Tag Archives: Requiem

Ghouli 11×5: It was in this borderland that I found myself frozen.


 

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You can shed a tear, Mulder. Sheesh.

 

I know it looks like I forgot, but I didn’t. I wanted to forget, but I didn’t.

Oh, no. I did my duty and watched “Ghouli” twice within the first 24 hours of it airing. I watched it a third time before finalizing these musings. I’d like to tell you that time and distance has settled all dissatisfactions. They have not.

I mean, listen. You don’t want to hear me kvetch. I don’t want to hear me kvetch. I’ve kvetched enough. And frankly, I’m not annoyed enough to kvetch. Not really. It seems these days when it comes to The X-Files, I’m either staring at my screen under half lids of bored bemusement, or I’ve closed my eyes completely to ask God for patience. This must be that state of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness that Scully so duly described to us in one of her famous voiceovers.

I never thought I’d say this, but I half miss how ticked off Season 9 made me. At least it gave me a reason to feel passionate.

But enough about my cold love. You’ve come here to discuss William – the boy who once was lost but now is found… sort of. I think it helps to know nothing whatsoever about an episode before watching it. That’s what I did here so that I had no preconceived notions or expectations, good or bad. I didn’t even know this was definitely going to involve William until Scully finds him lying “dead”.

And he is dead. Because whatever else happened or will happen, a funeral has been held for the William of my imagination. Ladies and gentlemen, William is a punk.

I kid. The William of my imagination isn’t dead. #headcanonwins

But I’m not kidding about Mulder (?) and Scully’s lost alien-miracle-super baby being a punk. To be sure, he’s a two-timing, game-playing punk. Scully still seems rather fond of him, though. She has her reasons. In fact, here’s the story of that lovely lady:

Once upon a time, in an episode the excellence of which seems an alternate universe away now, Scully lost Mulder and found herself pregnant in “Requiem” (7×22). The mom-to-be kept mum about it (get it?), but most everyone assumed the unnamed father was the improbably named Fox Mulder. In “Per Manum” (8×8), two possibilities are raised at once. One, Mulder impregnated Scully through IVF, you know, as a friend. Two, Scully was made pregnant by men who, what else? Were trying to create an alien-human hybrid. This second possibility remained, despite the vague assurances of episodes like “Existence” (8×21) (RIP the majesty of MSR) and hung over William’s head all of Season 9. Oh, and then there was the whole plot line about him being the New Messiah, come to bring salvation to the human race, but I don’t have time to go over that. If 1013 can ignore it, so can I. Anyway, by the time William is “cured” of his Carrie-like abilities and abandoned without so much as a few days to think it over, “William” (9×17) assumes Mulder’s paternity. Scully even calls him “our baby” to Mulder in “The Truth” (9×19/20) (italics hers). I need not mention IWTB, or Season 10 of the revival, or the whole “Mulder needs stem cells from his son to survive the alien apocalypse” plotline.

I need not mention them, but I bet you wonder why I do. Why rehash this nonsense at all? Because I want to know when in the good Green Goblin William became the product of experiments conducted by a Dr. Masao Matsumoto, formerly of Virginia. No, I want to know how William got to Virginia in the first place.

As to my first point of bewilderment, I’m sure this Dr. Matsumoto plot has something to do with the nefarious hints dropped by CSM that he’s somehow William’s “father”, that William is the product of science experiments conducted on a pregnant Scully, not a miracle given by God to Mulder and Scully after years of pain and heartache. As to the second, Wyoming, anyone?

Sigh. Anyway, so much for the buffalo flag. And so much for William’s adoption protecting him from the government that wanted to kill him. At no point is the irony of his current predicament addressed, considering Scully gave him up only because he was in danger. Then again, I think the failure of this episode is that there’s too much ground to cover in a MOTW. Think of it: Mulder and Scully find William. They find William dead. They believe William is a murderer who committed suicide. William is reunited with his biological parents. He loses his loving adoptive parents when they’re murdered by the people after him. William is discovering his superpowers. Mulder and Scully discover their son (still) has superpowers. He’s a regular Pusher in the making. Mulder and Scully kinda sorta confirm their son is the result of government experiments. William is a teenager all alone in the world and on the run for his life. William is a two-timing punk.

Call me Mariah Carey right now because I cahn’t, dahlings.

Verdict:

Who feels this is anticlimactic?

I’m raising both hands. And lifting a toe.

Maybe it’s not William’s fault he’s a punk. Maybe it’s James Wong and 1013’s fault for stuffing too much in the emotional bag of this episode rather than neatly unpacking it. Maybe if we had even a second to watch William mourn his life, either the life he had or the one he never got to have. Maybe if 1013 didn’t stubbornly insist on keeping Mulder emotionally distant from the William situation.

All hail Gillian Anderson and the one moment of this episode that felt real, true, and well, interesting.

C

Snowflakes:

I always expected William to be a much more powerful version of Gibson Praise. At least all my hopes weren’t completely disappointed.

I’m having “Dod Kalm” (2×19) flashbacks in here.

The last time a “Chimera” (7×16) came up, I was witness to some excellent Mulder and Scully banter. *nostalgia break*

James Wong steps in the director’s chair. I’m ready.

As many complaints as I’ve had this revival, let me take a moment to salute the very authentic sounding pre-case car convo.

I see a trenchcoat and I can’t understand why neither Mulder nor Scully is in it.

Of course, their child plays baseball.

Naturally, Mulder would question his son’s lack of a porn habit.

All these subdued reactions are subduing me.

Call me untitillated at the idea of CSM holding court in Skinner’s office again.

I’ve lost track of how many alien experiments William is supposed to have been connected to, either directly or through his parents. And now with this Project Crossroads, I’ve also lost interest.

William has two girlfriends. He says things like “Oh, babe.” Oh, really?

I can’t believe Scully’s not suspicious of that odd little man who keeps whispering sweet vagueries in her ear.

What’s this “bigger picture” William speaks of?

