Tag Archives: Salvage

Home Again 10×2: You’re gonna be all right now.


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The thing about raves is that they’re shorter than rants. So I warn you right now that I don’t have much to tell you. There wasn’t a whole lot of deep observation going on as I watched this episode, just pirouettes and prancing.

You would think, you would think, that the episode where Maggie Scully dies would have left me feeling bereft and befuddled with tears. If I adored Maggie Scully, then what’s with the goofy grin on my face that won’t be suppressed?

I can’t help it. I’m home again.

I’m Special Agent Dana Scully and this is Special Agent Fox Mulder.

And we’re done here. My life is complete. That one initial shot of the two of them was worth both the eight year wait after I Want to Believe AND having to sit through all of Season 9. I actually had to fan myself. With a literal fan. It has red and pink flowers on it.

I knew within the teaser, when that classic Mark Snow soundtrack started playing, that this was the direction I personally needed to show to go in. And within the first two minutes of Mulder and Scully on the case, barring any fourth quarter fumbles, I knew this was going to be in the A range. Here’s your one chance, Fancy. Don’t let me down.

Then Petula Clark gave a post-mortem comeback performance and it was all over for me. Diegetic music hasn’t been used to send a victim to the River Styx like this since “Kill Switch” (5×11). And of course, we can’t forget the legendary use of “Wonderful! Wonderful!” in “Home” (4×3), which is what we’re obviously intended to remember.

Oh, wait. I’m sorry. I take that back. This is when it was all over.

Scully: Back in the day, didn’t we ever come across the ability to just wish someone back to life?

Mulder: I invented it. When you were in the hospital like this.

Scully: You’re a dark wizard, Mulder.

Mulder: What else is new?

Yes, we’re only halfway through, but I’m already quite certain that this will remain my favorite moment of the revival. Nay, but this dotage of mine o’erflows the measure. This may very well go down as one of my favorite Mulder/Scully moments in the entire series.

Speaking of Mulder’s mysterious powers and mysteriously well-placed flashbacks, this probably should’ve been called “One Breath Again”. I just can’t get over the looks on their faces as they both remember the events of that episode. See? This is what I’m talking about: the way they bring their entire history into their every interaction. This is what I’ve been missing. No, some emotional context is not too much to ask for.

On that note, this very history and context is why the “breakup” as such is an exercise in dramatic futility. Their “relationship” is their history; it’s their partnership. A casual viewer can see clearly that there’s a connection here that goes as deep as the ocean, and no amount of surface level machination is going to penetrate that depth. It’s also a connection that need not be worn on the surface. It needn’t even come up in onscreen conversation as an issue, as it didn’t here and no one missed it. For Spock’s sake, no one wants to watch them play at playing house. Just let them be.

And is it just me, or is this the first time this actually feels like a natural continuation of the series proper rather than an exercise in nostalgia? I feel like tapping complete strangers on the shoulder and saying, “This is my show,” not, “This is The X-Files: Millennial Edition,” or “This is The X-Files: Alt-U Version ft. Mulder and Scully Wax Figures.”

If the characters came back last episode, the show itself is back in classic form now. Yes, it’s modern, updated and evolved. But all the round pegs are going into round holes again.

You’re responsible. If you made the problem, if it was your idea, then you’re responsible. You put it out of sight so that it wouldn’t be your problem, but you’re just as bad as the people that you hate.

That was deep, Scully. You wouldn’t be talking about Chris Carter and you and William, would you? Call me crazy, but I find this episode more emotionally on point than “Founder’s Mutation” (10×5) which read more like a dirge than a reckoning. Here Scully is finally coming to grips with having abdicated responsibility for William, and to unsuspecting, ill-equipped strangers at that. Well, she sort of does, anyway.

