Tag Archives: Partnership

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


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

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

I can’t help it. I’m home again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scully: You’re a dark wizard, Mulder.

Mulder: What else is new?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

Now, you heard Maggie. Go get your boy.

A

Comments and Commentary:

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

1 demerit for Scully calling Mulder “Fox.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mulder: Did you direct him to do it?

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

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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.

 

Season 9 Wrap Up – There’s a lot of crap to cut through.


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Unbreak my heart.

“Working on a demanding show like The X-Files can take its physical toll on a person. I kept at it pretty regularly for the entire nine seasons,” Chris continues. “All I can say is on the last season of the show, I was writing or re-writing a lot and I would take a nap every day. As the season went on, it became two naps a day. Those nine years caught up with me pretty fast.” – LAX-Files, pg. 220

I would love to officially close out this rewatch of Season 9 and say that it was wonderful, tragically underestimated and that it exceeded my expectations. I would love to be able to conclude that our two new leads stole the show in every sense of the expression, that in the history of The X-Files, Season 9 was a new creation; old things had passed away, all things had become new.

But I can’t. I’d be lying. A new creation was what we needed, but it’s not what we got.

I don’t want this to turn into a diatribe on Season 9, and I also don’t want to expend any more mental energy on Season 9 than I have to for the sake of completion. So we’ll focus on a few main things that I think might have made the season better.

We needed a new mythology.

Because, no. Tacking on the Super Soldiers to the old mythology did not suffice.

I listed a series of questions in the review for “One Son” (6×12) that the Syndicate mythology still had left to answer when it ostensibly ended. But as of Season 6, the mythology had already grown way past anything the 1013 staff had originally hoped for and lasted well past what they had originally envisioned. It had grown large and unwieldy and Chris Carter decided to scrap it and do something new rather than dig a deeper hole and make it even more confusing. Um, that was the goal, anyway.

He did something “new” in “Biogenesis” (6×22) with alien gods, but it was still directly related to the mythology we were already familiar with. Then, with Mulder bowing out in Season 8, the Super Soldiers were introduced so that the new team, Doggett and Reyes, would have something fresh and scary to go up against. But the mystery of the Super Soldiers was tied to the mystery of the alien gods – was tied to the mystery of the Syndicate – was tied to the era of Mulder and Scully. We don’t have to play a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with it, either. The Super Soldiers went directly after Mulder and Scully’s baby and are working for the alien colonists that Mulder and Scully are working against. You can’t think of the Super Soldiers without thinking of the history of Mulder and Scully.

By the time we get to Season 9, not only are we more confused than ever by the connections between the conspiracies, but Doggett and Reyes aren’t on their own turf, they’re still effectively playing in Mulder and Scully’s sandbox. They’ve inherited a through-line so convoluted that:

“I looked at what many people had written about the mythology,” Spotnitz said, “and I was alarmed at how many people who are extremely knowledgeable about the show and had followed it religiously had drawn false conclusions and false connections between things… It was an amazingly complicated, sometimes convoluted conspiracy. I’m just astonished people stuck with it for as long as they did.”

But when I say that we needed a new mythology, I don’t just mean a plot that was brand new for Doggett and Reyes and for the audience. I mean we needed a new mythology because this one’s plot was a complete failure. The most interesting thing about it was how hard it bombed.

Please, no more alien gods. No more alien babies. No more god-like alien baby messiahs. And for the love of all that is Scully, if you’re going to write in a miracle child, don’t erase him like you wrote him on a whiteboard. No takesies backsies!

We needed the leads to star in their own show.

I think the plan to attach the fans to Doggett and Reyes by bonding them to Mulder and Scully, while it may have been the only plan available in Season 8, backfired. They became in effect, sidekicks; the less interesting sequel to a massive summer blockbuster.

I do believe they could have stood on their own as characters and that they had their own chemistry as a partnership. Yes, they started off as a reheated rehash of the Skeptic-Believer dynamic, which as I explain in the review for “Daemonicus” (9×3), probably should have stayed unique to Mulder and Scully. But they did prove in episodes like “4-D” (9×5), “John Doe” (9×7), and  “Audrey Pauley” (9×13) that they could hold their own and had the potential to build a unique dynamic. They needed cases that were suited to their strengths as a partnership rather than Mulder and Scully’s strengths. They needed to be free of Scully as the third wheel and free from the shadow of MSR. And they needed a quest all their own.

With Mulder and Scully, they had their marching orders from the Pilot (1×79). We knew why they were here and what they were doing. And while they were waylaid by Monster of the Week pitstops, we knew they were searching for something bigger in the X-Files and that these cases were merely detours or the chance to pick up small pieces of a larger puzzle. And both agents had not only a larger truth to prove or disprove, but they had personal reasons for being invested in their work; Mulder because of his sister and Scully because of her science.

Doggett and Reyes are never given their own mission or personal impetus to investigate the X-Files – No, Doggett’s crush on Scully doesn’t count as a personal impetus, nor does Reyes’ interest in Doggett.

Their fight against the Super Soldiers is an inherited fight. The closest thing Doggett has to a connection with the conspiracy is that an old, somewhat distant friend turned out to be a Super Soldier. Reyes? That her boss and former lover is nebulously aware of a conspiracy that he’s not directly a part of. If we’re being honest, the only reason they’re here is because they’ve become friends with Mulder and Scully. Considering what’s on the line, I don’t think that’s enough.