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My Struggle II 10×6: Spoken like a true psychopath.


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The (un)emotional reunion we’d all been waiting for.

I do understand, Chris. I want to forget about the Super Soldiers too.

It seems that in order to facilitate said forgetfulness, we’re going to take it back… alllll the way back to the perverse politics of “Paper Clip” (3×2) and the Hitler-esque horrors of “Herrenvolk” (4×1).

Ah, yes. Hitler. I’d been wondering since “My Struggle” (10×1) what the connection would be between the hijacked title of Hitler’s defining autobiography (“Mein Kampf” in German) and this new era of conspiracy on The X-Files. It would seem that old is new again, and Chris Carter is reeling back in the real world fear of eugenics and calculated experimentation by humans on humans, humans unfettered by morality and governed by nothing but humanism and ambition. (Maybe he should have named this two-parter “Babylon” and “Babylon II”?)

We’ve eschewed the supernatural for a super human evil: Heil Cigarette-Smoking Man, the new Hitler, who is almost single-handedly punishing mankind for its failure as a species — or for his own failure to bring about Colonization, take your pick as to which — and is ready to to wipe out humanity as we knew it and repopulate the planet with the Ubermensch: the human species upgraded with alien DNA. If Mulder would just cooperate, together he, Daddy Dearest, Scully and William could become the new master race, the Herrenvolk.

Oh, and Monica Reyes. I can’t forget about Monica Reyes.

What the heck now??? Monica Reyes as the new Diana Fowley? Stah-ap!!

What’s most insulting to the character is that she’s so easily manipulated by CSM with nothing but the vague threat of impending doom. She already knew there was a battle for humanity; that’s why she helped Mulder and Scully escape in “The Truth” (19/21). What kind of science could have proven to someone who was not at all a scientist that hope was hopeless? How did she explain herself to John Doggett?? And you’re telling me he was willing to save her life purely in exchange for lighting his smokes???

I’m so done with this desperate attention seeker of a plotline. Moving on.

Scully: The technology wasn’t there, Mulder. DNA wasn’t even identified until 1944. This is all a lie! – “Paper Clip”

Scully’s doubts reflected my own for much of this episode. How could CSM & Co. have been manipulating human DNA through the Smallpox vaccine when we hadn’t yet mapped the human genome? Well, kudos to Chris Carter for harkening back to what he established way back in Season 3, that the government had long been keeping its scientific knowledge from the public.

But I’m going to have to dock a few kudos for not keeping more of this scientific knowledge from the public. “My Struggle II” is 90% science and 10% story. If in order to pull off the plot the science is so complicated that you have to take your audience back to school for half an hour for them to understand it, it’s too complicated. Leave it out. Way too much time is spent listening to Scully and Einstein explain things to each other that doctors would never have to explain to each other. What’s more, as always, Scully has special knowledge far beyond her speciality. But I suppose I’m used to that by now.

I’m also used to William being treated like a prop. Yet it would seem that if we do get a Season 11, FINALLY, the hunt for William will become paramount. That’s all I ever wanted and it was not too much to ask.

The ending leaves much to be desired. The episode leaves much, much to be desired – less exposition, more Mulder and Scully some, any, a crumb of Mulder and Scully would have sufficed. The whole point of this revival was to put the team back together. I didn’t campaign like a house-bound otaku for Miller and Einstein.

But it’s not “Babylon” (10×4), and for that, let us all give thanks.

Verdict:

Let me tell you about my struggle. It’s the struggle of a teenybopper fangirl who desperately wants to believe in her first love with the enigmatic skeptic inside. If The X-Files keeps going, will it get better or will it get worse? Are we apexing toward another Season 5 or are we snowballing toward more of Season 9?

I’m betwixt and between. And “My Struggle II” leaves me feeling little more than apathetic.

Though at last, AT LAST we’re seeing something akin to an apocalypse. Colonization has been threatened for so long without any significant movement in that direction. True, this large scale immunological breakdown is the machination of man, not of aliens… or is it? Chris Carter giveth and Chris Carter taketh away; he’s wont to take back a plot he’s discredited only to discredit it again. We might find that CSM put this current drama into motion in 2012 for a reason.

There may be a master plan here, but even if I make sense of it I’m not sure it will be satisfying. The ending left me with neither a sense of completion or anticipation. I get both out of “Requiem” (7×22) and even “The Truth”. “Existence” (8×21) has its faults, but at least the characters’ story arcs are made whole. “My Struggle II” ends with a pure cliffhanger, but not the kind of cliffhanger that makes you pick up the phone and call your mother screaming. The characters haven’t evolved and they’re not in any sort of emotional crisis. Mulder’s sick, but he’ll be healed. Scully’s likely been abducted… again… but she’ll be back. Then what? More giant jumps of assumption from our level-headed scientist? More mini Moose and Squirrel? More Truth Squad?

C+

Musings of a Madwoman:

If I’m reading this right, CSM is behind the murder of Sveta and the abduction of Scully, the first to keep her quiet and the second to keep her from saving lives.

Seeing Well-Manicured Man and Krycek in the teaser made me all kinds of nostalgic. That helped propel my “Paper Clip” and “Herrenvolk” rewatches, which in turn were the best parts of watching and rewatching “My Struggle II”.

Mulder’s beat up and Scully doesn’t know where he is. It’s like old times.

Speaking of beat up, the fight scene was a little long, but it was bomb.

Scully looks the best she has the whole revival.

Okay, are we just going to utterly ignore CSM and Mulder’s familial relationship? One “S’up, Pop!” would’ve sufficed.

Scully wouldn’t have had room to weave through traffic like that if the world was in a real panic.

That’s it, huh? Scully gets abducted… again? Time for another ride on the abduction merry-go-round? How about taking Skinner next time, hmm? I guess he’s overdue for a turn.

