Tag Archives: Pilot

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

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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.

Requiem 7×22: The hour is at hand.


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This is it. We’ve reached “Requiem”, where the mythology temporarily gets its groove back, where Mulder and Scully come full circle from their first meeting seven years ago in that basement office, and the episode where Chris Carter tries to destroy me.

The title is appropriate because, in many ways, this is a funeral. Not to spoil it for any newbies out there, but Seasons 8 and 9 will go down better if you don’t get your hopes up: This is the end of the Mulder and Scully era of The X-Files.*

I didn’t know that when this first aired. Fox had only officially renewed the series for Season 8 about a week before. All fans of the series knew was that David Duchovny had renewed his contract for eleven episodes for the upcoming season and Gillian Anderson’s contract still hadn’t run out. That translated to an expectation, at least in my household… and by “my household” I mean myself because my family is sane… that there would be a short lull for half a season or so and then David would return and things would get back to normal. What I know now that I didn’t realize then is that I was saying goodbye to The X-Files as I knew it.

The thing is, nobody knew. Through the writing and filming of this episode, Chris Carter didn’t know whether this was going to be a season finale, series finale or a lead-in to an ongoing movie franchise. That explains why he wrote “Requiem” in such a way that it could serve any and all purposes, and so that it could destroy me.

Agent Short: But, at the end of the day you’d say aliens are your real focus.

Mulder: That’s the reason I got started, yeah.

Agent Short: Investigating your sister’s abduction and the government conspiracy around it. Both of which have been resolved, correct?

Mulder: Nothing has been resolved exactly.

Agent Short: In this case report here it’s concluded your sister is dead as well as the men who took her. This is your handwriting here on the report, Agent Mulder?

Mulder: Yeah.

Agent Short: So, what exactly is left to investigate?

At long last, 1013 acknowledges the reason for Season 7’s lack of drive. Frankly, Mulder and Scully have little reason to still be in the game. As Agent Chesty Short points out, the main issues surrounding alien life, government conspiracy and the mystery of Samantha’s abduction have all been resolved. Oh, there are a few finer points and loose threads that haven’t been addressed. And there’s that whole upcoming annihilation of mankind thing, not that Mulder and Scully have been acting like Colonization is still on the horizon. They’ve been meandering across America, well, mostly California, flirtatious and carefree as the day is long. If the answers have been found and the conspiracy is dead, then there’s nothing important left to discover in the X-Files. If the world is still in danger of ending, then it’s time for them to take their mission up a notch and leave the routine behind.

Before the F.B.I.’s auditor can make that decision for them, however, Mulder and Scully get a call from Billy Miles, one of the abductees that was at the center of their first case. There’s been another suspicious disappearance. So they head back to the very plausible state of Oregon for the last time on the F.B.I.’s dime and let the waterfall of nostalgic tears begin.

The renewed activity in Oregon means that plans for colonization are still going forward and the Alien Colonists are cleaning house before it does. The abductees were originally taken and experimented on in order to perfect the science needed to create alien-human hybrids – a slave race that could survive Colonization by the alien Black Oil. That plan is out since the Syndicate is dead, so the abductees are now useless and a liability. They’re evidence waiting to be discovered.

Cigarette-Smoking Man, sick unto death, realizes what the Colonists are up to and wants to capture the ship, and the evidence it holds, before they disappear again. His plan is to restart the conspiracy. Since he’s currently immobile, he calls up Marita Covarrubias who we last saw on the verge of death herself in “One Son” (6×12). But we’ll get assume that at some point she was given an effective vaccine against the Black Oil, because here she is. CSM sends Marita to go fetch Krycek from the Tunisian jail he put him in. The fact that he’s in Tunisia is a tantalizing bit of information since it indicates that the leader of the Syndicate, Strughold, is still alive and restarting the conspiracy isn’t just a far-fetched dream.

So our two teams, Mulder and Scully, Krycek and Marita, head out to Oregon. Mulder and Scully have come such a long way since their first case. I broke my unspoken rule of going backwards and rewatched the Pilot (1×79) in order to compare it to this episode. It’s amazing how recognizable the characters are even after all they’ve been through. But the devoted duo that they are in “Requiem” is not the oddly matched teammates we met at the beginning.

