Tag Archives: Shadows

How the Ghosts Stole Christmas 6×8: I just gave myself chills.


The romance is the first thing to go.

I have had a revelation. It only took thirteen years and several cups of coffee.

“How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” is essentially the story of what happens when Mulder tries to romance Scully in his own strange, Mulderish way. Back in the day, I used to think he’s merely lonely and wanting for company, but he plans this evening. This isn’t a spur of the moment outing brought on by boredom. And then he tries to impress Scully with the spooky atmosphere of his story the way that normal men take their dates to scary movies in hopes that their ready arms will look more masculine and appealing when their date has no place else to run to. Why else take her on a scary Christmas Eve rendezvous traditionally taken by lovers?

Notice the way writer and director Chris Carter chooses to shoot both characters from the back as Mulder weaves his winter’s tale in the dark car. No sooner does he start discussing the story of Maurice and Lyda than Mulder and Scully are framed in a rather romantic looking portrait. Oh, yes. Brooding hero Maurice is Mulder and Lyda of the sublime beauty is Scully. Perhaps as a Christmas present to the fans, Chris Carter doesn’t even attempt to be subtle about it. Thank you, Chris.

Mulder: His name was Maurice. He was a… a brooding but heroic young man beloved of Lyda, a sublime beauty with a light that seemed to follow her wherever she went. They were likened to two angels descended from heaven whom the gods could not protect from the horrors being visited upon this cold, grey earth.

Yeah, methinks Mulder was trying to get his mack on. Well, sorta. I’m not trying to say that Mulder was about to put the moves on Scully. But does he know what he’s saying when he tells her the story of Maurice and Lyda? Oh yeah. He’s acting the teenage boy here, no doubt about it, and that’s the backdrop for our story at hand. Any excuse to bring television legends Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin into The X-Files family is just fine. They’re supposed to steal the show here and indeed they do.

Actually, Ed Asner was originally intended for the role of Clyde Bruckman in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4), but glory be, Peter Boyle owned that character and we still get to relish Ed Asner’s charm in the role of Maurice. See? Everyone wins.

Already Season 6 has set itself apart with an impressive list of guest stars. Bryan Cranston before he was famous in “Drive” (6×1), Michael McKean and Nora Dunn in “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II” (6×5), Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin here, next up will be Bruce Campbell in “Terms of Endearment” (6×6) closely followed by Victoria Jackson in “Rain King” (6×7), and it won’t end there.

To what do we owe the pleasure? It has to be the move to L.A. Now there are all sorts of actors willing to share screen time with Mulder and Scully who wouldn’t have been available for the trek to Vancouver. And I suppose it doesn’t hurt that Season 6 was the heyday of a television phenomenon. Who doesn’t want to be a part of history? It’d be like turning down a guest spot on Star Trek.

Whatever the sentimental loss over the built-in atmosphere of Vancouver and the original production crew that turned The X-Files into the legend it became, we can’t deny that the move to L.A. has not only brought great side benefits like impressive actors, the production quality hasn’t suffered in the least. The set of “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” is absolutely stunning; it’s a character unto itself. This is especially important because ninety percent of the action happens in this one place with only four actors involved, the smallest cast of any episode of the series. The cast is so small and the action so relegated to one spot that it feels very much like a stage play. And if going off with the family to watch a staged performance isn’t Christmas, I don’t know what is.

If I’m to be honest (there’s no need to be but it’s Christmas so why not?), I never much cared for this episode before this rewatch. Not to say that I didn’t like it, but I always felt that something was missing, that it was a little soulless, perhaps. I didn’t see that it had a point. And it doesn’t, really. It’s a festive frolic, a Christmas card to the fans, and that’s all it’s meant to be. And why not? Episodes previously had acknowledged the Christmas season, “Beyond the Sea” (1×12), “Christmas Carol” (5×5), but neither of those had ever acknowledged the audience on the other side of the television screen. Now The X-Files has reached its zenith and is understandably a little self-conscious about its legion of fans, enough that rather than scare them it deems it better to send a little Christmas spirit their way. An episode like this couldn’t have been attempted in any season previous except possibly Season 5; it’s too meta for a show that doesn’t know its own power.

There’s another element of this episode that The X-Files never would have attempted before it was an official piece of pop culture history. Back in the not so distant day, a Shipper had to hunt for little romantic gems in an episode. A brief hand-hold here, a golden moment of banter there… it was a game looking for these affirmations of the Shipper faith since it wasn’t as though the writers were putting them there on purpose. We had to take what we could get. Now, however, the game has changed completely and after the events of the movie, Chris Carter & Co. could no longer believably ignore either the mounting anticipation of their audience or the romantic tension that they inadvertently created between their two lead characters. So, what to do, what to do? They had no choice, really, but to officially script the MSR* subtext into the series. Now Shippers no longer have to hunt for sustenance like wild animals, it’s being fed to us in golden bowls like house pets.