Inevitable Questions:

I could have sworn that somewhere in the previews for the revival I saw a glimpse of the old warehouse used to store vaccination records in “Paper Clip”, but then it never materialized. Or did I just imagine it? It would have made perfect sense with the plot.

What about the people who either somehow avoided or missed the vaccine, or those who came to the country after the vaccine? They wouldn’t be affected and neither would their children.

Mulder, the Patriarch of Paranoia, has a GPS tracker on his phone? But really now?

Best Quotes:

There are times when the awkwardly formal dialogue of The X-Files can be endearing. This was not one of those times.

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.

Season 8 Wrap Up – Can’t we just go home and start this all over again tomorrow?


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It’s been a hard road. But for all the frustration of David Duchovny being half in, half out all season, and the blasphemy worthy of Beelzebub that is Scully having a partner who’s not Mulder, the bald-faced truth is I actually prefer Season 8 to Season 7.

Stop, stop! Don’t panic! Everybody breathe!

Better?

Okay.

It may not have been the way I would have preferred it to happen, but David Duchovny’s absence woke everybody up. There was passion again and a sense of urgency, from the acting to the writing. For too long, for all of Season 7 – which is ironic since “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×2) was all about Mulder’s renewed will to fight – there had been nothing driving Mulder and Scully, nothing that you felt like they were fighting for. Come Season 8, Scully’s fighting for Mulder’s life and their future with their child, the latter part of which fight Mulder joins when he graces us with his presence again. Also, Mulder leaving meant we had a reunion to look forward to and, while it may have been rushed, these two characters did not disappoint.

But if I may back it up for a moment to the improved writing again, when it comes to Monster of the Week episodes, Season 8 may be the scariest season of them all. I don’t scare easily and while The X-Files has regularly thrilled me, it’s never actually made me uneasy before. But there were moments this season that I thought were honestly frightening. Moments I wouldn’t watch in a room with the lights off. I’m thinking of you, “Via Negativa” (8×7).

I think the writers lost their crutch and found out they could walk again unassisted, albeit with a limp. They couldn’t rely on the failsafe of that old black magic that was the Mulder and Scully partnership. Together, those two could elevate even the most mundane episodes, make an insignificant finding appear the key to all mysteries. And it was on that foundation that Season 7 leaned a little too heavily, with lackluster plots and performances sneaking through and held afloat by desperate appeals to the characters’ chemistry.

In Season 8, since they couldn’t give us Mulder and Scully, and since Mulder and Scully couldn’t give them a head start off the mark every episode, 1013 pulled out all the stops to remind its audience that The X-Files could be freaky. Period. It’s like they figured if they couldn’t squee us, they’d scare us. I honestly have no idea whether it was in desperation or confidence, but our favorite writing team definitely upped their game.

That praise delightfully and duly given, Season 8 still had its problems. Serious problems.

1. Scully starts to slip.

Now, when I say this, it has nothing to do with Gillian Anderson’s performance as Scully. Season 8 is, without question, Gillian’s best year of acting on The X-Files and that’s saying a lot… a lot, a lot. Probably more than we should get into at this hour.

No, Scully was acted beautifully. Some of her characterization, though…

Scully doesn’t have much to do except miss Mulder and worry about her baby…. Scully will never again have much more to do except miss Mulder and worry about her baby. Oops. Spoilers.

Of course she needs to be upset about Mulder, but I wish she’d been given a more active role in investigating Mulder’s abduction. I realize the abduction plot was stretched out to make room for David Duchovny’s return in the latter half of the season, but the result is that Scully spent long stretches of time not even mentioning Mulder let alone looking for him. Instead, she was working through her mixed feelings about her new partner who was both worthy and unwanted.

Some of that may have been necessary, but not all of it. We’ve seen Scully work with temporary partners before. And she did so while still remaining true to her core characterization. Yep, I’ll see your “Chinga” (5×10) and raise you a “Tithonus” (6×9).

This Scully takes ten standalone episodes to gel with her partner and ten episodes to realize that she can’t solve cases pretending to be Fox Mulder. Why would she need to? *whispers* She’s solved them as a skeptic before.

I get that she’s on an emotional rollercoaster and it makes sense for her to resist liking Doggett and it makes sense for her to try to feel closer to Mulder by thinking like he’d think and doing what he’d do. But Scully is a smart and sensible woman. Having her work through the same issues for so long felt like the series had her caught in an ouroboros… and me stuck on a treadmill.

2. In with the new before we’re out with the old.

I’m a fan of Doggett and I like Reyes too. What I wish for them and for the series is that they’d had time to develop as characters away from the looming spectre that was Mulder and Scully.

The idea was to get the audience interested in and attached to them by the time Season 9, if there was a Season 9, started. Season 9 wasn’t confirmed till after the season finale was shot and not long before it aired. If and when Season 9 did come, it would come without Mulder.

Again, I get it. We needed to bond with Doggett and Reyes in time for us to want to tune in to the premiere of a Mulder-less Season 9. But I submit that this plan backfired. Or maybe it was destined to fail regardless, I don’t know. All I can say is that as much as I kept my mind open to Doggett and Reyes and even appreciated their contributions in Season 8, the new skeptic and the new believer sharing screen space with the old skeptic and the old believer only made me more sure that while the show might be able to survive, the magic would be gone.

Episodes like “Empedolces” (8×17) and “Alone” (8×19) showed a promising dynamic between Doggett and Reyes, but up against the hard earned connection Mulder and Scully showed us in their brief scenes in both those episodes, Doggett and Reyes couldn’t help being less interesting in comparison.

It’s impossible to ever know and I may be wrong, but I suspect Doggett and Reyes as a team would have benefitted from being completely removed from Mulder and Scully and given a fresh start Season 9 or placed in their own spinoff.

3. Is that a mythology or are you just happy to see me?

Season 8’s mythology was a jumbled mess of the old and the new, as if 1013 wanted to change things up but were afraid to flip the switch outright. To be sure, most casual fans were so confused by the mythology as it already stood, both the core mythology of Seasons 2-6 and the brief pitstop into creation theory that was the beginning of Season 7, that springing something totally new on them without any connection to what came before probably would have lost them completely.

