Tag Archives: Paper Clip

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 won’t 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.

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.

 

Without 8×2: You say you want to find Mulder but you won’t do what it takes.


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Because Skinner does need to get out more.

We’re back to the mythology…. and we’re back to the voiceovers. But we’ll focus on the mythology.

I’m happy to see Skinner and Scully both getting their hands dirty in the search for Mulder. They get a lot of action in “Without” if not a lot of answers. Actually, I said we’re going to discuss the mythology, but even as I think about discussing it I realize that there isn’t much to discuss. Have we learned anything besides the fact that the Alien Bounty Hunters are keeping watch over Mulder for some unknown reason that never will be known?

What are the aliens doing to Mulder and why are they doing it? We were lead to believe in “Requiem” (7×22) that the aliens are trying to eliminate human test subjects who, it’s implied, were successfully turned into alien hybrids or something close to it. Mulder himself said the abductees wouldn’t be coming back this time.

Well then, why torture Mulder? Why not kill him and get it over with? I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with assuming that the aliens want more information from his body, and that Chris Carter wanted an excuse to strap David Duchovny naked to a cold chair for hours. Because.

Another plot device that makes me scratch my head is the inexplicable cliff jump.

Doggett has an Alien Bounty Hunter cornered in front of a steep cliff, an Alien Bounty Hunter that he didn’t know was an Alien Bounty Hunter because it was disguised as Mulder, not that he would have believed it was an Alien Bounty Hunter regardless. The Alien Bounty Hunter has a hold of Gibson Praise, living proof of alien life, evidence of which the Alien Colonists are systematically trying to destroy. Since Alien Bounty Hunters can’t be stopped by mere guns, but only by an exact kill shot to the back of the neck, I trust I wasn’t alone in assuming that our next shot of Doggett would be him wallowing on the ground as the Alien Bounty Hunter escaped with Gibson.

That would make sense, but sometimes Chris Carter forgoes making sense and skips straight ahead to improbable plot points. Suffice it to say, instead of killing Doggett or at the very least knocking him down, the Alien Bounty Hunter lets go of Gibson, his prize catch, and runs away from Doggett by jumping off the cliff. Because.

I guess it was just too soon to lose Doggett.

Doggett gets time to grow… eventually. For this episode, his main purpose is to trigger Scully’s spontaneous combustion into Mulder. Scully, having once been much like Doggett herself, a firm believer in facts and evidence, is a little embarrassed at times having to give voice to Mulder’s theories in front of Doggett. She’s not used to having to defend the crazy.

I do get it. Scully’s grieving and is trying to compensate for the loss of Mulder by keeping him alive through his theories, which is why when she’s not acting embarrassed and unsure of herself she’s defensive and defiant.

It’s nice to see some emotions from Scully other than her usual poker face. She’s all over the place mentally: confident, confused, scared, angry, suspicious, frustrated. She’s determined to find Mulder, who is frustratingly closer than she knows, but she doesn’t know where to start. She’s so desperate, she resorts to wandering the desert in the dark calling his name. If she keeps this up, she really will turn into Mulder, at least the unbalanced part of him.

Anyway, this new plot gives Gillian Anderson more to do and I’m glad for that. Though it must be said that Scully Tears will get old past a point.

But hey, at least she has a new partner to help her dry those tears! Despite Chris Carter’s initial protestations, Mulder is replaced. Doggett is officially assigned to the X-Files by the end of the episode, whereupon he immediately starts making sweet overtures of peace to Scully. I know Scully’s shocked and horrified face speaks for us all.

Verdict:

I’m tempted to say, and I will say, that this was much ado about nothing. No progress whatsoever has been made in the search for Mulder. We’re really just rehashing the Alien Bounty Hunter idea and milking it for all it’s worth, not that I at all mind the chance to see ABH Scully and ABH Skinner. Those tense scenes of suspicion where no one knows who the impostor is are the best parts of the episode. And Scully and Skinner haven’t had the chance to face off with guns since “Paper Clip” (3×2).

But the lack of any kind of progression leads me to believe that there will be no all-encompassing search for Mulder this season. If there were, Carter would have had Scully employ the talents of the yet still living Gibson Praise. After all, he’s a human homing device. No, it looks like we’re not on the hunt but instead we’re settling down for a wait.

If that final scene between Scully and the Alien Bounty Hunter tells us anything, it’s that she can’t be running around like this anymore. She has Mulder’s baby spawn to think about. She’s also come to realize, maybe after wandering the desert at night, that even if by some miracle she stumbles upon Mulder’s spaceship, what then? I guess the thing to do is to settle back into a routine working on the X-Files and see what new clues drop into our laps.

There is one tantalizing mythology tidbit, though. Doggett is likely being set up to fail by Kersh. And we already suspect that Kersh is obeying orders from somebody. So who is it who wants Mulder hunted down but not found, and why?

I’m not overly impressed by all this shuffling of the feet without any forward motion. But I am curious, which is more than I could say for all of Season 7.

And you know that creepy shot of all those Alien Bounty Hunters surrounding Mulder’s torture chair? Enjoy it. You’ll never see Mr. Bounty Hunter again.

B+

Question:

How did Gibson Praise’s hideout miraculously cover itself back up with sand after his friend Thea went down in it? For that matter, what kind of secret hideout has a door you can’t hide? And just because Thea is deaf doesn’t make her stupid. I can’t believe she traveled for miles to a secret den because of an imminent threat, yet never once looked behind her to see someone following her in the open desert.

Best Quotes:

Scully: I promise. I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you.

Gibson Praise: You said that to me once before.

 

En Ami 7×15: Here’s a story to warm the cockles of your heart.


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The devil went down to Virginia.

The title basically gives the crux of this episode away. Is C.G.B. Spender, aka Cigarette-Smoking Man, acting “en ami,” “as a friend?” Or is he, as ever, Scully’s enemy?

When “En Ami” first aired I remember liking it alright, but overall feeling a little disappointed. I’m happy to report that it improves upon rewatching, provided one keeps one’s expectations in check; this isn’t designed to be fright fest or a fast-paced adventure or even a true mythology episode. It’s really a quiet study in psychological intrigue. Somehow or other, CSM is able to wear down Scully’s mind to the point where she believes him. Him! A confirmed liar and the father of them.

In a welcome turn, Scully is the object of everyone’s attentions and affections this episode. Though the real stars of “En Ami” are Scully’s breasts.

I kid.

No, I don’t.

A few gratuitous shots of Scully’s cleavage aside, it feels good to watch her launch her own investigation for the first time in a long time. Well, I guess it’s not really an investigation. CSM sets Scully up from the beginning by orchestrating a series of events designed to trick her into showing up at a particular meeting place, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to get his hands on the cure to his disease.

