Tag Archives: Patient X

Two Fathers 6×11: Word up.


The truth will out.

I remember really, really enjoying this set of episodes the first time around. Probably because they handhold the audience all the way through the history of the mythology and I needed handholding. Unlike actress Aisha Tyler, I didn’t have a conspiracy flow chart above my television set to keep track of the goings on. An oversight I still regret.

The way the story is framed, with Cigarette-Smoking Man filling in the blanks through exposition, works quite well. Though the way the story was originally set up, told through a series of flashbacks, would have been even better. I’ve just read some of the original script that had to be scrapped because the flashback scenes shot with actors who… didn’t look like 1970s versions of themselves any longer, weren’t as effective as they needed to be. But if it could have played out they way it did on paper, it would have been awesome. Now my heart bleeds a little for the episode that could have been.

The thing is, “Two Fathers” lives or dies by exposition. So if you’re like me and you’ve been dying to know what exactly the mythology’s been about all these years, you’re probably a fan. If you’re among the faster minded, or the more diligently obsessed, there’s a good chance you aren’t hearing anything you didn’t already know and I could see how you might be bored. Me, even the things I’ve already figured out don’t bore me. I love that smug feeling of satisfaction confirmation gives you.

Interestingly enough, CSM isn’t the only one dropping knowledge. Cassandra Spender shows up again having ditched the wheelchair and gained its weight in factual information. Why was she able to pick up so much truth during this most recent abduction when for the past twenty something years the conspirators and/or the aliens had her head filled with lies? Now, not all of her information is accurate, but it’s a far sight more informed than what she so cheerfully preached in “Patient X” (5×13). Maybe her new status as a hybrid has opened up her understanding beyond the human.

Too bad her son is still in the dark. I may be the only one, but I feel bad for Agent Spender, so much so that I wish Mulder would go ahead and be nice to the guy. I mean, over the course of this episode he’s rejected by both parents. His father slaps him. Twice. And his mother comes back from the dead only to ask for Fox Mulder, his bitter rival.

While I doubt Mulder would ever see it this way, it’s partially his own fault that Spender has become the enemy. Maybe if Mulder had been a little nicer to him initially, or tried a little harder to avoid the misunderstanding and miscommunication that occurred between them, Spender wouldn’t have been as susceptible to his father’s machinations. Surely a large part of the initial appeal of doing CSM’s dirty work was the chance to take down Mulder, despite the fact that the glory of that is now wearing thin on Spender. It’s not like his newfound relationship with his father is built on sentiment. What’s love got to do with it? CSM doesn’t want a son, he wants a legacy; he wants to see his power continue on into the next generation. His nepotism in regards to Spender is purely selfish in motive but Spender is to naïve to realize that.

It doesn’t help that Krycek has been assigned to Spender as his sort of “big brother” in the Syndicate universe, showing him the ropes as it were. But Krycek wouldn’t be Krycek if he weren’t working toward his own agenda, which brings me to my next topic…

The eponymous two fathers are Cigarette-Smoking Man (aka C.G.B. Spender) and Bill Mulder. On the surface then, their sons, their competing legacies would be Jeffrey Spender and Fox Mulder. However, I believe there’s a third son here and that’s Alex Krycek, the virtual issue of CSM’s loins.

I’ve long thought of Krycek as CSM’s spiritual successor, and apparently that thought wasn’t lost on Krycek himself either. If you have the DVD, there’s a deleted scene you can watch were Krycek boldly comes to CSM requesting to be his heir apparent. CSM coldly tells him the position has already been filled. CSM’s rejection of Krycek and his resentment of it explains his later manipulation of Spender and his efforts to turn him against his father.

It also puts Krycek’s speech before the rest of the Syndicate into context. That overdone performance was for CSM’s sake, so that he could ingratiate himself. With that in mind, it makes more sense that he would abandon his previous position. Last we saw Krycek, he was for resistance, working secretly with Well-Manicured Man to enlist Mulder to their cause. Not that it’s hard to believe Krycek would suddenly turn without warning. He’ll do whatever he needs to in order to survive. That’s what makes him Kryeck.

Now, I realize that deleted scenes aren’t canon, but this subtext is present in this story arc with or without this scene. This moment just makes Krycek’s motivations clearer and so I’m sorry it had to be cut.

In a way, all three men are the sons of CSM. True, there are suspicions regarding whether or not CSM is Mulder’s father, but either way Mulder is the product of CSM’s schemes and manipulations, schemes that likely go back to Mulder’s introduction to the X-Files and his partnership with Diana Fowley.

Yes, the truth is out there now: Diana Fowley is in cahoots with CSM. The way that Carter and Spotnitz choose to reveal that truth is both startling and gratifying. I knew that woman wasn’t to be trusted! There’s just one huge problem left… how do we convince Mulder?

