Tag Archives: One Breath

Three of a Kind 6×19: It’s the Three Stooges I’m not so sure about.


Michael Bolton and the Band.

Last time writers Gilligan and Shiban came together they gave us “Monday” (6×15), which I don’t hesitate to call a bit of television brilliance; one of the best X-Files episodes that no one ever talks about. I said in that review that we’d have to wait a while for the inspired team of Gilligan and Shiban to disappoint and, well, we’ve waited long enough. Okay, that sounds far more dramatic than I mean it to because “Three of a Kind” isn’t some kind of dismal failure. But while it pains me to say it, it’s not a rousing success either.

This episode picks up emotionally where “Unusual Suspects” (5×1) left off though it takes place many years hence. Femme Fatale Susanne Modeski is as much on Byers’ mind as the day she disappeared and ever since that day he’s been trolling “conventions” (of all kinds, apparently) looking for her. Like Cinderella she left and like Cinderella she shall return. And she does return. Only Cinderella already has a handsome prince and it’s not Byers.

After Byers tries to drown his sorrows… and himself… in a bucket of hotel ice, the Lone Gunmen get about the business of conspiracy hunting and they trick Scully into joining them. Yes, Scully and not Mulder because David Duchovny was off prepping for his directorial debut in “The Unnatural” (6×20), which aired before “Three of a Kind” but was filmed after.

Sadly, I think it’s the conspiracy plot itself that flounders. It doesn’t help that it revolves around Susanne Modeski, a character who was sufficient if not thrilling in “Unusual Suspects” but who’s even less fascinating reheated. She’s only interesting inasmuch as she inspires Byers to play the hero. And this is when the idea starts to shape up of the Lone Gunmen, and Byers in particular, as patriots and not just conspiracy geeks. If you aren’t sure, please re-consult the opening monologue.

But it’s geekiness that makes up the most enjoyable parts of this episode. Jimmy the Geek in particular almost steals the show. His character must have made an impression on Gilligan and Shiban too because they bring him back as his twin brother, “Kimmy the Geek” in the soon to come spin-off The Lone Gunmen. I’m glad they found a way to resurrect him. Now if only they could find a way to resurrect… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to the Gunmen themselves, this is a welcome chance for their characters to be fleshed out even further, though I’m not sure I can say with complete honesty that Langly or Byers move forward much. They’re pretty much the same people we see in “Unusual Suspects” even if Byers’ patriotism shines a little brighter. However, Frohike is established as the sensitive one here, which doesn’t come as a complete surprise. We first learned of Frohike’s less perverted, gentler side in “One Breath” (2×8) when he memorably shows up to pay respects at a comatose Scully’s bedside. Here, not only does he chivalrously come to a drugged Scully’s rescue, removing her from the Pervert Pool before they started groping her outright, but he also proves insightful and sympathetic when it comes to Byers’ broken heart, picking up on his odd behavior and giving him some rather sage advice. But let me not skip over that more interesting topic, Frohike rescuing Scully from the Pervert Pool.

All these years and I’m still not a fan of Bimbo Scully. I much prefer her Slap-A-Pimp persona (see “Tithonus”). However, while this version of Scully may not be my favorite, it’s ultimately a pseudo-check mark in the plus column because it’s another example of how diversified Season 6 allows Scully to be. She confronts, she slaps, she flirts, she tickles… And I will say that watching Scully return Morris Fletcher’s famous butt slap from “Dreamland” (6×4) satisfies the juvenile in me.

Yes, I smile with immediate delight to see Michael McKean back again in a cameo role as Morris Fletcher. Why is it that episodes that Vince Gilligan bears responsibility for always seem to have the strongest sense of continuity? Hmm… food for Fangirl thought.

Anywho, “Three of a Kind” like “Dreamland” before it is a bit of a Saturday Night Live reunion what with Michael McKean and now Charles Rocket guest starring. He’s actually the fourth Saturday Night Live alumnus to guest star this season, which says an awful lot about the overall tone of Season 6.

Not that you’ll hear this Fangirl complaining about “X-Files Light” (not this season, anyway), but “Three of a Kind” isn’t my favorite example of the genre. There are some cute, funny moments, but nothing particularly memorable. Between the two Lone Gunmen-centric episodes (two because I refuse in this moment to acknowledge the third), “Unusual Suspects” is definitely my favorite. Entertainment-wise they’re pretty comparable, but “Unusual Suspects” has the advantage of giving us new information on the history of the characters. “Three of a Kind” is just a diversionary romp, a weekend trip to Vegas, if you will.

And the Verdict is…

I want to like this episode more than I do. And, indeed, it is enjoyable; I looked forward to popping it in the player for the rewatch. But when I ask myself how rewatchable it is, the dirty truth is that outside of a sequential rewatch or a serious Lone Gunmen craving, I probably wouldn’t watch it just to watch it. In fact, I know I don’t.

I think the truth is that as much as I adore the Lone Gunmen, and Gilligan and Shiban, I’m just not invested in this storyline.

B

Chips:

After all these years, why does Susanne Modeski have the same haircut?

And we never hear from Susanne again. Funny, after that “Someday” line and the Lone Gunmen getting their own spin-off I expected her to return. Maybe Spotnitz, Shiban and Gilligan planned it but the series didn’t make it that far?

I really don’t get what “the government” is up to here. I know, I know… mind control. But why was “Timmy” planning to frame Jimmy? For what? And if they already had Susanne’s technology, why continue the expensive ruse? Kill her and get it over with. Maybe they were planning on tricking her into making more for them? I don’t know. But the vagueness of what they were really up to adds to the lack of urgency.

Scully’s a little dismissive of the Lone Gunmen considering last we saw them they were digging up dirt on Diana Fowley for her.

I’m still not sure why a little ole’ injection turned Scully into a ginger Marilyn Monroe.

Best Quotes:

Langly: What if she calls him back?
Byers: I trapped her cell number. If she calls him, it rings here.
Frohike: [Laughs] She’s gonna kick our a**. What do you need Scully for, anyway?
Byers: We’re up against agents of the government. We need our own government agent.
Langly: And that would be Mulder. Why do you want just Scully?
Frohike: [Chuckles] She’s gonna kick our a**.