Chris Carter is a sucker for bookends and so am I, so we get to see Mulder and Scully retracing their past not only by reconnecting with the people they met at the start of their journey and revisiting locations that are full of meaning, but Carter even brings the little moments back. Once more, Scully shows up at Mulder’s motel door shaken and stirred and he welcomes her in. It’s the same but it’s worlds different. Then, he comforts her awkwardly and tells her his life story, why he became a nut. He lets his guard down and starts to trust her. She stops seeing his ideas as a joke and starts to bond with him. Now… Oh, now… He takes off her shoes, puts her under the covers while he gentlemanly stays on top of them, holds her close and whispers to her that she’s already lost too much by running around with him and he won’t let her lose any more, because David Duchovny is trying to destroy me.

Mulder says in the Pilot that nothing else matters to him except finding the answers he’s looking for. This is not the same Mulder who now says to Scully, “There’s so much more you need to do with your life. There’s so much more than this. There has to be an end, Scully.” Mulder is betwixt and between. He loves Scully, wants the best for her, and some part of him looks like he could use a break from all this running around himself. We already know that finding out about Samantha’s death was a relief to him because it freed him. It’s not a stretch to think he’s ready to move on from hunting aliens as well. On the other hand, his search for aliens, his search for “Truth” with a capital “T”, his search for God… what is his life without it? He’s just a man who wants to know his place in the universe. That’s not wrong. Which part of Mulder will win in this inner struggle remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Krycek is coming up with zilch on this UFO and they’re running out of time before it takes off again. So once both teams make it back to Washington, D.C., Krycek gets Skinner to spring a surprise meeting on Mulder down in the basement office. This is such a perfectly constructed moment because Skinner shoots the breeze with Mulder for a couple of minutes before Krycek and Marita appear in the doorway behind Skinner. It’s a great surprise. Mulder wasn’t too happy about it, though.

Krycek’s aim is to get Mulder back out to Oregon to look for the ship… again. This is where we’d better go back a bit.

Remember that in “Biogenesis” (6×22), Krycek led Mulder and Scully to the discovery of an ancient alien spaceship. He forced Skinner into assigning them the case by threat of death by nanobot. Rubbings from that spaceship are what activated the dormant Black Oil in Mulder’s brain that he was exposed to in “Tunguska” (4×9), effectively turning him into the first alien-human hybrid immune to the possessive effects of the Black Oil. Mulder’s anomalous brain activity nearly killed him.

It’s hard to say for sure since “Biogenesis” was a little fuzzy around the edges, but it’s likely that Krycek was purposefully leading Mulder to that fate. And it’s likely that he’s purposefully leading him toward contact with the aliens now, knowing that they don’t want a specimen like Mulder running loose. Mulder means the potential survival of the human race. This would explain why Mulder passes the forcefield test. It possibly even explains why the ship didn’t take off until Mulder arrived on the scene. Perhaps they were waiting for him to show up.

Krycek, while he wants to survive, doesn’t want to cooperate with the Colonists and he surely wants to stick it to CSM. By giving the Colonists what they want – Mulder – he’s ensuring their departure and the failure of CSM’s plans. Does he have to destroy CSM’s plans before he throws him down the stairs? No. But it’s so much more evil if you take a man’s legacy before you take his life, isn’t it?

For his part, Mulder doesn’t have reason to trust Krycek so I’m not sure why he does. He already believes there’s a spaceship out there, but he’s come home for Scully’s sake. Now he’s going out to find it again because Krycek says CSM’s behind the disappearances. Methinks Mulder doesn’t really need a lot of convincing. He’s concerned about Scully, but this is a man determined to reach out and touch the face of God.

The good news is that this is an excuse for Mulder to gather all the old gang together before he goes. Skinner, the Lone Gunmen, Krycek, Marita, Mulder, Scully… they all stand at a table together in what’s meant to be a tableau of The Last Supper. And Mulder’s our sacrificial lamb, ready to give his very life for the answers. The one thing he won’t sacrifice – Scully.

Mulder: You’re not going back out there. I’m not going to let you go back out there.

Scully: What are you talking about?

Mulder: It has to end sometime. That time is now.

