Tag Archives: Signs and Wonders

Babylon 10×4: I resent that characterization and I don’t even know what it means.


Babylon359

Don’t bother adjusting your antennas, ladies and gentlemen.

Mulder: Hi. Einstein? I need you to do me a favor so we can save the world. I’d like you to feed me some quasi-legal magic mushrooms to get me high. Because if I get high and reach that higher plane of consciousness that the Beatles only dreamed of, I can communicate with a comatose terrorist currently in a lower plane of consciousness. I’d ask Scully but she never lets me have nice things. She said no to the Star Wars wedding too. Can you rush down here, please? Thanks. #TrippingAgainstTerrorism

Well, shave my knuckles and call me “Curly.” That was a bunch of mechanical bull.

And you know what? Horrible as it is, it barely even got my shackles up. I mean, I’m not happy, but to break out that venerable and ancient stick called Brutal Honesty: this is what I had braced myself for. I had hoped for better, but I had suspected worse.

If you’ve been gracious enough to read some of my mental meanderings disguised as reviews, then you know that I’ve been rooting for Chris Carter to prove himself again to the fandom.  I’m a fan of both his writing and directing and am usually game for his experimental pet projects. “Babylon” is one of those, v. SMH16.

Fourteen years after the original end of the series and it’s obvious that Chris Carter has a lot he wants to say, he just doesn’t have 8,562 hours to do it in. This is a television program, not a New York Times op-ed piece. Go ahead. Throw out an idea, an opinion or two. Heck, indulge a little and make it three or four. Paint us a visual portrait of your life philosophy. But don’t try to force feed the audience over a decade’s worth of your cultural observations in a single episode of television. They’ll only vomit it all back up.

This forcefully reminds me of “First Person Shooter” (7×13), also directed by Chris Carter, which tried to ally itself with the feminist cause only to disgrace it in yet another failed attempt by the top ‘o the heap at solidarity with the social underdog.

Now, I’m not insensitive to the issues of stereotyping “Babylon” tries to raise having grown up with practicing Muslims in my own family. I’ve also been blessed both to travel and to know people in my own neck of the woods who grew up in predominantly Muslim countries (you might find it awkward to know how many of whom are more paranoid about Islam than most Middle America Americans are, but let me not pull on that thread). If Chris Carter really wants to prove how relevant The X-Files still is then here’s a thought: How about the highly religious young Muslim guy has nothing to do with terrorism??? Too radical?

I know I’m kvetching, but the truth is that for about the first half of “Babylon”, I was following along with an open mind, even if some of the early moments I didn’t understand…

Scully: Since when do you believe in God, Mulder?

Since when did you stop watching your own show, Chris? “Signs and Wonders” (7×9), “Closure“(7×11), “Existence” (8×21), “The Truth” (9×20/21), I Want to Believe… did I imagine you took Mulder through a spiritual evolution or did you imagine I’d forget?

Scully: You know that prophecies like this have been going on for centuries, failed prognostications of doom, failed prophecy – even in the Bible.

Mulder: Yeah, God told Adam that if he at the forbidden fruit he’d die. And he lived 930 years. Top that.

He lived 930 years and then he died… right?

Anyway.

Then of course, I see Mulder and Scully doppelgangers, think “Fight Club” (7×20), and immediately get nasty chills. To my relief, Agents Miller and Einstein aren’t at “Fight Club” levels of irritating. They also aren’t interesting at all. The way Einstein is written, she’s overdone. Miller comes across as little more than an over-eager frat boy. Mulder and Scully were young and full of wonder once, but they managed to radiate capability and intelligence beyond their years. And now I know: The X-Files couldn’t have been created in or with this generation.

But what am I stalling for, right? We all know what the baloney in this sandwich is… Mulder tripping through the tulips with a 10-gallon hat on his head and an Elvis in his pelvis. My concern waxed and then waned something like this:

kt0D2jv

200 (8).gif

200 (11).gif

200 (12)

200 (10).gif

200 (13).gif

And they’re trying to pass this off as the much anticipated return of the Lone Gunmen?

200 (1).gif

Call me crazy, but I don’t think badonkadonk hony tonk, inaccurate Biblical allusions, and unoriginal socio-political commentary together a cake bake. Frost it with a heavenly horn section and I am officially unamused. That’s right. God Himself just signed off on MSR and my reaction was:

200 (9).gif

I suppose there were a few vestiges of the thoughtful television The X-Files used to be. Do thoughts have weight? Do words have weight? Can anyone feel the weight of my thoughts like an Acme piano falling from a roof?

One (more) thing that did bother me was the not so subtle depiction of Texans and American law enforcement as a bunch of bigoted bullies. I mentioned “First Person Shooter”, infamous for attempting to elevate women by making men look like a bunch of hormone crazed idiots. “Babylon” sympathizes with a repentant terrorist to the point of making the victims, the citizens filled with righteous indignation, look mean for being angry. They absolutely should forgive and I’m not trying to suggest they shouldn’t or that bigotry against Muslims isn’t real or dangerous. But this episode wants the masses to offer forgiveness without conceding that there’s anything that needs to be forgiven. Yep. Knotted issues too big to be picked apart in less than an hour of television.

Verdict:

In the immortal words of those ladies of the barenaked variety: It’s all been done.