It was touched on in “Empedolces” (8×17), the idea that Doggett might be here because he wants to prove that there was nothing in the X-Files that could have helped his son. Unfortunately, this was never fully developed as a concept. Reyes’ reasons for investigating are even less developed. She gets “feelings” about cases and has a background in Religion. That makes the X-Files her dream assignment.

A genuine quest all their own, and motivations that carried real emotional weight – those two things could have made a world of difference.

We didn’t need Scully.

We didn’t need Scully or the little uber Scully. They should have run off with Mulder.

Not only did her presence force episodes to take precious time away from developing Doggett and Reyes as characters, her presence also inevitably invited comparison, conscious or not, to the time when Mulder and Scully used to investigate the X-Files. That inevitable comparison inevitably came out in Mulder and Scully’s favor, to the detriment of Doggett and Reyes’ budding partnership.

In fact, episodes like “Trust No 1” (9×8) and “Providence” (9×11) downright turned Doggett and Reyes into Scully’s sidekicks. They became supporting players in the continuing saga of Mulder and Scully instead of leads in their own, less melodramatic drama.

And even when the story had nothing to do with Scully, the script had to make room for her, whether she was useful to the plot or not. Most of the time, she wasn’t.

She spends the majority of the season doe eyes tearily wet with thoughts of Mulder. Either that or she’s crying out, “My baby! My baby!” O Scully, Scully. Wherefore art thou, Scully? What happened to the feisty redhead I once knew? The enigmatic doctor? The lofty example of female intelligence?

Just like that, the legacy of television’s favorite duo is cheapened into a tale of star crossed lovers and their accursed love child.

There has to be an end, Scully.

“If you ask me, we should have ended it two years ago,” Anderson said when the news was announced. “They couldn’t have found two better actors than Robert and Annabeth to take over, but the show was about Mulder and Scully.”

It was about Mulder and Scully and, unfortunately, it never stopped being about Mulder and Scully even when Mulder and Scully were gone. “The Truth” (9×19/20) only confirmed that fact. I second Gillian’s feelings – Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish did an excellent job. The failure of the show wasn’t Doggett and Reyes’ fault. The failure had everything to do with business, the logistics of network television, and most of all, the writing.

In order for Season 9 to have worked, we needed a clean break with the past. We needed two new heroes on a new quest with new perspectives, new dynamics and new enemies. Instead, we got Doggett, Reyes, Skinner, Follmer, Frohike, Langly and Byers playing the dwarves to Scully’s Snow White. (I would have included Kersh, but that’s not seven anymore, is it?)

What we needed, really, was a spinoff. Now, I know very well that wouldn’t have happened, but in an ideal world and all that.

It was just a shame to see this iconic, legendary show that provided so much joy over the years end its run on a low note. Then again… without a proper death, resurrection means nothing. I’m so glad I can look back and say this wasn’t really the end.

On that note of hope, here are the final set of awards for the series proper:

Give it Another Shot

Sunshine Days

Gave it Another Shot

Improbable

No More Shots

Provenance

Best Shot

Audrey Pauley

Long Shot

Underneath

Shoot Me

Jump the Shark

Shoot the TV

William

The Truth 9×19/20: Maybe there’s hope.


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I’m here to regale you with yet another trip back into the memory of an X-Phile. Because what is “The Truth” if not a long exercise in nostalgia? Well, so is this.

I remember the buildup of anticipation for this episode, because it’s not really one episode, but two. Two episodes of The X-Files back to back? That’s as good as a movie! And with David Duchovny officially returning, surely the series was going to go out with a bang.

Well, it went out with lots of bangs. Some bangs, some disappointments, some head-scratchers, and lots of emotional flailings. And it all starts where it began – with Mulder.

Listen, kids, you have no idea what seeing David Duchovny’s face fill the screen after all that time did to a girl back in the day. If you binge watched your way to this point, not counting flashbacks and eyeball cameos because they don’t count, then you waited approximately 774 minutes. I waited approximately 8,760 hours. Yes, I counted. Season 9: The struggle had been real.

2016 still found me flipping out with relief. I may or may not have repeatedly called out Mulder’s name like I had spent years stranded alone in the television wilderness. Because I had.

And true to form, no sooner is Mulder back than he’s already sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. I’m frustrated. I’m yelling at him. I’m thrilled to be doing so. Still, I wonder… how did he manage all this funky poaching without the Lone Gunmen? Top secret military facilities don’t do headcounts? No one noticed Mulder is the only one who hopped off the helicopter without a briefcase?

Guard: What are you thinking?

Mulder: About my son… about his mother.

Guard: Wrong answer!

No, right answer. Right. Answer.

Side Note: Am I the only one who watches these brainwashing scenes and has flashbacks to Star Trek: The Next Generation? “There… are… four lights!”

Anywho, by the time the torture is all over we’re not sure, or we’re not supposed to be sure, whether or not Mulder has finally lost his marbles. He sees dead people… and he’s a guilty man. He’s failed in every respect. He deserves the harshest punishment for his crimes.

