Tag Archives: Mulder

My Struggle II 10×6: Spoken like a true psychopath.


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The (un)emotional reunion we’d all been waiting for.

I do understand, Chris. I want to forget about the Super Soldiers too.

It seems that in order to facilitate said forgetfulness, we’re going to take it back… alllll the way back to the perverse politics of “Paper Clip” (3×2) and the Hitler-esque horrors of “Herrenvolk” (4×1).

Ah, yes. Hitler. I’d been wondering since “My Struggle” (10×1) what the connection would be between the hijacked title of Hitler’s defining autobiography (“Mein Kampf” in German) and this new era of conspiracy on The X-Files. It would seem that old is new again, and Chris Carter is reeling back in the real world fear of eugenics and calculated experimentation by humans on humans, humans unfettered by morality and governed by nothing but humanism and ambition. (Maybe he should have named this two-parter “Babylon” and “Babylon II”?)

We’ve eschewed the supernatural for a super human evil: Heil Cigarette-Smoking Man, the new Hitler, who is almost single-handedly punishing mankind for its failure as a species — or for his own failure to bring about Colonization, take your pick as to which — and is ready to to wipe out humanity as we knew it and repopulate the planet with the Ubermensch: the human species upgraded with alien DNA. If Mulder would just cooperate, together he, Daddy Dearest, Scully and William could become the new master race, the Herrenvolk.

Oh, and Monica Reyes. I can’t forget about Monica Reyes.

What the heck now??? Monica Reyes as the new Diana Fowley? Stah-ap!!

What’s most insulting to the character is that she’s so easily manipulated by CSM with nothing but the vague threat of impending doom. She already knew there was a battle for humanity; that’s why she helped Mulder and Scully escape in “The Truth” (19/21). What kind of science could have proven to someone who was not at all a scientist that hope was hopeless? How did she explain herself to John Doggett?? And you’re telling me he was willing to save her life purely in exchange for lighting his smokes???

I’m so done with this desperate attention seeker of a plotline. Moving on.

Scully: The technology wasn’t there, Mulder. DNA wasn’t even identified until 1944. This is all a lie! – “Paper Clip”

Scully’s doubts reflected my own for much of this episode. How could CSM & Co. have been manipulating human DNA through the Smallpox vaccine when we hadn’t yet mapped the human genome? Well, kudos to Chris Carter for harkening back to what he established way back in Season 3, that the government had long been keeping its scientific knowledge from the public.

But I’m going to have to dock a few kudos for not keeping more of this scientific knowledge from the public. “My Struggle II” is 90% science and 10% story. If in order to pull off the plot the science is so complicated that you have to take your audience back to school for half an hour for them to understand it, it’s too complicated. Leave it out. Way too much time is spent listening to Scully and Einstein explain things to each other that doctors would never have to explain to each other. What’s more, as always, Scully has special knowledge far beyond her speciality. But I suppose I’m used to that by now.

I’m also used to William being treated like a prop. Yet it would seem that if we do get a Season 11, FINALLY, the hunt for William will become paramount. That’s all I ever wanted and it was not too much to ask.

The ending leaves much to be desired. The episode leaves much, much to be desired – less exposition, more Mulder and Scully some, any, a crumb of Mulder and Scully would have sufficed. The whole point of this revival was to put the team back together. I didn’t campaign like a house-bound otaku for Miller and Einstein.

But it’s not “Babylon” (10×4), and for that, let us all give thanks.

Verdict:

Let me tell you about my struggle. It’s the struggle of a teenybopper fangirl who desperately wants to believe in her first love with the enigmatic skeptic inside. If The X-Files keeps going, will it get better or will it get worse? Are we apexing toward another Season 5 or are we snowballing toward more of Season 9?

I’m betwixt and between. And “My Struggle II” leaves me feeling little more than apathetic.

Though at last, AT LAST we’re seeing something akin to an apocalypse. Colonization has been threatened for so long without any significant movement in that direction. True, this large scale immunological breakdown is the machination of man, not of aliens… or is it? Chris Carter giveth and Chris Carter taketh away; he’s wont to take back a plot he’s discredited only to discredit it again. We might find that CSM put this current drama into motion in 2012 for a reason.

There may be a master plan here, but even if I make sense of it I’m not sure it will be satisfying. The ending left me with neither a sense of completion or anticipation. I get both out of “Requiem” (7×22) and even “The Truth”. “Existence” (8×21) has its faults, but at least the characters’ story arcs are made whole. “My Struggle II” ends with a pure cliffhanger, but not the kind of cliffhanger that makes you pick up the phone and call your mother screaming. The characters haven’t evolved and they’re not in any sort of emotional crisis. Mulder’s sick, but he’ll be healed. Scully’s likely been abducted… again… but she’ll be back. Then what? More giant jumps of assumption from our level-headed scientist? More mini Moose and Squirrel? More Truth Squad?

C+

Musings of a Madwoman:

If I’m reading this right, CSM is behind the murder of Sveta and the abduction of Scully, the first to keep her quiet and the second to keep her from saving lives.

Seeing Well-Manicured Man and Krycek in the teaser made me all kinds of nostalgic. That helped propel my “Paper Clip” and “Herrenvolk” rewatches, which in turn were the best parts of watching and rewatching “My Struggle II”.

Mulder’s beat up and Scully doesn’t know where he is. It’s like old times.

Speaking of beat up, the fight scene was a little long, but it was bomb.