———————-

Scully: [On Cell] Hello, Mulder? Can you hear me? I’m at the hotel. Where are you? What do you mean, “What hotel?” Las Vegas. I’m in Las Vegas, aren’t you? You called me. What do you mean you didn’t call me? [To self] Aw man! I am gonna kick their a**es.

———————–

Jimmy the Geek: [To Langly] Oh, go brush your hair, Michael Bolton!

———————-

Byers: It’s not her. They’re making her do this somehow.
Frohike: Buddy, now, I know something about the fairer sex. Trust me, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make her drink.

Advertisements

Emily 5×7: Now, are you two the parents?


A Toy Story.

Emily just isn’t that interesting. Yeah, I said it. “Emily” the episode isn’t much better.

To start with, one of these days I’m going to make a top 5 list of worst opening monologues. This one is an obvious contender for the prize. Usually, they leave me rolling my eyes but this one actually makes me gag a little. For some reason, all that shifting sand reminds me of the hourglass from the opening of Days of our Lives. Worse, Scully’s reading sounds like the Dear Diary entry of a 13-year-old.

I don’t buy this new version of Scully who’s all alone in life with no one to understand her. Scully may be a little distant, a little protective of herself, but is she really that pathetic? She had a close, if sometimes volatile relationship with her sister. Her mother may be very different from her but she seems to understand her almost better than she does herself. I don’t think I even need to go into the depth of her relationship with Mulder. No, I don’t think there’s any valid explanation for this turn in characterization accept that it makes a nice backdrop for gaining and losing the unconditional love of a child. Whether or not being able to raise Emily would have truly left Scully any less isolated we’ll never actually know.

Emily, the enigmatic child of the enigmatic doctor who was never meant to be, actually has her origins explained more clearly than one would dare hope for The X-Files. Not that the writers didn’t dance around the answers for as long as they could hold out the note.

We had this conversation back in the comments section of “Memento Mori” (4×15) before, but sometimes The X-Files has this habit of resorting to hilariously obtuse dialogue. To quote MScully:

“Generic example with made up but probably not too far from accurate dialogue:
[Scully has just discovered something earth-shattering that she must share with Mulder immediately!]
Scully: Mulder, I’ve found something. Something unbelievable. Something I’m still trying to understand. Something I just can’t quite believe…
Mulder: What is it, Scully?

For real! What is it! If you discovered something that profound, wouldn’t you just call him up and SAY it?”

In hindsight, that’s almost prophetic because in this episode we have:

Scully: Then why are you here?
Mulder: Because I know something that I haven’t said, something that they’ll use against you to jeopardize your custody of Emily. No matter how much you love this little girl, she was a miracle that was never meant to be, Scully.

Oh, out with it, man!

But silly dialogue aside and in all seriousness, both “Christmas Carol” (5×5) and “Emily” suffer a bit from the same syndrome as “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). It’s hard to accept a one-off character as being a major part of our central characters’ lives. The relationship between Scully and her “daughter” Emily is so complicated that it leans more toward awkward than touching. How does Scully feel about suddenly becoming a mother? How should she feel? And how are we as the audience supposed to feel about the situation?

“I felt in the end that I was a little low energy, a little too melancholy. It was hard to find the right attitude for Scully in dealing with a child that’s apparently hers; to find the right flavor of relationship to her and this disease she’s going through, all mixed up with the aspect of the paranormal. Another trouble was that she had no history with this child so I couldn’t play the kind of attachment I would feel if my own daughter, Piper, were going through the same thing.” – Gillian Anderson (Meisler, Andy (1999). Resist or Serve: The Official Guide to the X-Files Volume 4. Harper Prism. pp. 70–71.)

I hate to say it, but that vagueness shows. Honestly, in a real way it works because how else could Scully feel except uncertain about how she should feel? The situation is too impossible for anything more concrete. The only thing that’s certain is that Scully wants justice for this little girl. Not that this is unusual for Scully whose fighting spirit shows up whenever she sees someone in need of an advocate. But it’s personal this time. She wants to protect her baby… and Mulder wants to protect his… and I mean that in the most platonic way possible. Sort of.

Mulder, who was reduced to a cameo appearance last episode, is making up for it by inserting himself everywhere this time around. He’s holding evil clones at gunpoint, flirting with old women, and ruining science experiments. And while his compassion for Emily is on his sleeve the whole time, he makes it clear that his first priority is making sure that Scully’s alright. Even his efforts to get help for Emily feel more like efforts to get Scully what she wants: a life with her little girl. What we have here is a follow up to the guilt we first saw from him over Scully’s barren condition in “Memento Mori”.

I agree with him. While she’s fighting a deadly disease is probably not the proper time to tell your closest friend that you have a vial of her ova in your pocket. Neither was when she was on her death bed. And why would you ruin the joy of her miraculous recovery by bringing up sterility in conversation? Poor Mulder found himself stuck with this secret.

…Or so he thinks. Scully already figured out that she’s barren and why (my puzzlement over that is below). So why Mulder doesn’t decide to tell her now that there’s hope, that he has her ova chilling out in his fridge is beyond me. Maybe once Emily dies, the moment has passed yet again.

Speaking of death, I’m not sure how I feel about Mulder and Scully’s choices at the end of this one. It harkens back to Melissa Scully’s argument for taking Scully off the respirator in “One Breath” (2×8), that sometimes we go to far by artificially preserving a life that should end, but what about preserving a life that could be painful? Is that the same thing?

It’s doubtful the mysterious green substance Mulder found would have ultimately saved Emily. The effect would probably only have lasted till the next dose was due. And then what would Mulder and Scully have done? Chased down more Bounty Hunters till they got their hands on some more? But it’s still interesting to think of the “What Ifs.” Maybe Mulder wondered what if Scully could have held her child a little longer.

But just like in “Memento Mori”, Mulder is still keeping secrets, still trying to protect Scully from heartache to the best of his meager ability. Once again, Mulder’s left holding the vial.

And the Verdict is…

I hate this episode a lot less than I let on. In fact, I don’t hate it at all, I just wouldn’t turn it on “just because.”

What with the advent of William, the tragedy of Emily has been all but forgotten. Maybe if this two-episode arc had been more monumental, the story of Emily and her potential identical sisters would have been revisited. But despite this episode’s best intentions and a solid performance from Gillian Anderson, this is a plot lacking in emotional investment. There’s something too surreal about Emily’s existence for it to pack a power punch.