In the past fourteen years since the show ended, terrorism on television has been brought forward, pulled back, flipped out, dissected, intersected, and vivisected. I wanted, I so wanted, for this to be something fresh and new – something we were promised the revival would be; it was never supposed to be purely about nostalgia, remember? Instead I’m mortified to report that “Babylon” comes across as a desperate attempt to seem progressive, relevant, sexy and wise.

I can’t help but think back to “Improbable” (9×14) and Chris Carter’s last off-the-wall attempt to define God for a television audience. Then God was a dancing, prancing, grinning Burt Reynolds – low in authority, high in laughter. Now God is an angry tyrant who set man off on his path of confusion but will occasionally speak to the mankind He cast away through dissonant elephant calls – if you care to listen.

I won’t vouch for either interpretation. And the thoughts expressed all throughout this episode are so random and disjointed that I can’t even engage them in debate. I will only say that this doesn’t feel like the same Chris Carter who wrote “Irresistible” (2×13), but I know he’s still in there. I want to believe.

F

The 7th Trumpet:

That final shot is basically a redo of the final shot of “Improbable”, minus Burt Reynolds.

Mulder’s conversation with Einstein wandered very close to Tulpa territory and the mysteries of creation that make up “Milagro” (6×18).

Making Einstein jealous of Scully and then using that as motivation for her to assist in Mulder’s little experiment cheapens the character almost immediately.

The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 involved neither anger nor violence, either on the part of God or man. So I’m not sure where Chris is coming from on the premise of this entire episode.

“You were 50 shades of bad.” – Absolutely. Freaking. Not.

The Gift 8×11: Are you calling Mulder a liar?


thegift015

Sniffle.

We’ve had a string of episodes I don’t care for and they culminate in this, “The Gift”. I warn you here and now that I have mixed feelings about it. That said, maybe because I’ve been so bored lately, or maybe because I missed Mulder more than I realized, but seeing his face in the opening teaser is such a joy and relief. In fact, I may have teared up a little.

I used to think I hated “The Gift” but I realize now that isn’t true. I only have one problem with the gift, it’s just a really, really big problem: The entire premise rests on a storyline I despise. That’s right. Not only is Mulder missing, even if he weren’t missing, he’d be dead or dying. Mulder has a deadly brain disease that he never saw fit to tell a soul about. So go ahead, steal Mulder back from the aliens. His eventual death remains inevitable.

I’ve already expressed my opinions on this ridiculous, horrible, abomination of a distraction from the primary plot in my review for “Within” (8×1). It went a little like this.

“It’s not enough that Mulder’s gone, you’ve gotta ruin the memories too? Stop retroactively killing what little joy I found in Season 7! He was happy in Season 7! This doesn’t even fit the timeline!

Let me try to get this straight. In Season 7, Mulder and Scully are sleeping together, but she has no idea he’s traveling nearly four hundred miles round trip every weekend. Mulder’s dying of an incurable disease, but devastated as he was when his mother killed herself after hiding her illness, he plans to keep his disease a secret from Scully. Scully and Mulder are happy as clams almost all of Season 7, but what we didn’t know was that Mulder was merely hiding his suffering. He was showing “clear signs of decline” but they didn’t catch that when Mulder went to the hospital in “Signs and Wonders” (7×9) and “Brand X” (7×19), just to name a couple of times. Things are so dire that he already had his name etched on the family grave stone. And all this he manages to hide from Scully, a doctor so brilliant she can diagnose nearly any disease from a single symptom despite never having practiced medicine.

I call revisionist BS.”

My feelings remain unchanged.

So now we’re back to that, are we? Doggett has suddenly and conveniently remembered that X-Files assignment aside, he’s still charged with the task of finding Mulder. He remembers just as the audience is starting to grow restless… though I’m sure the timing of this episode and bringing David Duchovny back had nothing to do with that… or with February sweeps.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. The thought of Mulder dying makes me cranky, that’s all.

Let me focus on the positives because, as I said, I don’t hate this episode the way I thought I did.

Like #1: Skinner and Doggett make a good team.

Every thundercloud has its rainbow and the rainbow in the storm of Mulder’s disappearance is Skinner. Our dear A.D. needed to get out more and it’s good to see him investigating a case again. This is a trend that started towards the end of Season 7 with “Brand X” and “Requiem” (7×22) and I see no reason for it to stop. Besides, he and Doggett have more onscreen chemistry than Scully and Doggett. They genuinely challenge each other instead of just assuming the position.

If we’re going to lose Scully for an episode and have an abundance of untempered testosterone, then I’m glad it went down like this. I would hate to see her absence wasted.

Like #2: The monster is unsettling.

And so are the monstrously selfish humans. Yes, the monster is gross, but more than anything it makes you wonder how far you yourself would go if you found yourself incurably ill, if you could live with saving yourself at the expense of someone else’s pain. Are the suffering entitled to the sin-eater’s help? Is their desperation excusable?

There’s a Christlike allegory in here somewhere…

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a Man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-5 (NIV)

The difference is that while Christ died willingly, the sin-eater has no choice. He’s dying a constant death because no one is brave enough to bear their own suffering, not when there’s someone else who can pay the price instead.

It may sound like I’m pulling this out of nowhere, but I think this is actually a parallel that writer Frank Spotnitz wanted us to see, especially in the scene of Mrs. Hangemuhl’s deliverance.

Watching the sin-eater stretch its mouth to eat her alive while her husband recites The Lord’s Prayer in the background, I’ll admit it’s pretty disturbing. It’s supposed to be.