He starts by curing Jason, a little boy diagnosed with cancer whose parents don’t believe in traditional medicine for religious reasons. Jason is visited one night by “angels” who implant a chip in his neck, triggering his immediate recovery. CSM draws Scully’s attention to this little miracle, knowing that because of the chip she’d had in her own neck and her battle against cancer after she had it removed, she wouldn’t be able to ignore the implications.

Once Scully is duly intrigued, CSM announces his presence, telling Scully that Jason isn’t the first and he doesn’t have to be the last. In what feels like a clear-cut case of the devil masquerading as God, CSM claims that he has the cure to cancer and he’ll give it to Scully and only to Scully. Enough of that Mulder. He doesn’t know what’s good for him.

The feeling is mutual as Mulder is done listening to CSM and warns Scully that she shouldn’t fall for his mind games either. Here’s where Scully gets really radical, not because she decides to go on a road trip with CSM, but because she lies to Mulder and thinks she can get away with it.

Now, I’m all for Scully ditching Mulder. Heaven knows he deserves it after the untold times he’s left her flapping in the wind of ignorance while he ran headlong into danger. But did Scully really think Mulder wouldn’t catch on immediately? Mulder, who as far back as “Paper Clip” (3×2) she had a psychic connection with. Notice she can’t look him in the face and lie, she has to do it over an answering machine.

No, it seems like a battle she knew she’s lose; she was merely buying time to get away with CSM. The benefit her foolishness affords us is a great scene in Scully’s hallway between Mulder and Scully’s building super. Also, there’s a fabulous moment when Skinner is on the phone with Scully and Mulder reaches for the phone, but she hangs up rather than talk to him. Burn.

But I’m getting off topic. Back to the plot.

Scully and CSM run off together and leave Mulder pacing the floor with worry. CSM introduces Scully to another one of his success stories, Marjorie Butters, a one hundred and eighteen year old woman who doesn’t look a day over seventy. How we went from the cure for cancer to the secret of eternal life, I don’t know. But for some reason, Scully the doctor is convinced, not by scientific proof, but by anecdotal evidence. Maybe she wants to believe.

Now that she does believe, and this is a jump in logic I’m never quite able to make, CSM also convinces her that there’s a contact they have to meet who holds the science that Scully needs to save the world. I thought CSM already had the cure? No? Well, I’m going to give the plot the benefit of the doubt and assume that CSM had access to the chips, but not the (alien) science behind the technology, and that’s what he promised Scully.

Anywho, after a very skeevy moment where Scully falls dead asleep in the car and CSM puts gloves on before staring at her… dangerously, they arrive at a quaint little hotel in the idyllic middle of nowhere. Did CSM drug her? Please, for the love of applesauce, somebody tell me changed her own clothes and put herself in bed. ‘Cause Scully and I are both a little freaked out right now.

It’s over a candlelit dinner when The Girls and Scully, their co-star, are told by CSM that this technology will not only cure cancer but it’s the cure to all that ills. No one comes out and uses the word “panacea,” but I suppose that would make the idea sound farfetched. And no one wants The X-Files to sound farfetched. Perhaps, though, this explains Marjorie Butters.

The more interesting thing is that CSM spills his guts. Well, okay. I’m overstating that. But he does reveal a secret longing for human love. Supposedly, near death’s door as he is, he wants to leave behind something good. He regrets choosing a life of bitter loneliness. Whether he says this out of genuine remorse, or whether this is part of his scheme to trick Scully, or whether he has unrealistic hopes of seducing Scully, you be the judge.

We do know he’s up to something, however, as Black-Haired Man from Fight the Future is back and secretly doing his dirty work. Scully also has a secret admirer who slips her a note in the restaurant, telling her to meet him at dawn. Actually, he calls it “first light,” but we all know that’s purely for flair.

Scully goes to meet him out on the lake and he turns out to be “Cobra,” a man wanted by the federal government and who was involved in some shadow project at the Department of Defense. As Mulder and the Lone Gunmen find out separately, “Cobra” has been emailing Scully for the past six months. He thought she was emailing him back. She wasn’t. Somebody, who probably looks a lot like CSM, hacked her computer, intercepted the emails and responded as Scully. That same somebody set up this meeting at the quaint little hotel in the idyllic middle of nowhere.

“Cobra” gives Scully a disk that supposedly contains the secret to utopia on it and drops some not so subtle hints about he and Scully creating their own private utopia. He’ll have to make due with that last glance at our fair heroine, alas, as Black-Haired Man promptly shoots him from his hidden position in the woods almost as soon as he hands over the disk. He takes aim at Scully too – after all, all they wanted was the disk and Scully was merely the lure to draw Cobra out – but the shot we hear ring out kills him instead. It looks like CSM has a soft spot for Scully after all. Whether he intended to save her from the beginning… I have my doubts. But it would appear that CSM’s more emotionally attached to his sworn enemies than his minions. Funny how relationships can develop like that.

Safe and sound, Scully hands the disk over to CSM who duly gives it back to her because, after all, the whole point was to get this information into Scully’s hands. Back in Mulder’s apartment, Scully looks hopefully up at Mulder who was ready to call out the National Guard over his missing partner. The expression on his face as he looks up and away from her is priceless. He says nothing with his mouth but his eyes say, “I can’t even talk to you right now.” All’s not forgiven yet.

Scully has incurred Mulder’s ire to no avail. There’s nothing on the disk. CSM switched them somehow, giving Scully a blank disk and keeping the disk with the information on it he needs to save his own life. That’s all this was ever about. The fake office building, the fake miracles, all of it. It was an elaborate rouse to save himself.

Why, then, does he toss the disk into the water? Could it be that not everything he told Scully was a lie? Maybe he doesn’t really want to live, not if he continues to live a meaningless and lonely life.

Verdict:

Whew! I know I don’t usually recap this much. But with so much intrigue, it seemed easier to combine my comments with the plot for the most part. This isn’t a traditional mythology episode, but there are almost as many twists and turns.

The ambiguity of it all is actually one of this episodes weak points, or strong points depending on how you look at it. Back in the day, The X-Files used to leave its audience hanging on the regular. This was our first and only offering of a script from William B. Davis (heavily edited by Frank Spotnitz) who, understandably, wanted to get inside CSM’s head a little bit. And, even more understandably, wanted some more screentime with Gillian Anderson. The thing is, CSM tells us things about himself, but it’s hard to decide which lie to believe. In the end, we’re not any closer to knowing who he is. Unless, of course, like me you think he truly is a lonely man with a soft spot for Scully and Mulder.

As I said before, it’s a quiet, thoughtful sort of episode without any fireworks or mayhem. But I like it because even if it doesn’t offer concrete insight, it gives me several good laughs and moments of tension.

