Tag Archives: The Good Ship

Millennium 7×5: See, you had me up until there.


All hail the Fangirl Flail.

Sadly, Chris Carter’s second born television baby Millennium didn’t last until the Millennium it was named after. In what I can only assume was a result of steadily dropping ratings, Millennium was canceled in the Spring of 1999, just in time to prevent hero Frank Black from stopping the coming apocalypse.

Back in the day, and up until the recent present, I was not a Millennium watcher. (I’m sorry, Chris.) It was one of those shows I intended to tune into eventually, but I never got around to it and then boom, it was gone. I told myself that this time, before I watched this episode I would complete the series so as to have a better sense of what’s really going on here. Well, I haven’t completed it yet, though I’m currently watching the final season, but my eyes have been opened to two things about The X-Files’ first crossover episode:

  1. Frank Black is pretty cool.
  2. You really don’t need to have seen five minutes of Millennium to get it.

I’m sure Carter must’ve been hard-pressed to both conclude Millennium in a way that stayed true to what that show was about and would please its loyal, disappointed fans and yet keep The X-Files’ aesthetic, focusing on giving an audience mostly comprised of people looking for The X-Files and not Millennium what they wanted.

It would be nearly impossible to tie up three years’ worth of Millennium in one hour of television solely dedicated to that purpose, let alone if that hour were shared with another series that had its own long history of story, character and aesthetic. That’s why I think it’s wise that Chris Carter didn’t even attempt it.

Oh, sure. He gives us an update on what’s happening in Frank Black’s life, where he’s at personally and professionally, etc. We learn a little bit more of what’s happened to the Millennium Group in the series’ absence. But what we really get in “Millennium” is an emotional coda rather than a resolution. It doesn’t conclude the plot of Millennium, but I think it allows fans to say goodbye knowing that Frank Black is going to be okay.

The only thing I have trouble with is that it’s hard to take the images that we’re seeing, independently compelling though they are, and mentally tie them to a worldwide apocalypse. Zombies in the basement are such a small-scale problem when compared to Armageddon.

Also, this episode is a perfect example of how Season 7 is, understandably, more self-conscious than any season before it. The show has been around for a long time at this point and while ratings may be falling, it’s still aware of its own status as a cultural phenomenon. When Frank, Mulder, and Scully stand together as a threesome perfectly framed by the camera, it’s with an awareness that two fictional worlds with a cult-like following are colliding. And when Mulder punctuates he and Scully’s hard earned first kiss with a, “The world didn’t end,” it’s with the knowledge that the audience at home is saying the same thing.

Alright. Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s move on to what we’re all really here for, shall we? After seven long, very long, years of unresolved frustration… more so on the part of fans than Mulder and Scully themselves… The Kiss.

Oh, how do I even start? It was chaste but not dead, sweet but not sugary, self-conscious but still self-deprecating, too friendly to be lustful but too lingering to be friendly, open without spilling secrets, meaningful without digging too deep, loaded yet casual, joyful yet not manic. In short, it was so much all that it needed to be that Chris Carter is lucky I didn’t hunt down his place of residence and kiss him myself.

I won’t confess how many times I’ve watched this scene and out myself as a closet sentimentalist. Suffice it to say that Mulder and Scully bring out the inner girl buried somewhere underneath layers of Teenage Ninja Turtles and Mortal Kombat, and this is coming from the child who never cried at Bambi.

I just can’t with these two. The flailing. The flailing!

I said in the review for “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4) that Mulder and Scully essentially said their vows at the end of the episode, that the only formal barrier left between them was the physical one and it was only a matter of time before that one dropped as well. If you weren’t sure then that they had an “understanding,” please pay close attention to the way this kiss goes down.

Mulder doesn’t look at Scully as if he’s just realizing how he feels about her, nor does he kiss her as if he’s declaring his feelings. I love (love) the way he looks at her and mischievously contemplates the kiss as if to say, “Why not?” Why not indeed, Mulder? Now is as good a time as any. What’s holding you back any longer? The conspiracy is dead. Diana is dead. Y2K never lived. Go on and kiss the girl.

And please notice that on Scully’s part, after Mulder kisses her, her face doesn’t say, “Mulder! Does this mean you have feelings for me? I never knew!” No, no, no, no, no. Her face says, “That was nice. What brought that on?” There’s only mild surprise at Mulder’s spontaneity. There’s no shock, no emotional breakthrough. They already know.

What I love about the fact that it’s taken so long for Mulder and Scully to get their romantic act together is that there’s almost no conscious choice involved. By the time it happens, it has already happened. It passed the point of possibility and crossed the Rubicon into inevitability some time ago while neither of them was paying attention. They don’t need a declaration, or fanfare, or even a hallway the walls of which must be painted with some sort of aphrodisiac it causes so much romantic yearning. At this point, they just are, and I can’t express in words how much I love that. You’d just have to count the flails.

Verdict:

I’ve tried to ask myself, “What would I think of this episode if there were no kiss in it?” Let me tell you, that question is harder to answer than it sounds. “Millennium” feels right, it looks right, it tastes right. And I’m especially glad that zombies finally took their rightful place in The X-Files’ repertoire. But I also must confess that while I’ve seen this episode multiple times over the years, I still failed to remember the general plot apart from the fact that it involved people coming back from the dead. Even without a kiss tacked onto the end it’s a solid episode, but in what may turn out to be my official lamentation for Season 7, it’s lost that lovin’ feelin’. Take the kiss away and I have no real reason to set my trigger finger to “Rewind.” “Hungry” (7×1) is good without being great and I’m afraid “Millennium” hasn’t broken that pattern.

But that’s okay. I don’t watch it for the actual episode anyway.

B+

Kosher Salt:

It’s interesting to note, this is the first of four episodes this season that deals with overtly religious themes. That’s right, I said “four.” On average there’s about one per season, if that, and while I doubt there was any conscious decision in the writers’ room to work things out this way, that fact struck me as I was watching this time.

I can’t help but think Chris Carter must’ve really enjoyed teaming up his three heroes, especially Mulder and Frank Black who, as Scully points out, share some similarities in character. It never happened, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if Frank Black had made another guest appearance in later years. Despite the differences in tone and theme between The X-Files and Millennium, he was a good fit on the show.

Frank Black still has his famous red Jeep. Three cheers for continuity.

I heard you throw in that Millennium music, Mark Snow!

Confession time – I make no secret about my love for this kiss, but a part of me still twinges in disappointment every time. Why? Well, it has nothing to do with unfulfilled expectations. No, it’s that there’s a moment after the kiss where Scully looks just a little too bored and I find myself wondering if Chris Carter wasn’t trying to drive home the point that the Mulder and Scully thing was never a big deal after all. And that makes me a little sad because it is a big deal. In the realm of television history and in the world of teenage girlhood it is a very big deal, my dears.

Am I the only one who finds John 11:25 being repeated over and over again incredibly relaxing?

Best Quotes:

Scully: Mulder, you been spreading rumors?
Mulder: Why? You hear any good ones lately?

———————

Scully: The year 2000 is just their artificial deadline and, besides, 2001 is actually the start of the new millennium.
Mulder: Nobody likes a math geek, Scully.