If that sounds like a complaint, please know that it’s not. As I said, I don’t see how the show could have believably evolved any other way. What could Chris Carter have done? Turned back the clock and pretended that millions of people had never seen that scene outside of Mulder’s apartment? Or worse, should he have taken character development back a few seasons in order to halt the progression of this budding romance between his leads? Never. Looking back it was inevitable that the romantic undertone of the series would become more overt. And however people may complain that it made The X-Files look silly, it would have looked a heck of a lot sillier if they had stubbornly ignored the obvious. As it is I believe the writers did an excellent job of utilizing the MSR subtext without relying on it. “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” works because it’s funny. If you happen to understand the layer of meaning just beneath the surface then so much the better.

I must admit, though, that watching this episode when it originally aired was my first “Danger, Will Robinson” moment. Why? I’m glad you asked.

First there was “Triangle” (6×3), a lighthearted tale meant to cleanse the palette after the high emotional tension of “The Beginning” (6×2) and to reward the fans whose hopes were thwarted during that infamous hallway scene in Fight the Future. It was incredibly well done and almost universally praised. Do you see a problem there? No? I didn’t think so.

Directly after that was “Dreamland”. Sure, two lighthearted episodes in a row is unheard of on The X-Files but production order gets switched around sometimes and besides, “Triangle” wasn’t really a comedy. Ah, but then we have “Dreamland II” which of course must follow part 1. We can’t find fault with that, can we? It just so happens that having three of these episodes in a row is the way things played out.

But now we’re at “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” and a disturbing pattern begins to emerge. Yes, I’ve already said that I appreciate that the show was willing and able to do something fun for Christmas for once. I’m all for it. And yet… part of me is starting to worry. No, nothing has been bad by any means. This string of episodes has been fabulous! Still, my spidey sense is atingle: where are the X-Files? At what point does the show become too self-conscious?

Verdict:

A quick word of caution about this episode: the whole thing is tongue-in-cheek. Yes, that seems obvious and why would I warn you about that? But I fear that the pop psychology invoked here, the witty observations of Maurice and Lyda that Chris Carter never intended to be taken as gospel truth, has been accepted a little too literally over the years. Read the fanfic, don’t let it corrupt you.

Yes, Mulder is prone to a self-centered form of tunnel vision. But a narcissist? Hardly that. And while Scully may enjoy a good intellectual tête-à-tête with Mulder, who would believe that she’s spent so many years with him risking life and limb merely for the right to say “I told you so?” Part of the point of this episode is that Maurice and Lyda misread Mulder and Scully, assuming that they’re much lonelier and less balanced than they actually are.

However, if you want to take away anything about the psychology of the characters please note that Scully does admit she really wanted to be out there hunting things she doesn’t even believe in with Mulder. Yet again Chris Carter sets up the tension between Scully’s overt desire for normality and her unacknowledged desire to travel a bumpier road with Mulder. For some reason, Scully has a hard time understanding herself and why she’d rather suffer with Mulder than live out her life in peace with anyone else.

A-

P.S. Speaking of Christmas, I suppose you already know what day it is. So allow me to wish a very Merry Christmas to you and yours! A huge thank you to all of you who follow along because you make this a blast. See you in the new year!

Armchair Psychology:

How can Mulder possibly be surprised that Scully doesn’t believe in ghosts? Wasn’t he there for the events of “Shadows” (1×5)?

Did anyone else catch the moment where Mulder pauses during the telling of his gothic tale to wiggle his eyebrows?

I love that telltale heart moment.

The shot where you can see Scully’s face through that hole in Maurice’s head still impresses me. I wonder how much that cost…

So, Chris Carter knows exactly what Mulder and Scully gave each other for Christmas and he refuses to tell. Scrooge.

*MSR – Mulder/Scully Romance

Best Quotes:

Scully: I see. The dark, gothic manor the, uh, omnipresent low fog hugging the thicket of overgrowth… Wait… is that a hound I hear baying out on the moors?
Mulder: No. Actually that was a left cheek sneak. {Editor’s Note: I JUST got that. Sometimes I wonder about myself.}

———————-

Maurice: You drink? Take drugs?
Mulder: No.
Maurice: Get high?
Mulder: No.
Maurice: Are you overcome by the impulse to make everyone believe you?

