Tag Archives: The Calusari

Invocation 8×6: I wish I could believe that.


invocation311.jpg

That’ll leave a mark.

I pop this DVD in the player, ‘cause I’m old school like that, and immediately I start having flashbacks to “The Calusari” (2×21). I know my memory is fuzzy, but wasn’t “Invocation” yet another story about a child ghost haunting his brother that started with a kid with a bad attitude at a carnival?

Not quite, Salome’s memory. Not quite.

The X-Files must be feeling old school just like me because even if this isn’t a rehash of “The Calusari”, it is a nod to the early seasons of the show. Not only are we back to the classic Creepy Kid trope, but even the cinematography looks grayish and faded like it used to. The thing is, we don’t have Mulder and Scully anymore.

Mulder isn’t mentioned in this episode and he wasn’t mentioned in the preceding “Roadrunners” (8×5) either. This conspicuous silence means 1013 wants us to focus on the partnership in front of us. It means that they don’t plan on Scully doing anything to further the search for her constant and touchstone any time soon. I imagine it also means that they know they only have David Duchovny for eleven episodes and they don’t want to tease us so much that we won’t wait until he shows up again for the last half of the season. But look at my cynicism showing.

So far, the past several episodes have focused on how Scully is coping with the unwelcome intrusion of Doggett into her life. “Invocation” takes a look at things more from Doggett’s perspective, and it gives him the beginnings of a backstory. Doggett was just starting to seem admirable after coming to Scully’s rescue not once but twice, and after so calmly and kindly ignoring her repeated rejections of him. For some reason that isn’t fully explained in this episode, he takes a step backward and shows us an insensitive and pushy side of his character. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what that’s all about. All we know for now is that he’s lost someone close to him, likely that sweet looking little boy whose picture he keeps pulling out of his wallet.

Up until this point, Doggett has remained fairly open minded for a man who’s never been exposed to the types of phenomenon hidden in the X-Files case files. In “Patience” (8×4) he initially doubts Scully’s theory but comes around. And in “Roadrunners” he made the connection between the current case and previous cases himself. Heck, he and the holy slug met face to face. Now, he’s immovably stubborn in the face of undeniable evidence with frightening implications.

Scully, still in “I am Fox Mulder” mode, is convinced that Billy Underwood’s return is supernatural even before the full medical report comes in. Usually, she would be the one citing possible medical precedents and protesting impossibilities. But the writers seem to think X-Files cases can’t be solved unless there’s a clear Believer-Skeptic dynamic. The problem with the Believer-Skeptic dynamic is that it’s synonymous with the Mulder-Scully dynamic. And the problem with the Mulder-Scully dynamic is that it’s gone. Ergo, forcing a Believer-Skeptic dynamic on Scully and Doggett only highlights the fact that it’s not the Mulder-Scully dynamic and can never be.

Scully may not be the knee-jerk skeptic that she was, but she’s still a scientist. She’ll first go to the most logical answer and the most common solution, because that’s what doctors do. And she’ll want proof. Doggett is a no nonsense guy who’s at the same time pretty intuitive. He may not be a believer, but so far he hasn’t denied something weird when he’s seen it. There could have been a way for them to solve cases with two perspectives that are both practical in different ways. I think a completely new dynamic for the two of them was in order. But what do I know.

Anywho, like I said, Doggett gets stubborn here. In his defense, Scully’s had nearly eight years to come to grips with experiencing the unknowable, to learn to admit that some things will never be explained. Doggett’s got to wrap his head around it fast so that the show can move forward.

Now Scully knows how Mulder feels.

My only complaint, and it may be an unfair one, is that there’s no break in the unrelenting seriousness of this episode. Perhaps the subject matter won’t permit it. Usually, Mulder and Scully’s banter guarantees a certain amount of enjoyment in even the darkest of cases. Ah hah. There’s another reason why the Believer-Skeptic dynamic isn’t as effective between Scully and Doggett. They don’t have bouncy banter to buoy their discussions.

Verdict:

It’s a point of focus that Doggett isn’t interested in why Billy’s back, what happened to him or how he ended up in his current condition. Doggett’s looking for justice for Billy, and probably vicariously for someone else. It’s nice to know that this pretty unflappable guy has buttons that can be pushed, buttons that center around the disappearance of a child. “Invocation” could have worked for Mulder and Scully, but it was uniquely designed for Doggett to baptize him into the realm of the unexplained and to give us some insight into his perspective.

