Tag Archives: Teso dos Bichos

Daemonicus 9×3: Like a snake eating its own tail.


Screenshot10-4.jpg

50 bonus points.

I had a theory going into this rewatch of Season 9 that it’s biggest problem was not the introduction of Doggett and Reyes and not even the flagging mythology. I thought that what Season 9 needed was to cut off the Mulder and Scully umbilical cord and let our new team fly free as the next generation.

I still believe that. But even as the voices whisper to Kobold, I’m feeling a slightly less demonic breeze in my ear. I had no idea, no, not even with my concerning level of devotion to these fictional characters, how necessary Mulder and Scully really were, as a team, to the show as a whole. With their wide-eyed sense of wonder and discovery, particularly in the early years, and their irrepressible banter, they made even the most out there concepts seem believable, even the scariest fears approachable, their shared intensity elevating the absurd. Remember the possessed sewer cats???

Scully: Oh my God, Mulder! It smells like… I think it’s bile!
Mulder: Is there any way I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?

The cases weren’t great just because they were creepy, they were great because Mulder and Scully sold them.

I’ve heard The X-Files described as a supernatural police procedural, and while I get that on one level and used to agree, I now believe it isn’t. That’s why we couldn’t exchange Mulder and Scully for Doggett and Reyes so easily. If it were an endlessly continuable procedural designed to investigate an interminable parade of paranormal problems, then changing the leads wouldn’t have mattered. No, The X-Files was a quest with a distinct beginning, middle, and a forcefully dragged out end. It had a sell-by date. The truth can’t be out there in perpetuity.

Mulder and Scully had a routine, yes. But they weren’t solving cases they were exploring the universe. Many a time they didn’t solve or resolve anything, they just watched the impossible unfold around them. Other times they found answers which led to more questions with no answers. All that mattered was that I felt like I was discovering the universe with them.

I know it sounds like I’m way off topic for a review of “Daemonicus” but there’s a reason for the ramble.

I used to appreciate this episode much more. In fact, it’s long been one of my favorites of the season. It still is. Yet, it’s not too often that I like episodes less with the passage of time and the accumulation of rewatches. Maybe there is genuinely something wrong with me, but when I went to start this episode and heard Mark Snow’s “Lamenta” on the DVD menu screen I felt like crying.

For the first time, it really feels like the good old days are gone. Maybe it’s because it’s Doggett and Reyes’ first Monster of the Week episode and I was always partial to those. Maybe it was my mood after hearing such haunting music. But now I feel like I see in this forty-three minutes of still pretty well-done television why The X-Files couldn’t continue this way and why Season 9 failed.

Change is good and even when it isn’t good, sometimes it’s necessary. But while this remained in many ways a good show after the Mulder and Scully era, it was no longer magically delicious.

In order for it to become so again our two new leads have to create their own magic, but they haven’t worked out how to do that yet. I know it’s early. I do. But let’s see how promising they are.

Where Mulder used to interpret a situation. Reyes “senses” things. When she says, “Not once did I find anything to support evidence of genuine satanic activity”, what she means is that she never got really creepy vibes before. It’s good and interesting that they’re separating Reyes from Mulder even in the role of believer. But it’s much more difficult to pull off Reyes’ pseudo-psychic feelings and make them the foundation of investigation than it was Mulder’s evidenced based hunches, as hard as those stretches of plausibility were to swallow sometimes.

Not to mention, Reyes has lost the self-deprecating goofiness and awkwardness that made her so approachable when she was first introduced in Season 9. Suddenly she’s less childlike and distinctly more womanly. The jury’s still out on how well this plays in the long run.

As for Doggett, he isn’t just a skeptic. Same as last season, he’s resentful of the paranormal, resentful of its implications. Scully was frustrated and puzzled sometimes investigating with Mulder, but rarely angry. And her banter with Mulder kept the reserved Scully from coming off too cold and aloof. Doggett is marching in place as a character, and for what? What truths are frightening him?

Kobold: I’m wondering, why a skeptic such as yourself would accept an assignment to an obscure unit of the FBI devoted exclusively to the investigating of paranormal phenomena… Ordinarily men do not pursue occupations against their own inclinations unless there’s some strong countervailing reason. Seeking the love or approval of a woman, perhaps? Agent Reyes may have affection for you, but you for her…?

————————

Kobold: I’ve been thinking a lot about you, Agent Doggett… about why someone so ill-suited would draw this duty. Clearly, you have feelings for her. But you can’t compete with the long lost Agent Mulder… his easy good looks, his Oxford education… Mulder has what you can’t have. But you stumble forward, the flat-footed cop, thinking he can put handcuffs on demons. You want her, but she feels sorry for you. They both do.

————————

“I really wanted a character who could not just tell us again what the X-Files were after nine seasons, but tell us something about who Doggett, Reyes, and Scully were,” said Frank Spotnitz.

————————

“From the beginning Doggett has tremendous respect for Scully and I think that respect has blossomed into something else,” says Carter. “That was always our intention, that we would have a sort of triangle.” “From the beginning Doggett has tremendous respect for Scully and I think that respect has blossomed into something else,” says Carter. “That was always our intention, that we would have a sort of triangle.”
I think the madness speaks for itself, yes?