I know now why Mom asked for Charlie, even though he was out of her life. She wanted to know before [s]he left that he’d be okay. She gave birth to him. She made him. He’s her responsibility. And that’s why she said what she said to us. She wanted to make sure that we’d be responsible, and know that William’s okay, even though we can’t see him. I know that as parents we* made a difficult sacrifice to keep him safe, that it was for his own good to put him up for adoption. But I can’t help but think of him, Fox {Ew}. I can’t help it. I believe that you will find all of your answers. You will find the answers to the biggest mysteries and I will be there when you do. But my mysteries, I’ll never have answered. I won’t know if he thinks of me too or if he’s ever been afraid and wished that I was there. Does he doubt himself because we* left him? What questions does he have of me? The same that I have of this coin? And I want to believe, I need to believe, that we* didn’t treat him like trash.

Whoa, Nelly. You hold it right there, Miss Uber M.D.. “We???” Wherefore comes this “we”? Not to guilt trip you or anything, but “we” didn’t give William away. “We” weren’t there. You were there. I know. I was there. I watched Chris Carter make you do a bad, bad thing. But thanks ever so for at least again acknowledging Mulder’s presence in the sacred bed.

When it comes to responsibility for William being gone, it’s a convenient “we,” but when it comes to what or who William needs she reverts back to the singular. I forgive you, Scully.

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s always a good sign when I start yelling at my television screen.

Verdict:

Yes. Yes. Absolutely, yes. Never leave me again.

I’m dang sure going to miss Maggie Scully and Sheila Larken’s memorable performances. But if she had to go out, at least she went out right. Only after having watched Season 9 can you appreciate the magnitude of that.

And it’s true that as much as we may love our families, when it comes to our parents especially, there are parts of one another as individuals that we can never know. There was more to Maggie Scully than Scully could ever hope to find out. And there’s more to Scully than William will ever realize.

Now, you heard Maggie. Go get your boy.

A

Comments and Commentary:

That’s the darkest ICU I’ve ever seen.

1 demerit for Scully calling Mulder “Fox.”

“I didn’t bring him here. He came to me!” – My review of “William” (9×17) in a nutshell.

I don’t know what those shots are called when they strap a camera around the actor’s waist, wind them up and let them go. But I rarely find them effective.

Let’s take a moment to honor Scully’s palpable relief at Mulder showing up when she needed him.

We’re due for another reckoning: Does Scully resent the time she spent away from her mother and her family for nothing?

Who would put their brother’s full name in their phone like that?

For a second I thought this might be a new take on “Salvage” (8×10). If you’ve seen one garbage man you’ve seen them all, right?

Note the cleverly subtle correction of The X-Files previous treatment of the Tulpa myth. Though I think Mulder may have been closer to right back in “Arcadia” (6×13).

There are also deep echoes of “Milagro” (6×18) here…

Mulder: Did you direct him to do it?

Padgett: Jungians would say it’s the characters who choose the writer, not the other way around. So I guess you could argue he directed me.

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

 

Salvage 8×10: More powerful than a speeding locomotive.


 

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No jaywalking.

Up until the last episode, “Surekill” (8×9), Season 8 hadn’t really shown us anything bad, just episodes that were more or less successful. In “Salvage”, the boredom train keeps a-rollin’, though like several Season 8 episodes that don’t live up to their initial promise, the teaser starts off pretty well.

Methinks the brain team over at 1013 Productions were reminiscing over their Superman comics right about this time. We just had a villain with x-ray vision and now we have a man of steel. Okay, that’s fine. A man who can withstand a car plowing into him sounds cool enough. But after the initial startling image, where do you take the idea? “Salvage” feels as though someone had a brilliant concept, but couldn’t come up with a story likewise brilliant enough to sustain it.

Charged with penning what may likely have been a group idea was Jeffrey Bell, the writer who gave us “Rain King” (6×7), “Alpha” (6×14), “The Goldberg Variation” (7×2), and “Signs and Wonders” (7×9). As you can see, his level of success has varied widely. “Salvage” would be his last effort for The X-Files before moving on to Angel and eventually becoming the showrunner there. He’s currently working on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so whatever I’m about to say, I think he’s doing okay.