Scully isn’t sure either which is what creates the delicious tension in their initial reunion. But she should have known because Mulder keeps calling Scully “Dana” and Skinner “Walter.” Which is code for, “They’re watching.” This also serves as further proof that the emails in “Trust No 1” (9×8) were either forgeries or carefully encrypted messages. I want to believe.

Because you see, when you believe, mountains move, seas part, and Mulder grabs Scully and kisses her like the world’s about to end… because it actually is.

I consider this moment my personal reward for making it to the finish line of Season 9. You can consider it whatever you like, but they did that for me. And the best part, the BEST part of the whole thing is watching Skinner’s awkward bald head squirm in the background.

Oh, the squeals. The flails. The sweet agony. I don’t know what it is, but these two people do deep things to me.

So go ahead. Write me off as a cheap shipper. ‘Cause Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care.

Mulder ‘n Scully 4EVA!

Mulder: Come here you big, bald, beautiful man.

And now back to our regularly scheduled adulthood…

Scully: Mulder …

Mulder: They can’t try me without exposing themselves. I know what I’m doing. {Editor’s Note: No, you don’t.}

That scene, beautiful as it is, transitions awkwardly and unconvincingly into the next.

Scully: Mulder, it’s me. {Editor’s Note: The last one! *sobs*}

Mulder: Is it time to go?

Scully: No. That’s why I’m here. Mulder, I need you to talk to me, confide in me, or we’ll lose.

Mulder: We can’t win, Scully. We can only hope to go down fighting.

Scully: You’re scaring me! Mulder, I’m so scared that I’ve just got you back and now I’m going to lose you again!

Mulder: I know what I’m doing. {Editor’s Note: No, you don’t! Stop saying that!}

Scully: Well, whatever you’re doing… you have no idea how much has already been lost… What I’ve had to do.

Mulder: I do know. Skinner told me.

Scully: [Crying] Our son, Mulder! I gave him up! [Mulder embraces her] Our son! I was so afraid you could never forgive me.

Mulder: I know you had no choice. {Editor’s Note: Bullcrap.} I just missed both of you so much.

Scully: God, where have you been? Where have you been hiding?

Mulder: In New Mexico. [Buries his face in her shoulder]

Scully: Doing what?

Mulder: Looking for the truth.

[They both chuckle… because he sounds as ridiculous as ever]

Scully: You found something, didn’t you? Huh? What did you find?

Mulder: I can’t tell you.

Scully: You found something in that facility? That’s what you were doing, right? Mulder, what did you find out there?

Mulder: Scully, I can’t tell you.

Scully: That doesn’t make sense! {Editor’s Note: No, it doesn’t!}

Mulder: You’ve got to trust me, Scully. I know things it’s better you don’t.

First of all, I’m not sure what to do with the sudden surfeit of Mulder and Scully interaction. It’s like eating Thanksgiving Dinner after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. People have overdosed on less.

Second of all, so that’s it for William huh? That’s the emotional resolution we’ve been waiting for? Look! I can ignore the elephant in the room too. Watch.   

………

Can we just talk about the way they look at each other? Can we? I always lose it when Mulder buries his head in Scully’s shoulder.

I was premature about that whole adulthood thing.

The main point of this conversation is that Mulder’s holding powerful information back from Scully. Whatever it is he read in the Matrix, he’s keeping it to himself at the risk of his own life.

Now, at this point, between the action, the emotion, and the dearly missed Mulderisms, things have been going pretty well. Then here we go with the secret F.B.I. tribunal. A kangaroo court of a kangaroo court. It’s like television time suddenly slows to a crawl.

Mulder: What’s really on trial here is the truth!

I roll my eyes so hard I think I strained the right one. I watch the rest of the episode with an eye patch. I am the Dread Pirate Ship-Hurts.

This trial is ridiculous. Boring and ridiculous. I can’t even pretend to swallow the premise.

Kallenbrunner: All these ETs running around. It’s hard to keep these aliens straight without a scorecard.

I understand why they did it, certainly. There were 9 years worth of mysteries that needed clearing up. And a good part of the audience for “The Truth” would be casual fans and former fans who hadn’t necessarily kept up with the mythology. Oh, who are we kidding? Committed viewers hadn’t kept up with the mythology.

Everyone has to be able to follow along. What’s more, the information is needed and appreciated. It’s been a long, fun, confusing ride.

At the same time, this is exposition hell.

Kersh: Is this all leading anywhere?

Mulder: Yeah. The destruction of mankind.

Isn’t it always?

A few points of interest on the way to Armageddon:

  • Mulder sparing Marita at his own expense is so him.
  • Jeffrey Spender’s an ally now? The enemy of my enemy is my friend?
  • I still don’t understand the logic. Why would the Syndicate, if they did discover a vaccine, only choose to save themselves? They can still be killed even if their bodies aren’t taken over. Wouldn’t humans be more likely to survive in large numbers?
  • After all these years, we have confirmation that the Bounty Hunters were of a different alien race with the Colonists. And, newsflash for me, they were infected with the Black Oil all along.

By now I’m sure you’ve noticed that all mention of cosmic prophecy, tales of William as the new messiah, all history of Mulder’s alien brain adventures, the aliens as “God”, hints at divine intervention… all of it has been conveniently forgotten. Let’s be real – it’s been scrapped.