For her part, Scully’s back teaching at the F.B.I. Academy, a gig she had before she ever met Mulder or heard of an X-File. The move makes sense both in terms of continuity and of character. She has a baby at home to take care of and if the writers’ seem to have ignored her maternity leave benefits, then I’m glad they recognized that it’s time for a more regular schedule and a less risky job. What’s more, I’m glad to see Scully has again found her happy medium between skepticism and belief.

That said, Scully is a heavy weight that’s holding everybody down. Her presence isn’t necessary in this plot, but she’s here because Gillian Anderson is contracted to be here. Worse, her presence is a constant reminder of what no longer is when I’m trying my darndest to concentrate on Doggett and Reyes and give them a fair shake. Yet they keep going back to her like Jedi Knights to Yoda instead of learning to fly on their own.

I really think they could, you know… fly, if the right winds were blowing. I’m going to need some drive, though. And I’m not talking about romantic competition with the absent Mulder. Doggett needs to want to be here and Reyes’s take it or leave it attitude when it comes to getting definitive answers needs to go. Make me believe that it matters. Make me believe it all means something.

Verdict:

This all sounds dank and depressing, I’m sure. But I’m not mad at “Daemonicus”, I just think it needs a lift, something to shine a soft light into the darkness. But like Kobold says, Doggett doesn’t possess Mulder’s easy manners and humor. And he and Reyes aren’t two wide-eyed young agents on a journey of discovery. Still, everybody’s got their something and I want them to find theirs and fast. I need a little yeast to leaven this lump.

Visually, I think this episode is great. This is only Frank Spotnitz’s second time directing and while the direction draws more attention to itself than it did in “Alone” (8×19), I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that, like Reyes, our spidey senses are supposed to be tingling and that’s manifested in the hyper-reality of the clouds. I also think the mental hospital set is gorgeous.

It’s a good effort, ladies and gentleman.

But enough with the love triangles or quadrangles or whatever this nonsense is you have planned.

We now have Follmer pawing at Reyes, Scully pining after Mulder, and Doggett dreaming of Scully. What’s next, Reyes flirting with Doggett?

Oh.

B-

Scrabble:

I really like the black opening of riding in the car with Reyes.

So… remember that time Doggett and Reyes walked into the padded cell of a crazy man and closed the door behind themselves?

What did he just vomit up? Niagara Falls?

The checkmate ending feels… awkward.

Nest of Bile can be found here – “Squeeze” (1×2)

Possessed Sewer Cats can be found here – “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18)

Best Quotes:

Reyes: Did Dr. Richmond display any knowledge of Satanic lure, or speak of demonic possession?
Dr. Sampson: No, he was perfectly cogent. He didn’t suffer from those kinds of delusions.
Reyes: I’m not really asking about delusions. When you last spoke to him did he seem himself?
Dr. Sampson: Seem himself?
Reyes: I mean did he display a personality other than his own? Speaking tongues or in any language which he didn’t know?
Dr. Sampson: You’re asking me if he was possessed? This is the 21st Century, Miss Reyes. We stopped looking a long time ago to demons to explain mental illness.
Reyes: I’m not really talking about mental illness.

——————–

Reyes: What if it’s ectoplasm?
Doggett: Ectoplasm?
Reyes: You’ve heard of it, Agent Scully?
Scully: Agent Mulder used to refer to it as “psychic plasma”: a residual by product of telepathic communication. In theory, it would have inorganic properties that couldn’t be explained otherwise.
Doggett: So what are we talking now? The Ghostbusters?

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Terms of Endearment 6×6: Hey, come on, you’re makin’ me feel weird.


Sympathy for the Devil

This is one of those episodes, and it won’t be the last this season, that I’m not really sure how I feel about. The issue isn’t that I don’t enjoy it because I do. It’s that “Terms of Endearment” is somewhat schizophrenic; this episode isn’t sure whether it’s an homage to Hitchcock, a Rosemary’s Baby knockoff, a comedy, a tragedy, or an X-File. It’s also undecided as to whether its protagonist is an F.B.I. agent with an uncanny mind, a demon with an identity crisis, a naïve wife or a diabolical one.

Yes, the point of view changes so often in this episode that rather than what evil the demon villain is up to, the main mystery is which character is actually the protagonist. Whose perspective are we supposed to be seeing the story through? Ultimately, I believe the protagonist is meant to be Wayne Weinsider. In a twist on Rosemary’s Baby, the story is told from the viewpoint of the devil rather than that of the hapless female. However, the references to Hitchcock’s Suspicion, such as the glowing glass of poisoned milk Wayne carries up the stairs to his wife, and consequently the audience’s identification with the wife who doesn’t know if her protector is actually her destroyer, causes some confusion. Throw scenes with Mulder and his uncanny intuition into the mix and it’s hard to hold out for a hero… as there isn’t one. This is almost an ensemble piece.