Scully looks the best she has the whole revival.

Okay, are we just going to utterly ignore CSM and Mulder’s familial relationship? One “S’up, Pop!” would’ve sufficed.

Scully wouldn’t have had room to weave through traffic like that if the world was in a real panic.

That’s it, huh? Scully gets abducted… again? Time for another ride on the abduction merry-go-round? How about taking Skinner next time, hmm? I guess he’s overdue for a turn.

Inevitable Questions:

I could have sworn that somewhere in the previews for the revival I saw a glimpse of the old warehouse used to store vaccination records in “Paper Clip”, but then it never materialized. Or did I just imagine it? It would have made perfect sense with the plot.

What about the people who either somehow avoided or missed the vaccine, or those who came to the country after the vaccine? They wouldn’t be affected and neither would their children.

Mulder, the Patriarch of Paranoia, has a GPS tracker on his phone? But really now?

Best Quotes:

There are times when the awkwardly formal dialogue of The X-Files can be endearing. This was not one of those times.

Babylon 10×4: I resent that characterization and I don’t even know what it means.


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Don’t bother adjusting your antennas, ladies and gentlemen.

Mulder: Hi. Einstein? I need you to do me a favor so we can save the world. I’d like you to feed me some quasi-legal magic mushrooms to get me high. Because if I get high and reach that higher plane of consciousness that the Beatles only dreamed of, I can communicate with a comatose terrorist currently in a lower plane of consciousness. I’d ask Scully but she never lets me have nice things. She said no to the Star Wars wedding too. Can you rush down here, please? Thanks. #TrippingAgainstTerrorism

Well, shave my knuckles and call me “Curly.” That was a bunch of mechanical bull.

And you know what? Horrible as it is, it barely even got my shackles up. I mean, I’m not happy, but to break out that venerable and ancient stick called Brutal Honesty: this is what I had braced myself for. I had hoped for better, but I had suspected worse.

If you’ve been gracious enough to read some of my mental meanderings disguised as reviews, then you know that I’ve been rooting for Chris Carter to prove himself again to the fandom.  I’m a fan of both his writing and directing and am usually game for his experimental pet projects. “Babylon” is one of those, v. SMH16.

Fourteen years after the original end of the series and it’s obvious that Chris Carter has a lot he wants to say, he just doesn’t have 8,562 hours to do it in. This is a television program, not a New York Times op-ed piece. Go ahead. Throw out an idea, an opinion or two. Heck, indulge a little and make it three or four. Paint us a visual portrait of your life philosophy. But don’t try to force feed the audience over a decade’s worth of your cultural observations in a single episode of television. They’ll only vomit it all back up.

This forcefully reminds me of “First Person Shooter” (7×13), also directed by Chris Carter, which tried to ally itself with the feminist cause only to disgrace it in yet another failed attempt by the top ‘o the heap at solidarity with the social underdog.

Now, I’m not insensitive to the issues of stereotyping “Babylon” tries to raise having grown up with practicing Muslims in my own family. I’ve also been blessed both to travel and to know people in my own neck of the woods who grew up in predominantly Muslim countries (you might find it awkward to know how many of whom are more paranoid about Islam than most Middle America Americans are, but let me not pull on that thread). If Chris Carter really wants to prove how relevant The X-Files still is then here’s a thought: How about the highly religious young Muslim guy has nothing to do with terrorism??? Too radical?

I know I’m kvetching, but the truth is that for about the first half of “Babylon”, I was following along with an open mind, even if some of the early moments I didn’t understand…

Scully: Since when do you believe in God, Mulder?

Since when did you stop watching your own show, Chris? “Signs and Wonders” (7×9), “Closure“(7×11), “Existence” (8×21), “The Truth” (9×20/21), I Want to Believe… did I imagine you took Mulder through a spiritual evolution or did you imagine I’d forget?

Scully: You know that prophecies like this have been going on for centuries, failed prognostications of doom, failed prophecy – even in the Bible.

Mulder: Yeah, God told Adam that if he at the forbidden fruit he’d die. And he lived 930 years. Top that.

He lived 930 years and then he died… right?

Anyway.

Then of course, I see Mulder and Scully doppelgangers, think “Fight Club” (7×20), and immediately get nasty chills. To my relief, Agents Miller and Einstein aren’t at “Fight Club” levels of irritating. They also aren’t interesting at all. The way Einstein is written, she’s overdone. Miller comes across as little more than an over-eager frat boy. Mulder and Scully were young and full of wonder once, but they managed to radiate capability and intelligence beyond their years. And now I know: The X-Files couldn’t have been created in or with this generation.

But what am I stalling for, right? We all know what the baloney in this sandwich is… Mulder tripping through the tulips with a 10-gallon hat on his head and an Elvis in his pelvis. My concern waxed and then waned something like this:

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And they’re trying to pass this off as the much anticipated return of the Lone Gunmen?

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Call me crazy, but I don’t think badonkadonk hony tonk, inaccurate Biblical allusions, and unoriginal socio-political commentary together a cake bake. Frost it with a heavenly horn section and I am officially unamused. That’s right. God Himself just signed off on MSR and my reaction was:

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I suppose there were a few vestiges of the thoughtful television The X-Files used to be. Do thoughts have weight? Do words have weight? Can anyone feel the weight of my thoughts like an Acme piano falling from a roof?

