Tag Archives: Scully Squared ™

Roadrunners 8×5: You’re going to be so loved.


roadrunners017.jpg

Highway to hell.

Warning: Do not take this episode with food. May cause stomach upset.

I flailed all through this, but not for my usual fangirl reasons. The sheer grossness is mindboggling. I haven’t contorted my face this much since “F. Emasculata” (2×22).

My king, writer Vince Gilligan, is back… boy, is he back… with his first serious X-File since “Tithonus” (6×9). The only solo offerings he gave us in Season 7 were comical so I guess he’s trying to make up for lost time. I don’t know. But I know he’s freaking me out.

One of the things I love most about Gilligan’s writing is his characterization of Scully. Too often Scully is left to look bored and aloof, because we know that all serious scientists are bored and aloof. Gilligan, though, likes to give her new things to do, things that bring out other sides of her. And he gives her back some of the sarcasm she originally had in Season 1. I find it interesting that his last serious X-File was Scully-centric too.

Scully’s in real trouble this time. She’s on a case alone because, while she’s stopped resenting Doggett, as demonstrated by her procuring the desk she promised him, she would still rather not have him around. The X-Files don’t matter to him the way they matter to her and she wants to keep him on the periphery. Besides, there’s no sense in getting attached when Mulder will be back soon. But what Scully’s forgotten is how many times she’s nearly died investigating an X-File.

One of the things I liked about the good but not great “Brand X” (7×19) was that it was the first time in a long time that it felt like there was a very real threat to Mulder. Well, it’s Scully’s turn. I haven’t feared for her life like this since I don’t know when. She’s surrounded by the faithful from hell and she has a giant slug stuck in her back that thinks it’s the second coming of Jesus. I’m pretty sure that’s called a “pickle.”

Right from the teaser, we see a bus full of zombie-like strangers calmly stone a crippled man to death in the desert in the middle of the blackest night. Don’t hold any horror tropes back, Vince. It starts freaky and it only gets freaky-er.

Scully gets trapped in this little village after being sabotaged by Marty Taylor from Home Improvement. Then she’s introduced to this guy with a thing crawling up his spine. He’s got a big hole in his back where it went through, and Dr. Scully seems to think the best medical course of action is to squeeze the hole to see what comes out of it

Here’s where Scully starts to get a little gullible. It could possibly read out of character that the townspeople catch her off her guard, but I think she is on her guard. She knows these people are up to something and she doesn’t trust them. It’s exactly because she doesn’t trust them that she’s inclined to think the guy with the thing up his back is a victim, which really, he is. As a doctor, her heart also naturally goes out to the patient. Why she’d give him her gun though…

The result is a scene in a dark barn that’s deliciously horrible. Scully slowly realizes she’s cornered, she struggles, the crowd is shouting, “Amen!” as yet another crippled man get stoned to death. Oh, the creepiness. I know what happens and I had to watch through my fingers.

The good news is this madness gets Scully riled up. And Scully may be in trouble this episode, but she’s no damsel in distress. Nosirree. This is another moment brought to you by Scully Squared ™. Even tied up and gagged she’s causing trouble and starting fires. That’s my girl.

However, there’s no way she’s getting out of this on her own. Doggett shows off his investigative skills and has a couple of cool moments himself before showing up to help Scully. One character trait he and Mulder do share is that they both trust their instincts. His instincts tell him something’s wrong in this no-name town. I especially like seeing him knock Marty Taylor the gas station attendant out. And then he cuts that thing out of her back. Ugh! Now that’s commitment. I’m sorry. If it were me, Scully would have had to die. There’s no way I would have been within thirty feet of her back. And then he holds it with his bare hands. Kill me.

Verdict:

All hail King Gilligan because this was the perfect way to bring Scully and Doggett together. Not only has he saved her life, he’s saved her baby’s life. Scully can’t hate him now. And a very mature Scully is forced to realize that she can’t keep treating Doggett like he’s sort of her partner. He’s here and she’d better accept him. Or else.

And while I miss the Mulder/Scully dynamic as much as anyone, I don’t think “Roadrunners” suffers from the loss of it. We’ve had episodes without one or both of them before and few of those are quite this memorable.

In summary, “Roadrunners” freaks me the heck out.

A+

Pocket Change:

This guy is stranded in the middle of the night, hails a bus, and then insults the driver after she picks him up? What, does he want to end up stranded back on the road? Then he doesn’t even bother to ask where the bus is going, just puts on his headphones and settles down for the ride.

It’s so dark, I can’t see what Scully finds when she looks at Mr. Milsap’s phone plug.

Danny’s back!

Is Scully going to be in the hospital every other episode this season?

It’s funny, when I thought ahead to this episode I figured it would be Vince Gilligan. These X-Files writers really do distinguish themselves.

“F. Emasculata” also involved buses in its grossness.

I don’t think we’ve seen Scully have a proper freakout since “Wetwired” (3×23).

Mulder wasn’t mentioned at all this episode…

Best Quotes:

Scully: What did you put in me?! I’m going to get every last one of you bastards!

Mr. Milsap: No! You’ll love us. You’ll protect us. You’ll teach us, make us better than we are. We’re taught not to envy, but I do envy you so… that you’ll soon be one with him.

Scully: Him?! That thing in my spine is a “him“?!

————————-

Doggett: [On phone] Just talked to a guy who had a gun in his pocket and I don’t mean he was happy to see me.

The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati 7×4: Don’t be so dramatic.


Scully's lost her hair and she doesn't know where to find it.

First off, I think we should walk into this mythology episode review well aware that this is only nominally a mythology episode at all. This is a long overdue character study of Mulder and the majority of it (or it feels like the majority) takes place within his own mind. Not much happens on the mythology side of things except that we learn Cigarette-Smoking Man is still holding out hope that he can turn himself into an alien-human hybrid and so withstand the coming apocalypse. Somehow his desire, Mulder’s condition and American Indian prophecy all come together in some clearly vague way – A connection which will become much clearer, and vaguer, a couple of seasons from now.

We start out with CSM scheming to get his hands on Mulder once and for all, the devilish snake ready to strike the heel of the messiah, and he chooses the most nefarious route possible: His mother. Why would Teena Mulder hand her son over to CSM? And why would CSM need her to hand him over? It’s not like his minions haven’t snuck into hospitals to do his dirty work before. If he wanted Mulder, I don’t see why he would need her permission to get him.

But, whatever. CSM finally gets him and then proceeds to cut his head open and empty the contents thereof, all the while praising him as his son and throwing suggestive grins in the direction of his son’s ex-lover.

This is one of my favorite episodes for the character of Cigarette-Smoking Man. He’s like a cat with a bowl of fresh milk. I strongly suspect we owe CSM’s newfound humor to Chris Carter’s newfound writing partner David Duchovny. CSM never cracked jokes like this before and his dismissiveness of Mulder’s self-important self-righteousness is telling – sounds a bit like the loving jabs taken at Mulder in “The Unnatural” (6×20). It’s also no secret that all this blatant symbolism is David Duchovny’s doing as well. That… I’m not quite as grateful for.

Now, I’m an English nerd and a recovering symbolism addict. I had to attend a long series of group therapy meetings post-college so it’s not like I’m immune to symbolism’s charms. (Hi, my name is Salome and I read too far into things.) But there’s so much symbolism here that at moments there isn’t much room left for story. CSM is randomly throwing out lines like, “The child becomes father to the man.” What does that even mean?? You’re not trying to hint that the repressed child deep down inside the man is going to teach him how life is really supposed to be lived in a sort of “from the mouths of babes” perspective altering catharsis, are you? Because I have no truck with that right now.

Not that my impatience affords me the right to ignore the famous Mulder dream sequence. I have to tell you, as a teenager watching this episode when it first aired I didn’t know The Last Temptation of Christ from Rocky & Bullwinkle. I’d heard of it, sure. But what was it to me? And I wonder how much of the viewing public was with me – a little lost as to what Mulder’s dream sequence, heavily inspired by the aforementioned book/film, was supposed to mean.