Hee-Haws –

  • The Lone Gunmen in drag
  • “Do you know how many people have died in there?”
  • Mulder so ticked at Scully he can’t even look in her direction

Uh-Ohs –

  • Black-Haired Man masquerades as the Mailman
  • Did CSM just see Scully naked???

There’s a bit where CSM tries to psycho-analyze Scully that I could have done without. However, at least there’s some emotional continuity with “Never Again” (4×13). Not that CSM knows Scully as well as he thinks he does, not based on her eyebrow raise after he accuses her of living “a life alone.” Hmm…

Long story not so short, I think it’s good. The plot can be a little hard to follow, it’s hard to believe Scully would fall for CSM’s lies on so little evidence, and it’s a little tame, so I’m torn between grades. With the aftertaste of “First Person Shooter” (7×13) still in my mouth, I’m almost inclined to upgrade it in comparison. But I think I’ll have to go with a:

B+

Blank Disks:

Seriously though, I love Mulder’s wounded housewife routine. “Where were you? You should have called!”

You really can’t blame CSM for taking a shot. Gillian Anderson looks especially gorgeous this episode. I’m glad they gave her the chance to dress up at least once in the series.

Scully makes secret tape recordings for Mulder. Tapes. Remember those?

That scene where Scully’s asleep in the car with CSM and he reaches over to touch her reminds me, perversely, of “Pusher” (3×17).

This was director Rob Bowman’s final episode before leaving the show.

Scully’s motivations – Maybe she falls for it all so easily because CSM knew which buttons to push. He focused on her compassion as a doctor, her sense of justice as a law enforcement agent, her curiosity as a scientist, and her empathy as a cancer survivor. No wonder he went to her and not to Mulder.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I’ve just got to know whether it was Roma Downey or Della Reese.

————————

Scully: What the hell are you doing?

CSM: God’s work, what else?

————————

Apartment Manager: Tenant like having an FBI agent in the building. Gives them a sense of security.

Mulder: Do you know how many people have died in there?

Apartment Manager: Oh, we don’t really talk about that.

———————–

Mulder: Who the hell is Cobra? Scully would have told me about him.

Langly: Well, it looks like she’s gone to great lengths to keep this from you.

Mulder: I don’t believe that. She knows that I’d find her, no matter what. {Editor’s Note: He can back that up too, y’all.}

 

S.R. 819 6×10: At least you didn’t get your ear bit off.


Call Dr. Scully.

I’m in love with Assistant Director Walter Skinner.

And I know I’m not the only one. For all those who have gone into withdrawal after the admittedly extended period of light-hearted antics that make up the first third of Season 6, we’re about to have four heavy-duty episodes in a row. Sigh no more, ladies. Sigh no more.

Krycek was a deceiver ever. And the official battle between him and Skinner has begun, though it’s been brewing since “The Blessing Way” (3×1) when Krycek and Luis Cardinal put a hurtin’ on Skinner in the stairwell of a hospital. It escalated after Skinner handcuffed Krycek to his balcony in “Tunguska” (4×9) and left him to suffer from exposure. See why revenge is never the answer?

Not that the stoically upright Skinner is a vengeful kinda guy, though it’s clear from his introspective soliloquies in this episode that he doesn’t consider himself any sort of hero.

Well, I do. And Scully’s right, Skinner judges himself too harshly.

Yes, he had to compromise himself early on in his relationship with Mulder and Scully, but it’s obvious Cigarette-Smoking Man had an unpleasant hold on his career, perhaps even wielding blackmail as a weapon. But no sooner does he get the chance than Skinner bucks CSM’s authority and aids Mulder in his quest as early as “Ascension” (2×6). Even before that he showed signs of sympathy. Remember his, “This should have been an X-File” comment in “The Host” (2×2)?

He proved to be Mulder and Scully’s protector in episodes like “End Game” (2×17) where he pummels Mulder’s location out of Mr. X in an effort to save his life and in “Paper Clip” (3×2) when he extorts the safe return of Mulder and Scully out of CSM by threatening to release classified information on the conspiracy. In fact, it’s that episode where Skinner officially crawls out from under CSM’s nefarious shadow. Too bad his hard-won independence doesn’t last long. By the time we reach “Avatar” (3×21), CSM has cooked up a cold dish of revenge framing Skinner for murder. And while Mulder and Scully… and his soon to be ex-wife… deliver Skinner out of that trap, he willingly walks back into CSM’s clutches in “Memento Mori” (4×15) in order to, what else? Save Scully. By “Zero Sum” (4×21) he’s a patsy again, but though his position may be compromised his loyalty never is.

Despite not being much older than they are, Skinner plays the harsh but protective father to Mulder and Scully. He’s willing to get his hands dirty so that they don’t have to, not because his conscience is seared but because the soldier in him is willing to sacrifice to win the war. If Skinner were to die now he would not die in vain. Mulder and Scully would have been dead long ago if not for him.

But not once did it occur to me that Skinner might actually die, no more than I though Mulder might really be dead at the end of “Gethsemene” (4×24), which is the best evidence I can give of Skinner’s unofficial status as the third lead on The X-Files; so indispensable has this character become, this character that was never intended by Chris Carter to be a major role, that it’s hard to take the threat of his death seriously.

I never believed they’d do it, but Chris Carter & Co. did consider it. Mulder and Scully no longer worked under Skinner so he was no longer absolutely vital to the plot and because he had changed over the years from a mysterious and potentially dangerous figure to a stalwart ally, he had become too predictable, too reliable. Fortunately for Skinner lovers, the plot potential in this new hold Krycek gains over Skinner convinced The Powers That Be that interesting things could still be done with the character. Thank heavens because can you imagine Season 8 with no Skinner? ::shudders::

The question is, how does a man as self-sufficient as Skinner, who has already escaped the clutches of CSM himself, wind up with his life in the hands of Ratboy? I confess, I never really understood the plot till now so for those fans as slow on the uptake as I am, here’s a rundown:

It all starts with Tunisia. And if that sets off bells of recognition in your head, it should. If I didn’t know better, I’d say there were some oblique implications here that Syndicate leader Strughold who, as we see in Fight the Future, has his base of operations is in Tunisia, is behind the S.R. 819 conspiracy. That would also explain how Krycek originally got involved since last we saw him in “The End” (5×20) he was working for the Syndicate under the authority of Well-Manicured Man. Since Well-Manicured Man is now deceased (sniffle), it’s safe to say Krycek’s loyalties within the organization have moved on. Or safer to say that his only real loyalty is to himself.

Krycek is working on his own in keeping Skinner alive. We can assume he wants him alive and at his mercy so that he can use him for his own agenda later. The Syndicate has a man at the F.B.I. in Jeffrey Spender, now Krycek has his own man on the inside, reluctant though he may be.