Like #3: Mulder makes sense.

His dying makes no sense, but if he were dying, it would be completely in character for Mulder to destroy the means of his own salvation if by doing so he could save someone else.

One thing the series has lost sight of as of late is the original vision Chris Carter had of Mulder and Scully as romantic heroes, and I do mean romantic in the literary sense. Their main purpose is to seek the truth and to do right even if it costs them. To that end, Scully was originally imbued with a strong sense of justice, Mulder with compassion. Sometimes Mulder empathizes with victims to an almost frustrating extent, but that’s who he is. He’s a compassionate human being who would rather die than force someone else to suffer for him.

Heck, when Scully was dying in “Redux II” (5×2) he wouldn’t let her take the blame for his killing a man who was spying on him. He wouldn’t let her reputation suffer for him even though she wouldn’t be alive to feel it. That’s my Mulder.

Like #4: Doggett bonds with Mulder.

This is The X-Files. You don’t ever have to have met to develop a spiritual connection.

Somehow, despite having been a confirmed skeptic as recently as the last episode, Doggett puts together the pieces of this case so well you would think he was reading from Mulder’s playbook. While that does move my eyebrow up toward my hairline a tad, I’m glad that if Doggett finally experienced the paranormal in his own person, it’s Mulder who led him there. Mulder is the emotional and spiritual center of the X-Files, which started out as the expression and fulfilment of his own passion, the vehicle for his quest. He’s the one who initiated Scully on this journey of discovery, and it’s only fitting that he should initiate Doggett, even if it’s in his absence.

Doggett also finishes what Mulder was trying to do. Through Doggett’s death he saves the sin-eater. Ah, there’s that cycle again: death – resurrection – salvation.

In saving the sin-eater an emotional link is created between Mulder and Doggett. Mulder shoots it to save it, Doggett stands up for it and is shot. I’ve avoided this episode for so long that I didn’t remember the ending. I had forgotten that Doggett died and came back. I like it.

Mulder’s a good man. John Doggett’s a good man too.

Verdict:

I’m both relieved that they brought Mulder back and more than slightly resentful that they brought him back this way and to serve the purposes of this storyline. But it is what it is and if it has to be, at least “The Gift” makes better use of the characters than the last several episodes.

Well, most of the characters. Mulder could’ve remained completely unseen and the story wouldn’t have suffered at all.

For the love of all that is Scully, stop wasting David Duchovny’s eleven episodes!!!

A-

The Peanut Gallery:

All this time and no one had given Mulder’s apartment a proper search before?

So, in order to be healed, you get eaten and come back as monster vomit.

The monster vomit and the yellowish underground caves remind me of “Gender Bender” (1×13). That was my very first episode of The X-Files.

We’re getting so much of the Lone Gunmen this season that I’m starting to feel spoiled. Another silver lining to the Mulder is Missing rainbow.

There’s a great shot director Kim Manners does in the hospital scene. We can see Mr. and Mrs. Hangemuhn lovingly celebrating her recovery in Doggett’s reflection. That’s a beautiful shot.

That rustic woman’s accent throws me off.

Best Quotes:

Byers: We learned what we could. This is somewhat short notice, of course.

Frohike: And a little outside our area of expertise.

Langly: Plus the fact we were sleeping.

Doggett: You wearing pants, Langly?

Langly: Uh… yeah.

 

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


 

salvage028

No jaywalking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

C+

Salvaged Parts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

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

——————–

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

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

 

Within 8×1: Nice to meet you, Agent Doggett.


Within55.jpg

Hallo from the outside.

Aliens are eliminating evidence. The X-Files department is over budget. Cigarette-Smoking Man is… dead? Krycek’s not. Skinner’s a believer. Scully’s pregnant. Mulder’s been abducted by aliens. Chris Carter got us into this mess, how’s he going to get us out?

And so begins the much maligned Season 8 of The X-Files. I’ll admit I was filled with as much trepidation as anyone at the prospect of a season half without Mulder. Mulder! Chris Carter swore he wouldn’t do The X-Files without David Duchovny, but contract negotiations are a fickle thing. Anyway, there was no way my viewership was about to drop off. I needed resolution. I needed Mulder back.

Scully does too because she’s having his love child. (Boy, I never thought I’d have to type that sentence.) She’s not supposed to be able to get pregnant, so there’s some mystery surrounding that, but Scully seems not to be overly concerned with that right now. Her first priority is finding her baby daddy. Fortunately-Unfortunately for Scully, she and Mulder are still so connected that she’s witnessing his alien torture sessions in her sleep. I’m glad to see that psychic link the two had in “The Blessing Way” (3×1) is still live and intact.

In keeping with Scully’s new position as the Queen of Angst, she’s been given new theme music so that every time she thinks sad thoughts about Mulder we can know about it. It’s good. It’s mournful. Slightly hopeful. It gets old fast. Fast. For those of you who are starting Season 8 for the first time, just you wait, Henry Higgins, just you wait.

For the sake of interest, Chris Carter can’t let Scully find Mulder too quickly or easily. Here to serve as roadblocks are the newly promoted Deputy Director Kersh, back as the Boss from Hell, and Agent John Doggett, Kersh’s current golden boy who’s been assigned to find Mulder.