So far I’ve had fair to fairly good responses to writer David Amann’s work. But I think that this was his best writing on The X-Files. Admittedly, I’m only just fully understanding the plot, that the Billy that returned is not the Billy that left, but a “force” that uses the memory of Billy Underwood to ensure justice for him and to present his brother from falling to the same fate. This explains why “Billy” is so menacing. If the real Billy came back to protect the brother he loved, would he stare him down like that?

A similar “force” surrounds Doggett. And maybe that same “force” will ensure justice for him as well.

A-

Fartknockers:

If I were those parents, I’d be much more frightened than relieved.

Sooo, when she started singing “All the Pretty Little Horses”, who else wanted Scully to launch into a chorus of “Joy to the World”?

As a skeptic, Scully was able to back her skepticism up with science. Doggett doesn’t seem to have an argument other than, “No.”

It stands to wonder if Josh would have been taken at all if Billy hadn’t show back up.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: I don’t believe it.

Scully: Okay, the clothes, the age and condition of the bones, the location of the grave. There is no doubt that that is Billy Underwood’s skeleton that is in that grave.

Doggett: We spent time with this boy. Doctors took Billy’s blood. You examined him yourself. Now, I can’t accept it. I can’t believe we’re asking them to.

Scully: I know, but the forensic evidence is going to come out, and what then? What if I’m right?

Doggett: Well, what then, Agent Scully? What we do? We move on, let it go, case closed?

Scully: Look, I know where you are with this. I have been there. I know what you’re feeling, that you’ve failed and that you have to explain this somehow. And maybe you can.

Doggett: Not if that’s Billy’s body, I can’t.

Scully: But maybe that’s explanation enough, that that’s not Billy’s brother lying in that grave too. That that man who did this is never going to be able to do it again. Isn’t that what you wanted, Agent Doggett?

Doggett: Agent Scully, don’t ask me to believe that this is some kind of justice from beyond the grave.

Scully: All I’m saying is that maybe you succeeded… whether you’re willing to see that or not.

 

Agua Mala 6×14: Don’t all the nuts roll downhill to Florida.


I came down for the weather.

I’ve always had a soft spot for “Agua Mala” because it takes place so near to my own neck of the woods. An X-File in my own South Florida backyard? Score! All those scenes of wind and rainy mayhem leave me feeling quite nostalgic.

It starts off as a classic Monster of the Week –  almost as an homage to The X-Files itself. In fact, much of this episode feels like a Season 2 flashback in the best kind of way: the rain, the flashlights, the creature from the blue lagoon…

Trapped in a building with a hidden but deadly monster? I call that freaky. That old, claustrophobic feeling is back, the one we used to get from episodes like “Ice” (1×7) and “Darkness Falls” (1×19). But despite the obvious parallels to those two classics, where Mulder and Scully are trapped with a deadly and previously undiscovered organism, “Agua Mala” actually feels more like the spiritual spawn of Season 2 to me, when the show grew much darker and even more disturbing because of episodes like “The Calusari” (2×21) that opened the door to topics like child on child murder. “Agua Mala” doesn’t subject us to a murder, but it does start out with a young child being strangled by the translucent tentacles of a sea monster. Then there the obvious parallels to iconic episode “The Host” (2×2), which is the last time I can remember Mulder and Scully chasing down a wormlike creature. And with the infested holes this new mutation of a jellyfish leaves in people’s necks, I’d say it’s just as creepy.

Or at least it has the potential to be. “Agua Mala” has the dubious distinction of being a textbook case of “X-Files Lite.”

Unlike the early attempts to meld humor and The X-Files by writer Darin Morgan where episodes like “Humbug” (2×20) and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) were just as frightening as they were hilarious, X-Files Lite is neither frightening nor hilarious. Nor is it self-parody in the vein of “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (3×20). Neither is it the pure comedy that humor heir apparent, writer Vince Gilligan, graced us with in episodes like “Bad Blood (5×12). It’s the next step in the evolutionary process: tongue-in-cheek X-Files. There’s a self-consciousness to the X-Files in Season 6 that didn’t really exist before, or I should say, only poked its nose out of the door occasionally. This self-consciousness is inevitable considering the iconic status the show was enjoying. If it took itself too seriously just think of how silly it would have looked.

