Tag Archives: Revelations

Orison 7×7: Every moment of every day, the Devil waits for but an instant.


Orison

You need a buff and polish.

Certainly Mulder’s unrelenting search for the truth is but a thinly veiled allegory of man’s search for God. That’s well understood. But what surprises me this rewatch is that Season 7 has the most consistent religious overtones of any season so far. Oddly enough, it mostly presents these vague spiritual musings outside of the mytharc, the mythological journey toward the truth that provided the backbone of the show for so many years.

Millennium” (7×5) dallied in psuedo-Biblical eschatology, but it wasn’t the end of the world, just the end of the Mulder and Scully’s platonic relationship.

The Goldberg Variation” (7×2) presented one question: What if there’s a rhyme and reason to seeming happenstance? And even a second: What if something or someone is working seemingly bad circumstances into something good? “Providence,” I believe the old folks called it.

Well, “Orison” is all about the problem of evil. Fitting, since it’s predecessor, “Irresistible” (2×13), delivered the frightening message that inexplicable evil exists. “Orison” asks the follow up question, “Can evil be redeemed?”

The answer?

In the opening teaser, titular character Rev. Orison tells us that we surely can be redeemed. All we have to do is repent and ask God to forgive us. He says this while hypnotizing into submission the most captive audience imaginable: a room full of prison inmates.

For all he encourages repentance, Rev. Orison doesn’t appear to factor free will into his personal theology of redemption. Are the prisoners set free from evil and delivered to good if they’re brainwashed into saying, “Amen?” Certainly they’re not committing evil acts any more. Does that mean they’re delivered? Is evil merely a behavioral problem?

Donnie Pfaster behaves. He behaves in prison because he has to. When he kills, he kills because he wants to, not because his momma didn’t nurse him and his daddy drank.

Prisoners that can’t be “converted” through hypnotism, like Donnie, Rev. Orison is ordered by God to set free and then kill. After all, if they can’t be corrected why should they sit in a Correctional Facility? Perhaps the fear of death will finally produce in them a repentant and humble heart and they can be redeemed right at the very end. Perhaps. Unfortunately for Rev. Orison, he’s encountered an evil that can be neither controlled nor killed and certainly not redeemed, at least not by him. Donnie Pfaster is evil incarnate, possessed by the Devil himself.

Now, if you ask Mulder, it’s Rev. Orison who’s continually seeking out personal redemption by killing men more evil than himself. God has nothing to do with it. Because, you see, Mulder believes in almost anything and everything but the Bible. Once again, like in “Revelations” (3×11) and “All Souls” (5×17), Scully has a religious experience and Mulder, for all his farfetched supernatural theories, meets her openness with sneering skepticism. Until he hears from God himself, that is.

Scully too would initially agree with him about Rev. Orison and Donnie Pfaster. There is evil. Donnie Pfaster is evil. But his is a human evil and there’s nothing mysterious about it. If anything, the lack of seeming reason or cause behind his evil is what makes him all the more frightening.

Scully: I promise you there is nothing supernatural about this man. Donnie Pfaster is just plain evil.

At least, that’s the conclusion we’re left with at the end of “Irresistible.” Maybe there was a question of Donnie appearing almost devil-like in Scully’s terrified eyes when he held her captive, but the frightening idea that props up “Irresistible” is that sometimes there is no deeper, mysterious, or fantastic explanation for the evil that we see other than that evil exists and it exists inside of decidedly inconspicuous looking men.

But is there an evil behind man’s evil?

Those pesky signs and that creepy song keep pointing Scully to such a new conclusion.

On the surface, the supernatural elements of this episode would seem to undermine the decidedly unsupernatural scariness of “Irresistible” and the Donnie Pfaster character. But I think it all fits together something like this: There is Evil. And that Evil acts for no other purpose than to steal, kill and destroy. It doesn’t need any deeper motive. It doesn’t need a trigger. And sometimes that Evil works through men. Usually men with two given names.

Evil, pure evil, has no desire for redemption, only destruction.

So there you go.

Verdict:

I remember being a little nervous when this first aired, because as I’ve said before, “Irresistible” is the episode that made me an X-Phile. And frankly, sequels are disappointing 90% of the time.

This fell into that 90% for me. Oh, I don’t dislike it. In fact, it’s the best episode of the season so far. But it can’t be its predecessor and it’s no Godfather II. Still, the acting is great. Scott Wilson is amazing and does a lot with relatively little screen time. And if you haven’t seen him in The Walking Dead by now, you should have. What’s wrong with you?

Nick Chinlund gets to vamp up the Donnie Pfaster character now that he isn’t posing as a regular Joe and everyone knows he’s a murderous psychopath.

Rob Bowman’s directing is cinematic and intense.

And Gillian Anderson’s expressions, as always, say everything without her having to say a word.

So I’m not jumping up and down like I did at the end of “Irresistible”. But I’m not bored. No, I’m not bored.

B+

Red Wigs:

Scully’s been through a lot… a lot, a lot… since Donnie Pfaster brought her to tears back in Season 2. I’m so glad this time around she gets to put up more of a fight. It was believable when he overpowered her the first time. But if it had happened just as easily the second time it would have been anti-climactic.

How did Mulder know what the hypnosis cue was???

Donnie’s clothing toss over the shoulder in the opening teaser is a bit heavy-handed. I would have preferred it if he just casually walked out a la Keyser Söze.

This was not a clean shooting. I feel like in the earlier days of the show Scully would have had to answer for, or at least be questioned about, killing Donnie Pfaster in subsequent episodes, even if the event did happen in a MOTW. Mulder’s, “You can’t judge yourself,” just doesn’t cut it as the final word.

Scully shooting Donnie should feel satisfying. Instead it feels anticlimactic.