Well, except for that last part. Chris Carter will pick that up again in the last scene. Suffice it to say, “Provenance” (9×10) and “Providence” (9×11) have been all but rendered irrelevant. Which is no doubt for the best.

Kallenbrunner: She gave up the miracle child? The proof of everything that she and Mulder claim that they’ve risked their lives for over the last nine years – she just sent it off to some strangers?

Oh, this bothers you too??

Reyes: You don’t care what these people have sacrificed over the last nine years, what’s been lost to their cause. You make a mockery of it, gladdened it proves your point.

Kersh: Agent Reyes, that’s enough!

Reyes: What is the point of all of this? To destroy a man who seeks the truth or to destroy the truth so no man can seek it?

No one speaks like this, Chris. Stop it.

Kersh: You’re out of order and in contempt of court, Agent Scully.

Scully: You’re in contempt!

What is this? “And Justice for All…”? If it is then you’re all out of order.

Mulder: A bullet between the eyes would have been preferable to this charade.

Agreed.

Mulder: If I am a guilty man, my crime is in daring to believe that the truth will out and that no one lie can live forever. I believe it still. Much as you try to bury it, the truth is out there. Greater than your lies, the truth wants to be known. You will know it. It’ll come to you, as it’s come to me faster than the speed of light.

Seriously, though. What in the Shakespearean, heck?

Other than confirming that the Super Soldiers are a part of the updated plan for colonization, all this exposition and we still aren’t given an explanation as to why. Why the Super Soldiers and not the Bounty Hunters? Why do human governments need prepping when the aliens have the method and the means to wipe out the human race without human assistance? Why not continue to use the Black Oil to create human pawns? Because Super Soldiers are more durable?

Kallenbrunner: We’re trying a man for murder, not taking a trip down memory lane.

I’m sorry. Maybe no one told you why we’re here.

That’s basically all this was – a trip down memory lane. The clips were pleasant reminders of the past, but I didn’t tune in to watch a clip show. From what I hear, one of the options under consideration had the show ended in Season 8 was to air a one hour television special summarizing the mythology before the finale. I think I would’ve liked that better.

Kallenbrunner: …you describe Mulder as “arrogant,” “difficult,” “a control freak widely disliked by his peers”… This report calls him “unstable prone to violent outbursts.”

Yes… yes. Mmmhmm. Yep. All true.

He can be the most aggravating man. And I love him.

Scully: You say this is greater than us, and maybe it is. But this is us fighting this fight, Mulder, not you! It’s you and me. That’s what I’m fighting for, Mulder: You and me.

PREACH, Scully!

That’s the only solid truth we find out here. That this was only ever really about the journey of discovery made by two people, their spiritual evolutions as individuals and their coming together in an unbreakable bond.

That’s why as frustrating as the lack of either any real development or resolution to the mythology is, in the end, it almost doesn’t matter. Almost.

The action picks up again… finally… when there’s a jailbreak. It’s an awfully easy jailbreak, but I’ll take it. Then we have one last blessed reunion of souls, possibly the last time we’ll see Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Doggett, Reyes… and Gibson… and Kersh?… altogether, before Mulder and Scully take the long road to freedom.

Oh, I’m sorry. I meant, “Mulder and Scully take the long road to Grandpa’s house.”

There’s a cute moment, before the audience realizes Mulder’s about to do what he does best and ignore Kersh’s advice to get out of the country immédiatement, when Gibson gives a slight shake of his head there by the side of the road. He’s read Mulder’s mind and knows Mulder’s about to zig when he’s supposed to zag, that they’re not really headed to Canada, they’re headed to New Mexico to see a man about the truth.

Like I said, Grandpa’s house.

Mulder’s real father, Cigarette-Smoking Man is still alive, not because it makes any sense, but because a finale without him would somehow be soulless and incomplete. And I’m okay with that.

I wondered initially how Mulder managed to infiltrate the Mount Weather facility without the Lone Gunmen to help him. It turns out that CSM was helping him all along. He was the one who tipped Mulder off to the information hidden there and he’s the one who gave Mulder the tools he needed to get in. Is this because, deep down, he has real affection for his son? Affection that the series has hinted he might have for a long time? No. It’s because he doesn’t just want Mulder dead, he wants to see him broken and in the fetal position.

And what is the truth that will finally break Mulder after he’s already lost his sister, his father, his mother, been taken to the brink of death and resurrected by an ancient ritual, been infected by the Black Oil, watched his dearest friend nearly die from cancer because of his quest, suffered a brain malfunction that nearly killed him, had his head cut open and cut into, survived a mysteriously disappearing disease and been tortured by aliens? After he died, was buried and rose again?

Colonization is happening on a schedule.

This? This is the big reveal? The date? You mean I sat through all that talk and the reward for my longsuffering is a date? Unless it’s the date of my marriage to Robert Downey, Jr., I don’t care. What difference does it make if it’s 12/12/22? Everyone already knew colonization was imminent. In fact, I don’t understand why Mulder and Scully haven’t had a fire lit under them from the point the Syndicate was killed.

And how would sharing this information at his mock trial have saved Mulder?