The main source of confusion, however, lies with the demon character of Wayne Weinsider himself. This is one of the rare X-Files where the guest star is actually the protagonist. Actually, it may even be the first depending on how you think of previous episodes such as “Leonard Betts” (4×14). Yes, it’s a joy to have Bruce Campbell, previously of Hercules, Xena and now Burn Notice fame, on board for an X-Files adventure and as much as lies within him, he does an excellent job with the role. But there’s weakness in the Wayne Weinsider character that has nothing to do with how he’s played.

The way the character is written it’s hard to either hate him or love him. He’s neither an underworld nemesis worthy of an exorcist nor is he a sympathetic soul in his quest for normalcy. He’s doing the unspeakable, killing his own children, and yet he’s so harmless a few mere bullets can incapacitate him. Tell me, what kind of demon is felled by bullets?? They’re not even silver bullets! You just shoot the devil’s minion a couple of times and he goes down? That’s all it takes? Where’s the holy water? Yegads.

It’s inevitable that the devil loses his impact when there’s no God for him to rebel against. Rosemary’s Baby pulls this off, depicting a fight against the king of evil without claiming any standard of good, but it can do that because the claustrophobic nightmare of its heroine, her rape and the ongoing violation of nourishing within her own body a monster not of this world, is enough to convince anyone of the evil of her enemy. Here Mulder is so unimpressed by Wayne Weinsider that he baits him, teases him, and initiates a campaign of harassment against him all without any fear of being pulled into the lake of fire.

I also wonder if the homage to Rosemary’s Baby, the decision to depict Wayne’s true demon identity in a distinctly 1960s style, may have been lost on the audience. Those horns, those rubbery looking hands, they’re hardly the stuff of horror in recent years. The demon that a 1990s audience would nightmarishly conjure up at the food of their beds wouldn’t be so… Harryhausen-esque. The demon baby too, with its claws peeking out over the car seat in a direct reference to the earlier film, I fear isn’t as impactful as it could be. Perhaps this is all too stylized for primetime television. Perhaps the elemental horror of the Rosemary’s Baby storyline keeps the special effects from being perceived as hokey and “Terms of Endearment” doesn’t have that built in fail-safe.

There was a golden opportunity here to turn an insurance salesman into something more nefarious than his job already makes him, but I suppose that wasn’t the point. The point was to have a sympathetic villain. The problem is, since when is the devil sympathetic? How do you make him a well-rounded character? He loses all his power that way. He’s supposed to be the devil, dang it. Turning him into a sentimental family man is laughable. And yet, this isn’t a comedy. Neither is it a horror story despite the brooding gothic manor Wayne resides in. It falls into the nether regions in between – a fate that also awaits first time writer David Amann’s sophomore attempt, “Agua Mala” (6×14).

I say this isn’t a comedy, but I don’t mean to say that it isn’t funny or that the laughs are all unintentional. I enjoy watching David Duchovny and Bruce Campbell play in the same sandbox. And I can’t deny that my 14-year-old self and her best friend giggled for days over Wayne being blindsided by wife number two and the cool factor of her subsequent joy ride. The use of the band Garbage’s music in the soundtrack didn’t hurt either.

And the Verdict is…

Too bad the devil isn’t so easy to identify with. If he had been, this could have been a rousing success. Turning his nefarious plans back on him in a twist ending isn’t quite enough to create sympathy for the devil, though his decision to give life back to his victimized wife comes close. Then again, I would have preferred it if it had been completely, well, devilish. If he had been an unapologetic villain along the lines of Eugene Victor Tooms I could have relished the story more.

But now that I’ve poked my fingers in all of this episode’s open wounds, let me also attest that I do enjoy it and I find most critiques of “Terms of Endearment” to be unduly harsh. This isn’t the first X-Files episode to fall slightly short of its promise and it won’t be the last, that doesn’t mean it’s a dismal failure. By no means is it “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18).

We have a very talented guest lead, some memorable visuals, funny moments and taboo subject matter – All the makings of an X-File. The disparate elements are here, if only they worked in concert.

B+

Demon Seeds:

How would you prosecute a demon for killing his demon spawn? Is that even a crime?

I realize much has been made about Mulder’s “I’m not a psychologist” comment and it’s hard to defend since Scully introduces Mulder to the audience as an “Oxford-educated psychologist” way back in the “Pilot” (1×79). But though this offhand comment may smack of discontinuity, it doesn’t bother me in the least. I can’t excuse it by claiming that Mulder was being sarcastic since his tone doesn’t bear evidence of that, but does it really matter? Besides, it’s not like he went to graduate school in the field.

How does Betsy know just where to find Mulder and Scully in the middle of the night? If demons read minds, surely Wayne would have better avoided detection… and would have picked up on his wife’s duplicity.

I see you, Mark Snow, throwing in that Gregorian chant.

Maybe Bruce Campbell’s just too funny. It’s hard not to interpret his actions as comic because he’s so naturally hilarious.

Best Quotes:

Deputy Stevens: I know this went right into your caseload but I never imagined you would get here so soon, Agent, uh…
Mulder: Oh, Mulder. Fox Mulder. Though I ask you not to make that known to anybody. The F.B.I. likes to keep our work on these cases very hush-hush. [He holds a shredded report that’s been taped back together]
Deputy Stevens: Sure, of course. But I would like to thank Agent Spender.
Mulder: Oh. No, no, no. I’ll thank him for you because I have to call in my, uh, progress report.