One (more) thing that did bother me was the not so subtle depiction of Texans and American law enforcement as a bunch of bigoted bullies. I mentioned “First Person Shooter”, infamous for attempting to elevate women by making men look like a bunch of hormone crazed idiots. “Babylon” sympathizes with a repentant terrorist to the point of making the victims, the citizens filled with righteous indignation, look mean for being angry. They absolutely should forgive and I’m not trying to suggest they shouldn’t or that bigotry against Muslims isn’t real or dangerous. But this episode wants the masses to offer forgiveness without conceding that there’s anything that needs to be forgiven. Yep. Knotted issues too big to be picked apart in less than an hour of television.

Verdict:

In the immortal words of those ladies of the barenaked variety: It’s all been done.

In the past fourteen years since the show ended, terrorism on television has been brought forward, pulled back, flipped out, dissected, intersected, and vivisected. I wanted, I so wanted, for this to be something fresh and new – something we were promised the revival would be; it was never supposed to be purely about nostalgia, remember? Instead I’m mortified to report that “Babylon” comes across as a desperate attempt to seem progressive, relevant, sexy and wise.

I can’t help but think back to “Improbable” (9×14) and Chris Carter’s last off-the-wall attempt to define God for a television audience. Then God was a dancing, prancing, grinning Burt Reynolds – low in authority, high in laughter. Now God is an angry tyrant who set man off on his path of confusion but will occasionally speak to the mankind He cast away through dissonant elephant calls – if you care to listen.

I won’t vouch for either interpretation. And the thoughts expressed all throughout this episode are so random and disjointed that I can’t even engage them in debate. I will only say that this doesn’t feel like the same Chris Carter who wrote “Irresistible” (2×13), but I know he’s still in there. I want to believe.

F

The 7th Trumpet:

That final shot is basically a redo of the final shot of “Improbable”, minus Burt Reynolds.

Mulder’s conversation with Einstein wandered very close to Tulpa territory and the mysteries of creation that make up “Milagro” (6×18).

Making Einstein jealous of Scully and then using that as motivation for her to assist in Mulder’s little experiment cheapens the character almost immediately.

The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 involved neither anger nor violence, either on the part of God or man. So I’m not sure where Chris is coming from on the premise of this entire episode.

“You were 50 shades of bad.” – Absolutely. Freaking. Not.

Home Again 10×2: You’re gonna be all right now.


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The thing about raves is that they’re shorter than rants. So I warn you right now that I don’t have much to tell you. There wasn’t a whole lot of deep observation going on as I watched this episode, just pirouettes and prancing.

You would think, you would think, that the episode where Maggie Scully dies would have left me feeling bereft and befuddled with tears. If I adored Maggie Scully, then what’s with the goofy grin on my face that won’t be suppressed?

I can’t help it. I’m home again.

I’m Special Agent Dana Scully and this is Special Agent Fox Mulder.

And we’re done here. My life is complete. That one initial shot of the two of them was worth both the eight year wait after I Want to Believe AND having to sit through all of Season 9. I actually had to fan myself. With a literal fan. It has red and pink flowers on it.

I knew within the teaser, when that classic Mark Snow soundtrack started playing, that this was the direction I personally needed to show to go in. And within the first two minutes of Mulder and Scully on the case, barring any fourth quarter fumbles, I knew this was going to be in the A range. Here’s your one chance, Fancy. Don’t let me down.

Then Petula Clark gave a post-mortem comeback performance and it was all over for me. Diegetic music hasn’t been used to send a victim to the River Styx like this since “Kill Switch” (5×11). And of course, we can’t forget the legendary use of “Wonderful! Wonderful!” in “Home” (4×3), which is what we’re obviously intended to remember.

Oh, wait. I’m sorry. I take that back. This is when it was all over.

Scully: Back in the day, didn’t we ever come across the ability to just wish someone back to life?

Mulder: I invented it. When you were in the hospital like this.

Scully: You’re a dark wizard, Mulder.

Mulder: What else is new?

Yes, we’re only halfway through, but I’m already quite certain that this will remain my favorite moment of the revival. Nay, but this dotage of mine o’erflows the measure. This may very well go down as one of my favorite Mulder/Scully moments in the entire series.

Speaking of Mulder’s mysterious powers and mysteriously well-placed flashbacks, this probably should’ve been called “One Breath Again”. I just can’t get over the looks on their faces as they both remember the events of that episode. See? This is what I’m talking about: the way they bring their entire history into their every interaction. This is what I’ve been missing. No, some emotional context is not too much to ask for.

On that note, this very history and context is why the “breakup” as such is an exercise in dramatic futility. Their “relationship” is their history; it’s their partnership. A casual viewer can see clearly that there’s a connection here that goes as deep as the ocean, and no amount of surface level machination is going to penetrate that depth. It’s also a connection that need not be worn on the surface. It needn’t even come up in onscreen conversation as an issue, as it didn’t here and no one missed it. For Spock’s sake, no one wants to watch them play at playing house. Just let them be.

And is it just me, or is this the first time this actually feels like a natural continuation of the series proper rather than an exercise in nostalgia? I feel like tapping complete strangers on the shoulder and saying, “This is my show,” not, “This is The X-Files: Millennial Edition,” or “This is The X-Files: Alt-U Version ft. Mulder and Scully Wax Figures.”

If the characters came back last episode, the show itself is back in classic form now. Yes, it’s modern, updated and evolved. But all the round pegs are going into round holes again.