After all, the mythology episodes became progressively harder not to smirk at as the story of the Syndicate built to its conclusion. When the conspirators in (necessary) bits of long-winded exposition start unraveling the mythology plot out loud, it’d be denial not to confess that sci-fi can be a little silly. What better way to balance the over-seriousness of a plot to conquer the planet by turning the human race into a set of living incubators than to use the episodic side of The X-Files to cheer things up a bit?

Personally, I don’t have anything against X-Files Light. I’m a fan. But it can cause some confusion in the tone of certain episodes and “Agua Mala”, unfortunately, is one of them. My inclination is that this is supposed to be a serious X-File, but my diagnosis is that it suffers from an overdose of comedic elements.

Scully sparring with Arthur Dales? That’s welcome. The dimwitted Deputy? He’s entertaining. But right about the time we’re introduced to the emasculated father-to-be and his exaggeratedly stereotyped girlfriend, I start to wince. The wannabe militia member is downright overkill.

If only the humor had leaned toward the subtle, dark humor of seasons past. If only “Agua Mala” had taken another page out of the Season 2 playbook. After all, this isn’t the first time Mulder and Scully have conducted an investigation surrounded by a cast of characters. “Excelsis Dei” (2×11) and a nursing home full of withered old perverts comes to mind – another of the darker episodes of Season 2 (the topic of entity rape has a way of bringing down the conversation) leavened with well-placed moments of humor. “Agua Mala” is slightly bogged down by its motley crew.

Fortunately, the banter between Scully and Mulder and Scully and Dales more than makes up for that. I sound like a broken record repeating how much I love Scully this season, but I’m not alone. Arthur Dales loves her too. And watching Mulder’s pride squirm as Arthur Dales lavishes praise on his pretty partner is decidedly satisfying… especially since Mulder really did figure out how to save himself on his own.

The Verdict:

I always liked this episode well enough, but now I think I may actually be a fan of it. I especially welcome the return of Darren McGavin as Arthur Dales and can only shake my head in sad regret that his health prevented him from coming back for more. What an asset his character could have been to Season 7!

The truth is, if it weren’t for a few unfortunate moments of overblown humor, and maybe even despite them, I could call this the most classic X-File of Season 6. In fact, I believe I will. And in case you were wondering, all the nuts really do roll downhill to Florida.

B+

Debris:

Instead of immediately calling Mulder to come down from Washington, D.C., why doesn’t Dales first call the police? Maybe they couldn’t have solved the X-File, but they could have checked to see if the Shipleys were all right.

There’s a bit of an easter egg hidden in this episode. If you watch the scene where Arthur Dales leaves Mulder a message with the closed-captioning on, you’ll find this little treat where the audio ends, “If this is you, Scully, call me on my cell phone. I think you know the number.http://www.insidethex.co.uk/transcrp/scrp614.htm

What’s with the Southern accents? This is South Florida even if it is the west coast of it. Deputies with New York accents would have made more sense. Ironically, to hear a Southern accent you’d have to drive far north of Goodland.

Scully leaving Mulder out in the hallway even once the threat of the gun has passed still rubs me the wrong way.

Best Quotes:

Arthur Dales: Why did you bring her here?
Mulder: Well, she knows your reputation, your early work on the X-Files and she has a knack for getting to the bottom of things.
Scully: [Glances wryly at a trash can full of empty liquor bottles] Apparently, so does Mr. Dales.
Arthur Dales: It’s a good thing I have a reputation. Otherwise, how could it be impugned?

——————–

Scully: Well, what else would we be doing out here on a night like this?
Deputy Greer: You could be looters. For all I know, you could be part of the Manson family.

——————–

Mulder: [In his best narrator’s voice] If the sea is where life began, where our ancestors first walked ashore, then who’s to say what new life may be developing in its uncharted depths?
Scully: You know what? Maybe you are a member of the Manson family.

Elegy 4×22: I’m just a human being after all.


That's right, G-Woman.

Most X-Files episodes involve death but only a handful are actually about death. That makes “Elegy” pretty unique among the many variations of ghost stories in The X-Files’ repertoire.