Now, this has nothing to do with the problem of evil… I don’t think… but I felt compelled to post this little bit of hilarity. Here’s the original version of “Don’t Look Any Further”. You’ll never watch this episode the same way again. FYI, awesome song for hustle dancing.

 

You’re welcome.

Best Quotes:

Rev. Orison: You receive the Lord’s grace and this is your thanks.

————————

Rev. Orison: Everything has a reason, Scout. Everything on God’s earth.

————————

Scully: How do you prove that someone isn’t being directed by God? You don’t believe that it happens?

Mulder: God is a spectator, Scully. He just reads the box scores.

Scully: I don’t believe that.

———————–

Mulder: You know, it’s funny. When all is said and done there’s not much mystery in murder.

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All Souls 5×17: I’m immune to your mockery.


All the captions I think of feel somehow sacreligious…

Ah, the Enigmatic Dr. Scully. It turns out that on the sly, or in between commercial breaks, however you choose to see it, the formerly lapsed Catholic has been attending church almost on the regular since the events of “Redux II” (5×3).

Why do I suspect Mulder knows nothing about this development?

But why doth our lovely doctor look so solemn on Easter Sunday of all days? Could it be there’s a little Catholic Guilt weighing her down.

More than it is a spiritual follow up to “Revelations” (3×11), “All Souls” is an emotional follow up to “Emily” (5×7). Scully is questioning the decision she made at the end of “Emily” not to fight to save her own daughter, but to allow her to die a relatively peaceful death rather than live in potential agony only to have certain death to look forward to. Scully feels very sure at that moment of a decision that I on the other side of the television screen still have qualms about, but now it seems that her conviction has grown thin. I wonder how she’d feel if she knew about that little green vial Mulder kept hidden from her…

Scully now wonders whether it was really God’s will that she allow Emily or the young disabled girl to die, whether she was working as His instrument or not. And more than that, she’s having a Job moment; Scully can’t understand why God has allowed these girls and herself to be in such a painful position in the first place, why the innocent sometimes reap the reward of the guilty.

It’s a question older than the Book of Psalms and one that writers Spotnitz and Shiban wisely don’t attempt to answer. Instead, they choose to reaffirm Scully’s faith that reasons exist even if she doesn’t know what they are.

Yet despite it’s worthy motives, “All Souls” falls somewhat flat. Maybe if more time had been spent elaborating on the implications, spiritual and otherwise, of the apocryphal legend of the Nephilim. Or maybe if there weren’t quite so many red herrings leaving the viewer even more unsure of what just happened than Scully herself. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s a little boring and a tad confusing. Even Gillian Anderson’s valiantly acted angst fails to completely pull me in to the story.

Speaking of which, I think I’ve officially had my quota of Sad-Eyed Scully for one season.

I always thought that up until Season 8, Season 4 was Scully’s angstiest season but it appears I always thought wrong. I can think of 3 episodes in Season 4 where Scully faced some sort of emotional crossroad: “Never Again” (4×13), “Memento Mori” (4×15) and “Elegy” (4×22). Season 5 is already at 4: “Redux II”, “Christmas Carol” (5×5), “Emily” and “All Souls”. This isn’t even counting the emotional slap in the face she’ll receive in “The End” (5×20)…

I realize that Scully’s lovely when she’s somber but would it have been possible to have an episode centered around her faith that left her cheerful rather than crying in a confessional booth?

Maybe because I have a tendency to skip both “Revelations” and “All Souls” on my usual rewatches, I never appreciated how exactly the director referenced the previous episode’s shots of Scully in the confessional – just in case we missed the fact that both episodes center around Scully’s Catholicism. “All Souls” even ends exactly like “Revelations” with Scully beautifully lit in a confessional booth giving us a pithy statement about faith. It’s not quite as compelling the second time around, but the continuity is noted and appreciated.

And the Verdict is…

Amazing how Mulder flat out refuses to believe there’s anything spiritual going on when it comes to Christianity. Vampires? Sure. Werewolves? Why not. Jesus? You must be kidding.

I’m sorry, but Mulder, my dearest Mulder, is a right and proper jerk this episode. Didn’t he learn anything from the ending of “Revelations” when he realized that he’d been wrong to write off those involved in the case as religious wackos and that he’d alienated his partner through his insensitivity?

Judging between the two episodes, and a couple of earlier ones, I think Mulder’s problem is that when he’s skeptical, which isn’t often, he has the undiplomatic habit of scoffing at other people’s credulity. It’s not pretty. Scully, for all she may raise an eyebrow at Mulder’s theories, usually respects the man if not the idea. Mulder has a way of dismissing both the message and the messenger.

He doesn’t say, “Willikers, Scully, we both know that stranger things have happened but I just don’t think this is the case here and here’s why.” Oh no. Instead he makes quips about psychotic believers convinced they’re hearing from a non-existent God – a category that Scully is uncomfortably forced to conclude she falls into.

No doubt about it, Mulder has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the church. Praise be, he’ll later redeem himself (no pun intended) in “Signs & Wonders” (7×9) after “Orison” (7×7) softens him up a bit.

B

Apocrypha

I’ve seen “All Souls” probably 6 or 7 times but I only just figured out that the Seraphim is a separate entity from the demon caseworker – a clear reflection of my level of interest in this episode.

I’m not Catholic so I’m no expert, but why were Dara’s parents having her baptized on a dark and stormy night 6 years down the road rather than immediately or thereabouts after she was adopted? Like baptizing an infant, wouldn’t they have wanted some insurance for her soul sooner instead of later?

Scully goes to church on Easter Sunday, stops at the family’s house and learns about their daughter, then goes to the pathologist’s office on the same day. That’s one busy little bee.

Mulder doesn’t even show up until 14 minutes into the episode not counting commercial interference. And once he shows up I’d rather he weren’t there.