——————–

Mulder: Scully, this is a classic case of demon fetal harvest, what they called in the middle ages “atum nocturnem,” the impregnation of an unwitting woman by a dark lord of the underworld…
Scully: As host for his demon seed.
Mulder: Exactly.
Scully: I saw Rosemary’s Baby on cable the other night, Mulder.

——————–

Mulder: [Carrying out a large container of dietary fiber supplements] Whatever else we find, I know everybody in this house is regular.

Schizogeny 5×9: Talk about puttin’ down roots.


It's kinda like Children of the Corn except... not.

Here we have an X-Files episode about some emotionally disturbed teens in control of the forces of nature. Sound familiar? It should. It has strong similarities to Season 3’s “D.P.O.” (3×3).

Here we have an X-Files episode where a single and socially isolated woman unwittingly channels the personality and desires of an evil male ancestor, so much so that she even takes on his voice and perpetrates his crimes. Sound familiar? It should. It has strong similarities to Season 2’s “Aubrey” (2×12).

In case this hasn’t already clued you in, “Schizogeny” is an exercise in The X-Files By the Numbers. Mind you, there’s no disparagement when I say that because there’s nothing at all wrong with a tried and true X-File. The problem is that with this one, someone forgot Number 10: The Plot Makes Coherent Sense.

Sure, for a hot minute we think there might actually be something interesting going on. But the plot quickly melts into a mishmash of teenage angst, ghostly possession and sentient plants. Throw in issues of child abuse, a mental health practitioner projecting their own issues onto their patients and some Daddy complexes and now we have ourselves an unfocused jumble of ideas.

Even with its complexity against it, I think if Karin Matthews’ character had been a bit more fleshed out the episode might have pulled through. My natural instinct to compare Karin to B.J. Morrow in “Aubrey” doesn’t come out in her favor. You can feel the conflict within B. J. Morrow that makes her sympathetic while Karin Matthews is an emotional blank. I realize she’s a psychiatrist and she’s supposed to have control over her feelings, but I don’t sense any depth of character with her, there’s nothing going on under the surface.

To compare “Schizogeny” with something outside of The X-Files realm, there are also echoes of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho here, only instead of a mummified Mummy in the cellar, it’s Daddy Dearest who’s been preserved in the dark recesses of a creepy old house. And where Janet Leigh’s character overhears Norman Bates argue with his “mother” in Psycho, Lisa is kept awake listening to Karin Matthews’ long deceased father verbally humiliate her. In fact, the more I think about it, the more this episode comes off as a well-intentioned homage to Hitchcock. The X-Files certainly makes an excellent backdrop to attempt Hitchcock’s style.

But style is about all “Schizogeny” has going for it since there’s no substance. There really isn’t much going on in this episode of interest, and consequently, there isn’t much to discuss. So I’ll take this opportunity to wax analytical instead.

Mulder: Hey, Scully, is this demonstration of boyish agility turning you on at all?

Listen up, fellas, because I have a theory and I’m sticking to it: Mulder was Scully-crushing Season 5. Think I’m wrong? I’m not. And the beginning of Season 6 will prove me right.

Chris Carter may not have intended it, David Duchovny may not have meant it, the writers may not even have purposed it, but television has to be accepted as the sum total of what we as the viewers end up seeing. And after all the editing is said and done, the overall impression is that Mulder harbors some feelings for Scully in Season 5 that edge ever so perceptibly away from the platonic.

I know, I know, Mulder’s always been a flirt. But his jokes have an edge of earnestness to them now that, in my opinion, they didn’t have before. Take the above quotation, for instance. Sure, Mulder might’ve teased her with something like that in Seasons 3 or 4. But this time Mulder doesn’t just flippantly throw this line out there, he actually looks down to make sure Scully’s paying attention, as if to say, “Well, is it?” I realize that’s a small moment but try adding it to the next several episodes in particular and it starts to equal something more than merely playful.

Not that I’m about to advocate the fantasy of some dime store romance style piece of fanfic that would lead you to believe Mulder is crying in his Wheaties every morning wishing Scully would finally notice him, I’m just saying that Mulder’s heart is more obviously on his sleeve this season when it comes to Scully, that’s all. After that cancer scare coupled with the loss of all he believes in, who could blame him? Scully’s the last thing he has left.

Verdict:

I don’t hesitate to say “Schizogeny” is the nadir of Season 5. It’s noticeable even in the middle of a streak of so-so episodes. But unlike episodes like “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) that implode in a blaze of glory or episodes like “3” (2×7) that inspire righteous indignation, “Schizogeny” commits no grave sin outside of being plain old boring. There’s nothing memorable going on here one way or the other. I could wish that it were either hot or cold but being lukewarm I just want to spit it out. Like most other lackluster episodes, it’s forced to rely on the failsafes of Mulder/Scully banter and The X-Files’ gorgeous cinematography.

Underneath it all I believe there’s supposed to be a message here about the cycle of abuse, but the plot connections are so tenuous that it’s hard to take any social commentary seriously. Worse, it’s hard to side with these kids and fault the parents when all I want to do is reach through the screen myself and give Bobby a good slap.