The original plan was to export this potentially dangerous nanotechnology to Tunisia, and possibly into the hands of Strughold and the Syndicate, under the guise of the World Health Organization. Before that happened, S.R. 819 had to pass inspection by scientist Kenneth Orgel and the F.B.I.’s own Skinner, a safeguard that was usually a mere formality. However, Orgel understands the potential consequences of the nanotechnology falling into the wrong hands and goes to warn Skinner, but is infected to keep him from talking. Skinner too is infected and is supposed to be killed but Krycek intervenes.

From what Mulder says to Skinner at the end of the episode and the surprised look on Scully’s face when Skinner claims not to be able to recognize the bearded man who tried to kill him, it looks like Mulder and Scully are aware that Krycek is behind all this. But they still don’t know what he’s up to and they certainly don’t know why Skinner refuses to give him up. As in the first Skinner-centric episode, “Avatar”, Mulder and Scully’s concern for their former boss is touching. As before, they drive the investigation to save Skinner only this time to better effect because Skinner doesn’t sit passively, fatalistically by while they work. The determination he starts this episode with must make it especially grating on him to have to slip right back into his old compromising ways.

Verdict:

I can’t say I love “S.R. 819” the way I love Skinner himself because though there’s a tangible sense of urgency, the plot is a little obscure and aside from Skinner’s pulsing veins, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. But I do appreciate the potential mythology implications and I welcome the return of Krycek with open arms. I was one of those taken by surprise when he reappeared. Maybe even “Stevie Wonder would see that one comin’”, but I didn’t.

If my memory serves me correctly, and that’s by no means a guarantee, this was the series’ final Skinner-centric episode. That’s rather surprising considering there are three more seasons to go but it makes it all the more irritating that there’s no resolution to what happened to Skinner’s wife Karen, a character both introduced and discarded back in “Avatar”.

I wasn’t looking for anything detailed. A brief mention from a hospital orderly would have sufficed. “The patient is Walter Skinner. Widowed. Works for the F.B.I.” or “Walter Skinner – Divorced. No known relatives. In case of emergency contact Special Agent Dana Scully.” See how easy that would have been?

My only consolation is that I think there could be a cleverly veiled reference to “Avatar” here:

Mulder: This morning, you woke up…
Skinner: I woke up.
Mulder: Alone?
Skinner: Yes. Alone.

Then again, that’s probably wishful thinking on my part.

B+

The Peanut Gallery:

While I don’t think anyone fell for it, those opening moments of the episode where they would have us believe that Mulder is the F.B.I. agent about to die are well done. I quite like the idea of scaring the audience. If only that silly episode preview hadn’t ruined the surprise…

We haven’t seen Senator Matheson since “Nisei” (3×9) and the truth is, I don’t even remember him in it. The connections in congress Mulder so famously depends upon in the “Pilot” (1×79) have all but become obsolete in the current stage of the mythology. However, I’m glad they brought Matheson back one last time, if only to drive home the point that Mulder has fewer people he can trust than even he once believed. That makes the fact that one of his allies is now seriously compromised… and that he doesn’t know it… even more poignant.

Wouldn’t it have been awesome if Senator Matheson were secretly a member of the Syndicate?

It makes me a little sad to think the ear-biting references might be lost on this new generation.

Mulder and Scully are forbidden any contact with Skinner. Don’t they know there are cameras at the F.B.I.?

Parts of the movie score are recycled several times in this episode. And there’s an overhead shot of the highway that looks recycled as well – there’s no way that shot was in a television budget.

I’ve never read the fanfic, but I’m sure the Skinner/Scully Shippers had a field day with this episode.

That abandoned warehouse set is striking. I especially enjoy the lighting when Mulder walks in on the Senator.

I recently found out that Nicholas Lea (Krycek) is about to guest star on Supernatural. That’s an interesting coincidence since both Steven Williams (Mr. X) and Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) have guest starred on that show for a series of episodes. Ah, when fate binds souls together…

This reminds me of the good old days when Scully often stared in wonder and computer screens looking at scientific data that shouldn’t exist.

I dig the “Chinga” (5×10) reference, John Shiban. I dig it.

Best Quotes:

Skinner: I was boxing. I must’ve gotten tagged.
Nurse: Yes, you did. At least you didn’t get your ear bit off. That’s something, right?

——————-

Dr. Plant: Well, the good news is… your dilation’s back to normal. Plus you still have both your ears.
Skinner: I heard that one.

——————-

Dr. Plant: Well, you’re lucky. He’s on a government HMO – no one’s even bothered to handle the samples yet.

The X-Files Movie Part 1: So much for little green men.


Little green man?

This story is so epic it spans 37,000 years. And if that isn’t enough evidence for you, they also changed the logo.

We open on two linebackers cavemen who stumble upon a cantankerous alien in an ice cave. This alien looks like nothing we’ve seen before on The X-Files where when unreliable glimpses of aliens are shown, they’re grey-green children with bug eyes in rubber suits. This alien has claws and sounds and moves suspiciously like a panther. One of the pre-historic men survives the fight, but the blood the alien leaves behind starts moving on it’s own. And already we have our first major revelation of the movie: the Black Oil is alien blood.

This means the sentient Black Oil that we were introduced to way back in  “Piper Maru” (3×15) isn’t just alien in nature, it’s the essence of the aliens themselves. Oh, and by the by, these aliens? They’re a far cry from the benignly mute little munchkins we’ve been used to envisioning the Colonists as. If this is who they’re dealing with, is it a wonder the Syndicate would rather serve than resist? Or is what we see here all there is to the aliens? Hmm.

Fast forward several millennia or so and four adventurous small town boys on lone from some heretofore unknown Stephen Spielberg film are digging holes in the Texas desert. One of them, Stevie, who looks like a miniature version of Alex Krycek, falls into the same ancient cave where our two Neanderthals from the opening met their fate long ago. Skulls are all that remain of anything human, but the Black Oil is still alive and slicking and it decides to infect Stevie post-haste.

Four firemen come to Stevie’s rescue and fall prey to the Black Oil themselves. No sooner are the firemen gonners than a crew flying unmarked helicopters and driving unmarked tanker trucks arrives on the scene and led by a worried looking man named Bronschweig proceed to take over operations.

I had you big time.

Sometime later and not too far away in Dallas, the F.B.I. is combing a federal building for a bomb that’s been reported. Mulder and Scully, meanwhile, are combing a building that is not federal and that is not under a bomb threat. That’s our team. Which begs the question, why would anyone in their right mind have Mulder and Scully hunting bombs? The X-Files burn up and this is what they have them doing? How does this match their skill set?