Speaking of ghost stories, we haven’t had a proper one since Season 2’s “The Calusari” (2×21) believe it or not. Sure, “Kaddish” (4×12) brought a dead man back to life as a mud monster, but that’s not quite the same thing, now is it?

I don’t hesitate to say this is my second favorite episode out of writer John Shiban’s solo efforts on The X-Files. The last one he have us, “El Mundo Gira” (4×11), was a good idea but the story’s intentions became a little muddied in the execution. The next one coming up, “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18), is a humdinger and my favorite of all, but I digress.

The solemnity Shiban brings to his episodes, think “The Walk” (3×7) and “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18), really works here because, well, it’s a story about death. More specifically, it’s about coping with death and even more specifically, it’s about coping with the upcoming death of one of our leads.

Memento Mori” (4×15) dealt with a lot of the issues that come up here in a more direct way, but since then, probably for the sake of not beating this storyline into the ground, we haven’t had much more than a passing mention of Scully’s predicament, if it’s even mentioned over the course of an episode at all. So we haven’t really had a chance to see how she’s progressing both in living with her disease and fighting it.

It would appear that nothing much has changed. Mulder hasn’t stumbled upon any answers in his precious X-Files, Scully goes back and forth to the doctor but all they seem to be doing is monitoring her, and Skinner hasn’t been able to pry any information out of Cigarette-Smoking Man’s wrinkled, cold hands despite the fact that he sold his soul to the man for Scully’s cure.

In other words, time is running out.

Surely, Scully realizes this and it’s her desire not to acknowledge the fact that death is imminently approaching that forms the basis for the sub-plot of this episode. Well, really, it’s the main plot, if you ask me. Everything else that happens feels more like an excuse to bring up Scully’s cancer. Not that ghostly apparitions in the neighborhood bowling alley don’t in and of themselves make for excellent television.

Scully’s in denial about seeing the dead girl because, well, she’s in denial about dying. Sure, in a detached, medical way she recognized immediately that this disease would kill her sans some kind of miracle. But even though she knows that fact she has so far refused to own it. We know that Mulder his holding out for a miracle, an answer, or a cure, but what is Scully holding out for? She’s in limbo between acceptance and denial. She knows she’s sick but she refuses to acknowledge it in some attempt to avoid any appearance of weakness.

The last time we saw Scully like this emotionally was in “Irresistable” (2×13), so how fitting then that her therapist from that episode, Karen Kosseff, should make a return appearance. Really, it’s just an excuse to allow Scully’s character to speak for herself since she’s usually defined so much by what she doesn’t say. But I love having a peak into what Scully’s thinking and I especially enjoy it when my suspicions are confirmed.

See, Scully does need Mulder. That’s why she’s still working on the X-Files. It’s so easy to understand why Mulder needs Scully since he’s really pretty pathetic without her. But so often when the writers go to explain why such a normal, well-adjusted human being as Dana Scully would stay by Mulder’s side her motivations turn into dangerously co-dependent mush.

I’ll save my arguments as to why Mulder and Scully being co-dependent might not be such a bad thing, but for now I’ll just say that even before her cancer arrived, it was clear that she got something out of her relationship with Mulder that she didn’t get elsewhere. Call it excitement, call it mystery, call it passion, it can have so many names. But whatever part of Scully that is a believer, the part that she normally subdues for the sake of science, that part of her that she still needs in order to survive, responds to Mulder almost against her will. And if her scientific mind won’t allow her to believe that her cancer is treatable, maybe the part of her that loved reading Moby Dick (“Quagmire”) and that still remembers what she learned in catechism (“Revelations”) needs to be around someone whose faith will nurture her own.

And the Verdict is…

I really, really like this episode. I like it especially because of how honestly it treats death and dying. People who are dying go through a grieving process themselves and the people around them don’t necessarily walk on eggshells to please them either, as the dying don’t automatically turn into saints. By the end of the episode, Mulder is openly frustrated with Scully, and perhaps out of his fear that he won’t be able to help her, he chastises her soundly for keeping him out of the loop.

I can actually understand that. Even though, mind you, Scully is the one who’s dying here. The thing is though, she’s not dying alone.

A

Questions:

Forgive me if my memory deceives me, but didn’t Scully have a vision of her father at the time of his death in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12)? He also was trying to tell her something. And now she’s having visions of the dead again so near the time of her own? You’d think that even if she were reluctant to confess the reality of the situation out loud, she’d have a hard time denying to herself what she’s seen.