To its credit, “Emily” is livelier than the melancholy “Christmas Carol”, though not by much. The climax is barely distinguishable from the rest of the story, but the music cue changes, so there you go.

B

Nags:

Mulder acts like the fact that Scully has never given birth is proof of conspiracy, but objectively, that wouldn’t prove that Scully hadn’t at one time given/sold her ova willingly.

How in the heck does Frohike know what hormones pregnant women have in abundance? I know the Lone Gunmen are almost an encyclopedic resource when it comes to some subjects, but that’s just too much. That sounds like a line that would have originally given to Scully before a script rearrangement.

There are so many issues with these elderly women carrying babies to term. Merely doping them with hormones wouldn’t be enough to combat their frailty, or the large number of risks involved when older women give birth, assuming they’re even giving birth since the babies seem to be growing outside the womb. And on that note, since they’re ultimately going into test tubes, why not just raise them from the beginning in a petrie dish? Why use the women at all?

So, Scully knew that she was barren because of her abduction, but she didn’t realize they had extracted her ova? It doesn’t make sense that the doctors figured out she couldn’t have children without investigating why. We’re not talking about a woman who was actively trying to conceive children so this isn’t a condition they would randomly stumble upon, they would have had to check her out.

Heres and Theres:

What if you were raised to believe you were a normal human child and then later found out what you were? How were the other clones and hybrids that we met in “Colony” (2×16) and “Herrenvolk” (4×1) raised?

Sorry. We’ve already done the moving fetus thing. I didn’t jump this time, I was only counting the seconds till Mulder did.

We haven’t seen the Bounty Hunter in a while and we still don’t get to see him in his true form. Now there are at least two of them.

Best Quotes:

Frohike: [On the Phone] Are you in adoption services, Mulder?
Mulder: No, I’m at the maternity ward.
Frohike: Any… fetching young mothers in there?
Mulder: Yeah, I think you might have a shot here, Frohike. You know anything about pharmaceuticals?
Frohike: Medicinal or… recreational?

———————

Scully: Who were the men who would create a life whose only hope is to die?
Mulder: I don’t know. But that you found her and you had a chance to love her… maybe she was meant for that too.

Christmas Carol 5×5: She must’ve dialed 1-800-The-Great-Beyond.


Visions of Sugar Plums??

A rare glimpse into Scully’s life outside of the X-Files confirms that she’s just as reserved off the job as she is professionally. Can we blame her? The Scully family table, seen again for the second time since “Gethsemene” (4×24), isn’t exactly the warmest place in the world. You could cut the underlying tensions with the proverbial butcher’s knife.

It’s Christmas time in X-Files land. You know what that means: Ghosts.

Well, maybe not a physical one exactly.

I’ve never given much credence to the “Scully as Latent Psychic” interpretation of The X-Files, but I must say, the woman does see/hear an awful lot of dead people. First she has a vision of her father right after his death in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12), then she dreams of Mulder barely back from the dead in “The Blessing Way” (3×1), next she sees dead strangers in “Elegy” (4×22), and now in “Christmas Carol”, she’s receiving phone calls from beyond the grave care of a deceased sister who was creepier alive than she is dead.

At this rate, I’d say Scully averages about one dead vision per season. We could also count her hospital visions in “One Breath” (2×8), but then she was already half dead herself. Even so, I can’t help but think of “One Breath” when I watch this two-episode arc, not only because Melissa Scully makes a return appearance, but because they’re both lessons in death, or more specifically, conversations on whether or not it’s more humane to preserve life or allow it to end. Oh, and then there are all the “Baby Dana” flashbacks…

Speaking of “Baby Dana”, it would seem that even as a child Scully was the type to keep her thoughts to herself, at least that’s the picture that’s painted for us here. There’s a trend that started in Season 4 with Scully’s cancer where Scully is progressively characterized as isolated and even somewhat anti-social. Oh, she’s not lacking in social graces the was Mulder is, but we get the feeling as time passes that she’s a little trapped in her own head.

I’m not sure what brought this characterization on, exactly, except that it created more drama during her cancer arc for Scully to keep her emotions to herself and then it continued from there. If you look at Season 1, particularly in episodes like “Squeeze” (1×2), “The Jersey Devil” (1×4) and “Lazarus” (1×14), we get the impression that Scully likes and is liked by people. Over the course of this current two-parter, the Scully we meet acts like she’s never had a friend in the world.

So then what about Mulder? It looks like there are aspects of herself that Scully is still unwilling to share. I’m not so sure that makes her isolated and alone so much as it makes her a normal human being. How could you possibly fully explain the workings of your own heart to another living soul? We’re too complicated for that, but I digress.

Scully reverts back a little to her old ways with Mulder, wanting to reach out to him but hanging up the phone instead. Is she too proud to admit she needs help and support? Does she not want to sound crazier than he does? Probably both, but we’ll never know exactly. Scully’s relationship with Mulder is hardly the focus of this episode.

And so to the crux of the matter: I can honestly say that in my teenage naïveté I didn’t originally see the twist coming at the end, and I should have. But I must say that I believe I stifled a groan at Scully’s microwave pack of Instant Motherhood intruding into my X-Files world.

Not that the topic of Scully and motherhood is completely sudden. Ever since a carefully crafted conversation on a public bench in “Home” (4×3) the topic has been up for discussion, even more so since Mulder literally stumbled upon the secret of Scully’s infertility in “Memento Mori” (4×15).  Now that Scully’s cancer plot is behind us, it’s only right that we watch her deal with the emotional aftermath and her fertility is as good a place as any to start.

And yet… even after all these years I’m still not sold on the idea of Scully becoming a mother out of the clear blue sky. We’re not even talking about an ooey, gooey little baby that she has to accept, but a fully formed child well into her developmental years. And Emily is so lacking in interest and personality… Can Scully really feel such an instant, strong connection to a stranger? Can we as the audience feel connected enough to the child to believe that she is Scully’s? Can we even enjoy them together? I can only speak for myself when I say that later on, watching Scully’s motherhood being just as suddenly stripped away only adds to my sense that it didn’t belong to begin with.