———————

Mulder: The world didn’t end.
Scully: No, it didn’t.
Mulder: Happy New Year, Scully.
Scully: Happy New Year, Mulder.

———————

Mike Johnson: I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead…
Frank Black: …yet shall he live. Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.

The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati 7×4: Don’t be so dramatic.


Scully's lost her hair and she doesn't know where to find it.

First off, I think we should walk into this mythology episode review well aware that this is only nominally a mythology episode at all. This is a long overdue character study of Mulder and the majority of it (or it feels like the majority) takes place within his own mind. Not much happens on the mythology side of things except that we learn Cigarette-Smoking Man is still holding out hope that he can turn himself into an alien-human hybrid and so withstand the coming apocalypse. Somehow his desire, Mulder’s condition and American Indian prophecy all come together in some clearly vague way – A connection which will become much clearer, and vaguer, a couple of seasons from now.

We start out with CSM scheming to get his hands on Mulder once and for all, the devilish snake ready to strike the heel of the messiah, and he chooses the most nefarious route possible: His mother. Why would Teena Mulder hand her son over to CSM? And why would CSM need her to hand him over? It’s not like his minions haven’t snuck into hospitals to do his dirty work before. If he wanted Mulder, I don’t see why he would need her permission to get him.

But, whatever. CSM finally gets him and then proceeds to cut his head open and empty the contents thereof, all the while praising him as his son and throwing suggestive grins in the direction of his son’s ex-lover.

This is one of my favorite episodes for the character of Cigarette-Smoking Man. He’s like a cat with a bowl of fresh milk. I strongly suspect we owe CSM’s newfound humor to Chris Carter’s newfound writing partner David Duchovny. CSM never cracked jokes like this before and his dismissiveness of Mulder’s self-important self-righteousness is telling – sounds a bit like the loving jabs taken at Mulder in “The Unnatural” (6×20). It’s also no secret that all this blatant symbolism is David Duchovny’s doing as well. That… I’m not quite as grateful for.

Now, I’m an English nerd and a recovering symbolism addict. I had to attend a long series of group therapy meetings post-college so it’s not like I’m immune to symbolism’s charms. (Hi, my name is Salome and I read too far into things.) But there’s so much symbolism here that at moments there isn’t much room left for story. CSM is randomly throwing out lines like, “The child becomes father to the man.” What does that even mean?? You’re not trying to hint that the repressed child deep down inside the man is going to teach him how life is really supposed to be lived in a sort of “from the mouths of babes” perspective altering catharsis, are you? Because I have no truck with that right now.

Not that my impatience affords me the right to ignore the famous Mulder dream sequence. I have to tell you, as a teenager watching this episode when it first aired I didn’t know The Last Temptation of Christ from Rocky & Bullwinkle. I’d heard of it, sure. But what was it to me? And I wonder how much of the viewing public was with me – a little lost as to what Mulder’s dream sequence, heavily inspired by the aforementioned book/film, was supposed to mean.

The whole thing is borderline esoteric, its symbolism only becoming clear as the reality of it unravels before Mulder’s eyes. But you don’t need any exposure to The Last Temptation of Christ to understand it, though I’m sure that helps (I wouldn’t know). All you have to do is go back and watch “One Son” (6×12) again. What happens in that episode? Oh, nothing. If you can call Diana helping to lure Mulder into soul-sacrificing complacency and Scully stirring him up from his sleepy defeatism “nothing.”

If “One Son” is the reality then “Amor Fati” is Mulder spiritually awakening to that reality. Both women have appeared at his bedside in “The Sixth Extinction”. Both women’s minds and hearts were completely open to him thanks to his new ability. He knows what Diana wants: For him to give in and save himself. And he knows what Scully wants: For him to hang on and fight.

I think the initial reaction a lot of fans had to this episode was horror over any scenario, dream or not, where Mulder would bed, even wed, Diana Fowley and seem to be happy about it. But while Mulder still may be attracted to her on some level, they had been lovers after all, I don’t think what we see here is any real indication that Mulder wants Diana so much as he’s tempted by what she represents. What she wants him to do, and what part of Mulder wants to do, is stop fighting, stop suffering, take the world off of his shoulders and let the inevitable happen – Would colonization be so bad if they could only be at peace? Therefore, the crux of Mulder’s dream isn’t that he chooses Scully over Fowley, it’s that he chooses courage over complacency.

Poor Diana Fowley, we barely knew ye. No sooner do you grow a conscience than it’s your time to go – That’s how The X-Files works. We can’t have you spilling secrets that would give Mulder too much help too soon, now can we?

Fowley’s motivations are becoming clearer to me now. Maybe I never really understood because I never really watch this set of episodes. (Telling, I know.) And so, if you don’t mind, I’m going to take some time out to dissect her because unless I’m much mistaken, she’s never mentioned ever again.

This isn’t cannon but as best I can understand it, Diana Fowley’s situation went down something like this:

Diana knew about the aliens, colonization, all of it. How or when or why she knew isn’t important, but somewhere along the line she went to work for the Syndicate and CSM in particular. Probably under their/his orders, she led Mulder to the X-Files as a way to both put out disinformation and to control what he knew. Once Mulder was established as a crank and he was no closer to the truth than he was to China, off she goes on her next assignment which was that of an international agent. What she probably didn’t count on was falling in love with Mulder, which she did. Although who knows but that seducing him was originally part of the assignment too?

However her affection for Mulder began, she didn’t forget him all those years she went away, a fact that CSM was probably aware of. So he gives her a new, very palatable assignment: Go back and befriend Fox Mulder again. He’s too close to the truth.

The problem is, despite their surface similarities, Diana and Mulder are incompatible. He’s an idealist, she’s a pragmatist. He wants to save the world, Diana wants to survive. She wants to survive with Mulder at her side and she’s clearly hoped that eventually he’d see that they had no other choice but to cooperate with the conspiracy and save themselves. That’s why she was willing to wait for him; they could never really be together, because they couldn’t survive the coming apocalypse, unless she helped the Syndicate succeed in creating an alien-human hybrid.

Another option is that Diana discovered the truth while she was working on the X-Files with Mulder, only she didn’t share everything she suspected, perhaps because she knew Mulder wouldn’t be comfortable with her pragmatic approach, and left to work for the Syndicate because she was sympathetic to their agenda. In some ways, that would make it worse. Her reasons are completely selfish. As long as she gets Mulder and they survive, that’s what matters.

But I’d still love to know, what exactly did CSM ever do to engender this kind of loyalty in Fowley? Or was she only going along with his agenda so that she and Mulder could be safe, and once his agenda conflicted with Mulder’s safety her surface loyalty evaporated? This mysterious confession she made in “The Sixth Extinction” (7×3) is tantalizing:

I know you know about me… That my loyalties aren’t just to you… but to a man you’ve grown to despise. You have your reasons, but as you look inside me now you know that I have mine.

I think deep down she realizes that Mulder isn’t going to be OK with her plans, which is why she hasn’t made a case for her position to him even after the eradication of the Syndicate. He already knows about the agenda of those men, surely she wouldn’t be threatening those plans now by spilling the beans, she’d only betray her own treachery and risk losing Mulder for good. Maybe that’s why she agrees to be complicit in CSM’s scheme to steal Mulder’s power – He could be putty in her hands. Fortunately, her long dormant conscience resurfaces before it’s too late, possibly pricked into action by guilt over Scully’s example of uncompromising loyalty to Mulder, and despite the fact that she knows it most likely means she’ll never have Mulder, she secretly gives up his location to Scully. Bravo?

