Tag Archives: Redux

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

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


Mad Men 1013 style.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Verdict is…

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

B+

Fiddlesticks:

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

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

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

————————

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

————————

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

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?

Unusual Suspects 5×1: Sure, baby. My kung fu is the best.


Do I look like Geraldo to you?

I have to say, as fond as I was of the Lone Gunmen, coming off of the emotional rollercoaster that was the “Gethsemene”/”Redux”/”Redux II” trilogy, I was not looking forward to sitting through an episode sans the Mulder/Scully dynamic.

It’s not that it wasn’t high time the Lone Gunmen got their own episode. Who didn’t look forward to their brief, two minute guest spots of comic delight? No, it’s just that I was dying to see what life was like now that the threat of Scully’s cancer had passed. What I wanted was a real meat and potatoes X-File and a good heart to heart between our leads a la the “conversation on the rock” scene in “Quagmire” (3×22).

Unrealistic expectations notwithstanding, I wasn’t disappointed in this episode. I was feeling impatient, yes, slightly irritated even. But that’s not “Unusual Suspects” fault. In retrospect, probably the wisest thing the 1013 Productions crew could have done was to give us a little comic fluff, a slight departure from the series’ norm in the wake of the drama that just went on. There’s no sense in trying to compete with the unrelenting tension of the previous episode.

Now we’ve covered why “Unusual Suspects” starts off as an underdog even before it airs, much like the Lone Gunmen themselves. So what does this episode have going for it?

1. The Lone Gunmen (Duh): Fans had been clamoring for a while to see the nerdy trio get their own episode. Skinner had one. Even Cigarette-Smoking Man had one. Surely the Gunmen had it coming. Honestly, their characterizations don’t disappoint. Byers was seemingly the least likely to be the focus of an episode, considering the popularity of Langly and Frohike especially, but that was a clever move from writer Vince Gilligan. Byers is the most normal of the bunch and watching him of all people turn paranoiac is satisfying and it grounds the events of the episode. In fact, it reminds me of how The X-Files is originally told from Scully’s decidedly normal point of view. That’s precisely where its sense of wonder came/comes from.

2. That Retro Swag: Maybe the desire not to compete with the emotional impact of “Redux II’ is part of why “Unusual Suspects” is not only a departure in content, it’s a departure in time. Off we go back to the days before Mulder opened is precious X-Files, back to the dark ages of 1989, when cellular phones were larger than the heads that cradled them. We even get to see Mulder whip one out in an understated moment of pure comedy. Truly this is where the Gunmen belong, surrounded by impossibly bulky and outdated computer equipment.

3. X: After just a full season, X is back. As Chris Carter famously said, “No one ever really dies on The X-Files.” X has returned to do what he does best, clean up a leak and protect a potentially dangerous advancement in science to make sure the government is the only one to profit by it. Isn’t that how we learned to love him in episodes like “Soft Light” (2×23) and “Wetwired” (3×23)? And I have to say, corny though it may seem to some, I enjoy the tie-in to the mythology here. I love that X knew Mulder long before Mulder knew him, that we get to see him when he already must have been working for Cigarette-Smoking Man, and most of all, I love that he indirectly names the Lone Gunmen.

4. Mulder’s Innocence: It seems clear from their introduction in “EBE” (1×16), though it is never directly stated, that Mulder knew the Lone Gunmen long before he met Scully. We never did question how or why. I guess I just assumed that he met them somewhere along the way, maybe in a MUFON meeting somewhere. We also knew that Mulder’s search for Samantha and his belief that she was taken by aliens was the foundation of his start on the X-Files, (You’ll note how Gilligan cleverly has Mulder make his way to the “Alien Life” themed booth), but we also knew that Mulder didn’t always believe in aliens, neither was he always such a pain in the backside of the establishment. So his hypnotic regression therapy sessions with Dr. Werber weren’t solely responsible for his mental and social downfall after all.

And the Verdict is…

Checks in the plus column aside, I’m not sure this episode is a resounding success. It’s fun, to be sure, but Susanne Modeski’s paranoia, the paranoia that was the catalyst for all the rest, is a bit of a hard sell in the end. It’s a little over the top… except for that part about not being able to trust your dentist.

Speaking of Miss Modeski, perhaps the issue is more akin to what went on in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). We have an outsider in a stand-alone episode who the audience is suddenly required to accept as an intricate piece of the mythology puzzle. Here it works better because Susanne Modeski only inspires the X-Files in an indirect way and only has the briefest contact with Mulder himself – no eternal soul pact required.