Let me not think too hard about it. There’s no more thinking past this point. Scully hears the truth Mulder tried to keep from her and is as unfazed as I am. Doggett and Reyes abandon Gibson to warn Mulder and Scully that the enemy knows where they are. Knowle Rohrer comes back for one last slow walk of menace before getting destroyed by magnetite for good (because CSM wouldn’t hide out in an unfortified hole). Bombs over Baghdad. CSM dies… but he’s a cockroach so don’t count him out. Doggett and Reyes ride off back to D.C. to put the pieces of their F.B.I. careers back together. Mulder and Scully ride off stay in New Mexico. Why do they stay in New Mexico?

“The Truth” is we get a little action, an emotional reunion, excesses of exposition, a little action, a short reunion, and an excess of explosions.

And then, like we did in “Requiem” (7×21), we get a tenderly formed bookend to what Scully once called “the greatest of journeys”; Mulder and Scully back in a little motel room, back where we first met them, bonding in the dark as the rain falls. Once again, Mulder shares his heart. Once again, Scully sees something in this man that causes her to stay when reason says she shouldn’t.

Only this time, instead of Mulder recruiting Scully into the fray, Scully’s the one encouraging Mulder to fight. She’s the believer here, and he’s the skeptic. And I love that what he’s sown into her he’s now reaping.

They’re still recognizable as the young idealists they both were, but they’ve been changed and humbled by their experiences – In a good way. And the bond between them that started that night in the Pilot(1×79) has been strengthened exponentially.

Scully: You’ve always said that you want to believe. But believe in what Mulder? If this is the truth that you’ve been looking for then what is left to believe in?

Mulder: I want to believe that the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us as part of something greater than us, greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen to what’s speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves.

Scully: Then we believe the same thing.

Mulder: [Meaningfully touches Scully’s cross before joining her in bed] …Maybe there’s hope.

So they found the truth about alien life Mulder was looking for, more or less. So what? The truth is not too mysterious, nor is it afar off. In the end, this journey was never about searching for the truth in some extraterrestrial plain. It was about realizing that nobody gets there alone. It was about both of them finding inside themselves hope in something outside of themselves, something greater. And it was about seeing that hope reflected in each other, because love hopes all things.

Verdict:

Wow. And here we are. We’ve come all the way from the Pilot to the end of the series proper.

It’s funny. For all Scully muses hope, after this episode aired I thought for sure hope of a movie was all but gone. Mulder and Scully were on the run, which I thought was both a great way to end it and a possible lead-in to other things. But there wasn’t much here, outside of David and Gillian’s legendary chemistry, to make you care about what those other things were.

But I was gloriously wrong. It wasn’t the first, and may it not be the last time.

It wasn’t the finale I dreamed of, no. Yet, I cried and flailed and talked back to the TV because somehow, this all means something. Which is why I find myself here, writing a reviews about a show deader than Lazarus, deader than Mulder, but that’s miraculously risen from the grave.

In my heart, at least, it’s never died.

B-

Musings of an X-Phile:

Mulder: [Voiceover] I want to believe, so badly, in a truth beyond our own hidden and obscured from all but the most sensitive eyes… in the endless procession of souls, in what cannot and will not be destroyed. I want to believe we are unaware of God’s eternal recompense and sadness. That we cannot see His truth. That that which is born still lives and cannot be buried in the cold earth. – “Closure” (7×11)

The above is to show that Chris Carter has already worked these themes deeply into The X-Files. Doesn’t that sound awfully similar to the speech he gives Scully? Samantha’s abduction and the search for the truth it inspired, Mulder’s search for “God”, was always about making sense of loss, finding purpose, and the redemption of suffering.

It was also about reconnecting with those lost to us and finding they’re not really lost, which Mulder certainly does here. It was a great reunion seeing Krycek, Mr. X, and, of course the Lone Gunmen. Seeing Mulder interact with all of them were the highlights of the episode aside from his scenes with Scully.  

Mulder used to be a single crusader, now he has not only a partner, but several allies. And he knows that he still needs, and has, the help of allies past. And maybe even a Greater Ally? Because no one gets there alone.

Superfluous Observations:

At the beginning of Scully’s testimony, Mulder isn’t even in focus but you can see the pride on his face as Scully recounts how they met. And is that a bit of a smirk I spy on Scully too?

Does Reyes always keep a gun in her jeans when she’s hanging at her boyfriend’s house?

I needed much more Mulder and Krycek. They really are like brothers… Thor and Lokie style.

The say 3 judges were leaning in Mulder’s favor. Why on earth…

Of course Mulder was with Gibson! He can hear trouble coming! That was perfect.

The magnetite was in the meteor that originally destroyed alien life on earth and it’s the same metal that downed the Roswell UFO.

Scully would have known that touching that body would render the evidence unreliable.

Bill Mulder’s influence on the boy he thought was his son echoes the influence Mulder was supposed to have had on William according to the prophecy.

Skinner, Reyes and Doggett are back at the F.B.I. with the Toothpick Man and why does everyone have so much chill?? Gibson already outed him as a Super Soldier.

Speaking of Toothpick Man, I recognize him and the General from various outings, but they were both on XF alumnus Howard Gordon’s 24.

Wait, in “William” (9x), I thought it was the Super Soldiers who subjected Spender to those tests? CSM was behind it?