I concede that the transition to something new needed to happen, but it was a rough, uncertain transition. The character of Gibson Praise was brought back after a two year absence, Jeremiah Smith after four. Both were again dropped unceremoniously, Gibson when he was on the verge of finding Mulder, Jeremiah when he was on the cusp of saving him. And two things we haven’t heard about since the 1998 movie, the Black Oil that was to be the means of alien invasion and the phrase “Fight the future”, both showed up once more only to just as quickly die in episodes “Vienen” (8×16) and “Three Words” (8×18).

1013 is dropping large hints that old things are passed away and all things are become new. At the same time, they’re making inconsistent connections between the old and the new, basing the new mythology of the Super Soldiers on what came before without giving us a reason for or a logic behind the evolution.

I humbly submit that we needed a clear end to the old mythology, with the loose ends tied up and Mulder and Scully set free from their quest, before we moved into a completely different conspiratorial territory that would be uniquely suited to Doggett and Reyes.

4. That’s just my baby daddy.

Baby William. Sweet little baby William. He, for me, becomes the major headache of both Seasons 8 and 9.

We first found out about Scully’s pregnancy in the heart-wrenching cliffhanger that was “Requiem” (7×22). Then and in the Season 8 premiere, Scully seems to be living with the assumption that, despite being declared barren, she and Mulder are having a baby. She all but admits to Skinner that her drive to find Mulder is fueled by her pregnancy, i.e. I don’t want to have this baby and lose its father at the same time.

But thenPer Manum” (8×8) comes along and with revisionist history comes perplexities of nations. Now we’re told that at some point in Season 7, when we were previously led to believe that Mulder and Scully were having a sexual relationship, Scully either before or after or in the middle of said relationship asked Mulder to donate sperm to her quest for conception. Shocker – the IVF treatments Scully underwent were administered by a fertility specialist who had secretly worked for the Syndicate and was still carrying on experimentation in alien-human hybridization with unsuspecting mothers. Shocker – Scully may have been one of them.

But thenEssence” (8×20) comes along and we’re told that this is a very, very, very special baby. No, it’s not normal. It’s an uber Scully, a super human. And the Super Soldiers want to kill this Super Baby because it carries within itself the potential to resist colonization and possibly save humankind.

But thenExistence” (8×21) comes along and… Psych! Just kidding. Everything’s exactly the way you thought it was at the end of Season 7. We were just messin’ with ya.

Somewhere and at some point, I imagine the conversation went a little like this:

How do we get our audience back? I know! We’ll make them wonder again whether or not Mulder and Scully are a couple. Hey, it’s not like we absolutely said that they were sleeping together, we just showed Mulder splayed out naked in bed. There’s deniability there. And then we’ll tease them with whether or not Scully’s baby is Mulder’s. That’ll work because we know they lurve Mulder and Scully. That’ll get them to stick around all the way to the finale. We’ll make them beg for it, then give the people what they want.

Stop it. Tricks are for kids.

Which brings us to…

5. Lot’s wife syndrome.

Season 8 spent too much time looking backward to Season 7 to spark interest in current events. It should have spent more time making current events interesting.

Everyone knows that Mulder and Scully’s partnership is at the heart of the show, however you may feel about ships and the destinations they sail to. 1013 knows it too and Mulder being gone for half the season only served to intensify the palpable presence of Mulder and Scully’s history, not diminish it.

Since there was bound to be a void due to Mulder and Scully being apart, and since fans were and are ravenous when it comes to the two of them, it seems like the idea was to fill that void by continuing to evolve their relationship… by devolving it.

What I mean by that is that we were retreading old ground. Mulder and Scully are in a romantic relationship… or are they? Mulder and Scully are having a baby together… or are they? Mulder and Scully don’t keep secrets from each other… or do they? Mulder and Scully were having the time of their lives Season 7… or were they?

There’s a real irony here because while Chris Carter once swore that Mulder and Scully would never become a couple, by playing these mind games with the audience, their coupling ended up dominating the series and the search for clear answers about their relationship ended up being the main draw for those loyal enough to tune into the Season 8 finale. This is a tragedy.

All this hemming and hawing and revisionist history also resulted in a crazy pregnancy timeline and, even more irritatingly, Mulder’s magically disappearing brain disease. It’s not even subtle. Mulder was retroactively made to be dying in Season 7 not because the plot would move the characters forward, but to shock the audience. It was shamelessly designed to manufacture tears. Then, that job done, it all goes away like nothing ever happened. Mulder hears the good news of his recovery and couldn’t care less. Scully doesn’t so much as broach the conversation of why Mulder kept her in the dark.

Okay, so I had more to gripe about than I thought.

But I really do prefer Season 8 to Season 7. I’ll take being frustrated over being bored. Though there’s nothing worse than being bored with being frustrated and that point also can and will be reached.

Like I said, Season 8 has momentum. And for all the focus backward, you know that Mulder and Scully are headed toward something: Freedom, if you can believe it.

We needed Mulder to reach this point. We needed him to willingly walk away from the X-Files. If he hadn’t, if things had ended the way they did in “The End” (5×20) and his work was taken away from him, then his era would have ended in tragedy and not in victory. And what a waste of eight years that would have been. No, he had to make a choice.

The Fox Mulder who started the X-Files didn’t have anything more important in his life to rival his work. He lost his family that day when Samantha was taken and his work was all about redeeming that loss and finding Samantha. But now he’s found the truth, more or less and there are two people that now mean more to him than the work that used to give his life purpose. Mulder never said he wanted to spend the rest of his life hunting demons, he said he wanted to find his sister. Well, he found her and he’s found his family.

If he could get the hang of the thing his cry might become: “To live would be an awfully big adventure!”

If our Paranormal Peter Pan is going to grow up, we have to believe that Mulder is leaving behind one great adventure for another, even greater adventure; the adventure of loving and being loved and passing on that love.