You’re responsible. If you made the problem, if it was your idea, then you’re responsible. You put it out of sight so that it wouldn’t be your problem, but you’re just as bad as the people that you hate.

That was deep, Scully. You wouldn’t be talking about Chris Carter and you and William, would you? Call me crazy, but I find this episode more emotionally on point than “Founder’s Mutation” (10×5) which read more like a dirge than a reckoning. Here Scully is finally coming to grips with having abdicated responsibility for William, and to unsuspecting, ill-equipped strangers at that. Well, she sort of does, anyway.

I know now why Mom asked for Charlie, even though he was out of her life. She wanted to know before [s]he left that he’d be okay. She gave birth to him. She made him. He’s her responsibility. And that’s why she said what she said to us. She wanted to make sure that we’d be responsible, and know that William’s okay, even though we can’t see him. I know that as parents we* made a difficult sacrifice to keep him safe, that it was for his own good to put him up for adoption. But I can’t help but think of him, Fox {Ew}. I can’t help it. I believe that you will find all of your answers. You will find the answers to the biggest mysteries and I will be there when you do. But my mysteries, I’ll never have answered. I won’t know if he thinks of me too or if he’s ever been afraid and wished that I was there. Does he doubt himself because we* left him? What questions does he have of me? The same that I have of this coin? And I want to believe, I need to believe, that we* didn’t treat him like trash.

Whoa, Nelly. You hold it right there, Miss Uber M.D.. “We???” Wherefore comes this “we”? Not to guilt trip you or anything, but “we” didn’t give William away. “We” weren’t there. You were there. I know. I was there. I watched Chris Carter make you do a bad, bad thing. But thanks ever so for at least again acknowledging Mulder’s presence in the sacred bed.

When it comes to responsibility for William being gone, it’s a convenient “we,” but when it comes to what or who William needs she reverts back to the singular. I forgive you, Scully.

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s always a good sign when I start yelling at my television screen.

Verdict:

Yes. Yes. Absolutely, yes. Never leave me again.

I’m dang sure going to miss Maggie Scully and Sheila Larken’s memorable performances. But if she had to go out, at least she went out right. Only after having watched Season 9 can you appreciate the magnitude of that.

And it’s true that as much as we may love our families, when it comes to our parents especially, there are parts of one another as individuals that we can never know. There was more to Maggie Scully than Scully could ever hope to find out. And there’s more to Scully than William will ever realize.

Now, you heard Maggie. Go get your boy.

A

Comments and Commentary:

That’s the darkest ICU I’ve ever seen.

1 demerit for Scully calling Mulder “Fox.”

“I didn’t bring him here. He came to me!” – My review of “William” (9×17) in a nutshell.

I don’t know what those shots are called when they strap a camera around the actor’s waist, wind them up and let them go. But I rarely find them effective.

Let’s take a moment to honor Scully’s palpable relief at Mulder showing up when she needed him.

We’re due for another reckoning: Does Scully resent the time she spent away from her mother and her family for nothing?

Who would put their brother’s full name in their phone like that?

For a second I thought this might be a new take on “Salvage” (8×10). If you’ve seen one garbage man you’ve seen them all, right?

Note the cleverly subtle correction of The X-Files previous treatment of the Tulpa myth. Though I think Mulder may have been closer to right back in “Arcadia” (6×13).

There are also deep echoes of “Milagro” (6×18) here…

Mulder: Did you direct him to do it?

Padgett: Jungians would say it’s the characters who choose the writer, not the other way around. So I guess you could argue he directed me.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#HowMulderAndScullyGotTheirGrooveBack

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

B+

Comments:

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

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

Be-Puzzlements:

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

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

———————–

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

———————–

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

———————–

Annabell: They think I’m on crack.

Mulder: Are you?

Annabell: Yeah!

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

Founder’s Mutation 10×5: You don’t like cats?


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All right. There were a lot of feelings to sort through for this one. I’m still not sure I’ve sorted them through completely. I’m not sure I ever will.

I was thoroughly bummed out at the end of this episode. And, no. I don’t mean that I was an emotional wreck grieving the plight of Mulder and Scully. I mean I was disappointed, out of joint, and incurably grumpy.

I realize that doesn’t make sense on the surface, especially since the storytelling has undeniably improved this week. “My Struggle” (1×01) was an aging crackpot of an episode, talking loud and fast, writhing in labor and giving birth to wind. But it was a familiar wind, so supersized shenanigans though it was, I couldn’t help but feel the daffy draft as a gentle breeze, cerulean blue style. Yep. Chris Carter put the whammy on me.

The truth is, though, that I never held out much expectation for the premiere to begin with. Most of the bad habits The X-Files ever had were connected to the mythology, and those habits manifested in increasing frequency and strength the longer the show went on. The mythology was epic in its heyday, but it self destructed somewhere in Season 6 and, unlike Mulder, it never made it back from the grave. Nothing could be worse than the mythology of Season 9 and the nosedive nadir of “Provenance” (9×10) and “Providence” (9×11). If my obsession could survive those, it could survive anything.

I was always more of a Monster of the Week gal, anyway. So who cares, right? But what I didn’t realize was that while I had steeled myself against disappointment in terms of the overall six episode storyline, there were still hidden hopes that I didn’t know I had. Those hopes, as always, centered around Mulder and Scully.

