Tag Archives: Season 7

Theef 7×14: Stinky’s good.


theef005.jpg

‘Ello, poppet.

Think of me what you will, but when this episode started playing I dry sobbed.

Finally. An X-File.

All pretentious analysis aside, I watch this show for the high it gives me. Endorphins, dopamine… I don’t know how it works. Whatever. I don’t run. I don’t do drugs. I watch The X-Files.

Even the worst episodes, with a few noticeable exceptions, give something, something I crave. Lately, though, I haven’t been getting it. I’ve been getting things that resemble it, I’ve been getting watered down versions of it, I’ve been getting glimpses of it, but not it. My withdrawal symptoms have included restlessness and indiscriminate irritation.

I needed a fix and I got one in “Theef”. Don’t judge me.

“Theef” is about as quintessential an X-File as it gets and it’s directed by the show’s go-to man for horror, the late Kim Manners. John Gillnitz* wrote it. Even the atmospheric dreary rain we miss from the show’s Vancouver days is back! In fact, the feel of it all is so familiar that even Mulder and Scully rib each other over it.

Scully: Well, that’s certainly one question. I’ve got many.

Mulder: [Mimics a purse-lipped Scully] “Mulder, why are we here?”

Scully: [Slyly] To be fair, I might have used the words “Mulder, how is this an X-File?”

Mulder: You see that, Scully, you always keep me guessing.

I’ve been mostly immune to the Mulder and Scully flirtation going on all season (that irritability I mentioned), but they kill me here. The looks. The looks! Knowing what we know now about “all things” (7×17) being a confirmation rather than an introduction of their relationship, if I had to guess, I’d say Mulder and Scully’s romantic relationship started right around here. But I know that’s up for debate as Mulder and Scully have been flirting all season… and all last season… and much of the season before… I really don’t care when it started, I only care that wherever they are in their timeline they’re making me all kinds of happy.

The rest of the episode isn’t too shabby either. We’ve got a really creepy villain in Oral Peattie, an Appalachian mountain man, doubtless inbred, who uses hexes and something akin to voodoo to take out his more well-educated enemies. Frankly, he seems like he must’ve lived a life so isolated that it’s hard to believe he knew any people whatsoever that he could have practiced his occult moves on previously. In fact, if the plot suffers anywhere it’s in the fact that Orel occasionally comes off too ignorant to be believable. How far back in the backwoods is he that he’s never seen a vending machine or a microwave by the year 2000? And if he’s really so primitive that he lives without electricity and doesn’t understand basic kitchen appliances, how did he successfully make the trip across country from West Virginia to San Francisco? One has to wonder.

Nevertheless, Peattie is creepy. He’s also a good foil for Dr. Robert Wieder, Peattie’s ignorantly sworn enemy. It’s Medicine Man vs. “medicine man,” though the only thing Dr. Wieder is guilty of is making a hard call in the treatment of Peattie’s daughter, one that’s surprisingly meaty as food for thought. What do you do when someone’s suffering and science can’t save them? Do you ease their suffering? Do you still ease their suffering at the risk of hastening death? And are there powers more powerful than medicine that can save the dying when science can’t?

The questions make for good discussion as do the murders, which are the freakiest we’ve seen in a good long while. The MRI scene in particular is memorable, if suspiciously well-timed. There are also a couple of great side characters like the proprietress of Peattie’s boarding house and the magical shop owner in San Francisco.

It’s only regrettable that the ending peters out instead of explodes. You would think Scully going blind would be scarier than it is. But something about her conveniently leaving everything Peattie needed to hex her in the rental car, then Mulder showing up and taking his sweet time to look over the scene, casually taking the needles out of the eyes of her representative poppet doll… If Peattie had outwitted them or surprised somehow and put them in a precarious situation, that would have been better. I do realize, of course, that Peattie isn’t working with much.

Verdict:

It’s not perfect, but I consider it tragically underrated. The atmosphere is note perfect, the deaths horrifying, the characters like something out of Season 2. And I don’t know but that however flirtatious Mulder and Scully tend to be on the regular, they have suddenly, distinctly upped their game.

I confess myself sad that this episode loses some steam right at the critical moment. If there had been more tension when Peattie goes up against Scully, I don’t hesitate to say this would have been a classic. As it is, it’s my favorite episode of the season so far. It may even remain so.

Or perhaps I’m feeling generous because I’m a little too happy right now.

A-

Questions:

Where is this hillbilly getting these diseases from? Did his family pass down some old medical almanac that he has hidden away in his cabin? If so, can he read it?