I have to pause here to give enthusiastic kudos to Chris Carter et. al. because this introduction of Mulder and Scully is epic (I’ll be using that word a lot this review, so brace yourselves). It’s all kinds of perfect. Not only does it tell any new viewer everything they need to know about these two people, their personalities and their relationship in a clean, efficient and fun way, but it’s enough to send any faithful fan into convulsions of Squee.

Scully smiles. Scully has fun. Scully cracks jokes. Do the events of this movie take place sometime in Season 1 and someone forget to tell me?

I’m being melodramatic, but it really isn’t often that we see Scully so loose and easygoing. And then quickly afterward to get a hefty dose of Angry Scully when she orders the evacuation of the building, it’s fangirl paradise. Though I must say, both Mulder and Scully are awfully casual for two people searching for a bomb, but we’ll let that slide for the joy of it all.

The way Mulder finds the bomb is genius; it’s just like The X-Files to take something as innocuous as patronizing a vending machine and turn it into your worst nightmare. However, having discovered the bomb, Mulder would be insane to actually open up the machine and risk blowing them all to oblivion. Mulder’s crazy but he’s not insane.

What gives me more pause than that, though, is the level of coincidence the plot is already forced to rely on. Mulder, off the X-Files mind you, happens to be investigating a bomb threat being used by a shadow government to hide the truth about extra-terrestrials. Mulder guesses based on no other evidence but his own instincts that the bomb won’t be in the building that was reported. Then, out of all the other buildings surrounding the federal building, he picks the right one to search, the one that really does have the bomb. Then, after giving up the search, he happens to pick the vending machine with the bomb in it to try to buy a drink from. Playing with coincidences as if they were building blocks is a dangerous game for a storyteller to play.

S.A.C. Michaud, played all too briefly, but memorably by an intense Terry O’Quinn, says that he will defuse the bomb, but Mulder and Scully don’t get to see him watch the clock run down without even attempting to do so. It’s a powerful moment and I can only dream that in some archive somewhere is a deleted scene giving us more insight into Michaud’s character.

I may not know why Mulder and Scully have joined the bomb squad and it may be riddled with coincidences, but this whole ten-minute sequence is perfectly executed.

One would think that having stumbled into the salvation of hundreds of people Mulder and Scully would come home to a ticker tape parade, but instead they’re sent before the Office of Professional Review Panel to explain why there were five people they missed, never mind the fact that it wasn’t their mistake that caused this mess. It makes no sense. It also doesn’t make sense to dispose of the alien infected bodies in an elaborate bomb plot rather than to, I dunno, cremate them. I can only assume that somewhere in the back of this is the Syndicate and/or Cigarette-Smoking Man looking to move Mulder out of the way once and for all.

Whatever the reason for this mess, Scully isn’t interested in being reprimanded and reassigned. If there are no more X-Files and no Mulder to work with, there’s nothing left worth doing at the F.B.I.. Mulder is shell-shocked when she sheepishly breaks the news to him and decides that evening to soak his professional and personal problems in booze. It’s not my favorite scene since something about his Spooky Mulder speech feels forced to me, but the writers had to find some reasonably inconspicuous way to let newcomers in the audience know why Mulder’s chasing aliens in the first place.

Dr. Alvin Kurtzweil, played by television and movie veteran Martin Landau, introduces himself to a drunken Mulder and lets him in on the secrets behind the Dallas bombing. Mulder, duly intrigued, fetches Scully in the middle of the night for an impromptu autopsy. If those firemen and the boy were dead before the bombing, they need to know. The scene where Mulder bluffs his way down to the morgue by intimidating the soldier is nearly play for play a repeat of a scene in “The Red and the Black” (5×14).

It’s quickly obvious that the fireman Scully examines hasn’t died in an explosion. The night guard isn’t nearly as quick to discover that he’s been had by Mulder. When he and his fellow soldiers do come for Scully, she makes a couple of awfully quick escapes that owe much to movie magic but are entertaining nonetheless.

Burn it. Like the others.

Meanwhile, CSM has learned from Bronschweig that this time the Black Oil hasn’t just infected its host, it’s gestating inside him, growing itself a physical body. CSM decides to keep it alive in order to test out the one potential weapon they have against the Colonists: a weak vaccine against the Black Oil virus. The 3784th Law of Movie Dynamics says that will never happen the way he intends.

Kurtzweil breaks down for Mulder the general outline of the conspiracy. Much of it long time viewers had already guessed, but this serves as more than confirmation. It also lets us know the Syndicate’s practical plans for carrying out colonization. The date for this has already been determined, and although it’s not explicitly given, we know that it will be during a holiday when people are traveling. Hint, hint!

As usual, Scully resists Mulder when he tries to pull her on a ridiculous chase only to show up after all. After complaining that she can’t afford to miss her meeting with O.P.R., Scully surprises Mulder by showing up in Dallas where he’s already trying to find evidence of a cover-up in the debris from the bomb site. Scully, who magically goes from pathologist to anthropologist, takes a quick look at fossilized bone fragments taken from the site that show the same evidence of massive infection that she saw in the body she autopsied earlier.

Help! I need help!

Back at Bronschweig’s secret base, we come to one of my favorite parts of the movie. Bronschweig is abandoned by his minions and buried alive with the fully gestated alien monster. The look on his face when he realizes what’s happening to him still fills me with cold horror. And, oh, how I remember my best friend and I covering the theater in giggles when the alien extended its malevolent claws. (Cut us some slack, we were 15).

After this is our first official introduction to Conrad Strughold. If the Syndicate has a leader, it’s him. I say “official” introduction because we’ve run into Strughold before. It was his mining facility that Mulder and Scully discovered the endless rows of medical files in during “Paper Clip” (3×2). Here we meet the man himself and it’s as he’s breaking disheartening news to his fellow conspirators: the Black Oil isn’t out to control us, it means to feed on us.

This begs several questions. We’ve seen the Black Oil trap people in coma-like states in episodes like “Tunguska” (4×9), we’ve seen it possess people and take over their wills as recently as “The Red and the Black”. If the Black Oil, the sentient essence of alien life, has always intended to repopulate the human race with itself through gestation, what’s with the comas and the mind control? Were the powerful men behind this collaboration with the aliens really so ignorant of their plans? And why, now that they have a viable vaccine, don’t these men do as Well-Manicured Man suggests and resist rather than facilitate the apocalypse?

I think they key is that the Black Oil is sentient. It doesn’t randomly take effect but chooses when and how to act. In other words, it knows when to hold ‘em and knows when to fold ‘em. Also, the samples of the Black Oil that the Syndicate has been able to get their hands on up to this point have been small and recent. They aren’t from this ancient, pre-historic stock that may not be aware of the rest of its race’s plans to negotiate surrender with the Syndicate. If it did, it probably would risk tipping them off to its actual power.