By the end of this trilogy, I was sick of Diana Fowley, exhausted by the overarching plot, and not a little worried about the future of my show. I was hoping for answers in “Amor Fati”. Instead, I got Mulder making love to Diana Fowley, which, despite all my philosophically understanding prattle above, still makes me ill. I was tired of waiting for more news on the conspiracy, whether it was dead or alive. I was tired of waiting for information on Samantha’s whereabouts. And I was mostly tired of waiting on this unnecessary love triangle. By the time it was over, the superb ending was somewhat lost on me; sort of like pearls being cast before very impatient swine.

But it is superb. Truly.

Mulder: Scully, I was like you once — I didn’t know who to trust. Then I… I chose another path… another life, another fate, where I found my sister. In the end my world was unrecognizable and upside down. There was one thing that remained the same. You were my friend, and you told me the truth. Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant… my touchstone.
Scully: And you are mine.

As I watched this time, somewhere behind my teary eye (I can only watch this scene with one eye open) the Song of Solomon kept coming to mind: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” I want to congratulate my subconscious for making the connection and at the same time berate it for making it so late – These are, in essence, Mulder and Scully’s wedding vows.

That sounds horrendously sappy, I know, but it’s true. They’re expressing, once and for all, before a television audience full of witnesses, their faith in and their commitment to each other. (Part of me twinges a little at the thought of making any mere, fallible mortal your constant and your touchstone. But, whatevs. I get what they’re giving.)

I remember the first time I watched it feeling slightly confused. (So they’re together now… right?) I wasn’t sure if I was witnessing their official coming together or what. After this are they a romantic pair? Well, there’s been a lot of debate over the years as to exactly when Mulder and Scully initiated the romantic stage of their relationship, with even Chris Carter & Co. inadvertently sending conflicting messages. Did Mulder pop up at Scully’s place the next day with red roses and a bottle of wine? Heck to the no. But, I do believe what we’re seeing here is the disintegration of all emotional, psychological and practical barriers between them. I said these were their “wedding vows”, right? Well, think of this moment as the ceremony – Everyone present knows the wedding night is coming but it’s not like there’s a bed waiting at the end of the aisle.

For once, both Mulder and Scully know exactly where they stand at exactly the same time and I think it’s clear that there will be no threat of any future “Diana Fowleys.” There’s only one barrier left, more of a technical formality really, and that’s the physical one, which Chris Carter will see fit to break not too long from now. After that, all bets will be off.

And to think! We were almost robbed of this episode’s redemption. This was not the original ending planned and in fact, was filmed much later after the rest of the episode – hence Scully’s noticeable haircut. I’ve read what is supposed to be the original ending and it in no way provided sufficient emotional closure between Mulder and Scully after all the angst of this episode. So hats off to whoever decided to change it – I don’t know who you are except that you’re my constant, my touchstone.

Verdict:

I know some fans wish that Mulder and Scully had kissed here, but I want to go on record as saying that for all my teenage confusion back in the day, I’m oh so glad they didn’t. Turning it sexual would have cheapened the moment because what they’re expressing here goes so much deeper than that. At the same time, it makes an eventual kiss inevitable. How do you love someone any more than that?? Where else are they supposed to go with it? Why do Mulder and Scully keep having their most significant moments in Mulder’s hallway?

So I’ll see you Shippers next time when Chris Carter finally lets Mulder kiss the bride.

B+

The Mystery Continues:

Just when you thought I was done, I’m about to wind it back. Remember “The End” (5×20)? Remember how Diana Fowley was guarding Gibson Praise while secretly working for CSM? Remember how shocked she looked when Gibson told her she was about to be shot? Yeah, why was that?

The Options –

  1. CSM didn’t tell whomever he sent to kidnap Gibson that Fowley was one of theirs – The left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. Lingering resentment over the events of this episode also might explain why Fowley came to distrust CSM enough to betray him.
  2. They shot Fowley on purpose, surprising her, in order to ingratiate her to Mulder – How could he doubt her after she nearly died for the cause?
  3. Fowley was given orders by CSM to protect Gibson and genuinely thought that’s what he wanted – This would explain why anyone coming to get Gibson would have to attack Fowley to get to him and why she was so surprised.

The question remains, why didn’t Gibson hint at her disloyalty? He seemed comfortable enough with her. I guess he was too busy fanning the flames of the love triangle to warn Mulder and Scully that they had a traitor in their midst

And yet another question remains. Just how far did Fowley’s relationship with CSM go? Between the way they look at each other in “One Son” and CSM’s not so subtle leer in Fowley’s direction after delivering his, “I’ll carry the burden from here on in” line, I suspect that either they were sexually involved at some point or that their eventual sexual involvement was one of CSM’s secret goals. Talk about a Father-Son competition.

Bepuzzlements:

What’s still not clear is what in the Aunt Jemima Krycek is up to now. Why kill Kritschgau? Is he independently working toward hybridization? Working for the rebels? What? – Oh, and how about that digital Nick Lea impostor?

Why do women keep giving Mulder the Salt-n-Peppa, “I think I wanna have your baby” speech on this show? Is it because he’s a “mighty good man?” My man is smooth like Barry and his voice got base…

Okay, so Scully has a DOJ passkey. But how does she know where to go?

And I’m Done:

Notice how Mulder keeps flipping things back on Scully. “Mulder, help me”, becomes, “You help me.” “I know she was your friend”, becomes, “You were my friend… you were my constant, my touchstone.” Scully tries to comfort him at the loss of Diana, his first priority is to comfort her. Oh, the days I could go on with this stuff…

Best Quotes:

CSM: Your account is squared — with me, with God, with the IRS, with the FBI.

——————-

CSM: You’re not Christ. You’re not Prince Hamlet. You’re not even Ralph Nader. {Editor’s Note: HAHAHAHA.}

——————–

Scully: Bum a cigarette, Agent Fowley?
Diana Fowley: I don’t smoke.
Scully: Really? I could swear I smell cigarette smoke on you.
Diana Fowley: Let’s cut the crap, shall we?
Scully: Yes. Let’s.

Season 6 Wrap Up: Maybe I did want to be out there with you.


This is one of those seasons in terms of its popularity that gets polar opposite responses depending on which faction of the fandom you ask about it. It’s trying too hard to be funny, it’s not funny, it’s hilarious. Too much MSR, not enough MSR, just the right amount. I miss the Syndicate, I was sick of the Syndicate, what’s with this new mythology?

You can’t please all the people all the time, especially if your name is Chris Carter.

Personally, I adore Season 6. But I can understand why some fans don’t. If Season 5 would throw fans a knowing smile every so often, Season 6 is constantly, flirtatiously winking at us. The X-Files has become not only much more self-conscious and self-referential, it also acknowledges its fan base and fan expectations in a more direct way than before.

