite right. I see the sadness in Mulders eyes but I don’t hear it in his voice. Also, Mulder has to break tragic news like that and he makes his dad come to him? Stranger than that, Mulder tells Mr. Mulder that Samantha was demanded in return for a hostage and he doesn’t question that at all.

Then there’s the fact that as much as I enjoy watching Scully hover over Mulder’s hospital bed, the ending feels a bit like a tacked on excuse to put Mulder in danger and have Scully run after him. It’s as if they came up with the idea for the beginning of “Colony” (2×16) and then had to figure out a way to get Mulder in that situation. But that’s only if you watch closely, and I’m not really complaining.

This episode also closes a character arc that’s been haunting Mulder since “Little Green Men” (1×1); he has to decide whether or not to believe that his memories of Samantha’s abduction are real and if looking for the truth is even worth the cost. As of that final line, he’s decided that it is… yet again. In case you miss all this angst, don’t worry, Mulder’s doubts will be back. It’s like his own personal game of whack-a-mole.

A-

Questions:

What is Scully thinking as she hears Mulder yell out “Samantha?” She can’t possibly assume it’s his long lost sister. But I bet she wondered.

If the only way to kill both the Bounty Hunter and the clones is with a wound to the back of the neck, why did the fake Samantha die when she fell off the bridge? I guess we have to accept that the Bounty Hunter stabbed her in the water or on the way down.

If the green, alien blood infects people with a deadly virus, why wasn’t Mulder affected by it back in “The Erlenmeyer Flask”? They left him on the floor, they didn’t put him in cold storage. I can only retroactively assume that he was infected but that he was treated before he was returned.

Why do the clones darkly hint that Mulder has to help them? Why do we never find out what it is they know? And don’t say it’s that Samantha is alive. How can you trust the word of a man who shape-shifts for a living?

Comments:

The Bounty Hunter even cracks a joke like Mulder… as Mulder. Impressive.

The virus goes dormant at cold temperatures. Fast forward to Fight the Future and we can applaud 1013 Productions on their consistency.

Why does the government try to keep the Bounty Hunter from leaving when they’re the ones using him to stop the experiments from being successful? Are Chris Carter & Co. trying to hint that this Alien Bounty Hunter isn’t a part of the government conspiracy but is a lone wolf of sorts? Thinking forward to Season 4, I take back what I said about being consistent.

Please, please, for the love of all that’s lovely in this world, give Scully an excuse to smile more!

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Why does he want to kill you?
Samantha Mulder: Because I know how to kill him.
Mulder: How?
Samantha Mulder: By piercing the base of the skull.
Mulder: That would kill anybody.
Samantha Mulder: Yes, but this is the only way to kill him and it must be precise. I’m fairly sure it will work.
Mulder: Fairly sure?

——————

Mulder: Make yourself at home.
Skinner: What’s going on here, Agent Mulder? Why are all the lights out?
Mulder: Orders from my ophthalmologist.

——————

Mr. X: You wanted to see me?

Mulder: How was the opera?

Mr. X: Wonderful. I’ve never slept better. I don’t like these hasty public meetings, Agent Mulder.

Mulder: I’m sorry. I need your help.

Mr. X: It’s over. The fat lady is singing.

Mulder: I need to know what you know.

Mr. X.: OK. They’re all dead.

——————

Bounty Hunter: If I wanted to I could have killed you many times before.
Mulder: Where is she?
Bounty Hunter: Is the answer to your question worth dying for? Is that what you want?
Mulder: Where is she? Just tell me where she is.
Bounty Hunter: She’s alive. Can you die now?

——————

Scully: Hey. How you feeling?
Mulder: Like I got a bad case of freezer burn. How did I get here?
Scully: A Naval reconnaissance squad found you and choppered you Eisenhower Field. Thanks for ditching me.
Mulder: I’m sorry. I couldn’t let you risk your life on this.
Scully: Did you find what you were looking for?
Mulder: No. No, but I found something I’d thought I’d lost. Faith to keep looking.

Fresh Bones 2×15: No more magic than a pair of fuzzy dice.


A compass by any other name.