And the Verdict is…

I don’t feel the same sense of urgency I did watching it way back when, but I still think “Two Fathers” works. Its only stumbling block is that it’s so much easier to entertain by raising answers than by providing them. Fortunately, I’ve been waiting so long for some clear answers and am so invested at this point that the satisfaction I get from hearing concrete facts is entertainment enough.

We’re a good ten minutes into the episode before Mulder and Scully even show up, but it’s well worth the wait. Perhaps feeling guilty over what they’re about to do to us Shippers in part two of this episode arc, Carter and Spotnitz write a classic scene of Mulder/Scully flirtation. Who knew such a short woman could walk into a room all made of legs? I may or may not have rewound this scene about ten times just now.

Yep, this is rewatchable television. Great performances all around and a hefty dose of payoff; I love that Chris Carter brings the train cars from “Nisei” (3×9) back. Bringing the story full circle by incorporating the past makes for an easily digestible meal.

Next up, there can only be “One Son” (6×12). Which one will be left standing?

A-

Random Observations:

Skinner’s a bit cold to Spender considering his mother, who he had given up for dead, has just been returned to him and he’s emotionally vulnerable. I know Spender hasn’t exactly endeared himself to Skinner, but still.

Before, the alien rebels looked suspiciously like Brian Thompson’s Alien Bounty Hunter character. Now, they’re somebody entirely new. Same race different face?

I never realized it before, but these two episodes are crucial for understanding how Krycek sees himself in future seasons.

Lingering Questions:

Mulder just hacked into A.D. Kersh’s computer remotely in “Tithonus” (6×9). He couldn’t hack into Spender’s as well? He had to break into his office and risk getting caught?

All the crap Mulder’s pulled this season and walking into Spender’s office without permission is what gets him fired? As it is, the information he accessed on Spender’s computer was for a case Spender asked him to look into.

I didn’t realize Cassandra parted with Mulder and Scully on such affectionate terms. What’s with all the hugging?

Why would the Second Elder open the door for Openshaw after he knows Openshaw’s dead? Why make it easy for the Rebel to kill you?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Hey, homegirl. Word up.
Scully: Mulder, it’s my distinct impression that you just cheated. And that you’re not coming in again today.
Mulder: Oh, Scully, I got game!
Scully: Yeah, you got so much game I’m wondering if you have any work left in you.
Mulder: No, I’m ready to J-O-B, just not on some jagoff shoeshine tip.
Scully: No “jagoff shoeshine tip?”
Mulder: No background checking, jagoff shoeshine tip.

——————-

Cigarette-Smoking Man: I’ve trusted no one. Treachery is the inevitable result of all affairs. Every man believes he has his own good reason.

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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???}

Season 5 Wrap Up – Do you think it’s too soon to get my own 1-900 number?


"A Howler? But this isn't Harry Potter..."

Season 5 is The X-Files at the height of its powers.

I couldn’t possibly tick off all of the memorable moments: Mulder and Scully dancing in “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6), Mulder nearly eating Scully’s hand off in “Redux II” (5×3), Scully jonesing for buck teeth in “Bad Blood” (5×12), Stephen King joining the party in “Chinga” (5×10), Scully hunting for bimbos in “Kill Switch” (5×11). I’m teary-eyed with nostalgia just thinking about it all.

No. Really. I am.

However, I don’t want to drench you all with my gushing. So before I get too carried away, let me lay out the one main negative, if you can call it that, which Season 5 has.

Frankly, there are fewer significant mythology events than in seasons past. As far as revelations go, compare it to Season 3 where there was both a fresh answer and a fresh mystery every mythology episode then it comes up lacking. Episodes like “Christmas Carol”/”Emily”, “Patient X”/”The Red and the Black” and even my beloved “Redux”/”Redux II” were more like character studies disguised as mytharc than they were plot progressors.

Not that the plot of the mythology stayed stagnant, oh no. Krycek returned from the hallowed halls of a Russian concentration camp only to become Well-Manicured Man’s errand boy. Cigarette-Smoking Man’s fellow conspirators attempt to have him assassinated and fail only to bring him back when they fail at yet another assassination. Scully finds out she’s barren and discovers she has a child only to lose her and return to childlessness. Mulder went from belief in extra-terrestrials, to disbelief, and back again. But all this amounts to is shuffling.

Where’s the sense of deepening mystery? It’s there. It just comes in the form of new faces rather than old favorites.

The Alien Rebels: Who are they? Why are they fighting against the colonists and killing innocent abductees in the process? Most importantly, how is it that they look like The Alien Bounty Hunter after an attack by angry Silly Putty?

Jeffrey Spender: CSM is his deadbeat father. It may be too little too late to turn that relationship around, but CSM’s sure trying by secretly pulling strings in order that Jeffrey can more quickly advance at the F.B.I… at Mulder’s expense. Jeffrey isn’t quite a villain, but he’s not shaping up to be Mulder’s best friend either. It’s doubtful he has any idea who CSM really is. What will he do when he finds out?

