Tag Archives: Space

Alpha 6×16: Don’t mind him, he’ll go on forever.


Bad dog.

“Alpha” holds a special place in my heart.

I realize that probably sounds strange to you, so allow me to explain.

About a year and a half ago, after I had recently completed the rewatch that spawned this one, I was nostalgically flipping through my book of X-Files DVDs, bemoaning the fact that I had watched every episode I wanted to watch and there was nothing left. Lo and behold, my eyes dropped down and I saw something I had never noticed before.

“Alpha”… What’s an “Alpha”?

I searched my extensively detailed mental database of X-Files and I could not for the life of me remember the plot of this episode.

Did I miss this? Is that possible?? What in the heck is “Alpha”???

So of course, I popped the DVD back in the player thinking I must be having a mental block, possibly due to low levels of caffeine in the blood.

Sweet Mulder on a cracker… have I ever even seen this episode?

You see, that’s when I realized I have this habit of pulling the DVD from the player directly after “Arcadia” (6×13). Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.  Do not watch “Alpha”.

There are certainly episodes that I’ve been known to skip out of dislike, others I pass over due to impatience. But “Alpha” remains the only X-File whose actual existence I’ve wholly forgotten. It’s a dubious distinction indeed. In fact, I’m not even positive I saw this episode on its first run because my memories of it are so vague they may be retroactive counterfeits. Perhaps the VCR malfunctioned one Sunday night. I’ll have to dig out my old VHS tapes one day to be sure.

The benefit to this oversight, and there was a benefit, is that it essentially became a Lost X-File for me. Imagine waking up one day and finding out there’s another Mulder and Scully adventure out there for you to enjoy, one that you never knew about. Score!

Right?

Wrong.

I wanted to love “Alpha”. I wanted to have a new X-File to treasure. But yegads, I couldn’t. I suspected that if I couldn’t remember it there was probably a good reason and my instincts were correct.

Even on this rewatch, when I honestly tried more than ever to like it, it only got worse. Coming after the pitch perfection of “Monday” (6×16) and the fun of “Arcadia”, its failures are especially hard to accept. I found myself shaking my head involuntarily with irritated boredom before the episode was through. Frankly, it had me thinking nostalgic thoughts about “3” (2×7)…

This is our second episode in a row with an underwhelming monster. But whereas “Arcadia” had copious amounts of humor to fall back on, “Alpha” has no such crutch.

As I was watching this episode (for what may be only the second time ever), I started to smell the distinctively noxious odor that comes out of the kitchen when too many cooks are cooking in it. I wasn’t there and I can’t prove it, but I highly doubt that 70% of the script belonged to writer Jeffrey Bell, though the credits may tell me otherwise. The script feels disjointed, as if several different people worked on it, all with different points of focus. At least, that’s the excuse I’m giving because not much else can explain this fiasco.

But I’m complaining without giving any details. So… “Alpha”. This is an episode about territoriality, both human and non-human. There’s a noticeable amount of pissing and marking going on, but the hind legs being lifted up aren’t owned by any alpha male, but by a couple of frustrated women, one aggressive and the other passive-aggressive. One is Scully, the other is the newly introduced Karin Berquist, one of Mulder’s shadowy internet friends.

Karin is a socially maladapted loner who would rather be, and has been, living in the wild with wolves than walking on two legs amongst her fellow humans. Probably because he’s socially maladapted as well, and certainly as bright, she’s made a connection to Mulder and it’s because of information she feeds him that Mulder and Scully are on this case in the first place.

Karin, Karin, Karin. I’m all for geeks and losers, but Karin is a little too awkward to be sympathetic. Sadly, she’s just annoying. Which is a shame because I feel I should be rooting for this woman a little. After all, she’s dying, she has no life, and a man like Fox Mulder is giving her some attention. Can I blame her for trying to drag this situation out? However, her manner is off-putting. I realize it’s supposed to be, that she’s written that way, but I don’t believe it serves the story as well as if she had been either a clear object of empathy or a full on nemesis for Scully.