We haven’t seen Deputy Director Kersh since “One Son” (6×12), when he was still Assistant Director Kersh and he handed the X-Files back over to Mulder and Scully, and Mulder and Scully back over to Skinner. Kersh was always a bit of a mystery, since he never quite appeared to be a part of the Syndicate conspiracy, yet he was an unsympathetic obstacle who wouldn’t give Mulder and Scully a break. It seemed he was written to thwart them for thwarting’s sake.

And now? Well, he’s here to thwart Skinner. I’m sure of that. Skinner’s a new believer in aliens, and like any good convert, he wants to share his convictions with the world. Kersh has made it clear that if he does his job is finished. Scully can’t afford to lose both of the g-men in her life, so she persuades Skinner to stay in the closet for the time being. We’ll see how this mini drama plays out over the course of the season, because for the life of me I can’t remember.

Kersh is also here to thwart Scully. I’m sure of that too. What I’m not sure of is whether he’s doing it because he’s a grumpy old man who likes to be difficult or whether he’s receiving orders from on high. If he’s receiving orders from someone, who? CSM is dead(?). The Syndicate is dead. Is there a new conspiracy we need to know about? Please let there be a conspiracy…

As for Doggett, I’m not going to get into a comparison of him and Mulder just yet. We’ll wait until he’s officially Scully’s partner. For now, all we know about him is that he’s capable, trusted, and his experience and assignment both put him at odds with Scully.

What I will talk about are the ridiculous ideas that come out of his mouth. Ideas that make no sense. Ideas that we all know Chris Carter put in his mouth just to tick me off. Because he’s a sadist and he enjoys frustrating his fans.

Doggett implies that Scully may not know Mulder as well as she thinks she does and he keeps on implying it. It becomes a theme of the season: Make Scully doubt her relationship with Mulder.

First of all, Doggett is making the same mistake that Diana Fowley made back in “Biogenesis” (6×22). Never question Mulder’s trust in Scully. That kind of crap she can smell without wind.

And then, what? Mulder was dying before he disappeared? What???

Stop it, Chris Carter. You stop it right there.

What in the Good Queen Bess are you trying to do to me now? It’s not enough that Mulder’s gone, you’ve gotta ruin the memories too? Stop retroactively killing what little joy I found in Season 7! He was happy in Season 7! This doesn’t even fit the timeline!

Let me try to get this straight. In Season 7, Mulder and Scully are sleeping together, but she has no idea he’s traveling nearly four hundred miles round trip every weekend. Mulder’s dying of an incurable disease, but devastated as he was when his mother killed herself after hiding her illness, he plans to keep his disease a secret from Scully. Scully and Mulder are happy as clams almost all of Season 7, but what we didn’t know was that Mulder was merely hiding his suffering. He was showing “clear signs of decline” but they didn’t catch that when Mulder went to the hospital in “Signs and Wonders” (7×9) and “Brand X” (7×19), just to name a couple of times. Things are so dire that he already had his name etched on the family grave stone. And all this he manages to hide from Scully, a doctor so brilliant she can diagnose nearly any disease from a single symptom despite never having practiced medicine.

I call revisionist BS.

You know how I know it’s BS?

“You were my constant, my touchstone.”

That’s how I know. So stop trying to mess with my head. Scully doesn’t appreciate it.

But back to Doggett. His practical methods only emphasize the loss of Mulder who is anything but practical. 1013 is taking the “make it hurt good” approach. They don’t merely leave a hole where Mulder once was, or fill said hole with a replacement of the same ilk; they give us someone completely different so that we’ll feel Mulder’s loss more keenly, so that we’ll resent Doggett and resent him but good. They want to heighten our resentment so as to let it run its course as quickly as possible.

If we had to lose Mulder, I think that the characterization of Doggett and Robert Patrick’s approach to playing him was a perfect choice. As I said, I’m going to hold off on discussing his character a little bit until we get to see him on a real X-File, but he serves as a foil to Scully in her current state; Scully, who misses Mulder so much that she’s trying and failing to become him. I guess that’s supposed to be an interesting bit of character development. I find it annoying and easy, which is why it’s too bad that it’s another theme that sticks around for a while.

Scully is emotionally overwhelmed. She’s so desperate for Mulder, she’s falling asleep in his bed in one of the saddest scenes that ever aired on The X-Files. She’s lashing out at Agent Doggett as though resenting him will somehow bring Mulder back. And she’s referring to the basement office as “Mulder’s office.” Huh? Since when?

Mulder’s become a larger presence absent than he ever was in person.

Verdict:

This can only loosely be called a mythology episode. What it really is is an emotional exploration of the aftermath of Mulder’s disappearance. And it’s a setup for a new web of relationships. It also introduces new recurring themes for the season, mostly centered around Scully’s emotional journey. Lastly and only just barely, it leads us into the next chapter of the mythology.

Interspersed we get a few shots of Mulder Torture. I feel bad for him and all, but I told him not to get on that ship.

On top of that, I’m a little concerned that they might not be using David Duchovny’s eleven episodes wisely. But this is just the beginning of the season and only the first in a two parter. They’ll give him much more to do than this. Right? Right?

For all my irritation and misgivings, I’m relieved. I’m relieved to be into the storyline again. I’m relieved to care. At last, something’s at stake.

B

Fish Food:

The new opening credits are a little on the nose, don’t you think?

The teaser was too, but I liked the lead in from the beating heart of Scully’s baby to Mulder’s heart racing as he’s in the clutches of the aliens. And love that Scully is somehow a conduit for them both.

