Tag Archives: Sanguinarium

Nothing Lasts Forever 11×9: I always wondered how this was gonna end.


 

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Our irreverent constant and her touchstone.

 

 

First of all, pancreas lickin’ surgeons like what in the whole wide world?????

That one moment was harder to watch than all of “Sanguinarium” (4×6).

More importantly, who are you Karen Nielsen and how may I serve you?????

As I try to calm down, let me introduce you to me sitting down to watch this episode. Watching the teaser, I had just started chewing on a gooey Margherita pizza complete with spicy salami. You can imagine my discomfiture.

And at first, I’ll admit, I was cocking an eyebrow at this Catholic Kunoichi plot. I’m still cocking an eyebrow at it, but thankfully, the episode takes the themes deeper than vampire slaying.

Wait, no it doesn’t. It just takes the vampire slaying theme really, really deep. I won’t even try to cover all the themes touched on here. I can’t and keep things coherent. I’m surprised the episode could. But let’s cover what we shall, shall we?

You’re going to think this is strange, but the day I watched this episode, without knowing a thing about it or even remembering the previous week’s teaser, I had been having a conversation with myself in the car that morning about the Bible’s Old and New Testament proscriptions against eating the blood of animals and the inherently blasphemous nature of vampire myths. Because, doesn’t everyone?

Since said conversation has proven oddly (divinely?) relevant to the episode at hand, let me share a few verses surprisingly relevant to this conversation. Bear with me.

Leviticus 17:10-13, 14 (NLT)

“And if any native Israelite or foreigner living among you eats or drinks blood in any form, I will turn against that person and cut him off from the community of your people, for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible. That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood—neither you nor the foreigners living among you.’… The life of every creature is in its blood. That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood, for the life of any creature is in its blood.’ So whoever consumes blood will be cut off from the community.

Here we see God forbid His people to eat blood for two reasons. One, in its blood is the life that God Himself gave it. To eat the blood is to disrespect not merely the life, but the One who gave the life. Two, blood is provided as atonement, which is a $10 word that means to pay the price for a sin committed. Ergo, the innocent bull’s blood is shed for the sins you committed so that you yourself don’t have to die for them even though you deserve to. Blood is the only price that can be paid for sin.

John 6:51-58 New Living Translation (NLT)

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked.

So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”

If you’re saying “WHAT?” right about now, join a couple thousand years’ worth of multitudes before you. Unsurprisingly, most of Jesus’ disciples abandoned Him after this. But Jesus is speaking in spiritual terms, not physical ones, His point being that in the same way people eat food to live, we must feed off of Him to live spiritually and eternally.

You’re starting to see the relevance to our X-Files discussion, yes???

Matthew 26:26-28 (NLT)

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

Finally, not only is Jesus’ flesh and blood the life source provided for all of mankind, but His innocent blood is sacrificed as a payment for mankind’s sins. In other words, the innocent takes the punishment for the guilty so that the guilty don’t have to be punished for their own sins. The innocent is sacrificed in order for the guilty to live.

Whew! I know that was a lot. But we had to get on the same page with all most some of writer Karen Nielsen’s myriad Biblical allusions before we could go any further.

Anyway, this moment of breaking bread and drinking wine that Jesus first shared with His disciples is what’s known in Christianity as the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, or the Eucharist among other names. Jesus’ disciples still commemorate His death this way. Now, Catholic Christians believe that during the Eucharist, the wafer and wine that Christ speaks of here materially and substantially, and through no small sacred mystery, become the body and blood of Christ. This belief is called transubstantiation.

Now we can clearly see the parallels being made between the cannibalism in the opening scene, not only the literal licking of a putrid pancreas, but the cannibalism of one human being’s organs for another human being’s survival, be that human being an aging starlet or a nameless patient in a hospital, and Scully’s participation in the Eucharist.

If the innocent dying for the guilty is a spiritual principle and even Scully takes part in the body and blood of Christ, Scully, who by the end prays to Mulder rather than God, is Barbara Beaumont really so evil?