Too bad Mulder has man ears and not dog ears, or else he would have been able to hear the high pitched sounds coming from the mental catfight between Scully and Karin. Men are so oblivious to the ever-present subtext between females. Now, I know that it would be easy to interpret Scully’s actions here as the product of jealousy, but I don’t believe jealousy is what motivates her in any real sense. Mulder isn’t sexually, or even emotionally, interested in Karin and Scully knows that. Scully is being territorial, protective even, over poor, ignorant Mulder who is about to be caught in a web of womanly wiles. Scully essentially gives her the talk that big brothers give to their little sisters’ dates: I’m watching you. See, she perceives in a way that only a fellow woman can what Karin’s true motivations are and she resents them, not because they exist but because of Karin’s covert methods. Oh, and because Scully has been dragged all the way across country to California, probably on a red-eye flight since they arrived on the scene so soon, all so Karin can get the chance to moon over Mulder in person. I’d be a little resentful too.

The scene where Scully confronts her with this knowledge, where she gives her the old “I’m watching you” schtick, falls flat, however. Not because Scully isn’t a force to be messed with, but because Karin isn’t really worth having a woman-to-woman talk with. She’s no Diana Fowley. Scully’s righteous indignation is wasted on a woman who barely registers as human.

Alright. Enough griping about Karin because I’ve decided she’s not anywhere near my least favorite aspect of this episode. The next contender? Well, that would be the werewolf wannabe itself, the Wanshang Dhole. I’ve said before that The X-Files never handled exotic or foreign myths very well. It’s hard to introduce the audience to an unfamiliar legend and convince them to be afraid of it in the same 45 minute window. It can be done, of course, but it isn’t here. The playful pit bull my aunt used to own was scarier than this Wanshang Dhole, in human or in “canid” form. You can give a dog glowing eyes but you can’t make me fear it.

I was reading that one of the original ideas for this dog tale was to make the X-File about a kid who worked at a dog pound whose anger was expressed through the dogs there. Now, a pack of vicious dogs chasing Mulder and Scully down darkened streets? That could’ve worked. It could’ve been like “D.P.O.” (3×3), only with the SPCA involved.

But even the underwhelming monster in this Monster of the Week isn’t what dooms “Alpha” for me. It’s the painfully lackluster “climax” of the episode. Scully’s napping and Mulder’s reading a magazine while a mortally ill woman who tricked them into inaction with a see-thru lie uses an even more see-thru trap to easily defeat what’s supposed to be the smartest dog ever known to man.

I can’t even with this stuff.

I’ve read another draft of the script. I know there were better ideas out there both for the climax and for the episode in general. Maybe budget and time constraints forced them to resort to this nonsense, I don’t know. But it’s a doggone shame.

Verdict:

The best few minutes in “Alpha” come right after the opening credits when Mulder regales both Scully and us with a handful of bad dog jokes. Yes, even they fall flat, but this is the first time we’ve seen Mulder and Scully back in the basement office since they were reassigned to the X-Files. It looks a little bare, but Mulder’s hard at work making it feel homey again. It’s just missing one thing…

Mulder’s I Want to Believe poster.

Now, it’s about time we got it back. It’s just too bad that we get it back at the hands of a less than memorable character. If Karin Berquist is going to go down in history as the person who gave Mulder his poster back I want to have some kind of emotional connection to her. Instead, I spent the last few seconds of the episode resenting her spiritual intrusion into the basement office.

“Alpha” is still better than “Space” (1×8). I’ll give it that… and only that.

D

Claw Marks:

If the cage in the teaser hadn’t been opened and they didn’t know the animal was missing and that it had killed two of his crew, why does the captain or whoever he is say, “I don’t know how this happened. It makes no sense. We found the cage still locked. Two of our men are missing?” It makes no sense to me either.

Lupus is a disease I’ve been around a lot in my life. How Scully, a pathologist, not a rheumatologist, diagnosis this disease with so little information and such ease is beyond me.

This dog is supposed to be so smart, yet he falls into Karin’s trap so easily. And how could she have been sure they’d fall back hard enough to land on the fence post? That fence is some distance from the house.

“I think that I believed her very quickly.” Yes, Mulder, you have a tendency to do that.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Aren’t you going home?
Mulder: I am home. I’m just feathering the nest.

——————-

Scully: What happened to the dog?
Mulder: Dog gone… Dog gone… Doggone.
Scully: Yeah, I got it.