Cassandra Spender: Currently MIA. If CSM is her baby daddy, that automatically lends credence to her tall tales of (benevolent?) alien abductors. But what’s his angle in all this? And was he ever married to the woman? It’s not easy picturing them together at the family table.

Gibson Praise: The Official Key to Everything. Gibson’s “more human than human” mind hasn’t saved him from the machinations of the Syndicate. Mulder’s proof has been snatched from his grasp yet again, but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of this munchkin.

Diana Fowley: We haven’t seen the last of her either. She drops out of nowhere, mainly to stir the pot between Mulder and Scully. Could she serve another, slightly less nefarious purpose as well?

See? It isn’t all fun and games. There are actual developments occurring as well. But Chris Carter can’t give too much away when major excitement has to be reserved for the upcoming feature film. Instead, he’s maneuvering his pawns into place so that they’ll be in the right position for the movie and then for the season beyond it. Mulder has to believe in aliens again or how can he chase them? CSM has to come back from the dead or what will the film do for a villain? Scully has to be childless or, what’s she going to do? Stick the kid in daycare while she dallies across the big screen with Mulder for two hours?

Trouble is, he has to create something intriguing enough to make you run to your local theater, present something in said theater that will satisfy long-time viewers and attract fresh meat, then bring it all home for the new season opener in such a way that both the previous season’s finale and the stand-alone movie both make sense. I get anxious just thinking about it.

I won’t yet speak for the movie or the seasons to come, but in regards to Season 5, all I can say is that I’m truly and well satisfied. Nearly every episode is a fun-filled adventure. There is the occasional, expected hiccup (“Shizogeny”, I’m looking at you.), but overall it’s hour after hour of solid television – that is when it isn’t being hour after hour of amazing television.

But Enough About Trivialities:

If you haven’t already read, and if you’ve read you’ve probably read it so many times your eyes are strained with rolling, I have a theory that Mulder Scully-crushed Season 5. Her cancer is gone, the clouds have broken, Mulder’s interactions/reactions to his partner have been noticeably tinged with boyish admiration. Sure, one or two of those sentimental moments I could write off as Shipper fantasy. But four, five and six? I see a trend.

So, what say you?

And last but not least, the Awards…

“The Well-Intentioned Misstep”

Emily

“Underappreciated and Underwatched”

The Pine Bluff Variant

AND

Folie à Deux

“Please, sir, I want some more”

Detour

“The Riskiest Experiment”

Travelers

“Best Cameo Performance”

Unusual Suspects

“Biggest Disappointment”

Kitsunegari

“The Mini Summer Blockbuster”

Kill Switch

“Pure, Unadulterated Television Joy”

The Post-Modern Prometheus

The Pine Bluff Variant 5×18: Oh, is this the Pepsi Challenge?


Musta been something I ate.

We were overdue for this.

The last three episodes haven’t been… bad… they’ve just been rather quiet and unassuming, a characteristic I know how to appreciate but, dang it, this is The X-Files. I should be nearly falling off my chair with excitement more often than not. Usually, that kind of adrenaline rush is brought on by vile beasties and such, but “The Pine Bluff Variant” ignores the usual scares for an old-fashioned, Hollywood style action mystery – it’s a welcome departure.

This episode is a pure thriller from top to bottom. I don’t think the series ever had another episode that was quite like it in tone and if not for a few key elements like the familiar characters, the distinctive cinematography and particularly horrific effects of the biotoxin, it wouldn’t even feel like an X-File. The closest episode to it in style would have to be “F. Emasculata” (2×22), which has a rare sense of urgency to it for a non-mythology episode, with “Sleepless” (2×4) running second just because both episodes are echoes of The Manchurian Candidate in their own way.

All three episodes are what I like to refer to as Half-Caff: They involve a more generalized and vague government conspiracy than the mythology proper that’s centered around a highly coveted piece of science or technology. It’s one of my favorite sub-types of Monster of the Week episodes because the “monster” is so much more dangerous than an individual mutant, it’s all encompassing and nearly invisible – it’s a government. And isn’t The X-Files, a product of men who grew up in the Nixon era, a show grounded in government distrust? It’s a foundation of cement, really. The monsters, the aliens, they’re all just stand-ins and allegories for groups of nameless, faceless men with all the power and none of the integrity, men who control the future of the masses while exercising no self-control over their own whims. At least, that’s how you’ll feel if you watch too much of this show.

Mulder made a mistake and opened his mouth a little too wide back in “Patient X” (5×13) voicing not only his then doubts as to the existence of extra-terrestrials, but also some particularly jaded views on the Federal government. I always appreciate continuity on The X-Files when I see it, and goodness knows it becomes a hot commodity in later seasons, so I think it was clever of writer John Shiban to throw in a nod to a significant moment earlier in the season.

