Tag Archives: The Host

Chimera 7×16: You and me got more in common than you know.


Chimera131

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.

‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’

‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.

‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’

Ah, suburbia. Where happy little families live happy, normal little lives.

Unless they’re on The X-Files in which case unhappiness is bound to find them. And if they won’t admit it’s found them, someone might just go mad. Or grow feathers. It’s a toss up, really.

Take Ellen Adderly, whose pent up anger has turned her quite mad. She’s so upset that her Norman Rockwell life is falling apart that her dissociative rage has manifested as a split personality disorder. When she’s not Susie Homemaker, she transforms into a… a what? A crow monster? Is that even a thing?

Let me preface my complaint by saying I quite like this episode. In fact, I like it so much I’ve surprised myself. I remembered enjoying it originally, but the details were fuzzy so I got to relive it, not quite from scratch, but with eyes ready to observe. I consider that a plus since, up until recently, there were no new X-Files forthcoming and, inevitably, there will always be a finite number of them. Anything akin to a newish watch is appreciated by me.

But this otherwise classically trained Monster of the Week episode has a few weaknesses, the main one being that the monster isn’t scary in the least. The second is that despite attempts to distract the audience, the answer to the mystery is fairly obvious within the first ten minutes of the show. Sure, the teaser makes it look like we’re in for an X-Files/Mean Girls crossover, but no one believes that the working class Jenny Uphouse is the killer. That would be too easy. The next suspect in line is Ellen Adderly, since she’s the only adult the monster appears to who doesn’t wind up dead.

The third weakness is that the monster feels familiar. We’ve seen something similar in “Arcadia” (6×13), another episode that exposes the seamy underbelly of suburbia. Though there, the homeowners collectively created a monster through their out of control desire for perfection. I’m also reminded of “The Walk” (3×7), even though there Leonard Trimble uses astral projection to psychically take vengeance on his enemies when he’s physically unable to.

So, the monster doesn’t excite me. Then again, neither did The Flukeman.

What does excite me is that, like with “Theef” (7×14), I get a vintage X-Files vibe from this episode. I’m happy to report that the weather is dreary and atmospheric. Not that they could have planned that, but it looks like rainy season in Southern California was working to the production’s advantage. The story, maybe by virtue of feeling familiar, comes across as something that would have fit well in Season 3 or 4. Also like the old days, it manages to be quite humorous without ever feeling “light.” (You know I love “light,” but they can’t all be like that.)

The interactions between Mulder and Scully over the phone are priceless. Over fifteen years after first seeing it I was still laughing aloud. I’m surprised I don’t see this episode quoted more often, especially considering how ship-heavy the fandom is. We haven’t had a game of Telephone this good since “Chinga” (5×10)!

Seeing Scully stuck in squalor while Mulder lives it up in Leave It To Beaver land, eating gourmet meals and having his shirts pressed, is a hoot. And we all enjoyed Mulder admitting that he has an atypical “significant other,” right? Because he doesn’t have a significant other, he has a Scully. But since round about Season 2 or 3, the depth of their relationship has basically precluded any other significant others for either of them. “Not in the widely understood definition of the term” is right. Then again, if that’s the case, then it would seem to contradict the upcoming “all things” (7×17), but we’ll get to that.

Verdict:

Just because there are roses in the garden doesn’t mean crazy isn’t in bloom. They’re all crazy in this town. They’re mad to think that they can live phony lives and get away with it.

That Sheriff especially must’ve been crazy to try to juggle three women at once. I’m surprised he made it to the end of the episode alive. Or maybe he’s supposed to live with the knowledge that his behavior triggered all this death and mayhem. Ellen had to break every mirror in sight to avoid seeing who she really was. What did he have to do?

All in all, a good solid offering and the best writer David Amann has given us so far.

B+

Crow’s Feet:

In which Mulder gets beaten up by a girl.

If you wanted a divorce, Sheriff, why did you impregnate Ellen so she could “lock you up good?” She didn’t get pregnant on her own, you know.

What’s with The X-Files and mirrored ceilings?

It turns out that Gina Mastrogiocomo, who plays Jenny, died in 2001 and this was her final performance. That made me sad! She was in Goodfellas and that’s one of my favorite movies.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Well, I hope we catch her so she can tell us… before I have to spend another night here. You know, Mulder, I don’t know about you but I find this all very depressing, this round-the-clock exposure to the seamy underbelly.

Mulder: That’s the job, Scully: vigilance in the face of privation, the sheer will that it takes to sit in this crappy room spying on the dregs of society until our suspect surfaces. There’s something ennobling in that.

[Mulder’s phone rings]

Mulder: [On phone] Mulder. Now? All right. [To Scully] I got to go. [Leaves]

Scully: [In disbelief] Mulder…?

———————–

Mulder: [On phone] Well, she’ll come, you know? It’s just a matter of time. She’ll show up. I’m sure of that.