Travelers 5×15: That’s what I did until I ran out of room.


Mad Men 1013 style.

Like when “The Unusual Suspects” (5×1) followed after “Redux II” (5×2), I’m looking for an emotional follow up to the previous drama-heavy mythology episode and instead I’m bereft of Mulder and Scully almost altogether. Only this time, instead of go-to, familiar characters to rely on, we’re given a supporting cast that’s nearly completely new and the weight and responsibility of carrying an hour of one of the most popular shows on television falls on their shoulders. This is an ambitious episode indeed.

The opening teaser is one of my favorites in terms of sheer grossness. If they were looking for a way to catch my attention sans Mulder and Scully they found it. And for the record, there is no way, in earth or the world below, that I would kneel down on a cockroach infested floor coated in the grime of a thousand years in order to better inspect a rubber mummy in a tub. In case you wanted to know.

Now on to the meat of the episode… If The X-Files is about anything at all, it’s about distrust of authority. More specifically, it’s about distrust of the government. Imagine if the nation that fed you, that bred you, were actually out to get you.

With that in mind that the decision to place this flashback tale within the context of the McCarthy hearings makes a lot of sense. If you trust what you read in the history books, paranoia was running rampant at the time and the American government, in an attempt to control its citizens, found “communists” hiding in every nook and cranny. Chris Carter is often quoted as saying, “The X-Files is only as scary as it is real,” and what’s more real than things that have actually happened? It’s why previous episodes like “Paper Clip” (3×2) used real life holocaust atrocities as a base.

On the one hand, it’s easy to take a topic like McCarthyism or the House Un-American Activities Committee and use it to vilify the establishment. On the other hand, it fits like a hand in glove with The X-Files’ overall theme of government distrust. The men in charge have no desire to find the truth, they’re about establishing order and control even at the expense of innocent citizens. And what do you know? Even the F.B.I. is complicit.

Bringing Agent Mulder, I mean, Agent Mulder Sr. into the mix was a wise choice. (So was using the actor we already knew). Not only to we get more insight into his strained relationship with his son before he was killed but we learn about what kind of man he was. “Travelers” confirms a lot of what’s been hinted at about his character over the years. Here was a man who, though compromised, ultimately had a Jiminy Cricket sized conscience. Too bad that unlike his son, he was unwilling or unable to openly fight for what he believed it. It doesn’t look like he had the courage. But at least we know where Mulder got his subversive streak.

Speaking of Mulder, this is the second time this season we’ve seen Mulder in flashback. This time, though, he seems a lot less sure of himself. There’s no swagger like we saw in “The Unusual Suspects”, instead he’s full of nervous ticks… nervous ticks that conveniently display his wedding ring.

Oh, David Duchovny, why must you toy with the masses?

Word is, the wedding ring was little more than a joke on his part having been recently married in real life to actress Téa Leoni. Joke or not, it caused an uproar online. I have to admit that for my part, I didn’t even notice it. Which just goes to show that my powers of observation are dull and you shouldn’t read a word I type.

And the Verdict is…

One of these days I’ll probably get around to making a series of Top 10 lists and when I do, “Travelers” will be on the list of underappreciated episodes. It’s fairly quiet, I know, but I wouldn’t call it boring. Brief though they are, Darren McGavin’s scenes with David Duchovny are a treat, so much so that I wish his character could have been brought back more than once. In fact, I could almost wish that we had one season in flashback a la Nina’s suggestion in her Shipper’s Guide. Arthur Dales’s story and its overlap with the Syndicate’s Shenanigans, not to mention the Mulder family history, could have made for good television… especially if it was paralleled with the X-Files of the future.

B+

Fiddlesticks:

So, supposedly, Edward Skur & Co. had an actual animal/insect/creature grafted inside of them. But what in the heck kind of species is that? What could kill people in such a fashion? Of all the things the government could do to make Super Soldiers, they attach arachnids to their innards?? Why am I thinking this hard about it anyway?

The director of this episode, William Graham, hasn’t been seen on The X-Files since “E.B.E.” (1×16) and had the dubitable honor of directing “Space” (1×8), yet he has a long and very impressive resume including the classic television show The Fugitive. I wonder if the fact that he was active in television during some of the communism scare is what caused Chris Carter to bring him back. At the very least, I’m sure his experience in classic television is part of why this episode has such an authentic feel. Period pieces can so easily end up “costumey.”