Lastly, the Modeski character brings in some fun elements of Film Noir. Even though she turns out to be one of the good guys, she still plays The Femme Fatale by leading an otherwise law-abiding man down a dangerous and morally ambiguous path. Poor Byers never had a chance.

In the end, I enjoy it and I probably enjoy it more in retrospect just to relish as much of the Lone Gunmen as I can get.

B+

Miscellaneous:

Still not so sure why Frohike recruits Langley to help with the hack. I thought he said his kung fu was already the best?

This is our first Vince Gilligan solo script since the masterpiece that was “Small Potatoes” (4×20).

Nice touch having Mulder answer the phone with, “Hey, Reggie.” No doubt this is the era when he was still working under Reggie Perdue of “Young at Heart” (1×15) fame. Vince Gilligan always was a Phile at heart – he remembered the little details.

We’ve reached the halfway point of the series. There are 201 episodes of The X-Files and this is #100. Well, technically there are 202 episodes, but that’s only because the series finale is counted double.

Why are they selling bootleg cable right in front of representatives of the Federal Government? Was that legal back then and I missed it?

That “Holly’s” daughter’s name was supposedly Susanne Modeski should’ve Byers’ first clue. Well, second after the whole sugar thing. Susanne isn’t exactly a name you heard on many little girls in 1989.

One has to wonder why X bothers to let the Lone Gunmen live at all.

And, finally, how could I ignore the nice little guest spot by Detective Munch? My how that character gets around a television set.

Best Quotes:

Munch: Start with your name and birth date.
Byers: John Fitzgerald Byers. 11-22-63.
Munch: Seriously.
Byers: I was named after JFK. Before the assassination my parents were going to name me Bertram.
Lieutenant Munch: Lucky you.

——————-

Byers: You’re talking about a premeditated crime against the United States government!
Frohike: Hey, your second today. [Removing Byers’ FCC badge] Welcome to the Dark Side.

——————-

Langley: There’s no game here.

——————-

Langly: Government hack is a snap. Last week I got into the Maryland DMV, changed my endorsement so I could handicap park. [Byers stares] I got tinnitus.

——————-

Modeski: No matter how paranoid you are, you’re not paranoid enough.

——————-

Frohike: Now I’m sorry. You’re telling me that the U.S. government, the same government that gave us Amtrak…
Langly: Not to mention the Susan B Anthony dollar…
Frohike: Is behind some of the darkest, most far-reaching conspiracies on the planet? That’s just crazy!
Langly: I mean, like this guy [Byers] works for the government!

——————-

Mr X: Behave yourselves.
Byers: That’s it? You’re just trying to intimidate us, to scare us, so we’ll keep quiet!
Frohike: [Under his breath] Byers, I swear to god, I’ll shoot you myself.
Byers: It’s all true what Susanne said about you people, isn’t it? About John F Kennedy! Dallas!
Mr X: I heard it was a lone gunman.

——————-

Lieutenant Munch: Do I look like Geraldo to you? Don’t lie to me like I’m Geraldo. I’m not Geraldo!

——————-

Byers: You want the truth?
Mulder: Yeah. I want the truth.
Byers: You might want to sit down, this is going to take a while. The truth is… none of us is safe. Secret elements within the U.S. government seek to surveil us and control our lives.
Mulder: What?!
Frohike: Tell him about the hotel Bibles.
Byers: Yeah, I’m coming to that. It all started with Susanne Modeski…

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


"My belief is in The Truth."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

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

Whew.

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

A+

The Big Qs:

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

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

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

Useless Commentary:

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

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

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

Wait… wait… yep. Still swooning.

Best Quotes:

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

——————–

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

——————–

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

——————–

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

——————–

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

——————–

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

Redux 5×2: What does any of this have to do with flying saucers?


Mulder goes down the rabbit hole.

Did he or didn’t he? That’s the question were supposed to be asking ourselves at the start of Season 5. If Mulder didn’t actually kill himself, he was surely thinking about it. But I doubt anyone seriously expected that Fox would pay David Duchovny according to his contract without reaping the benefits of having him on a hit TV show. Oh, no. It doesn’t take more than a thimble full of brains to realize Mulder is very much alive. Instead, the dramatic tension is held aloft by another question: Does Scully know or doesn’t she?

The good news is that the answer is given rather quickly. Mulder’s alive and Scully knows it, she’s just a very, very good actress. Maybe she should quit her day job, although it’s probably too late for that since she’s about to go the way of the Dodo, but still.

Let speed on along right to my favorite moment of this episode, shall we?