Previous episodes like “Small Potatoes” (4×20) have toyed with the ever-present subtext of Mulder and Scully’s burgeoning romantic relationship (MSR). But fast-forward to “The Rain King” (6×7) and it’s not a subtext, it’s the only text, and the characters around Mulder and Scully directly confront them with the feelings fans had been harboring for years.

I mean… you spend every day with Agent Scully, a beautiful, enchanting woman. And you two never, uh…? I… confess I find that shocking. I… I’ve seen how you two gaze at one another.

Not even a kiss?

Sorry, my NoRoMo friends. You’ll have to forgive me for indulging in some MSR talk. It’s a major, major component of Season 6 that can’t be ignored. In fact, I don’t think it’s a reach to say it’s the main component. Not only does it drive many stand-alone episodes, the Mulder-Scully-Fowley love triangle becomes such a major issue that it largely drives the mythology this season. You can’t discuss Season 6 without discussing MSR.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m about to plagiarize myself since I can think of no more effective way to explain my position.

Back in the not so distant day, a Shipper had to hunt for little romantic gems in an episode. A brief hand-hold here, a golden moment of banter there… it was a game looking for these affirmations of the Shipper faith since it wasn’t as though the writers were putting them there on purpose. We had to take what we could get. Now, however, the game has changed completely and after the events of the movie, Chris Carter & Co. could no longer believably ignore either the mounting anticipation of their audience or the romantic tension that they inadvertently created between their two lead characters. So, what to do, what to do? They had no choice, really, but to officially script the MSR subtext into the series. Now Shippers no longer have to hunt for sustenance like wild animals, it’s being fed to us in golden bowls like house pets.

If that sounds like a complaint, please know that it’s not. As I said, I don’t see how the show could have believably evolved any other way. What could Chris Carter have done? Turned back the clock and pretended that millions of people had never seen that scene outside of Mulder’s apartment? Or worse, should he have taken character development back a few seasons in order to halt the progression of this budding romance between his leads? Never. Looking back it was inevitable that the romantic undertone of the series would become more overt. And however people may complain that it made The X-Files look silly, it would have looked a heck of a lot sillier if they had stubbornly ignored the obvious.

And in the profound words of Mr. Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

The only check mark in the negative column against Season 6 is that while the great majority of episodes, as individual episodes, are great, on the whole it may be slightly unbalanced. Particularly in the beginning of the season, the scales are tipped toward the lighter side of things which is a disappointment, I’m sure, to the fans who prefer grittier Monster of the Week and Mythology episodes. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if episodes like “Tithonus” (6×9) had come along sooner rather than later if Season 6 would still have quite as featherweight a reputation. After all, for the shortest season ever (twenty episodes) Season 5 gave us its fair share of less than super serious material: “Unusual Suspects” (5×1), “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6), “Detour” (5×4), “Bad Blood” (5×12), “Folie a Deux” (5×19). And that’s not even counting Mulder’s hilarious phone calls to Scully in “Chinga” (5×10).

I calculate Season 6 at 40% funny vs. Season 5’s 30%, give or take. Perhaps the team at 1013 wanted to leaven the heavy drama of the mythology episodes this season by giving the fans an emotional break during the stand-alone episodes. I still consider “Arcadia” (6×13) a humble apology for forcing us to watch Mulder and Scully nearly split up for good in “One Son” (6×12). That fight was so bad even the Lone Gunmen had to look away. And while we’re at it, maybe Chris Carter meant “Triangle” (6×3) to be a peace offering after he had Mulder nearly take back in “The Beginning” (6×1) everything he said to Scully in the hallway last summer. You bet your cheap weave Mulder owed Scully more than one “I love you” after that.

Speaking of “I love you’s”, somewhere along the way this season, probably without us even noticing, I believe Mulder and Scully passed the point where a love confession was even necessary.

I can safely say that by the events of “Biogenesis” (6×22) Mulder knows that Scully is in love with him and not just because he can conveniently read minds. I don’t know by what work of the Devil I didn’t talk about this in my “One Son” review, but Mulder knows. Even the first time I saw it, I was certain of it. It’s all in the way he says, “No. Actually, you hide your feelings very well.”

Now, I will often, in the heat of my Fangirl passion, yell things at Mulder and at my television screen and “Stupid” is an adjective I use for him regularly. However, Mulder is not actually stupid. He’s a very intuitive, very perceptive character. He couldn’t have helped but read the not so subtle subtext during Scully’s heated interchange with Fowley in the aforementioned episode. That wasn’t purely righteous indignation on Cassandra’s behalf that Scully was acting out there. And even before that, he was in that hallway too. He knew she was about to kiss him just as sure as he was about to kiss her, though judging by his somewhat nervous confession in “Triangle” I’d say he wasn’t confident as to whether she’d be willing to start a relationship or not.

But, I digress. Mulder knows and I believe that’s part of why Padgett’s “Agent Scully is already in love” pronouncement in “Milagro” (6×18) doesn’t elicit a major response from him. It also doesn’t elicit a response from Scully because she knows too. And, at this point, I think she knows that Mulder knows and that he knows that she knows. I think there’s mutual knowing all around. Mulder certainly didn’t wrap his arms around her in “The Unnatural” (6×20) like a man who thought his attentions might not be desirable.

A question less easy to answer is does Scully know how Mulder feels about her? To that I’d give a qualified “Yes.” She knows he loves her dearly; he did go to Antarctica to rescue her after all. She knows he’s attracted to her since he’s not too subtle with his looks in either “Two Fathers” (6×11) or “One Son”. There’s even something about the look on her face when Mulder tells his tall tale in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) that makes me think she knows she’s supposed to be “Lida”, the brooding yet heroic “Maurice’s” ethereal love. But, ah, that Fowley woman. I don’t think Scully’s going to pick up what Mulder’s puttin’ down as long as Fowley is around. Cue Season 7.

And on a final note, how awesomely amazing is Scully this season? She steals the show pretty much from beginning to end. From being boldly faithful to slapping suspects, from becoming open-minded to learning how to play baseball, my girl has been on fire. If we could say nothing else in favor of having a comedy-heavy season, I’m so glad it affords Scully the opportunity to show us all her different sides.

——————

Assuming your teeth aren’t already aching with sweetness, you tell me:

And the Awards go to….

“How could you do this to me, Chris Carter?”

The Beginning

“You’re forgiven, Chris Carter.”

Triangle

“Most Underrated”

Drive

AND

Trevor

“Most Overrated”

How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

“Not Rated”

Alpha

“Best Use of a Guest Star”

Dreamland/Dreamland II

“Scully for Queen”

Tithonus

“Coulda Been a Contender”

Agua Mala

“Don’t Judge Me”

The Rain King

“David Duchovny, why won’t you love me?”

The Unnatural

The Unnatural 6×20: Trust the tale… not the teller.


You rebel.

I really didn’t know if I wanted to watch an X-File written and directed by David Duchovny. It’s not personal. It’s impersonal. In order to preserve the integrity of the fantasy that is the character I love, I’m one of those viewers who religiously avoids certain actors in any outside roles… including the ones they play in the movie called Real Life. That’s right, I’m a David Duchovny ascetic. I can probably count on one hand the number of interviews with him I’ve actually watched or read in the whole 14 years I’ve been obsessing over this show – clichéd but true. I was even reluctant to go hunting down background information on “The Unnatural” for this review, lest mine eyes alight on anything that might tarnish their purity.