Verdict:

This one is a bit of a Christmas fantasy of sorts. Who hasn’t wished that they could hear a lost loved one’s voice on the line one last time? Who hasn’t been afraid they’d forget the nuances, the timber of that voice before too much time had passed? For exploring that idea alone I’ll give this episode the most credit.

Okay, so “Christmas Carol” is not one of my favorite episodes of Season 5. It’s a little… subdued for my taste since, if you’ve read my reviews at all, I’m a sucker for an exciting, adventuresome X-File. Give me a romp in the deep, dark woods anytime. In comparison, this sleepy little story doesn’t make my finger twitch over the rewind button.

But another part of me is quite proud that this show can vary itself so drastically from week to week. We just went from a black and white fantasy horror fest to a quiet, contemplative and incredibly contained mystery in a mere 7 days. If that’s not good television I don’t know what is.

There’s one thing that still nags at me: Where are all the other little Emilys? Surely the Syndicate, responsible for clones upon drones, didn’t stop at one little Uber Scully.

B

Flotsam and Jetsam:

Wait, when did Scully learn she can’t have kids and more than that, when did she find out that her abduction was the cause? Mulder knew as of “Memento Mori” , but he doesn’t tell Scully about that little discovery of his until “Emily” (5×7) and even then he doesn’t explain in detail until Season 7. Sure, her doctors could have told her there was something wrong, but how did she know it was a result of her abduction and that her sterility wasn’t brought about by her cancer treatments?

I know I’m cold-hearted, but Scully giving Emily her cross so easily always irked me.

This has to be one of Gillian Anderson’s best looking episodes ever. Well, except for that jacked up weave they put on her head.

It’s comforting to know Bill Scully, Jr. was always a punk, even in childhood.

It’s amazing how streamlined the adoption process was made for Scully. Then there’s the fact that the things Scully confesses to the caseworker would have gotten her name scratched off of any respectable list. Ah, the miracle of creative license.

“Danny” still makes an appearance at this late date.

Best Quotes:

Mini Scully: This has got to be it! It’s got to be “Hotel California!”

———————–

Bill Scully, Jr.: You really think Melissa had a baby?
Scully: Yes. I do.
Bill Scully, Jr.: She called you from beyond the grave to tell you that? Sounds like something that partner of yours would say.

———————–

Tara Scully: Oh! Oh, that was a good one!
Bill Scully, Jr.: What? Is he kicking?
Tara Scully: Oh, he’s kicking! He’s kick-boxing! Well you had boys and girls, so which one kicked more?
Margaret Scully: Oh, I had some pretty tough little girls.

———————–

Scully: I don’t believe in fate. I think we have to choose our own path.
Melissa Scully: Well, just don’t mistake the path with what’s really important in life.
Scully: Which is what?
Melissa Scully: The people you’re gonna meet along the way. You don’t know who you’re gonna meet when you join the F.B.I. You don’t know how your life is gonna change… or how you are gonna change the life of others.

Redux II 5×3: I will calm down when somebody gives me a reason to calm down.


"My belief is in The Truth."

Oh, this opening scene. It’s really hard not to compare Mulder’s explosion by Scully’s bedside with, well, his previous explosion by Scully’s bedside in “One Breath” (2×8), so I won’t bother not trying to do it. In both episodes he starts out almost eerily calm and then crescendos. It’s beauty to behold.

Now, I had this habit back in the day where immediately after I watched a brand new episode, I’d rewind it and watch it again. (Don’t judge.) This episode took me forever to rewatch because I kept rewinding precious moments like it was going out of style, starting with this brief, two minute scene that I quickly memorized. Mulder in a tizzy over Scully – It never gets old.

There are so many utterly rewindable (add it to your dictionaries) moments in this episode that I hardly know how to touch on them all and I probably can’t. But since “Redux II” is told mostly from Mulder’s point of view, his dark night of the soul as it were, we’ll start with him.

Mulder gets hit from all sides this episode. Bill Scully gives him an unjust, and yet somehow not quite undeserved dressing down, one that still raises my blood pressure but in an oh so delicious way. There may only be one character on The X-Files I love to hate more than Bill Scully, and she has yet to make an appearance. Bill Scully doesn’t hold back with Mulder. After all, if it weren’t for Fox Mulder, one sister would be alive and the other wouldn’t be dying. Mulder, to his credit, shows an amazing amount of restraint, far more than he showed with Melissa Scully back in “One Breath”. I guess that’s what guilt, fear and shame will do to a person.

Poor Mulder walks straight from that drama into a web spun by Cigarette-Smoking Man who attempts to lure him into his service with the bait of a cure for Scully’s cancer. When that doesn’t work and Scully’s health continues to deteriorate, he dangles the carrot of a reunion with Samantha in front of Mulder’s nose.

In “Redux” (5×2), we watched Cigarette-Smoking Man gaze longingly at a picture of young Mulder and Samantha and visions of paternity tests danced in our heads, now here’s Samantha, or more likely, “Samantha”, calling him Daddy. Coincidence? Never. While the shenanigans Cigarette-Smoking Man is playing with Mulder in order to finally collect him as a trophy on his shelf is doubtless a load of falsities, lies always go down better flavored with truth. We know Samantha was taken. By the government, the Syndicate or aliens who can say? But what if she was returned, only not to Mulder? Is this Samantha, another clone like in “Colony” (2×16), or even one of the drones from “Herrenvolk” (4×1)?  Could the real Samantha be living another life somewhere? Could she be living that life awash in Cigarette-Smoking Man’s smoky haze?

Whatever the case, Cigarette-Smoking Man is having so much fun weaving his little tale, true or not, that he fails to notice the Elder giving him the evil eye. What a shocker that is, a hit being put out on Cigarette-Smoking Man himself. Not that there hasn’t been ample evidence of the tension between him and the rest of the Syndicate. Yet, he’s the villain, the Satan as it were, of The X-Files. Who would have thought that Chris Carter would have been willing to take him out when the show was at its most popular? Then again, that’s probably why he did it. Pop goes the weasel.

And now for Scully… Chris Carter scripted this episode and we all know that he loves dramatic bookends and parallels. Yes, he’s a man after my own heart. This time around, he makes us watch Mulder lose his faith just as Scully regains hers. The floor has opened up under Mulder, his pride is gone, his foundation shaken, just as Scully has shed her pride but in doing so regained her footing and her humanity. Interesting that in the first part of this arc, “Gethsemene” (4×25), it was Mulder who appeared to be on the verge of solidifying his faith once and for all with tangible proof of alien life and Scully who tried to nonchalantly keep her own at a distance through her rejection of Father McCue. Brilliance? Quite possibly.