Scully: Mulder…

Mulder: Scully, you have to understand that they’re taking abductees. You’re an abductee. I’m not going to risk…. losing you.

Scully: [Slowly embraces him] I won’t let you go alone.

A moment of silence for my utter destruction.

True to her word, Scully sends their boss in her place and for the second time in recent history, Skinner’s out in the field. Oh, the lost opportunities. He should have been on the ground with Mulder more. It’s amazing how much affection you can palpably feel between their two characters even though they don’t say or do anything openly demonstrative.

Back in D.C., Scully comes to the realization that she’s not the one in danger, Mulder is. The aliens are taking people who experienced the same anomalous brain activity Mulder did. No sooner does she tell the Lone Gunmen this than she faints. Hmm, Scully’s been looking a little off all episode.

In Oregon, Mulder discovers the force field of the spaceship and decides to walk through it. And in a little room in Florida, there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I know it doesn’t even make sense. This episode aired fifteen years ago. I know what happens. I know what happens in the end of the series. I know the show is coming back! But I freak the heck out. Every. Time.

Noooo!!! Mulder!!!! You get back over there!!! You idiot!!!!!! What about Scully????????

That fool. And he looks so resigned. And all the abductees look so peaceful and welcoming. What are they looking peaceful about?? Didn’t the aliens torture them?

You deserve it. You deserve to look scared. Of course there’s a Bounty Hunter. They’re going to kill you. Didn’t I tell you to get back over there????

Okay. I have to stop before my brain explodes. Let’s just say I didn’t see Mulder’s abduction coming. You have to warn people before you rip out their hearts and destroy them.

And poor Skinner. He’s left holding the bag. By the time he shows up at Scully’s bedside he’s crying and ridden with guilt for losing Mulder. (It’s not your fault, Skinner. Mulder’s a stubborn jackass. A sweet, irreplaceable, stubborn jackass.) For her part, Scully looks shell-shocked, though not entirely because of Mulder’s abduction.

Scully: [Crying] We will find him. I have to. [Skinner goes to leave] Sir, um… there’s something else I need to tell you. Something that I need for you to keep to yourself. I’m having a hard time explaining it. Or believing it. But, um… I’m pregnant.

Yep. 1013 has done it. I didn’t see it coming, but they’ve done it. I can’t believe it. They’ve left Scully alone and pregnant.

Help. Somebody. The expressions on her face. I can’t. The grief, sadness, fear, incredulity, hope, joy, panic… I can’t. That emotional intake of breath right before the credits. I can’t. Because Gillian Anderson knows how to destroy me.

Post-Mortem:

Dramatically, this is the perfect way to end an era. It even casts me back to the underlying bleakness of the Pilot. But I can’t fully express my relief that it didn’t end here. After all he and Scully have been through, Mulder suddenly disappearing can’t be the end of the story. It just can’t. Yes, I see the poeticism in Mulder becoming the X-File, on becoming the answer to his own questions, in his meeting the aliens, “God” as it were, face to face. But if The X-Files had ended on a note this sad it would have tainted all my memories of the previous seven seasons. I wouldn’t be able to watch episodes like “Pusher” (3×17) without crying. I might not have been able to watch them at all. My emotions are funny like that. As it is, just knowing “Requiem” exists is enough to make me teary-eyed.

But I have to give credit to writer Chris Carter and the whole team for managing to form this episode in such a way that it could just as easily have been a new beginning as an end. And they positively guaranteed that I’d be watching Season 8.

It tore my heart apart, but it’s a good episode. I’d almost give it an A+ but I’m bitter that it destroyed me.

A

Sweet Nothings:

*Or at least it remains the end until January 24th, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Agent Mulder should focus his efforts – truer words have never been spoken. But then we wouldn’t have had a show.

How glad I am to see a Bounty Hunter again, you don’t know.

Why does the Bounty Hunter also seem to have the memories of the people he transforms into? Is it just because he’s spying on them?

When the Bounty Hunter as Detective Miles opens the trunk of his cruiser to toss in the bag of shell casings, it’s a little too obvious they just want us to see the body of the real Detective Miles in there. A small bag like that you’d keep on your person. You wouldn’t risk popping the trunk so that people could see your guilt.

Mulder tells Scully the personal costs of working on the X-Files is too high. What about if the world ends? Hmm? What then?