But back to Mulder… thank heaven for this episode! Mulder has either been irritating or relatively useless for the last five episodes, that is when he’s even present. Finally, he’s redeemed as our anti-hero hero and I’m forcefully and gleefully reminded why I love this man… er… character. Yes.

Mulder has one of his greatest moments ever here with his,  “If you touch me again you better kill me!” line. Actually, that entire interrogation scene is golden both for Mulder’s sarcasm and his action hero antics. If you haven’t watched it in a while, please do. Pop it in the player a moment for your own sake. Go on. It’s okay. I’ll wait.

………….

And we’re back.

Not to be outdone, Mulder isn’t the only one with a chance to shine, Scully wakes up this episode and I just love her when she has attitude. I know her little feet can’t reach the peddles but I swear, she’s more dangerous than Mulder. U.S. Attorney Leamus has no idea how narrowly he escaped a hurtin’.

The villain isn’t the only object of her wrath, either, as wonderfully evidenced in that scene where Scully tracks Mulder to an out of the way motel. Scully’s furious at Mulder, more so because he’s lying to her than because he’s colluding with a dangerous criminal. Even so, she doesn’t betray him when she has the chance. It’s like I said back in “Demons” (4×23), Scully will defend Mulder whether he’s innocent or guilty, as long as he needs her she will compulsively be there. She might not be happy about it, though.

Things were supposed to be a little tense between Mulder and Scully this season what with Mulder’s doubts about the existence of aliens and Scully dealing with the after-effects of her cancer, but whatever the writers intended, for the most part, they didn’t pull it off. I can’t think of when the characters have ever felt closer.

Verdict:

This is absolutely the best episode John Shiban ever gave the show solo and it’s one of the best examples of how The X-Files could transform itself from week to week and from genre to genre. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I don’t see it pop up more often on “Best Of” lists.

I’m still not sure what the government gets out of this in the end. Were they using these terrorists to test the biotoxin or were they trying to retrieve the stolen technology from them? If the former, were the terrorists aware they were being used? Is August Bremmer a government plant put there to organize and control them into using the weapon the way the government sees fit?

In the end, I just don’t care. I enjoy the ride far too much to be disappointed by my own inability to follow a plot.

I’ve always loved this episode, but watching Scully and Skinner walk into that movie theater again with flashlights flashing… it just may have rolled up into my top ten favorites.

A+

Random Comments:

Kate Braidwood, the daughter of Tom Braidwood, the First Director on the show and the actor who plays Frohike, shows up in this episode as the Usherette.

Putting the biotoxin on the bank’s money sounds scary in theory, but it would never make it out into the general population anyhow. The moment someone who worked at the bank touched it they’d die, which would lead to an investigation, which would lead to the money being confiscated. After all, how can anyone pass on the cash without flesh?

So the motel featured so heavily in this episode… I feel as though I’ve seen it several times, a fact which I can neither confirm nor deny. But if I’m not much mistaken, it’s not only the motel from “Conduit” (1×3) and “Wetwired” (3×23), but possibly from “Colony” (2×16) and “Tempus Fugit” (4×17) as well. But I’m not going to bother to go back and check so…

The set design and lighting in that F.B.I. conference room is immaculate. Come to think of it, the set designs throughout this entire episode are amazing.

Oh, my Shippers, you caught that moment, right? Right? Right.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Maybe you can tell me what’s going on.
Motel Manager: What?
Scully: There seems to be a problem. A man just told me you gave him keys to my room. Room 130.
Motel Manager: Who are you?
Scully: Who am I? Who is he?
Motel Manager: Mister, uh, Kaplan.
Scully: Mr. Kaplan?
Motel Manager: Yes.
Scully: Thank you.
Motel Manager: Are you the wife?
Scully: Not even close.

———————-

Scully: Exactly what agency are you guys from?
Agents: [Stony silence]
Scully: Obviously not the Office of Information.

———————-

Scully: Oh, Mulder, what did they do to you?
Mulder: [Winces]
Scully: This needs to be set. You’re in pain.
Mulder: Yeah, if you keep pullin’ it around like that…

———————-

Mulder: If you don’t hear from me by midnight, feed my fish.

Patient X 5×13: A conspiracy, wrapped in a plot, inside a government agenda.


Constipation.

After a long string of stand alones and a couple of character driven rather than mytharc progressing token mythology episodes, we’ve been overdue for a classic, alien invoking mythology tale. Season 5 is famously short due to filming for The X-Files feature film that was due that upcoming summer so unlike Season 3, it’s not heavily mythology driven. The mythology episodes we do get this season are heavy duty in content, which is probably why we get less of them. That, and with the movie to think about Chris Carter had to pace out his story revelations so as not to give out too much information too soon or so little that the ongoing plot would lose its sense of urgency by the time Fight the Future came along.