How did Peattie find out what became of his daughter and track down the doctor who treated her? Magic? And how did he find out what the doctor did? Even if he had her medical records, I doubt his understanding was advanced enough to realize what all that morphine meant.

How does Peattie track Scully and crew to the cabin in the woods when he didn’t have a car to follow them in? And even before that, it didn’t occur to anyone that Peattie might be watching the house and it use evasive maneuvers?

Poppets:

I should not love these characters this much. I should not. It can’t be healthy.

Mulder and Scully have been in California for the last five episodes now. I realize that the production has moved and all, but let’s up our creative game, shall we?

Episodes like this make it really, really hard, nay, impossible for me to understand a particular plot line come Season 8.

I love James Morrison as the slightly overconfident Dr. Wieder. My mom had such a melodramatic response to his character’s death on 24, it’s legend in our house.

In the end, it’s modern science that treats Peattie. Cosmic irony alert.

*John Shiban – Vince Gilligan – Frank Spotnitz

Best Quotes:

Scully: Hexcraft, as in, uh, putting a curse on someone? Murdering them magically?

Mulder: Yeah, that’s what it looks like to me. Now, I know what you’re going to say, Scully.

Scully: No, hexcraft. I mean, I’ll… I’ll buy that as the intent here. It certainly jives with the evidence. I say we talk to the family.

Mulder: [Shocked Silence]

Scully: I’ll always keep you guessing.

————————–
Mulder: Go ahead, Scully. Keep me guessing. {Editor’s Note: I die.}

Signs and Wonders 7×9: Thank you, Mulder. Thank you so much.


x-files-224

Handle that.

People think the Devil has horns and a tail. They’re not looking for some kindly man that tells you what you want to hear.

This all day.

Cheesy pun intended, but after a string of episodes I could take or leave, “Signs and Wonders” is a blessing. Though every time I watch it I start off thinking I won’t be able to handle it. No, not because of the snakes. I like snakes. But because I don’t think I can take another exaggerated Hollywood portrait of the faithful. Almost every church service Hollywood attempts, the congregation extras look like drunken zombies. The charismatic services? Drunken zombies having seizures.

Our first several introductions to antagonist (?) Rev. Enoch and his flock start off with a hefty dose of the latter. Not much of these performances are believable, though the actor who plays Rev. Enoch comes the closest.

Then again, what do I know? From what I’ve read, Director Kim Manners said that the actor who played Rev. Enoch, Michael Childers, is actually the son of a snake preacher man, so guess he would have first hand knowledge of what extreme looks like. I only grew up in an Assemblies of God church, where we weren’t snake handlers but we were small and southern and it wasn’t strange to see someone slain in the Spirit come Sunday morning or Sunday evening or Wednesday night. Because I think we were about the last generation that expected church and was expected at church three times a week, not counting youth group and/or Bible study. I loved it.

Continuing my informational aside, Robert Duvall’s The Apostle remains the most tonally accurate depiction of the southern Pentecostal tradition. And if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend that you do. Boy, the 90’s were great for movies.

But back to “Signs and Wonders”. It’s purposefully ham-handed in the beginning… the middle… and most of the end… because writer Jeffrey Bell is setting us up for a shock. There’s more misdirection here than there was in “The Amazing Maleeni” (7×8).

There’s a great scene that intercuts between two church meetings, one lead by the manic Rev. O’Connor at the Church of God with Signs and Wonders, the other by a calm, so non-judgmental that he refuses to have an opinion, Rev. Mackey at the progressive Blessing Community Church across town. The juxtaposition tells us everything we think we need to know.

Rev. O’Connor Rev. Mackey
  • Loud
  • Forceful
  • Exaggerated
  • Emotional
  • Simplistic
  • Humble
  • Intellectual
  • Gentle
  • Thoughtful
  • Analytical

Now which Bible study would you rather invite your friends to?

Personally, in real life, I’d consider both preachers dangerous and misguided, though I suppose at gunpoint I’d rather face real snakes than spiritual ones. But the Church of God with Signs and Wonders is so over the top it’s impossible to like. And I’d question the sanity of anyone who thought that church service looked appealing. Then, that’s the point. Not everything good is appealing, like broccoli or exercise. And not everything appealing is good. The Devil has a way of disguising himself as everything appealing.

Everything on the surface of Rev. Enoch O’Connor and his church is unappealing, and Scully is duly turned off. Mulder, on the other hand, while certainly not turned on, is a little more… open, shall we say, to O’Connor’s extremism. And for once, for once! We have an episode about organized religion where Mulder is non-judgmental and Scully is skeptical. Who’s punking me?