Verdict:

Need you even ask? It’s a good thing no one could witness me grinning and giggling and exclaiming while I was watching (and rewinding) this episode for the review. Yes, even 14 years later.

I couldn’t possibly have asked for a more satisfying start to the season. Even the shipper in me was appeased.

Well… okay. Maybe I still felt a little gypped that Mulder and Scully don’t have a deathbed goodbye scene. Not to mention we miss the revelation of her miraculous cure as well. But that’s so minor in comparison to all the other pop culture goodness.

For instance, there’s the glorious climax that, don’t laugh, reminds me of the ending of The Godfather in its pacing and editing. Skinner sweats it out trying to prevent Mulder from mistakenly naming him as the mole in front of the panel, Mulder bullies ahead anyway, Cigarette-Smoking Man is clueless to his own imminent danger, and all the while a skeletal Scully is chanting Hail Marys. And then when Mulder finally names Blevins as the man… oh the face. The face! The gangsta lean!

Whew.

Among the fans nowadays, I’m sad to say it, but there’s quite a bit of disparagement for Chris Carter’s writing skills out there. Why?? Have you seen this episode???

A+

The Big Qs:

How did Mulder find out Scully was in the hospital and which hospital she was in? We can be sure he didn’t call up Skinner. The Lone Gunmen perhaps?

How did Skinner find out about Cigarette-Smoking Man’s death? I doubt his obituary made the papers. I would have thought the Syndicate would have cleaned that mess up privately.

What was Scully afraid to tell Maggie Scully? And why didn’t we get to hear it??

Useless Commentary:

Mulder really is being stripped of everything this episode. Scully’s dying. Samantha rejects him. The truth isn’t out there. It’s no wonder he nearly ate Scully’s hand off in desperation.

If Scully had died, who else thinks Mulder would have gone on a vengeful, murderous rampage? Show of hands?

Who’d have thought there’d come a time when Mulder didn’t want to talk about his precious conspiracy but would rather hold Scully’s hand and talk of nothing? How ‘bout those Yankees indeed.

Wait… wait… yep. Still swooning.

Best Quotes:

Blevins: Agent Mulder, we’re here informally to give you the chance to help yourself.
Mulder: Help myself how?
Senior Agent: By allowing any facts or details which might serve to let us go forward with this enquiry in a more informed manner.
Mulder: That helps you. How does that help me?

——————–

Mulder: [To CSM in the hospital] Please tell me you’re here with severe chest pains.

——————–

Langly: That’s unreal.
Frohike: Too freaking amazing.
Mulder: Watch your language, Frohike, and grab me some tweezers.

——————–

Bill Scully: You’re one sorry son of a bitch. Not a whole lot more to say. [Leaves]
Mulder: [Answering phone] One sorry son of a bitch speaking.

——————–

Waitress: Tabasco. Cures anything.
Mulder: I’ll keep that in mind.

——————–

Scully: Mulder, even with the ballistics evidence I can still be the shooter…
Mulder: Scully, I can’t let you take the blame… because of your brother… because of your mother… and because I couldn’t live with it. To live the lie you have to believe it. Like these men who deceived us, who gave you this disease. We all have our faith and mine is in the truth.
Scully: Then why did you come here if you’d already made up your mind?
Mulder: [Laughing] Because I knew you’d talk me out of it if I was making a mistake. [Editor’s Note: ::tear::]

Talitha Cumi 3×24: My justice is not for you to mete out.


Miming makes a comeback.

Let’s get the episode’s only major issue out of the way first. We already knew that Bill Mulder had a close association with CSM in the past. The inference in “Paper Clip” (3×2) is that Teena Mulder wasn’t completely oblivious to her husband’s work. But now we learn that she and CSM has an association of their own… And so the seed is planted. Did CSM and Teena Mulder have an affair? He sure insinuates it. Is Mulder really a Mulder? And what about Samantha?

For those on their first watch through the series, don’t hold your breath waiting for answers. They’re still a few seasons into the future.

But back to the episode at hand.

For once, what’s driving Mulder isn’t his search for the truth, it’s his desire to save his mother. He wants to find Jeremiah Smith because he hopes that he’ll be able to lay hands on his mother and heal her. Even when Jeremiah Smith offers to show him things that would uncover the greater conspiracy, Mulder resists with impatience because that’s not what he’s concerned about at the moment.

Mulder gets flack in the fan community sometimes for his single-mindedness and the disturbing lack of concern for those around him that can follow from it. But the truth is, Mulder does care, almost to the point of recklessness, for a few people in his life. He’s done similar things before. Back in “Paper Clip”, he had a disk in his possession (or rather Skinner had it for him) that would have given him all the answers about alien life and the conspiracy at large that he was looking for. But he gave that up so that Scully could go to her dying sister’s bedside. Then in “One Breath” (2×8) he forgoes the chance to confront the men who abducted Scully and potentially beat some answers out of them as to the nature of the conspiracy, but again he doesn’t and instead goes to comfort an unconscious Scully. The man’s all heart, really.

Probably Mulder gets a more three-dimensional treatment in this one because this is another one where David Duchovny’s name is in the story credits. You can also sense his influence in the episode’s religious themes. In the same way that he’ll later weave The Last Temptation of Christ  into the story of “The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati” (7×4), here the famous parable of The Grand Inquisitor from The Brothers Karamazov is taken, in some places word for word, and fashioned onto the head of the mythology. I couldn’t appreciate that before since I had never read The Brothers Karamazov (which I highly recommend, by the by) but even though I can recognize its recreation in those prison scenes between Jeremiah Smith and CSM, I’m still not sure I find it compelling.

Probably some background information is in order for those who are unfamiliar with Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. In this chapter of the book, two of the brothers are having a conversation about faith and God. One is an agnostic and the other a true believer. The agnostic brother tells a tale that takes place during the Inquisition, where Jesus comes back to earth and performs miracles, including a repeat of the “Talitha Cumi” miracle from Mark 5:41-42 (Talitha Cumi means “Maiden, arise.” in Aramaic). Oddly enough, while the masses are thrilled to see Jesus, some of the leaders of the Church aren’t so happy. You see, they’ve decided that salvation and truth isn’t real freedom at all. Instead, man is happiest when he’s controlled and the Grand Inquisitor is happy to control them, giving them true freedom from care.