Best Quotes:

Scully: As much as I have my faith, Father, I am a scientist, trained to weigh evidence. But science only teaches us how… not why…

——————

Mulder: Look, Scully, I know you don’t… really want my help on this, but can I offer my… professional opinion? You got a bona fide super-crazy religious wacko on your hands.

——————

Mulder: I know people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones blah blah blah, but that guy is paranoid!

Synchrony 4×19: Puts a whole new spin on being your own worst enemy.


I got chills. They're multiplyin'.

I don’t think we’ve had an episode of The X-Files so purely scientific since “F. Emasculata” (2×22) or at least “Wetwired” (3×23), and both of those episodes involve a certain amount of conspiracy and machination. “Synchrony” is unique in that not only does it focus solely on theoretical science, it takes a decidedly personal approach in doing so. Don’t expect a shadowy informant to make a superfluous appearance in this one.

This is episode is brought to you by the letter “G.” “G” for writers Howard Gordon and David Greenwalt, an interesting pair indeed. Greenwalt was a co-executive producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a co-creator of the spin off Angel, so his pedigree is nothing to sneeze at. But this episode was destined to be Greenwalt’s only episode of The X-Files which makes it hard to gauge how much of “Synchrony” is his and how much can be attributed to series regular Howard Gordon. That said, Gordon had a knack for writing about hubris, or more specifically, about the havoc that can be wrecked by overly brilliant men or men who overly think they’re brilliant, so I’m betting he’s responsible for most of this. It’s the prevailing theme in many of his episodes such as “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6), “Firewalker” (2×9) and even “Fresh Bones” (2×15) among others.

This isn’t the most successful of the lot, mostly due I think to issues of science and somewhat bland characters, but it’s still a solid and enjoyable offering. The main problem is that a time travel story can easily get lost in its own set of paradoxes no matter how skillful the writers. For instance, If Old Man Nichols kills his younger self, who in the heck is going to travel back from the future to assassinate everyone involved in the project in the first place? And for that matter, why didn’t he just aim for his younger self from the get go? That would’ve stopped the whole project in its tracks since it’s his Cryobiology that makes time travel possible.

You would think that meeting your younger self, the version of yourself that most people wish heartily they could knock some sense into, would provide a springboard for more existential angst. But I don’t think this episode really has time to explore the emotional issues of Old Man Nichols or of the younger Jason Nichols once he discovers that he’s both a murderer and a genius (well, the latter he already strongly believed). Instead, most of its time is spent slowly revealing the science behind the plot and what little time for emotional development that’s available takes place between Old Man Nichols and, well, everyone else but himself.

Then there’s the fact that Old Man Nichols’ motivations for taking on such a gruesome responsibility are given only brief lip service at the end of the episode. Exactly how unlivable had these ambitious scientists unwittingly made the future? Why is time travel more of a curse than a gift? And if their joint success turned out to be such a tragedy, why did neither Lisa or Yonechi come back with him to undo what they accomplished? Could it be that Nichols is the only one with regrets?

I have more questions than comments, but that’s pretty much to be expected whenever time travel comes up as a subject. As I said earlier, paradoxes are inevitable and I’m no physicist, I’m a fuzzy; I don’t have the feet for wading in these waters. But when I compare this episode to more successful interpretations of time travel, like Back to the Future and a handful of Star Trek: TNG episodes, it comes up wanting. There were a lot of issues to potentially explore and so without narrowing in on one or two of them, all of them ending up getting the short shrift.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy this one, mind you. And considering it originally aired over 14 years ago I think it actually holds up rather well. Probably the most effective part of this episode is the Fire and Ice theme. The X-Files is nothing if it’s not inventive when it comes to death and watching a frozen body melt and then burst into flames is not without its charms.

And the Verdict is…

This is yet another episode where Mulder is 10 steps ahead of everyone else without much evidence to go on, but it would have been nice if Scully had taken more of a lead in what is essentially one of the few purely sci-fi episodes of The X-Files. After all, Scully’s the scientist here and indeed, she’s a scientist with a working knowledge of time travel theory! Sure, Mulder brings up her graduate school theory on time travel, but only to use it against her. This never really struck me before but looking back, I suspect it would have been more interesting to have Scully face up to her own former self and her former beliefs as she did in “Revelations” (3×11) and as Old Man Nichols has to do, literally, over the course of this episode. Psychological time travel paralleled with physical time travel? It sounds like a good match to me.

B

Nagging Questions:

Why is Old Man Nichols so determined to save Lucas Menand in the beginning of the episode when he’s otherwise only determined to kill? Why waste time trying to save the life of one enemy when he’s willing to kill his friends? And what’s more, why risk exposure when it’s best to complete his mission as quickly as possible?

Couldn’t Old Man Nichols think of a better way to kill people than not really killing them? Poison maybe? Something so that he could actually succeed in preventing the future.

For that matter, why kill them all? Just removing one part of the equation would have prevented eventual success. Technically speaking, Old Man Nichols could have stopped after killing Yonechi.

Nagging Comments:

What his with the guy who plays Yonechi, Hiro Kanagawa, dying particularly gruesome deaths? Who could forget fungus exploding from his throat in “Firewalker”?

Best Quotes:

Coroner: I haven’t been able to make a definitive determination as to cause or time of death. There’s been some internal disagreement over how to proceed.
Scully: You mean with the autopsy?
Coroner: Yes… but mostly whether to cut or to saw.

———————–

Mulder: You ever seen a body in such an advanced hypothermic state?
Scully: Hypothermic? Mulder, this man’s an icicle.

———————–

Scully: Well, my best guess would be that he’s been exposed to some kind of chemical refrigerant like liquid nitrogen. Possibly even ingested it.
Mulder: Well, you see what happens when you drink and drive?

———————–

Mulder: “Although common sense may rule out the possibility of time travel, the laws of quantum physics certainly do not.” In case you forgot, that’s from your graduate thesis. You were a lot more open minded when you were a youngster.