Now, I know he’s gotten story credit before on various mythology episodes like “Colony” (2×16) and even on the Skinner-centric “Avatar” (3×21), but contributing ideas and even lines is mighty different from helming an entire episode, one that would be his vision from start to finish. I don’t know if I want to know how David Duchovny sees Mulder… or The X-Files for that matter. And I can’t say that “The Unnatural” reveals nothing about his mindset, but fortunately for me (and fortunately for David Duchovny?), what it does reveal I’m OK with. Actually, I’m more than OK with. And the way I realized that went something like this…

[Sitting bracingly on the edge of the bed] Well, here we go. Just try to ignore what it says on the credits. There are no credits. There is no spoon. This is just another X-File. If you don’t like it, you can always pretend it never happened. David Duchovny? What David Duchovny? I see what you did there with that “Is it a UFO?” shot. OK, that was cute. Not that anyone in his or her right mind is going to take on a shotgun with a baseball. Still it’s cute. Stories about race tend to bore this black girl, but whatever. I’m going to keep an open mind. I am. I am. I AM. And theeeere’s the alien. A comedy episode, I see. [Sigh] Well, we’ve made it through the teaser just fine. Look alive, we’re back at the F.B.I. Oh, casual Friday at the office? Oh, casual Saturday at the office. Wait. Did she just… huh? Is that… huh? Am I watching flirty repartee? I mean, openly flirty repartee?? Did Scully just smile? Did Scully just laugh? Wait. What’s happening here? Hold on. Wait. What??? [Massive intake of breath] David Duchovny is a Shipper!

Holy Queen of the Reticulans. Congratulations. You now have my full attention.

And at that point, whatever else happened, I was already appeased. So, Mulder and Scully jones satisfied, I sat back to watch the rest of the action almost indifferent as to whether it was good or not. But lo and behold, the meat of this episode, yes, even without our two leads, is a joy all on its own.

An X-File with a comedic bent is nothing new, but we’ve never had an episode that turned the deadly serious backbone of the series, the mythology itself into a kind of playful romp. The Alien Bounty Hunter affecting a Southern drawl and being knocked out by a baseball? Who could have predicted this would work?

By some extra-terrestrial miracle, it does. Helped along by a lovely, memorable soundtrack and some joyful performances. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but I get the distinct impression that all the actors involved were having a good time. Maybe it’s because there’s nothing routine about this episode – they probably relished the chance to jump out of the box.

But, ironically, the character that this episode is mostly about is only in maybe a third of it. That’s right, cleverly disguised in an ode to baseball is a loving jab to Fox Mulder’s ribs.

Mulder: Let me tell you something; I have been ripe for years. I am way past ripe. I’m so ripe I’m rotten.

Mulder: Whatever. I don’t really care about the baseball, so much, sir. What I care about is this man in the picture with you, I believe to be an alien bounty hunter.
Arthur Dales: Of course you don’t care about the baseball, Mr. Mulder. You only bothered my brother about the important things like government conspiracies and alien bounty hunters and the truth with a capital ‘T’.

Mulder: It’s official. I am a horse’s ass.

Similarly to writer Darin Morgan, though I think with a little more actual love for the character, Duchovny seems to have a healthy disdain for Mulder’s self-righteousness. This episode is a life lesson astutely aimed in Mulder’s direction – Get out of the basement, dude.

More than Mulder, though, “The Unnatural” is clearly about the game. The game I’ve only ever been to one time… and it was for a Shakespeare class… which may say deeper things about my life than I should probably be sharing, but anyway… I have to admit that even my grossly uncoordinated self wants to go out and play a pick-up game of baseball after watching this. I love the retro clothing, the old-fashioned stadium, the sun shining on the grass, the hick accents, all of it.

And casting Jesse L. Martin, then of Ally McBeal and now of Law & Order fame, was brilliant. His good-natured performance sets the tone for all the flashback scenes, which means he sets the tone for pretty much the entire episode. It doesn’t hurt that he’s nice to look at, either. And I don’t mean that in a skeevy, lustful sort of way. I mean that he has a pleasant, all-American sort of face. It’s a face you can trust, which makes it easy to believe in him as the darling of his community.

And while I’m gushing, I make no secret of the fact that I love the character of Arthur Dales. Alas, after filming two days worth of his scenes, actor Darren McGavin suffered a stroke and was unable to return, which meant his scenes had to be scrapped. M. Emmet Walsh was able to fill in at the last minute as Arthur Dales, brother of… Arthur Dales. It’s a sad loss, but if you have the DVDs you can check out the deleted scenes with Darren McGavin for yourself and confirm that they would have been just as charming. And I say it’s a loss only because I’m already attached to Darren McGavin and his character, but M. Emmet Walsh stole the show. If only both men had been able to come back and guest star. Ah, my list of X-Files shoulda-woulda-couldas grows longer.

“Darling” is the word that comes to mind when I think of this episode. From beginning to end, it’s cute without being queasy. Between the MSR and the nostalgia and the not-so-latent messages about cross-racial understanding it could have easily turned to schmaltz, but it stays just this side of it. It’s a meaningful love letter written with cheeky irreverence.

Verdict:

Here’s the thing about my David Duchovny boycott. It’s not just David Duchovny, it’s also Gillian Anderson. And here’s the thing about my David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson boycott, it’s to protect my own Fangirl health. Imagine if I watched Gillian in something I’m itching to see like Moby Dick, and there I observed a tick, a look, a tone of voice that in my head is Scully’s exclusively. If the thought, “That’s not Scully’s thing, that’s Gillian Anderson’s thing” were to intrude on my X-Files viewing I’d be horrified, let alone if her love life, political opinions, or anything other frustrating non-essential bit of gossip were to trouble me while I was trying to watch.

I’ll not have it. I can’t have it. And so I abstain.

It’s not that I know nothing or hear nothing about them. I just don’t seek information out and try to avoid it when I can. Being able to watch The X-Files in peace is all I care about. And episodes like “The Unnatural” remind me why I want to work so hard to protect that peace.

Nothing is allowed to interfere with this little corner of my joy.

Mulder: You’ve never hit a baseball, have you, Scully?
Scully: No, I guess I have, uh… found more necessary things to do with my time than… slap a piece of horsehide with a stick.

Josh Exley: It was like music to me… First unnecessary thing I ever done in my life and I fell in love. I didn’t know the unnecessary could feel so good.

It’s quite lovely. An homage not only to baseball, but to all the unnecessary things in life that give us joy. The unnecessary that gives us the joy and the strength to go about our necessary business.

Hint. Hint.

A+

Bottom of the 9th:

Yes, that’s Vin Scully, our Scully’s namesake, announcing the game.

One of the more wonderful little moments in this episode: The music seamlessly changes from “I got a brother in that land” to “I got a sister in that land” when we open on Mulder and Scully’s famous nighttime baseball lesson.

I’ve never hit a baseball either. But no strapping, if oddly named, Fox Mulder has offered to put his arms around me and show me how it’s done. Imbalance in the Force?