The whole thing is borderline esoteric, its symbolism only becoming clear as the reality of it unravels before Mulder’s eyes. But you don’t need any exposure to The Last Temptation of Christ to understand it, though I’m sure that helps (I wouldn’t know). All you have to do is go back and watch “One Son” (6×12) again. What happens in that episode? Oh, nothing. If you can call Diana helping to lure Mulder into soul-sacrificing complacency and Scully stirring him up from his sleepy defeatism “nothing.”

If “One Son” is the reality then “Amor Fati” is Mulder spiritually awakening to that reality. Both women have appeared at his bedside in “The Sixth Extinction”. Both women’s minds and hearts were completely open to him thanks to his new ability. He knows what Diana wants: For him to give in and save himself. And he knows what Scully wants: For him to hang on and fight.

I think the initial reaction a lot of fans had to this episode was horror over any scenario, dream or not, where Mulder would bed, even wed, Diana Fowley and seem to be happy about it. But while Mulder still may be attracted to her on some level, they had been lovers after all, I don’t think what we see here is any real indication that Mulder wants Diana so much as he’s tempted by what she represents. What she wants him to do, and what part of Mulder wants to do, is stop fighting, stop suffering, take the world off of his shoulders and let the inevitable happen – Would colonization be so bad if they could only be at peace? Therefore, the crux of Mulder’s dream isn’t that he chooses Scully over Fowley, it’s that he chooses courage over complacency.

Poor Diana Fowley, we barely knew ye. No sooner do you grow a conscience than it’s your time to go – That’s how The X-Files works. We can’t have you spilling secrets that would give Mulder too much help too soon, now can we?

Fowley’s motivations are becoming clearer to me now. Maybe I never really understood because I never really watch this set of episodes. (Telling, I know.) And so, if you don’t mind, I’m going to take some time out to dissect her because unless I’m much mistaken, she’s never mentioned ever again.

This isn’t cannon but as best I can understand it, Diana Fowley’s situation went down something like this:

Diana knew about the aliens, colonization, all of it. How or when or why she knew isn’t important, but somewhere along the line she went to work for the Syndicate and CSM in particular. Probably under their/his orders, she led Mulder to the X-Files as a way to both put out disinformation and to control what he knew. Once Mulder was established as a crank and he was no closer to the truth than he was to China, off she goes on her next assignment which was that of an international agent. What she probably didn’t count on was falling in love with Mulder, which she did. Although who knows but that seducing him was originally part of the assignment too?

However her affection for Mulder began, she didn’t forget him all those years she went away, a fact that CSM was probably aware of. So he gives her a new, very palatable assignment: Go back and befriend Fox Mulder again. He’s too close to the truth.

The problem is, despite their surface similarities, Diana and Mulder are incompatible. He’s an idealist, she’s a pragmatist. He wants to save the world, Diana wants to survive. She wants to survive with Mulder at her side and she’s clearly hoped that eventually he’d see that they had no other choice but to cooperate with the conspiracy and save themselves. That’s why she was willing to wait for him; they could never really be together, because they couldn’t survive the coming apocalypse, unless she helped the Syndicate succeed in creating an alien-human hybrid.

Another option is that Diana discovered the truth while she was working on the X-Files with Mulder, only she didn’t share everything she suspected, perhaps because she knew Mulder wouldn’t be comfortable with her pragmatic approach, and left to work for the Syndicate because she was sympathetic to their agenda. In some ways, that would make it worse. Her reasons are completely selfish. As long as she gets Mulder and they survive, that’s what matters.

But I’d still love to know, what exactly did CSM ever do to engender this kind of loyalty in Fowley? Or was she only going along with his agenda so that she and Mulder could be safe, and once his agenda conflicted with Mulder’s safety her surface loyalty evaporated? This mysterious confession she made in “The Sixth Extinction” (7×3) is tantalizing:

I know you know about me… That my loyalties aren’t just to you… but to a man you’ve grown to despise. You have your reasons, but as you look inside me now you know that I have mine.

I think deep down she realizes that Mulder isn’t going to be OK with her plans, which is why she hasn’t made a case for her position to him even after the eradication of the Syndicate. He already knows about the agenda of those men, surely she wouldn’t be threatening those plans now by spilling the beans, she’d only betray her own treachery and risk losing Mulder for good. Maybe that’s why she agrees to be complicit in CSM’s scheme to steal Mulder’s power – He could be putty in her hands. Fortunately, her long dormant conscience resurfaces before it’s too late, possibly pricked into action by guilt over Scully’s example of uncompromising loyalty to Mulder, and despite the fact that she knows it most likely means she’ll never have Mulder, she secretly gives up his location to Scully. Bravo?

By the end of this trilogy, I was sick of Diana Fowley, exhausted by the overarching plot, and not a little worried about the future of my show. I was hoping for answers in “Amor Fati”. Instead, I got Mulder making love to Diana Fowley, which, despite all my philosophically understanding prattle above, still makes me ill. I was tired of waiting for more news on the conspiracy, whether it was dead or alive. I was tired of waiting for information on Samantha’s whereabouts. And I was mostly tired of waiting on this unnecessary love triangle. By the time it was over, the superb ending was somewhat lost on me; sort of like pearls being cast before very impatient swine.

But it is superb. Truly.

Mulder: Scully, I was like you once — I didn’t know who to trust. Then I… I chose another path… another life, another fate, where I found my sister. In the end my world was unrecognizable and upside down. There was one thing that remained the same. You were my friend, and you told me the truth. Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant… my touchstone.
Scully: And you are mine.

As I watched this time, somewhere behind my teary eye (I can only watch this scene with one eye open) the Song of Solomon kept coming to mind: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” I want to congratulate my subconscious for making the connection and at the same time berate it for making it so late – These are, in essence, Mulder and Scully’s wedding vows.

That sounds horrendously sappy, I know, but it’s true. They’re expressing, once and for all, before a television audience full of witnesses, their faith in and their commitment to each other. (Part of me twinges a little at the thought of making any mere, fallible mortal your constant and your touchstone. But, whatevs. I get what they’re giving.)

I remember the first time I watched it feeling slightly confused. (So they’re together now… right?) I wasn’t sure if I was witnessing their official coming together or what. After this are they a romantic pair? Well, there’s been a lot of debate over the years as to exactly when Mulder and Scully initiated the romantic stage of their relationship, with even Chris Carter & Co. inadvertently sending conflicting messages. Did Mulder pop up at Scully’s place the next day with red roses and a bottle of wine? Heck to the no. But, I do believe what we’re seeing here is the disintegration of all emotional, psychological and practical barriers between them. I said these were their “wedding vows”, right? Well, think of this moment as the ceremony – Everyone present knows the wedding night is coming but it’s not like there’s a bed waiting at the end of the aisle.

For once, both Mulder and Scully know exactly where they stand at exactly the same time and I think it’s clear that there will be no threat of any future “Diana Fowleys.” There’s only one barrier left, more of a technical formality really, and that’s the physical one, which Chris Carter will see fit to break not too long from now. After that, all bets will be off.

And to think! We were almost robbed of this episode’s redemption. This was not the original ending planned and in fact, was filmed much later after the rest of the episode – hence Scully’s noticeable haircut. I’ve read what is supposed to be the original ending and it in no way provided sufficient emotional closure between Mulder and Scully after all the angst of this episode. So hats off to whoever decided to change it – I don’t know who you are except that you’re my constant, my touchstone.

Verdict:

I know some fans wish that Mulder and Scully had kissed here, but I want to go on record as saying that for all my teenage confusion back in the day, I’m oh so glad they didn’t. Turning it sexual would have cheapened the moment because what they’re expressing here goes so much deeper than that. At the same time, it makes an eventual kiss inevitable. How do you love someone any more than that?? Where else are they supposed to go with it? Why do Mulder and Scully keep having their most significant moments in Mulder’s hallway?