We open with a family that appears to be having some issues. At first you think it’s another case of a man dissatisfied with his life, his family, his career. That is until you see the maggots in his bowl of cereal. Once again, The X-Files does a wonderful job of playing with our presumptions.

Also in true X-Files fashion, it takes the familiar Zombie legend and legitimizes it with science. Here’s an idea that you dismissed as a kid made intelligent, even feasible. With that said, you have to keep in mind that “Fresh Bones” has to be experienced, not understood. It’s not the plot that’s gripping, it’s the idea, the suggestion. This is an episode that’s truly supposed to be watched.

Isn’t all TV supposed to be watched, you say? Well, for this episode, the visuals are all one has to hold on to. It’s certainly not the acting and, as I mentioned, not the writing. Instead it’s the camera angles, the frightening images that it burns into your retinas. And I’m not knocking that. In this case it’s sufficient for entertainment.

Whatever you may think of the story, the production is top notch even after all these years. Already the most recent episodes are so much more polished than they were even at the beginning of the season. Just compare these last three episodes to “Little Green Men” (2×1), “The Host” (2×2), and “Blood (2×3).” It isn’t just that the subject matter is more shocking, it’s the direction, the acting (for the most part). They’re getting the hang of this thing.

One thing I had forgotten about over the years is how often crossover took place between the mythology and the stand-alone episodes in these early seasons. It doesn’t always make sense. Why would X go all the way to North Carolina just to tell Mulder that guards were abusing refugees? Doesn’t he have aliens, green ones, to exterminate? I smell an unnecessary plot device.

…And the Verdict is:

This episode doesn’t have very many fans and while I personally like it, I can understand why that is. We’re not left with many resolved questions in the end and it falls prey to Season 2’s An Excess of Red Herrings Syndrome. The plot is at points too mysterious for it’s own good. And there’s some political rhetoric thrown in which I confess I don’t fully understand because I was too young to know about what was happening at the time in regards to refugees. But for me, it walks that fine line of leaving the audience with questions and yet giving them a satisfying resolution. No, I don’t know what all went down but I know that Wharton was behind it. Watching him receive his comeuppance is enough.

There’s an abundance of striking images that are hard to forget. Maggots in the cereal, Wharton buried alive, bleeding meat, the dog’s corpse, and of course, a man digging his way out of Scully’s hand. That was a straight-up horror moment right there. In fact, it’s best to think of this episode as a horror film in miniature. Do you complain about the lack of a plot in Nightmare on Elm Street? No. It wasn’t made to have a plot. Take it for what it is.

Me, I’m just loving that The X-Files has reached the point where you can tune in every week and know that you’re going to see something freaky.

B

Random Questions:

What secret was Wharton looking for? The secret to immortality or something? Was he trying to bring Bouvier back from the grave? You’d think he’d know better than to resurrect a man he murdered. That doesn’t a happy reunion make.

Last we left off with X, he had warned Mulder that the men who took Scully would be at his apartment that night and claimed that they couldn’t see each other again for several weeks. Why did Mulder think that would be the end of their relationship? Because he didn’t take X up on his offer but instead went to the hospital to be with Scully? How did Mulder interpret that vague calling card so easily? 

Random Thoughts:

Scully’s a doctor. She knows about infections and she would know to get that wound checked out. Not only that, but with all this talk about poisons and toxins she’d be even more on the alert. Instead, she rubs her hand idly and ignores the obvious. But as long as it gives us an excuse to have that scene in the car where Scully goes all wild-eyed, I’m cool.

Scully is way too obvious when she looks out the window after Mulder tells her they’re being followed. Where’s that covert training, G-Woman?

Rob Bowman was probably capable of making even the most ridiculous episode fun to watch.

An X-Files episode in New Orleans would have been an utterly awesome match made in Heaven. The Skeleton Key meets Silence of the Lambs.

Best Quotes:

Scully: [On finding a bag of frogs] Maybe I should kiss a few and find out if one is Guttierez.

—————–

Colonel Wharton: I’m sorry. I’m having my breakfast.
Mulder: That’s alright. We already ate.

Duane Barry 2×5: A fine thread of sanity.


Let me show you those drill holes!

Is Duane Barry Mulder’s future?