I know they were making a point of it, but that cup of water to Doggett’s face felt good.

Scully, you’re a doctor. Wash your hands in between touching the toilet and wiping your face.

The idea is to find Mulder’s ship. What do they do once they do? Do they climb aboard? Do they call him to come down?

So Skinner’s calling Scully “Dana” now?

Kersh’s reintroduction is delicious. He starts off nice just to be extra cruel.

The way to ingratiate Doggett to the fans is not by using him to drive an arrow through the heart of the memory of what Mulder and Scully once were. Thanks for that. Thank you soooo much.

The jump from spaceship sightings over Arizona to Gibson Praise is a big jump. How does Scully know he’s still in Arizona?

I assume Gibson’s at a school for the deaf so he doesn’t have to listen to people say things they don’t mean.

Best Quotes:

[Morning in Mulder’s apartment]

Scully: [From Mulder’s bed] What are you doing here?

Doggett: I could ask you the same.

Scully: I came by to feed Mulder’s fish.

Doggett: And then you got tired and decided to take a nap.

————————–

Scully: [In front of the fish tank] What do you want to get on me, Agent Doggett? What is it you hope to find?

Doggett: I’m just trying to find Mulder.

Scully: You wouldn’t know where to look. [Searches shelves for fish food]

Doggett: It’s in the desk, middle drawer.

Season 7 Wrap Up – You don’t want me looking foolish.


FirstPersonShooter353

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t mean this insultingly. But if I had to pick one keyword for Season 7, it would be “Self-Indulgent.”

At this point in the series, the cast and crew of The X-Files have been churning out classic television at an unbelievable clip for the past seven years. Their work schedule was famously insane, averaging almost twenty-two one hour episodes a season. Somehow, despite that, they were able to function at such an impressively creative level that the numbers of the show’s fans keep increasing with time, some thirteen years after it went off the air. Not only was it a pop culture phenomenon in its day, but it remains such a present part of the public’s consciousness that Fox is airing a six episode revival of the series starting in January. If it’s successful, there have been hints of more to come.

I know I’ve just jumped from Season 7 into the future, but my point is that the talents behind The X-Files had earned a little self-indulgence by the time Season 7 rolled around. They had worked hard, they had made the show a success and, what was key, they had no idea if they’d be back for an eighth season. Fox didn’t officially renew the series until almost a week before “Requiem” (7×22) aired, meaning the final episode of Season 7 was written and shot without Chris Carter being sure whether he was ending the season or ending his series. From what I’ve read, the vibe behind the scenes was “This may be it.” And if Season 7 was “it,” then it was their last chance to say what they had to say and try what they wanted to try. I can’t blame them and I don’t.

How does Season 7 indulge itself? Let us count the ways.

  • Chris Carter’s Basic Instinct homage in, and frankly all of “First Person Shooter” (7×13)
  • Vince Gilligan creates a crossover of two of his favorite shows in “X-Cops” (7×12)
  • William B. Davis writes himself real screen time with Scully in “En Ami” (7×15)
  • Gillian Anderson cues us to the importance of chakras in “all things” (7×17)
  • David Duchovny hosts a block party in “Hollywood A.D.” (7×18)
  • Mulder & Scully flirting like they didn’t know how to stop in almost every episode
  • A third of the episodes taking place in the production’s home state of California
  • The mythology’s loose threads are ignored in favor of the new alien-gods

Deserved? Yes. And some moments are more successful than others. The overall result, though, is that the season feels largely unfocused. It’s like a free for all. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we get canceled.

I think part of the lack of focus and direction is due in part to the mythology not serving as the series’ backbone any longer. The X-Files is wobbling around without an alien conspiracy to hold it together. Not that there weren’t still unanswered questions about the conspiracy that the fan’s wanted addressed, but they weren’t vital questions and the series seemed content to move forward without answering them. But if “Requiem” proves anything it’s that there was still life left in the pre-Season 7 mythology.

Season 7 doesn’t act like it, but the human race is on the verge of complete annihilation. The threat of alien takeover is still there, it’s just not being addressed. Why isn’t there a fire lit under our heroes? ‘Cause Mulder and Scully certainly aren’t acting like they have anything to be concerned about. They’re flaunting their flirtation at the Bureau’s policy against male and female agents consorting in the same motel room while on assignment. But, they’re together now, as the not-so-subtle jabs to the audience’s ribs often remind us.

And I’m glad of their togetherness, don’t get me wrong. It was well-earned and well-timed. Stringing the fans on too long becomes palpably artificial past a certain point. Season 7 was that point. Stringing Mulder and Scully themselves along would have felt disingenuous too. They had reached a catharsis in their relationship and that’s good. You don’t have to keep ribbing me about it. That’s bad. The end result is that Season 7’s main legacy is the ongoing debate over when Mulder and Scully started having sex. That’s really bad.

So, the mythology is largely resolved. Mulder and Scully are at peace. Samantha’s dead. What are we here for? The Monster of the Week episodes? Most of those have been lackluster and weak. There’s no driving force behind the season, no push or pull, no sense of urgency or adventure. When The X-Files first started, Mulder and Scully were on a quest. Now there is no quest, just a rag-tag mix of episodes. The result is that Season 7 feels like a coda to Season 1-6’s main piece. Mulder and Scully have done all they came here to do and things are winding down.