———————-

Maurice: My specialty is in what I call soul prospectors, a cross axial classification I’ve codified by extensive interaction with visitors like yourself. I’ve found you all tend to fall into pretty much the same category.
Mulder: And what category is that?
Maurice: Narcissistic, overzealous, self-righteous egomaniac.
Mulder: Wow, that’s a category?
Maurice: You kindly think of yourself as single-minded but you’re prone to obsessive compulsiveness, workaholism, antisocialism. Fertile fields for the descent into… total wacko breakdown.
Mulder: I don’t think that pegs me exactly.
Maurice: Oh, really? Waving a gun around my house? Huh? Raving like a lunatic about some imaginary brick wall? You’ve probably convinced yourself you’ve seen aliens. You know why you think you see the things you do?
Mulder: Because I have seen them?
Maurice: ‘Cause you’re a lonely man. A lonely man, chasing paramasturbatory illusions that you believe will give your life meaning and significance and which your pathetic social maladjustment makes impossible for you to find elsewhere. You probably consider yourself passionate, serious, misunderstood. Am I right?
Mulder: Paramasturbatory?
Maurice: Most people would rather stick their fingers in a wall socket than spend a minute with you.
Mulder: All right, now just, uh… Just back off for a second.
Maurice: You spend every Christmas this way? Alone?
Mulder: I’m not alone.
Maurice: More self-delusion.
Mulder: No, I came here with my partner. She’s somewhere in the house.
Maurice: Behind a brick wall? How’d you get her to come with you? Steal her car keys?
Mulder: [Guilty silence]

——————–

Scully: Not that, uh, my only joy in life is proving you wrong.
Mulder: When have you proved me wrong?
Scully: Well… Why else would you want me out there with you?
Mulder: You didn’t want to be there? Oh, that’s, um… That’s self-righteous and… narcissistic of me to say, isn’t it?
Scully: No, I mean… Maybe I did want to be out there with you.

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Season 2 Wrap Up: I’ve been working out. I’m buff.


I'll take door #2, Monty.

Season 2 is one of my favorite seasons as a whole. I can watch any episode confident that I’m going to see stranger and stranger things unfold over the next hour, like a grotesque Alice in Wonderland. It gives us a long string of episodes that are all dark and disturbing, much more so than the first season. The writers aren’t afraid to “go there” with their subject matter. Child rape, teenage suicide… nothing’s taboo. Ghosts don’t just haunt you this season, they rape you. People aren’t just murdered, their bodies are desecrated. Is it too much? Not for me. I enjoy the fact that The X-Files can go boldly in this direction with intelligence and, dare I say, taste.

Think of Season 2 as the Stretch Armstrong of The X-Files.

Here’s a reference for the pop culturally challenged:

Not as painful as it looks.

Every element of the show is pulled, twisted and bent out of shape, just not to the point that it’s unrecognizable. Let’s start with our leads, shall we?

Both Mulder and Scully’s families take on a more substantial role in the series. We meet the entire Mulder clan, well, except for Samantha. We only met her clone and if we’re keeping score, she probably only counts for half a person. The Scully family is revisited with Captain Bill Scully coming from beyond the grave to finally say goodbye to his daughter and Maggie and Melissa Scully giving a memorable turn during Scully’s abduction.

Why is family life coming up and why now? For one, it shows us that Mulder and Scully don’t exist in a vacuum. They have histories and loved ones and when not chasing aliens, it’s possible that they even go home for Thanksgiving. You see, it’s really not about the families it’s about delving more deeply into Mulder and Scully’s characters.

And delve we do. Scully gave us a glimpse of her inner workings in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) but Season 2 is Mulder’s turn. He runs the emotional gamut what with the X-Files being ripped from him, Scully’s abduction, his sister’s return and then final mental breakdown in the season finale “Anasazi” (2×23). Scully mostly stares doe-eyed up at Mulder this season, but she also has an incredible emotional moment in “Irresistible” (2×13) and downright steals the show in “Anasazi.” Season 3 will be her season to grow a few flaws. Right now she’s still Mulder’s idealized Samantha stand-in.

Another reason Mulder and Scully get to shine is that they have new friends to play with. Krycek and Mr. X join the party while Skinner and CSM get upgraded to First Class and the Lone Gunman crawl out of the storage compartment. The X-Files still isn’t an ensemble show but the cast of characters is phenomenal and there’s combustive chemistry to go around. I’m just waiting for Skinner to stick it to CSM. Fortunately, I won’t have to wait very long.

This is where Gillian Anderson’s unexpected pregnancy and Scully’s abduction turned out to be brilliant: it allowed these minor characters to take on a major role and breathe new dynamics into the show. I find myself looking forward to which surprise guest is going to show up for the next episode. Skinner in particular I can’t get over this season. Dude is bad.

The content of the show was also stretching the boundaries of good taste. If “Eve” (1×10) gave us murderous children, “The Calusari” (2×21) gives us a child murdering a child. Well, it was a ghost child. Same difference. To continue, the ghost stalker of  “Shadows” (1×5) gives way to ghost rapists in “Excelsis Dei” (2x). Then, of course, The X-Files has completely outdone itself in the gross department. How can a liver-eating mutant shock us when there are giant sewer worms on the loose and these humongous, pus-filled boils are spouting off in people’s faces like mini volcanoes? But it’s not just in extremes that the show grew, it’s also covering new ground. “Irresistible” proves The X-Files can successfully give us a non-paranormal story while “Humbug” (2×20) proves it can be utterly hilarious.