I love this two-parter because Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz toe that line well, explicitly confirming more information than I think a mythology episode had ever done before but at the same time opening up a whole new, deeper set of mysteries and twists. The Syndicate members nearly spell out their entire arrangement with the alien colonists and yet now we have these Alien Rebels on the scene that even these experienced men don’t know what to make of. Who are these Rebels and how do they relate to the Alien Bounty Hunters? For that matter, how do the Alien Bounty Hunters relate to the Colonists? Are they a separate race who, like the human Syndicate before them, made a deal with the Colonists to become slaves in order to survive? Are the Rebels a remnant determined to resist both their own enslavement and to prevent the Colonists from repeating the cycle? Chris Carter is too clever to say so in so many words, but it’s sure starting to look that way.

It’s interesting that Chris Carter would bring the idea of the Alien Bounty Hunter back when his existence is one of the biggest arguments against Mulder’s current theory that there are no aliens but a corrupt government purposefully perpetuating a myth to cover its own sins. If this theory that Mulder accepted back in “Redux” (5×2) is correct, how does Mulder explain men who can shapeshift? Men who bullets don’t kill? Are they merely byproducts of some incredibly advanced government experiment like the clones introduced in “Colony” (2×16)?

One could wonder Mulder how Michael Kritschgau ever convinced Mulder that all he had seen and heard was an elaborate con and if you wondered too hard the plot would fall a part. Mulder’s a smart man. A little too eager and willing to believe at times, but he’s not without any reason. How could he just stop believing after all he’s seen? All I can say is don’t bother questioning it because it’s irrelevant.

To argue that there’s too much evidence of alien involvement for Mulder to stop believing is utterly beside the point. Mulder hasn’t stopped believing because there’s enough evidence one way or the other, Mulder has given up the game because he’s angry. He’s angry because whether there are aliens or not, the humans involved in this conspiracy are responsible for abducting Scully, giving her cancer and making her infertile all in an effort to manipulate Mulder and his work. They’ve tried to destroy his only friend to get to him. Out of guilt Mulder wants to distance himself from this sad little history, and out of anger he refuses to be manipulated any longer. That’s why he’s so stubborn over the course of these next two episodes. Scully could point out the odd coincidences between these mass killings and her own abduction to him until the Loch Ness Monster decided to hold a press conference; he’s not budging because he’s bitter.

And Mulder isn’t the only character holding grudges. It would appear that Krycek still isn’t over the Syndicate arranging a car bomb in his honor because he’s made it his mission to wrest power from their white, wrinkly hands. He’s not alone either and Marita Covarrubias is finally given something interesting to do in helping Krycek double cross the Syndicate an then double crossing the double crosser, ditching her lover and taking his hostage, his leverage, for her own. They’re each playing both sides, manipulating the situation to their own ends. What exactly those ends are remains obscure, but probably it’s to tip the balance of power in their favor. Why should the Syndicate, like Robber Barons, have all the fun? Putting them together is a smart twist.

I wouldn’t quite call The X-Files an ensemble show, but I can’t deny that part of its success came from a strong cast of supporting players, each bringing a complicated history into the mix. Not only did this keep Mulder and Scully more interesting by giving them something to play off of and a more sinister sandbox to play in, but it prevents the audience from getting bored easily. Yes, I look forward to every moment Mulder and Scully are onscreen, but even when they aren’t the supporting characters are so interesting that they only serve to make Mulder and Scully’s scenes more enjoyable by creating a more gripping plot for our two leads.

Veronica Cartwright is marvelous here giving a performance that got her nominated for an Emmy award. Her character, Cassandra Spender, is a much sweeter, politer, and   psychotic version of Season 2’s Duane Barry so it’s interesting that she brings him up to Mulder at their first meeting. What she says is just as crazy sounding, she just says it in a more palatable voice. And the aliens in her testimonies of alien abduction are liberators not sadists.

Then how could we ignore the introduction of her son, resident weasel Jeffrey Spender? There’s something both clever and frustrating about the way Chris Carter throws his character into the fray since he and Mulder become antagonists more through a series of I Love Lucy style misunderstandings than anything else. Perhaps if Mulder had bothered to defend himself he would have made one less enemy, but then, Mulder may have traded his alien theories for slightly more mainstream views, but he still enjoys being the resident rebel. He could care less if Jeffrey Spender likes him or not. It’s a great start to what will develop into a long and very complicated relationship.

And the Verdict is…

Some fans feel that the mythology began to fall off around Season 5 and took a nosedive in Season 6, but episodes like this make me beg to differ. There’s action, intrigue and ridiculously sophisticated special effects. So what is there to complain about? I think Mulder and Scully’s characterizations in Season 5, their complete reversal of positions, are a stumbling block for many.