D+

Here nor Theres:

The shots of the bare, wintry orchard are so lovely I could wish it had been used as the backdrop to a better episode.

There’s a joke in here somewhere about psychologists needing psychologists, I just can’t seem to find it.

Interestingly enough considering the parallels this episode has to “Aubrey”, Sarah-Jane Redmond who plays Karin Matthews appeared in that episode as well.

If that weren’t enough, the actress who plays Lisa’s Aunt played Darin Peter Oswald’s mother in “D.P.O.” At this point, it’s almost creepy.

Even the title of this episode is obtuse. “Schizogeny” isn’t a word, but “Schizogony” refers to the asexual reproduction of protozoans. Maybe the substitute of “geny” is a reference to “progeny” since this episode is all about the difficulties of parent-child relationships?

The Creepy Woodsman red herring is a little overdone. Scully backs away from him one too many times and it feels forced.

Factiod: “Scully’s line about the town getting ‘400 inches of rain a day’ is a reference to a comment David Duchovny jokingly made about Vancouver during his appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, getting himself into a lot of hot water with the people of Vancouver. ‘Now that’s a bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think?’ was a perfect comeback by Mulder, given the circumstances.” http://cleigh6.tripod.com/CTP/CTP-schizogeny.html

Best Quotes:

Mulder: All that came out of his stomach?
Scully: Most of it. The small amount in his lungs is what killed him.
Mulder: Is it possible that he took the term “mud pie” literally?

———————

Mulder: Then how did the victim swallow 12 pounds of this stuff?
Scully: Well, when you fight for air a vacuum is created and maybe once he sucked down a mouthful of mud it turns his esophagus into a siphon. And with his head pushed down it filled all his passages like a gas can.
Mulder: [Grins and nods in amusement]
Scully: [Sheepishly] Well, you asked me for answers. These are the best ones I’ve got.

——————–

Scully: His mother says that Bobby can’t make friends. He’s been in therapy for his anger since 1995.
Mulder: That could be me.

El Mundo Gira 4×11: I just met a girl named Maria.


Remind anyone of their fridge?

This episode always brings back memories of El Chupacabra sightings that made the local news so often when I was in Junior High, sightings that no one outside the Latin American community seemed to take seriously. Funny, but despite its political grandstanding, this episode doesn’t take the legend seriously either.

Last time I watched “El Mundo Gira” I decided I enjoyed it. Maybe I was feeling nostalgic about the Spanish soap operas that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. I never understood them, but you didn’t need to understand Spanish to pick up on the melodrama. Or maybe I just finally decided that the Chia Pet style fungus in this episode is more satisfying than I had originally thought.

But upon a fresh rewatch and coming off of the notable success that is “Paper Hearts” (4×8), its errors are harder to ignore.

First, and most obviously, Season 4 seems to be when the team at 1013 Productions decided that along with the great power of The X-Files’ success came the great responsibility of social commentary. We saw them try to sneak it in the back door with “Teliko” (4×4) and they’ll soon try to force it in the front in “Unrequited” (4×16). Unlike a movie where they would have a couple of hours to let the story speak for itself and therefore could allow the audience to slowly put the pieces of the message together, a 42 minute running time means that in order to make their point we get heavy-handed lines such as…

Scully: Nobody’s examined the body?
Mulder: Nobody cares, Scully. The victim and many of the witnesses are illegal immigrants, migrant farm workers.

And…

Skinner: You would think that with the resources we have we’d be able to find these men. I’m not hearing a good explanation why this hasn’t happened.
Scully: Well, sir, they have a way of being almost invisible.
Mulder: The truth is… nobody cares.

And…

Scully: Mulder, I know you don’t want to hear this but I think the only aliens in this story are not the villains. They’re the victims.

The only thing Illegal Immigrants and Little Green Men have in common is a word that ties them together by sound, no longer by connotation. Giving the Chupacabra an alien shaped head does not a parallel make, and so it’s hard to choke down what they’re trying to force feed us. On top of that, such a serious pathos undermines the pseudo-comical melodrama of a Spanish soap opera that the episode is trying to imitate, resulting in a haphazard tone a la “Syzygy” (3×13).

It’s already difficult enough to take a distinct cultural legend and translate it to an “alien” audience in a way so that it carries emotional force. That experiment is rarely effective as evidenced by episodes like “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) and “Hell Money” (3×19).  But combining serious political observations with the “Mexican soap opera” theme that many may find unfamiliar is a recipe for disconnect.

Conclusion:

I still enjoy this one though, despite itself. At the very least it gives us a few memorable lines. And one thing I’ve always loved about The X-Files is how it’s able to give the strange a scientific foothold. This is one of those episodes where neither Mulder nor Scully are correct but together they make a new scientific discovery.

By the end the story morphs yet again, this time into a Rashomon style fairy tale. I can’t help feeling that if they had taken that tone all the way through, it could have been more successful. But then again, “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) has already been done.

C

Randomness:

If this is a community of illegals, why report Maria’s death at all? Surely that would have brought the cops around long before Mulder and Scully came on the scene.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Witnesses described a bright flash about 30 degrees off the horizon, then a hot yellow rain fell from a cloudless sky. Fortean researchers call these “liquid falls.” Black and red rains are the most common, but there have also been reported cases of blue, purple and green rains.
Scully: Purple rain?
Mulder: Yeah. Great album. Deeply flawed movie, though.