Fredric Lane, who plays the young Arthur Dales, was on Castle last week. That show is a veritable parade of X-Files alumns.

There is a string of episodes this season where the narrative is driven by recollection and voiceover. “Redux” (5×2), “Bad Blood” (5×12), “Travelers”, “All Souls” (5×17). By the time we get to “All Souls” it begins to lose its impact.

Now we know there’s a reason the X-Files are the “X-Files” other than just that “X” is a cool letter.

Best Quotes:

Arthur Dales: Do you know what an… X-File is?
Mulder: It’s uh.. yeah, it’s an unsolved case.
Arthur Dales: No. It’s a case that’s been designated… unsolved.

————————

Arthur Dales: Have you ever heard of HUAC, Agent Mulder? House Un-American Activities Committee? No, no, no, it was before your time, you wouldn’t know. They hunted Communists in America in the 40’s and 50’s. They found… practically nothing. You think they would have found nothing… unless nothing… was what they wanted to find? Hmm?
Mulder: I’m sorry, sir. I, uh, I don’t… I don’t see the connection.
Arthur Dales: Maybe you’re not supposed to. [Slams door in Mulder’s face]

————————

Dorothy Bahnsen: But, I recognize one of these names. It’s in an X-File.
Agent Dales: X-File?
Dorothy Bahnsen: Yes. Unsolved cases. I file them under “X”.
Agent Dales: Why don’t you file them under “U”… for “Unsolved”?
Dorothy Bahnsen: That’s what I did until I ran out of room. Plenty of room in the “X’s”.

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


Well, at least the shots were gorgeous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Over at Last:

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

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

But then…

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

Way to quench it, dude.

D+

Keeping it Brief:

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

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

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

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

The Calusari 2×21: My grandfather used to take that for his stomach.


99 Luft Balloons.

Once again we start of with a dysfunctional family. (By way of an aside, I once read someone complain that The X-Files is full of unhappy nuclear families and that the only happy ones we see get destroyed. I thumbed my nose at that before, but I’m starting to think whoever wrote that isn’t far off base. I don’t think the show has anything against happy families, but it wouldn’t be frightening if we only saw happy families that stayed happy, would it?) What kind of parents, one might ask, would mindlessly take a balloon from one child and preferentially give it to another? No wonder he becomes something out of The Omen. The creepiest part of the episode is that opening teaser: Kid has balloon. Parents give balloon away. Kid wants balloon. Kid gets balloon.

As Season 2 progresses, it’s getting easier to recognize subcategories of X-Files. We’ve seen poltergeist tales before. Heck, Season 1 was on ghost overload. Even episodes that ostensibly didn’t involve a ghost like “Space” (1×8), “Born Again” (1×21), and “Roland” (1×22), were just ghost stories called by another name to see if they would smell as sweet. Probably because of that Season 2 has only had one poltergeist plot so far, “Excelsis Dei” (2×11).

This episode reminds me a lot of “Roland”, not because they’re similar in style or substance but because they have the same basic foundation: twin brothers who can’t truly be divided, even by death. I have to say that “The Calusari” tackles the premise more successfully, mainly because it’s a straight up mini horror flick. It has all the requisite elements of the genre; spooky kid, witch-like old woman, secret rituals, bloody deaths, and, of course, a malignant spirit back from the grave. In fact, out of all the examples I listed above, and a few I didn’t list, this is the most satisfying episode in terms of the fear factor.

The fear factor is really all “The Calusari” exists for. This isn’t an introspective character study or story to further the mythology, Mulder and Scully don’t grow either as individuals or in their partnership, there isn’t an underlying message about societal ills or a warning about human hubris. Even “Die Hand Die Verletz” (2×14) had an embedded caution not to play with fire. No, with this one the writers are just trying to freak you out… which isn’t a bad thing. I’m impressed even now at how The X-Files pulls off something of this scale in roughly 43 minutes.  To get this kind of a scare you generally have to go to a movie theater and buy an obscenely priced ticket.