My personal highlights were, as ever, “Irresistible” and “Humbug”. A pleasant surprise this time around was the Duane Barry arc, which I previously found 70% boring. (No stones, please.) The lowlight was “3” (2×7), not because I’m a shipper, but just because it’s “3”.

There are also quite a few episodes in the “Better Than I Remembered” category such as “Little Green Men” (2×1), “Sleepless” (2×4) and “Red Museum” (2×10). The mythology is worlds better than most of Season 1 because, well, it actually exists! There’s a rhyme, reason, and backstory to the conspiracy now that gives it substance. Season 1 was full of Roswell-like isolated events almost to the very end. It’s certainly more satisfying to see a single thread spun into a recognizable picture. While this is Chris Carter’s baby and all credit is due, I also think the new mythology collaborations between Chris Carter and David Duchovny have something to do with it. It certainly explains Mulder’s character having more to do.

Even while all this expansion is happening, in comparison, Season 2 is relatively low key; it doesn’t have the cinematic grandeur of later seasons. But that’s what’s so charming about it. This is classic X-Files before anyone knew they had a classic on their hands.

The word “classic” would indicate that something has consistently recognizable and desirable traits and that’s certainly true here; the less loving among us would call it a rut. I personally don’t mind the classic formula, it’s familiar and comforting and it goes a little something like this: Mulder presents details of an inexplicable event, Scully informs him of how explicable it actually is, Mulder surprises her with an even more inexplicable anomaly, Scully is shocked into silence, Mulder and Scully set out on the case and Mulder proposes a wild theory, Scully shoots down his theory, events occur that make Mulder revise his theory, Scully finds a scientific certainty that she can’t explain, Mulder intuitively figures out the truth, one or both of our leads ends up in mortal peril, they escape by the skin of their teeth and the case remains unsolved. The End.

Basic? Yes. Effective? YES.

The question remains, why doesn’t the audience get bored when they essentially already know how the story is going to go down? The answer: Mulder and Scully. Mulder and Scully’s relationship is in the middle of developing from touching to powerful. We knew that they were deeply attached to each other by the end of last season and that was expressly confirmed in “Little Green Men”. But over the course of Season 2 we’ve watched them grow from friends and confidants, allies even, to something much more difficult to define.

I said earlier that Scully has become a replacement Samantha for Mulder, but that’s only part of it. Mulder is almost like family to Scully, but at the same time he’s on the outside of it as evidenced in “One Breath” where he’s often invited to join the Scullys but purposefully refuses to intrude on certain moments. That doesn’t mean, of course, that he feels any less strongly than they do. It’s as though Mulder and Scully’s relationship exists outside of family, friends and even work. That’s why no one in Scully’s family, besides the all-wise Maggie Scully, understands who Mulder is to Scully. Their relationship resists definition.

Now to the meaty stuff: Are they in love? No, but they are infatuated. They’ve romanticized each other without being romantic. Honestly, they barely have one real disagreement the whole season up until the finale and that last one doesn’t count since Mulder is drugged out of his mind. They’re getting along like mayo and mustard in chicken salad. I daresay if we could pull Season 2’s Agent Mulder out of the TV screen and asked him to name just one fault that Scully has he wouldn’t be able to do it. The writers are quickly getting bored with this love fest, though, as we’ll see in Season 3.

Whatever they are, Mulder and Scully have reached that level where they wouldn’t just sacrifice for each other in theory, they’ve done it in fact. Throw in the subtle smirks and glances and we have TV gold. They were good together in Season 1 but now they’re just pure joy to watch.

So, I gotta ask. Who is your favorite recurring character of Season 2?

Is there some aspect of Season 2 that I missed either out of human error or gross negligence? Are you ready to sue me for malpractice or lock me up like Dr. Conrad Murray? Right the wrongs of the universe and fill in your opinion below.

Aubrey 2×12: A woman senses these things.


N.O.W. just revoked my membership.

“Aubrey” is estrogen driven. It’s penned by one of the few female writers to grace the series, Sara B. Charno. The guest lead is Deborah Strang who is so good as B.J. Morrow that Chris Carter put her in for an Emmy. And most importantly, Scully’s observation skills outshine Mulder’s for once. Hurrah for womankind. Manly men may want to turn back now.

OK, I exaggerate. But this episode does take the idea of woman’s intuition and gives it a paranormal spin. Is B.J. just really, really good at subconsciously putting pieces together or rather than intuition, is she herself a victim of instinct? Outside of discussing animal behavior, these two ideas, intuition and instinct, are often blended to where they’re interchangeable. For instance, if I were to say “I have a gut instinct,” many would take that to mean that I’ve taken in some information, processed it, and come to a informed if unprovable conclusion. This episode explores the frightening premise that even our instincts are not our own but that they’re passed down in families along with near-sightedness and crooked teeth.