So I’ll see you Shippers next time when Chris Carter finally lets Mulder kiss the bride.

B+

The Mystery Continues:

Just when you thought I was done, I’m about to wind it back. Remember “The End” (5×20)? Remember how Diana Fowley was guarding Gibson Praise while secretly working for CSM? Remember how shocked she looked when Gibson told her she was about to be shot? Yeah, why was that?

The Options –

  1. CSM didn’t tell whomever he sent to kidnap Gibson that Fowley was one of theirs – The left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. Lingering resentment over the events of this episode also might explain why Fowley came to distrust CSM enough to betray him.
  2. They shot Fowley on purpose, surprising her, in order to ingratiate her to Mulder – How could he doubt her after she nearly died for the cause?
  3. Fowley was given orders by CSM to protect Gibson and genuinely thought that’s what he wanted – This would explain why anyone coming to get Gibson would have to attack Fowley to get to him and why she was so surprised.

The question remains, why didn’t Gibson hint at her disloyalty? He seemed comfortable enough with her. I guess he was too busy fanning the flames of the love triangle to warn Mulder and Scully that they had a traitor in their midst

And yet another question remains. Just how far did Fowley’s relationship with CSM go? Between the way they look at each other in “One Son” and CSM’s not so subtle leer in Fowley’s direction after delivering his, “I’ll carry the burden from here on in” line, I suspect that either they were sexually involved at some point or that their eventual sexual involvement was one of CSM’s secret goals. Talk about a Father-Son competition.

Bepuzzlements:

What’s still not clear is what in the Aunt Jemima Krycek is up to now. Why kill Kritschgau? Is he independently working toward hybridization? Working for the rebels? What? – Oh, and how about that digital Nick Lea impostor?

Why do women keep giving Mulder the Salt-n-Peppa, “I think I wanna have your baby” speech on this show? Is it because he’s a “mighty good man?” My man is smooth like Barry and his voice got base…

Okay, so Scully has a DOJ passkey. But how does she know where to go?

And I’m Done:

Notice how Mulder keeps flipping things back on Scully. “Mulder, help me”, becomes, “You help me.” “I know she was your friend”, becomes, “You were my friend… you were my constant, my touchstone.” Scully tries to comfort him at the loss of Diana, his first priority is to comfort her. Oh, the days I could go on with this stuff…

Best Quotes:

CSM: Your account is squared — with me, with God, with the IRS, with the FBI.

——————-

CSM: You’re not Christ. You’re not Prince Hamlet. You’re not even Ralph Nader. {Editor’s Note: HAHAHAHA.}

——————–

Scully: Bum a cigarette, Agent Fowley?
Diana Fowley: I don’t smoke.
Scully: Really? I could swear I smell cigarette smoke on you.
Diana Fowley: Let’s cut the crap, shall we?
Scully: Yes. Let’s.

Biogenesis 6×22: Who had the audacity for such invention?


Say what now?

Disclaimer: I am in love with Chris Carter. I am in love with The X-Files. I would sooner lose a finger, in fact, let’s make it my thumb, than I would have missed out on watching this series – the whole series – all of it – including the nauseating moments. So please understand that when I complain, and I will complain, I complain with love. Kapish?

Good, because my complaints start right at the beginning. I am so sick of these self-important, perfunctory mytharc opening monologues I’m about ready to curse. And I don’t curse!! I get the idea. I know. This is epic. Epic, epic, epic. All of life is about to be explained. All of life is at stake. J’nough. Let’s move on.

Now, on the more diplomatic side of things, at least we know right out of the gate that the turn The X-Files is taking is grander and more fundamental than any conspiracy created by men merely to hide information. This is the mythology’s new beginning. The Syndicate is dead, the slate has been wiped clean, almost any plot is possible and this is the plot they choose: Aliens as God. The implications are… bottomless. And they’re making my brain hurt.

In its defense, this plot is only overtly going where The X-Files has already gone before. Mulder’s mission to prove the existence of alien life, his quest to find absolute truth, it’s all analogous to a man’s, and mankind’s, search for God. I get that. It’s subtle. It’s good. Sometimes it’s not so subtle. But it’s still good. It’s like a biblical parable; all the more effective for concealing the truth inside a fiction.

But in this bit of fiction, an alien spaceship has supposedly popped up, plain as day on the coast of a well-populated continent, yet no governments take notice. No spy satellites, no missiles are aimed in its direction. No soldiers are sent out to guard it or to confiscate it. Instead, a bunch of independent science nerds have free access to it without having to answer to anyone. The news of this discovery never leaks to the vigilant folks at MUFON. The media never takes notice.

Rubbish. Rubbish, I tell you.

To be honest, the very idea causes my eyes to roll so far into the back of my head they disappear. It took me a while to convince them to come back. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to ignore the mythology aspect of this mythology episode for most of this review.

On to our heroes… Scully is trying to convince Mulder that their job at the F.B.I. is done. After all, they’ve won, haven’t they? The conspiracy is kaput. Never mind that earth is still on the verge of being invaded and humanity is still scheduled to be destroyed, someone else can see to those details. Why can’t she and Mulder move on? Ah, but Scully has forgotten about the most important thing of all, the quest that predates Mulder’s mission to take down the Syndicate’s conspiracy: the search for Samantha. But who can blame her? I’d pretty much forgotten myself and I’m probably not the only one. Which is why this moment is not so covertly placed here, I suspect. Chris Carter needed to remind the audience that there’s a reason Mulder and Scully are still on the X-Files and therefore there’s a reason we’re still watching this show. Some truths have yet to be uncovered.

Meanwhile, some truths are never fully uncovered. Enter Diana Fowley.

We’ll get to more of the eternal mysteries surrounding her character come Season 7, but for now it’s enough just to figure out why, for the love of all that is watchable, Chris Carter felt it necessary to have her strip down in Mulder’s apartment and force us to watch. Since, logically, we can’t really expect that she was about to seduce a man barely well enough to hold a brief conversation, we can only assume that it was meant to get a rise out of the audience. And it certainly got a rise out of this audience. I remember rising to my feet in righteous indignation. (Chris Carter, don’t you make me come out there.)

Wait. Back up. What was she doing in Mulder’s apartment in the first place?

According to what Fowley says both to Cigarette-Smoking Man over the phone and Scully in person, Mulder called her after he collapsed in the stairwell. Not that I take as gospel a single word she tells Scully, I’m inclined to think that she has no reason to be dishonest with CSM. The puzzle then is why would Mulder call her? Well, he’s already figured out he can’t trust Skinner. Scully’s off hunting Dr. Sandoz. I’d give him the excuse of being out of friends, but where the Lone Gunmen unavailable?

Whatever. He calls her. If trusting her even after she miraculously survives the events of “One Son” (6×12) isn’t proof he’s earned the padded cell he’s finally given this episode, I don’t know what is. Or perhaps he has doubts we don’t get to see?

Now, please bear with me here because I’m about to force you to scroll. Below is a scene from the script of “Biogenesis” that was cut. (Darn those brief 43 minutes). And while I’ll cry along with the purists that since it didn’t air, it’s not canon, I think it helps illuminate some plot points that otherwise remain murky. I’ll go more into detail on my case for its inclusion afterward.