Things start out well enough. Better than well, even. There are little things, like the acting and direction around Mulder and Scully being distinctly of a modern style, for better and worse. Some things can’t be helped and when it comes to acting especially, times have changed – Ironically, they’ve changed largely because of the influence of The X-Files and other shows born in that era. I certainly didn’t expect things to be exactly the same and in fact am rooting for the show to evolve. No, we were still good.

Then we get a few cracks about just how 90’s Mulder and Scully are and it’s sorta cute. Okay. And then the show reverses its position and tries to prove that we’re not in the 90’s anymore, Toto. I get it. You can stop namedropping current events. You’re relevant. I know.

Like I said. Little things. Things that didn’t really bother me in and of themselves, just things I noticed. What mattered was that Mulder and Scully were back in my life calmly discussing theoretical science while a cadaver chilled in the background. YES.

The cherry on top was Mulder breaking the rules and stealing evidence. “Rebel.” It was almost like old times. Almost. It was somewhat disguised by the chaos of urgency and exposition in “My Struggle”. But now I’m sure: Something’s missing between Mulder and Scully.

I know, I know. It’s William, you say. Their grief over William has come between them and there’s some tension what with the breakup, that’s all. The distance is supposed to be there!

Maybe that’s what I’m meant to be seeing, I don’t know. But this doesn’t read as tension to me. Tension is not disconnect. There was tension in “My Struggle”, but at the same time there wasn’t this distance between them. There was tension between Mulder and Scully loads of times in the series proper, and sometimes they were going in polar opposite directions personally and emotionally. Yet they were always connected.

This may sound blasphemous, but their chemistry is wanting. There’s a spark missing. Where’s the Mulder/Scully bubble that existed as early as Season 1? That little world between the two of them that they used to create subconsciously? Fear not, NoRoMos. It’s not MSR I’m talking about or looking for, it’s the bond that set the ship a sail.

It probably shouldn’t concern me as much as it does. However, while this is the second episode to air it was the fifth episode filmed. Fifth! And there are only six. Their game should be on point by now. The fact that I’m seeing so little chemistry in what is effectively the penultimate episode… yeah, I am concerned.

You’re never just anything to me, Scully.

You know, there was a time when Dana Scully never had to say a word. I could read her every nuance of emotion, her every changing thought in her eyes. Scully was aloof. Scully was reserved. Scully was composed. Scully was in control. But Scully was not inscrutable. And her mouth wasn’t immovable.

Move your mouth, Scully. You’re allowed. Then again, maybe Scully shouldn’t open her mouth because every time she does, the croak of a ninety-year-old ex-smoker comes out. This bothers me. I’m bothered.

And what do you mean, “My baby”???

Mulder’s voice isn’t much better. And both of them are noticeably lacking in energy. Somebody get them some Wheaties, stat, because things can’t continue like this. I know they’re older and I want them to act like it. They can’t be wide-eyed with wonder the way they were in the early seasons of the show. That would be disingenuous. But that’s no excuse for Mulder and Scully on Valium. They’re middle aged, they’re not aged.

Again, I hear perfectly reasonable voices telling me this is all because of William. They’re emotionally beaten. They’re tired, they’re worn. They’re grief-stricken and world-weary.

Yet the answer that they lost their baby can’t be the excuse for every problem. Their chemistry is lacking – they lost their baby. Scully’s face is frozen – they lost their baby. Their conversations are stilted and subdued – they lost their baby. It gets old fast, doesn’t it? If they’re here to fight then there has to be some fight left in them.

I’ve ranted and I’ve snarked, but in all honesty I’m 80% sure that this discomfiture is a temporary state of affairs. And while I don’t think William should be a blanket excuse, this is an episode about William and it’s Mulder and Scully’s long overdue chance to mourn him.

In fact, the fantasy sequences prove to me that the Mulder and Scully I know and love are still alive somewhere in their own souls. Scully’s still Scully in her head! She even has her voice back! And you know what? Both of their individual scenes with imaginary William were more powerful than all of their scenes so far together.

These daydreams aren’t just fantasies about what life would have been like with William. They’re also their worst nightmares given a voice. Both Mulder and Scully long for their individual relationships with their child, and at the same time, they suspect that William was never theirs at all. Not really. It’s the same fear that torments Scully in “Per Manum” (8×8), that something was wrong with her pregnancy and her child from the beginning. But these are fears that should have been put to rest long ago.

These scenes, beautiful as they are, resolve nothing. They’re exercises in emotion. Mulder and Scully still don’t know whether or not they owe the birth of William to a sinister science, despite the fact that that question was answered in Season 9. (In case you were wondering, Season 9 no longer exists.) And they have absolutely no idea where William is or what’s happening to him, a question that I suspect will be revisited later in the season.

If these poignant daydreams accomplish anything, however, they succeed in amplifying my not so latent frustration over the William storyline. I know the world of The X-Files isn’t exactly family friendly, but I don’t think I’ve crumbled my cracker when I say I can easily imagine Mulder and Scully as parents… good parents. That’s why despite the weakness of “Existence” (8×21), its final scene felt right as a potential series finale.

For Mulder especially, who had spent the entire series trying to make sense of the loss of his sister and the destruction of his family, to find through his quest the family he had lost, to find something he was willing to leave the X-Files behind for, to find the very meaning he had been searching for in the X-Files, that was a great evolution for his character. In many ways, I think Mulder needed fatherhood more than Scully needed motherhood, despite the fact that the focus has forever been on “Scully’s baby”, even here where Scully still refers to William as her own. Yet, as sweet as Scully’s scenes with her imaginary son were, Mulder’s were gut-wrenching. That was exactly how I’d always imagined he’d be as William’s dad. And now I’m emotional all over again. Thank you, everyone. Thank you soooo much.