The arrogance of the Grand Inquisitor is that he thinks he has “corrected” Jesus’ work. The arrogance of CSM is that he too, a mere man, believes he has the right or the ability to control mankind. I like the parallels made here but I’m not completely sold. CSM could very well be a modern Grand Inquisitor but Jeremiah Smith is no Jesus, he’s a clone created by CSM and his cronies. It would be more compelling, I think, if Jeremiah Smith were an alien himself whose plans for colonization CSM was not only subverting but commandeering. But I’m just being nitpicky now.

I’ve questioned before the Syndicate’s motivations in creating and maintaining the conspiracy. Evil as they are, might they not have started out with good intentions? Out of the desire to preserve the human race? Not if we’re to believe CSM. They don’t want truth to get out because they want control and they’ve deluded themselves into thinking that they want it for the good of mankind. Then again, you can never really believe CSM.

Mulder’s quest for alien life has always been pseudo-religious but here that idea fleshed out a little further. Mulder is indeed on the side of the angels. The truth may be more difficult, but there’s a freedom that you can only have in realizing the truth and bearing your cross that’s unavailable to the willfully or unknowingly ignorant.

Verdict:

I want to love this episode for its depth but instead I just like it. It’s certainly a good show, but once again very little that we’ve already learned about the mythology is made clearer. Instead new questions are raised.

One thing especially isn’t clear: Who is Jeremiah Smith? From what I’ve watched/read and been able to deduce, he’s another clone like the ones we saw in “Colony” (2×16), but an upgraded version. He has the ability to shapeshift and heal others. In an plot thread that’s explored more in Season 4, these clones are used as workers in specific areas, mindless drones merely serving to advance colonization. Whatever they are, apparently they’re not the kind of alien-human hybrid that the Syndicate is ultimately trying to create. Between the Black Oil, the Bounty Hunter, Clones and Drones maybe Chris Carter should given us an episode that was purely a primer on alien and sub-alien species.

Beyond all that, we get some great performances here from all involved. Scully doesn’t have much to do but she’s sympathetic toward Mulder in his situation without being cloying. The walls are closing in on X and he’s taking increasingly risky moves, like brawling with Mulder in a public parking lot (a scene that’s been a long time coming). And CSM shows actual concern over a real live human being, namely Teena Mulder who in turn has more knowledge about the conspiracy than we ever realized.

All in all, a good show.

A-

Nagging Questions:

CSM lets Jeremiah Smith out so that he can heal him of lung cancer, at least that’s what it looks like we’re supposed to infer. But why would he do that when he could have had the Bounty Hunter heal him? Oh, wait. I’m not supposed to know about that till next episode. Nevermind.

What did CSM really want from Teena Mulder? Surely it wasn’t just that weapon. He could have turned that place upside down looking for it rather than consult her. It’s not like she would have reported him since she never went near the place.

Nagging Comments:

I doubt Jeremiah Smith would’ve had an audience in that fast food joint. Once the shooting started, people would’ve run for the hills, not waited around to watch him heal everyone.

The religious symbolism continues – The name “Jeremiah” is also that of a famous Biblical prophet and the traditional author of both the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations. His primary message was that the children of Israel had to turn from their sins or face judgment, that they needed to stop listening to false prophets who were purposefully giving them false hope, a message for which he was famously attacked and persecuted. He’s known as the “weeping prophet.”

How about that Mark Snow, eh? The soundtrack that’s playing when Mulder discovers the weapon is fabulous.

My understanding is that at this point, a movie was already in the works, which forced Chris Carter to plan the mythology a few years into the future. You can tell that there’s still light at the end of these story arc, or at least, you can still believe there will be.

The date for colonization is set! I’d type out what it is but, you know, spoilers and all that.

Best Quotes:

Teena Mulder: I have nothing to say to you.
Smoking Man: Really? We used to have so much to say to each other. So many good times at the Mulder summer place… your kids young and energetic. I remember water-skiing down there with Bill. He was a good water-skier, your husband. Not as good as I was but then… that could be said about so many things, couldn’t it?
Teena Mulder: I’ve repressed it all.

——————–

Scully: Where are you going?
Mulder: If I told you, you’d never let me go.

——————–

Smoking Man: Who are you to give them hope?
Jeremiah Smith: What do you give them?
Smoking Man: We give them happiness and they give us authority.
Jeremiah Smith: The authority to take away their freedom under guise of democracy.
Smoking Man: Men can never be free, because they’re weak, corrupt, worthless and restless. The people believe in authority. They’ve grown tired of waiting for miracle and mystery. Science is their religion. No greater explanation exists for them. They must never believe any differently if the project is to go forward.
Jeremiah Smith: At what cost to them?
Smoking Man: The question is irrelevant, and the outcome inevitable. The date is set.

——————–

Smoking Man: You think you’re god. You’re a drone, a catalogue, chattel.
Jeremiah Smith: What you’re afraid of is… they’ll believe I am God.
Smoking Man: Well that doesn’t matter. Most of them have ceased to believe in God.
Jeremiah Smith: Why?
Smoking Man: Because God presents them with no miracles to earn their faith.
Jeremiah Smith: You think when man ceases to believe in miracles he rejects God?
Smoking Man: Of course.
Jeremiah Smith: You rule over them in God’s name.
Smoking Man: They don’t believe in Him, but they still fear Him.

Avatar 3×21: I’m not signing those papers.


Little Red Riding Hood.

“Avatar” is one of those few episodes where we open with one of our stars instead of just an X-File itself. A rare honor indeed and here it is bestowed upon Skinner so relatively early in the series. He also bears the dubitable honor of participating in the first real sex scene on The X-Files in said intro. Needless to say, things quickly go awry and he wakes up next to a beautiful blonde who looks like she just crawled out of The Exorcist.

Ah, Skinner. Finally a follow up look at his inner workings heretofore only briefly hinted at in “One Breath” (2×8). Here’s a silent yet sensitive man who is reluctant to give up on his marriage, so instead of signing his divorce papers he goes for a drink… and sleeps with a strange woman… because he’s reluctant to give up on his marriage.