For their part, the Syndicate feels as though open resistance would be an idealist’s response and a mistake. The vaccine they have is still not 100% effective and so it has to be administered fairly quickly after infection, though it’s already much improved over the vaccine they stole from the Russians, the one that took its sweet time in curing Marita Covarrubias in “The Red and the Black”. Rather than fight with such a weak arsenal, they’d rather continue to remain under the Colonist’s protection until such time as they’ve gathered enough information to defeat them. Or so they say.

New facts of biology which have presented themselves.

The one hold out is WMM who has finally had enough of the aliens’ lies. When we’re introduced to him in the film, we see him spending time with his grandchildren and it’s clear from his benevolent expression where his priorities lay, in the future of his progeny. Now the tensions that have played out between him and the rest of the Syndicate during Season 5 come to a head. The scene where WMM faces off against the rest of the Syndicate, all the shots with him in it show him alone vs. the shots of the others show them all grouped together. What a great choice to visually show the underlying divisions between them.

Of course, the problem of Mulder comes up again. His digging is about to gum up their conspiratorial machine. Unsurprisingly, the idea of killing him is bandied about yet again as it has been since Season 2’s “Ascension” (2×6). Is Mulder really so important that they can’t kill him without risking their plans? We saw a glimpse in “Patient X” (5×13) of Mulder’s reputation in certain circles, but it wouldn’t have hurt for the show to have given the audience more of a sense over time of Mulder’s influence because, as it stands now, it’s hard to believe anyone with an I.Q. over 30 and a clean bill of mental health is listening to him. But I can’t fault them for trying to give an explanation where there is none. The longer the series continues and the higher the stakes are raised the more it feels as if the Syndicate is foolish not to kill Mulder, but we can’t have a show without a hero. Chris Carter then has no choice but to come up with an explanation for why he’s still around.

Since Mulder’s off limits, the Syndicate decides to take the sadistic approach and take away that which he loves the most, that with which he can’t live without. Cut to Scully.

You all look like door-to-door salesmen.

I should roll my eyes here at the blatant cheesiness of this moment, but no, I grin like an imbecile. However, we’ll save my gushing for Part 2 when we discuss the evolution of Mulder and Scully’s relationship in detail.

Moving on… while their futures are mapped out by others, Mulder and Scully are on the trail of the Black Oil the Syndicate has harvested from the ancient cave and is hauling away in unmarked tanker trucks. Their chase leads them to a mysterious field out of Children of the Corn, minus the children. It’s here that Mulder and Scully discover that bees are being kept, bees that pollinate corn in the middle of the desert. Like in “Herrenvolk” (4×1), these bees are carriers of the alien virus, the Black Oil, through their pollination of genetically modified corn. It’s bees like these that will eventually be released on the population of the world to infect them when Colonization goes down.

This is where we run into the most unbelievable set of coincidences Fight the Future tries to sell us. Based on Strughold’s comments and a not so subtle hint that Scully is the key to breaking Mulder’s spirit, we know that the Syndicate plans to take Scully away. If the insinuations are to be believed, the Syndicate cleverly arranges Scully’s infection and abduction through a precisely placed Arthropod. Right.

A better answer is that they intended to do something to Scully, but didn’t actually get around to it. Mulder and Scully stuck their noses where they didn’t belong and a bee took her out first. No doubt the Syndicate knew they had been to the site and were monitoring their calls, so when Mulder called 911 and described Scully’s symptoms one of their minions was on hand to intercept her before the real ambulance arrived.

It’s either that or the Syndicate leads Mulder and Scully magically to the tanker trucks and then to the giant Jiffy Pop poppers, knowing that they’d go inside, releases the bees and programs one of the said bees to sting Scully and not Mulder. But it doesn’t sting Scully right away, oh no. It crosses state lines. It survives a plane ride. It’s instructed to wait until every Shipper in the theater is falling out of their chair in painful anticipation before it strikes.

My motor functions are being affected.

Even for a series that isn’t afraid to harness the power of coincidence, this is too extreme to take seriously. It’s a good thing then that I don’t care if it actually makes sense or not.

Post-sting, Mulder is shot by the same man who bumped into him after planting the bomb in Dallas. He wakes up to the Lone Gunmen, who show up mainly so they can put a “We Were Here” bumper sticker on their car because they barely register on the screen before they’re gone again. Mulder makes a quick date with Kurtzweil to drill him for the answers that will lead him to Scully, but he’s too late. WMM has gotten there first. It’s just as well for Mulder since Kurtzweil had been out of the Syndicate loop so long he knows next to nothing and WMM is in such a generous mood that he spoon feeds Mulder the answers he’s looking for. I should’ve known then that Chris Carter wouldn’t let the character live. He would’ve made things far too easy for Mulder and they have a mythology plot they need to drag out.

I always assumed WMM knows he’s about to die in his final scene. He already suspects his colleagues will be out to get him, he even says as much to Mulder. And why else would he shoot the driver and then get back in the passenger seat? But if that’s the case, why doesn’t the bomb go off when Mulder shuts the passenger door right before WMM closes it again and sets the bomb off? Was it remotely activated? Could WMM have done it himself? Someone ask Chris Carter at the next convention.

Trust no one, Mr. Mulder.

Mulder wastes no time in taking the vaccine and the information he’s been given and setting out for Antarctica. Thankfully, we’re spared the minutiae of his trip and we catch up with him right as he stumbles onto the alien spaceship. Literally. He stumbles onto the alien spaceship by falling through a well-placed hole in the snow. Those coincidences are running amok.

After five years on the X-Files and even longer spent searching for the truth about alien life, Mulder gets to see an alien spaceship from the inside. But he doesn’t have much time to marvel at the money spent on special effects for this movie as time is running out for Scully’s vaccination window. Not to worry. Though the spaceship is filled with rows of occupied pods, Mulder finds gestational Scully within seconds of discovering them.

Unfortunately for Mulder, administering the vaccine, weak though it may be, to Scully, results in the entire spaceship being compromised. In some pre-programmed attempt to save itself, the dormant spaceship awakes and turns on the heat in order to more quickly gestate the little alien babies. This means that not only does Mulder have to carry out a limp and goo covered Scully, he has to do it while evading alien teeth.

Of course they both make it. So do CSM and his lackeys who were guarding the spaceship from above at Base 1. But the everlasting question on every Phile’s heart is: How do they get home?

We don’t know how they avoid hypothermia, nor where Mulder hid the satellite phone, nor how Scully miraculously winds up with a pair of shoes even though Mulder didn’t know he’d find her naked, but they do make it back to Washington, D.C. where Scully goes before the O.P.R. panel yet again only this time, she has even less evidence and an even wilder story. Don’t tell her that, though, since her new found confidence is so impressive she cowers the O.P.R. into silence.