Comments:

Scully looks way too uncomfortable in those bowling shoes. That’s what Mulder should’ve done for her birthday, taken her out for a good game.

There are echoes of “Roland” (1×22) here. Again, I’m impressed at how respectfully The X-Files was able to portray developmental disabilities.

Another reason I think this outing is more successful than Shiban’s previous efforts is that the plot isn’t weighed down at all by political undertones. Death is heavy enough without dragging politics into it.

There are so many repeat guest stars in this one I almost don’t know where to start. Angelo Pintero was also Dr. Bugger in “War of the Coprophages” (3×12). Martin Alpert was also in “Deep Throat” (1×2), “Sleepless” (2×4) and “731” (3×10). Kate Braidwood (Tom Braidwood’s daughter) makes and appearance in this one and will show up again in “The Pine Bluff Variant”. And finally, Harold’s attorney was the hilarious pathologist in “Shadows” (1×5) as well as Nurse Wilkins in “One Breath” (2×8). Not to mention, we’ll see her again in I Want to Believe.

Best Quotes:

Angelo Pintero: Look, I’m not making this up.
Mulder: No one is suggesting that you are, Mr. Pintero.
Angelo Pintero: I saw the look on her face.
Mulder: Can I ask you a favor? Can I get a soda, a cola, something like that?
Angelo Pintero: Sure. Yeah.
Mulder: What is that look, Scully?
Scully: I would have thought that after four years you’d know exactly what that look was.

————————

Karen Kosseff: You’ve kept working?
Scully: Yes. It’s been important to me.
Karen Kosseff: Why?
Scully: Why? Um… Agent Mulder has been concerned. He’s been supportive through this time.
Karen Kosseff: Do you feel that you owe it to him to continue working?
Scully: No. I guess I never realized how much I rely on him before this. His passion. He’s been a great source of strength that I’ve drawn on.

————————

Scully: I saw something Mulder.
Mulder: What?
Scully: The fourth victim. I saw her in the bathroom before you came to tell me.
Mulder: Why didn’t you tell me?
Scully: Because I didn’t want to believe it. Because I don’t want to believe it.
Mulder: Is that why you came down here? To prove that it wasn’t true?
Scully: No. I came down here because you asked me to.
Mulder: Why can’t you be honest with me?
Scully: What do you want me to say? That you’re right? That I believe it even if I don’t? I mean is that what you want?
Mulder: Is that what you think I want to hear?
Scully: No.
Mulder: You can believe what you want to believe, Scully, but you can’t hide the truth from me because if you do, then you’re working against me… and yourself. I know what you’re afraid of. I’m afraid of the same thing.
Scully: [Voice cracking] The doctor said I was fine.
Mulder: I hope that’s the truth.

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


I'll take door #2, Monty.

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

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

Here’s a reference for the pop culturally challenged:

Not as painful as it looks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic? Yes. Effective? YES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Town 2×24: How long before it’s any one of us?


Some people collect dolls, and others...

We’ve reached the last stand-alone episode before the season finale. It’s an episode that should be played again upon finishing as there are subtle hints that can’t be fully appreciated until after you already know what’s going on: A bent fork in a field, Chaco’s speech about the perils of getting old, the Sheriff attempting to “comfort” Doris Kearns, etc. I enjoy this episode’s dark sense of humor.

On the visual tip, there are those memorable images The X-Files is famous for: a girl’s body sinks into a vat of chicken goop, Scully crouching among a room full of bones with a bucket of fried chicken, a fishnet full of human bones being pulled from a bloody river. This is the stuff classic television is made of.

I hear this episode brought up most often as a horrible example of Scully being forced into the position of Damsel in Distress, passively waiting for Mulder to come to her rescue. I don’t see it that way. In fact, for once, Season 2’s over-protective Mulder throws Scully directly at danger and says, “Catch!”

I kid, I kid. That’s what it feels like, but in reality in makes practical sense for one to keep an eye on the threatened Doris Kearns while the other goes and arrests the man who’s threatening her. Logic aside, the setup leads to a tiny but sweet shipper moment at the end of the episode that’s worth a revoked N.O.W. membership or two. So it’s Mulder’s turn to save Scully this time, it’s not a big deal. She’s saved him often enough. I think we all know by now that Scully is a fully capable woman and a strong female character. If you’re still not convinced, wait till the next episode.