Since there isn’t too much going on here I don’t have much left to add except for a note about what little characterization we do get to see. As much as I love her, Scully’s arrogance is a somewhat grating in this episode. It is funny in parts. Some of the cracks she gets to make in her scenes with the newly introduced Dr. Chuck Burks are cute. But her usual reactions to Mulder’s theories lack the “eye-rolling” attitude she displays here.  Her resistance is all a set up, however, and the payoff is that in the end she finally sees something paranormal happen with her own eyes rather than just hear the tale told later by Mulder. We never do hear her final reaction so who knows whether she explained it all away or whether remembering the events of “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) she ultimately admitted to herself that “ghosties” and “beasties” exist.

…And the Verdict is:

Not to belabor the point but you really don’t want to look too hard for anything meaningful in this episode. It’s not that deep. It is good, though, for what it is. And if there are still quite a few questions by the end, well, that’s what The X-Files is famous for. Not only that, it wouldn’t be a “horror film” if it made any real sense.

If “The Calusari” has a weakness it’s that they threw everything into this episode except their fuzzy slippers. It wasn’t necessary to use every cliché the horror genre has in order to scare folks. Wait. I take that back. They didn’t use every cliché. There were no over-sexualized teenagers killed in the making of this episode.

B+

Issues:

Mulder’s trained in psychology but he’s never heard of Munchausen by Proxy? I realize they have to come up with devices to get information to the audience without obvious exposition, but at least come up with something a little more clever.

If we go by what we learn later in the episode, the bratty child in the teaser isn’t necessarily Charlie but his dead brother Michael posing as him. But if that’s the case, who was the poltergeist pulling the balloon? Or if it is Charlie, why so cold? He doesn’t react so dispassionately when his father and grandmother are killed and the nurse attacked. Instead, he pleads with Michael to stop.

Random Thoughts:

The 90s projectile vomited all over that house.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: You see this is a helium balloon here, and the one thing I did learn in kindergarten is when you let them go they float up, up and away. But you see this is moving away from him. Horizontally.
Scully: Did you learn about wind in kindergarten?

——————–

Chuck: In 1979 I witnessed a guru named Sai Baba create an entire feast out of thin air.
Scully: Too bad you didn’t take a picture. You could have run it through your computer and seen the entire Last Supper.

——————–

Calusari: The evil that is here has always been. It has gone by different names through history. Cain, Lucifer, Hitler. It does not care if it kills one boy or a million men. If you try to stop us the blood will be on your hands.

Fearful Symmetry 2×18: It’s all happening at the zoo.


Sing and sqeak and squawk with the animals.

Coming off of “Colony” (2×16) and “End Game” (2×17), we’ve been on an adrenaline rush. And judging from the first part of this teaser, you’d expect that to continue. There’s an incredible, invisible force tearing through town and causing thousands of dollars in set damage. But by the time we see a dying elephant lying in the road with children weeping over it, I already know that something has gone horribly, terribly wrong.

If I’m to understand this properly, aliens are abducting animals for genetic testing and conservation purposes since we humans aren’t stewarding the planet the way we ought. Said aliens have such advanced technology that they can travel light years through space, abduct animals out of their cages without unlocking them, but they can’t. put. them. back. They’re so worried about preserving these animals that they impregnate them, steal their babies, and then drop them among human beings who they know will kill them if they’re on the loose. Not to mention these animals are so scarred by the abduction experience that they all seem to be in need of a psychologist, or at least Dr. Dolittle.

Mulder gives a vague explanation about how there’s some astrological issue with the space-time continuum that prevents the aliens from putting the animals back safely. So… what? They couldn’t wait a few days till the stars were aligned and the issue was resolved?

More time is spent in exposition about the plight of animals in zoos than is spent on the plot itself. This is Steven DeJarnatt’s only writing credit for The X-Files. Funny, I only have one episode to go on but I think I have a pretty good idea of his political leanings.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not unsympathetic. In fact, I’ve never been fond of traditional zoos myself. I too watched Dumbo as a child and pitied the poor little elephants bound by chains for gross human consumption. That said, I’ll give up my two little doggies for no man. They’d barely last an hour in the backyard let alone in the wild. “Objects for [my] own selfish pleasure?” You bet they are.