If Mulder’s unwillingness to believe is slightly puzzling, the quickness with which Scully accepts Cassandra’s story is a mystery of Ellery Queen proportions. Scully has believed for a long time that “these men” were responsible for what happened to her, but she’s never before attributed her abduction to aliens and nothing she sees here would be enough to convince Scully on her best day that there was something intergalactic going on. Again, as with Mulder, if you try to rationalize her motives here you’ll give yourself a headache. And yet, the reversal of positions between Mulder and Scully, him becoming the skeptic and her the believer, are not as arbitrary as they seem on the surface.

For Scully, we can only assume that the chip, the homing device in her neck, is somehow telling her heart what her brain can’t understand. She instinctively seems to know that Cassandra’s story has merit, it’s not a reaction based on overwhelming evidence.

I don’t think Chris Carter did any of this for kicks. Mulder’s doubts, his dark night of the soul, was a necessary development for his character whose arrogance and gullibility without regard for the consequences to him and his partner couldn’t be allowed to go unchecked for ever. Mulder needed to be mad at himself. It shows a sense of self-awareness that’s been a long time coming. And it shows that his feeling of responsibility for Scully has come to supersede the quest that it grew out of.

As far as Scully’s transformation, if we can even call it anything that dramatic, it allows Chris Cater to put her back on the frontlines of the mythology and confirm suspicions for the audience without expressly revealing anything to the two leads and so bring the show to a close.

Will Mulder make an about face? Will Scully still have a face after the Rebels get to her? I guess we’ll have to watch Part 2 to find out.

A

Here nor Theres:

There are early hints here of the future “aliens as God” story arc – both in the panel that Mulder attends and in the obligatory heavy-handed opening voiceover.

We finally get a good look at Dr. Werber who we only saw briefly at the end of the “Pilot” (1×79).

How are the Alien Rebels able to summon the abductees using the Colonists’ technology?

Mulder’s a little too disinterested in these mass gatherings of abductees. Even if these people are delusional, even if they’re in a cult, couldn’t the government be behind these killings and wouldn’t he want to expose the conspiracy?

Best Quotes:

First Elder: What does Krycek want?
Marita Covarrubias: I don’t know.
Second Elder: How do we find out?
[phone rings]
Well-Manicured Man: Hello?
Krycek: [Over the phone] Well, look who’s answering the Bat Phone.
Well-Manicured Man: Alex Krycek.
Krycek: Those guys too cheap to offer you a pension plan?

———————–

Mulder: Do I look like I’m having fun, Scully?
Scully: You look constipated, actually.

———————–

Scully: Mulder, why are you tiptoeing around the obvious fact here? I mean, this is Skyland Mountain. We’re right back here on Skyland Mountain.
Mulder: And you think it’s related to your abduction from the same place?
Scully: Well, you can’t deny the connection.
Mulder: You think this is some kind of an abduction scenario?
Scully: No. I’m not saying that.
Mulder: Do you have any evidence of that?
Scully: What do you mean by evidence?

Pilot 1×79: Who did you piss off to get stuck with this detail?


I think I'm gonna like it here.

So, here we are, at the start of everything. The X-Files Pilot is in a lot of ways more satisfying than most episodes of the first season, really a television feat when you stop to consider it as most pilots prove to be little more than a shell of the series to come. In contrast, this episode plants seeds, some of which don’t fully blossom until almost the end of the series. It’s more like the start of a species’ evolution than a sketchy rough draft. Aspects of Mulder and Scully’s psychology that aren’t explored for years to come can first be recognized here if you know how to look; it’s like a pop culture Rorschach test.

More to the point, even though the style of the series would change significantly, becoming dramatic and polished where it was once charmingly underwhelming, the characters as laid out only seem to become more themselves as time goes on. Let’s start where it all starts, with Scully.

Scully’s character is set up to be the rational lens by which we, the audience view both Mulder and his precious basement files. Like her, we travel from the normal realm of the real world to a world where the impossible seems reasonable by the end of the episode. Accordingly, Scully grows almost more paranoid than Mulder by the end of the episode.

It isn’t her experience as an FBI agent but her credentials as a scientist that get her this gig. She would ordinarily be way out of her league with the likes of Mulder. From the set up in Blevin’s office, he’s something of a genius and was not long ago considered the golden boy of the Bureau. Whereas Scully would seem to have little if any field experience. She’s been teaching at Quantico most likely since she came out of the academy since no mention is made of her working in any other unit. Yet even Scully, not too far out of the academy herself, knows enough about Mulder to name his course of study as an undergrad.

I may be reading too far between the lines but I can only surmise from this that Scully, a girl in a boy’s world at the FBI, probably makes an extra effort not to be intimidated when she walks down into the basement. More accurately, she exudes the type of personality that would refuse to be intimidated. Still, her ever so slightly too emphatic scientific assertions would lead one to believe that she’s more impressed by Mulder than she lets on. It also highlights a part of Scully’s character that was mostly lost after the first season; she’s a bit of a cocky upstart.