It may just be the natural progression of things. Everything has a beginning, middle and end. The story and relationship arcs The X-Files started off with have inevitably run their course.

Maybe.

I can’t help but wonder inf 1013 Productions had known early on that there was going to be a Season 8, if they could have planned ahead and plotted out the show’s trajectory for Seasons 7 and 8 the way they did for the mythology of Seasons 4, 5 and 6… I wonder what the show would have been like.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda territory, I know….

We have what we have, and what we have is a stagnant series. Season 7 is standing still instead of heading somewhere. It’s not going backward towards the show’s roots or forward into a new battle for Mulder and Scully. It’s just kind of biding its time, spinning in circles until the show ends.

What I’m seeing on my screen is a show that’s suffering from chronic self-awareness, that’s bored with itself, and that reads a little too much like childish fanfic: “What would I make Mulder and Scully do if I could make them do anything?”

Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the Season 7 Year Itch. When it first aired, there were five episodes I actively resented, and seven more I passively disliked. Twelve out of twenty-two ain’t good. The rest I found middling with a few bright spots dispersed here and there.

I came to a sober realization this rewatch –  most of Season 7 I will never watch again.

On that sad note, here are the awards for the season…

Most Improved

all things

Least Improved

First Person Shooter

Missed Opportunity for Backstory

The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati

Deceptively Deep

Signs and Wonders

Successfully Experimental

Hungry

Overrated

Je Souhaite

Underrated

Theef

Brand X 7×19: They say these things kill people.


 

BrandX70

I’m having War of the Coprophages flashbacks.

I was really excited to watch “Brand X” again. Honestly, my memories of the last few seasons are a lot fuzzier than the early parts of the series. (You can probably guess which episodes I watch more often.) The hidden blessing in that is getting to relive episodes afresh. And what I did remember of “Brand X” was good. Very good.

We have Skinner in play, and he so rarely gets to move from behind his desk. I think Mitch Pileggi was brought on the court mainly because Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny were still busy in post-production for “all things” (7×17) and “Hollywood A.D.” (7×18) respectively, but I’ll take any excuse to see more of Skinner.

I also haven’t seen a Half-Caff episode in nigh forever and I’ve missed them. For those who don’t know, Half-Caff is my own obsessive-compulsively subclassed category of X-File that involves a newly discovered science or technology with world-changing implications. Here-to-fore, however, they’ve also included a government conspiracy to get a hold of or control said science. “Brand X” is slightly different since there’s no government conspiracy, only a corporate one. But I’m counting it because I can.

Morley Tobacco takes the place of the government this episode and so is appropriately shady and secretive. Except for the good Dr. Voss, who shows signs early on of wanting to switch allegiances to the good side of the Force. He smirks in response to Mulder’s sarcasm at the conference table, anyway. But Dr. Voss has a problem. He and Dr. Scobie’s noble experiment, to genetically engineer a tobacco plant that wouldn’t cause cancer when smoked or inhaled, backfired. Oh sure, they developed a non-toxic plant. However, the tobacco beetles evolved to match the new supply and now their eggs are being inhaled along with the smoke. Needless to say, it’s not a pretty picture when the eggs hatch. Just ask the late Dr. Scobie.

Initially, we think Dr. Scobie’s been killed because he’s a whistleblower and the company didn’t want him revealing their nefarious secrets to the world. Whistleblowers were a hot topic in the 90’s and so was Big Bad Tobacco. I wonder if generations of X-Philes to come will recognize the plot of The Insider buried in all this. Even if they don’t, in a world where the GMOs vs. Non-GMOs debate has only gained traction over the years, this episode is oddly still relevant. Can we make nature better? Will we kill ourselves trying?

For first time writers on the show, Steve Maeda and Greg Walker give us a pretty classic X-File, the anomaly of Skinner being out in the field not withstanding. Steven Maeda will go on to write several more episodes including one of my later season favorites, “Audrey Pauley” (9×13).

There are lots of little moments, especially in the beginning, that I enjoy about this episode. I love the opening shot of smoke billowing out of a chimney and how it subtly introduces our subject. Seeing Dr. Scobie’s glass of icy water with pinkish swirls of blood floating around in it gives me a delicious sense of foreboding. It also warms my Philish heart to see Mulder and Scully coming to Skinner’s aid. I realize he’s their boss and technically they have to show up whether they want to or not, but it’s nice that they want to. Oh, and it’s the first time, probably all season, that I’ve felt like either Mulder or Scully were in real danger. “Signs and Wonders” (7×9) didn’t convince me. This actually feels like Mulder’s on the verge of death.

The atmosphere, particularly in the indoor scenes where they could block out the L.A. sunlight, is perfect. (The X-Files was gorgeous.) The villain is vile. (That’s right. You go ahead and smoke your neighbors to death. ‘Cause this is America, man. E pluribus uh…) The deaths are disgusting. (And I take perverse viewing pleasure in that.)

Everything’s moving with tense, expectant energy and then… the ending flattens like Coke in a cup.

Sigh. It pains me to admit it, but the 4th act starts to fizzle right when it should sizzle. It’s a sad reminder of what happened to “Theef” (7×14), another episode this season that was leading somewhere good and then choked right at the climax.