And I do. I want to believe.

—————–

So without further ado, the Season 8 awards:

Best Episode You Haven’t Watched Because You Skipped Season 8

Roadrunners

You’re Not Missing Anything

Surekill

AND

Salvage

Work it Doggett

Via Negativa

Gillian Anderson for All the Awards

This is Not Happening

Best Old-School X-File

Invocation

Believe the Banter

Empedolces

 

Empedolces 8×17: The pizza man is not above suspicion.


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My regular pizza man.

“Empedolces” is one of my favorite episodes of Season 8. The X-File itself isn’t all that engaging, but Agent Reyes is established as a trustworthy character, Doggett’s backstory is at long last revealed, and we get more pure Mulder and Scully interaction in this one episode than in any other episode from the time of Mulder’s return to the season finale.

This X-File isn’t a fright fest, it’s a springboard for character and therefore audience discussion. There is an evil that leaps on a person when they’re emotionally vulnerable and can cause them to commit acts they never thought themselves capable of. I’m feeling echoes of “Irresistible” (2×13) in Mulder’s musings on the nature of evil, that once again, evil isn’t something so easily explained by psychology. Perhaps sometimes there’s an actual force behind it and people are open to that force at certain moments. Some things mommy issues can’t account for.

This X-File also finally lets us into Agent Doggett’s world. We now know how he and Agent Reyes met. They met on the case of Doggett’s missing son who was later found dead. It turns out, Doggett does have some previous experience with the paranormal, he just talked himself out of believing it. He and Reyes both saw a vision of his dead son burned to ashes that matches visions Reyes is having again on this new case.

It’s about time now for Doggett to start believing at least a little bit. He’s seen things he can’t explain all season. He’s even experienced things personally in “Via Negativa” (8×7) and physically in “The Gift” (8×11). No, what’s holding him back from belief isn’t lack of knowledge or experience, it’s the nagging guilt that if the paranormal is real then there’s another avenue of help that he failed to use to try and save his son.

Fortunately for him, Reyes is an unlicensed therapist and a pushy one at that. She’s not going to let him get away with lying to himself any longer. And she’s not going to let Mulder get away with ignoring Doggett’s plight.

You would think that since Reyes is a believer she and Mulder would get along. And they kinda do in the end. But the new-agey, spiritual type has always annoyed Mulder as evidenced by his relationship with the late Melissa Scully. Then again, Mulder’s also annoyed by the Doggetts of the world and this particular Doggett is not only stubborn in the face of loose coincidences but this non-believing heretic is in charge of his precious X-Files. Mulder only hears Reyes out in the first place because he thinks she’s going to give him some dirt on Doggett. It takes a lot for Mulder to swallow his pride and learn to tolerate Doggett, but he does this episode. He’s still not sold on him, but he does make overtures of peace.

When you think about it, these two men have experienced similar losses. They both know what it’s like to have a missing loved one and for that loved one to turn out to be dead. If anything, Doggett’s loss as a father is even greater than Mulder’s. Mulder and Doggett have already been established as very, very different men so I think giving them this single point of contact was a good choice. It forces Mulder to recognize Doggett as a man and not just as an interloper. Mulder shows stirrings of empathy after hearing what Doggett’s been through, but the only thing that manages to fully convince him to make an effort to help Doggett is Scully.

Scully is off the playing field this episode by virtue of the football in her tummy. Like in “Via Negativa”, Scully is sidelined by threatening the pregnancy. But whereas in “Via Negativa” that felt like a poor plot device to get her out of the way and one that distracted the audience from the plot at hand, I’m not as mad at it here because it serves a purpose other than just getting Scully out of the way.

Drugged out, bedridden Scully becomes the fount of all wisdom, leading Doggett and Mulder toward each other on the path to peace. Seeing how far Scully’s come in her own beliefs causes Doggett to reevaluate his own fear of believing and Mulder to reevaluate Doggett’s potential. Scully being in the hospital also forces Mulder to shift his focus off of being separated from his precious X-Files.

This is the first time we’ve seen Mulder engaged with Scully’s pregnancy. Between bringing a very personal gift for the baby and holding a vigil at her hospital bedside, he’s no longer the disinterested and distracted Mulder of “Three Words” (8×18). If anything, he resents Reyes bringing him this X-File that takes his attention away from caring for Scully and the baby.

Scully: I feel like I’m stuck in an episode of Mad About You.
Mulder: Well, uh, yeah. But, small technicality: Mad About You was about a married couple and we just work together.

ER Nurse: Who are you? The husband?
Mulder: No.
ER Nurse: Then you wait outside.

Mulder’s being set up to make a choice. He can choose to prioritize the X-Files and keep running and running and running, or he can choose to define his relationship with Scully and focus on protecting her and the baby, on making sure that she doesn’t lose anything else because of this quest of his. That was the choice he was in the middle of making back in “Requiem” (7×22) right before he was abducted, to stop fighting for the X-Files and let Scully have her life back because “there has to be an end.”

It may seem odd to think of Mulder being seriously tempted by the possibility of domestic bliss, but this is the same Mulder who dreamt of dropping out of this conspiracy rat race, settling down and having kids in “The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati” (7×2). Even as far back as “Home” (4×3) he showed signs of longing for the simple life. Perhaps these latent desires are merely bubbling back to the surface.

What will Mulder do? He has until the end of the season and David Duchovny’s contract to tell us. But I’m pretty sure that look of joy and wonder on his face as he feels the baby in Scully’s tummy is what they call “a clue.”

Verdict:

In some ways this is the reunion of Mulder and Scully that “Three Words” couldn’t be because Mulder had to deal with the immediate aftermath of his abduction. Their banter is as golden as ever, maybe better after Mulder’s long absence. Mulder seems to be more at peace with his situation now and even more so by the end of the episode, which is part of the point. All of the episodes from Mulder’s return to the season finale are about fleshing out interpersonal relationships. There’s very little by way of spooks and scares. There isn’t even much conspiracy.