I really like Mulder in this episode. He almost reminds me of Season 3 Mulder, who I actually didn’t much care for. He recklessly follows his gut, come what may. He antagonizes guest stars and lectures Scully. Mulder, where have you been?? The X-Files, where have you been??? This entire horror-fest feels like a Season 3 standard. I’ve missed this kind of old-fashioned creep-out. But I digress yet again.

Open-minded as Mulder may try to be, he still nearly falls into Rev. Mackey’s trap. Like Rev. O’Connor says, “Unless you’re smart down here, the Devil’s gonna make a fool of you and you ain’t even gonna know it.” It was Mackey who seduced Gracie O’Connor away from her father and his church. Mackey who impregnated her. Mackey who sicced his snakes on Jared and Iris and set up Rev. O’Connor to look good for it. Mackey is tolerant, kind, smart, and he would have killed Mulder if Scully hadn’t… I mean if Mulder hadn’t passed th… I mean if he’d had time to fin…

I’m really not sure why Mulder’s still with us.

But message received. I’m glad I sat through the vacant, ecstatic expressions, the oddly timed arm raises, the spit. Now I know that old snake, the Devil, disguises himself as an angel of light, and as mild-mannered, uber-tolerant pastors.

Verdict:

Watching this episode reminds me of a story my mother sometimes tells.

There was a local preacher who she, frankly, couldn’t tolerate. Pick your favorite stereotype about flamboyant televangelists and he was it. He was loud, gaudy, and decked out with a ring on every finger, each big enough so that you could be sure to see it from the furthest pew. He used to pull stunts like taking off his jacket and whipping it across the stage just for show.

It would seem simple enough to just avoid him and his church, but mom had friends who were a part of his congregation and some social duties can’t be avoided. So one night she found herself back there at his church, perched in a pew and preparing herself to hear him from the pulpit. Problem was, they were still in the midst of worship, he hadn’t even gotten to the message yet, but she couldn’t take it anymore. He was too much for her.

Just as she was about to mentally, and possibly physically, check out, she heard a voice in her spirit. “Don’t look at the messenger, pay attention to the message.” Well, she took that literally. She spent the entire church service with her eyes closed and her head down. And, what do you know? He made a lot of sense when you couldn’t see him. He was even a blessing.

They’ve been friends ever since.

Sometimes sincere and sincerely correct people are belied by their antics. Sometimes people think they’re on the side of the angels when they’re really enabling evil to work unchecked. Okay, 1013. There you go making me think again.

Truthfully, ever so truthfully, this still isn’t a Noone-Talk-To-Me-I’m-Watching-Mulder-N-Scully episode. But it doesn’t commit the cardinal sin of being boring.

B+

Signs:

The actress who plays Iris Finster, Beth Grant, looked frustratingly familiar so I checked IMDB and it turns out she’s been in pretty much everything.

I was also sure Tracy Middendorf (Gracie) and I had met before. Turns out we had met after, not before, when I was watching 24.

Now, you saw those Little House on the Prairie dresses Iris and Gracie wore to Jared’s funeral. I don’t care if this is Blessing, TN. It’s not 1880.

Don’t front, 1013. We all know that Scully asking, “Where’s the light switch?” after they walk into a church with every window inexplicably covered is merely an excuse to have Mulder and Scully break out their trademark flashlights despite the broad L.A. daylight.

Someone refresh my memory if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe The X-Files has ever scared us with snakes before. One wonders why it took so long. I don’t know but that I’m glad they’re back to frightening us with our own latent phobias.

Rev. Mackey guilt trips Gracie in the hospital by accusing her of not thinking for herself. But she’s not supposed to be thinking for herself. She’s supposed to be thinking for her father whose last wishes it’s her duty to carry out.

Wonders:

On the DVD (I’m ancient. I know.), the episode menu basically reveals the villain of this episode. I’m already a cesspool of spoilers, but what about the newbies??

We never do find out exactly who or what Rev. Mackey was. Like Donnie Pfaster before him, we’re not sure if he’s a man given completely over to evil or if he’s some kind of incarnation of the Devil. Unlike Donnie Pfaster, he has an unmistakable supernatural element. Does he take this act around the country? Does the unsuspecting little parishioner lady at the end get eaten by snakes? Things I still want to know.

I also want to know: If Gracie was sleeping with Rev. Mackey and knew he was the father of her baby, then she also knew he was a manipulative hypocrite. Why does she spend 90% of the episode listening to his advice?

Wait. Wait. Or maybe, just maybe, Rev. Mackey actually is a snake and as a snake is taking revenge on Rev. O’Connor for his many years of snake shenanigans.

Everything. Makes. Sense.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Snakes.

Mulder: Lots and lots of snakes.