YES.

If you remember without scrolling up however many pages I’ve been venting my Phile emotions, blood is sacred for two (heavily simplified) reasons: 1. It contains within itself life given by God which man has no right to desecrate. 2. Blood is the only thing that can pay for sin. It’s blood that pays for sin in both the Old and New Testaments and blood is forbidden to be consumed in both the Old and the New Testaments (ref. Acts 15:28-29).

What is a vampire? It’s a creature that should be dead but keeps itself unnaturally and blasphemously alive by mocking Christ’s sacrifice for sin and further mocking its Creator by feeding on a life He made. Welcome, Barbara Beaumont. Come on down to Crazy Town.

By the by, if you ever wondered why Dracula was afraid of crucifixes and sacramental bread, it’s because everything he was and did was in violation of God’s natural and spiritual laws. Now you know. Tell a friend.

So, this is an episode that toys with cannibalism but is really about the physical and spiritual implications of vampirism. And might I add, it’s a much more interesting treatment of vampirism than the dreck that was “3” (2×7), which naturally, I skipped during my most recent rewatch.

For that matter, if we’re going back, “Our Town” (2×24) also treated cannibalism as another form of vampirism that provided the gateway to eternal youth for its practitioners, only blood wasn’t touched upon, visually or otherwise, so much or so often as it is here.

Wait. I forgot my comparison to Scully. Rewind. She’s Catholic again? Didn’t she just?… Wasn’t there just?… That whole “no evil” speech… I just… Mmm. Kay.

Anyway, Scully is fueling herself on the blood of Jesus (Really, she’s just reaffirming an ambiguous faith in faith itself, but why split hairs?). She’s not violating any natural or spiritual principles by participating in the Eucharist. She’s a Catholic in good standing and no Barbara Beaumont. May Scully live forever.

Mulder, though, he knows he’s a reprobate. He’s my favorite fictional reprobate ever. Mulder doesn’t believe in God, he believes in Scully. This is something I probably don’t find sweet the way that many Philes do, but I do get it. It’s very human. (It’s not quite where we left Mulder’s character development in “The Truth” (9×19/20) or I Want to Believe, but I’ve given up on continuity. You can’t be disappointed if you don’t care.) And it’s consistent with the nature of their relationship over the years. Scully, for her part, privately whispers her prayer for their future to Mulder rather than God. And even though I have my personal misgivings that Barbara Beaumont and Dr. Luvenis aren’t the only sacrilegiously attached couple who have outstayed their welcome, HOW ABOUT THIS IS PRETTY MUCH HOW THEIR RELATIONSHIP SHOULD BE ALL THE TIME, THANK YOU, CHRIS CARTER.

Seriously, though. Does Mulder worship Scully any less than Dr. Luvenis worshipped Barbara Beaumont?

Verdict:

With no intention of making a perverse pun, I finally have some meat to chew on. I have something interesting enough to muse over. It was not too much to ask.

This doesn’t just challenge your gag reflex like “F. Emasculata” (2×22) or make you squirm in your seat like “Roadrunners” (8×5). My very soul recoils at certain scenes here. Much of it felt over the top and unnecessary. And yet, I’m here to tell you that in terms of writing, I think it’s the most well thought out episode of the season and possibly the whole revival (if I had the stomach to rewatch all of Season 10).

It has to end sometime, Scully. And if this little shenanigans Chris Carter once called a breakup had to end, I’m glad it ended this way. And if The X-Files has to end (I’ll say a prayer for that), let it end with this, one last thoroughly thought out episode, ‘cause we all know the next one’s not gonna be it.

Oh yes, there are the parallels between The X-Files unnaturally extending itself through this revival and Barbara Beaumont sitting in the dark, reliving her heyday on a loop. No, nothing lasts forever.

Except for eternity in heaven or eternity in hell.

“I made a choice – It was mine. I’d gladly trade my lifetime here for an eternity in heaven.”