{Editor’s Note: I don’t make this stuff up. You can find my sources here: http://www.mitchpileggi.net/The_X-Files/Libby/ (Click on Season 6 episodes and scroll down to Biogenesis. This is the version I recommend.) And here: http://www.fortunecity.com/lavender/tombstone/178/6x22_cutscenes.html And here: http://members.tripod.com/cactus_ian/xf6x22.html}

FOWLEY: Fox?
A faint clatter from another room gets her attention. She turns to see… Mulder exiting the kitchen past her. He is pale, dazed, disheveled – markedly worse than when we last saw him. He shuffles into the living room, seemingly oblivious to her presence. Fowley watches him pass, shaken by his strung-out appearance.
FOWLEY: Fox..? Are you alright?
Mulder shuffles to the living room window, peers out through the closed blinds. He doesn’t look at her. Silence for a long, uncomfortable beat.
MULDER: Where did you go?
FOWLEY: You were asleep, and I…
She trails off, shrugs. Mulder is still staring out the window. Now, he finally looks to her – pins her with a look, actually.
MULDER: Where did you GO?!
FOWLEY: I… I went home. (Off his silence) Maybe I shouldn’t have.
MULDER: Were you alone?
Fowley eyes him, taken aback by the question.
MULDER: Were you by yourself?
FOWLEY: Yes. Of course. What kind of question is that?
CLOSE – MULDER
We creep in on him as once again we hear strange AUDIO HITS – the disjointed clamor of voices in his head. We recognize FOWLEY’S VOICE rising from the din. We make out words, fragments of phrases: “it’s starting…”, “the artifact…”, he doesn’t suspect…”
Mulder struggles to clear his head.
MULDER: You were talking. Who were you talking to?
By all outward signs, Fowley is puzzled by the question.
FOWLEY: To you. I’m talking to you.
Mulder presses his hand to his temple. The cacophony in his head grows louder. More snippets from Fowley: “not possible…”, “gain his trust…”, “I just left him…”
MULDER: You’re lying.
FOWLEY: I’m lying? (beat) What am I lying about?
Mulder says nothing. Wary, he watches as Fowley moves closer.
FOWLEY: Fox, you’re not well. I think I need to take you to a doctor.
MULDER: I’m not going anywhere with you.
FOWLEY: Fox, please…
She reaches for him. Increasingly paranoid, Mulder pulls away. Another quick AUDIO HIT: the voices rise in a muffled, incomprehensible crescendo.
MULDER: No. Uh-uh. First Skinner and now you. You’ve betrayed me. (louder) You’re here to spy on me aren’t you? AREN’T YOU?!
In a sudden frenzy, Mulder SWIPES everything off the top of his desk, hurling it across the room. Unnerved, Fowley takes a step back. Mulder upends the coffee table, sending books and papers flying.
FOWLEY: Fox, calm down –
Breathing faster now, Mulder turns on Fowley, approaches – angry eyes fixed on her.
MULDER: Tell me the truth…
Nervous, Fowley discreetly unbuttons her jacket. We catch a glimpse of her pistol tucked in its holster.
FOWLEY: You’re not making sense. You need help. (backing off) Please — calm down.
Mulder doesn’t. He keeps advancing.
MULDER: TELL ME! –
A LOUD ELECTRIC SNAP. Mulder winces. His legs give out.
FROM BEHIND MULDER
He collapses to the floor, revealing the STUN GUN in Fowley’s hand. She kneels into frame by his body. Despite what we know of her treachery toward Mulder, we see some glimmer of real concern for him on her face.

First of all, this is an emotional confrontation between Mulder and Fowley that, in my humble opinion, needed to happen. After his unwavering integrity, after remaining loyal to her to his own hurt and risking his relationship with Scully even because he refused to turn on a friend, this needed to happen. I actually consider it twice as necessary for the sake of closure than any confrontation between Fowley and Scully.

Second of all, this brief scene reveals a lot about Fowley’s character and I’ve been itching to get inside that woman’s head a little. She knows exactly what’s going with Mulder which means she’s way ahead of him as far as what he’s learned about the aliens/colonists/whomever. That tells me she’s reasonably high up on the conspiracy chain. This is also our first glimmer that she really does care about Mulder. Prior to this she’s been a blank femme fatale, all calculating action with no feeling. Now we see that she’s conflicted and I find it interesting that she’s still afraid to tell Mulder the truth even though she knows he can read her mind.

Third of all, this clears up how Mulder went from lying weakly in bed to winding up a raving maniac in a padded cell. It also explains Fowley’s efforts to keep Scully from seeing him once he’s in that cell, because God forbid he somehow communicated his suspicions about Fowley to Scully. It would have been on.

Fowley and Scully don’t exactly end this episode on the best terms as it is, and I can at the very least say I’m grateful that Season 6 Scully gets to close us out with a bang. She’s already shown us so many different sides of herself this season… Weasel-Me-This Scully, Slap-A-Pimp Scully, Bimbo!Scully, and now Ain’t-No-Holla-Back-Girl Scully. So what triggers this latest incarnation?

Diana throws a couple of digs Scully’s way by implying that she’s in Mulder’s “In Group” while Scully’s in the “Out Group.” “Thank you for coming,” and, “He was asking for you last night” make it sound almost as though Diana’s family and Scully’s just a friend. Yet, self-possessed as ever, Scully is able to ignore all that until…

Fowley: [Mulder] said I was the only one who’d believe him.

One. Lie. Too. Far. Someone must not have told Fowley to watch “Folie a Deux” (5×19). If she had, she would have learned that, “Nobody else on this whole damn planet does or ever will” believe Mulder like Scully. Might he have called Diana because he trusts her too? Sure. But would he have told her she was the only one? Never. And Scully calls her on it immediately in a moment that’s probably the highlight of the episode for me. Long gone is the uncertain, insecure Scully of “The End” (5×20). Good riddance.

And the Verdict is…

I’ve kvetched enough. Now it’s time for me to admit that this episode is actually a lot better than I remember it being. Parts of it I can even say I enjoyed. The action is suspenseful and continuous, the performances are spot on, the images, the music… on a surface level, we’ve had much, much worse.

But as much as I do like watching Mulder lose his mind, and as much as I love that he still calls out for Scully even from the bowels of insanity, it’s the basic premise of “Biogenesis” that’s hard for me to get past.

Are these life-giving aliens the same ones that are about to take human life away? It seems to me that if the alien colonists have had this much power all along, not only would the Syndicate have been pretty useless to them, the whole plan to colonize us is superfluous. They planted us, they can harvest us just as easily. Throw new genetic material into our atmosphere or something, I don’t know. But there’s no longer any need for elaborate machinations; if they have the power of God they can simply use it.

This was why it was better when The X-Files only asked the great questions and didn’t attempt to answer them.

B

Bepuzzlements:

I have a question. How do we know when these spaceships first appeared on the earth? Is there some reason everyone is assuming that these multi-cultural writings pre-date the cultures and religions they document? And in that vein, how do they know that the aliens didn’t copy that information from humans rather than give it? I can’t believe Scully never seriously suggests it. Her brief, “How did the aliens get it?” is a throw away line.

Languages evolve. The Navajo of a hundred years ago isn’t the Navajo of today. So, if I’m to understand this correctly, not only thousands, but billions of years before the Navajo existed the aliens phonetically wrote in their language? Did the aliens give us all our respective languages too?

If our progenitors were alien, if they put us here, why are we trying to thwart their plans? Surely they know better than we do. And, after all, they’re only taking back what’s rightfully theirs.

Why does everyone keep throwing the rubbing in Mulder’s face? He tells Scully he thinks it’s the cause of his dissonance, she opens it up and breaks it out. Chuck Burke clearly states that he believes Mulder when he says the rubbing is bothering him, so what does he do? Put it up on the big screen.

Mulder is affected by the rubbing because he was once infected with the Black Oil virus back in “Tunguska” (4×9) where he was also treated by a vaccine for the virus developed by the Russians. In the movie, Scully is also infected with the Black Oil virus and is later given a vaccine that was stolen by the Syndicate from the Russians. Will someone please explain to me why only Mulder is affected? Had the second vaccine been tweaked? Was Scully’s version more effective?

Peanut Gallery:

A room full of monkeys in cages where a scientist is murdered? “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23) much?

Chuck Burke! It’s been a while.

Use of recycled movie music – Yes, we know. Again, this is epic.

Skinner just called Scully “Dana.” Somewhere the Skinner/Scully Shippers rejoice.

Clever – We cut directly from Mulder having an attack to Scully looking like she might be having an attack in the hospital in New Mexico. Then that close-up shot of Scully as she hears… what is it? The alarm? Or is she experiencing dissonance too? Ah, it’s the alarm. But, clever. Very clever.