Why didn’t they go here with the mythology earlier in the season? Or even at the end of last season? They could have answered the questions about Samantha for the season ender/opener, acknowledge that Mulder and Scully’s work was almost done, then launch this era of the mythology.

We never do find out what Krycek stole from CSM that got him thrown in prison. Did it have to do with the spaceship in “Biogenesis”?

Why don’t these UFO crashes ever happen over highly populated areas?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Is that a lot?

Agent Short: A lot? Gas, expenses… the motel rooms alone. By FBI standards these numbers are out of control.

Mulder: We could start sharing rooms.

———————

Agent Short: If you spend so much time and money looking for aliens, responsibly, you should narrow your search.

Mulder: To where?

Agent Short: Wherever they are. It’s not unreasonable. It’s just a matter of reducing your vision.

———————-

Mulder: I think I’m in big trouble.

Scully: Oh, Mulder, how many times have they tried to shut us down?

Mulder: Yeah, but I never actually assaulted an auditor before.

Scully: Did you hurt him?

Mulder: I reduced his vision a little bit.

 

Sein Und Zeit 7×10: If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.


 

x-files-017

The Easter Bunny is fair game.

Last we saw Teena Mulder she was selling her son to the Devil in drag, Cigarette-Smoking Man as you might call him, in “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4), an issue that was never, ever discussed. I had a few questions for her then, I don’t mind telling you. Well, I have several more questions on my mind now.

Why is it, somebody tell me why, that just as characters start to get interesting on The X-Files, they die? Deep Throat, X, Agent Pendrell (sob!), Diana Fowley (dry eyes), Jeffrey Spender… Is there an unwritten rule somewhere? Is it written into the actors’ contracts? I realize no one ever really dies on The X-Files, but do they have to die at all?

It’s not that I was ever particularly attached to Teena Mulder, or even attached at all. But…  dagnabit, woman!

Did you have to leave your son to cry with that face?

Was her disease about to disfigure her in the next few days that she couldn’t have waited to die until she talked to Mulder? She’d rather leave him floundering, wondering forever than take an extra day or two to give him what answers she has? And she couldn’t just die without saying anything she had to burn what little proof Mulder would have found? Why did she let him flail about like an idiot looking for Samantha for so many years when she knew she was already dead? There are answers I need from this woman.

And that final phone message. Do parents, even emotionally distant parents, speak to their children with phrases like, “I hoped you’d call upon your return,” with anything other than irony? Then again, Mulder and his mother have always seemed to have an affectionate, but slightly formal and distant relationship. Very New England. It doesn’t help that every member of the Mulder family seems to have secrets. Except for Mulder. He’s an open book. Too open at times.

Well, I’m done kvetching at a fictional dead woman. But I still think that after watching her burn the last pictures that she had of Mulder and Samantha that she killed herself more from guilt than fear of a painful death. Also, think of the timing. This missing girl case has clearly rattled her.

Ah, Amber Lynn LaPierre. The JonBenet of The X-Files. Even her doting parents are duly under suspicion. Not that the police don’t have reason to suspect them. Their story is suspect. And Mrs. LaPierre is the one who wrote the not-quite-ransom note, after all.

We’ve had missing girl cases before: “Conduit” (1×2), “Oubliette” (3×8) and “Paper Hearts” (4×8). All of them make obvious parallels to Samantha and Mulder’s continued emotional turmoil over her loss. Scully warns Mulder in “Sein Und Zeit” that he’s personalizing this case. But Mulder personalizes every case. Or at least he used to. I miss the days when Mulder looked emotionally invested in an X-File.

When Scully first shows up at Mulder’s California motel room I’m a little worried she’s going to turn into an insensitive nag the way she did in “Conduit” and “Oubliette”. She doesn’t, thank goodness. She’s just a little annoyed that Skinner has sent her all the way across country just because Mulder refused to pick up his phone. She tries to keep Mulder from going off the edge and lectures him about playing well with others, but she always does that.

Scully’s sensitivity actually shines in this episode and the next. That scene where she has to break the news to Mulder that his mother’s suicide was real, not staged, when Mulder breaks down and she steps in seamlessly to comfort him… X-Files Gold.