Season 3 Wrap Up: Are you sure it wasn’t a girly scream?


On the Big Picture Front

Season 3 is a perennial fan favorite, for obvious reasons. It’s during this era that The X-Files went from a cult hit to a primetime sensation. Far from being a specific genre show, it proved it was capable of changing styles from week to week and still maintain consistency and continuity. One week Mulder and Scully are on the brink of discovering alien life, and the next they’re being overrun by mutant cockroaches. Season 3 is at turns a sci-fi show, a psychological drama, a comedy and a parody.

And more than anything else, it’s the Season of Darin Morgan. Sure he debuted back in Season 2 as the writer of the landmark “Humbug” (2×20) and even earlier than that he provided the story for “Blood” (2×3) and even donned a body suit to play The Flukeman in “The Host” (2×2). But three out of the four episodes he officially wrote for the series aired in Season 3. That’s not even counting his uncredited contributions to episodes like “Revelations” (3×11) and “Quagmire” (3×22), two episodes that delve deeply into the psychological background of Mulder and Scully, laying the basis for years to come for other writers who would take their characters even further.

His presence on the staff actually transformed the show into something that was pliable and therefore viable. How long would The X-Files have lasted if things had stayed as serious as they did in Season 1 and most of Season 2? I daresay there’s an audience for that, myself included, but Darin Morgan introduced an era where The X-Files could lovingly poke fun at itself; this meant that the audience didn’t have to. After all, if you bring up your faults before anyone else can, it serves as a first level of defense. “Fox Mulder is off his rocker, you say? We already know. We called him on it ourselves and beat you to it.” Once that’s out of the way, everyone can sit back and enjoy without their being an elephant in the room.

Self-parody is also a sign of success. “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) could never have happened in Seasons 1 or 2. The X-Files wasn’t set it its ways enough to exaggerate its own image. The audience could laugh at Mulder and Scully being ridiculous because they already take them seriously. And even though it’s not one of my favorites, this is a turning point in the show because from here on out, anything was game. Starting in Season 3, you can see how later episodes like “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6) would evolve from this series. The writers could stretch The X-Files and it wouldn’t break.

On the Relationship Front

If you’ve been reading and watching along, you’ve probably already guessed what I’m going to say. I’m no sentimentalist, but the tension that was written into Mulder and Scully’s relationship for much of this season isn’t exactly my bag. It’s true that they couldn’t go on in the hyper-idealized way that they were in Season 2, where the other could almost do no wrong. And it’s also true that a certain amount of tension and drama creates interest, and I’m all for that. But there were moments this season where I wondered why they were even partners at all since they didn’t seem to work well together. Heck, at moments they were downright antagonistic.

The good side of this is that when Mulder or Scully are divided, it almost invariably means that one or the other is about to benefit from some serious character development. Mulder moves beyond Samantha in “Oubliette” (3×8), even if he doesn’t move beyond the “Samantha Protocol”, and he shows off his criminal profiling genius in “Grotesque” (3×14), a skill that Scully can’t possess at the same emotional and psychological level. For her part, Scully matures in issues of faith in “Revelations”, a spiritual journey you’d think that Mulder would be able to relate to but instead is surprisingly antagonistic toward. And dividing them up for the mythology episodes was a wise decision. More information gets disseminated to the audience for one thing. And for another, Scully begins to develop her own methods of investigation. It’s a nice contrast watching them stumble upon parallel bits of information and come to wildly different conclusions. Neither one of them would get to the truth alone.

But after all that division, the writers reel it back in toward the end of the season and I’m forever grateful. “Pusher” (3×17) and “Wetwired” (2×23) remind us that Mulder and Scully still do have an almost spiritual bond that’s survived the losses and divisions of Season 3. It’s a sweet but brief respite, however. Season 4 will bring Mulder and Scully both closer and further apart than ever before, a rollercoaster I’m currently bracing myself for emotionally.

On the Whole

Season 3 is arguably when The X-Files hit its peak. Looking back, I’d say that it is… but it’s not when The X-Files hit its prime, a point of semantics that I’ll get into much later.

I say this is its peak because at this point, the mythology still feels as though it’s heading somewhere, that the answers we’re waiting for are just around the corner. Anticipation is at its highest point, I believe. Will Mulder lose his mother and soon be the only Mulder left? Will Scully be able to face the details of her abduction? Will they get to the bottom of this Smallpox vaccination drama? Stay tuned.

On the New Tip

I’ve decided to start handing out awards this season. So without further ado…

“Most Improved”
Revelations

“Desperately in need of a rewrite”
Syzygy

“Victim of too many desperate rewrites”
Teso Dos Bichos

“The Copycat”
2Shy

“The Sleeper Hit”
Wetwired

“It doesn’t matter how many times I see it I still won’t like it”
Oubliette

So now my question to you, dear reader, is which episode out of the Darin Morgan era is the one that speaks to you the most?  Is one the best but you hate it? Is one the worst but you love it? And if you have any awards of your own to hand out, please do so below!

Quagmire 3×22: Well, Captain, what now?


Romancing the Stone.

This is one of the most oft quoted episodes for understanding Mulder and Scully’s psychology and more importantly, the dysfunctionality of their relationship. The X-File itself isn’t very good, but the episode is quite fun. I wouldn’t quite characterize it as a comedy episode, but it is “light”, possibly due to the influence of Darin Morgan on Kim Newton’s script.

Before watching this again, I was prepared to write a speech about how it’s no coincidence that the two episodes that offer the most insight into Scully’s character this season were written by a woman. After all, Kim Newton is also the writer who brought us “Revelations” (3×11) where Scully’s background of faith is explored. And yet, it turns out that Darin Morgan is an uncredited writer on “Quagmire”. Rumor has it that the famous “conversation on a rock” is entirely his. Not only that, but according to Chris Carter, Morgan also contributed a “tremendous” amount of work, uncredited, for the script for “Revelations” as well. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time mentally dwelling on his episodes lately, but I never really appreciated how truly Darin Morgan-esque this episode is. True, it’s written by Kim Newton and Darin Morgan is only an uncredited contributor, but his stamp is unmistakable.