I’m convinced with this episode that The X-Files is starting to hit its stride. The writers and producers are confident as to what makes an X-File an X-File. The feel of the show is more consistent than Season 1 and the Mulder and Scully dynamic is positively golden. Earlier episodes like “Space” (1×8) couldn’t be saved by Mulder and Scully’s relationship because it didn’t exist as such yet.  Episodes this season have a built-in failsafe in that when all else is lost, watching Mulder and Scully interact is all the audience needs.

Not that “Aubrey” needs a failsafe. Even this early on in the series the episodes are beginning to feel like mini-films. This time around it’s thanks in large part to the stellar direction of Rob Bowman. From the first shot of the teaser the story is told from creative angles. One of his best moments is when he chooses to shoot over Lt. Tillman’s shoulder so that we can both watch Tillman’s face as he eavesdrops and watch the conversation he’s eavesdropping on at the same time. It’s lovely, ironic and darkly hilarious.

The acting is also taking a consistent turn for the better as well. Terry O’Quinn is given a rather two-dimensional role as B.J.’s married lover, but he somehow makes it memorable and gives the character presence and depth. Deborah Strang is also good as the vulnerable, self-doubting B.J.

There’s also an extra mystery in this episode. Scully mentions to B.J. having experience in the inter-office relationship department. Is this an early reference to what we learn about Scully in Season 7’s “all things” (7×17)? I’m not so sure. For one, we already know that Scully has had a relationship with someone at the F.B.I. before. That came out in “Lazarus” (1×14). But more than that, I suspect that Scully isn’t much empathizing with B.J. so much as she’s conducting an investigation. It reminds me of the stunt she pulled in “Shadows” (1×5) when she made Lauren Kyte believe that she believed in ghosts too. Note how Scully reports right back to Mulder with what she discovered. Perhaps it was all an effort to stick it to Mulder and prove that her intuition just checkmated his.

And so…

Overall, I really enjoy this episode but it seems to be among the forgotten and I’m not sure why. Perhaps there’s too much horror and not enough science? Regardless, it’s a good example of a classic X-Files episode. In other words, this is one you might show a newbie if you wanted to give them an instant feel for the series.

Mind you, it’s not without its faults and there are a couple of hokey moments. Scully breaks out a “scanner” that can read words carved into bone so easily I thought for a second that CSI had interrupted my regularly scheduled program. But deus ex machina is a necessary evil when it comes to TV writing so we’ll let that go. Also, the scene where B.J. becomes Cokely and attacks Mrs. Thibedeax doesn’t read well. She’s not convincing as a man.

But here’s my main beef: Terry O’Quinn’s talents should not have been squandered on a stand-alone. Yeah, I know, he comes back for the 2008 film. But he comes in, makes an impact in only 2 minutes, and then he’s gone. Yeah, I know, he makes another guest spot in the Season 9 episode “Trust No 1” (9×6), but does anyone really remember that? And yeah, I know, Chris Carter made good use of him in his other series, Harsh Realm and Millennium, but didn’t The X-Files have seniority? All these prime 1013 opportunities and the man ends up best known for Lost. Yeah, we been gypped, yo.

A-

Questions:

One wonders if Lt. Tillman is still with his wife. Did he adopt the child as B.J.’s faithful friend or as the “baby daddy?”

Why did B.J. tell anyone about finding the body in the field? She could have left the open grave there for someone else to discover. I suppose it’s that her instincts as a detective kicked in and she felt responsible to both report and investigate the crime.

Comments:

While B.J. is a great character and well played, somehow she doesn’t feel like a female detective. She doesn’t have the strength and confidence of someone like Scully, which is no doubt why she finds herself in such a delicate situation as the episode starts.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Well, I’d like to know why this police woman would suddenly drive her car into a field the size of Rhode Island and for no rhyme or reason dig up the bones of a man whose been missing for 50 years. I mean unless there was a neon sign saying ‘Dig Here’.
Scully: I guess that’s why we’re going to Aubrey.
Mulder: Yes, and also… I’ve always been intrigued by women named B.J.

———————-

Scully: Mulder, I don’t think BJ was in the woods that night because of engine failure.
Mulder: What are you talking about?
Scully: Well the Motel Black would have been a perfect meeting place. Away from town, away from his wife.
Mulder: What do you mean?
Scully: It’s obvious BJ and Tillman are having an affair.
Mulder: How do you know?
Scully: A woman senses these things.

———————–

Mulder: Well, I’ve often felt that dreams are answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask.

———————–

Mulder: You mean a hunch?
Scully: Yeah, something like that.
Mulder: That’s a pretty extreme hunch.
Scully: I seem to recall you having some pretty extreme hunches.
Mulder: I never have.

Excelsis Dei 2×11: Thank you for sharing.


Careful. She has a gun.