I’m still ridiculously emotional watching this episode. I can’t actually make it through the final scene it one sitting. There are lots of pauses and rewinds and time outs. And the music! Mark Snow, have mercy.

“It’s what made me follow you… and why I’d do it all over again.” – I’m going to take this, carve it in wood, and spank Scully with it come I Want to Believe.

After a fresh rewatch, I’m more flabbergasted than ever that they’d break these two up. Someone tell everyone involved to go back and watch their own show.

4-D 9×5: Who eats polish sausage with plates?


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I got your back.

This… this is the direction Season 9 needed to go with Doggett and Reyes. I can only think that had the show continued, they would have quickly recognized what they were good at and perfected it. “4-D” is like a rough sketch of what could have been.

In some ways it reminds me of “Monday” (6×15), though I realize it deals with the “space” rather than the “time” part of the space-time continuum. Still, there’s that element of trying to escape a reality one mistakenly finds oneself in, a reality that isn’t right.

Here’s another reality that isn’t right for you: Doggett and Reyes flirting.

Now, look. I’m as relieved as the next person to see them finally look like they’re enjoying themselves. I want to know they’re glad to be working together. And I know I’m the one who in the review just previous complained that these characters needed to find a way to lighten their investigations up. But can we let the UST lie where it died in Season 8?

I realize it was necessary to reaffirm the closeness of the pair in order to pave the way for this episode’s emotional impact. But they didn’t have to go there. Frankly, if you’re trying to avoid comparisons to Mulder and Scully, creating romantic tension between Doggett and Reyes is a mistake. When I say this is the direction they needed to go, this part isn’t what I mean.

All that said, I am glad to see them relaxed and they do have a connection and chemistry. Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish give great performances here.

It’s impressive that they stand out considering the swelling cast of characters Season 9 has to accommodate for. Skinner and Scully are shoehorned into the investigation. And why does Follmer appear to be directing Skinner when they share the same title of “Assistant Director”?

Practical adaptations aside, this is my favorite work from writer Steve Maeda since “Brand X” (7×19). He showed us in “Redrum” (8×3) that he’s interested in telling tales about misadventures in time and space, but I think this X-File has more potential for both horror and genuine emotional impact than “Redrum” did. For one thing, he gives us a rather nasty villain to chew on.

Erwin Lukesh is a regular Norman Bates and is clearly modeled after the iconic killer, right down to his icky issues with Mommy Dearest. I mean, they sleep in the same bed. By the way, I LOVE his mother. She actually feels like a woman with no insight into her selfish, overbearing ways. And I LOVE that director Tony Wharmby so often chooses to let us hear that nagging voice without actually seeing her. Surely it’s no coincidence that Lukesh rips out women’s tongues.

Lukesh himself isn’t half bad either. I mean, you know a man’s a sadistic killer when he has cans of Boost in his fridge. Echoes of “Pusher” (3×17) anyone? And the way he savors his kills and feeds human tongue to his unsuspecting mother like he’s Hannibal Lector is properly disturbing. But I think he was robbed of a little of his glory. If he didn’t have to share so much screen time he could have been developed more as an evil maniac. I think he had it in ‘em.

The only thing that bothers me a little, well, besides the flirtation and the lack of character space… okay, so this is the third thing that bothers me… is that Reyes brainstorms her way through this inter-dimensional problem a little too easily. She basically sits at Doggett’s bedside and has a revelation and, last I checked, her background is in Religion, not Physics like Scully. Yes, the episode is running out of time and needs to explain the problem so that Reyes can take action to resolve it, but reducing the explanation to a quantum leap of exposition is anticlimactic.

That said, I still think the sci-fi route appears a better fit for Doggett and Reyes than the paranormal, however Doggett may tease her about going all Star Trek on him. These aren’t a couple of wide-eyed kids like Mulder and Scully were back in the day. Doggett’s a soldier and his brawn combined with Reyes’ emotional sensitivity and tenderness could have led to some interesting case resolutions. Even Doggett believes Reyes’ ideas after a while and his character is more likely to respond well to extreme science than ghosties and beasties.

Now all the two of them need is personal motivation to investigate the X-Files. Because, no. Doggett’s crush on Scully and Reyes’ crush on Doggett doesn’t count.

Verdict:

I don’t know that Doggett and Reyes have ever really felt close until this episode. I knew Reyes cared about Doggett, but it didn’t seem much like the feeling was mutual. It’s kind of amazing that Doggett is able to emote so well considering he’s paralyzed but for a finger. I can only imagine the long hours Robert Patrick had to lie unmoving in that hospital bed, poor man. He pulled it off, though. So hats off, sir.

Of course, I suppose this all means that somewhere in another reality Doggett and Reyes are both dead or nearly so.

Sad face.

B

Too Much Star Trek:

Okay… one last bother. Lukesh dies way too easily for such a Master Villain. Why didn’t he just hop realities with Reyes in tow? If it were that easy, Doggett would have killed him in the teaser, am I right?

And Reyes shaving Doggett on only their second real case together? Mulder and Scully took seven years and never got to that base.

The slow reveal of Reyes’ face after the teaser… makes you wonder if you’re about to see her scarred up. It’s a nice touch of tension.