There are rumors about the pizza delivery man and those are worth every second of this episode. However much 1013 may be trying to tease us and milk the “Who’s the Baby Daddy?” plot up to the very last second, “Empedolces” makes it obvious that Mulder and Scully at least believe this baby is theirs, Mulder’s insinuations about the pizza man notwithstanding.

I only have two nitpicks with this episode besides the lackluster X-File and the cheesy 80’s horror movie special effects.

The resolution is more than a bit of a copout. We go straight from “We have to find the connection, Doggett!” to “Don’t worry about finding the connection, Doggett!”. I mean, really. But as I said, this doesn’t exist as a story unto itself so much as it’s a vehicle to set up the characters. There’s a time crunch to phase out Mulder and Scully and establish Doggett and Reyes before the season ends, so these developments don’t happen as gradually and naturally as one might have wished.

The other nitpick is Doggett and Reyes. I like them and I can see that they’re going to be a good team. But in this episode they’re paralleled against the best, skeptic and believer to somewhat reformed skeptic and believer. Doggett and Reyes can’t possibly shine in comparison. Sorry, guys. My screen actually lights up when Mulder and Scully are on it.

A-

Stray Observations:

Scully’s reduced role also allows Reyes to get some needed airtime.

Mulder’s final Elvis joke… I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

The scene where Mulder puts his hand on Scully’s belly reminds me of Scully putting her hand on Mulder’s chest to feel him breathe in “Deadalive” (8×15).

It’s that kid, Jay Underwood, from that Disney movie Not Quite Human and its sequel. He also showed up in Chris Carter’s Millennium.

I also recognize Denise Crosby from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Her second claim to fame is that she’s Bing Crosby’s granddaughter.

That last line of Scully’s, though. That was a little on the nose, dontcha think?

Best Quotes:

Reyes: What if this is a thread of evil… connecting through time, through men, through opportunity, connecting back to you. In India, in Africa, in Iran, in the Middle East, in the Far East, most of the world… they take it as a given. They see evil in death the way other people see God in a rose.
Mulder: I saw Elvis in a potato chip once.

———————–

Scully: Mulder?
Mulder: What?
Scully: I was just about to jump in the shower but I was waiting for the pizza man.
Mulder: You got something going on with the pizza man I should know about?
Scully: The pizza man?
Mulder: Well, correct me if I’m wrong but you just said you were waiting for the pizza man to jump in the shower.
Scully: No, what I mean was the pizza man’s usually late, and so… You want to come in?
Mulder: Thank you.

———————–

Mulder: You miss your regular pizza man, don’t you?
Scully: [Meekly] Yes.
Mulder: [Feigns devastation]
Scully: [Cheerful now] That’s okay. He’s coming by later.

This is Not Happening 8×14: No frickin’ way.


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They’re coming to take me away, ha ha.

Not that it was intentional as they weren’t filmed in this order, but “This is Not Happening” effectively and emotionally winds up as the second of a three-parter, being sandwiched between “Per Manum” (8×8) in which Mulder’s paternity of Scully’s baby is questioned for the first time and “Deadalive” (8×15) in which Mulder… well, spoilers. “Per Manum”, besides making our heads hurt with timeline questions, builds the unction and the drive to find Mulder and makes us ready for this episode. Now Scully has to find Mulder so that together they can figure out whether what’s growing inside her is a baby or an abomination.

Joining Scully, Skinner and Doggett in the hunt for Mulder is Doggett’s friend, the quirky Agent Monica Reyes. I honestly didn’t remember that this was the moment she first showed up. I skip so much of Season 8 so often that I had forgotten. Shame on me.

Monica Reyes is our new resident believer since David Duchovny’s, and therefore Fox Mulder’s, days on the show are numbered. Played by Annabeth Gish, Reyes is a breath of fresh air. She’s childlike. No, she’s not childish, but she’s childlike. She has an awkward, cheerful air about her and a naturally open and trusting disposition. Unlike Mulder’s brooding belief in the paranormal, Reyes’ take on the supernatural has more of a spiritual, New Aged tinge. And whereas Mulder’s humor was pointed and sardonic, it’s Reyes’ unintentional goofiness that gives her a certain charm.

How good her chemistry proves to be with Doggett remains to be seen, but at least she isn’t a copycat of Mulder just like Doggett isn’t a copycat of Scully. I’m still not convinced that the Unbending Skeptic/Knee-Jerk Believer dynamic is fundamentally necessary to The X-Files, that it’s not merely the way the Mulder/Scully dynamic expressed itself instead of being in and of itself a requirement for solving strange cases. But Fox and 1013 Productions appear to be unwilling to move forward without the familiarity of this established dynamic and, if that’s the case, Doggett and Reyes are about as good a team as I could ask for. I still fear that echoes and ghosts of Mulder and Scully will only prove to be the show’s undoing, however. It’s impossible to compare two very similar partnerships and not find one wanting.

I am impressed by how effectively and efficiently they introduced Reyes considering how much else is going on in this episode. We also have the introduction of Absalom, the return of Jeremiah Smith who we haven’t seen since “Herrenvolk” (4×1), and most importantly of all, the hunt for Mulder has reached its crescendo.

The threat to Mulder has multiplied triple fold. Not only is he at the mercy of the aliens, not only does he have a brain disease, but now we find out the abductees are being returned dead, a development we’ve never seen before in The X-Files. That means that even if Scully finds Mulder she’s likely to find him dead. And even if she finds him and finds him alive, he’s likely to die anyway. This is what Doggett means when he says Scully’s afraid to find Mulder. At least with him missing, there’s a vague hope that he can be saved.

Scully is afraid and we don’t see her like this often. It’s heartbreaking watching her realize what Mulder must have gone through, and even worse, watching her realize that she probably won’t be able to save him. Her vulnerability is a great excuse for some much needed Skinner/Scully bonding, but Skinner’s slightly awkward ministrations only remind me that he can’t comfort Scully like Mulder can.