Mulder: I need to know who did this to Scully.
Kritschgau: What you can have, what you may find is so much more than that.
Mulder: What?
Kritschgau: What you want most desperately of all.
Mulder: [Hopefully] The cure for Scully’s cancer?

Oh, Mulder. Right answer. Give the man a cookie.

I let out the “squee” heard ‘round the world the first time I heard that one. If the question is about what Mulder wants most, surely he’s going to mention Samantha, I thought. Isn’t the mystery surrounding her disappearance the backbone of the entire series and Mulder’s driving force in life? My how the times are a changing.

There was evidence way back in “End Game” (2×17) that Samantha and Scully had become about equal in Mulder’s mind. But the “Gethsemene”/”Redux”/”Redux II” arc is where the switch flips for Mulder in this little Phile’s opinion. After this, there’s never a question that to get to Mulder, your best bet is to push the Scully button. Consequently, the whole tone of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, or I should say, at least in the direction of Mulder to Scully, changes distinctly for the needy in Season 5. There’s an extra level of protectiveness regarding Scully that we haven’t seen from him since Season 2. Now Mulder pretty much turns into a mad man whenever Scully’s in trouble. He can live, albeit painfully, with the mystery of Samantha. But can he live without his only source of solace?

Speaking of the deep and wide mysteries of the Mulder family, Cigarette-Smoking Man seems to be mourning Mulder with a little more than the respectful regret due to a fallen foe. The way he lovingly gazes at the picture of little Fox and Samantha, it makes one think that the sly remarks he made to Teena Mulder back in “Talitha Cumi” (3×24) were more than just wishful bravado. There had to have been something between them. The question is exactly what relationship he has to Mulder, both biological and conspiratorial. Is he Samantha’s father? Is he Mulder’s father? Does he know he’s Mulder’s father? And taking his not necessarily truthful assertion that he “created” Mulder at face value, all these years has he been manipulating him through the X-Files partially in order to protect him? There’s food for thought.

In case you thought the Cigarette-Smoking Man realm of the conspiracy wasn’t far fetched enough, there’s a new game afoot. According our newly sanctified informant Kritschgau, since The Civil War, America fights wars solely to drive the economy. The alien abduction phenomenon is merely a cover so that the military can get access to our DNA. Why? Not for the sake of creating alien-human hybrids. After all, there are no aliens. But in order to have the tools and the power to successfully wage war, supposedly America’s dearest business. Flying Saucers? Hokum. Little Green Men? Bunkum.

I’m ashamed to say it, but I was initially completely fooled by Kritschgau’s confident assertions. I, somewhat gleeful at watching Mulder be proved wrong, dismissed the alien conspiracy altogether… don’t ask me how. Maybe I was too busy concentrating on MSR because how I explained the existence of The Alien Bounty Hunter to myself I do not know.

Unfortunately for Mulder and Scully, this military conspiracy only serves to point the finger firmly back in the FBI’s direction. And who at the FBI would make the most shocking Judas? Well, since Mulder and Scully haven’t actually depended on anyone else except… yep. Again, we’re back to the Skinner trust issue and considering how many times we’ve already been there, it’s amazing that the tension filled scenes between him and Scully are so compelling. I’d love to say this is the last time dear Skinner’s loyalties will be questioned, but…

And the Verdict is…

This is the second in a three-parter and as such, is heavier in information and exposition than actual action. But let that not be held against it. The revelations, true or not, are of the game-changing kind. And Mulder has finally been brought to recognize his own arrogance. Who would’ve thought that could happen?

This has always been my favorite mythology story arc, and deservedly so when I see again how little the tension deflates in “Redux”. Usually, part two can be all but assumed to be a bit of a dud when it comes to a three-part arc. Not so here because while it’s low on action, the drama between Scully and Skinner and Mulder and Himself only escalates. Not to mention, I love those Pentagon scenes.

We end with Scully on the verge of death and Mulder powerless to help her. If that doesn’t compel you to tune in to the next episode, what will?

A

Peanut Gallery:

What’s interesting about Mulder’s near suicide is that what stops him is Scully. What propels him and prevents him is Scully. He can’t let her go it alone when he got her into this mess.

Mulder: If only the tragedy had been mine alone, might it be more easy tonight to bring this journey to its end.

Oh the voiceovers in this one. I say voiceovers, but it’s really one giant voiceover. Thankfully, I’m so caught up in the drama that it doesn’t turn me off. Besides, it’s nice to get some primary source insight into the mind of Fox Mulder.

Nice touch bringing Scully back to Blevins’ office. There’s some beautiful déjà vu going on in “Redux”.