Come to think of it, it might actually have been more fun to watch Scully lose her mind a la “Wetwired” (3×23).

I think I may have upped this episode’s grade just for the discovery of Dr. Merkallen’s body in the trash compactor.

Ah, Scully. I love your new fashion sense but it seems to me a linen suit isn’t going to serve you well on the beach.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I am just a hired gun for the F.B.I.

Tithonus 6×9: You’re a lucky man.


The gift that keeps on giving.

Oh, Vince Gilligan. Why you make me love you so???

I watched an interview not long ago where Gilligan (humbly) admitted that when it came to writing X-Files episodes, he edited other people’s stories – no one edited his. Watch “Tithonus” and understand why.

It’s been so long since the days of “Paper Hearts” (4×8) and “Unruhe” (4×2) that I’d almost forgotten Gilligan writes serious tales too, and writes them well. Similarly to “Elegy” (4×22), this is one of the few episodes in a show populated week after week by gruesome deaths that is actually about death. Or, more accurately, about life and at what point death could be preferable.

Like “Unruhe” and another previous episode, “Oubliette” (3×8), the action in “Tithonus” revolves around that unnerving staple of modernity, that casual bit of creepiness that hides in plain sight: Photography. There’s something so much more… invasive about an old-fashioned camera like the one Alfred Felig uses, something that’s been lost with the advent of the pocket digital camera, something that is fundamental to the success of stories like this where the camera is a villain in its own right – an uninvited violation, a soulless enemy. We say the lens “captures” an image and it’s a subtle way of acknowledging an unspoken discomfort. Between the blinding flash and the disorienting sound, the subject of the photograph is momentarily vulnerable. A part of them has been “possessed” by the camera whether they were willing participants in the event or not.

And who is more vulnerable than those who are already half dead? That’s where Alfred Felig comes in. The man that time forgot. In echoes Clyde Bruckman before him, this is a man saddled with a curse that anyone on the outside looking in would think is a gift, and it’s taken all the joy out of living.

Unlike the mythological Tithonus, the eponymous source of this episode’s title, who lives forever but shrivels up with age until he turns into a cricket, Felig doesn’t physically grow old and withered. But he is cursed to live forever without the heart of youth, the heart that desires, as Scully says, to learn and experience and love. Tithonus’ immortality becomes a curse because his goddess lover forgot to add eternal youth to the gift of eternal life and, abandoned by his love, he longs for death. Felig has the opposite problem in that he has a form of eternal youth without the substance of it; he’s been dead a long time, he just can’t convince his body to follow. As Agent Ritter says, “He’s always been a geezer.” He scoffs at Scully’s suggestion that love is worth living for. What use is love to him?

But what if Felig hadn’t forgotten the name of his long deceased wife? If Mrs. Felig could have lived eternally with her husband in wedded bliss, would he still have hunted death so relentlessly? Would invincibility still feel so cold a curse?

I submit that someone who merely possessed immortality would be cursed, but someone imbued with eternal youth may feel differently. Either way, who would want to live forever in this world? Perhaps one of the greatest acts of mercy God ever bestowed on mankind was to curse them with death in the Garden of Eden; they wouldn’t spend eternity in a world corrupted by evil. Even if, like Felig, death refused to touch you, you’d live to watch generations of others suffer. No, only the disturbed are in a hurry to leave but no one in their right mind wants to stay indefinitely either. Well, except for me. But then, no one said I was in my right mind.

For her part, Scully doesn’t understand Felig because she’s still so full of energy and curiosity. You can tell from her reaction that she finds his, shall we say, unappreciative view of life a little depressing.  She hasn’t grown tired yet the way the aged do. I remember how my 90-odd-years-old grandmother used to tell me that being old was exhausting, not because she wasn’t happy to live a long life, but because at some point, living takes effort. Felig is just tired. And when he’s eventually allowed to stop, to be at peace, you can see the relief on his face. Felig’s dying moments, when he’s reunited with death, are like a master class in acting from guest star Geoffrey Lewis.

But I know what many long time fans are wondering, will Scully ever even know what that feels like? Way back when, X-Files legend Darin Morgan penned this oft discussed exchange between Scully and psychic Clyde Bruckman for “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4):

Scully: All right. So how do I die?
Clyde Bruckman: You don’t.

Does this mean that “Tithonus” confirmation of the long held speculation that Scully is immortal? By looking at death in Scully’s place, does Felig cause Scully to take his place in the land of the perpetually living?

While Vince Gilligan is famous for throwing clever references to earlier episodes in his scripts and so it wouldn’t be beyond him to do something like this, the clear message of this episode is that too much life is no life at all and I suspect Gilligan loves Scully too much to make her immortal. And I can’t find the interview, but I know he’s said that wasn’t what he was implying. Besides, he would have already known that Darin Morgan never intended to hint that she was either:

“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” contained several lines of dialogue that sent fans into a frenzy pondering their meaning. The first came when Bruckman told Scully she wouldn’t die. “Some people took it to mean that Scully was immortal, but the meaning was that Clyde knows how Scully’s going to die, but he likes her so much he’s not going to tell her, because telling her would ruin her life, whether she believed it or not. Telling someone they’re not going to die is one of the nicest things you can say. That’s why he says it to her. It had nothing to do with whether she was immortal or was going to be hurt in the show.”

http://web.archive.org/web/20020220130917/http://www.morganandwongonline.com/darin2.html

Though I admit that if it were true it’d be some kind of poetic justice considering everything Scully’s been through in recent years. And that’s why it makes emotional sense that this X-File was handed to Scully and not to Mulder. Scully and Felig’s interaction is all the more poignant because Scully is very aware of her own mortality, because she’s someone who wants to live and not too long ago fought desperately against the violating evil of her own cancer. Only someone who has fought so hard for life would be a fitting foil for someone fighting just as hard for death.

Verdict:

I won’t lie to you. For all that philosophizing, my favorite part of this episode is watching Mulder pout with envy. But it’s his own fault – he created a monster.

Scully, while she will ever be Scully, is far more open than she used to be. No, she’s not the instant believer that Mulder is, but after considering all the evidence she’s surprisingly willing to admit that something supernatural is at work here.  She already proved she could handle an X-File on her own back in “Chinga” (5×10), but she’s less unsure of herself in “Tithonus”. She’s so sure of herself that it’s a joy, I repeat, a joy to watch her stand up to Agent Ritter, the Anti-Mulder.

Mulder needn’t have worried. If anything, pairing Scully with Ritter only highlights the weaknesses of any other partnership but Scully and Mulder. When Scully trades places in the car with a by-the-book Ritter, I can’t help but take my mind back to “Tooms” (1×20) when her less orthodox stakeout with Mulder was far more entertaining. I also can’t help but think back to “Squeeze” (1×2) when Mulder and Scully first discover a man who has lived way beyond his years and how they similarly trace his history through low-tech means. Ritter is smart enough to realize there’s a case here, but not as brilliant… or as accepting… as Mulder and so can’t get past the surface of Felig’s situation to the real truth. Even his haircut is square. He’s like vanilla ice cream to Mulder’s Rocky Road. I mean, good grief, his name is Payton.

This is one of the rare Scully-centric episodes that I actually love. In fact, it might be the only one. Yeah, I’ll say it – This is a more well-rounded episode than “Never Again” (4×13).

A

P.S. I can’t leave without mentioning Mulder’s not so veiled threat to Ritter, ‘cause y’all know Mulder would’ve literally killed him if Scully had died, right? He says it so calmly, he’s like Michael Corleone in The Godfather. That’s how you know he means it. Ritter knows it too.

P.P.S. Mulder and Scully and the thumb war. That is all.