Despite the pure motives she ascribes to herself, joining the FBI probably was an act of rebellion on Scully’s part. It becomes clearer as the series progresses, but Scully, despite her protestations, obviously needs and wants something more than a normal life. Hence she rejects her date in “The Jersey Devil” (1×4), etc. She’d be bored and unfulfilled without Mulder and the X-Files.

Now we move forward to the justly famous basement scene. Here’s why this works: Scully is obviously amused rather than offended by Mulder. This is a delicate balance since she can’t be either too irritated by him or too taken with him in order for the audience to take this seriously as a partnership. One would think that Scully would be slightly offended by his sarcastic and dismissive manner but evidently she’s not. And despite the somewhat cutting, cocky remarks she makes herself (Isn’t she only two years out of the academy acting like a know-it-all?? And while we’re about it, why is she teaching with so little practical experience as either a doctor or an agent?) Mulder doesn’t take offense either. After all, at least she’s being honest rather than making fun of his ideas.

On the subject of their partnership, I find it plausible (thank you, Scully) that either character on their own would be too annoying to be watchable. Maybe this is where part of their chemistry comes from. Mulder is abrasive and illogical, albeit he has his own charm. Scully is too straight-laced to be any fun. Well, almost. Her barely hidden enjoyment of Mulder’s antics lets us know that there’s more to her personality than is evident on the surface. Despite expectations, she doesn’t take life as seriously as she appears to, though she wisely hides her amusement from Mulder for the time being. To put a period at the end of this lovely phrase of a scene there’s that great smile that Scully gives to camera at the end. Is it only me, or is it possible read the entire future of the series in that grin?

And now for a not so clever segue into Mulder’s character…He asks her if she believes in E.T. on the off-chance that maybe she’s open to the idea, but it’s clear from the way he nods his head that he expected her negative response. Poor Mulder has clearly resigned himself to being alone in his beliefs, at least among the educated elite at the FBI.  Here’s what makes it interesting, though. Mulder seems to bear Scully no real hostility. He seems entertained by her investigative efforts, even. The Mulder we get to know later resents intrusion into his work. Yet it’s Mulder who makes most of the friendly overtures and who even asks Scully to go for a run. Mulder? Sociable? Is this the same Mulder that shot arrows at Krychek when he came around, this despite the fact that he professed to be an admirer of Mulder’s work? True, the circumstances were different with Krychek. And since the characters were still being developed, dear CC probably didn’t mean much by it. Mulder wasn’t established as incurably antisocial yet. Still, it’s definitely interesting looking backwards to see that his response to Scully was atypical.

We see little from Mulder’s point of view. As I mentioned before, this is really Scully’s story; so most of our observations of Mulder are from the outside. What we make of his character we have to glean from his body language and expression. What we can tell is that he’s conflicted; his reason is telling him not to trust Scully any more than he trusts his superiors at the FBI. Obviously, Mulder isn’t a character driven by reason and Scully’s response to this case leads him to the conclusion that she isn’t consciously a part of any conspiracy. Her reaction to the case as it unfolds, particularly her genuine fear both upon seeing the marks on Peggy and suspecting that she has them as well, that would seem to be what finally pulls down his guard against her. Adding to that, even if Scully is skeptical, she’s not cynical. She gives this case, and by extension, Mulder, a fair assessment. It’s evident that Mulder wants to be able to trust somebody, and while Scully is no believer, she’s honest and she’ll do.

Moving back to Scully, she is definitely more interested in this case, and in Mulder (no ship in sight, people), than she would like to let on. She blew Mulder off a little quickly for someone who smiled so warmly when she realized he was at her door. And despite her protest that she wouldn’t be losing sleep over this implant thing, that’s exactly what she proceeds to do.

And now for the mosquito bites: This kind of vulnerability is something we won’t see again from Scully for a while, that’s why it’s so important that the “Pilot” established that her character possesses it. This is a different Scully from the self-assured agent that shook hands with Mulder in the basement. Her voice is breaking; she covers her mouth. This is a scared Scully. It would be a wonder that she went to her near stranger of a partner except that there was no one else. Maybe more importantly, it’s appropriate that she goes to Mulder because this is his paranoia that she’s getting caught up in. No one else would give much credence to her anxiety in this situation. One has to wonder if without this scene in the motel Mulder and Scully would ever have become “Mulder and Scully.” This moment is the basis of their mutual trust. See why you shouldn’t swat at mosquitoes?

While I confess freely and happily that I’m a shipper, this scene would never have worked if the MSR ship was already at sea. It is precisely because Scully can trust Mulder not to ogle her that this relationship has the potential of being something really pure. There isn’t even a hint of Mulder taking advantage of the situation. Scully, the scientist, just exposed her rather unscientific fears to her eccentric partner and he didn’t throw it back in her face. Instead, he calms her down with genuine concern. And now we know that these two can trust each other without worrying about ulterior motives.