————————-

Agent Lozano: Let’s see… Okay. We have a Jose Feliciano. We have Juan Valdez. We have Cesar Chavez. We have Placido Domingo here. But I don’t see any “Eladio Buente.”

————————-

Mulder: They think he’s the Chupacabra.
Agent Lozano: That may be. But I will tell you with a tremendous degree of certainty this guy is not Erik Estrada.

————————-

Agent Lozano: This guy is better than Erik Estrada.

————————-

Mulder: Scully, I’ve been thinking. I know that’s dangerous, but just bear with me.

Season 3 Wrap Up: Are you sure it wasn’t a girly scream?


On the Big Picture Front

Season 3 is a perennial fan favorite, for obvious reasons. It’s during this era that The X-Files went from a cult hit to a primetime sensation. Far from being a specific genre show, it proved it was capable of changing styles from week to week and still maintain consistency and continuity. One week Mulder and Scully are on the brink of discovering alien life, and the next they’re being overrun by mutant cockroaches. Season 3 is at turns a sci-fi show, a psychological drama, a comedy and a parody.

And more than anything else, it’s the Season of Darin Morgan. Sure he debuted back in Season 2 as the writer of the landmark “Humbug” (2×20) and even earlier than that he provided the story for “Blood” (2×3) and even donned a body suit to play The Flukeman in “The Host” (2×2). But three out of the four episodes he officially wrote for the series aired in Season 3. That’s not even counting his uncredited contributions to episodes like “Revelations” (3×11) and “Quagmire” (3×22), two episodes that delve deeply into the psychological background of Mulder and Scully, laying the basis for years to come for other writers who would take their characters even further.

His presence on the staff actually transformed the show into something that was pliable and therefore viable. How long would The X-Files have lasted if things had stayed as serious as they did in Season 1 and most of Season 2? I daresay there’s an audience for that, myself included, but Darin Morgan introduced an era where The X-Files could lovingly poke fun at itself; this meant that the audience didn’t have to. After all, if you bring up your faults before anyone else can, it serves as a first level of defense. “Fox Mulder is off his rocker, you say? We already know. We called him on it ourselves and beat you to it.” Once that’s out of the way, everyone can sit back and enjoy without their being an elephant in the room.

Self-parody is also a sign of success. “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) could never have happened in Seasons 1 or 2. The X-Files wasn’t set it its ways enough to exaggerate its own image. The audience could laugh at Mulder and Scully being ridiculous because they already take them seriously. And even though it’s not one of my favorites, this is a turning point in the show because from here on out, anything was game. Starting in Season 3, you can see how later episodes like “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6) would evolve from this series. The writers could stretch The X-Files and it wouldn’t break.

On the Relationship Front

If you’ve been reading and watching along, you’ve probably already guessed what I’m going to say. I’m no sentimentalist, but the tension that was written into Mulder and Scully’s relationship for much of this season isn’t exactly my bag. It’s true that they couldn’t go on in the hyper-idealized way that they were in Season 2, where the other could almost do no wrong. And it’s also true that a certain amount of tension and drama creates interest, and I’m all for that. But there were moments this season where I wondered why they were even partners at all since they didn’t seem to work well together. Heck, at moments they were downright antagonistic.

The good side of this is that when Mulder or Scully are divided, it almost invariably means that one or the other is about to benefit from some serious character development. Mulder moves beyond Samantha in “Oubliette” (3×8), even if he doesn’t move beyond the “Samantha Protocol”, and he shows off his criminal profiling genius in “Grotesque” (3×14), a skill that Scully can’t possess at the same emotional and psychological level. For her part, Scully matures in issues of faith in “Revelations”, a spiritual journey you’d think that Mulder would be able to relate to but instead is surprisingly antagonistic toward. And dividing them up for the mythology episodes was a wise decision. More information gets disseminated to the audience for one thing. And for another, Scully begins to develop her own methods of investigation. It’s a nice contrast watching them stumble upon parallel bits of information and come to wildly different conclusions. Neither one of them would get to the truth alone.

But after all that division, the writers reel it back in toward the end of the season and I’m forever grateful. “Pusher” (3×17) and “Wetwired” (2×23) remind us that Mulder and Scully still do have an almost spiritual bond that’s survived the losses and divisions of Season 3. It’s a sweet but brief respite, however. Season 4 will bring Mulder and Scully both closer and further apart than ever before, a rollercoaster I’m currently bracing myself for emotionally.

On the Whole

Season 3 is arguably when The X-Files hit its peak. Looking back, I’d say that it is… but it’s not when The X-Files hit its prime, a point of semantics that I’ll get into much later.

I say this is its peak because at this point, the mythology still feels as though it’s heading somewhere, that the answers we’re waiting for are just around the corner. Anticipation is at its highest point, I believe. Will Mulder lose his mother and soon be the only Mulder left? Will Scully be able to face the details of her abduction? Will they get to the bottom of this Smallpox vaccination drama? Stay tuned.