Oh, and by the way, that midnight baseball epilogue is more full of sexual suggestiveness than I ever fully appreciated. I mean, I always knew it was there, but dang. o_O

We already established back in “Agua Mala” (6×14) that Arthur Dales was down in Florida. I guess we’re to assume he was merely a Snowbird who divided his time between there and the D.C. area and now he’s officially moved?

Best Quotes:

Arthur Dales: What you fail to understand in your joyless myopia, is that baseball is the key to life — the Rosetta Stone, if you will. If you just understood baseball better all your other questions your, your… the, uh… the aliens, the conspiracies they would all, in their way, be answered by the baseball gods.

——————-

Arthur Dales #2: You say “shape-shifting.” Agent Mulder, do you believe that love can make a man shape-shift?
Mulder: I guess… women change men all the time.
Arthur Dales: I’m not talking about women. I’m talking about love. Passion. Like the passion you have for proving extra-terrestrial life. Do you believe that that passion can change your very nature? Can make you shape-shift from a man into something other than a man?
Mulder: …What exactly has your brother told you about me?

——————–

Mulder: You’re making me feel like a child.
Arthur Dales: Perfect. That’s exactly the right place to start from, then, isn’t it?

——————–

Scully: Mulder, this is a needle in a haystack. These poor souls have been dead for 50 years. Let them rest in peace. Let sleeping dogs lie.
Mulder: No, I won’t sit idly by as you hurl clichés at me. Preparation is the father of inspiration.
Scully: Necessity is the mother of invention.
Mulder: The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Scully: Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.
Mulder: I scream, you scream, we all scream for non-fat tofutti rice dreamcicles. [Much giggling ensues]

Milagro 6×18: I live in my head.


I think therefore she is.

“After having worked on The X-Files for so many years and really spent so much time thinking about these characters of Mulder and Scully, you do fall in love with them a bit, you do obsess about them. You find yourself thinking about them for hours and hours and hours. And that’s what Milagro’s about. It’s about the power of that kind of obsession.”

                                                                                    – Frank Spotnitz

Yeah, me too, Frank. Only I don’t get paid for it.

You’ve heard it all about “Milagro” before. How writers Spotnitz and Shiban came up with the idea for it after commiserating over the trials and tribulations of the creative life. How the character of Padgett is really a stand-in for the writers on The X-Files, right down to his board full of index cards.

I’m going to let smarter, more academically disciplined heads than I grapple with the more intellectual issues that “Milagro” raises – authorial intent, metafiction and the viewer as voyeur. That’s not why I’m here. I have a much more simplistic outlook on the “Milagro” message: Dana Scully is a friend of mine.

“Au contraire,” you say, “Dana Scully doesn’t exist.”

“Au contraire,” I mimic, “Dana Scully exists absolutely.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my state of mental health. I like it here with my childhood friend. Here they come, those feelings again!”

                                                                               –       Men at Work

Dana Scully is real. She lives in my head. She probably lives in yours too. She gets around like that.

You see, an idea is real. It’s an intangible reality that’s as real as any physical manifestation. Faith is real. Hope is real. Love is real. No one outside of Karl Marx would call me crazy for believing that. But if I said to you that I would only believe Faith was real if I saw it standing before me, then I’d have earned my right to a padded cell.

Dana Scully is an idea. She started out in the mind of Chris Carter the Beloved, she was translated into the written word by various scribes, she was interpreted in the body of Gillian Anderson the Sacred, she was relayed through a series of messengers, directors, photographers and editors, and finally, she was accepted by faith into the hearts and minds of many a television addict.

Like a game of Telephone, it’s hardly doubtful that Dana Scully as she began is not the same Dana Scully that viewers know and love. Every hand she passes through shapes and creates her, including the audience that eventually receives her, until she is such a recognizable and independent form that even an objective observer can say, “That’s Dana Scully” or “That’s not Dana Scully” the same way they could say “That’s patriotism” or “That’s narcissism.” She’s her own entity, moving at her own speed and toward her own destination despite Chris Carter’s original best intentions. At least, that’s what “Milagro” is telling us.

Back when I first started to watch The X-Files I was watching reruns on FX and was way behind the current run of the show. Before I swore off the internet and chatrooms (see the upcoming “The Unnatural” review), I couldn’t resist doing a little investigating into the future of the Mulder/Scully relationship. You can only imagine my 14-year-old horror when I discovered that Chris Carter had sworn on a stack of show bibles that Mulder and Scully would never be a romantic pair. I’m not ashamed to say I felt something akin to panic.

So I did the only thing I could and attempted to console myself by watching more of The X-Files. I watched and was quickly comforted – What I saw didn’t match up with what Chris Carter had so adamantly avowed. It’s then that the rebellious thought occurred to me, “That man doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Said thought was accompanied by the dismissive facial expression only a 14-year-old can make.

Arrogant? Yes.

How can the viewer claim to know more than the creator? In my defense, I instinctively knew from watching the real Dana Scully what her Pygmalion-like creator may have still been in denial about, that come what may, she was falling in love with Fox Mulder. It didn’t matter what anyone else said, including Chris Carter. Scully told me. It was the gospel truth.

The more cynical among us might say that Carter eventually caved in the MSR department only because of fan pressure and potential ratings, but I’m not of a cynical turn. A Mulder/Scully romance would have happened eventually because their relationship naturally evolved irrespective of original intent or outside expectations. By Season 6, to keep them apart much longer would have been more unrealistic than a man-sized worm. My Philey Sense tells me that Chris Carter realized this and just went with the flow.

Philip Padgett, Scully’s creepy admirer, is a not so subtle, if far less socially adept, substitute for Carter himself as the writer whose character has escaped his control long enough to write her own script while he wasn’t looking. Like I said, intangible ≠ unreal. Scully is so much her own person, such a fully fleshed idea, that Padgett can no longer predict her choices. The question is then, did he ever really? Where does the writer’s intention end and the real Dana Scully begin?

I don’t know the answer to that exactly but I know that it’s not just the writer who creates her. According to that same game of Telephone I mentioned above, the idea of Dana Scully is communicated to a series of people through a series of mediums and the method of communication is in part what shapes her.

In a lot of ways, I bet life is easier for a novelist than a television writer. A novelist creates and idea and shapes it with words, communicating directly with his audience. A television writer sees his vision revised by several sets of minds and hands until what the viewers at home see may or may not be recognizable to him. But that’s just tough cookies.

Is it a wonder fans sometimes act like they own Scully? We’re partially responsible for creating her. Not that any of us can take credit for the original brilliance of idea that she is, but we’ve taken that idea and obsessed over it until it’s taken a concrete form in our own minds; she’s a shared idea. 10 Philes from 10 different countries with 10 different perspectives could sit around and talk about her like they all know her… because they all do. Great fiction tends to work like that. (For instance, I recognized Hogwarts the instant I saw it on the big screen. I had already seen it in my mind’s eye, after all. Funny, but my best friend whose mind’s eye doesn’t belong to me recognized it too.) And great characters live on long after you stop reading or watching them.

And I suppose that’s why The X-Files was/is a benchmark of fanfiction. It created characters whose adventures its audience couldn’t help but chronicle offscreen because they existed, waiting to be chronicled. After all, how could a TV show hold them anymore than it could hold you or me? In fanfiction, the viewer becomes the writer, flipping the natural order on its head but at the same time drawing even more attention to the heart of the process of characterization.