Despite the fact that “Excelsis Dei” isn’t overly loved by the fandom, it is a shining example of how sophisticated the show has become since Season 1. “Shadows” (1×5) anyone?

That being said, “entity rape” is a hard sell.

This episode isn’t bad it’s just a little too grim and a little too obtuse. It suffers from the same syndrome as the two previous episodes: clues, clues everywhere but none that help me think. For instance, I wonder how many people ever pick up on the fact that Hal never raped that nurse? I certainly hadn’t. But we have to cut the writers some slack. They’re trying not to lose the famous ambiguity of Season 1 while still creating more depth in Season 2.

Here’s the plot rundown as I understand it: The residents at the nursing home are taking a hallucinogenic that not only has recuperative powers for their minds. It opens their eyes to the spiritual world. The problem is that the connection swings the other way as well. The more of the mushrooms that the residents take, the more the spirits have access to the physical world. These spirits are angry and bitter about their treatment at the nursing home and are eager to exact revenge using the living residents as a sort of conduit.

It’s literally taken me years to understand all that. I still haven’t figured out exactly why injecting Stan put a stop to the whole mess in the end. He wasn’t the only resident on those mushrooms. Maybe he was the only actual conduit? Who knows. I’ll work on that mystery my next run through the series.

What the former/dead residents are doing is so horrible and yet we’re supposed to sympathize with their vengeance. It’s true that their victims are no innocents, but the way they treated the residents amounts to little more than backtalk for the most part, not full-fledged abuse. They probably get the same or worse from their grandkids. It is a sensitive topic, however, and I do appreciate that in this episode the writers are giving what amounts to a homage to an entire generation. A very well-deserved one.

…And the Verdict is:

Despite its flaws I actually enjoy this episode. It has atmosphere, which I know is the default position of even the worst X-Files episodes, but it really does look and feel creepy as all get out. The scene at the end when the water overflows is like something out of The Shining. And the premise is good even if the execution is imbalanced. Tell me getting raped by a 90-year-old man’s ghost isn’t the stuff of nightmares!

Also, it’s good to see Scully take the lead on this one. It reminds me of “Squeeze” (1×2) in that respect; Mulder denies there’s anything to the case at all while Scully keeps digging. Not that she’s turned into a believer but episodes like this allow her character to branch out. It also shows that the writers are confident enough in the Mulder/Scully dynamic at this stage to play with the formula a little. A good sign of things to come.

B

Questions:

Why did it all stop??

Comments:

I love it when Mulder’s wrong. No such thing as entity rape, eh? Bah.

Isn’t it interesting how this episode acknowledges Mulder’s porn fetish right after we’re introduced to a perverted, if humorous, old man? See your own future much?

Best Quotes:

Hal Arden: You got to be kidding me. What do I think of her claims? I should be in the Guinness record book. I’m 74 years old. I’ve got plumbing older than this building. [Opens towel and reveals…] And it don’t work much better either.
Mulder: Thank you for sharing.

——————

Scully: What do you think, Mulder?
Mulder: About the guy’s plumbing?

——————-

Mulder: Are you saying that the building’s haunted? Because, if you are, I think you’ve been working with me too long, Scully.

Roland 1×22: Did you catch the bouquet?


The “once an episode” pose.

This is a very quiet X-File, so quiet that you almost can’t hear it nearly 20 years later. Mulder and Scully never even have to run or break out their flashlights. Neither of them is ever in danger. Considering the immediately preceding episode “Born Again” (1×21) wasn’t much louder, it’s a sad lull before the season finale.

That being said, I don’t think this is a bad episode just a lackluster one. The performances by Kerry Sandomirsky and Zeljko Ivanek in particular are outstanding. His performance is heartbreaking. It’s too bad the story didn’t give him a better vehicle to shine in. But how could the story hold our attention when it’s based on a faulty foundation?

Arthur Grable is not dead. Really? He physically died and then was frozen. He wasn’t preserved alive a la Han Solo to merely be defrosted at a later date. Blood had stopped flowing through his brain long before it made it into stasis. A plot where Arthur Grable came back from the dead would have actually made more sense. Mulder claims that Arthur Grable is in a state that no one has ever come back from. To which I say, “Really?” yet again. He’s a dead man whose body was (partially) preserved. He’s no more than a modern day mummy.

Later on a similar plot line pops up in the second season. In “The Calusari” (2×21) we have another set of twin brothers separated by death, only the writers don’t bother to pretend that the plot is anything more than the ghost of one brother possessing another. But unlike “The Calusari”, which was more like a traditional horror story, Roland is introspective, focusing on the power of an unbreakable bond between siblings. Till death do us not part.

Contrived plots aside, with such memorable performances, why doesn’t this episode garner more attention? I think it goes back to it being one of the quieter episodes of the series. It’s a character study, not an adventure or even a drama. Watching the wind machine whir hardly sets one’s pulse to racing.