A-

Just for Kicks:

By the by, another conversation I had had earlier in the day before I watched this episode? About cults and about how one of the hallmarks of them is absolute control by a teacher who knows everything you don’t. This time I was actually talking with someone outside my own head, though.

Once again, Mulder’s uncanny intuition is on overdrive.

What is reverse aging when you spend your pretty-faced life in a lightless coffin of a tenement apartment in New York City with a naked, dirty crowd of grown adults who use words like “dinnie”? Go ahead and kill me.

Barbara Beaumont bordered on too comical at times, and crossed that border into farcical during her little musical recital. I confess, this took me out of the episode a bit. And yet, mad props to Season 11 for using diegetic music in in two out of its ten episodes. Y’all know I’m a sucker for that.

Speaking of Barbara Beaumont, did the actress that played her remind anyone else of Mila Kunis?

Still, no one has answered the question: Where did Juliet learn how to be a ninja?

“Every human being has a time bomb built into their genes.” TRUE. And in more than one way. The Bible calls it original sin. Like yeast in a loaf of bread, decay by a more palatable name, it’s eventual corruption is built in it from the beginning.

Scully would, could, should be dead after her fall through that dumbwaiter and yet Mulder was pretty much chilling.

Continuity Control: During Season 1, Mulder wore glasses while reading more times than I have the patience to post links for, not least of which was the very first shot we ever had of Mulder in the Pilot (1×79).

What a coincidence that Juliet comes walking into the church that Scully’s praying at. Of all the diocese in all the towns in all the world, you walk into mine.

Am I the only one? I’m a veteran X-Phile, but sometimes the cinematography was so dark I, mercifully, couldn’t make out what was happening.

There are moments of supreme tension here. I actually partially covered my eyes when Barbara Beaumont leaned in to kiss one of her minions. I was afraid I was about to witness a bloodbath.

Juliet and Olivia’s last name, Bocanegra, “black mouth”. I wonder if there’s a history to that name I don’t know about? Or am I just supposed to be visualizing a mouth black with blood? Eww.

Best Quotes:

You may have noticed that this section of my reviews has been neglected for a while now. That’s because there hasn’t been anything worth quoting. But somehow, this time around, there was so much great dialogue I had to pick and choose and still left some great quotes out. Scully and Mulder have the best banter they’ve had all season. Nay, since the final episode that awaits is none other than the inventively named “My Struggle IV” (11×10), I think it’s safe to officially call this the best banter of the season. Period.

Scully: Are those new? Bifocals?

Mulder: They’re not bifocals, Scully. They’re… progressives. They’re called progressive lenses.

Scully: No need to get defensive.

Mulder: I’m not defensive, I’m just…

Scully: Presbyopia’s a natural part of the aging process.

————————–

Mulder: You know, sometimes I wonder why we keep doing it, Scully, in the face of all this indifference and presbyopia… Did you get your hair cut?

Scully: …Are you kidding me?

—————————

Mulder: Now I know why I’m not a Christian, Scully. My parents never got me a puppy.

—————————

Scully: You always bear north, Mulder, no matter which way or how hard the wind blows against you.

—————————

Scully: You think she’s involved?

Mulder: I think she is. My gut tells me she is. And my gut doesn’t need glasses.

 

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Sanguinarium 4×6: I hope those instruments were properly sterilized.


Vanity, Vanity...

I remember how my heart sank when the Orthopedist told me I was going to have to have surgery on my knee. You’d think if one was going to tear their ACL in a skiing accident, one would have been sailing down the Blue slopes at least, instead of ending up in a pile at the bottom of the lift before one technically set foot on Blue ground. There should at least be a glamorous War Story to go with a Battle Scar. But I digress.