As a side note, here is where more recent shows, trying to follow in The X-Files’ footsteps have come up lacking. Mulder and Scully’s relationship was a slow build. It wouldn’t have been compelling if it started off with mere sexual tension. It started off with mutual respect, not attraction… not in the lustful sense. They were clearly attracted to each other as people. Then they progressed from respect, to affection, to trust and ultimately to co-dependence.

Moving forward, we see that the partners that gravedig together stay together. This scene, I think, is our first exposure to Mulder’s uncanny intuition. There is also something endearing about this moment. Maybe it’s the way that Scully laughs at the absurdity of the situation. Or is she laughing because part of her actually believes him? No doubt both. From this point on the two characters seem to be in sync. Scully sounds downright Mulderish during that great scene in the hospital hallway. She goes from calm and poised as she’s examining Billy Miles to being a crusader. We knew she had it in her. Maybe she’s more like Mulder than either of them realize.

The final scene of Scully answering Mulder’s call in bed would seem to be the start of Scully keeping Mulder at a distance, despite her own doubts. And Mulder, of course, assumes that Scully has nothing better to do that dwell on the case…. Which she doesn’t. In actual fact. (I’m nodding in your direction, Agent Reyes).

And the verdict is…

It’s interesting looking back because TV in those days didn’t have the shine and gloss it does now. It was a raw, slightly rough around the edges medium. And The X-Files, wisely, played that up.

Ultimately, I don’t think the success of the pilot is due to the plot, which is a little here and there at times. And even though aliens make for interesting subject matter a la Star Trek, what we do see of abduction in this episode is creepy but not compelling. I think that despite Chris Carter’s best intentions, this show was wrapped up in its characters from the beginning. If Mulder had only been the stereotypical irrational believer and Scully merely the stoic scientist, I truly believe it wouldn’t have worked. Instead, it’s not enough for Mulder to be the believer; he desperately wants to be believed. That’s why Scully is a blessing in disguise. She may not subscribe to his theories, but she believes in him as an investigator. As to the rest, he makes it his mission to convince her. Scully in her turn isn’t just a cold, calculating skeptic. She relates to and feeds off of Mulder’s passion. Not to mention she quietly gets his sense of humor!

Mulder and Scully as partners are charming together where either of their characters alone would be frustrating. Their subtle interplay is rewarding and looking back, the whole series really does take its cues from this episode. Even the way Scully distances herself from Mulder at the end of the episode, probably due to fear of what she might find, is a recurring theme.

This is what the audience is really responding to: two people connecting. Already we see that they don’t even need words to communicate, they use their eyes. First when Peggy throws herself on the floor in the hospital, and then there’s that spooky moment when Mulder makes eye contact with Scully through the two-way mirror. Scully is unsettled by the connection, but the audience is intrigued. Maybe it’s the way Mulder says, “I’m not crazy, Scully” with all kinds of vulnerability, or maybe it’s the way she smiles to herself when he knocks on her door, but you just know this relationship is going to work.

As for Scully’s boyfriend, Ethan, suffice it to say… well, let’s be real. Ethan was cut because Scully’s scenes with Mulder were just so much more electric. Even though Ethan’s scenes were cut and can’t be considered cannon, they give credence to my pet theory; Scully’s life was more interesting with Mulder around. But more on that as the season continues.

There are moments in this Pilot that later become part of what makes the show iconic, i.e. Searching with flashlights in the dark, Mulder cracking jokes at inappropriate moments, Scully performing an autopsy. It’s delightful to watch it all unfold.

Scully’s smile at the end the basement scene says it all: this is going to be fun.

A

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Sorry. Nobody down here but the FBI’s most unwanted.

————-

Mulder: That’s why they put the “I” in the FBI.

Nagging Questions:

Where did the candles in the motel come from??

This is only a question that can be asked in retrospect, towards the end of the series. But why DID CSM choose Scully to keep an eye on Mulder? Did they think she was capable of being manipulated like Diana Fowley? Did they think she was ambitious enough to throw Mulder under the proverbial bus? Or did they just want a straight man?

“We lost 9 minutes… I looked at my watch just before the flash and it was 9:03. It just turned 9:13!” – Um, isn’t that 10 minutes, Mulder?

Why isn’t Theresa killed by the aliens? Did Mulder and Scully somehow put a stop to it?

General Observations:

If there was one overdone moment, it was when Mulder and Scully reunited in the forest after Theresa was spared. In my best Chandler Bing impression: Can we breath any harder?

As ever, Scully is on the verge of seeing but never sees enough to make her believe. That won’t happen till “Patient X” (5×13).

The abductees were genetically altered by the tests done to them. Is this the first stirring of the alien-human hybrid storyline?

Does anyone else find Mulder’s passionate outbursts a little frightening? Does anyone else think Scully does too?

I think this may be the only episode where we ever see Scully with a purse…