——————–

Rev. O’Connor: Educated man. Too smart to know any better… You think because you’re educated you’re better than most? You ain’t. Unless you’re smart down here [indicates heart], the Devil’s gonna make a fool of you and you ain’t even gonna know it.

——————–

Mulder: Sometimes a little intolerance can be a welcome thing.

——————–

Rev. Mackey: Most people believe they’re on the side of angels, but are they?

The Amazing Maleeni 7×8: Come on. Show me something!


The Great Maleeni

Keep the hat, Scully. Just keep it.

You know, I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, but rewatching the series this closely you start to pick up patterns and lietmotifs that you didn’t see before. Five minutes into this episode and I was thinking to myself, “This feels more like a Lone Gunmen episode than an X-File.” Sure enough, it’s written by John Gillnitz.

John Gillnitz, of course, being a portmanteau of Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban, the talented trio of writers that brought us the ever-entertaining “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II” (6×5) and that was the driving creative force behind The Lone Gunmen spinoff series. Their hilarious tone is unmistakable. Though from what I’ve read, Frank Spotnitz had long campaigned for the concept while Vince Gilligan did most of the heavy lifting as far as the writing went. Frank was apparently one of those kids who was fascinated by magic shows and that fascination continued into adulthood, resulting in the series bringing in his favorite magician, Ricky Jay, to play the lead as Maleeni himself.

Now, I have to add a disclaimer before I give this episode an official grade. I was not one of those kids who was fascinated by magic shows. I was one of those kids who sat through them with head flopped back in undisguised disdain. It’s a trick and I know it’s a trick. How you managed it is irrelevant to me since it’s not real. Heal a leper and you’ll have my attention.

So I confess my bias towards boredom here at the outset. But I appreciate the risk that novelty takes, especially in a show where seven seasons in the formulas are solidified, if not fossilized.

And I do enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere of this episode, especially in the beginning during the scenes around the Santa Monica Pier. One of the advantages to the production moving to L.A. was that it allowed them to take Mulder and Scully across the country visually. The audience doesn’t have to take a typed note at the bottom of their TV screens at its word. We can see that Mulder and Scully aren’t in D.C. anymore. Since the episode is mainly about misdirection, that’s about the only thing that is clear.

That and that Mulder and Scully are incredibly relaxed this season. I guess freedom from cancer and conspiracies and new love life will do that to an agent.

If I’m going to be honest, and by now you can guess that I am, it never really feels like an X-File and more like a quirky who-dun-it. Mulder and Scully aren’t even pretending to investigate something supernatural or extraterrestrial. There’s never a question that Maleeni’s death involved a trick, the only questions were who did it, how and why. Not only that, but Scully reveals pretty early on that Maleeni, or someone posing as Maleeni, or a body that someone posing as Maleeni has planted, died from natural causes and there isn’t even so much as a murder to investigate. So why are Mulder and Scully still giggling their way around the pier? Why, to enjoy the show, of course. And to figure out what’s up and who’s up to it.

Verdict:

No, it’s not about a freak show and it’s on the opposite coast of Florida, but it’s hard to see the tricks and colors in “The Amazing Maleeni”, to remember a time when people were amusedd by simpler things, when we asked to be lied to, and not think of the obscenely entertaining funhouse that was “Humbug” (2×20). Sadly, “The Amazing Maleeni” comes up wanting in comparison.

Now, you know I like a good Mulder/Scully flirt as much as the next fangirl. Probably more. And I’m not averse to fluff. But, I’m not sold.

I’m getting antsy at this point in the season because I need… something. Something that’s more than the sum of its cute moments, funny one-liners and gorgeous screenshots. Something that moves me or makes me angry or makes my heart race or cracks me up to the point where my family thinks they’re finally going to have to have me committed. Something that separates the legends from the interesting outings, the Humbugs from the Maleenis. Something.

Mozart and Salieri. They sound pretty much the same to a layman. But they ain’t. You know what I’m saying? It’s about… originality. Style. And more than anything else… soul. Because that’s what separates the great ones… from the hacks. We can’t do this halfway. We’re dealing with powerful forces at work here. Energies far beyond our mere… mortal… understanding.

B

Misdirection:

Did I mention this episode is gorgeous? It’s funny, I have a tendency to forget the plot. But certain visual moments from it are iconic in my mind, like that shot with Scully in a magician’s hat. She should keep one of those around.

The only other thing I ever remember is The Great Muldini.

So this is basically a bank caper with style, yes?

He felt like an actual magician to me so I checked and, yes, Jonathan Levit (Billy LaBonge) is actually a magician. I have to say, he played the cocky apprentice just right. I especially liked that bit in the teaser where he heckles with just the right amount of attitude.