Finally! Some meat! Season 7 is cute and all but a girl can’t live off of popcorn and Skittles. I need some sustenance. I need an X-File with protein. I need something to get excited about.

Skinner: Billie LaPierre is asking for him. She’s got something to say and she’ll only talk to Mulder.

Scully: It’s not a good…

Mulder: What is it?

Skinner: This case has heated up. I’ve booked two flights for us.

Scully: Well, then you better book three.

My girl.

All that said, this is an episode that’s hard for me to enjoy absolutely, not because it isn’t a good episode, but because it’s a dark one. Not darkly titillating like the previous “Signs and Wonders” (7×9), but darkly somber. There’s a sense, even from the opening teaser, that sweet little Amber Lynn is never coming home. From Amber Lynn’s disappearance and the specter of Samantha’s continued disappearance, to Teena Mulder’s suicide and the shocking final shot of a field full of tiny graves, the grimness of death hovers over this episode.

I confess I can’t wrap my heart around this walk-in version of the afterlife (and there have been many competing, conflicting, and even coexistent versions of the afterlife on The X-Files). The short story goes like this: The walk-ins are good spirits who step in… sometimes… when they see a child about to die a horrible and painful death. They spare the child that painful experience changing them from matter into energy, effectively taking them straight from life to death without the nasty business of dying. Their energy resides and manifests itself in starlight, occasionally making return visits to earth and to their unsuspecting parents’ bedrooms. Said parents may or may not be blamed for their child’s disappearance adding yet another layer of tragedy to their loss. I thought the walk-ins were supposed to be helping?

It feels like a saccharine fairytale to me – Children rescued from pain, living and playing (eternally?) in the starlight. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather spend eternity with my loved ones in heaven.

But I think the idea touches a spiritual nerve. That nerve that tells us that life can’t be defeated by death. The life of these children may be over here on earth, but it’s not over ‘cause it’s over. Ironic given the source of the episode’s title.

Forgive me for waxing philosophical here since I’m not qualified to do so. It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve taken a class or touched a book on the subject. However, given the direction this story is taking I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the meaning of Sein Und Zeit or “Being and Time” in English. It’s a reference, one can only assume, to philosopher Martin Heidegger’s magnum opus, in which he, well, philosophizes over what it means “to be.” From what little I know about it, a simplified version of his conclusion might be that existence is fundamentally linked to time, or rather, that being is time and that human existence is the span from birth to death and that to truly live, we have to live with a conscious anticipation of the end of our existence.

I suppose that sounds deep on some level, but “Sein Und Zeit” is really about the continuation of souls, in starlight if you must, whose existence can’t be defined or swallowed up by death. They exist now outside of time, not hemmed in by in, and ride on waves of light that started eons ago. Chris Carter seems to be getting back to his “I Want to Believe” roots, with spiritual hunger and the desire for hidden truths overrule the need for scientific proof. This sense of hope, that one should hope, is dauntless and compelling. Universal and compelling.

Verdict:

After seven seasons, we’re finally nearing the truth of a mystery that’s been a bedrock of the show since the Pilot: what happened to Samantha.

We’ve found out bits and pieces, there’s been a lot of red herrings and misinformation, outright lies, in fact. But with all this talk about walk-ins and starlight you should be getting the nagging feeling by now that Mulder will never see Samantha on this side of terra firma again.

And don’t make yourself interesting on The X-Files. It’s a death sentence.

A-

Automatic Writings:

Besides the scene in Mulder’s apartment, my next favorite part of this episode would be the teaser, when Chris Carter uses Bud LaPierre to defend his doomed series, Harsh Realm, that was canceled after only three episodes made it to air.

Bud LaPierre: [Watching Harsh Realm] This is great.

Or maybe this part…

Bud LaPierre: I was watching TV in here.

Mulder: What were you watching?

Bud LaPierre: I never heard of it before. It was good.

That moment when Chris Carter sneaks in yet another indignant defense of Harsh Realm.

Watching the authorities swarm the LaPierre residence, for the first time it occurs to me that there must’ve been a similar scene in the Mulder household when Samantha was taken. Even if Samantha’s parents knew the truth about her abduction, for appearance’s sake there would have been police all over – questioning, searching.