I’m being sarcastic. I don’t truly believe this episode is espousing the more radical view of the fictional WAO, but it does have a moral to the story that’s written in all caps. It forces the viewer to mentally engage in a political debate rather than in the story. This isn’t Law & Order, this is a show that features green-blooded alien bounty hunters. Green-blooded.

Here, instead of aliens, you’ll find animals in crates everywhere. And I’ll give the creators some credit; it does serve to heighten the tension. Mulder and Scully are walking around with a relatively small barrier between them and a vicious death. But the underlying plot is so absurd that I find myself not caring. Lovely, frightening wild beasts can only take a story so far. I should care by the time Mulder gets trapped in a room with Sophie and witnesses her abduction, but the climax is so decidedly boring. I admit, however, that watching Willa cry over Sophie’s body did make me a little sad.

You know what makes me sadder? This episode.

Conclusion:

An episode about straight-up cattle mutilations would have been more interesting. As it is, the whole premise of “Fearful Symmetry” ends up being mire that quickly swallows the episode whole. That this episode comes directly after the pinnacle of “End Game” only makes things worse.

Does it sink to the depths of “3” (2×7)? Few episodes can. Is it quite as dull as “Space” (1×8)? Humor saves it from that ignoble fate. Its only saving graces are a chance to see Angry Scully and the all too brief appearance of the Lone Gunmen.

Ah, the Lone Gunmen. Too bad one of their funniest scenes is lost in an episode that’s mostly forgotten. They easily steal the show in this one. Not that that’s hard to do…

So, overall, how did it score on my “Reasons I Watch The X-Files” test?

  • Did it make me laugh? A little.
  • Did it make me happy? No.
  • Did it stir my imagination? No.
  • Did it move me? Eh.
  • Did it freak me out? Heck no.

C-

P.S. In case you think I’m exaggerating about how hard they drive the “Save the Animals” point home, try to make it to the end of the episode and listen to Mulder’s closing voice-over. I rest my case.

Questions/Comments/Complaints:

Ed Meecham has worked at the zoo for years. For what? So he can torture animals for fun? It makes no sense that this man would spend his life caring for animals when he’s not an animal lover. Worse, why does everyone look at him in horror when he shot the tiger that was about to maul Willa Ambrose to death? Heaven forbid.

If an animal has already killed someone, isn’t it policy to put it down? I don’t think Willa Ambrose would have had the authority to order Meecham, or for that matter, the police, not to shoot on sight.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I’d be willing to admit the possibility of a tornado, but it’s not really tornado season. I’d even be willing to entertain the notion of a black hole passing over the area or some cosmic anomaly but it’s not really black hole season either. If I was a betting man I’d say it was, a…
Scully: An invisible elephant?
Mulder: I saw David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear once.

———————

Scully: What are you looking for, Mulder?
Mulder: Oh, a local paper. I want to see if David Copperfield is in town.

———————

Mulder: It’s all happening at the zoo, Scully. (A Simon & Garfunkel reference, for those of us too young… or too old to remember).

———————

Mulder: Alright, you keep an eye on the WAO.
Scully: And where are you going?
Mulder: Talk to the animals. (AKA: The Lone Gunmen)

———————

Frohike: Beam me up Scotty!
Mulder: Did anybody ever tell you the camera loves you, Frohike?
Frohike: Yeah, the arresting officers at the Free James Brown rally.
Byers: What’s this costing the taxpayers, Mulder?
Mulder: Uh, about 150 bucks an hour.
Frohike: Ouch! Almost as much as Bill Clinton’s haircuts!
Mulder: Where’s Langly?
Byers: He has a philosophical issue with having his image bounced off a satellite.

———————-

Frohike: If that’s the lovely Agent Scully, let her know I’ve been working out. I’m buff.

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.

Fallen Angel 1×9: I think you knocked out a filling.


Even aliens dig the Magic Mirror.

We’re due for some little green men. “Space“(1×8) didn’t fit the standard alien profile and even if you count that, we just went 5 episodes without a UFO of any kind. How is this lack rectified? Mix a crashed UFO with an invisible alien until just combined, crack in a sad Scully then sprinkle Mulder in black jacket stealth mode and you have yourself a “Fallen Angel”. Oh, and serve on a platter of obligatory military stonewalling.