Doggett feels for Scully too, but from a distance. He’s still too new in her life to reach out to her the way he seems to want to. There are more hints courtesy of Reyes that Doggett has experienced the loss of a loved one and can identify with what Scully’s going through. But it still remains to be clarified exactly what that loss was. You have to feel bad for Doggett, though. He really wants to help Scully but he can’t give her what she needs. What she needs is Mulder.

Meanwhile, Mulder… is already dead. Despite the seeming close call of the emotional ending, Scully first realizes Mulder is dead when she has that dream of him looking decayed in his torture chair. Then she sees his soul in starlight which is a dead giveaway (no pun intended). It’s even confirmed later in “Deadalive” that Mulder was dead for days before they found him.

I kinda wish that hadn’t been the case, not only because seeing Mulder’s spirit visit Scully from the beyond felt like a knife through my heart, but because knowing Mulder is already dead takes away from the tension and anticipation of finding him. Absalom and Jeremiah Smith had already indicated that if Teresa Hoese had died it would have been too late for them to help her. If that was the case, then a dead Mulder was already beyond saving and all that was left for me was to watch Scully’s heart break in two. And boy, did it break.

Gillian Anderson gave one of her best performances of the series in this episode; actually, in this episode and the next. There are so many little moments… like when you see the tears in Scully’s eyes as she questions Absalom. And then there are the big moments… like the very tangible anguish of Scully finding Mulder dead and trying and failing to bring Jeremiah Smith to save him.

THE PAIN.

Ugh. Why must The X-Files keep trying to kill me? I’m only a fangirl. I’m not indestructible.

Verdict:

The mythology seems to be headed somewhere, but it’s still unclear whether we’re going backwards to answer questions raised by characters like Jeremiah Smith years ago or whether we’re going forward into something new or both. This is the last we ever see of Jeremiah Smith, but before he leaves he and Absalom drop some knowledge on us: that the invasion is still on and that it looks different than we thought it would.

Right now we think Jeremiah Smith was saving the abductees from death, we’re about to find out he was saving them, and the world, from a lot more than that. We were told in “Requiem” (7×22) and in “Within” (8×1) that the aliens were taking these abductees in order to clean up evidence of the hybridization project. If that were the case, they wouldn’t be dumping the abductees back to earth. No, it appears we were deceived, but it’s one of the lesser reneges of Season 8. The aliens weren’t cleaning up, they were restarting the project in a new form. And Mulder’s a part of it.

A-

Random Musings:

Really though, that moment when Mulder visits Scully in starlight is physically painful.

Reyes is a less aggravating, more intelligent take on the late Melissa Scully with all her talk of “cosmic energies.”

Reyes recognized this guy Absalom after seeing him from a distance in the dark?

The phrase “This is not happening” also showed up in “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20).

Wait. This counts as one of David Duchovny’s eleven episodes doesn’t it? Dagnabit.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: I got 46 of your followers rounded up out there at your compound. You make me go to them for a straight answer it’s only going to make it worse for you.

Absalom: How many times can I tell you?

Doggett: Night’s early. Coffee’s hot.

———————–

Scully: What is it you specialize in again? Ritualistic crime?

Reyes: Right. Satanic ritual abuse. Or, I should say claims of it. We never found any hard evidence.

Scully: We should talk sometime.

Per Manum 8×8: Don’t make me guess.


PerManum250.jpg

Never give up on a miracle.

Questions. I have so, so many questions.

I don’t know if this will end up being a review or a loosely organized series of interrogatives. You have been warned.

Season 8 has a glaring problem, other than the absence of Mulder, a startling trend that I’ve noticed. Instead of propelling the story forward with new developments, it goes back to plots that the audience thought they understood and turns them inside out by reinventing the past. This is a shortcut to drama since 1013 already knows that we’re emotionally invested in Mulder and Scully and the things that they’ve been through. But it’s potentially dangerous because this method of manufacturing interest by pulling the rug out from under your audience creates instability. They’ve already done it once with the “Mulder was dying” plot. Now they’re doing it again with Scully’s baby.

“Per Manum” exists mainly to rock any assumptions we might have naturally made about the paternity of Scully’s baby. When we first found out about the baby in the Season 7 finale “Requiem” (7×22), it had already been confirmed in “all things” (7×17) that Mulder and Scully were sleeping together and based on that knowledge and Scully’s choice of words and facial expressions when she announces her pregnancy to Skinner, it was safe to assume that Scully at least believed she had conceived this baby with Mulder the old fashioned way. She was supposed to have been barren so it was a shock, but it was a happy shock, a miracle.

Then comes Season 8 when 1013 tries to convince us that nothing was ever as it seemed. Mulder and Scully weren’t as blissfully happy as they looked in Season 7. Mulder was dying almost that whole time.

Yes, I got that memo.

Now, they’re telling us that not only is the paternity of Scully’s baby up in the air, the circumstances leading up to the conception cast doubt not only on the timeline of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, but even on if it was what we thought it was.

It all starts off with Scully remembering a conversation with Mulder on an elevator. This is the first we’ve seen Mulder and Scully together since “Requiem” and what should be one of my happiest fangirl moments ever is… awkward. It’s actually awkward. I mean David Duchovny looks physically uncomfortable taking part in this ridiculous conversation in which best friends and possible lovers discuss fertility failures and an ova rescue.

Scully admits to Mulder that she’s a little upset over hearing the news that she’s definitely barren. Mulder then admits to Scully that he funky poached her ova back in “Memento Mori” (4×15) and has been hiding them and the secret that they’re no good from Scully.

Scratch the record.

I’m sorry, but didn’t Mulder already confess that to Scully in front of a judge in “Emily” (5×7)?

Right. Moving on.