Is that not Morgan’s voice we’re hearing again after all? The characterization here is in keeping with his previous episodes. Mulder is chasing after the ridiculous and rather than looking like an abnormally clever investigator he’s painted as obstinately, if endearingly foolish. Scully, on the other hand, is chock full of insight. Then there are the recurring characters like the stoners, and even Queequeg, who were introduced in his earlier work. Not to mention the tone of certain characters like the Sheriff, and certain gags like Bertram‘s trashy hat are telltale signs. You can tell Morgan didn’t write the whole thing but it smacks of his scent. The tone actually reminds me of “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) in a lot of ways.

But enough about a question we’ll never know the answer to and back to the episode at hand. This is one of those episodes that everybody enjoys and yet it’s somehow not a fan favorite. I suspect that’s because the X-File itself isn’t very interesting. The charm of this episode is in watching Mulder and Scully interact in a most domesticated fashion. From their first moments on the screen in that funny little car ride, instead of having their typically clinical conversation about a mysterious case, they’re bickering over bringing the dog rather than putting him in a kennel.

It’s hilarious. And it’s a nice change of pace because it’s been a while since we’ve been reminded that Scully actually finds Mulder amusing. This was more their relationship dynamic in Season 1. Season 2 they were almost romantically devoted to each other (we’ll get to that definition in a moment) but Season 3 has been devoted to taking the bloom off the rose; all their faults are out in the open. This episode continues that theme by delving into the psychological complexities of their unusual relationship.

The X-Files itself has always been a romance on several levels. Setting aside for a moment the more obvious definition of romance as an idealized love, friendship or otherwise (which The X-Files also depicts), first it’s a literary romance, and I don’t mean the kind of fiction with Fabio on the cover. The Oxford English Dictionary defines literary “romance” as “a work of fiction depicting a setting and events remote from everyday life.” (And wouldn’t you know it, the theme of the episode, Moby Dick, is a famous romance novel from the 19th century.) Connected to that definition, “romance” is also considered “a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.”

Now, store that information away for a moment while we discuss Scully. The question that’s subtly addressed in this episode is why is Scully still here? After all, she clearly doesn’t believe in the work; most of it, like this case, she finds patently ridiculous. True, over the past year she’s become personally involved by a set of tragic circumstances. But the man who killed her sister has been killed and she’s shown some serious reluctance to address or even try to remember the circumstances of her abduction. By the end of the last mythology episode, “Apocrypha” (3×16), she infers that the answers aren’t sufficient because they won’t bring justice. So again I ask, what is she still doing here?

Back when I reviewed the “Pilot” (1×79) I argued that despite her protestations, Scully enjoys the mystery and excitement of the X-Files and of Fox Mulder himself. Mulder gets so much flack sometimes because he’s not a realistic character and he isn’t meant to be, that’s Scully’s job. Mulder is Don Quixote, he’s Hamlet, he’s Captain Ahab. He’s given himself a monumental, otherworldly quest, one that’s dangerous, ridiculous, and incredibly exciting all at the same time. Truth be told, there’s a fantasy element to The X-Files and Scully is the audience’s stand-in; she’s whisked away into events that can’t be possible yet suddenly are.

So how does she feel about that? Well, usually she protests that the whole situation is either too dangerous or too absurd, and yet… Notice that when Mulder brings up similar legends to Big Blue, Scully is already familiar with them! As a kid she read up on them, but then she “grew up and became a scientist.” Again when they’re on the lake in the middle of the night searching for this legendary Big Blue, Scully starts to believe herself as she sees that blip coming toward her on the boat’s monitor. The look on her face isn’t that of a clinically detached scientist.

As I said earlier, Mulder, even in the context of the reality of The X-Files, is a fictional character; he’s the type of person you meet once in a lifetime. And he’s invited Scully to chase the “white whale” of alien life with him. For all her science and practicality, it’s a proposal she can’t resist because at heart, Scully is a little girl who used to read stories about men like Mulder and live vicariously through them. He’s her childhood bedtime story come to life.

Might she not be finding in Mulder a childlike faith that she thought she’d lost? I wonder whether if she had never met Mulder or seen what she’s already seen working on the X-Files if she would have returned to the church the way she did in “Revelations”. Perhaps she would have gone through life distancing herself from what she used to believe as though faith without proof was a game for children and she was a grown up. I think Mulder’s faith inspires her even as she scoffs at what it is he has faith in.

Much is made in later seasons of the idea that Scully sees Mulder as a father figure, a jumping off point from Scully comparing Mulder to Captain Ahab in this episode and from the fact that her nickname for her father was Ahab. However, I think that to take the logical leap that since both men are “Ahab” to her that they both occupy a similar place in her life is faulty. It’s true that both Mulder and Captain Bill Scully are strong and smart, but there isn’t much to compare between them besides that.

Scully sees Mulder as Captain Ahab, a romantic and tragic figure doomed to chase something that he’ll never catch and drive himself to madness in the process. In contrast, Bill Scully’s disapproval when Scully dared do something as “reckless” as join the F.B.I. was enough to cause tension between a once close father and daughter. The man was as straight-laced as it gets. He served his country, he served his family and he came home. Despite his nickname, Bill Scully was no Ahab. Bill Scully is called Ahab but Mulder is Ahab.

Now, Captain Ahab is hardly anyone’s knight in shining armor so let’s be clear, that’s not how she sees Mulder. This whole season has been an eye-opener for Mulder and Scully’s characters in regards to each other. They’re not faultless, two-dimensional characters any longer. There’s been a tangible amount of tension as well. But it seems as though when the varnish wears off they actually love each other more, not less.