Even though I was raised by a Physician and have never been queasy about the practice of medicine or medicines themselves, surgery is one of those events I’ve hoped since childhood never to participate in. Maybe it’s the loss of control, maybe it’s the horror stories I’ve heard about reactions to anesthesia, maybe it’s the fact that even the best Surgeon can fumble and that unexpected curveballs can be thrown once the human body is opened up, but I’ve mentally shied away. Which is why it’s been difficult for me to wrap my head around our skyrocketing plastic surgery rates here in the U.S.

After all, surgery is surgery. And this episode touches on the (usually) unspoken fears of patients and the platitudes that they comfort themselves with; “It’s a routine procedure”,  “routine” meaning that nothing bad can happen. “Sanguinarium” highlights the ultimate vulnerability of patient’s situation, plays on that anxiety, and then takes us on a tangent of horror that serves the story better at moments than at others.

Despite the public’s many concerns over “Home” (4×3), this is the first time I’ve personally found an episode a little too gross. While I’m not squeamish, something about a bath full of blood screams, “overkill” to me. Then there’s that whole “watch a man peel off his own skin” thing.

Aside from questionable content, it’s actually well done, thanks, no doubt, to The X-Files’ go-to man for horror, director Kim Manners. The scene when Nurse Waite coughs up those straight pins is particularly nicely shot. The police lights add to the chaos and adrenaline of the moment while disguising what amounts to a cheap theatrical trick under a cover of half-darkness. For me it’s the most memorable moment of the episode.

Sans blood and gore, much of the episode is spent in exposition about the current state of healthcare, the rise of plastic surgery that’s gone hand in hand with the fall of medicine in general.

Dr. Shannon: Our practice has been affiliated with Greenwood for 13 years. Now the ASU accounts for over 50% of this hospital’s revenue. Do you know what that means?

Scully: It means that while Doctors in other fields have seen their earnings fall because of managed healthcare you’ve all managed to become wealthy.

Whatever the situation was in 1997, it’s far more pronounced now. Where I was raised is both one of the Cosmetic Surgery capitals and Geriatric capitals of the U.S., which makes for an odd combination. People regularly take out massive loans to pay for superfluous procedures in cash or put it on credit and add years’ worth of debt to their lives, but it’s not uncommon to visit a General Practitioner’s office and overhear someone refusing to pay their $20 Co-pay… someone who’s clearly been pulled and stuffed once too often.

Why put ourselves in such a precarious position for nothing more than vanity? Surgery is still surgery after all. But it’s easy to get caught up in the culture, as Mulder is evidence of in this episode. His prodding in the mirror is a cute diversion. Though I find myself raising a skeptical eyebrow at the fact that they expect us to believe that someone who looked like Fox Mulder/David Duchovny would actually consider changing his face.

This is one of those episodes where Mulder and Scully don’t put a stop to the evil. Sure, they figure out what Dr. Franklyn, now Dr. Hartman, was up to. But he’s clearly going keep up his Blood Rejuvenation scheme for a very, very long time.

And the Verdict is…

In the end, things turned out better for me than they did for Mulder and Scully. By the Grace of God, my knee was healed, much to the shock of my Orthopedist. Surgery was rendered unnecessary and I was spared the experience of, well, surgery.

“Sanguinarium” is a solid sort of episode, I suppose. But it’s gross without being satisfying the way an episode of The X-Files usually is. Which is not to say that I don’t like it because I do, it’s just not quite enough to get the taste of “The Field Where I Died” (4×5) out of my mouth.

B

Leftovers:

Why doesn’t Dr. Shannon want to be operated on and why do Mulder and Scully try to stop it? If they didn’t take that stuff out, wouldn’t she just have thrown it up and died anyway?

Maybe to make up for the Wiccan outcry over “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14) we have a “good” witch in this story. Although, it turns out there was an even larger outcry over this one…

I saw you checking out that nurse, Fox Mulder.

Best Quotes:

Dr. Franklyn/Dr. Hartman: I like to say that whoever God didn’t get around to creating in His own image, it’s our job to recreate in ours.

———————

Scully: There’s magic going on here, Mulder. Only it’s being done with silicone, collagen, and a well-placed scalpel.