And thank you for making me more sure than ever that William” (9×17), the adoption, and the entire plot surrounding Mulder and Scully’s son was the worst sin The X-Files ever committed. I know it would have been harder to write our leads crusading against epic alien invasions with a baby in tow (Colonization with The Mulders), but good things don’t come easy. And you know what? The epic alien invasion never happened, which only adds insult to unmitigated injury.

Scully is already a bad mother shut-your-mouth. But if she had been fighting for her home, her family and her baby, she would have been a BEAST. It could have been done. It should have been done. It has been done… in my head.

Verdict:

As you can see, the William issue doesn’t make me sad so much as it makes me resentful and indignant. I can’t cry over it. I’m too annoyed to cry.

Mulder and Scully don’t seem to have moved on either. This episode was not a catharsis. It was not a release like “Closure” (7×11). This was a glossy 8×10 of sadness and guilt put in a pretty picture frame and hung on a wall for all to see. If an angst party was the point, they have proven it. They have partied the house down.

And so my resentment roosts in an episode that is otherwise decent. It’s not great television but it’s a distinct improvement over last week. The case itself is only moderately interesting and the resolution even less so, but the theme of it ties in perfectly to the William storyline and consequently, “Founder’s Mutation” is an emotional continuation of the premiere. Now I understand why they moved this episode up from when it was originally scheduled to air. Per “My Struggle”, Mulder and Scully got back in this paranormal rat race in order to investigate the genetic manipulation of humans with alien DNA, a horror that hits all too close to home for them. This episode connects their work in the paranormal to the mythology at large as well as to their individual lives and their relationship. They have ample reason to be back on the X-Files.

Now if they would just get back that old Black Magic…

Then again, it occurs to me that diamonds are born under pressure. Since I’ve already exposed myself as a heretic, before I close I’ll add some wood to my own flames. It’s quite possible that the intensity of the Mulder and Scully relationship was directly tied to the intensity of the circumstances Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny found themselves in. They were young, relatively inexperienced actors who were hungry for work. They were on a show that wasn’t just a hit, it was a cultural phenomenon. They spent nearly nine months a year, sometimes eighteen hours a day, being Mulder and Scully. Gillian has even said (somewhat facetiously?) that she spent more of her 20’s as Scully than as herself. On top of that, the show itself became progressively more intense plot-wise, and their characters progressively more isolated together.

It’s no secret that under those high pressure circumstances, David and Gillian didn’t always get along. But they always managed to perform like their lives depended on it. Maybe they did. And maybe… though this is pure speculation on my part… maybe that tension drove them into a place where they had to be Mulder and Scully in order to git-r-done. Because on screen, they would go into a mental and emotional place between the two of them where they became just the two of them. And all the way up to the series finale, these characters and their relationship flowed from them like it was second nature.

Now we’re down to six episodes from up to twenty-four. Now everyone’s in a great place emotionally and relationally. And our leads only see each other every once in a while. In summary, it’s quite possible that our favorite duo will never be the same outside of the extreme possibility of circumstance that created them.

I’m at peace with that… I think? Or am I pouting because I wanted this MOTW to feel like old times? It kinda, sorta, almost did there for a minute. I know we can’t go back again and we shouldn’t. Consciously, I don’t want to. It wouldn’t be believable or even healthy. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keenly feel the bitter in the bittersweetness of “Founder’s Mutation”.

B

Mutated Musings:

Kyle Gilligan. Kyle “Gilligan”. GILLIGAN.

Skinner’s beard is everything to me right now. It’s the unsung hero of the episode.

Closely followed by Scully’s 9ft. legs in Mulder’s office. Dang, our cast is hot.

Help me, Darin Morgan. You’re my only hope. #GreatWhiteHope

It’s good seeing them in Skinner’s office again, though it’s almost jarring how easily Skinner accepts their crazy theories now.

The new, modern office is right, but it’s going to take a little getting used to. Meanwhile, the F.B.I. must be flush with cash.

The new “I Want to Believe” poster in the back corner… I guess we’ll hear that story soon.

I’m sorry. I was watching The X-Files when the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver showed up. Did I cross fandom beams?

And now that I think of it, this episode would fit well in the X-Men universe.

The scene in the bar was an excuse for some much needed humor. It didn’t end up being relevant to the plot.

To me, this feels more like modern TV does The X-Files than The X-Files does modern TV. Yes, Virginia, there is a difference.

I don’t just hate that she says, “my baby,” I hate the way she says it. I keep hearing it on repeat. Anybody got a letter opener?

Why does Scully stand outside the school just to say hi and bye?

There are echoes of Mulder’s brain pains in “Demons” (4×23) here and of the victims’ symptoms in “Drive” (6×2). There’s also a government conspiracy behind the genetic manipulation of babies in vitro as early as “Eve” (1×10).

Scully takes Kyle into custody a little too easily considering his powers. And Mulder recovers the pain without showing any signs of having been in any.

Sister Mary was Scully’s psychologist in “Irresistible” (2×13) and “Elegy” (4×22).

What are the odds that Kyle Gilligan would get a job working as a janitor at the same mental hospital that his mother was institutionalized at?

Best Quotes:

Scully: I’m a doctor. You can tell me anything.

—————–

Mommy Gilligan: Bad things happen when the birds gather.