Conclusion:

Now that we know more of the history of her character, Scully’s instant like of Mulder in the “Pilot” makes sense. Rather than putting her off with his ridiculous theories the way he does most of the F.B.I. is, he intrigues her. Just because Scully realizes that Mulder is off his rocker doesn’t mean she doesn’t admire his insanity and stubbornness

Despite the danger and loss, and mostly in spite of her own disbelief, Scully sticks around because of the romance of the situation she finds herself in. Sure there are moments where she winds up wet on a rock in the middle of the night, but that’s the price that has to be paid. Her eyes are open to Mulder’s weaknesses and faults. And yet that element of romance, of mystery and excitement is still there… sometimes.

Whether they catch the whale is superfluous. It’s adventure on the high seas regardless. And if some days are more mundane than others, if more often than not she ends up stranded on a rock, at least her life isn’t mundane as long as she sticks with Mulder.

B+

P.S. Another sub-genre of Romance is the chivalric tales of knights errant. I suppose that would make Mulder the rusty armored knight and Big Blue the dragon he failed to kill.

Comments:

Oh, Queequeg, we barely knew ye!

In Moby Dick, the character of Queequeg was a cannibal. Make of that what you will.

Best Quotes:

Queequeg: [Barks]
Scully: Nature’s calling, I think we should pull over.
Mulder: Did you really have to bring that thing?
Scully: You wake me up on a Saturday morning, tell me to be ready in five minutes, my mother is out of town, all of the dog sitters are booked and you know how I feel about kennels. So, unless you want to lose your security deposit on the car, I suggest you pull over.

——————–

Dr. Farraday: See this is what always happens. This is how it starts.
Mulder: What?
Dr. Farraday: The deflection, sleight of hand… See, whenever an issue requires any real thought, any serious mental, effort people turn to UFO’s and sea serpents and Sasquatch. Afternoon talkshows and tabloid TV, they’ve reduced our attention span to the length of a soundbite so that soon our ability to think will be as extinct as the Rana sphenocephala frog.
Mulder: I’ll take that rambling diatribe to mean that you don’t believe in the existence of such a creature.
Dr. Farraday: I’m not even going to grace that statement with a reply.

——————–

Mulder: Hey Scully, do you think you could ever cannibalize someone? I mean if you really had to.
Scully: Well, as much as the very idea is abhorrent to me, I suppose under certain conditions a living entity is practically conditioned to perform whatever extreme measures are necessary to ensure its survival. I suppose I’m no different.
Mulder: You’ve lost some weight recently, haven’t you?
Scully: Yeah. So I have. Thanks for… [Glare]

———————

Scully: I called him Ahab and he called me Starbuck. So I named my dog Queequeg… It’s funny, I just realized something.
Mulder: It’s a bizarre name for a dog, huh?
Scully: No. How much you’re like Ahab. You’re so… consumed by your personal vengeance against life whether it be its inherent cruelties or its mysteries, that everything takes on a warped significance to your megalomaniacal cosmology.
Mulder: Scully, are you coming on to me?

——————–

Scully: Well, you slew the big white whale, Ahab.
Mulder: Yeah, but I still don’t have that pegleg.

Grotesque 3×14: You never fit your own profile.


Art Therapy

“Grotesque” is a unique episode and admirably ambitious, yet I can’t help feeling that it takes itself a little too seriously at moments. And that, of course, just makes me want to roll my eyes at the most inappropriate times. I appreciate the plot and the concept and while it’s mostly successful, I feel slightly disengaged when I watch it. It’s sort of Mulder’s answer to the Scully-centered episode “Irresistible” (2×13) where the line between the paranormal and natural human evil is blurred, but this one is psychological rather than emotional. Good, and admirably ambitious, but not great.

Last time we actually saw Mulder care about someone’s negative opinion of him we were still somewhere in Season 1, when the memory of his former glory days at the F.B.I. weren’t far behind him and you could tell that the occasional dig still hit a nerve. Skepticism directed at Mulder’s abilities/sanity is nothing new. “Squeeze” (1×2) and even “Lazarus” (1×14) give us a glimpse at how often there’s sniggering behind his back. But every time we meet one of Mulder’s former colleagues, Jerry in “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and Reggie in “Young at Heart” (1×14), they have a healthy respect for Mulder’s capabilities. Heck, later on there will be Diana Fowley, another former partner who, er, recognizes Mulder’s strength. Between what we know of these characters’ relationships with him and his current partnership with Scully, to know Mulder is to love Mulder, or at least to learn to appreciate him despite himself. This is the first time we’ve seen someone who worked alongside Mulder actually dislike him. And it’s the first time in a long time that Mulder has reacted to anyone’s dislike. So what is eating Agent Patterson?

We never really find out why Mulder irritates Patterson so. But I remember having this genius friend in High School who aced Latin even though she spent 99% of every class passing notes with me, when she even came to class that is. Our teacher couldn’t stand her. I suspect something similar is going on with Patterson and Mulder. Either that or he’s the stereotypical 1950’s father who can’t tell his son how proud he is of him but put a few drinks in him and he’ll have no problems telling the rest of the world. I’m leaning towards the former as his venom toward Mulder denotes both admiration and jealousy.

His relationship with Scully in this episode isn’t much better. The further down the rabbit hole he goes the more he consciously shuts her out. Season 3 has seen the writers as a whole putting distance between Mulder and Scully in quite a few episodes. Things were too perfect between them in Season 2 to continue that way; they’d lack depth in the long run. But maybe there’s too much distancing going on now. Too often only one of them has enough of a personal connection to solve a specific case. Whatever happened to them figuring it out together? That hasn’t really occurred since “2Shy” (3×6) or possibly “The Walk” (3×7). Even “Nisei” (3×9) and “731” (3×10) saw them going down different investigative paths and drawing different conclusions. I submit that such a device makes logical sense in mythology episodes where the writers need to disseminate lots of material to the audience, and it allows both Mulder and Scully to grow as characters. But at some moments this season I’m left wondering why they’re even partners when they’re not working together.