I think my favorite shot, and there’s some great visual imagery here, is the shot of Marion Lukesh’s eye as her son leaves their bed in the middle of the night… As her son leaves their bed in the middle of the night… As her son leaves their bed…

Scully greeting Reyes with, “Monica, I’m so sorry,” is a subtle way of telling us that Doggett is more important to Reyes than to anyone else here.

I enjoyed the bit of continuity here – Scully sharing with Reyes the emotional impact that the events of “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) had on her.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: [On screen] MISSED A SPOT
Reyes: Did not. Anyway, that’s what you get for hiring cheap help.

Medusa 8×13: Hot, sticky and crawling in the dark.


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I thought this theme was finished, but “Medusa” brings us back to another classic subclass of X-File, the kind where our two leads mix with a rag tag group of experts in a remote location and stumble upon a dangerous, previously undiscovered organism. I’m thinking, of course, of “Ice” (1×7), “Darkness Falls” (1×19), “Firewalker” (2×9), even “Detour” (5×4) and “Dod Kalm” (2×19). “Medusa” is of the same order, it just takes place not in a primeval forest or in the bowels of a volcano, but in the otherworldly, subterranean realm of the Boston underground. And if Season 8 has been good for anything, and it is good for something, it’s for bringing us back to the classic scare. It’s also good for Scully expressions, but that’s a conversation for a later episode.

I haven’t heard much mention of “Medusa” on the interwebs, so I can only assume it doesn’t get either much love or hate. From me, it gets love. It may not be the most radically inventive episode, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to work.

Maybe it’s the way the neurons fire in my brain, but this skin-eating creature freaks me out. I get involuntary chills every time I see those electric sparks. It’s not the grossest thing The X-Files has ever done, but it bothers me. The irrationally obstinate local authorities are back and they bother me too, but in a different way. It is what it is, I suppose. Someone has to get in the way of our protagonists, but sometimes I wish the antagonism had a legitimate motive. But without an obstacle, our team wouldn’t have anything to team up against.

Scully and Doggett spend most of this episode separate, which is how they’ve also spent most of the season. Up to this point, they haven’t felt like much of a team at all despite being given such a great emotional set up back in “Roadrunners” (8×5). But one of the things I like most about “Medusa” is that I finally feel like Scully and Doggett are working together and not just alongside of each other. Oddly, their separation here bonds them because they’re forced to depend on each other.

This is especially a test for Doggett, who admirably accepts Scully’s refusal to enter the tunnels herself without question and follows her every instruction without resentment, even when she sends him into clear danger. See that? A real man’s man can take orders from a girl without sacrificing any of his manliness.

Doggett has to learn to trust Scully, which so far he hasn’t had reason to do yet. Up until now he’s questioned Scully’s theories and conclusions. He’s questioned her judgment. But in the face of dire circumstances and opposition from a suspiciously contrary lieutenant, Doggett shows remarkable solidarity with Scully.

Scully already has reason to trust Doggett, but she still hasn’t trusted him with the truth of her pregnancy. This is the first time we’ve seen her consciously reluctant to take a physical risk and much of the emotional tension in this episode relies on the audience’s awareness of Scully’s pregnancy and the potential jeopardy to the baby.

This is also the first time that Scully shows real concern and care for Doggett, a care possibly fueled by guilt that by keeping him in the dark she’s putting her partner in more danger. Here she’s asking him to risk dying a gruesome death without her physically present to watch his back and she’s not telling him why. Knowing Doggett, he would’ve done it in a heartbeat, but still.

And let me just say again that I like Doggett. I like his military-bred willingness to do what needs to be done. I like his respect for Scully and her seniority in the X-Files. I like that he’s willing to risk his life to save a jerk who knocked him out and left him for dead. That’s a good guy, right there. And for the first time, I feel like I’m not just watching Doggett I’m actually rooting for him. Scully isn’t the only one who’s becoming emotionally invested in the man.

Verdict:

Much thanks to writer Frank Spotnitz for reminding us that not every X-File is about paranormal phenomena or alien conspiracies. The X-Files division investigates the unexplained, including events with purely scientific causes.

I’m also grateful to see Scully acting something other than bored or sad. Righteously angry and guilty will work for a change of pace. She’s also not acting like Mulder! Whew! For what feels like the first time this season, she’s solving an X-File as Scully the Scientist and not as Scully the Wannabe Mulder.

One weakness I do spot, besides the inexplicably obdurate local authorities, is the miraculous appearance of the little boy in the tunnels. You know, the mute little boy who somehow knows exactly what Doggett is looking for and leads him to it, the one who serves no purpose other than to allow Scully to connect the dots and whose origins are left unexplained. Actually, to be really real, the whole ending is rushed and weak. Somehow, that doesn’t ruin the experience for me, though. Because that’s what it is: a tense, dark, sweaty experience that lasts for a while and then suddenly lets up – A description that applies to several of my favorite episodes.

B+

Seawater:

Hello, Penny Johnson Jerald. I loved to hate you on 24.

Scully asks Doggett to uncover bodies killed by some unknown contagion. Is she nuts? Didn’t she learn anything from “F. Emasculata” (2×22)?

I enjoyed seeing Scully go off on Deputy Chief Karras. She was this close to a Scully Squared ™ moment.

