Tag Archives: Mind’s Eye

Underneath 9×9: You can’t think Milli Vanilli is cool!


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For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

– Romans 7:18-21
I had no earthly recollection of this episode.

It has the dubious distinction of being the only episode of The X-Files that I ever missed when it aired. It was my freshman year in college and I woke up in my dorm room with a start and realized that I’d missed my show. It was a sad moment because it was a blemish on my perfect record of fanservice. It was made sadder still because I knew I probably hadn’t missed anything interesting.

And those were the days when you couldn’t run to the internet the day after a show aired to watch what you missed. Sleeping through The X-Files that night meant I had to wait until the DVD set came out to see it, and there was a relatively long turnaround time on that.

So I watched it… eventually. But for the life of me, it didn’t take in my head. I only remembered bits and pieces as I rewatched it for this review.

And you know what? I was wrong that night. I had missed something interesting.

Now, it could be that I find it unduly interesting coming off of the first half to a season that has been alternately aggravating, boring, laughable, and occasionally mildly entertaining. After all, I had completely forgotten the content of “Underneath” so it couldn’t have been that great either. And it probably still isn’t that great.

But for whatever reason, I was invested from the teaser this time and I found myself more entertained than I’ve been all season. My heart hurts a little for Robert Fassl, aka The Cable Guy, because he looks truly innocent and tormented. I really, really want to know what’s happening to him. Quick! We need some paranormal investigators to figure out what happened to the victims and clear his name.

Unfortunately, half the X-Files team is working to prove his guilt. That would be Doggett, who as it turns out was one of the arresting officers that night thirteen years ago, when Fassl was found looking guilty as sin in the house of the deceased.

You have to admire Doggett’s integrity in this episode. Yes, he’s as resistant to extreme possibilities as ever and one has to wonder when he’s ever going to open up a little bit. After all, he’s seen his fair share of the inexplicable now. But he genuinely wants to get to the truth of the matter, which is more than can be said of the District Attorney charged with seeking justice on behalf of the people.

And even Reyes proves herself genuinely useful! She’s not just a sidekick with a crush on Doggett, she’s actually an intelligent woman whose background in Religious Studies offers her unique insight into this case. For once, her leap in logic isn’t based on her feelings but, in echoes of Mulder, a unique ability to connect the seemingly disparate dots.

And wait for it… even Scully isn’t dead weight! That dark cavern that has opened up before you is my mouth gaping in shock.

Could it be they’ve found a way to utilize all three characters believably on the same case? Are we getting more insight into who Doggett is and who he used to be? Is that Reyes walking around in a Matrix coat? Gee golly willikers.

Between the three of them they solve this case, but it turns out that for all the compassion the teaser inspired in me, Fassl was the one responsible for these gruesome murders. My compassion wasn’t completely misplaced, though. This is a man trapped in the endless cycle of his own sin and who hasn’t been there?

Verdict:

In many ways, this reads like a classic X-File to me – a man so in denial, unable to face his own evil, that he accidentally creates a monster he can’t control. Yes, parts of it are a little standard, but I like standard. I miss standard. This case could have easily fit in the Mulder and Scully era, yet it perfectly fits our little duo plus one. So thank you, John Shiban, for bringing us back to basics.

One has to wonder what they would have done if they had merely caught Fassl instead of having been forced to kill him. Is there a treatment for split-body disorder? Is there an app for that? Or is recognition and repentance the cure? I find Fassl’s story interesting. And for Season 9, this is the most I’ve enjoyed myself so far.

But, Krycek, what are you doing here?

B+

ZZ Tops:

How would Fassl have replaced the cover over the cable access hole behind himself?

The actor who plays Fassl with such pathos, W. Earl Brown, graduated from The Theatre School at DePaul University one year before Gillian Anderson. He’s been in lots of things, most famously Deadwood. Actress Lili Taylor who guest starred in “Mind’s Eye” (5×16) is also a fellow alumnus.