I think soon the collective writing club at 1013 Productions comes to realize the Mulder and Scully seesaw is tilting too far in one direction and they start adding weight to the other side for the last half of the season, a development which I’m forever grateful for. It’s not that I don’t agree that Mulder and Scully should have independence, autonomy and interests apart from each other and even apart from the X-Files. That was part of what I enjoyed about “Revelations” (3×11) was that Scully had a supernatural niche all her own. I just miss seeing them work as a team rather than acting as an antagonist of sorts in each other’s individual drama.

The Verdict:

Besides the less than inspirational interpersonal dynamics, my other bone to pick with this episode is that the solution is too clear from the beginning. Only someone from the crime team knew the ins and outs of the murders? Then someone from the crime team committed the murders. And it’s certainly no shock when Patterson, obsessed with finding the killer, turns out to have found his killer’s obsession instead. In fact, we’re expecting it. With the 1980’s/1990’s rise to prominence of Criminal Profiling, the tale of an investigator becoming what he hunts isn’t exactly fresh and new. I couldn’t say for sure, but I don’t believe it was fresh in 1995 either.

I don’t think “freshness” is a concern here regardless. It’s a vehicle to let David Duchovny strut his emotional stuff, which he certainly does a solid job of. This episode is about exploring more of the tragic side of Mulder’s nature and his ability to intuitively understand people, the gift that’s actually a curse. Writer Howard Gordon, even more so when working with partner Alex Gansa, has a propensity toward the solemn and the serious when it comes to giving us X-Files. His previous offerings include “Conduit” (1×3), “Born Again” (1×21) and “Sleepless” (2×4), all episodes with a rather grim sense of loneliness, a theme echoed again here. He also successfully adds poeticism into the mix in “Dod Kalm” (2×19). “Grotesque” reminds me a lot of “Dod Kalm” in tone and theme; both show us a man slowly turning into what he hated and both are continually swathed in blue light.

After all that tepid to cold praise, I do like this episode. It’s a brave departure from the norm. I just wouldn’t turn it on to have a good time.

B

Peanut Gallery:

It’s a little difficult to believe Mulder went that crazy that fast, but then, they only have 43 minutes.

I kinda dig the exploration of insanity vs. demon possession. Which is which and how do we know? Like “Irresistible” before it, we don’t get a straight answer in the end.

Didn’t Mulder already have his tortured soul moment in “Oubliette” (3×8)? Maybe that doesn’t count since this one brought up Samantha and this one has absolutely nothing to do with his sister issues?

Scully’s one moment of glory in this episode, as she cocks her chin in Skinner’s office, is my favorite part.

Best Quotes:

Scully: So you’re not going to tell me when your love affair with Patterson ended?
Mulder: Patterson never liked me.
Scully: I thought you were considered the fair-haired boy when you joined the bureau.
Mulder: Not by Patterson.
Scully: Why not?
Mulder: Didn’t want to get my knees dirty. Couldn’t quite cast myself in the role of the dutiful student.
Scully: You mean you couldn’t worship him.
Mulder: Something like that, yeah.

——————–

Mulder: Patterson had this saying about tracking a killer. If you wanted, uh, to know an artist, you have to look at his art. What he really meant was if you wanted to catch a monster you had to become one yourself.

——————–

Agent Patterson: I have to tell you, I am really disappointed in you.
Mulder: Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint you by not disappointing you.

——————–

Agent Patterson: My advice to you, Scully: Let Mulder do what he has to do. Don’t get in his way and don’t try to hold him back… because you won’t be able to.

——————–

Skinner: Are you worried about him, Agent Scully?
Scully: No, sir.
Skinner: Off the record.
Scully: [Cocks her head]
Skinner: So am I.

War of the Coprophages 3×12: Dude, that’s some good crap.


"Waste is a Terrible Thing to Waste."

First of all, that opening monologue from the exterminator about the wonders of cockroaches is more satisfying than any purple prose ridden voiceover Mulder or Scully ever delivered. Once again writer Darin Morgan plays off of what we’ve come to expect from The X-Files by giving it to us and then flipping it over. But unlike the previous two Darin Morgan penned episodes, I’m not sure the underlying purpose/theme here is so clear.

Humbug” (2×20) juxtaposed normalcy versus otherness and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) covered fate versus free will. “War of the Coprophages”, while it hints at the fine line between reality and insanity, doesn’t explore the themes so much as it mocks them. Since we can’t be sure of what happened, it’s hard to condemn the people of Massachusetts for panicking when they very well may have had reason to. Overall, I’d have to concede that this episode isn’t quite as successful as his other ones. But it’s still incredibly fun.

The whole episode is an exercise in glorious repetition. Mulder seeks Scully out for her insight, Mulder hangs up on Scully. Mulder comes upon another body that was attacked by cockroaches, Scully comes up with another reasonable explanation. Mulder quotes Planet of the Apes… Bambi quotes Planet of the Apes. Not only that, as I said earlier, Morgan deftly plays with X-Files stereotypes. Mulder’s always ditching Scully and leaving her hanging, well, here it’s an almost compulsive ritual. And no matter how absurd and inexplicable the death Mulder stumbles upon, Scully comes up with an even more random and infinitely more plausible explanation.