And the Verdict is…

It’s an age-old tale. Here we have competitive, socially maladapted scientists killing and stealing research in order to be recognized as one of the masters of the universe. I know I saw this once on an episode of Law & Order, minus the paranormal aspect, of course.

Stripped down to its underwear this episode is just another “haunting” courtesy of a dead man seeking vengeance, all too similar in tone and pacing to both “Born Again” and “Shadows” (1×5). The main advantage it has over the other two is the quality of the acting. The halfway house romance between Tracy and Roland is neither cloying nor pitying, a hard line to walk.

As a bonus, a series of crumbs fall off the table of Scully’s personal life. This is the first we hear of any siblings, none of whom made an appearance in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12).  Two brothers? No wonder she’s tough.

Bottom line: It’s an under-appreciated episode that’s still underwhelming.

C+

Nagging Questions:

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but there’s a particular strain of music used for the first time in this episode that Mark Snow continues to use for some time to come. It’s eerie and eccentric. In other words, it’s wonderfully X-Filesian. I’d love to know for sure if this was its debut.

Mulder and Scully got to the crime scene THAT fast? Morning on the west coast is already afternoon on the east.  At best, if the body was found in the morning Pacific Time, Mulder and Scully shouldn’t have been there until that evening. That’s a six hour flight at best. When do the writers start letting our dynamic duo show up a day or two after the fact? Season 2?

What do you want to bet the other man in Mulder’s dream was CSM? OK, so they probably didn’t mean it that way. But in hindsight, it’s a valid interpretation.

Random Thoughts:

There was a time when Scully got as many punch lines as Mulder.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: So how was the wedding?
Scully: You mean the part where the groom passed out or the dog bit the drummer?
Mulder: Did you catch the bouquet?
Scully: Maybe.

————–

Mulder: I don’t think they’ll be performing this experiment on Beakman’s World.

————–

Mulder: You got a brother, don’t you, Scully?
Scully: Yeah, I’ve got an older one and a younger one.
Mulder: Well have you ever thought about calling one of them all day long and then all of a sudden the phone rings and it’s one of them calling you?
Scully: Does this pitch somehow end with a way for me to lower my long distance charges?

Born Again 1×21: Not in this lifetime, anyway.


Status: Unexplained

Before watching, I had made up my mind to try and like “Born Again” this time around. There are no new X-Files episodes forthcoming, so I had better appreciate what I do have, right? Besides, I might find a new kindred episode like I did with “E.B.E.” (1×16). Well, this episode was not meant to be a kindred, though I did give it my best shot… possibly my second best shot as I hadn’t had coffee yet that morning.

The teaser is OK, but I could find better banter in an elementary school play than the stilted dialogue between Detectives Barbala and Lazard. It’s painfully amateurish. What’s worse, the connection that Lazard has to the “Tooms” (1×20) case feels forced. It’s a little beneath the quality of writing on this show, actually.

Speaking of writing, reincarnation never proved to be a convincing topic on The X-Files (and they tried at least 3 times). Maybe the problem is that it’s hard to play out a story of reincarnation in such a way that it feels distinct from a possession or a poltergeist. Little Michelle is supposed to be the reincarnated soul Charlie Morris and instead it feels like his ghost has possessed her. She’s a separate personality being bogged down by his memories rather than the same personality unable to move on. Once Charlie’s bloodlust is satiated, Michelle goes back to normal.

Regardless, a tale of murder is only as good as its villain. We could relate to Charlie’s need to avenge himself if only his partners in crime were just a tad more despicable. They come close. If only the writers had come right out and said that Fiore betrayed his partner in order to get to his partner’s wife. The way things are left unspoken, it could be inferred that he comforted her out of guilt and regret. I suppose that could still make for high drama if done right. But it’s awfully hard to identify with Charlie when we never meet him. Maybe that’s the true downfall of a reincarnation plot. We only get to know the original protagonist through an intermediary. Short of making the villains such that we want to reach through our television screens and choke them ourselves, I don’t know how the writers could have made Charlie’s situation sufficiently sympathetic.

The lone interesting aspect of this episode is that Mulder comes away from Scully’s challenge admitting that the hypnosis session was “inconclusive.” He is listening. And like in “E.B.E.”, he’s paying more attention to what Scully says than he at first appears to. That little interchange is about as much as we get this episode on the Mulder/Scully partnership front. Sad. They took a couple of steps forward and then started marching in place.

And the Verdict is…

It’s Janice! You know, from Friends! The best part of the episode is recognizing her. There’s little else to get excited about in an episode that amounts to little more than TV filler. It’s like a long car ride with no scenery and definitely the least memorable of all the “scary kid” episodes.

I’ve said before that there was a general upward trend in the quality of episodes during the last half of Season 1. I lied. Well, sorta. As far as production quality goes, it’s steadily improving. The show itself feels closer to coherent, more like the producers and writers have a solid vision whereas the beginning of the season was an exploration. The X-Files is gaining it’s own tone, it’s own look and feel at this point. This certainly feels like an X-Files episode, just not a great one.