John Shiban has been a writer on the show since Season 3, but this was his first directing effort.

Giving Doggett a close former partner who breaks his heart through his lack of integrity is a good choice. It reminds me of how the audience learned more about Mulder in Season 1 through his relationships with former co-workers – “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6), “Fire” (1×11), “Young at Heart” (1×15).

That beard, tho.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: A cop I know, a man I respect deeply, he told me one time, “You don’t clock out at the end of your shift unless you know you did everything you could.” That’s what this is about. Me not clockin’ out.

———————-

Bob Fassl: I pray all the time. I pray even when it looks like I’m not praying.

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


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“Casey” and the Sunshine Band

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

B

Musings:

I could’ve done without that spider just fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mercy triumphs over justice.

Best Quotes:

Trina: M… Mr. Wells, I…

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

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

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

———————–

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

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

Mind’s Eye 5×16: I have the same pair of pants.


The blind leading the blind.

First off, in “Mind’s Eye” we have a great guest star in indie movie maven Lili Taylor who gives a performance as the blind yet brazen Marty Glenn that sells the entire episode. I dare say that as solid as the episode is it would have fallen apart with a lesser actress in the central role. Even Mulder and Scully come off more as supporting players in her drama than leads themselves. That’s quite an accomplishment considering the dynamic duo was at the height of their television popularity. I must not be the only one who think so since Lili Taylor was nominated for an Emmy for this performance.

This isn’t the first time Mulder has developed a bit of a platonic crush on a woman who most people would cross the street to avoid. Remember “Oubliette” (3×8)? “The Field Where I Died” (4×5)? Even as early as “Conduit” (1×3) and “3” (2×7) we see Mulder’s unique ability to relate to the women that no one else can and believe them when no one else will. It’s hard not to attribute Mulder’s sympathy toward any Little Girl Lost as a psychological byproduct of losing his sister Samantha at such a young age. It’s hard not to and I wouldn’t try not to because I have no doubt that it is. Still, I also have no doubt that that’s not all it is.

To be sure, it’s easy to see how if by some miracle Samantha returned, after the glow of reunion had faded, would resemble these socially maladapted women to no small degree. If Mowgli resented mankind after being raised by wolves how much more a girl on the cusp of puberty stolen and raised by aliens, let alone by Cigarette-Smoking Man which is another distinct possibility. I’m sure she would feel displaced and misunderstood, the way anyone would who came back from the dead.

But more than that, Mulder himself is like a male version of these women, two steps away from needing a psychiatric intervention. He’s misunderstood, emotionally isolated, jaded and dismissive of people who try to befriend him. The main differences are that Mulder is hopefully proactive, refusing to believe that he can’t change what ails him, and unlike these poor and poorly educated women Mulder is no underdog. He has the power of his position, education, and reading between the lines of his family background, grew up with a decent amount of money to fall back on as well. Maybe that’s why these kinds of women tend to resist his help and maybe that’s why he’s intent on rooting them on.

I wasn’t a big fan of “Oubliette” as it was hard to follow Mulder in his attachment and mentally rally behind a character who walked around as limp as a fish. At least in this episode Marty Glenn has some spice. There are worse emotions than wanting to slap her, like being bored by her altogether.

Verdict:

This episode reminds me of earlier seasons. The resolution is bittersweet rather than satisfying and it’s quiet, without all the typical bells and whistles that we’ve come to expect in episodes of recent seasons. It’s not the most memorable or the most exciting tale, but it is a solid showing in a season that’s especially strong.

One thing that I like is that the writers are getting better at allowing Mulder or Scully to shine for an episode without making the other partner look bad. Mulder connects to Marty without alienating Scully unlike in “Conduit” and “Oubliette” where Scully is antagonistic. In fact, this time around she accepts Mulder’s final hypothesis with in a calm and unsurprised manner. Then again, I suppose it would be disingenuous of her to be taken aback by Mulder’s theories at this late stage in the game.