Background Checks:

From Cherish the Past: Undoubtedly, the biggest line item for visual effects producer Bill Millar was the postproduction transformation into black-and-white instead of color of the individuals, including Scully, whom Felig sees as doomed. “We used a technique very similar to the one used to wreck all those old movies by colorizing them,” said Millar. “In fact, it’s basically the same, only in reverse.” …Millar, who first used this method on an episode of the short-lived NBC series, Nightmare Cafe in 1992, noted that the hit movie Pleasantville, released within a week or two of the night “Tithonus” first aired, was much praised for its innovative use of decolorization, while its employment on “Tithonus” passed virtually without notice. “Interesting, don’t you think?” Millar said wryly.

If you have the DVDs, this is one of those rare episodes with deleted scenes to watch to help you extend the magic. Go ahead. Live a little.

Did you see that scene where Scully saves the hooker? Did you see it? I’m going to start thinking of her as “Slap-a-Pimp Scully” from now on.

The way the room is lit during the interrogation of Alfred Felig is absolutely stunning. It’s like something out of a Film Noir handbook.

What does Agent Ritter shoot an unarmed Felig for anyway? It’s not like you could mistake that bulky camera for a gun when the light is behind you.

Scully has a rather sentimental look in her eye when she asks Felig about love and her disappointment at his answer is obvious – don’t make me say it.

Between this and “Unruhe”, methinks Vince Gilligan has a not so secret fascination with photography.

Best Quotes:

Scully: [Answers cell] Scully.
Mulder: [In affected voice] Hi, my name is Fox Mulder. We used to sit next to each other at the F.B.I.

——————–

Agent Ritter: You know, Kersh warned me about you.
Scully: Uh, he did?
Agent Ritter: Yeah, you and your partner. God knows his reputation precedes him so I guess I should have seen this coming. You muck up my case, and Kersh’ll hear about it. Are we clear, Dana?
Scully: Scully. And we’re done with this conversation. {Editor’s Note: Bam! My girl.}

——————–

Mulder: Now we’re talking about a guy for whom the phrase “life in prison” carries some seriously weighty connotations.

Dreamland II 6×5: I’d kiss you if you weren’t so damn ugly.


The Adventures of Special Tramp Dana Scully

Okay, I’m sure you know by now that I’m highly allergic to The X-Files’ opening monologues. They have a tendency to be, how shall I say it? Purple.

While some I tolerate better than others, there are only three in the history of the show that I can honestly say I don’t merely tolerate. No, I rather enjoy them. “Dreamland II” marks the first of the three and it’s also the first monologue not delivered by Mulder or Scully. Interestingly, the character of Morris Fletcher delivers two of the three monologues I actually rewind for fun. Yes, in one of the best breaks The X-Files ever got, actor Michael McKean was available to play Morris Fletcher in two more guest spots after “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II”, that’s not including when he shows up in the short-lived spin off The Lone Gunmen. But I’ve digressed.

The jaunty music Mark Snow chooses to characterize the piece, The Wonder Years style family videos as background… it’s just genius and I have no choice but to give it its due:

Morris as Mulder: [voiceover] Once upon a time, there was a guy with the improbable name of Fox Mulder. He started out life happily enough, as these things go. He had parents who loved him, a cute kid sister. He had a roof over his head, got all his flu shots, had all his fingers and toes and aside from being stuck with the name “’Fox” which probably taught him how to fight… or not… he pretty much led a normal life. But the worst thing by far, the biggest kick in the slats this kid Fox ever got, was what happened to his sister. One day, she just disappeared. Now, Fox buckled down and worked his butt off, graduated top of his class at Oxford, then top of his class at the FBI academy. None of that hard work made up for his sister, though. It was just a way of putting her out of his mind. Finally, the way I figure it, he went out of his mind and he’s been that way ever since. Fox Mulder pissed away a brilliant career, lost the respect of supervisors and friends and now lives his life shaking his fist at the sky and muttering about conspiracies to anyone who will listen. If you ask me, he’s one step away from pushing a baby carriage filled with tin cans down the street. But now, all that’s gonna change.

Moving on to the actual plot, Scully finally listens to that voice in the back of her head telling her that either Mulder has inexplicably and without cause lost his mind or Mulder is not Mulder. The subsequent scenes between Scully and the man she now knows is not Fox Mulder are the stuff of legend. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it so many times again I’ll annoy myself: I love Scully this season. She’s kicking butt and taking names and first on her hit list is one Morris Fletcher. Does she confront him in Nevada? At the F.B.I.? Does she surprise him while he’s indisposed? Oh no. She waits until he thinks he has her where he wants her and then springs a checkmate on him. (Aside: Why does Scully keep getting hit on by Mulders who aren’t Mulder?)

Speaking of my favorite scene of the episode, that writers Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban choose to give Mulder a bed, but not just any bed, a waterbed, and not just a waterbed, a mirrored waterbed, I could grovel at the feet of all three of them. And to keep giving credit where credit is due, that scene is shot oh so cleverly by first time director for the show Michael Watkins. I don’t know whose idea it was to give us glimpses of the real Mulder lounging on that ridiculous bed with Scully, but whoever it was deserves an Emmy just for that. Hi-larious.

Come to think of it, why didn’t this episode win an Emmy? It certainly deserves one. You don’t even need to be a fan of The X-Files to enjoy it. Heck, there’s an explanatory monologue built in! I know I’ve used it myself early on in the process of X-Phile brainwashing and it’s quite effective. Kids, try this at home.

I would try to list all of my favorite moments in “Dreamland II”, but that would involve essentially quoting the entire episode and I’m too lazy for that. But I can’t close and fail to mention the memorable screen time that Morris Fletcher shares with the Lone Gunmen. Their brief moments together are so good that they eventually set the tone for the entire series of The Lone Gunmen and create an opportunity for the writers to keep using Morris Fletcher as a recurring character in both series… thank God.

Verdict:

I confess I don’t have much to say about “Dreamland II” because like all the great comedies of The X-Files it defies talk. It’s meant to be experienced and enjoyed. Frankly, I’m too busy laughing over it to do much thinking about it.

But is there anything deeper holding up this episode than bellyfuls of laughter? I think so. I think the ultimate take home message is that Mulder isn’t suited to the normal life that Scully whines after at the beginning of “Dreamland”. A desk job, a wife and two kids? Had it continued Mulder really would have lost his mind. And for her part, for all she longs to be normal, Scully doesn’t seem too put out in the end for having wasted time on another fruitless road trip with Mulder. She’s rather pleased with herself in fact.

You’ll notice that before the space-time continuum corrects itself and Scully is fired from the F.B.I. she isn’t at all interested in getting her job back. And why would she be? What’s the point without Mulder? Scully will admit as much further into the season, but she’s only in the F.B.I. and this whole X-Files gig for Mulder. We saw it back in the movie as well; without her relationship with Mulder, she has nothing invested in this job. That’s why the complaints the writers sometimes put in her mouth ring hollow. She could leave any time she really wanted to, she just doesn’t want to. Not really. She wants to be out there with Mulder. But, ah, I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s next episode…

A+

I am Tiger Woods:

There’s still a little niggle in the back of my mind saying that the events of this episode are a bit too serious for a comedy. Mulder’s life as he knew it is gone; you’d think there’d be weeping and gnashing of teeth. But, hey, at least he makes his panic face.

Again, as in “Small Potatoes” (4×20), someone who looks like Mulder but isn’t Mulder puts the moves on Scully. Why everyone but the man himself? At least she’s onto the game this time.

There’s a slight pothole in the plot. The stoner witnesses his friends’… predicament, but because he wasn’t in the path of the wave when it snaps back he remembers perfectly what happened to them. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., Kersh isn’t in the path of the wave either but doesn’t remember any of the events of the past three days. I would say that because the causal event never happened that explains why Kersh remembers nothing, there’s nothing to remember. However, then shouldn’t the stoner forget to since his friends where never glued together? This is why one should never think too hard about any story involving a “space-time continuum.”

When Mulder and Morris were scheming together in the bathroom, why did they unlock the door after their conversation so that anyone could get in? At least the intruder turned out to be on their side.

How fitting is it that Mulder’s parting gift to Scully is sunflower seeds?