Mulder is in a different frame of mind altogether and bitterly complains that he and Scully are, yet again, right back where they started. No proof. No definite answers. No justice. Just the two of them riding nowhere, on their way back home. Mulder may complain, but for me, that’s all I need.

If I quit now, they win.

And somewhere in Tunisia, the bees drone on…

The Verdict:

This script was written by Carter and Spotnitz in two weeks during Season 4 and filmed during the hiatus between Season 4 and Season 5. That means they not only had to plot a feature film fast enough that it could be developed and filmed in time, but they also had to plan out the rest of Season 4 and Season 5 in order for the story to work. On top of that, the movie needed to be a sufficient lead-in to Season 6 in terms of the mythology.

So, yes, there are some less than sophisticated moments in the plot. I’m no I Want to Believe Basher, but as fans have pointed out about The X-Files’ long-awaited return to the big screen, it’s a film with some flaws. If we’re honest with ourselves, Fight the Future is no less flawed but it faces less criticism because, frankly, it’s more fun. It’s easier to overlook gaping plot holes when you’re busy oohing, ahhing and giggling.

There are some forced dramatic moments that should bother me, but I’m so in love that they don’t. They work where they wouldn’t in a lesser show. Yes, I still say “show” and not “movie” because the backstory of the series is what makes this movie great. The history of its characters is what allows them to take sentimental liberties that would torpedo a lesser franchise because it gives the events that occur a weight that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Rides like this are why I go to the movie theater. And they’re why I used to tune in to The X-Files week after week. I can’t say they made something here that’s going to wind up on AFI’s list of the top 100 movies of all time, but they did the fans proud.

Stay tuned because for our next installment, we’ll Ship the heck out of this movie.

A

The Trivialities:

That super slide Mulder goes on in the spaceship is worthy of something out of Goonies.

Is there a reason Mulder litters Byers’ suit jacket on the ground? I mean, other than to make David Duchovny look like an action hero?

They put too much makeup on Gillian Anderson. It’s caked like she’s about to open on Broadway. She still looks gorgeous, though.

There’s a great shot in the F.B.I. hallway were we get a clear view of Scully’s shoes. They’re boss.

I’m sure this is just me, but there’s a moment when Well-Manicured Man says “The location of Agent Scully and the means to save her life,” and then switches the vaccine from one hand to the other before gesturing Mulder into the waiting car – I love it. There’s something about the rhythm of it and the sound the vaccine package makes.

The Nitpicks:

Mulder just happens to fall down the rabbit hole that will take him to the heart of the alien spaceship? Let’s not call it coincidence; let’s call it Providence.

I understand that Mulder took off a layer of his clothing to put on Scully when he discovered her nakedness, but where did the shoes she’s wearing come from?

In the end, Blythe Danner’s character says there’s now evidence and S.A.C. Michaud was implicated in the bombing. What evidence is this that she speaks of?? Mulder and Scully didn’t bring any souvenirs back from Antarctica.

If the Syndicate didn’t know that the virus would gestate, what about the alien spacecraft they had their base on top of where a bunch of people are suspended ice with little aliens in their bellies? Aren’t CSM and his men the ones that transferred Scully into the ship in the first place? What’s more, the bee that stings Scully infects her with the version of the Black Oil that gestates. Assuming they could even re-genetically engineer the corn fast enough to allow for that, they wouldn’t want to. It would clue the Colonists in to the fact that they know the truth and would erase their advantage.

Scully escapes detection by the military guards in the morgue, but will somebody please explain to me how she exits this heavily guarded hospital without being noticed?

Grabbing Scully’s wrist when bees are swarming them seems like a pretty dumb move on Mulder’s part. What if one was trapped inside her clothes?

The Players:

Bronschweig is played by Jeffrey DeMunn, AKA Dale from The Walking Dead, AKA That Guy from That Movie and That Show. Ubiquitous much? I kid, but he does an awesome job here.

There’s also an uncredited appearance by Jason Beghe, David Duchovny’s long-time friend who introduced him to acting. Watch that scene by the vending machine closely and you’ll recognize him from “Darkness Falls” (1×19).

You’ll also recognize Gary Grubbs, the Fire Captain, as the Sheriff in “Our Town” (2×24).

One of the great casting coups of this film is that they landed Martin Landau of Mission Impossible fame among much other work. Personally, I knew him better as Geppetto in The Adventures of Pinnochio which I saw during my JTT phase… which immediately preceded my X-Files phase.

Casting Armin Meueller-Stahl as Strughold was no small accomplishment either.

The impressiveness doesn’t end there. Actress Glenne Headly is a little overqualified for her brief role as Bartender.

Did I mention they even brought in Blythe Danner?

Doesn’t Stevie, the kid who falls down into the cave, look kinda like a baby Krycek?

The Quotes:

Bronschweig: Sir, the impossible scenario that we never planned for? Well, we better come up with a plan.

—————————

Scully: I saw your face Mulder. There was a definite moment of panic.
Mulder: Well you’ve never seen me panic. When I panic I make this face. [Demonstrates]
Scully: That was the face.
Mulder: You didn’t see that face.
Scully: I saw that face.

—————————-

Mulder: Scully, you know that face I just showed you? I’m making it again.

—————————-

Bartender: So, what do you do?
Mulder: What do I do?
Bartender: Mmm hmm.
Mulder: I’m the key figure in an ongoing Government charade, the plot to conceal the truth about the existence of extraterrestrials. It’s a global conspiracy, actually, with key players in the highest levels of power, that reaches down into the lives of every man, woman and child on the planet. [Laughs] So, of course, no one believes me. I’m an annoyance to my superiors, a joke to my peers. They call me “Spooky.” Spooky Mulder, whose sister was abducted by aliens when he was just a kid and who now chases after little green men with a badge and a gun, shouting to the heavens or to anyone who’ll listen that the fix is in, that the sky is falling and when it hits it’s going to be the shit storm of all time.
Bartender: Well. I would say that about does it, Spooky. [Takes his glass]

—————————

Mulder: I woke you. Did I wake you?
Scully:  No.
Mulder: Why not? It’s 3:00 in the morning.

—————————

Kurtzweil: Are you familiar with the Hanta virus, Agent Mulder?
Mulder: Yeah, it was a deadly virus spread by field mice in the southwestern United States several years ago.
Kurtzweil: According to the newspaper, FEMA was called out to manage an outbreak of the Hanta virus. Are you familiar with what the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s real power is? FEMA allows the White House to suspend constitutional government upon declaration of a national emergency. Think about that! What is an agency with such broad-sweeping power doing managing a small viral outbreak in suburban Texas?
Mulder: You’re saying it wasn’t such a small outbreak.
Kurtzweil: No, I’m saying it wasn’t the Hanta virus.