On the New Tip

I’ve decided to start handing out awards this season. So without further ado…

“Most Improved”
Revelations

“Desperately in need of a rewrite”
Syzygy

“Victim of too many desperate rewrites”
Teso Dos Bichos

“The Copycat”
2Shy

“The Sleeper Hit”
Wetwired

“It doesn’t matter how many times I see it I still won’t like it”
Oubliette

So now my question to you, dear reader, is which episode out of the Darin Morgan era is the one that speaks to you the most?  Is one the best but you hate it? Is one the worst but you love it? And if you have any awards of your own to hand out, please do so below!

Hell Money 3×19: I’m more haunted by the size of my mortgage payment.


Boo.

I mentioned in the last episode the fact that The X-Files had nary a success with stories that relied on an ethnic/cultural myth. There will be others that fail similarly, “Teliko” (4×4) and “Alpha” (6×16) come to mind, but none is a better example than “Hell Money”. The reason is that “Hell Money” takes what would actually be a frightening premise for your typical police procedural and attempts to turn in into an X-File by clouding it in Chinese ghost stories only to present the whole thing to an audience who isn’t actually frightened by Chinese ghost stories.

There’s a cultural disconnect when it comes to the cursed remains of ancestors in “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) and fake money paid to ward off spirits here in “Hell Money”. Most often, someone who isn’t raised on these myths and legends has a hard time taking them seriously. So not only does the episode first have to educate and explain the significance of the myth, something that already takes away from it’s ability to frighten, but then it has to convince us why we should be scared. That’s a rather discouraging combination.

That’s all too bad because it takes away from an episode that could have worked wonderfully, just probably on a different show. This is one of the few X-Files episodes where absolutely nothing paranormal happens outside of a few anesthesia induced hallucinations. Like “Grotesque” (3×14) earlier in the season, the story is about human evil, except that in “Grotesque” evil possesses a man almost against his will while in “Hell Money” evil takes the form of men consciously preying on the desperate. I don’t have to tell you which picture of evil is more disturbing.

Which is why on a lot of levels this episode does work. Despite the overabundance of exposition there are moments that are frightening, just not in the paranormal sense. Certainly this idea of a lottery where kidneys and eyeballs are at stake is fabulous. (I can’t quite believe I just typed up that sentence.) And the corruption of authority, in this case, police corruption, is never too old a tale. Not to mention if the cruelty and callousness of the game doesn’t grab you there’s the whole burning men alive in the incinerator bit.

The Verdict:

This episode feels like a script from Law & Order was cut and pasted into an X-File with random lines about ghosts thrown in. With the possible exception of a frog crawling out of a corpse, there’s no moment where I say to myself, “This must be an X-File.” Why were Mulder and Scully called in to begin with? There was nothing supernatural/abnormal about the initial murders other than that they were gruesome serial killings so I don’t see why they would have peaked even Mulder’s interest. The ghost symbol wasn’t even known about till Mulder and Scully arrived on the scene.

It’s a good story and a scary story, it just suffers from being presented on the wrong platform and with an unnecessary excess of cultural baggage. I can’t say I don’t enjoy it more than a few other episodes this season.

I also have to give this episode credit for having one of the most horrific endings ever on The X-Files. It’s truly terrifying, more than enough to bump it up a grade.

B

The Comments:

This was writer Jeffrey Vlaming’s second and last episode on the show. His first was “2Shy” (3×6).

That a man being burned alive would be able to write anything at all, let alone anything legible, let alone that his last message would be some vague reference to Chinese lore…

Hsin’s motivations never completely make sense to me. Just from the nature of the game, it’s only a matter of time until you lose something more valuable than a spare kidney. Risk of death aside, if he loses both eyes, for instance, he could end up spending as much on his own care and rehabilitation as he needs for his daughter’s surgery. The same goes for everyone else in the game. But I don’t suppose we’re meant to ruin this whole schtick by imposing logic on it.

You can win a lot more than 2 million dollars in the Powerball and you don’t have to risk life and limb. I’m just sayin’.

I can’t let this episode pass without mentioning the appearances of a young Lucy Liu and a young B.D. Wong. Consider them mentioned.

The Questions:

Does Mulder purposefully skip days between shaves?

Detective Chao bled out all over the place when the “ghosts” kill Johnny Lo in the teaser, that’s why they had to replace the carpet. So why is it that he failed to replace the carpet padding? If you’re going to do it, do it right.

The Best Quotes:

Scully: His name was Johnny Lo. He moved here about six months ago from Canton, still in the INS application process. He was a dishwasher in Chinatown.
Mulder: How many dishes do you have to break before your boss tosses you in an oven?

——————-

Scully: So now we’re chasing ghosts?
Mulder: “Who you gonna call?” Ghosts or ancestral spirits have been central to Chinese spiritual life for centuries.
Scully: So you’re saying the ancestral spirits pushed Johnny Lo into the oven and turned on the gas?
Mulder: Well, it sure would teach him to respect his elders wouldn’t it?

——————–

Scully: Do you know how much the human body is worth, Mulder?
Mulder: Depends on the body.

Teso Dos Bichos 3×18: Some things are better left buried.