Wait. Skinner’s married?

That’s right. Walter Skinner has been married for 17 years. It looks like the reason he has Scully down as his emergency contact in “Apocrypha” (3×16) is because he and his wife have been separated for some months. Skinner/Scully shippers may suffer vain imaginations at their own peril. From the sound of things the only reason for the separation is the typical “he doesn’t talk to me anymore” issue. The prostitute doesn’t come in until later…

…the prostitute that CSM hired through one of his minions. It’s nice to see that the bad blood between CSM and Skinner is still festering; it adds a sense of continuity to the episode. That and the fact that Skinner further elaborates on the story of his near-death death experience that he first told Mulder about in “One Breath”. It turns out that along with nearly walking into the white light, he had a bit of a visitation. Which leads me to the crux of this little review.

I used to wonder why this episode is called “Avatar” which in Hindu mythology is a human incarnation of a deity when the paranormal star of the episode is a “Succubus.” Thanks to a single sentence of insight in an IMDB review I think I finally figured out the connection.

The old woman that Skinner keeps seeing is not a sexually possessive and dangerous succubus as Mulder initially suggests, she’s his wife, Sharon… who is actually an avatar. She’s his protector. She protected him from death in Vietnam, now she’s protecting him from the machinations of CSM. It’s the same creature, but for years she either was or took the form of his wife. Once his wife was separated from him, she came to him in dreams. It isn’t until they separate that she begins coming to him in dreams again. When he sees the old woman at the police station, it’s because Sharon has shown up. When he wakes up on the couch to see the old woman screaming, the police come to the door to tell him that Sharon’s been in an accident. This is why Sharon somehow knows what CSM has been up to and what Skinner needs to do to stop the man who framed him.

See how simple that sounds when it’s all laid out? Yeah, it’s too bad the episode doesn’t do that.

Now, we all know that The X-Files likes to err on the side of vagueness and that’s what we love about it. But take it from “Gender Bender” (1×13), leaving the audience completely nonplussed is never the way to go. The plot goes well right up through where Mulder’s succubus theory enters the picture, but there’s no follow-through after that. Which is why most are generally left with the incorrect impression that Mulder was right in his assumption even though he briefly mentions in passing that he must have guessed wrong.

And finally…

The lingering question is what happened to Sharon Skinner? I would say that she died. Whether or not they intended to imply that at the time, I don’t know. But nothing else could explain why she never shows up again even though Skinner puts his ring back on at the end of the episode. Besides, would you divorce your guardian angel? Not only that, but even within the context of the episode her sudden, miraculous awakening goes unnoticed by the hospital staff who would have been monitoring her from the nursing station. More than likely this is a moment only visible to Skinner because she’s his personal avatar. There’s a deleted scene that takes place just before Skinner spills his guts to an unconscious Sharon that would lend credence to the theory that she was all set to recover. But if so, where did she go? Her disappearance equals a de facto death regardless.

Overall, this episode is much, much better than I remembered. However, it’s still too convoluted to be called “great” and there isn’t much by way of scares or revelations. Also, as we’ve already gone over, little to nothing of the plot is clear by the end.

Mitch Pileggi does an admirable job here, though, and he deserved a Skinner-centered episode. Apparently, this was David Duchovny’s idea as a way of giving himself a break for a week, though it turns out his character is still in almost every scene. He and Howard Gordon teamed up for the story and while I don’t hate the finished product, I do wish that Skinner felt like more of a headliner and less of a bystander in his own story. Most of the episode is spent watching Mulder and Scully solve the case while he sits idly by and watches his world unravel. But hey, at least he’s the hero in the end.

B-

Comments:

This is yet another episode where Mulder’s theory is completely off. She’s not a succubus, she’s an avatar. So there. There are so few of these moments that I have to keep track.

Once again, despite all evidence to the contrary, once Mulder has faith in someone he refuses to let go. The man is inherently trusting. I’m telling you.

Like “Oubliette” (3×8), this is another episode where the supernatural element isn’t evil. In fact, this time it’s a force for good, albeit a slightly frightening one.

Best Quotes:

Lorraine Kelleher: I don’t know what to say.
Scully: Well you can start by telling us if she was working last night and if she was, who paid for her company.
Lorraine Kelleher: I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Mulder: I guess that would hurt future book sales, huh?
Lorraine Kelleher: You’d be surprised who some of my clients are.
Mulder: No, I don’t think I would be.
Scully: I also doubt that they’d want to get entangled in a homicide investigation
Mulder: Look, we just need one name from you. Who hired Carina Sayles?
Lorraine Kelleher: Let’s just say you both work for the government… and so do I.

———————

Skinner: I got through that experience like most eighteen-year-olds. By numbing myself with whatever was around. I was no choir boy. I inhaled.

———————

Mulder: They used us to do it, didn’t they? They used the X-Files.
Scully: How’s you know?
Mulder: Cause I think Skinner’s been outmaneuvered, Scully. They found a weakness and they’re exploiting it.
Scully: But why?
Mulder: To keep us it check. You remove Skinner and you weaken us.

———————-

Skinner: I had to tell you, Sharon, before anything else happens. I’m not signing those papers. For a lot of reasons. Most of them I’m just realizing myself for the first time. Some of the things I’ve seen, the violence and the lies that I’ve witnessed men inflict on one another… I could never tell you that. Not that I ever stopped believing in the work, but there were contradictions that I, that I couldn’t reconcile, which meant shutting down part of myself just to do my job. I never told you what I should have told you… that what really got me through each day was knowing that I’d be sleeping next to you that night. Knowing that I had a reason to wake up in the morning. I’m not sure if you can even hear me now or if it even makes a difference to you anymore, but I at least wanted you to know that.

731 3×10: Since when did they start issuing you guys piano wire instead of guns?


You been gainin' a little weight, Mulder?

We open with a vision of creatures being slaughtered; creatures that look a lot like the deformed bodies we saw in the boxcar in “Anasazi” (2×25). Is it a coincidence?

It’s tempting to initially think this is connected to what we saw earlier, we quickly find out that it isn’t…. and it is. This is yet another set of tests being done on humans by another set of scientists, different from the experiments exposed in “Anasazi” but still governed by the mysterious men of The Syndicate.