—————————-

Scully: This is weird, Mulder.
Mulder: Very weird.
Scully: Any thoughts as to why anybody would be growing corn in the middle of the desert?
Mulder: Well, those could be giant Jiffy-Pop poppers.

—————————–

Langly: What can we do?
Mulder: You can strip Byers naked.
Byers: What?
Mulder: I need your clothes.

——————————

Strughold: You look hot and miserable. Why have you traveled all this way?
CSM: We have business to discuss.
Strughold: We have regular channels.
Smoking Man: This involves Mulder.
Strughold: Ah. That name, again and again.
Smoking Man: He’s seen more than he should have.
Strughold: What has he seen? Of the whole he has seen but pieces.
Smoking Man: He’s determined now. Reinvested.
Strughold: He is but one man. One man alone cannot fight the future.
Smoking Man: Yesterday, I received this… [Telegram Reads: X-FILES REOPENED. STOP. PLEASE ADVISE. STOP.] {Editor’s Note: Telegrams still exist???}

Travelers 5×15: That’s what I did until I ran out of room.


Mad Men 1013 style.

Like when “The Unusual Suspects” (5×1) followed after “Redux II” (5×2), I’m looking for an emotional follow up to the previous drama-heavy mythology episode and instead I’m bereft of Mulder and Scully almost altogether. Only this time, instead of go-to, familiar characters to rely on, we’re given a supporting cast that’s nearly completely new and the weight and responsibility of carrying an hour of one of the most popular shows on television falls on their shoulders. This is an ambitious episode indeed.

The opening teaser is one of my favorites in terms of sheer grossness. If they were looking for a way to catch my attention sans Mulder and Scully they found it. And for the record, there is no way, in earth or the world below, that I would kneel down on a cockroach infested floor coated in the grime of a thousand years in order to better inspect a rubber mummy in a tub. In case you wanted to know.

Now on to the meat of the episode… If The X-Files is about anything at all, it’s about distrust of authority. More specifically, it’s about distrust of the government. Imagine if the nation that fed you, that bred you, were actually out to get you.

With that in mind that the decision to place this flashback tale within the context of the McCarthy hearings makes a lot of sense. If you trust what you read in the history books, paranoia was running rampant at the time and the American government, in an attempt to control its citizens, found “communists” hiding in every nook and cranny. Chris Carter is often quoted as saying, “The X-Files is only as scary as it is real,” and what’s more real than things that have actually happened? It’s why previous episodes like “Paper Clip” (3×2) used real life holocaust atrocities as a base.

On the one hand, it’s easy to take a topic like McCarthyism or the House Un-American Activities Committee and use it to vilify the establishment. On the other hand, it fits like a hand in glove with The X-Files’ overall theme of government distrust. The men in charge have no desire to find the truth, they’re about establishing order and control even at the expense of innocent citizens. And what do you know? Even the F.B.I. is complicit.

Bringing Agent Mulder, I mean, Agent Mulder Sr. into the mix was a wise choice. (So was using the actor we already knew). Not only to we get more insight into his strained relationship with his son before he was killed but we learn about what kind of man he was. “Travelers” confirms a lot of what’s been hinted at about his character over the years. Here was a man who, though compromised, ultimately had a Jiminy Cricket sized conscience. Too bad that unlike his son, he was unwilling or unable to openly fight for what he believed it. It doesn’t look like he had the courage. But at least we know where Mulder got his subversive streak.

Speaking of Mulder, this is the second time this season we’ve seen Mulder in flashback. This time, though, he seems a lot less sure of himself. There’s no swagger like we saw in “The Unusual Suspects”, instead he’s full of nervous ticks… nervous ticks that conveniently display his wedding ring.

Oh, David Duchovny, why must you toy with the masses?

Word is, the wedding ring was little more than a joke on his part having been recently married in real life to actress Téa Leoni. Joke or not, it caused an uproar online. I have to admit that for my part, I didn’t even notice it. Which just goes to show that my powers of observation are dull and you shouldn’t read a word I type.

And the Verdict is…

One of these days I’ll probably get around to making a series of Top 10 lists and when I do, “Travelers” will be on the list of underappreciated episodes. It’s fairly quiet, I know, but I wouldn’t call it boring. Brief though they are, Darren McGavin’s scenes with David Duchovny are a treat, so much so that I wish his character could have been brought back more than once. In fact, I could almost wish that we had one season in flashback a la Nina’s suggestion in her Shipper’s Guide. Arthur Dales’s story and its overlap with the Syndicate’s Shenanigans, not to mention the Mulder family history, could have made for good television… especially if it was paralleled with the X-Files of the future.

B+

Fiddlesticks:

So, supposedly, Edward Skur & Co. had an actual animal/insect/creature grafted inside of them. But what in the heck kind of species is that? What could kill people in such a fashion? Of all the things the government could do to make Super Soldiers, they attach arachnids to their innards?? Why am I thinking this hard about it anyway?

The director of this episode, William Graham, hasn’t been seen on The X-Files since “E.B.E.” (1×16) and had the dubitable honor of directing “Space” (1×8), yet he has a long and very impressive resume including the classic television show The Fugitive. I wonder if the fact that he was active in television during some of the communism scare is what caused Chris Carter to bring him back. At the very least, I’m sure his experience in classic television is part of why this episode has such an authentic feel. Period pieces can so easily end up “costumey.”

Fredric Lane, who plays the young Arthur Dales, was on Castle last week. That show is a veritable parade of X-Files alumns.

There is a string of episodes this season where the narrative is driven by recollection and voiceover. “Redux” (5×2), “Bad Blood” (5×12), “Travelers”, “All Souls” (5×17). By the time we get to “All Souls” it begins to lose its impact.

Now we know there’s a reason the X-Files are the “X-Files” other than just that “X” is a cool letter.

Best Quotes:

Arthur Dales: Do you know what an… X-File is?
Mulder: It’s uh.. yeah, it’s an unsolved case.
Arthur Dales: No. It’s a case that’s been designated… unsolved.

————————

Arthur Dales: Have you ever heard of HUAC, Agent Mulder? House Un-American Activities Committee? No, no, no, it was before your time, you wouldn’t know. They hunted Communists in America in the 40’s and 50’s. They found… practically nothing. You think they would have found nothing… unless nothing… was what they wanted to find? Hmm?
Mulder: I’m sorry, sir. I, uh, I don’t… I don’t see the connection.
Arthur Dales: Maybe you’re not supposed to. [Slams door in Mulder’s face]

————————

Dorothy Bahnsen: But, I recognize one of these names. It’s in an X-File.
Agent Dales: X-File?
Dorothy Bahnsen: Yes. Unsolved cases. I file them under “X”.
Agent Dales: Why don’t you file them under “U”… for “Unsolved”?
Dorothy Bahnsen: That’s what I did until I ran out of room. Plenty of room in the “X’s”.