Mulder’s been sliding down a dangerously deluded path for a long time now. He even admitted in “Little Green Men” (2×1) that he didn’t know whether his quest amounted to little more than tilting at windmills. But the whole point of that episode was that it didn’t matter if Mulder was right or wrong as long as he kept going. Now Mulder, similarly to Duane Barry, is at the point where it’s again important to him to prove the truth of what he’s been claiming all these years.

When you think about it, there are quite a few parallels between these two characters. While Duane is eventually used as a patsy by CSM to carry out his dastardly plans in regards to Scully, initially Duane kidnapped his doctor not to make an exchange with the aliens, but to prove to him that he’s been telling the truth all along. Duane wants desperately to be believed. He wants to be understood. Well, so does Mulder. And like Duane, Mulder is willing to go to fantastic lengths to expose the truth. He thinks he’s willing to go to any length, but this episode will test Mulder’s resolve in that regard.

In the end, Mulder is proven right. Duane Barry was telling the truth. But in being validated, Mulder loses Scully. He finds the truth and meets the consequences. Was it worth it? Is the cost too high to find the answers? Is it enough to know you’re right and be right all by yourself? Mulder will be dealing with those questions for the next few episodes.

Of course, these events don’t transpire naturally. Krycek has been sent to spy on Mulder by CSM, presumably to gauge what information he has and were he’s getting it from. Unfortunately for their plans, Mulder is stuck like glue to his old partner Scully and isn’t interested in learning to trust Krycek. That’s a problem because not only do Mulder and Scully have the annoying habit of getting to the bottom of things, but as long as Mulder keeps Krycek out of the loop it’s going to be hard to feed him disinformation. What to do, what to do…

What they do is manipulate Duane Barry through a staged abduction scenario into kidnapping Scully and bringing her to them. It’s clear why they used someone like him. Because of his medical and psychological history, there’s no need to discredit his story. He discredits himself. That’s no doubt why they took him for abductions in the first place.

…And the Verdict is:

This episode is about truth versus delusion and how sometimes you can’t tell the difference. Mulder is sure about Duane, then unsure about Duane, then sure again. Does it matter either way? It does for Mulder because the events of the last several months have weakened his confidence in his beliefs. Even though now he’s surer than ever, soon he’ll learn the cost of that certainty.

Steve Railsback gives a fabulous turn as Duane Barry. His character was set up in such a way that his performance would make or break the episode and I’m glad to say he couldn’t have done a thing better. To be both frightening and endearing is a hard line to walk.

It’s also exciting to see the conspiracy take a diabolical turn this season. Before, the issue was whether they were keeping the secret of alien life from the American public. But this, this is personal. CSM is out to contain Mulder and if he has to hurt him to do it, so be it.

Overall, a great episode that leaves you wondering which lie to believe.

A-

Quirks:

Why didn’t the FBI set up a roadblock once they knew from the police tape what general area of Virginia Duane Barry was in? It’s not like he changed direction on them.

Didn’t the hostage team already assume Duane Barry was dangerous and delusional? Mulder was the only one who believed him even though he knew Duane came out of a mental hospital. I don’t see why the information Scully brought was so earth-shattering.

CSM is controlling Duane Barry, not aliens, which would meant that the government is behind the abductions. If that’s true, how can they do things like stop time? And if they can stop time, shouldn’t they be able to balance the budget?

Thoughts:

Another highlight was that scene where Scully scans Duane’s implant in the supermarket. Americans are being abducted and tagged like so much human merchandise. Only on The X-Files. Also, that old-fashioned “asterisk” scanner brings back memories.

Those alien costumes look like alien costumes. That will make more sense later. Hide a lie within a lie. To hide the aliens, pretend to be aliens.

Did we just hear the very first, “Mulder, it’s me?” I don’t think I heard it in an episode previously, but I could be wrong.

Best Quotes:

Krycek: Is there anything I can do?
Agent Kazdin: Yeah. What’s your name again?
Krycek: Krycek.
Agent Kazdin: Krycek. Have you got your notepad?
Krycek: Yeah. [Takes out notepad.]
Agent Kazdin: Grande, 2% cappuccino with vanilla. Agent Rich?
Agent Rich: [Waves, “No.”]
Agent Kazdin: [Walks off.]
Krycek: [Replaces notepad with disgust.]