I was watching this episode for the fourth time when it occurred to me for the first time: it would be fun to be Max Fenig. I’d give up a lot for that trailer of his. Really, his character is like a prelude to The Lone Gunmen. I haven’t researched it, but I wonder if the success of this character led directly to their creation. If so, I wouldn’t be surprised. His character definitely steals the show this time around. Though the glory isn’t his alone…

Let’s just take a moment and give a round of applause for the enigmatic Agent Scully’s arrival. The lighting, the staging, the posing… I love it all. Her entrance? Fabulous. I can’t even begin to count the number of times Scully ends up having to bail Mulder out like this (though I’m sure someone else has) but she always does it. Admittedly, as the series progresses, she becomes less annoyed and more resigned. That’s part of the beauty of their relationship. It’s surprising how consistent their formula is even this early on in the series.

Not everything can be as consistent as these two are. One possible glitch in the great continuity continuum? The aliens aren’t evil. Or at least, their role is ambiguous enough that Mulder can dare defend them. This missing alien pilot only kills because our military is trying to hunt him down. Understandably, the mythology evolved over time and probably at this point in the series didn’t exist in any coherent form. Still, try as I might, my perspective is that of someone looking backwards, not someone watching for the first time. It can’t be helped. Some aspects of this episode don’t fit into the overall puzzle easily. The invisible alien abducts Max, so this is part of the larger conspiracy, right? Fast-forward to “Tempus Fugit” (4×17) and it feels like we have a completely different set of aliens doing to abducting. For instance, what happened to the scar behind the ear thread?

Here’s where I discuss the clear and present parallels to “Requiem” (7×22). Now, by no means is this blog spoiler free. I assume that if you’re reading my thoughts on an episode you’ve either already watched it or don’t care if you ruin it for yourself. But for the sake of those initiates who are merely watching Season 1 on their way to Season 7, I won’t mention just how similar these two episodes are. I’ll only say that some of the special effects echo each other and help serve to bracket the series. The similarities may even help thread together some of those jumps in continuity.

And the Verdict is…

I’m going to share a dark and dirty little secret: mythology episodes sometimes bore me. (Insert collective gasp here.) Now, I’m not saying I don’t love the mythology, I just love the characters more and often “mythology” is code for “aimless shenanigans.” With that out of the bag, I freely admit that I never much liked “Fallen Angel”. I’ve always found it dull and somewhat aggravating, especially since despite Mulder’s emphatic assertions he knows absolutely bupkiss. Don’t tell him I said so, but Agent Mulder has a self-righteous streak.

Even so, fear not, I can joyfully say that I’ve changed my mind about “Fallen Angel” upon this last viewing. This episode is more subtle than I used to give it credit for. Max Fenig is quietly hilarious and the wordless exchanges between Mulder and Scully are priceless. Scully is frustrated with him in the beginning, suckered by his puppy dog eyes in the middle and sad for him by the end…. Which may just sum up the entire series.

Mulder knows that Scully pities him and I would say that this is a large part of the reason he responds to her character at all. He realizes that she does want him to succeed, if not because she herself believes, then because she’s one of the few people that sees anything good and worthwhile in Mulder. I would even say that he tolerates her sometimes ill-timed intrusions into his investigations because he knows she’s trying her best to keep him out of trouble. It takes her a while before she realizes he’s determined to go down in flames. Fortunately for both agents, he just misses that trip to hell this episode.

B-

I’m Still Scratching My Head:

Why would Mulder use a state rental car?? Is he that cheap? Rent the car with your own money, man.

How does Mulder get away with half of the things he pulls? The forest is swarming with military, there are helicopters overhead, but watch him just scooch on past.

General Observations:

A shadow of continuity from The Jersey Devil? Mulder uses a professional camera.

We never see aliens go invisible again. Cloaked ships? Sure. But that’s different.

Wait, maybe we never see the aliens go invisible… because they’re invisible! Whistles theme music.

The alien can pass through solid objects too? No wonder they had to reduce the abilities of the aliens in later episodes. No one could fight against them if they had more super powers than Superman.

Check Mulder’s embarrassed glance at Scully when his alter-ego is exposed.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I didn’t order room service.

————

Scully: Good Luck.
Mulder: I’ll break a leg.