The milagro, the real miracle here is the mysterious power of the obsessive mind to create life where there was none. No, these earthly creators can’t breathe the physical breath of life into Dana Scully, but they can do pretty much everything shy of it, to the point where I sometimes find myself wondering how it could be possible that Dana Scully isn’t standing in front of me with eyebrow raised in inquisition the way Naciamento appears before Padgett…. though I suppose she’d come for Chris Carter first. But I’m next.

Right at this moment “Milagro” is playing in the background. And if Dana Scully were to plant her fingers on the bottom of my television screen and pull herself out only mild surprise would register on my face.

She already exists in my head, why shouldn’t she exist in my room?

No, I’m not done yet:

The great thing about “Milagro” is that there are so many intellectual and emotional questions raised on various levels that like any good work of fiction, there are many ways to read it. There isn’t another episode quite like it and it’s certainly more meta, and more overtly artistic, than The X-Files is usually comfortable with. That’s probably why it feels so personal.

While Shiban and Spotnitz rough drafted the idea of “Milagro”, it was Carter, the creator himself who wrote it up which is so fitting you’d thing someone had scripted it. What? You didn’t recognize his legendary purple prose? I swear, he must’ve been holding the thesaurus open with one hand for this one. All these years and I never realized he was actually holding back most episodes. Here he lets it all hang out, using his skills in flowery verbiage to purposeful effect by making it difficult to distinguish between the actual goings on of the Scully mind and the writer’s fantasy, for those are two separate things both in the world of “Milagro” and in this one.

Fortunately for all of us, the well-rounded Chris Carter is no Philip Padgett, though it’s possible he identifies with him all too well in some ways. Padgett is the worst kind of stereotype of a writer; awkward socialization, barren existence, overuse of highbrow language. And in his youthful arrogance he believes that as the author he actually has authority over his characters. Ha! He learns that lesson.

Padgett is wonderfully played by 1013 repeat offender John Hawkes, who previously guest starred on Millennium and auditioned for the role of Pinker Rawls in “Trevor” (6×17). The part of Padgett was actually written with him in mind so it’s not surprising that he fills it well. Somehow, despite his gratingly calm assurance and his Creepy McCreepy vibe Padgett manages to be an empathetic character. We start to glimpse his humanity when he first confronts Scully before the painting of the Sacred Heart, a scene that quietly reveals the root of this episode that’s all about the relationship between creator and created.

It’s the God-given desire to share love.

That’s what Padgett tries to explain to Scully through the story of Jesus and St. Margaret Mary. That’s why any creator creates, to share their heart, good, bad or indifferent. That’s what humans are designed to do is share the love in their hearts. Maybe for the writer that love is easier to express in writing. Maybe for the fan the writer’s love is easier to share in because it takes place in an alternate reality of fiction.

I’m going to shamelessly take Pagett’s story of Jesus’ Sacred Heart even further and say that in the same way the Creator speaks into existence fully formed personalities and then gives them free will, a human creator is at his best when he, through his love, forms an idea so powerful that it has a life of its own.

Why does the writer write? To share his heart. Why does the reader read or the watcher watch? To share the heart of the writer. Who is Dana Scully? She’s the collective beating hearts of the writers and the watchers. She’s the idea they all love.

“Imagine that.”

            – Philip Padgett

A

The Middle C of Consciousness:

Since when do 16-year-olds take out personal ads?

You want to stop the killings, Padgett? Here’s an idea, stop writing this drivel. You’re not Stephen King.

If I were Scully, no way I would have kept drinking Padgett’s coffee. Freaks like that drug people.

“I think you know me better than that, Mulder.” Scully isn’t good at lying to Mulder. She should stop trying, but she won’t – “En Ami” (7×15).

Scully’s spent so long trying avoid becoming the object of inappropriate or demeaning sexual desire on the job that she’s thrown out the baby with the bath water. She’s forgotten how flattering it can be to be admired. Well, the camera makes up for that because it takes its time admiring her here.

You’ll notice Scully’s top button stays unbuttoned this entire episode. Or at least when she’s wearing buttons.

I love that Mulder’s biggest argument against Pagett being able to imagine the truth before it occurs is that he can’t be accurate in what he wrote about Scully.

It’s interesting that Padgett realizes Scully’s already in love at a moment where, on the surface, she’s protecting Padgett. But really she’s protecting Mulder from himself.

Hegelian Self-Justification:

My favorite part about Padgett’s “Agent Scully is already in love” pronouncement… well, besides the smug satisfaction of knowing Chris Carter wrote that line himself, is how neither Mulder nor Scully are flustered by it. There isn’t a, “What??” reaction. It’s more like, “Hmm… where does this guy get his intel?” Neither of them are taken aback at all.

After that, somewhere in my imagination I used to think that Scully’s eyes followed Padgett while Mulder’s eyes followed Scully. However, I watched very, very closely this time. Several times. Mulder glances down at Scully, briefly, one time. But it’s a very telling time.

This is one of Mark Snow’s best scores.

According to Chris Carter, this is Sean Penn’s favorite episode.

I have to admit that it wasn’t till about half-way through my first viewing of this episode that I started enjoying it. It’s highly stylized so the tone and intent isn’t easy (for some of us) to lock onto. It took repeated viewings… and a college education… before the meta message of the author (Chris Carter) losing control of his characters (Mulder and Scully) sunk in. I still can’t say I adore it the way some fans do, but it does make me think.

That “Titian hair” line makes me smile because it recalls to mind my first obsession: Anne of Green Gables. What is it with me and redheads?

Real? Not real? The conversation continues… Who Really Writes the Stories?

Best Quotes:

Scully: Loneliness is a choice.
Padgett: So how about a cup of coffee?

——————

Padgett: By their nature words are imprecise and layered with meaning – the signs of things, not the things themselves. It’s difficult to say who’s in charge.

——————
Padgett: Big mistake. I misjudged her character, her interest in me.
Naciamento: Now we’re on to something.
Padgett: She’s only trying to get his attention but doesn’t know it.

——————

Naciamento: Why do I want their hearts?
Padgett: You tell me. Why do you do it?
Naciamento: I’m your character. You tell me. My reason is your reason.
Padgett: I want to feel love.
Naciamento: No. No. You had it right up to there. You were a tool of the truth. And when it finally arrives — when I arrive — you don’t want to see it.
Padgett: But what is the truth?
Naciamento: Man imagines that he, too, can open up his heart and expose the burning passion — the flames of charity — like the creator himself but… this is not in his power.

——————-

Padgett: I made a mistake myself.
Mulder: What’s that, Mr Padgett?
Padgett: In my book, I’d written that Agent Scully falls in love, but that’s obviously impossible. Agent Scully is already in love.

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


The romance is the first thing to go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

A-

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

Armchair Psychology:

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

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

I love that telltale heart moment.

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

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

*MSR – Mulder/Scully Romance

Best Quotes:

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

———————-

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

———————-

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

——————–

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

Triangle 6×3: I would’ve never seen you again, but you believed me.


And it’s Skinner for the win.

This is the first of, well, quite a few episodes in Season 6 that strike me as officially stamped productions of fanfic. Brilliant fanfic, mind you, but fanfic nonetheless. And I mean this as the best possible sort of compliment.