So let’s start with The Syndicate, shall we? Scully is introduced to yet another Syndicate member this episode, The Elder. He feeds Scully the truth, or parts of it, but for what purpose? To save the creature trapped on the train? Is this shadow government responsible for testing on civilians as a part of a secret plan for alien colonization… or are they doing it to win a Cold War that ended years ago? I’ve said it before but I’ll complain again, why didn’t we get even more of these Syndicate guys? Sure, they needed to remain mostly mysterious for effect. Yet the few times that their characters were delved into, even just a little bit, were memorable. Just think of Well-Manicured Man in Fight the Future.

But since The Elder isn’t ready to bare his soul, the real character that steals the show this episode is our very own Mulder. When I think of who Mulder is as a character, the Mulder we see in this episode fits my personal definition to the letter. Mulder is a frustrating jackass but he’s a heroic one. Right after I want to strangle him I want to pat his head and give him a hug. It’s not that Mulder hasn’t been reckless before. In fact, “End Game” (2×17) comes to mind. But that was Desperately Seeking Mulder and this is Mind-Blowingly Frustrating Mulder. There is a difference. From him foolishly jumping on the train to his self-sacrificing decision to ignore Scully’s attempts to save him and have the train car dropped in the middle of nowhere, it’s amazing how annoyingly loveable David Duchovny managed to make this character. He’s self-righteous and arrogant and just as equally endearing.

Mulder’s Mulderishness has been slowly escalating. In Season 1 he was a bit of an outcast upstart, but still fresh-faced and relatively docile in comparison to his later years. Season 2 proved he can be downright hostile to anyone who gets in his way, but it also showed that he could be sensitive and very protective, especially when it came to Scully. Season 3 is when I think Mulder’s core personality is solidified as 2 parts teeth gnashing and 1 part pitiable and he stays fundamentally the same till the end of the series. He’s more absurdly reckless than ever but in a way that let’s you know he’s somewhat conscious of his charms and he knows those who love him will forgive him.  He hangs up on Scully in the train car knowing that she’ll figure out what he’s about to do and knowing that she’ll love him for it even as she hates him for it.

Scully’s doing a lot of zigging while Mulder zags this season. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re at odds, but they’re not quite the unified front they were pretty much all of Season 2 and most of Season 1. This distance becomes even more pronounced over the next few episodes. So in the end, who’s right? Does Mulder’s belief in an alien conspiracy hold up despite the current evidence to the contrary? Or has Scully stumbled upon a greater evil, that these men are using aliens as a cover story to hide their insidious crimes. It seems as though there’s a little of both going on. Dr. Ishimaru/Zama certainly had his own agenda. Exactly what that was we’ll probably never know.

Conclusion:

I couldn’t talk about this episode without discussing Mr. X and his Sophie’s Choice; rather than save the leper or hybrid or whatever you choose to believe it is, from the train car as he was sent to do, X rescues Mulder’s foolish behind instead. This may be his best moment in the entire series, but that’s hard to say since he’s had some fabulous ones. What’s X’s motivation? He once said in “One Breath” (2×8) that he used to be a man much like Mulder and more and more it appears that he really still is. We never find out why he chose to help Mulder after Deep Throat died and, ruthless as he is, it seems out of character for him unless he has a soft, tootsie roll center that he’s keeping hidden inside a hard candy shell. (I’ve only had one cup of coffee as I’m writing this so you’ll have to excuse me).

Come to think of it, the supporting characters steal a lot of the show in “731”. We’re also introduced to the Red-Haired Man of the not so red hair, yet another worthy adversary gone too soon. How can you not love an assassin that fixes his hair in the mirror after a kill? I appreciated the fact that no one is safe on The X-Files and that pretty much every character outside of Mulder and Scully are in danger of being killed off in the blink of an eye. But seeing Red-Haired Man’s quick demise I can’t help but wonder if Chris Carter & Co. were a little too quick on the trigger sometimes. Characters were gone just as they were starting to make an impact.

On a final note, isn’t it a little strange on some level that Scully so easily dismisses the idea of aliens? Has she already forgotten Purity Control?

A-

Useless Commentary:

A juicy little tidbit is thrown out early on in the episode that because of her implant, the conspirators may have had access to Scully’s every thought for the past year. What an awesome concept. If only it had been explored further.

Oh the adorably dorky Agent Pendrell, does anyone else wish Scully had noticed him a little more? I suppose the earth shattering news he delivers to her would distract any girl, but he’s just so pitiful that it’s sweet.

It’s a rare mythology episode indeed that doesn’t feature CSM. He makes little more than a cameo appearance at the end of the episode, just so that we remember that he’s still pulling the strings.

Priceless X-Files Moment #385: Mulder’s life hangs in the balance as Scully reads off a number that will either save him or kill him and all she can say is, “Yeah… yeah I’m pretty sure.”

Best Quotes:

Agent Pendrell: This kind of neural network could be not only collecting information, but artificially replicating a person’s mental processes.
Scully: You could know a person’s every thought.
Agent Pendrell: Frightening.

——————-

Scully: Well done, Agent Pendrell. Keep up the good work.
Agent Pendrell: Hey, thanks. Keep it up yourself!
Scully: [Leaves]
Agent Pendrell: [To self] “Keep it up yourself”… what a doof.

——————–

Elder: The ruler of the world is no longer the country with the greatest soldiers, but the greatest scientists.

——————–

Red-Haired Man: You’re going to die. You know that?
Mulder: What do you care? You were trying to kill me anyway.

——————–

Mulder: We’re both going to die in here. The difference is, I’m going to die quickly. As an employee of the National Security Agency you should know that a gunshot wound to the stomach is probably the most painful and the slowest way to die. But I’m not a very good shot. And when I miss… I tend to miss low.

——————–

Scully: Mulder. I think I’ve got something here.
Mulder: What is it?
Scully: I think I may have a code for you. I’m watching Zama punch it in to a keypad in one of the train cars.
Mulder: What are you watching?
Scully: Your alien autopsy video.
Mulder: You mean I might get my $29.95’s worth after all?

———————

Mulder: I don’t need an apology for the lies. I don’t care about the fictions they create to cover their crimes. I want them held accountable for what did happen. I want an apology for the truth.