—————–

Scully: This is dangerous.

Mulder: When has that ever stopped us before?

—————–

Mulder: All we can do, Scully, is pull the thread and see what unravels.

 

My Struggle 10×01: Now you got my number.


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Babies!!

These musings are a mixed bag of television emotions. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to some… not disappointment but, let’s say, validation of my carefully regulated expectations. But this is my longed for Mulder and Scully, The New Adventures of Moose & Squirrel we’re talking about. Even so, it is well with my soul.

This truly feels like a reboot, and by that I mean that Chris Carter & The Spooky Bunch have taken things back to the old school. This isn’t just Mulder and Scully getting back together, this is The X-Files rediscovering its Season 1 roots. This is the original vision revisited. This is “Deep Throat” (1×1), “Conduit” (1×3), “Fallen Angel” (1×9) and “E.B.E.” (1×16) reborn in the 21st Century and polished with a digital shellac.

I’m probably a bigger fan than most of Seasons 1 & 2, so I’m excited about that.. excited and still slightly concerned. “My Struggle” is all out distrust of everything and everyone with money or power, written by a generation scarred and jaded by Watergate, a generation with a knee-jerk distrust of authority. We’re back to vague government cover-ups and father figure informants hedging their words in the dark. There’s something nefarious going on, but it’s nameless, faceless, and overarching.

Unlike the later focus and consistency of the mythology as it evolved in Seasons 3-5, this is a veritable kitchen sink of conspiracy. Why do I suspect Chris Carter’s been saving up random newspaper clippings for years like he was Fox Mulder, just waiting for the chance to info dump them on us all? In less than five minutes we get a condensed history of conspiracy theory from the end of Season 9 to now. It’s a mad burst of baloney.

Right now this new X-Files world is without form and void. Darkness covers the face of the Deep (Throat). Until this conspiracy is given a shape, it’s impossible to declare it good or bad. The only question right now: is all this teasing intriguing enough to hook a brand new audience?

Chris Carter has always been the king of high sci-fi drama. Like he did when he wrote and directed the Pilot (1×79), he can make you believe something world-changing is happening even though you’ve seen next to nothing and heard even less. “My Struggle” isn’t so much about establishing a new mythology as it is whetting our appetites to want to know what in the good Green Goblin is going on.

And this rediscovered scope means that Chris Carter can take the series in all sorts of directions again, the same way the show first found its footing by refusing to be tied down to one idea or one genre. That’s promising enough, but for any great good there must be something sacrificed and that something here is the history of the show.

Mulder and Scully getting back to basics means invalidating the mythology as we’ve known it to this point. It means Mulder and Scully have been deceived for over twenty years and we’ve been deceived for thinking they’re trustworthy investigators. It means Mulder and Scully have to go back to being merely partners and friends.

This certainly isn’t the first time Chris Carter has turned the mythology on its ear. Starting with “Gethsemene” (4×24), Mulder spent almost all of Season 5 believing that there were no aliens but that for years he had been led around like a (really cute) puppy on a paranormal string. Then it was clear that Mulder and Scully had already seen too much to be mistaken about the existence of extraterrestrial life. But now? Now that we know alien life is real but that the colonization story is false, does that make everything we ever knew clear or does that leave the whole thing fuzzier than a kiwi?

How does Mulder’s latest theory jive with Fight the Future and the aliens gestated by the Black Oil that the Syndicate was clearly afraid of? Because if aliens weren’t out to colonize the planet, Well-Manicured Man died for nothing. Of course, it’s entirely possible that there was a conspiracy above the Syndicate, that someone was deceiving the deceivers and using them to conduct tests on human subjects. Regardless, because of episodes like “One Son” (6×12), it’s undeniable that the Syndicate, at least, truly believed in a coming alien takeover via virus. If it wasn’t the aliens, who took their family members hostage and for what? Who exactly took Samantha?

And how does any of this fit with the mythology of Seasons 8 & 9? Where do the Alien Bounty Hunters come in? The Super Soldiers? William the Ubermensch and the messianic Navajo prophecies???

I’m asking these questions but I’m not foolish enough to expect to get the answers in the very first episode. I’m just wondering where it all leads and hoping it’s headed someplace good. The new broadness allows for flexibility. The lack of focus could potentially end in failure. I’m rooting for you, 1013.

The implications aren’t limited to the plot either. How do Mulder and Scully process as characters the fact that they fought to the death and back, sacrificed everything, and it turns out they’ve been on a fool’s errand for twenty plus years? Mulder and Scully are our heroes. What do we do when it turns out they didn’t know what they were doing for nine seasons? Climactic plot changes are cool and all, but I’m not a Clippers fan. I need to root for a team that wins.

Speaking of my team, by now you’ve heard about the big breakup. I have to say, it went down easier than I expected, probably because I was emotionally prepped for it… and there was champagne. But while I’m relieved that they didn’t go the I Want to Believe route, that Mulder and Scully’s romantic rumble didn’t become the focus of the episode, I still can’t say I’m behind it. Why? I’m glad you asked.

Mulder: How many times have we been here before, Scully? Right here. So close to the truth. And now with what we’ve seen and what we know to be right back at the beginning with nothing.

Scully: This is different, Mulder.

Mulder: No, it isn’t! You were right to want to leave me! You should get as far away from me as you can! I’m not going to watch you die, Scully, because of some hollow personal cause of mine. Go be a doctor. Go be a doctor while you still can.