Once again, the story presumes that the audience is familiar with Scully and Doggett as a pair and that they’re familiar with each other as well. They seem to have slipped into a routine. Funny, I never got the memo. I guess I can’t be mad at it since seeing them constantly at odds would distract from the Monster of the Week episodes and those have always been my favorites so that would be a shame. And hearing Mulder regularly mentioned would also be distracting and frustrating since we’re no closer to finding him and no one seems to be making moves in that direction either.

Anyway, my point is that this episode is rather formulaic considering a successful formula for Scully and Doggett solving cases has yet to be developed. The result is staid and joyless. “Salvage” isn’t the worst story, but it has no sense of adventure, it’s not shocking, it’s not frightening, it’s not thoughtful and it’s not funny, despite a half-hearted attempt at a Terminator 2 in joke. It’s a cute reference to Robert Patrick’s movie past. But that’s all it is, a cute reference, as if the show’s been forced to acknowledge the similarities between “Salvage” and Terminator 2 or they figured they’d better say something before the audience does. Cute can’t save the episode.

I should feel bad for victim and villain Ray Pearce, or at least sympathetic toward his bereaved wife. There are echoes of “Kaddish” (4×12) here; a couple is separated by death before their time and the husband comes back as a monster instead of as the loving man his woman once knew. I would probably understand his dark mission better if Pearce’s vengeance wasn’t misplaced, if his friends had purposefully betrayed him or exposed him to something knowing it would kill him. Instead, he and his wife are both looking for people to blame and then spontaneously giving up on revenge, rather than deserving vengeance and magnanimously and consciously giving up their right to it. That could have held my emotional interest. This was just going through the motions.

Sigh.

Scully and Doggett better find themselves some compelling chemistry quickly if they hope to carry episodes this lackluster.

Verdict:

I know it sounds like I hate “Salvage” but I don’t hate it, I just don’t care about it which is almost worse. It’s a filler episode, another tale we’ll forget on our journey back to Mulder. Scully and Doggett don’t grow any closer, and the case doesn’t prove to be anything special. The cast of guest characters is quickly forgotten.

On the side of pleasantries, the production is as high quality as ever and the special effects are downright impressive. But even those aren’t enough to make me want to watch this again.

We’ve hit a lull in Season 8. There’s nothing to do but wait it out and there’s nowhere to go from the valley but up.

C+

Salvaged Parts:

One image that has stuck with me is Ray Pearce clipping the metal spikes sticking out of his cheek. That’s pretty gross.

Speaking of spikes and other random things sticking out of somebody, Ray Pearce looks more like a humanized form of the garbage monster in “Arcadia” (6×13) than he does like a metal man. Maybe this was an attempt at not alluding to Terminator 2 too closely? So he becomes salvaged metal parts rather than a single metal alloy?

Scully and Doggett show up at the scene early enough that the car hasn’t been moved yet. So who are these scientists who have already come up with these detailed physics calculations that Scully quotes?

I’m sorry. I’m still not used to Scully playing Mulder. I don’t think I’ll ever be.

When a murder is suspected, don’t police check nearby dumpsters as a matter of course?

A guy made of metal tries to get out of a metal barrel and can’t because the metal is too strong. But Doggett can just kick the barrel over and knock it open?

How did Mrs. Pearce get in the Chamber Technologies building and into one of the private offices? That looked like a major corporation, the kind where not everyone could get past the front desk. Not to mention, there was a police presence.

I saw palm trees outside of the corporate office. Do they have palm trees in Indiana?

Best Quotes:

Doggett: Car’s registered to a Curtis Delario, local address. So far, he’s been unreachable.

Scully: Well, it’s highly unlikely that wherever he is he feels like picking up the phone this morning.

——————–

Doggett: [On phone] What are you saying? Ray Pearce has become some kind of metal man? Because that only happens in the movies, Agent Scully.

Scully: [On phone] Does it, Agent Doggett?