Scully and Doggett share a cute moment in the hospital when Doggett is clearly embarrassed that Scully might see something she shouldn’t while he’s wearing his hospital gown. I can’t help but remember how easily Mulder walked around Scully in his underwear as early as “Fire” (1×11).

Best Quotes:

Deputy Chief Karras: Agent Scully is a medical doctor. Who they tell me has a lot of experience with equivocal deaths.

Melnick: Equivocal? [Laughs] Hey, I mean you’re dead or you’re not, right?

Scully: Deaths for which there may be many explanations or for which an explanation may be hard to find.

Lyle: [To Doggett] What about you?

Doggett: I’m just a good shot.

Badlaa 8×12: Well, that’s just wrong.


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Criminey.

“Badlaa” is writer John Shiban’s first solo outing since “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18) which is one of my all-time favorite episodes of The X-Files, so allow me to admit freely that I’m biased towards him. Sadly, though, that bias only takes me so far. It doesn’t take me all the way to “Badlaa”.

Parts of this episode are so disgusting as to be downright repugnant. It pushes the boundaries of bad taste in such a way as to make the controversial “Home” (4×3) look almost wholesome. If X-Files were graded purely on how well they grossed out the audience, this would be a top rated episode. But this isn’t the fun kind of gross that we got in “Roadrunners” (8×5), where it makes you squirm but you want to keep peeking at it. No, this is the kind of gross that makes you wonder why the creators of it felt the need to go there, the kind of gross that makes you frown, not squeal.

It doesn’t help my good opinion that “Badlaa” is also the episode where Scully’s Adventures as Fox Mulder storyline reaches its zenith of frustration, and where The X-Files itself acknowledges that this plot isn’t working.

Scully: Chuck. Thank you for, uh, coming down here again.

Chuck Burks: Not at all. Uh… I’m just a little curious. I mean, it’s always Mulder who’d been doing all the calling and…

Scully: This, uh… this case, I, I, I… I’m just… I’m trying to see it the way that Mulder would and… please have a seat.

I’ve tried, but I can’t get used to Scully the Believer. She’s making leaps in logic that only Mulder could make and they didn’t make sense when he made them. Yet it was still more believable when Mulder did it because he had an almost spiritual connection to these cases, because he had eyes to see and ears to hear, because his faith in and of itself gave him access to hidden truths.

Scully is not a believer. She’s certainly more open than she was, as she should be. But until Mulder left, her first reaction was never to assume the paranormal worst. She needed objective evidence, she needed to put her hands in the scars of the nails, so to speak. And even then, she could still be obstinate in the face of convincing evidence. This new act of hers doesn’t wear well on her and it’s getting old.

I am now much more sure that Scully and Doggett would’ve fared better as a partnership if they had been given a whole new dynamic all their own. I know I said it in my review for “Invocation” (8×6) and I hate to harp, but the Believer-Skeptic dynamic was not the winning formula. The Mulder-Scully dynamic was. Trying to approximate their chemistry with a dynamic that merely mimics theirs is a failing strategy.

But perhaps that was purposeful? Perhaps 1013 is trying to explore Scully’s character and the emotional impact of the loss of Mulder by showing us how her character is trying to compensate? If so, it’s happening at the expense of any progress happening in Scully and Doggett’s partnership. They’re stuck at “pleasant but distant.” They’re working together but they don’t feel like a team. At their most harmonious they’re congenial co-workers. At their worst they don’t understand each other at all.

My only satisfaction is that Scully gets sick of herself this episode. I only hope that we’re done with this and future episodes won’t continue to be made awkward by the discomfort of watching Scully channel Mulder.

Verdict:

The subject matter here is… Well, it’s. I remember finding “Badlaa” almost frightening back in the day, now I just find it distasteful and unnecessary. I could maybe see it working if this disturbing concept of one man crawling inside of another were used to further a fancy plot. But there is no plot. There are only icky images.

Because, really, why is the nameless Indian mystic killing people? We got some vague reference to a horribly fatal accident in India that an American company was responsible for, but none of the mystic’s murder victims have any connection with that company. Or if they do, we’re never told about it. It seems Mr. Squeaky Wheels is killing Americans at random and he’s sadistically fixated on little boys.

And it’s hard to believe that this guy got himself hired anywhere without speaking so much as a single word. That kind of creepy anyone could see through. And it’s also hard to believe that Scully would cut the corpse of one of the victims open in a room by herself when she already believes someone is hiding inside it. Why wouldn’t you call in witnesses… and protection? Of course he jumped out and left a gruesome trail of blood behind him.

Like I said, the plot is merely a vehicle for a series of gross images, not vice versa.

B-

Spare Change:

Why is there no blood when the wee man goes in, but only when he comes out?

Conversely, the blood vessels in the victims’ eyes all burst when he goes in, but then they magically heal post-mortem.

Not only is the most we’ve ever seen of Chuck Burks, this is the last we’ll ever see of him. Mulder doesn’t even get to say goodbye.

The poor, long suffering bellman. No, there will be no tip for you, sir.

Best Quotes:

Mr. Potocki: Buy yourself some WD-40.

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Doggett: Dead men don’t tip.

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Mrs. Hold: The better the economy gets the harder it is to fill these kinds of jobs. And the problem is that people look at it as just a paycheck. They don’t realize that as maintenance engineer you are playing an important part in these kids’ lives.