In particular, that scene where Skinner can’t make up his mind to take down Daryl Weaver goes on two minutes too long. I mean, I get it. If Daryl keeps on living he’ll keep on smoking and more people will inhale tobacco beetle eggs and die. And if Daryl dies then the doctor’s may not get the scientific answers they need to save Mulder and anyone else who might get infected. But Skinner is an Assistant Director at the F.B.I.. I’m pretty sure he knows how to shoot a suspect so as to disable them rather than kill them, especially when that suspect is standing still. His hesitation, no, procrastination doesn’t make sense. Not to mention, Daryl’s bad guy speech would have been much more effective cut in half.

Verdict:

Is it too late to create a “Coulda’ been a contender” category? Because “Brand X” had the potential to be a classic. Instead it’s just a really solid offering. Warts and all it’s still a far sight more entertaining than most of what I’ve seen this season.

B+

Bugs:

Skinner makes the idea of killer bugs sound so fantastic. Wasn’t he around for “Zero Sum” (4×21)? I know, I know. The bees carried a virus. They still behaved abnormally.

Are those pencils in the office ceiling the same ones from “Chinga” (5×10) or does Mulder still get bored often?

Correction, Scully. If Mulder were to pick up that pack of Morley’s he wouldn’t be taking up smoking, he’d be falling off the wagon. Mulder smoked back in “Travelers” (5×15).

If the situation was dangerous enough that Skinner needed to put a detail on Dr. Voss’ family for their safety, why did he let Dr. Voss travel home alone?

Is there any particular reason we’re supposed to believe Morley Tobacco would go so far as to kill Dr. Scobie for testifying against them? When did the mafia take over Big Tobacco?

PSA: It was implied by this episode but never directly stated that the smoke and tar from tobacco plants causes cancer, not nicotine. The smoke chronically irritates the lungs, leading to cancer and a whole other host of issues. Cigarette smoke also contains over forty known carcinogens, marijuana smoke over thirty. Though whether or not marijuana directly leads to lung cancer is still under debate. It’s been linked to testicular cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer and leukemia in the babies of women who smoked while pregnant, though.

Actor Tobin Bell, who plays Daryl Weaver, is our second Goodfellas alumnus of the season and our second 24 alumnus. Or at least, he’s the second of each that I’ve recognized and counted.

The actors must have killed themselves coughing from this episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: [Looking at a gruesome picture of Dr. Scobie’s corpse] Can’t blow the whistle with a mouth like that.

———————–

Mulder: Mr. Weaver, did you see or hear anything unusual last night?

Daryl Weaver: Little Korean fellow down the hall dresses like Wonder Woman. But that’s every night.

———————–

Daryl Weaver: Toodles.

 

Sein Und Zeit 7×10: If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.


 

x-files-017

The Easter Bunny is fair game.

Last we saw Teena Mulder she was selling her son to the Devil in drag, Cigarette-Smoking Man as you might call him, in “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4), an issue that was never, ever discussed. I had a few questions for her then, I don’t mind telling you. Well, I have several more questions on my mind now.

Why is it, somebody tell me why, that just as characters start to get interesting on The X-Files, they die? Deep Throat, X, Agent Pendrell (sob!), Diana Fowley (dry eyes), Jeffrey Spender… Is there an unwritten rule somewhere? Is it written into the actors’ contracts? I realize no one ever really dies on The X-Files, but do they have to die at all?

It’s not that I was ever particularly attached to Teena Mulder, or even attached at all. But…  dagnabit, woman!

Did you have to leave your son to cry with that face?

Was her disease about to disfigure her in the next few days that she couldn’t have waited to die until she talked to Mulder? She’d rather leave him floundering, wondering forever than take an extra day or two to give him what answers she has? And she couldn’t just die without saying anything she had to burn what little proof Mulder would have found? Why did she let him flail about like an idiot looking for Samantha for so many years when she knew she was already dead? There are answers I need from this woman.

And that final phone message. Do parents, even emotionally distant parents, speak to their children with phrases like, “I hoped you’d call upon your return,” with anything other than irony? Then again, Mulder and his mother have always seemed to have an affectionate, but slightly formal and distant relationship. Very New England. It doesn’t help that every member of the Mulder family seems to have secrets. Except for Mulder. He’s an open book. Too open at times.

Well, I’m done kvetching at a fictional dead woman. But I still think that after watching her burn the last pictures that she had of Mulder and Samantha that she killed herself more from guilt than fear of a painful death. Also, think of the timing. This missing girl case has clearly rattled her.

Ah, Amber Lynn LaPierre. The JonBenet of The X-Files. Even her doting parents are duly under suspicion. Not that the police don’t have reason to suspect them. Their story is suspect. And Mrs. LaPierre is the one who wrote the not-quite-ransom note, after all.

We’ve had missing girl cases before: “Conduit” (1×2), “Oubliette” (3×8) and “Paper Hearts” (4×8). All of them make obvious parallels to Samantha and Mulder’s continued emotional turmoil over her loss. Scully warns Mulder in “Sein Und Zeit” that he’s personalizing this case. But Mulder personalizes every case. Or at least he used to. I miss the days when Mulder looked emotionally invested in an X-File.

When Scully first shows up at Mulder’s California motel room I’m a little worried she’s going to turn into an insensitive nag the way she did in “Conduit” and “Oubliette”. She doesn’t, thank goodness. She’s just a little annoyed that Skinner has sent her all the way across country just because Mulder refused to pick up his phone. She tries to keep Mulder from going off the edge and lectures him about playing well with others, but she always does that.