Again, we have Mulder and Scully on the same hunt but on two different trails. I love it when they do this.

I read somewhere, maybe one day I’ll find where it was, that Season 5 was supposed to mark a division of trust between Mulder and Scully, starting with Mulder killing Osselhoff and Scully not knowing whether to believe he’s telling her the whole tale about the man’s death. If that’s what they tried, they failed, because all I read from that scene is Scully’s almost unnerving ability to believe the best of Mulder. With one significant exception, Season 5 ends up being the most delightful example of Mulder/Scully solidarity since Season 2.

Best Quotes:

Cigarette-Smoking Man: I’ve always kept Mulder in check. I put this whole thing together. I created Mulder.
Elder: Agent Mulder is dead. Our FBI source confirmed it this morning. Mulder killed himself. Mulder was an asset. Without his partner you may have underestimated his fragility.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: I’ve never underestimated Mulder. I still don’t.

———————–

Kritschgau: You’ve heard the recent denials about Roswell by the military and the CIA? And what’s been the effect? Even wilder and more widespread belief; the American appetite for bogus revelation, Agent Mulder.
Mulder: But I’ve seen aliens. I’ve witnessed these things.
Kritschgau: You’ve seen what they wanted you to see. The line between science and science fiction doesn’t exist any more. What this is about is control… of the very elements of life: DNA. Yours, mine, everyone’s.

One Breath 2×8: We all know what can happen in the course of a game.


An amulet to ward of the devil.

OK, so the opening teaser is too cheesetastic for my liking. “Irrevocable guilt” in a child that hasn’t even reached puberty reads melodramatic to me. But the teaser does successfully introduce the overall theme of the episode, which is about dealing with death and loss. In “One Breath” we watch Mulder come to terms with the fact that he may lose Scully. And as he runs the gamut trying to find the best way to handle this crisis, pretty much everyone in his life, friend and foe, has advice to give him on dealing with death. Interestingly enough, everyone seems to be preaching the same message to Mulder: Acceptance. It’s just that the motivations behind the message vary wildly.

We start off with Mrs. Scully’s stoic resignation in the face of loss. It’s not for her to drag hope along until it’s tattered and recognizable. Better to grieve and move forward than to wish and hope interminably. Well, Mulder has never been one to accept the word “No.” He won’t put Scully in the grave until he’s touched her cold, dead fingers and knows for certain. We can rule this coping mechanism out right off.

I have to pause here and say that I can’t believe Mulder. Pictures of Scully in bondage, struggling for her life lay strewn across his table and all he can do is rewind his porno tape back to the best part? I know he’s depressed and all, but seriously, Mulder? I almost preferred him sleeping with Kristen Kilar. Almost.

Whatever Mulder’s sentimental failings, I’ll forgive him nearly anything for that gut-wrenching scene by Scully’s hospital bed. We knew Mulder was intense but we’ve never seen him quite like this before. I can’t help but think forward to when we see him like this again in the almost parallel episode “Redux” (5×2). The most interesting part is the way that Mrs. Scully reacts, or I should say, doesn’t react at all. I get the distinct feeling that she’s not actually ignoring Mulder. I’d even go so far as to say her silence constitutes tacit agreement with his frustration. I think the difference is that she’s at a different stage of grief than Mulder. Mrs. Scully skipped anger and moved straight to acceptance. Again, that’s a place Mulder’s still unwilling to go to. Are Mulder’s rants upsetting her? Does she want him to stop? Does she want him to keep going?

Mrs. Scully keeps her opinions to herself for the most part, much unlike Melissa who irritates Mulder like static cling. Why? Mulder is an absolute believer when it comes to the paranormal but a knee-jerk skeptic of almost all things spiritual. The paranormal is something Mulder thinks he can prove; a realm that exists, that science can touch and that science will eventually be able to confirm. Mulder doesn’t believe in things he feels can’t be proven (ironic considering how little proof he actually has for his belief in the paranormal). Melissa’s New Age optimism is like sandpaper to Mulder’s cynicism. He doesn’t believe and hope, he believes and despairs. For her part, Mrs. Scully doesn’t have much patience for Melissa’s crystal-tinged speeches. Mrs. Scully is more spiritual than Scully, but not “harmonic” like Melissa. So far in the Scully family we’ve met a skeptic, a believer and a quack. I wonder what Thanksgiving dinner is like.