Not to ruin lives with spoilers or anything, but in a sad turn of events caused by a reversal of the space-time continuum, Morris Fletcher forgets that he remembered that he loves his wife.

Best Quotes:

Special Tramp Dana Scully: Do you know what would really be fun?
Morris as Mulder: What?
Special Tramp Dana Scully: [Pulls out handcuffs]
Morris as Mulder: Oh, yeah. Me first?
Special Tramp Dana Scully: You first.
Morris as Mulder: First time. [Handcuffs himself to the bed] Now what?
Special Tramp Dana Scully: [With gun trained on him] You’re not Mulder.
Morris as Mulder: What?! [champagne cork pops] Baby!
Special Tramp Dana Scully: “Babyme and you’ll be peeing through a catheter. Your name is Morris Fletcher. It was Mulder who was arrested in the desert. He was telling the truth about you. Now, how do we get things back to normal?
Morris as Mulder: How should I know? I wouldn’t do it even if I could. You saw my wife. You think I want to go back to that? Two kids who’d probably kill me in my sleep for the insurance money. A $400,000 mortgage on a house that just appraised at $226,000. And my job… Ye gods! You think being a Man In Black is all voodoo mind control? You should see the paperwork.
Special Tramp Dana Scully: Are you through?
Morris as Mulder: As far as I’m concerned this thing is a gift from heaven. Besides, no one is ever going to believe you so you might as well just get used to me being here.
Special Tramp Dana Scully: Or I just shoot you… Baby.

———————-

Mulder as Morris: So you’re the guy that wants my life. I assume that includes all the ass kickings. [Locks the bathroom door]

———————-

Morris as Mulder: Well, see that’s what’s so great about you monkeys. Not only do you believe this horse pucky that we create, you broadcast it as well. I mean, look at this. [Headline: “Saddam testing Mandroid Army in Army Iraqi Desert”] There is no Saddam Hussein! This guy’s name is John Gillnitz. We found him doing dinner theatre in Tulsa. Did a mean King and I. Plays good ethnics.
Langly: You’re trying to say that Saddam Hussein’s a government plant?
Morris as Mulder: I’m saying I invented the guy. We set him up in 79. He rattles his sabre whenever we need a good distraction. Ah… If you boys only knew how many of your stories I dreamed up while sitting on the pot.

Triangle 6×3: I would’ve never seen you again, but you believed me.


And it’s Skinner for the win.

This is the first of, well, quite a few episodes in Season 6 that strike me as officially stamped productions of fanfic. Brilliant fanfic, mind you, but fanfic nonetheless. And I mean this as the best possible sort of compliment.

If there’s one common complaint about Season 6 is that it’s largely dominated by “X-Files Light” episodes, episodes in the vein of “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) that are more fluff pieces than hardcore Monster of the Week scare fests. These episodes aren’t always necessarily overt comedies, but they purposefully lack depth in an effort to give the audience a break both from mythology angst and MOTW seriousness.

It’s a far cry from the types of episodes that dominated Season 1 and Season 2, but if you look at the direction The X-Files has taken since Season 3 I don’t see much cause for indignant surprise. And considering the show has just come back after the climax of a hit feature film, a little self-conscious indulgence has been well earned. How could The X-Files pretend that it’s not iconic? That Mulder and Scully aren’t beloved stereotypes? If the show didn’t start poking fun at itself on the regular or throw out knowing winks and nods to its bulging audience it would implode in unvaried solemnity.

“Triangle” is one such wink and nod and it’s quite possibly the best of them. The whole adventure feels like a reward, a thank you card if you will, to a long-suffering audience; as if Chris Carter knows that we love these characters and decided to treat us to a fantasy. Like Mulder we’re having a really cool dream where all our favorite people are transplanted into unusual circumstances, but that’s exactly its charm.

This is why I say it feels like fanfic because it’s usually fanfic that fans have to resort to in order to see their favorite characters loosen up or imagine how they’d behave outside of their usual context. Now, this way of consciously acknowledging the audience and of lovingly nudging itself in the ribs can be a trap for any show, especially for one with such a serious and dramatic premise as The X-Files. But “Triangle” is so well done that I think we can ignore those fears for now and just enjoy the gift.

I can’t get over how gorgeous this episode is, it is absolutely lush. The colors saturate the screen. When I think of how far The X-Files’ production quality… and budget… has evolved from Season 1, I shake my head in amazement.

“Triangle” was shot in a series of especially long takes, which gives it a very fluid, very urgent feel. It forced the Carter & Crew to use some creative staging in order to avoid revealing production details that are normally disguised by cuts, and also to disguise the cuts themselves with creative editing. Visually, I adore this method as I love those moments where the camera conveniently looks away to avoid revealing trade secrets and I particularly I love the smoothness of the camera movement throughout.

But my favorite aspect of this episode has nothing to do with technique. My favorite part of this episode is Scully. In fact, this is my favorite episode of all for Scully’s character. Why? Because she’s so much fun! And how often does Scully get to be fun? You know I love her, but our girl is generally a stick-in-the-mud. Every so often she’s allowed to crack a joke or suppress a smirk and if we’re really lucky, she’ll tell off a madman or two in that impressively authoritative voice of hers.

What a joy it must have been for Gillian Anderson to play a different sort of Scully. Not that she’s out of character here, but how often does Scully get to show us such a huge range of facial expressions in one episode? How often is she flustered? Or angry? On top of that, 1939 Scully is Rosie the Riveter rather than a medical doctor which means she’s allowed to be even more feisty. My favorite part is the entire second act where we follow Scully up and down the halls of the F.B.I. as she tries, yet again, to save her incurably foolish partner.

And, of course, she’s ultimately successful both in the past and present. Scully saves Mulder, literally, in the past and in the present she saves him metaphorically because of the same reason: she believes him. Scully has to believe Mulder; the woman can’t help herself, it’s a compulsion. Whether in an alternate universe, alternate dimension or alternate time stream, it’s in her job description and on her business card: Mulder Believer.

That’s the ultimate beauty of this episode and the reward that I think Chris Carter was trying to give fans, validation of their belief in the Mulder/Scully partnership that at this point beats as the heart of the series. There’s a certain amount of destiny involved in all of Mulder’s relationships as presented because Mulder can’t avoid the people in his life, good or bad but they follow him even in unconsciousness. But when it comes to Scully in particular, her belief in him is instinctive rather than rational which again lends itself to the idea that these are two people with a God-given understanding of each other that was foreordained. This mystery of the unexplained is probably unsolvable, but it’s also worth more than all the other truth Mulder so stubbornly seeks and it’s nice to know he finally realizes that too.

And the Verdict is…

It would have been too much to expect that Chris Carter would allow his characters to kiss at this stage of the game, and I can’t blame him for refusing to indulge his needy audience (of which I was one) quite that far. But I’ll take a kiss between Mulder and “Scully” in shadow any day. The truth is that I’m glad the kiss happens mostly in the dark because I love that romantic air of mystery and I’m even gladder that Mulder and Scully didn’t become a television couple yet. Else what would I have had to look forward to? Besides, Mulder kissed her like a man who had thought long and hard about doing this before. That’s more than enough for me. And with a love confession on top of it? I remember nearly collapsing in shock and joy – I do believe there was screaming.

So does any of what we see on the 1939 version of the Queen Anne actually happen? The split screen moment between the two Scullys and Mulder’s ginger touch to his cheek would certainly have us believe so. Though the references to The Wizard of Oz sprinkled all through the episode and the fact that we see our hero conked out at the beginning would indicate that this is all a very realistic fantasy inside Mulder’s head, or maybe a world that is real but is only real because he created it.

I don’t care, really. I just want this episode to come out in HD so that my life can be complete.

A+

P.S. You know she punched him because she enjoyed that kiss a little too much, right?

Puddin Tame:

Mark Snow’s score is like another character in this episode.

For that matter, so is the camera.