How did Teena Mulder understand the connection between Amber Lynn and Samantha when the information about the ransom letter hadn’t yet been revealed in the media? I have even more questions about this next episode…

Boy, Mulder keeps making awfully good time on those cross-country flights. I know this was pre-9/11, but still.

Those little graves in the final shot make for a startling image. But one has to wonder, why didn’t he bother burying them deeper? No one goes back there? He must really not have been concerned about getting caught.

I may be the only one who cares, but the guy who plays Bud LaPierre is definitely the cult leader from “Red Museum” (2×10).

And to top that nugget off, “Red Museum” was when the topic of walk-Ins first came up.

One wonders how Skinner ever explained to his superiors how he, Scully and Mulder discovered “Santa” and his field full of graves. “Well, sir, we went to interview the LaPierres again and the mother said she’d had a vision of Amber Lynn repeating the number ‘74,’ then we drove up Route 74 and Scully saw one of those year-round Christmas places on the map and she remembered the letter, so we stopped and there were videos and the man ran and… graves.”

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


Call Dr. Scully.

I’m in love with Assistant Director Walter Skinner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

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

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

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

B+

The Peanut Gallery:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

——————-

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

——————-

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

Terms of Endearment 6×6: Hey, come on, you’re makin’ me feel weird.


Sympathy for the Devil

This is one of those episodes, and it won’t be the last this season, that I’m not really sure how I feel about. The issue isn’t that I don’t enjoy it because I do. It’s that “Terms of Endearment” is somewhat schizophrenic; this episode isn’t sure whether it’s an homage to Hitchcock, a Rosemary’s Baby knockoff, a comedy, a tragedy, or an X-File. It’s also undecided as to whether its protagonist is an F.B.I. agent with an uncanny mind, a demon with an identity crisis, a naïve wife or a diabolical one.

Yes, the point of view changes so often in this episode that rather than what evil the demon villain is up to, the main mystery is which character is actually the protagonist. Whose perspective are we supposed to be seeing the story through? Ultimately, I believe the protagonist is meant to be Wayne Weinsider. In a twist on Rosemary’s Baby, the story is told from the viewpoint of the devil rather than that of the hapless female. However, the references to Hitchcock’s Suspicion, such as the glowing glass of poisoned milk Wayne carries up the stairs to his wife, and consequently the audience’s identification with the wife who doesn’t know if her protector is actually her destroyer, causes some confusion. Throw scenes with Mulder and his uncanny intuition into the mix and it’s hard to hold out for a hero… as there isn’t one. This is almost an ensemble piece.

The main source of confusion, however, lies with the demon character of Wayne Weinsider himself. This is one of the rare X-Files where the guest star is actually the protagonist. Actually, it may even be the first depending on how you think of previous episodes such as “Leonard Betts” (4×14). Yes, it’s a joy to have Bruce Campbell, previously of Hercules, Xena and now Burn Notice fame, on board for an X-Files adventure and as much as lies within him, he does an excellent job with the role. But there’s weakness in the Wayne Weinsider character that has nothing to do with how he’s played.

The way the character is written it’s hard to either hate him or love him. He’s neither an underworld nemesis worthy of an exorcist nor is he a sympathetic soul in his quest for normalcy. He’s doing the unspeakable, killing his own children, and yet he’s so harmless a few mere bullets can incapacitate him. Tell me, what kind of demon is felled by bullets?? They’re not even silver bullets! You just shoot the devil’s minion a couple of times and he goes down? That’s all it takes? Where’s the holy water? Yegads.

It’s inevitable that the devil loses his impact when there’s no God for him to rebel against. Rosemary’s Baby pulls this off, depicting a fight against the king of evil without claiming any standard of good, but it can do that because the claustrophobic nightmare of its heroine, her rape and the ongoing violation of nourishing within her own body a monster not of this world, is enough to convince anyone of the evil of her enemy. Here Mulder is so unimpressed by Wayne Weinsider that he baits him, teases him, and initiates a campaign of harassment against him all without any fear of being pulled into the lake of fire.