Like “The Calusari” (2×21) this episode is mostly about the fear factor over character development but this time with a subtle message thrown in. I just saw the movie Downfall recently, which if you haven’t seen I highly recommend. For those that don’t know, it’s a film about the last 10 days of the Third Reich and the downfall of Hitler’s regime. Oddly enough, it’s only after so many years and after watching a movie about Nazis that I fully understand what Chaco was getting at when he insisted that only outsiders be targeted, not that he fully understood it himself.

What he didn’t realize is that once you choose to benefit yourself at expense of others, no one is safe, insider or outsider. To use Nazi Germany as an example, once they decided that it was OK to persecute an “other”, a group of people different from them, it finally resulted in them destroying themselves; the German army was hanging its own citizens by the hundreds in the streets of Berlin in the final days of the war. In a similar vein, Chaco thought that limiting their murders to those who were “other” would keep their own little group safe. He didn’t realize that the town was doomed the second they agreed to take any human life, long before they took one of their own. One by one they would each become the “other.”

I realize I just used a rather graphic example, but this episode of The X-Files is expressing a very deep and painful truth in miniature, and in an entertaining format at that. The people of Dudley excused the killing of Kearns because he was no good, he was a philanderer, he didn’t fit in, etc. In the end, none of that mattered. It’s not merely gross that some were poisoned by eating his flesh, it’s symbolic. By destroying him they destroyed themselves unwittingly.

…And the Verdict is:

Now that I’ve waxed philosophical about Nazis and nets full of bones I’ll hedge my analysis by stating that writer Frank Spotnitz (I ❤ Uncle Frank) probably only intended to give us a good scare, not throw us into a moral debate. It’s a testament to the level of writing on The X-Files in general that you can discuss these episodes a la Oprah’s Book Club and find important realities cleverly hidden among tales of aliens and mutants.

On the lighter side, “Our Town” is also full of the sort of grim humor The X-Files is so good at, both visual and verbal; not so much in jokes but in ironies. And while they might become cliché I love these small town X-Files. There’s something inherently creepy about Mayberry.

B+

Questions:

Mulder breaks into Mr. Chaco’s cabinet sans warrant or even permission. Doesn’t that mean that anything he finds would be inadmissible in court? Do I just watch too much Law & Order?

Am I the only one who didn’t think Chaco’s granddaughter looked as shockingly young as the characters seemed to believe? That really threw me my first watch.

Meanderings:

There are a couple of background pieces of information that aren’t specifically addressed but are most likely supposed to be inferred. First, Creutzfeldt–Jakob Disease is considered to be the human form of Mad Cow disease. Scully makes a connection between the two but doesn’t quite go all the way. That’s probably because the science wasn’t confirmed until a year or so after this episode aired. Second, the disease Kearns suffered from leads to personality changes and other disorders. That may be meant to explain his loose behavior. With that in mind, why didn’t his wife try to get him medical/psychiatric help rather than help herself to his entrails? Odds are she already knew he was sick since he was popping pills. I’d wager the method of contraction never entered into her considerations…

I still laugh out loud at that scene in the field where Scully smirks at Mulder and he grimaces right back. It’s amazing that even after all these years they have such great subtle interplay.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: A documentary I saw when I was in college about an insane asylum. It gave me nightmares.
Scully: I didn’t think anything gave you nightmares.
Mulder: Eh, I was young.

——————-

Scully: I just came up with a sick theory, Mulder.
Mulder: Ooh, I’m listening.

——————-

Scully: All of them share one strange detail, Mulder.
Mulder: Well they seem to have lost their heads.

——————-

Mulder: Scully… I think that the good people of Dudley have been eating more than just chicken.
Scully: You think these people were eaten?

——————-

Mulder: Do you know what’s in here?
Maid: I wouldn’t know.
Mulder: Can you open in?
Maid: I don’t have the key.

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.

Roland 1×22: Did you catch the bouquet?


The “once an episode” pose.

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

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

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

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

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

And the Verdict is…

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

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

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

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

C+

Nagging Questions:

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

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

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

Random Thoughts:

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

Best Quotes:

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

————–

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

————–

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