Scully’s sensitivity actually shines in this episode and the next. That scene where she has to break the news to Mulder that his mother’s suicide was real, not staged, when Mulder breaks down and she steps in seamlessly to comfort him… X-Files Gold.

Finally! Some meat! Season 7 is cute and all but a girl can’t live off of popcorn and Skittles. I need some sustenance. I need an X-File with protein. I need something to get excited about.

Skinner: Billie LaPierre is asking for him. She’s got something to say and she’ll only talk to Mulder.

Scully: It’s not a good…

Mulder: What is it?

Skinner: This case has heated up. I’ve booked two flights for us.

Scully: Well, then you better book three.

My girl.

All that said, this is an episode that’s hard for me to enjoy absolutely, not because it isn’t a good episode, but because it’s a dark one. Not darkly titillating like the previous “Signs and Wonders” (7×9), but darkly somber. There’s a sense, even from the opening teaser, that sweet little Amber Lynn is never coming home. From Amber Lynn’s disappearance and the specter of Samantha’s continued disappearance, to Teena Mulder’s suicide and the shocking final shot of a field full of tiny graves, the grimness of death hovers over this episode.

I confess I can’t wrap my heart around this walk-in version of the afterlife (and there have been many competing, conflicting, and even coexistent versions of the afterlife on The X-Files). The short story goes like this: The walk-ins are good spirits who step in… sometimes… when they see a child about to die a horrible and painful death. They spare the child that painful experience changing them from matter into energy, effectively taking them straight from life to death without the nasty business of dying. Their energy resides and manifests itself in starlight, occasionally making return visits to earth and to their unsuspecting parents’ bedrooms. Said parents may or may not be blamed for their child’s disappearance adding yet another layer of tragedy to their loss. I thought the walk-ins were supposed to be helping?

It feels like a saccharine fairytale to me – Children rescued from pain, living and playing (eternally?) in the starlight. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather spend eternity with my loved ones in heaven.

But I think the idea touches a spiritual nerve. That nerve that tells us that life can’t be defeated by death. The life of these children may be over here on earth, but it’s not over ‘cause it’s over. Ironic given the source of the episode’s title.

Forgive me for waxing philosophical here since I’m not qualified to do so. It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve taken a class or touched a book on the subject. However, given the direction this story is taking I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the meaning of Sein Und Zeit or “Being and Time” in English. It’s a reference, one can only assume, to philosopher Martin Heidegger’s magnum opus, in which he, well, philosophizes over what it means “to be.” From what little I know about it, a simplified version of his conclusion might be that existence is fundamentally linked to time, or rather, that being is time and that human existence is the span from birth to death and that to truly live, we have to live with a conscious anticipation of the end of our existence.

I suppose that sounds deep on some level, but “Sein Und Zeit” is really about the continuation of souls, in starlight if you must, whose existence can’t be defined or swallowed up by death. They exist now outside of time, not hemmed in by in, and ride on waves of light that started eons ago. Chris Carter seems to be getting back to his “I Want to Believe” roots, with spiritual hunger and the desire for hidden truths overrule the need for scientific proof. This sense of hope, that one should hope, is dauntless and compelling. Universal and compelling.

Verdict:

After seven seasons, we’re finally nearing the truth of a mystery that’s been a bedrock of the show since the Pilot: what happened to Samantha.

We’ve found out bits and pieces, there’s been a lot of red herrings and misinformation, outright lies, in fact. But with all this talk about walk-ins and starlight you should be getting the nagging feeling by now that Mulder will never see Samantha on this side of terra firma again.

And don’t make yourself interesting on The X-Files. It’s a death sentence.

A-

Automatic Writings:

Besides the scene in Mulder’s apartment, my next favorite part of this episode would be the teaser, when Chris Carter uses Bud LaPierre to defend his doomed series, Harsh Realm, that was canceled after only three episodes made it to air.

Bud LaPierre: [Watching Harsh Realm] This is great.

Or maybe this part…

Bud LaPierre: I was watching TV in here.

Mulder: What were you watching?

Bud LaPierre: I never heard of it before. It was good.

That moment when Chris Carter sneaks in yet another indignant defense of Harsh Realm.

Watching the authorities swarm the LaPierre residence, for the first time it occurs to me that there must’ve been a similar scene in the Mulder household when Samantha was taken. Even if Samantha’s parents knew the truth about her abduction, for appearance’s sake there would have been police all over – questioning, searching.

How did Teena Mulder understand the connection between Amber Lynn and Samantha when the information about the ransom letter hadn’t yet been revealed in the media? I have even more questions about this next episode…

Boy, Mulder keeps making awfully good time on those cross-country flights. I know this was pre-9/11, but still.

Those little graves in the final shot make for a startling image. But one has to wonder, why didn’t he bother burying them deeper? No one goes back there? He must really not have been concerned about getting caught.

I may be the only one who cares, but the guy who plays Bud LaPierre is definitely the cult leader from “Red Museum” (2×10).

And to top that nugget off, “Red Museum” was when the topic of walk-Ins first came up.

One wonders how Skinner ever explained to his superiors how he, Scully and Mulder discovered “Santa” and his field full of graves. “Well, sir, we went to interview the LaPierres again and the mother said she’d had a vision of Amber Lynn repeating the number ‘74,’ then we drove up Route 74 and Scully saw one of those year-round Christmas places on the map and she remembered the letter, so we stopped and there were videos and the man ran and… graves.”