If there’s one common complaint about Season 6 is that it’s largely dominated by “X-Files Light” episodes, episodes in the vein of “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) that are more fluff pieces than hardcore Monster of the Week scare fests. These episodes aren’t always necessarily overt comedies, but they purposefully lack depth in an effort to give the audience a break both from mythology angst and MOTW seriousness.

It’s a far cry from the types of episodes that dominated Season 1 and Season 2, but if you look at the direction The X-Files has taken since Season 3 I don’t see much cause for indignant surprise. And considering the show has just come back after the climax of a hit feature film, a little self-conscious indulgence has been well earned. How could The X-Files pretend that it’s not iconic? That Mulder and Scully aren’t beloved stereotypes? If the show didn’t start poking fun at itself on the regular or throw out knowing winks and nods to its bulging audience it would implode in unvaried solemnity.

“Triangle” is one such wink and nod and it’s quite possibly the best of them. The whole adventure feels like a reward, a thank you card if you will, to a long-suffering audience; as if Chris Carter knows that we love these characters and decided to treat us to a fantasy. Like Mulder we’re having a really cool dream where all our favorite people are transplanted into unusual circumstances, but that’s exactly its charm.

This is why I say it feels like fanfic because it’s usually fanfic that fans have to resort to in order to see their favorite characters loosen up or imagine how they’d behave outside of their usual context. Now, this way of consciously acknowledging the audience and of lovingly nudging itself in the ribs can be a trap for any show, especially for one with such a serious and dramatic premise as The X-Files. But “Triangle” is so well done that I think we can ignore those fears for now and just enjoy the gift.

I can’t get over how gorgeous this episode is, it is absolutely lush. The colors saturate the screen. When I think of how far The X-Files’ production quality… and budget… has evolved from Season 1, I shake my head in amazement.

“Triangle” was shot in a series of especially long takes, which gives it a very fluid, very urgent feel. It forced the Carter & Crew to use some creative staging in order to avoid revealing production details that are normally disguised by cuts, and also to disguise the cuts themselves with creative editing. Visually, I adore this method as I love those moments where the camera conveniently looks away to avoid revealing trade secrets and I particularly I love the smoothness of the camera movement throughout.

But my favorite aspect of this episode has nothing to do with technique. My favorite part of this episode is Scully. In fact, this is my favorite episode of all for Scully’s character. Why? Because she’s so much fun! And how often does Scully get to be fun? You know I love her, but our girl is generally a stick-in-the-mud. Every so often she’s allowed to crack a joke or suppress a smirk and if we’re really lucky, she’ll tell off a madman or two in that impressively authoritative voice of hers.

What a joy it must have been for Gillian Anderson to play a different sort of Scully. Not that she’s out of character here, but how often does Scully get to show us such a huge range of facial expressions in one episode? How often is she flustered? Or angry? On top of that, 1939 Scully is Rosie the Riveter rather than a medical doctor which means she’s allowed to be even more feisty. My favorite part is the entire second act where we follow Scully up and down the halls of the F.B.I. as she tries, yet again, to save her incurably foolish partner.

And, of course, she’s ultimately successful both in the past and present. Scully saves Mulder, literally, in the past and in the present she saves him metaphorically because of the same reason: she believes him. Scully has to believe Mulder; the woman can’t help herself, it’s a compulsion. Whether in an alternate universe, alternate dimension or alternate time stream, it’s in her job description and on her business card: Mulder Believer.

That’s the ultimate beauty of this episode and the reward that I think Chris Carter was trying to give fans, validation of their belief in the Mulder/Scully partnership that at this point beats as the heart of the series. There’s a certain amount of destiny involved in all of Mulder’s relationships as presented because Mulder can’t avoid the people in his life, good or bad but they follow him even in unconsciousness. But when it comes to Scully in particular, her belief in him is instinctive rather than rational which again lends itself to the idea that these are two people with a God-given understanding of each other that was foreordained. This mystery of the unexplained is probably unsolvable, but it’s also worth more than all the other truth Mulder so stubbornly seeks and it’s nice to know he finally realizes that too.

And the Verdict is…

It would have been too much to expect that Chris Carter would allow his characters to kiss at this stage of the game, and I can’t blame him for refusing to indulge his needy audience (of which I was one) quite that far. But I’ll take a kiss between Mulder and “Scully” in shadow any day. The truth is that I’m glad the kiss happens mostly in the dark because I love that romantic air of mystery and I’m even gladder that Mulder and Scully didn’t become a television couple yet. Else what would I have had to look forward to? Besides, Mulder kissed her like a man who had thought long and hard about doing this before. That’s more than enough for me. And with a love confession on top of it? I remember nearly collapsing in shock and joy – I do believe there was screaming.

So does any of what we see on the 1939 version of the Queen Anne actually happen? The split screen moment between the two Scullys and Mulder’s ginger touch to his cheek would certainly have us believe so. Though the references to The Wizard of Oz sprinkled all through the episode and the fact that we see our hero conked out at the beginning would indicate that this is all a very realistic fantasy inside Mulder’s head, or maybe a world that is real but is only real because he created it.

I don’t care, really. I just want this episode to come out in HD so that my life can be complete.

A+

P.S. You know she punched him because she enjoyed that kiss a little too much, right?

Puddin Tame:

Mark Snow’s score is like another character in this episode.

For that matter, so is the camera.

I hadn’t noticed before that the guy who plays Thor’s Hammer in 1939 is the same Agent who overhears part of Scully’s conversation with the Lone Gunmen in 1998.

I can’t figure out how Kersh’s character winds up in the bowels of the ship in 1939. How does that represent his position in Mulder’s life? Well, I suppose no one would have believed he was a Nazi…

I have ransacked my brain and I can only think of two episodes where Scully ever wears a dress, this one and “En Ami” (7×15).

Agent Fowley is absent from this whole play. Interesting. Perhaps that brewing love triangle would have distracted too much from the action. I tend to think so.

I had hoped that Chris Carter’s experimental episodes, you know, the ones he helmed from beginning to end, would be a once-a-year occurrence, but alas. We get a similarly experimental if not quite as ambitious episode later in the season in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) but the next time Chris Carter gives us a distinctly “Chris Carteresque” episode will be Season 9’s “Improbable” (9×14), so you might want to unbuckle your seatbelt for that wait.

No Germans were harmed in the making of this episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Well, you… you can relax. There’s no war going on. The world is at peace. There’s a little trouble over at our White House, but that’ll blow over… so to speak.

———————-

Scully: I want you to do me a favor. It’s not negotiable. Either you do it or I kill you, you understand?
Spender: You okay, Agent Scully?
Scully: No. I’m not. I’m a gun ready to go off so don’t test me, Spender. Don’t even think about trying to weasel me.

———————–

Kersh’s Secretary: I was sent to come get you.
Scully: Yeah, I was waiting for Agent Spender, he was, uh… I’m supposed to pick up a delivery from him.
Kersh’s Secretary: Agent Spender is with Assistant Director Kersh.
Scully: That rat bastard!

———————–
Mulder: Hey, Scully.
Scully: Yes?
Mulder: I love you.
Scully: Oh, brother.