Best Quotes:

LaBonge: Yo. Can’t you do anything that ain’t a hundred years old? That ain’t old school, that’s decrepit.

Maleeni: Young man, shall I come heckle you on your job? Make sure you count out the requisite number of McNuggets?

————————-

Scully: Why are you talking like Tony Randall?

————————-

Mulder: So, basically, he died of a heart attack, somebody crept up behind him and sawed his head off and then glued it back on all in the space of thirty seconds. Does that make sense to you?

Scully: No. Which makes it even stranger still because, as far as I can tell, this body has been dead for over a month. I see signs of refrigeration.

Mulder: And yet he performed yesterday. What a trooper.

————————-

Scully: Well, why did you lose? You could have manipulated the cards, right?

Maleeni: Cheat? You’re asking why I don’t cheat at cards?

Scully: Well, you could, right?

Scully: Of course I could, but how would I live with myself? Who raised you?

The Goldberg Variation 7×2: Maybe your luck is changing.


The Goldberg Variation 2

The unluckiest by far.

I hate to come back after an extended hiatus and bring tidings of mediocrity, but alas, I paused where I paused in this rewatch and must return where I must. And this just isn’t a great episode.

Let’s start with the good. “The Goldberg Variation” does have some cute moments. “Moments” so far being the key word of Season 7, a season that sporadically throws us knowing winks of familiarity, humor and emotional significance, but that mostly sits stares at us with bored, half-lidded eyes.

Here it takes a vain stab at touching humor a la “Small Potatoes” (4×20). It’s trying to do everything right  – We have a quirky, socially awkward anti-hero who’s lovable despite himself, an X-File that’s fantastic rather than frightening and Mulder made a mess of. What’s not to love, right? But I can’t love it. I haven’t even been able to watch the entire episode in a single sitting since it first aired. I keep getting distracted by things like my dog snoring and my overgrown toenail cuticles and have to rewind.

The highlight of the episode for me happens very early on, within the first quarter. Scully’s stifled smile as Mulder tries and fails to go from G-Man to handyman makes me laugh every time. So there is that.

But for an episode based on the inescapable force that is Cause and Effect, the plot feels like a loosely connected series of coincidences rather than a logical chain of events. And even if in hindsight we’re supposed to see that there was a reason for all this madness, that a force was behind the plot and driving it to an inevitably good conclusion, it still feels haphazard and goofy rather than controlled.

That’s too bad since this episode’s two main guest stars, prolific actor Willie Garson and soon-to-be prolific actor Shia LaBeouf, could potentially have given us some real television memories. And writer Jeffrey Bell already has – Some good (“The Rain King”) and some not so good (“Alpha”).

The Mulder/Scully dynamic is enjoyable as always, but perhaps they’ve been feeding on too much L.A. sunshine in the absence of alien angst. Neither of them are dealing with drama at the moment and it shows. There’s no conspiracy and no cancer. There isn’t even an X-File that poses any actual danger. What are they to do but crack jokes and smirk at each other?

They deserve it after all this time, to be sure. So why do I suddenly miss the driving sense of urgency that characterized earlier seasons and the built-in mystery that the Vancouver fog used to lend to the production? I know I’m a hypocrite since I loved the famously lighthearted Season 6 which was also shot in L.A.. But cheeky and experimental as “Triangle” (6×3) is, it still has an intensity that episodes like this one lack.

Verdict:

So what separates the “Small Potatoes” from episodes like “The Goldberg Variation”? In a word: soul.

It’s not the acting talent. It’s not the writing talent. It’s not the production budget. It’s that “something” that’s impossible to define but that you can’t forget once you encounter it. That “something” that brought us all to The X-Files in the first place.

Somehow, all the moving parts were there but didn’t come together with any chemistry. The result is a cute but lackluster forty-three minutes and thirty-three seconds.

Gone, perhaps, are the days when I would call up my best friend during commercial breaks going, “OMW, did you see that??”

C

Unnecessary Comments:

Mobsters using words like “impervious.” *mildly amused smirk*

The props department outdid themselves with those Rube Goldberg machines. Or where they borrowed?

This won’t be the last time Lady Luck stars as an X-File…

Quotes:

Mulder: Hey, nice outfit! {Editor’s Note: Funny, I was thinking the same thing. Scully looks awfully well-tailored for a government worker.}

————————

Scully: So, basically, we’re looking for Wile E. Coyote.” {Editor’s Note: Would that you were, Scully. Would that you were.}

————————
Scully: I like baseball too. {Editor’s Note: I see what you did there, Jeffrey Bell.}