———————

Dr. Lloyd: I think this patient… is finished.

———————

Mulder: Are you aware that Dr. Lloyd is claiming that he was possessed during the incident?
Nurse Waite: I guess it’s cheaper than malpractice insurance.

The Field Where I Died 4×5: I could’ve lived without that just fine.


Well, at least the shots were gorgeous.

You have no idea how I had to brace myself for this one. I seriously considered breaking my own cardinal rule and jumping ahead to “Sanguinarium” (4×6). Then I briefly considered skipping this one altogether in the hope that no one would notice, and if they did notice, that they probably wouldn’t miss it. My obsessive compulsiveness has prevailed, however, so let’s get this over with…

When writers Morgan and Wong left in Season 2, Mulder and Scully were close partners. Nearly two seasons later when Morgan and Wong come back on board, Mulder and Scully’s relationship has taken on epic proportions, both within the show itself and even more so in the minds of the viewers. When they left, there had been no ultimate trade in “End Game” (2×17), no psychic connection in “The Blessing Way” (3×1), no sacrifice of the Holy Grail in “Paper Clip” (3×2), no “Pusher” (3×17), no “Wetwired” (3×23), etc. etc.

This may be blasphemous, but I think the justly praised writing team who helped shaped The X-Files into greatness had lost touch to an extent. Maybe they’d spent too much time away. All four episodes they would write for this season seemed to be forcing new ground on the audience rather than breaking it. A couple did it successfully, like the glorious “Home” (4×3), while others did not.

For this outing, I think it’s clear where Morgan and Wong stood on the topic of Mulder and Scully. Not that there’s anything wrong with their Noromo position. Heck, that was the 1013 party line at the time. But I think what they failed to take into account, maybe because they had been working on other things and didn’t understand it, was the current state of the fandom and the pseudo-sanctity of the Mulder and Scully relationship.

I’m going to set all Shipperhood aside for this one. I don’t even need it. Even under the premise that Mulder and Scully are and should remain perfectly platonic, I have to have reason to believe that Mulder has suddenly made a connection that has a gravitational pull more powerful than or at least equal to the one he has with Scully in order for this episode to work. That doesn’t happen.

Kristen Cloke, the actress who plays Melissa Reidal and who happened to be engaged to Glen Morgan at the time, called the episode “a love letter from Glen Morgan to me” and indeed that’s what it feels like; a personal exploration of themes more so than an X-File. Darin Morgan used to do this except that somehow his themes always added to rather than subtracted from the series as a whole. He gave new dimensions and flavors to something that was already familiar.

This episode is barely connected to the rest of the series either in tone or content. As such, it feels like a personal indulgence. It fails to consider the ramifications of what it’s proposing and it fails to consider the context of the series at large. Take, for instance, this issue of continuity: In one of Mulder’s past lives CSM was a Nazi Gestapo Officer. Yet CSM would already have been alive in WWII, a fact that you would think couldn’t have escaped Mulder once he was no longer hypnotized. How could he be in both lives at the same time? Hmmm?

It’s moments like this that prove the episode doesn’t really serve the characters either. It reduces Mulder to a fool and Scully to a sidekick. “The Field Where I Died” takes place in an episodic vacuum where the events don’t make sense and it doesn’t matter anyway because the emotional ramifications of these revelations will never be dealt with. Mulder’s supposed past life and the loss of his soulmate are issues never to be seen or spoken of again.

Issues of context and continuity aside, even without that problem and taken just by itself, this episode is almost as boring as “Space” (1×9), and it would be if it didn’t get my adrenaline fired up through irritation. I tried to imagine as I watched what I would be thinking if I were watching this and it were just another TV show, not The X-Files at all. Would I have responded more favorably? I think so, but only by about 20% more. Reincarnation is a hard sell to a Western audience and the advertisements here aren’t appealing. It’s a concept that really has to be done well to be engaging, a feat that’s rarely achieved outside of anime.