As I was watching, I remembered originally wanting to dislike this episode because I disliked Marty, but I just couldn’t. True, I’m still not sure I understand Mulder’s emotional response to her, but her story is an interesting one and hey, at least she’s a proactive author of her own tale rather than a passive victim. That’s why out of all the Little Girl Lost episodes this is the only one that passes muster.

B+

Bits and Pieces:

Writer Tim Minear only has one other credit on The X-Files beside this episode, a joint effort with Vince Gilligan, “Kitsunegari” (5×8), the somewhat disappointing follow up to “Pusher” (3×17).

Actor Blu Mankuma makes his second appearance on The X-Files in this episode. He first showed up in the much-panned Season 1 episode “The Ghost in the Machine” (1×6). I wonder how surprised he was and the direction the show had taken since then…

In a rare reversal of roles, Scully runs the opening slideshow.

Coincidentally, the last time The X-Files pulled the “psychic connection” bit we were watching “Oubliette”, another episode where Mulder becomes emotionally involved with a grumpy and misunderstood woman.

Best Quotes:

Marty Glenn: So… I’m all ears.

——————

Detective Pennock: You know, the thing I find most surprising about this case is you. You are one skeptical guy, Agent Mulder.
Mulder: Skeptical?
Detective Pennock: Oh yeah!
Mulder: I’ve been called a lot of things. Skeptical, however, is not one.
Detective Pennock: Yeah, whatever.
Mulder: [Answers cell phone and mutters under his breath] Skeptical…

——————-

Detective Pennock: It looks to me like it [the glove] fits.
Marty Glenn: Somewhere, Marcia Clark weeps.

——————-

Marty Glenn: I’d never seen the ocean before. And now when I close my eyes… or even when I open them… that’s all I see.
Mulder: Well, you’re lucky he wasn’t a fan of the Ice Capades.

Conduit 1×3: I’ll send him a bundt cake.


They’re heeeere!

If the “Pilot” established that Samantha’s abduction was the driving force behind Mulder’s crusade, “Conduit” takes the idea further by proving that it’s also a deep source of emotional pain for him. While not the scariest or most inventive episode, “Conduit” successfully provides the groundwork for Fox Mulder’s character over the next 9 seasons and so it holds up over time.

There’s something touching about the way Scully, if she doesn’t directly stand up for Mulder, keeps Blevins from breaking his heart. Mulder doesn’t know it, but Scully’s trying to help him by asking her skeptical questions. She’s looking for a reason to defend this case to their superiors. Yes, Scully cares enough about Mulder’s feelings not to tell him what went on with Blevins. Apparently, she hasn’t forgotten their motel bonding in the “Pilot”. Even her later attempt to get him to stop looking for his sister was probably a well-meaning effort to end his suffering. Well-meaning. Misplaced.

Call me over-analytical, but I think this exploration of Mulder’s motivations means that other aspects of the series make more sense as well. Most notably, Mulder’s pain over Samantha’s abduction is easily identifiable with his innate empathy for anything that hurts, be it man or beast. This plays out all the way into Season 8’s “The Gift” (8×11).

In particular, Mulder has the oftentimes irritating desire to rescue maidens all forlorn. No Rapunzels, mind you. They might be in distress but the women Mulder feels drawn to are hardly damsels, they’re damaged. And they are legion… “3” (2×7), “Oubliette” (3×8), “The Field Where I Died” (4×5), “Mind’s Eye” (5×16) and we could keep going. Conduit’s Ruby Morris is the forerunner of all these. Somehow these troubled women are the way that Mulder sees his sister; left to rot, ignored or shunned by the rest of society. I won’t go too much into it here, there are still 9 seasons to go. But it’s gratifying to see the character continuity the show was able to maintain despite the army of writers that came and went.