My sentiments exactly.

Last we heard from writer John Shiban he gave us “The Walk” (3×7), a well-liked if not loved episode. This time around he doesn’t fare as well. Personally, John Shiban wouldn’t win me over as a solo writer until “Elegy” (4×22). When he, Frank Spotnitz and Vince Gilligan worked as a team it was usually to great results but his individual efforts aren’t among my top favorites, the glorious exception of “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18) not withstanding… not that I possess that much talent in a single strand of my DNA you understand.

Still, the sad truth remains that The X-Files hasn’t bombed this badly since Season 1. Even “3” (2×7) is better at least in terms of production value. By the end of the teaser the episode is already a non-starter. Not one thing about the opening is successful. The guys at 1013 had been sipping too much yajé if they thought this would work. From the second I see the mysterious shaman or whoever he is draped in red, ominously looking down from his lofty perch with his cane in hand, my eyes roll of their own accord.

This is The X-Files we’re watching so we already know the curse is real and even so, we’ve seen scarier. Before the episode even starts all chance at real tension is lost. As it continues, a cast of characters parade before us that range from annoying to boring. Not a one of them makes it all the way to “vaguely interesting.” And we need for them to be because the premise behind this episode is less then compelling and the typical “Western invasion of the sacred” politics are a bit of a turn off.

I have this theory I’ve mentioned before that The X-Files never really tackles “ethnic” myths and legends in a believable way. “Fresh Bones” (2×15) more or less succeeds but that’s only because Voodoo is already a familiar concept to the Western mind. The writer didn’t try and tie Voodoo to Hatian culture specifically so much as he created a regular mini-horror flick where explanations and motivations were rendered unnecessary. The thing is that it’s hard to make an audience care about something they don’t understand the significance of and that’s what usually happens in these “ethnic” X-Files.  In case you think I’m relying on a fluke for evidence, my suspicion is about to be confirmed twice in a row. But we’ll discuss “Hell Money” (3×19) tomorrow.

Back to the plot, I had always assumed that the Jaguar spirit had stowed away on a plane or the like to finish up its revenge in North America and that the tabby cats were just its minions or something. I come to find out this rewatch that the killers are actually the stray cats; the last vestige of credibility this episode had in my mind is gone.

Even Kim Manners’ knack for directing horror episodes couldn’t save this one. Something about the Jaguar/Cat special effect is hokey, almost like something out of Season 1 except that Season 1 pulled off something similar much more successfully in “Fallen Angel” (1×9). And poor Gillian Anderson had to be stabbed at with fake cat paws on sticks to film the climax scene because of her cat allergy. It’s a metaphor for the entire episode, really.

After filming Kim Manners had shirts made up for the crew that read “Teso Dos Bichos Survivor” and “Second Salmon”, the second quote being a reference to the number of rewrites the script was subjected to; each rewrite was color coded and they made it to the color Salmon… twice. Says it all, doesn’t it?

Here’s what I think is the biggest problem: It isn’t a story worth telling in the first place. There are some funny lines and some scenes that are clearly aiming to give us an “iconic X-Files” moment. Yet it’s not enough to have the disparate elements without glue to bind them together, namely an interesting premise. The X-Files cannot live by flashlights alone.

Believe it or not, I was actually looking forward to reviewing “Teso Dos Bichos” more than “Pusher” (3×17) even because I believed that like most of the episodes I disliked previously, it would benefit from a fresh set of eyes this rewatch, that looking at from a more critical point of view would help me appreciate some of its finer points. Yeeeeaaah.

In a way though, I was right. I’ve discovered that this episode’s redeeming quality is that it’s hilarious, just not on purpose. “Teso Dos Bichos” may take itself too seriously, but don’t you as the audience make the same mistake. Mulder and Scully face off against killer sewer cats. For pete’s sake, laugh.

Verdict:

No.

D

Questions:

How did Dr. Bilac sneak yajé into the U.S.?

If the Native Indians of Ecuador are so paranoid about disturbing the rest of their dead, what are they doing working at an excavation site?

Comments:

The way Dr. Bilac talks drives me nuts. I feel like scratching out my ear canals every time he comes on screen.

Everyone knows there’s something a little evil about cats.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Personally, if someone digs me up in a thousand years, I hope there’s a curse on them, too.

—————–

Scully: So you think Bilac’s innocent? That the victim wasn’t even killed at all? That he was devoured by a mythological jaguar spirit?
Mulder: Go with it, Scully.

—————–

Scully: Label that.
Officer: As what?
Scully: Partial rat body part.

—————–

Mulder: Do we know for sure it’s Lewton?
Scully: Yeah, by what he had for lunch; corn chowder and it looks like he’d been snacking on sunflower seeds all afternoon.
Mulder: A man of taste.

—————–

Dr. Winters: When I dissected the dog’s stomach, I found an undigested fragment of intestine, which appears to be feline.
Scully: The dog ate a cat.
Dr. Winters: I also found what appears to be bits of rat fur. I think the rat ate the poison.
Scully: Cat ate a rat.
Mulder: And the dog ate the cat.

—————–

Scully: So what are we talking here, Mulder? A possessed rat? The return of Ben?