Even the worst X-Files episodes have a few redeeming qualities that they tend to share in common. The premise is usually interesting even when it doesn’t pan out. Mulder and Scully’s signature interaction is fun to watch. And in later seasons especially, the cinematography is lovely. Unfortunately for “Born Again”, it came along before The X-Files’ cinematic era, Mulder and Scully’s relationship didn’t yet have the depth that later episodes could rely upon and even the underlying story felt like reheated pizza. (The movie Ghost anyone?) We don’t even need to go back that far. Wasn’t a guy coming back from the dead to avenge his own murder the plot of the earlier Season 1 episode “Shadows” (1×5)? And wasn’t there a girl who couldn’t escape his memories and desire for vengeance? Yeah, that wasn’t particularly successful either. But it was better than this. This is one of those rare episodes I liked more before I rewatched it.

To sum it up, this is the only DVD in my entire X-Files collection where the picture skips in parts… and that doesn’t bother me.

D+

Nagging Questions:

How do Mulder and Scully get to the scene of the crime so quickly?

Scully puts together that Morris’ death was only made to look like a signature hit based on the coroner’s report. The coroner and the police couldn’t figure that out back when it happened?

Why is it that the guest stars consistently wear better ties than Mulder?

General Observations:

With the Minnie Driver look alike this could almost be a pre-quel to Remember Me.

A Mulder voiceover! Now, that’s new.

The look on Scully’s face during the autopsy as she realizes Mulder’s hunch has proved correct yet again is almost worth the price of admission.

Best Quotes:

Detective Lazard: Excuse me. Could I talk to you for a second?
Scully: I just started the autopsy…
Detective Lazard: Yeah, I don’t thing he’s going anywhere.

Space 1×8: I guess I missed that phase.


Space's one and only thumbs up.

Space: The Final Frontier. Is it officially the worst episode of Season 1? I do believe it has been so declared. The worst episode of the series? Debatable. If there are any worse, it’s not because of production or plot, that’s for sure. Ironically, this looks like one of the cheapest episodes, yet it was the most expensive episode produced in Season 1. Even Mulder grinning like a fanboy can’t save its reputation.

The intention to create a loving homage to the space program is there. Unfortunately, like the space program, the magic is gone. NASA interests the American public now even less than it did then, when Challenger was still fresh in the public memory. Colonel Belt was right, a space walk really is like a walk around the block. Public sentiment doesn’t completely explain the failure of this episode though. Remember that little Apollo 13 movie that came out two years later?

Like Ghost in the Machine (1×6) and Shadows (1×5) before it, the audience has the gist of the solution long before Mulder and Scully get a whiff of it. That seems to make for boring television. Mulder never even has to put two and two together; Colonel Belt spells it out for him. Why make a character waste his perfectly valid, perfectly expensive Oxford degree?

In five sentences or less, Colonel Belt went to space and brought back a stowaway. This alien tag-a-long becomes a sort of Dennis the Menace. It wrecks havoc in an attempt, we assume, to prevent its home planet from being invaded by aliens (read: man). Its plans are thwarted when Colonel Belt realizes it somehow lives through him and leaks out information about the sabotage. He defeats it once and for all by leaping into space (read: irony) and falling to his death.

Now that I’ve spared you the trouble of watching, watch it anyway.

And the Verdict is…

Space isn’t for the casual viewer, mind you, it’s for the X-Phile who wants and needs to see every episode of this show to feel that their life is complete. This is not, I repeat, not the episode that you watch with friends to prove how cool a series The X-Files was.

Are there any redeeming moments? Of course! Well… they don’t quite redeem the episode, but they’re not bad. Watching Mulder nearly squeal with girlish delight is fun in an awkward way. Colonel Belt’s death was poetic, even if we never got around to actually liking the man. Sadly, I can’t think of a third moment. Maybe by the tenth time I watch it.

Truly, this is a poor man’s Apollo 13. A poor, deaf, dumb and blind man.

D-

Nagging Questions:

The astronauts have thirty minutes of reserve oxygen so Generoo feels she has no choice but to bring them down. How exactly did she plan to get them back to earth in thirty minutes? More importantly, how did she get them back in less than fifteen?

From the news report at the beginning of the episode, it would seem that this alien face and finding evidence of water on Mars are linked. But why does a specter need water?

General Observations:

Colonel Marcus Aurelius Belt? Really, Chris Carter? I bet I know which teenager read Meditations in between classes.

The alien looks less like a “sculptured human face” and more like a bloated chimpanzee. That’s intelligent life?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I have to admit, I fulfilled one of my boyhood fantasies.

Scully: Yeah, it ranks right up there with getting a pony and learning how to braid my own hair.