Melissa represents acceptance as well, but not the practical acceptance of Mrs. Scully. She’s advocating a spiritual acceptance of the natural order of things. You know, the Circle of Life and all that. Well, that won’t work for Mulder either since he doesn’t see Scully’s death as part of some greater spiritual plan but as an “unnatural act.” Scully shouldn’t be in this situation. It’s too soon. Not only that, he got her into this mess.

That’s why he can’t do what X commands and drop the whole issue for his own safety. Speaking of X, the man is bad! He’s like the Shaft of the underworld. So, what is it about Mulder that compels pity in even the hardest of hearts? X eventually turns from holding a gun to his head to aiding and abetting his cause. But now we know more about him, that he was once an idealist and possibly even a crusader like Mulder. He talks a big game about Mulder being “his tool” but if that’s the case then his tool for what? To expose the truth? Maybe he’s still an idealist after all. That would explain why he acts like a softy and gives Mulder the information on how to find the men who took Scully.

Skinner is another one who takes pity on Mulder in his desperation. Possibly against his better judgement and certantly at risk of his life, he gives Mulder the information he needs to find CSM. He also opens up to Mulder about his experience in Vietnam. Thanks to this little interchange Skinner’s transition from boss to surrogate father figure is complete. The message is clear: other people just accept death, but Mulder may actually be able to get to the bottom of it.

Conclusion:

Finally Mulder’s self-righteousness is being challenged. Was he right to keep Scully at his side, even when he knew how ruthless these men could be? CSM asks Mulder a profound and legitimate question. If it’s not CSM’s call to judge what’s right, can Mulder truly claim it’s his own? Maybe that’s the real reason Mulder doesn’t shoot CSM; he realizes that he doesn’t have enough information to judge him. He has barely an inkling of how serious this whole conspiracy is and what it might be about.

Mulder also recognizes that his selfishness in keeping Scully close to himself and the X-Files may have cost her her life. Still, wasn’t Scully there for the events of “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23)? Didn’t she give a ransom for her partner’s life and witness Deep Throat’s death? Scully’s no shrinking violet. She realized that the stakes had been raised high and she was still in the game because she wanted to be a help to Mulder. Surely she knew that both of them could end up in serious danger. Mulder may need to dial down his guilt from a 10 to an 8.

A-

Questions:

Even though I realize Melissa is meant to be a foil for Mulder to bounce off of, I’ve always wondered why she isn’t in the least bit curious as to what happened to her sister. It’s true that Mulder’s lust for vengeance won’t bring Scully back and his attempts to find answers won’t save her. But to show little to no interest in how Scully ended up in this position strikes me as unnatural.

I believe CSM is telling the truth when he says that he likes Mulder and Scully, but I can’t believe that’s why he brought her back. In fact, I don’t understand why they dropped Scully off at all unless they expected her to live, which I don’t see how they could have predicted. Could CSM have secretly treated her with something?

Thoughts:

The verse quoted on Scully’s tombstone is actually 1 John 5:6, not 5:7. It also wouldn’t be written as 5:07. It’s a bible verse, not a digital clock readout. I’ll say it again: why didn’t anyone hire a priest as a consultant for the show?

Frohike at the hospital! He always was the sensitive Gunman. So he didn’t see Scully as merely a babe after all. Just seeing him in that suit is worth the price of admission.

The Gunmen drop a hint about branched DNA being used to graft something human to something inhuman. This is a great bit of continuity from “The Erlenmeyer Flask” and a real clue that the series is going to head deeper in the direction of merging alien and human DNA.

Best Quotes:

Byers: Good work sneaking out these charts.
Frohike: Tucked them in my pants.
Mulder: There’s plenty of room down there.
Langly: You look down, Mulder. Tell you what, you’re welcome to come over Saturday night. We’re all hopping on the Internet to nitpick the scientific inaccuracies of Earth 2.
Mulder: I’m doing my laundry.

——————–

Mulder: Get that gun out of my face.
Mr X: This high capacity compact Sig Sauer 40 calibre weapon is pointed at your head to stress my insistence that your search for who put your partner on that respirator desist immediately.

——————–
Mr X: I used to be you; I was where you are now. But, you’re not me, Mulder. I don’t think you have the heart. Walk away, grieve for Scully and then never look back. You will be able to live with yourself, Mulder, on the day you die.

——————–

Skinner: I’m afraid to look any further beyond that experience. You? You are not. Your resignation is unacceptable.
Mulder: You. You gave me Cancer Man’s location. You put your life in danger.
Skinner: Agent Mulder, every life, every day is in danger. That’s just life.

——————–
Mulder: I brought you a present. Superstars of the Super Bowls.
Scully: I knew there was a reason to live.