So Scully gets a second opinion and visits Dr. Parenti. How did that wind up happening? How did she just happen to end up with a doctor who specializes in implanting alien fetuses in women who are alien abductees? I say alien fetuses, but I’m supposed to be assuming that these are a part of the alien-human hybrid experiments, yes? Those experiments are continuing even though the Syndicate is dead, plans for colonization are continuing and the aliens have been criss crossing the country to destroy all evidence of the hybridization project as of “Within” (8×1)? Who is continuing these experiments and why? And how did they manipulate Scully into visiting Dr. Parenti originally?

Regardless of what I don’t know, Scully is told that she might have a shot, she just needs to find a semen donor. Naturally, she asks Mulder, a moment which wisely takes place off screen. Mulder gives it some thought before agreeing and they have an incredibly lovely interaction that makes up for their previous scene together and that leaves me totally confused.

This must take place in Season 7. I know it can’t be so far out as Season 6 because the treatments have to be recent enough before Scully’s pregnancy in order for them to be a viable option for how she got pregnant. That means it would make the most sense for this conversation to take place late in Season 7. Late in Season 7 we know that Mulder and Scully were romantically involved.

Yet the vibe here between Mulder and Scully, while as close as ever, is not one of lovers. Their relationship is left ambiguous – on purpose, I’m sure. But if Mulder and Scully were already in an exclusive romantic relationship, would she ask him to help her have a baby or would she in effect be asking him to start a family? Would Mulder’s response be that he’s flattered, or rather would it be strange for her to want to have anyone else’s baby when she’s in a relationship with him? Would Mulder be worried whether her carrying his baby would come between them, or would he be worried about whether he’d even get to see the baby seeing as how he’s dying and he probably won’t live long enough for it to come between them?

Maybe they were lovers before this conversation, maybe after. Who knows? 1013 is purposefully playing coy with the cannon. It’s like, oh, I dunno, they want us to keep watching to the end of the season to receive confirmation that Mulder and Scully are an item and that this is their baby. Funny. I thought we’d been there done that in Season 7. Whatever. I have more questions.

If Scully had been receiving IVF treatments, and receiving them recently enough that she believed this pregnancy could possibly be a result of them, why would she look so shocked at the end of “Requiem” (7×22)? Gillian Anderson didn’t play that scene like a woman who had been trying to get pregnant and found out that despite what the doctors had told her she was successful. She played it like a woman who thought pregnant was the last thing in the world she would ever be.

I just… I can’t. My head hurts.

After all my questions, only one really matters: Scully became pregnant per manum, by hand, but was it by the hand of man or the hand of God?

Verdict:

Hello, mythology! Where did you go? Are we going to continue to explore this theme? Is this the next stage? Are they going to take this elaborate conspiracy anywhere, or does this plot merely serve as a means to make us worry about Scully’s pregnancy and question the paternity of her baby? Why do I suspect it’s the latter?

Well, I’m not giving up on my miracle. Whatever ridiculata may surround them, Mulder and Scully are gold. Pure gold. That thing that they have that resists definition, it’s a gift from God to television watchers everywhere. There was that hiccup on the elevator, sure, but the rest of their scenes together only reminded me how much I miss their connection. I also desperately miss Mulder and the humor and humanity he brought to the show. I may or may not have sobbed his name several times during the watching of “Per Manum”.

If there’s any bright side to the unnecessary drama it’s Gillian Anderson’s performance. In the opening shot after the teaser, she shows us a beautiful mixture of wonder and joy and sadness as Scully contemplates the life growing inside her and the absence of its presumed father. Then there’s a brilliant shot of Scully over the shoulder of Mr. Haskell as he recounts his wife’s story. You see Scully’s face shift from skepticism to recognition as the camera pans across Mr. Haskell from behind. That was a bit of brilliance. Thank you, Kim Manners.

And that’s it. I’ve worn myself out. All I have left to say is that mind games are fine in their place, but when you change the past to fit the present, chaos ensues.

B+

Even More Questions:

Scully was afraid the F.B.I. would force her to stop looking for Mulder if they found out she was pregnant. Well, they’re going to find out soon no matter what, so it’s high time she got a move on before she starts showing and she’s physically unable to look for Mulder. There’s been a time crunch this whole time that Season 8 has ignored.

Scully’s only fourteen weeks along? Huh? Scully found out she was pregnant in May. We know this episode is after the date on the pre-recorded ultrasound tape. That means it takes place in late November at the earliest. Baby timeline…. I give up.

How did Miss Hendershot know about Scully and where she lived?

Why did Skinner and Scully call Doggett out in the middle of the night just to tell him that Scully was taking leave? If you weren’t going to tell him anything, you could’ve not told him at the office.That said, by telling him earlier that Dr. Parenti was her doctor, wasn’t Scully admitting to being pregnant anyway? Why get shy now?

The conspirators appear to have wanted access to Scully all along which is why they sent Haskell and were willing to give up Miss Hendershot and her baby to get at Scully. But didn’t they already have access to Scully through Dr. Parenti? Why warn Scully that something might be wrong with her baby at all? She would be completely pliable if she remained ignorant.

Comments:

Anne!! It’s Anne! Megan Follows from Anne of Green Gables plays the doomed Mrs. Haskell in the opening teaser. That series of books was my first true love. Ah, I love it when obsessions collide.

We as the audience know this wasn’t all in Scully’s head. We saw the alien babies. We heard Haskell’s phone call and we know the doctors or somebody is after Scully’s baby. That would only be the case if they believed her baby to be alien.

That Duffy Haskell twist was a good one.

The actor who plays Duffy Haskell was also in “Demons” (4×23). It’s good to see an actor from the Vancouver era again.

This marks the first appearance of Knowle Rohrer.

It’s good to realize that Scully is vulnerable in her condition. You feel for her and are scared with her.

Did you spot Mark Snow?

Best Quotes:

Doggett: Your assistant said you were going to get right back to me about this David Haskell fingerprint.
Knowle Rohrer: I’ve got a day job, John. The government gets suspicious if I work at too fast a pace.