Melissa’s voices are too goofy to take seriously so the performance is comical instead of affecting. Sidney in particular is way over the top. And since he’s the first voice we’re introduced to, it’s hard to climb back up from there. Then in a chain reaction, since what draws Mulder to her character is something that I find ridiculous, I find Mulder ridiculous. And if I find both Mulder and his X-File ridiculous there’s little left to enjoy. Ah, those hypnosis scenes are like pulling teeth.

Worse than anything is Mulder who is more caught up in himself than we’ve ever seen him. In fact, he’s a selfish bastard in this one. According to Morgan, in the 20 minutes of footage that had to be cut from the episode were some scenes that supported Scully’s point of view, that Mulder’s past as dredged up under hypnosis was false, a result of mixed-up memories and wishful thinking. It’s too bad they weren’t able to fit more of that plot in to balance the story out. Mulder needed a little undermining here.

Once again, he’s out to save a lost young woman who the world would rather forget than help. I’d like to love him for this, I really would, but he’s drawn to women who have already given up on life, who’d prefer to sink than struggle for air. Watching him try to save women who don’t want to be helped, knowing that his mission is doomed, is not television for the faint of heart. I’d rather watch “Oubliette” (3×8) and you know that’s saying something.

What glimpses of magic this episode does have are largely due to consummate director Rob Bowman, who makes it beautiful to watch if nothing else. In fact, I highly recommend just turning the sound off and letting it play. Oh, but then you’d miss a luscious score from Mark Snow so that won’t do. I guess you either just grit and bear it or you don’t.

As I don my Shipper cap again for a moment, let me just say that this episode feels slightly mean-spirited (an unintended slight, I’m sure). Like pouring cold water over a fresh hot meal so that no one will be able to eat it.

Just as uniting Mulder and Scully in a cloud of romance would have drained tension from the show, so too would have building an unequivocal “No” into the narrative. It would have taken away the hope of many. Indeed, I remember feeling rising panic after I first saw this episode (it was already in reruns and nobody warned me), but the fact that Season 5 had already begun to air and there was no trace of the ghost of Melissa Reidal buoyed my spirits.

“The Field Where I Died” takes itself too seriously, bloated on its own weight and import. Overwrought is a word that comes to mind and it’s probably the one episode in The X-Files’ cannon that I would willingly erase, yet…

Entertainment Weekly once famously called this episode “Stultifyingly awful.” In retrospect, I wouldn’t go quite that far. The production value is too high. All in all, it certainly has the best of intentions and you can tell a lot of effort went into this one on everyone’s part. But when I ask myself if I’ll ever watch it again… I get queasy.

It’s Over at Last:

There is that one, brief moment of lightness and joy…

Mulder: Dana, if, um, early in the four years we’ve been working together… an event occurred that suggested or somebody told you that… we’d been friends together, in other lifetimes… always… wouldn’t it have changed some of the ways we looked at one another?
Scully: Even if I knew for certain, I wouldn’t change a day. Well… maybe that Flukeman thing. I could’ve lived without that just fine.

But then…

“I wanted to sum up Mulder and Scully’s entire relationship with that question Mulder asks Scully afterwards, if we had known from the beginning that we had lived all these lives, would it change anything, how would you feel?’ ” Morgan said. “I just wanted to raise that question between the two of them. I’m not sure what the answer is. My feeling is that she is holding on to some skepticism. Her answer in the episode — “I wouldn’t change a day” – might be a little ‘tee-vee.’

Way to quench it, dude.

D+

Keeping it Brief:

John Mark wasn’t the writer of The Book of Revelations. It was another John.

Exactly which version of Mulder was a soulmate of Sidney’s??

The quote from Kristen Cloke is nabbed from here:
http://www.littlereview.com/getcritical/interviews/cloke.htm

The quote from Glen Morgan is shamelessly lifted from here:
http://etc1013.wordpress.com/1997/10/01/cinefantastique-4/