So now for the oft discussed question: Is Scully jealous? To which I answer: It’s there, ever so slightly. It’s all in the way Scully says “She?” when she finds out Dr. Berenbaum is a woman. Dana Scully, M.D. surely wasn’t surprised at the idea that a scientist could be a woman. No, never that. Instead I think there was a sudden realization of what Mulder was actually up to while she slept restlessly with her phone on her pillow. Not that there’s anything to go overboard about. Any woman would be annoyed by that. And when Mulder asks to confess something to Scully, something both she and we as the audience suspect is going to be sexual in nature, she looks worried she’s about to be grossed out. She doesn’t look jealous, sad or angry. As for Mulder, once again, he’s flirting with another woman while confessing his fears and insecurities to Scully. It’s sort of like “Fire” (1×11) all over again. Poor Mulder. Like his relationship with Phoebe Green, he should’ve known it would never work; she’s not haunted, abandoned or misunderstood. With the exception of Scully, he doesn’t have an easy time connecting with well-adjusted women.

Not that I’m on his side. I myself want to kill him for leaving Scully hanging in a state of near panic but I’m so busy laughing that I can’t stay mad. She’s thinking he’s been attacked by killer cockroaches and meanwhile he’s macking on an entomologist named Bambi. I’d say you can’t make this stuff up but Darin Morgan apparently can.

Conclusion:

If this episode has a weakness it’s the lack of resolution. I know that’s one of The X-Files’ signature moves, but here we finish watching completely unsure whether the events even really happened. There are too many cockroach swarms for it all to be a coincidence, yet all the deaths have normal explanations. More importantly, where did the metal insects come from, why did they converge on this town and what made them leave? Who created these mechanical marvels? In the end, the unanswered questions are no big deal because it’s such a jolly ride.

It’s fun to see how Scully spends her evenings for one thing. She cleans her gun, eats dinner while watching the news, gives Queequeg a bath, reads a little Truman Capote and eats a tub of ice cream by herself. It’s so hilariously domestic considering she spends her working hours chasing flukemen and such. Scully had a few off episodes not too long ago, “Oubliette” (3×8) comes to mind. But between this and “Revelations” (3×11), her character is on the fast track to respectability again. Morgan’s version of her is both loveable and feisty. What a relief.

I’ll admit that the last moment between Mulder and Scully still annoys me a bit. He has his nerve. So Mulder loses the girl and Scully rubs his nose in it. But you know what? He deserves it.

A-

Random Musings:

The area is in a panic. The townsfolk are raiding the convenience store. There’s a Sailor stocking up on… pantyhose??

Bill Dow AKA Dr. Chuck Burks is back, only this time as Dr. Newton.

Ken Kramer AKA Dr. Berube AKA Dr. Browning is back too, only this time as Dr. Ivanov.

Scully’s vehement defense of the theory of Evolution feels slightly odd coming straight off of “Revelations”.

Best Quotes:

*Editor’s Note: You know the drill. It’s a Darin Morgan episode. Quotes won’t suffice. Break out your DVDs or pull up Netflix and get started.

Scully: Hello.
Mulder: I think you better get up here.
Scully: What is it?
Mulder: It appears that cockroaches are mortally attacking people.
Scully: I’m not going to ask if you just said what I think you just said because I know it’s what you just said.

———————-

Mulder: I see the correlation, but just because I work for the federal government doesn’t mean I’m an expert on cockroaches.

———————-

Mulder: Well, that all makes perfect sense, Scully, I don’t like it at all. Did you know that the federal government, under the guise of the department of agriculture, has been conducting secret experiments up here.
Scully: Mulder, you’re not thinking about trespassing on government property again, are you? I know you’ve done it in the past but I don’t think this case warrants…
Mulder: It’s too late. I’m already inside.

———————-

Mulder: They’re conducting legitimate experiments. I met an entomologist, a Dr. Berenbaum, who agrees with your theory of an accidental importation of a new cockroach.
Scully: Did he give you any idea of how to catch them?
Mulder: No, but she did tell me everything else there was to know about insects.
Scully: She?
Mulder: Yeah, did you know that the ancient Egyptians worshipped the scarab beetle and possibly erected the pyramids to honor them? Which may be giant symbolic dung heaps?
Scully: Did you know the inventor of the flush toilet was named Thomas Crapper?
Mulder: Bambi also has a theory I’ve never come across…
Scully: Who?
Mulder: Dr. Berenbaum. Anyway her theory is…
Scully: Her name is Bambi?
Mulder: Yeah, both her parents were naturalists. Her theory is that UFOs are actually nocturnal insect swarms passing through electrical air fields.
Scully: Her name is Bambi?
Mulder: Scully, can I confess something to you?
Scully: [Wincing] Yeah, sure, okay…
Mulder: I hate insects.
Scully: You know, lots of people are afraid of insects, Mulder. It’s a natural instinctive…
Mulder: No, no, no. I’m not afraid of them. I hate them. One day, back when I was a kid, I was climbing this tree when I noticed this leaf walking towards me. It took forever for me to realize that it was no leaf.
Scully: A praying mantis?
Mulder: Yeah, I had a praying mantis epiphany and as a result, I screamed. And not, not a girlie scream, but the scream of someone being confronted by some before unknown monster that had no right existing on the same planet I inhabited. Did you ever notice how a praying mantis’ head resembles an alien’s head? The mysteries of the natural world were revealed to me that day but instead of being astounded I was repulsed.
Scully: Mulder… are you sure it wasn’t a girlie scream?

———————-

Dr. Ivanov: Anyone who thinks alien visitation will come not in the form of robots but of living beings with big eyes and grey skin has been brainwashed by too much science fiction.

———————-

Mulder: Scully, if an alien civilization were technologically advanced enough to build and send artificially intelligent robotic probes to the farthest reaches of space, might they not have also been able to perfect the extraction of methane fuel from manure? An abundant and replenishing energy source on a planet filled with dung-producing creatures?
Scully: Mulder, I think you’ve been in this town too long.

———————-

Scully: Let me guess… Bambi.
Dr. Berenbaum: Fox told me to wait out here while he checked inside first.
Scully: [Mouths] Fox.
Dr. Berenbaum: Should I come along with you?
Scully: [Loads gun] No. This is no place for an entomologist.