I hadn’t noticed before that the guy who plays Thor’s Hammer in 1939 is the same Agent who overhears part of Scully’s conversation with the Lone Gunmen in 1998.

I can’t figure out how Kersh’s character winds up in the bowels of the ship in 1939. How does that represent his position in Mulder’s life? Well, I suppose no one would have believed he was a Nazi…

I have ransacked my brain and I can only think of two episodes where Scully ever wears a dress, this one and “En Ami” (7×15).

Agent Fowley is absent from this whole play. Interesting. Perhaps that brewing love triangle would have distracted too much from the action. I tend to think so.

I had hoped that Chris Carter’s experimental episodes, you know, the ones he helmed from beginning to end, would be a once-a-year occurrence, but alas. We get a similarly experimental if not quite as ambitious episode later in the season in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) but the next time Chris Carter gives us a distinctly “Chris Carteresque” episode will be Season 9’s “Improbable” (9×14), so you might want to unbuckle your seatbelt for that wait.

No Germans were harmed in the making of this episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Well, you… you can relax. There’s no war going on. The world is at peace. There’s a little trouble over at our White House, but that’ll blow over… so to speak.

———————-

Scully: I want you to do me a favor. It’s not negotiable. Either you do it or I kill you, you understand?
Spender: You okay, Agent Scully?
Scully: No. I’m not. I’m a gun ready to go off so don’t test me, Spender. Don’t even think about trying to weasel me.

———————–

Kersh’s Secretary: I was sent to come get you.
Scully: Yeah, I was waiting for Agent Spender, he was, uh… I’m supposed to pick up a delivery from him.
Kersh’s Secretary: Agent Spender is with Assistant Director Kersh.
Scully: That rat bastard!

———————–
Mulder: Hey, Scully.
Scully: Yes?
Mulder: I love you.
Scully: Oh, brother.

The Pine Bluff Variant 5×18: Oh, is this the Pepsi Challenge?


Musta been something I ate.

We were overdue for this.

The last three episodes haven’t been… bad… they’ve just been rather quiet and unassuming, a characteristic I know how to appreciate but, dang it, this is The X-Files. I should be nearly falling off my chair with excitement more often than not. Usually, that kind of adrenaline rush is brought on by vile beasties and such, but “The Pine Bluff Variant” ignores the usual scares for an old-fashioned, Hollywood style action mystery – it’s a welcome departure.

This episode is a pure thriller from top to bottom. I don’t think the series ever had another episode that was quite like it in tone and if not for a few key elements like the familiar characters, the distinctive cinematography and particularly horrific effects of the biotoxin, it wouldn’t even feel like an X-File. The closest episode to it in style would have to be “F. Emasculata” (2×22), which has a rare sense of urgency to it for a non-mythology episode, with “Sleepless” (2×4) running second just because both episodes are echoes of The Manchurian Candidate in their own way.

All three episodes are what I like to refer to as Half-Caff: They involve a more generalized and vague government conspiracy than the mythology proper that’s centered around a highly coveted piece of science or technology. It’s one of my favorite sub-types of Monster of the Week episodes because the “monster” is so much more dangerous than an individual mutant, it’s all encompassing and nearly invisible – it’s a government. And isn’t The X-Files, a product of men who grew up in the Nixon era, a show grounded in government distrust? It’s a foundation of cement, really. The monsters, the aliens, they’re all just stand-ins and allegories for groups of nameless, faceless men with all the power and none of the integrity, men who control the future of the masses while exercising no self-control over their own whims. At least, that’s how you’ll feel if you watch too much of this show.

Mulder made a mistake and opened his mouth a little too wide back in “Patient X” (5×13) voicing not only his then doubts as to the existence of extra-terrestrials, but also some particularly jaded views on the Federal government. I always appreciate continuity on The X-Files when I see it, and goodness knows it becomes a hot commodity in later seasons, so I think it was clever of writer John Shiban to throw in a nod to a significant moment earlier in the season.

But back to Mulder… thank heaven for this episode! Mulder has either been irritating or relatively useless for the last five episodes, that is when he’s even present. Finally, he’s redeemed as our anti-hero hero and I’m forcefully and gleefully reminded why I love this man… er… character. Yes.

Mulder has one of his greatest moments ever here with his,  “If you touch me again you better kill me!” line. Actually, that entire interrogation scene is golden both for Mulder’s sarcasm and his action hero antics. If you haven’t watched it in a while, please do. Pop it in the player a moment for your own sake. Go on. It’s okay. I’ll wait.

………….

And we’re back.

Not to be outdone, Mulder isn’t the only one with a chance to shine, Scully wakes up this episode and I just love her when she has attitude. I know her little feet can’t reach the peddles but I swear, she’s more dangerous than Mulder. U.S. Attorney Leamus has no idea how narrowly he escaped a hurtin’.

The villain isn’t the only object of her wrath, either, as wonderfully evidenced in that scene where Scully tracks Mulder to an out of the way motel. Scully’s furious at Mulder, more so because he’s lying to her than because he’s colluding with a dangerous criminal. Even so, she doesn’t betray him when she has the chance. It’s like I said back in “Demons” (4×23), Scully will defend Mulder whether he’s innocent or guilty, as long as he needs her she will compulsively be there. She might not be happy about it, though.

Things were supposed to be a little tense between Mulder and Scully this season what with Mulder’s doubts about the existence of aliens and Scully dealing with the after-effects of her cancer, but whatever the writers intended, for the most part, they didn’t pull it off. I can’t think of when the characters have ever felt closer.

Verdict:

This is absolutely the best episode John Shiban ever gave the show solo and it’s one of the best examples of how The X-Files could transform itself from week to week and from genre to genre. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I don’t see it pop up more often on “Best Of” lists.

I’m still not sure what the government gets out of this in the end. Were they using these terrorists to test the biotoxin or were they trying to retrieve the stolen technology from them? If the former, were the terrorists aware they were being used? Is August Bremmer a government plant put there to organize and control them into using the weapon the way the government sees fit?

In the end, I just don’t care. I enjoy the ride far too much to be disappointed by my own inability to follow a plot.

I’ve always loved this episode, but watching Scully and Skinner walk into that movie theater again with flashlights flashing… it just may have rolled up into my top ten favorites.

A+

Random Comments:

Kate Braidwood, the daughter of Tom Braidwood, the First Director on the show and the actor who plays Frohike, shows up in this episode as the Usherette.

Putting the biotoxin on the bank’s money sounds scary in theory, but it would never make it out into the general population anyhow. The moment someone who worked at the bank touched it they’d die, which would lead to an investigation, which would lead to the money being confiscated. After all, how can anyone pass on the cash without flesh?

So the motel featured so heavily in this episode… I feel as though I’ve seen it several times, a fact which I can neither confirm nor deny. But if I’m not much mistaken, it’s not only the motel from “Conduit” (1×3) and “Wetwired” (3×23), but possibly from “Colony” (2×16) and “Tempus Fugit” (4×17) as well. But I’m not going to bother to go back and check so…

The set design and lighting in that F.B.I. conference room is immaculate. Come to think of it, the set designs throughout this entire episode are amazing.

Oh, my Shippers, you caught that moment, right? Right? Right.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Maybe you can tell me what’s going on.
Motel Manager: What?
Scully: There seems to be a problem. A man just told me you gave him keys to my room. Room 130.
Motel Manager: Who are you?
Scully: Who am I? Who is he?
Motel Manager: Mister, uh, Kaplan.
Scully: Mr. Kaplan?
Motel Manager: Yes.
Scully: Thank you.
Motel Manager: Are you the wife?
Scully: Not even close.

———————-

Scully: Exactly what agency are you guys from?
Agents: [Stony silence]
Scully: Obviously not the Office of Information.

———————-

Scully: Oh, Mulder, what did they do to you?
Mulder: [Winces]
Scully: This needs to be set. You’re in pain.
Mulder: Yeah, if you keep pullin’ it around like that…

———————-

Mulder: If you don’t hear from me by midnight, feed my fish.