Scully: I can’t. I won’t. Mulder, I’ll be a doctor but my work is here with you now… Look… if I quit now, they win. – Fight the Future

————-

Mulder: Scully, I was like you once – I didn’t know who to trust… In the end, my world was unrecognizable and upside down. There was one thing that remained the same. You were my friend, and you told me the truth. Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant… my touchstone.

Scully: And you are mine. – “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4)

————-

Scully: You say this is greater than us, and maybe it is. But this is us fighting this fight, Mulder, not you! It’s you and me. That’s what I’m fighting for, Mulder. You and me. – “The Truth” (9×19/20)

————-

Scully: It’s what made me follow you… and why I’d do it all over again. – “The Truth”

Constants don’t bail because things get difficult. Constants don’t leave you when you’re down. True friendship is born in selflessness and self-sacrifice, because greater love hath no man than this. I have a hard time believing that Scully left a depressed Mulder for the sake of her own sanity, but I’m trusting it’s more nuanced than that and we’ll get the details later. Maybe she left him for his own good and not merely because she was sick of the darkness, because that’s been there, IWTBed that. Whatever the cause of this forced drama, one look at the two of them and you know they can’t stay apart for long, if they’re even really apart at all.

And you can call me Forest Gump because that’s all I have to say about that.

Verdict:

I was driving along on the way to work this morning thinking about The X-Files… you know, like any other day. And I realized that my musings were no longer about The X-Files as a piece of history. These are my musings on a real, live, brand spanking new episode. Hot. Dog.

Last night was the most excited I’ve been about television since The X-Files went off the air. I’ve never been so happy to hear a voiceover in my life. Mulderlogues… I even missed those!!! The first beat of that dulcet monotone and there was dancing and twirling and the raising of hands. And no, it was not a church service.

“My Struggle” isn’t perfect and I know it. But as a Phile, it’s mine and I’ll thank you for it. The clunky and obtuse dialogue, the conversations that threaten major revelations but never actually reveal them, the unceremoniously snipped plot threads… all mine.

The X-Files has its own rhythm, it’s own distinctive style of sci-fi drama. And you have to be able to appreciate the subtle camp of it in order to love it. Or maybe, you have to love it in order to appreciate the subtle camp of it. In terms of the history of the mythology, this doesn’t compare to anything that came between Seasons 2-5. But then, this was all just an excuse to get Mulder and Scully back anyway. Their reasons for working the X-Files are basically the same as before: There’s something big… big, big, big going on, something deeply sinister. And stopping it is personal for them both. Frankly, they both look like they could use some excitement, and so could I.

It’s funny, but as a long time fan, there are both more problems and fewer problems with this episode. More problems because we know the history of The X-Files, fewer problems because we have a history with The X-Files that trumps everything. In the words of the great theologian W. E. Houston, “It’s not right, but it’s okay.”

Despite Chris Carter’s best attempts to make government conspiracies relevant to a new generation, this was about drowning ourselves in a cool pool of nostalgia on a hot summer’s day. What a glorious way to go.

It’s not just the government. Everyone’s out to get you. Now go to sleep.

C+

Superfluous Comments:

Cigarette-Smoking Man – Phantom of the Space Opera

Sveta pulls a Gibson Praise on Scully. And like Gibson before her, she’s the “key to everything.”

“Gethsemene” turned the mythology upside down, put Mulder and Scully at odds, and presented more questions than answers too, but it was much more satisfying as a standalone episode, possibly because it came within the broader context of the series and not at the start of something new.

Mulder needs to stop picking on my “finally in the opening credits” Skinner!

If I were Scully, the fact that I had followed Mulder into a lie would have been a bigger emotional hurdle than his depression. Shouldn’t she have issues with trusting him? She’s lost her sister, alienated herself from the world, and gave up their son because she believed in Mulder and he was sure of what he believed. And speaking of William, the fact that she and Mulder live without fear for their lives means she could have kept him after all.

Not to be a troublemaker, but I wonder if Glen Morgan’s name getting top billing with Chris Carter’s in the closing credits has anything to do with the reverse trajectory of the show…

Mulder first heard from his Old Man informant ten years ago. That means he was onto the jagoff shoeshine tip before IWTB.

We even get a classic Mulder phone ditch. The earth does orbit the sun.

The Asian scientist –  I recognize him as the Asian scientist from “Firewalker” (2×9) and the Asian scientist from “Synchrony” (4×19). I wonder if he puts “plays a mean Asian scientist” on his resume.

You know what I could’ve lived without? I could’ve lived without Tad O’Malley hitting on Scully. You know what else I could’ve lived without? I could’ve lived without Scully mistaking Sveta for Mulder’s new love interest. Yeah. I could’ve lived without that just fine.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: My name is Fox Mulder. {Yeah it is!!!}

———————

Scully: It’s fear mongering, isolationist claptrap, techno-paranoia so bogus and dangerous and stupid that it borders on treason. {But what do you really think about The X-Files, Scully?}

———————

Mulder: She’s shot men with less provocation. {Yeah she has!!!}

Tad O’Malley: Funny. I heard you were funny.

———————

Tad O’Malley: Do you miss it at all? The X-Files?

Scully: As a scientist, it was probably some of the most intense and challenging work I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt so alive.

O’Malley: You mean working with Mulder?

Scully: Possibly one of the most intense and challenging relationships I may ever have. And, quite honestly, the most impossible.

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.