This episode contains, for me, one of the most uncomfortable moments in the entire series. Scully crossed a line here. She had no business telling Mulder to stop looking for his sister. Who is Scully at this point, to Mulder, that she can take that kind of liberty? This isn’t her emotional battle and she hasn’t been with Mulder long enough in the trenches for her angry plea to carry any wait. I think she’s aware of it since for the rest of the episode she’s more subdued and less argumentative. The expression on Mulder’s face makes you wonder for a moment if he’ll ever forgive Scully. It’s a testament to the trust they’ve already built that he ever lets her in again. But he does, even before the end of the episode. As much as I love Scully, I hope she felt guilty. (Not too guilty, though. She did allow Mulder that illegal grave dig, after all.)

I must admit, that image of Kevin standing in the woods before the light is quite effective. But the off-roading bikers? How many fake-outs can they give in one episode without anything truly dramatic happening? The note from a mysterious stranger, the men in black, none of it panned out into anything interesting. This is a character piece loosely disguised as a mystery.

In the end, we don’t know anything other than that Ruby was abducted, which is exactly what we learned in the teaser. At least now Scully understands the little boy inside her partner better. Maybe that will cause her to be more sensitive in the future… and maybe not. Should I mention “Sein Und Zeit” (7×10)?

And the Verdict is…

Apparently, this episode had to rely on atmospheric gimmicks; a note on the car, a girl who disappears too quickly to be relieved, g-men knocking down the door, and white wolves out of nowhere. However, none of those things bring to mind alien abductions and maybe that’s why this episode doesn’t really work. It’s just a little too introspective for my taste.

It does, however, give us more insight into the psyche of Fox Mulder. It also shows us that while Scully pities him, she’s also frustrated by his annoying ability to see his sister in the face of every missing girl.

This may be where I officially got sick of Samantha Mulder, and it’s only the second episode her ghost shows up in. The obvious parallels between Samantha and Ruby exhaust rather than intrigue me. The matching swimsuit pictures, well… I must be the most cold-hearted X-Phile in the nation, but I remain unmoved.

Still, it’s good to see Mulder’s character fleshed out and explained. It’s one thing to think your sister was taken by aliens, it’s a much more powerful thing to be so consumed by guilt and loss that the only outlet for your grief is tilting at windmills. And if the series hadn’t laid the foundation early on for Mulder’s angst, this whole search for the truth would have seemed hollow, as though Mulder merely wanted to show-off.

So, is Fox Mulder crazy or crazy like a Fox?

C+

Bepuzzlements:

Why are defense satellite transmissions coming through little Kevin’s TV screen? How does he hear/see all those little ones and zeroes? And what on earth is the connection to Ruby’s disappearance? What good does it do the aliens to read our transmissions and then transmit them back to the American public? And if they aren’t defense transmissions but important pieces of high culture (where was Bugs Bunny?) then how did the NSA mistake them for defense transmissions?

Is the white wolf the new red herring? What was the point other than to freak out the audience? Oh, wait…freaking out the audience….

General Observations:

There are some series continuity errors here in regards to Samantha’s abduction, but we have to cut the writers some slack. They had no idea how big the show would be and once it was popular, they had to spice up the abduction scenario a little bit.

This is the first and probably last time we’ll see Mulder seeking solace in a church. Was the voice he mentions at the end the government, the aliens, or God? And please don’t say CC was already going all “Biogenesis” (6×22) on me.

I do believe this is also Mulder and Scully’s first interrogation. I can’t say I pictured Mulder as the bad cop.

Love the creepy note-giving. But doesn’t their running across the street give away the charade?

The soundtrack when Tessa disappears in the library is classic Mark Snow. It gives the case an element of eeriness even though nothing special is actually going on.

Call me easy, but I really liked tough biker dude.

Best Quotes:

Blevins: In essence, Mulder is petitioning the Bureau to assign a case number to a tabloid headline. (Post-Modern Prometheus, anyone?)

———————-

Mulder: Who, me? I’m Mr. Congeniality.