I also wonder if the homage to Rosemary’s Baby, the decision to depict Wayne’s true demon identity in a distinctly 1960s style, may have been lost on the audience. Those horns, those rubbery looking hands, they’re hardly the stuff of horror in recent years. The demon that a 1990s audience would nightmarishly conjure up at the food of their beds wouldn’t be so… Harryhausen-esque. The demon baby too, with its claws peeking out over the car seat in a direct reference to the earlier film, I fear isn’t as impactful as it could be. Perhaps this is all too stylized for primetime television. Perhaps the elemental horror of the Rosemary’s Baby storyline keeps the special effects from being perceived as hokey and “Terms of Endearment” doesn’t have that built in fail-safe.

There was a golden opportunity here to turn an insurance salesman into something more nefarious than his job already makes him, but I suppose that wasn’t the point. The point was to have a sympathetic villain. The problem is, since when is the devil sympathetic? How do you make him a well-rounded character? He loses all his power that way. He’s supposed to be the devil, dang it. Turning him into a sentimental family man is laughable. And yet, this isn’t a comedy. Neither is it a horror story despite the brooding gothic manor Wayne resides in. It falls into the nether regions in between – a fate that also awaits first time writer David Amann’s sophomore attempt, “Agua Mala” (6×14).

I say this isn’t a comedy, but I don’t mean to say that it isn’t funny or that the laughs are all unintentional. I enjoy watching David Duchovny and Bruce Campbell play in the same sandbox. And I can’t deny that my 14-year-old self and her best friend giggled for days over Wayne being blindsided by wife number two and the cool factor of her subsequent joy ride. The use of the band Garbage’s music in the soundtrack didn’t hurt either.

And the Verdict is…

Too bad the devil isn’t so easy to identify with. If he had been, this could have been a rousing success. Turning his nefarious plans back on him in a twist ending isn’t quite enough to create sympathy for the devil, though his decision to give life back to his victimized wife comes close. Then again, I would have preferred it if it had been completely, well, devilish. If he had been an unapologetic villain along the lines of Eugene Victor Tooms I could have relished the story more.

But now that I’ve poked my fingers in all of this episode’s open wounds, let me also attest that I do enjoy it and I find most critiques of “Terms of Endearment” to be unduly harsh. This isn’t the first X-Files episode to fall slightly short of its promise and it won’t be the last, that doesn’t mean it’s a dismal failure. By no means is it “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18).

We have a very talented guest lead, some memorable visuals, funny moments and taboo subject matter – All the makings of an X-File. The disparate elements are here, if only they worked in concert.

B+

Demon Seeds:

How would you prosecute a demon for killing his demon spawn? Is that even a crime?

I realize much has been made about Mulder’s “I’m not a psychologist” comment and it’s hard to defend since Scully introduces Mulder to the audience as an “Oxford-educated psychologist” way back in the “Pilot” (1×79). But though this offhand comment may smack of discontinuity, it doesn’t bother me in the least. I can’t excuse it by claiming that Mulder was being sarcastic since his tone doesn’t bear evidence of that, but does it really matter? Besides, it’s not like he went to graduate school in the field.

How does Betsy know just where to find Mulder and Scully in the middle of the night? If demons read minds, surely Wayne would have better avoided detection… and would have picked up on his wife’s duplicity.

I see you, Mark Snow, throwing in that Gregorian chant.

Maybe Bruce Campbell’s just too funny. It’s hard not to interpret his actions as comic because he’s so naturally hilarious.

Best Quotes:

Deputy Stevens: I know this went right into your caseload but I never imagined you would get here so soon, Agent, uh…
Mulder: Oh, Mulder. Fox Mulder. Though I ask you not to make that known to anybody. The F.B.I. likes to keep our work on these cases very hush-hush. [He holds a shredded report that’s been taped back together]
Deputy Stevens: Sure, of course. But I would like to thank Agent Spender.
Mulder: Oh. No, no, no. I’ll thank him for you because I have to call in my, uh, progress report.

——————–

Mulder: Scully, this is a classic case of demon fetal harvest, what they called in the middle ages “atum nocturnem,” the impregnation of an unwitting woman by a dark lord of the underworld…
Scully: As host for his demon seed.
Mulder: Exactly.
Scully: I saw Rosemary’s Baby on cable the other night, Mulder.

——————–

Mulder: [Carrying out a large container of dietary fiber supplements] Whatever else we find, I know everybody in this house is regular.

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?