Scully: [On phone] Yeah, well not before I die of malnutrition. [Disgustedly picks up and drops a gross-looking slice of pizza]

Mulder: [On phone] Hey, Scully, tough it out. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

[Ellen Adderly goes to dress up Mulder’s plate of gourmet food with the fixings]

Mulder: [To Ellen] No, no, no, no. No capers, thank you.

Scully: [On phone] I’m sorry, what?

Mulder: [On phone] I said, “What a… what a crazy caper.” I’ll talk to you later and, uh, keep warm. Bye.

———————–

Mulder: [On phone] Mulder.

Scully: [On phone] Mulder, when you find me dead, my desiccated corpse propped up staring lifelessly through the telescope at drunken frat boys peeing and vomiting into the gutter, just know that my last thoughts were of you… and how I’d like to kill you.

Mulder: [On phone] I’m sorry, who is this?

———————–

Ellen: Do you have a … a significant other?

Mulder: Um, not in the widely understood definition of that term.

———————–

Mulder: So you were having an affair with both Jenny and Martha Crittendon?

Sheriff Adderly: [Nods]

Mulder: I got to hand it to you, Sheriff. You put the service back into “protect and serve.”

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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.

S.R. 819 6×10: At least you didn’t get your ear bit off.


Call Dr. Scully.

I’m in love with Assistant Director Walter Skinner.

And I know I’m not the only one. For all those who have gone into withdrawal after the admittedly extended period of light-hearted antics that make up the first third of Season 6, we’re about to have four heavy-duty episodes in a row. Sigh no more, ladies. Sigh no more.

Krycek was a deceiver ever. And the official battle between him and Skinner has begun, though it’s been brewing since “The Blessing Way” (3×1) when Krycek and Luis Cardinal put a hurtin’ on Skinner in the stairwell of a hospital. It escalated after Skinner handcuffed Krycek to his balcony in “Tunguska” (4×9) and left him to suffer from exposure. See why revenge is never the answer?

Not that the stoically upright Skinner is a vengeful kinda guy, though it’s clear from his introspective soliloquies in this episode that he doesn’t consider himself any sort of hero.

Well, I do. And Scully’s right, Skinner judges himself too harshly.

Yes, he had to compromise himself early on in his relationship with Mulder and Scully, but it’s obvious Cigarette-Smoking Man had an unpleasant hold on his career, perhaps even wielding blackmail as a weapon. But no sooner does he get the chance than Skinner bucks CSM’s authority and aids Mulder in his quest as early as “Ascension” (2×6). Even before that he showed signs of sympathy. Remember his, “This should have been an X-File” comment in “The Host” (2×2)?

He proved to be Mulder and Scully’s protector in episodes like “End Game” (2×17) where he pummels Mulder’s location out of Mr. X in an effort to save his life and in “Paper Clip” (3×2) when he extorts the safe return of Mulder and Scully out of CSM by threatening to release classified information on the conspiracy. In fact, it’s that episode where Skinner officially crawls out from under CSM’s nefarious shadow. Too bad his hard-won independence doesn’t last long. By the time we reach “Avatar” (3×21), CSM has cooked up a cold dish of revenge framing Skinner for murder. And while Mulder and Scully… and his soon to be ex-wife… deliver Skinner out of that trap, he willingly walks back into CSM’s clutches in “Memento Mori” (4×15) in order to, what else? Save Scully. By “Zero Sum” (4×21) he’s a patsy again, but though his position may be compromised his loyalty never is.

Despite not being much older than they are, Skinner plays the harsh but protective father to Mulder and Scully. He’s willing to get his hands dirty so that they don’t have to, not because his conscience is seared but because the soldier in him is willing to sacrifice to win the war. If Skinner were to die now he would not die in vain. Mulder and Scully would have been dead long ago if not for him.

But not once did it occur to me that Skinner might actually die, no more than I though Mulder might really be dead at the end of “Gethsemene” (4×24), which is the best evidence I can give of Skinner’s unofficial status as the third lead on The X-Files; so indispensable has this character become, this character that was never intended by Chris Carter to be a major role, that it’s hard to take the threat of his death seriously.

I never believed they’d do it, but Chris Carter & Co. did consider it. Mulder and Scully no longer worked under Skinner so he was no longer absolutely vital to the plot and because he had changed over the years from a mysterious and potentially dangerous figure to a stalwart ally, he had become too predictable, too reliable. Fortunately for Skinner lovers, the plot potential in this new hold Krycek gains over Skinner convinced The Powers That Be that interesting things could still be done with the character. Thank heavens because can you imagine Season 8 with no Skinner? ::shudders::

The question is, how does a man as self-sufficient as Skinner, who has already escaped the clutches of CSM himself, wind up with his life in the hands of Ratboy? I confess, I never really understood the plot till now so for those fans as slow on the uptake as I am, here’s a rundown:

It all starts with Tunisia. And if that sets off bells of recognition in your head, it should. If I didn’t know better, I’d say there were some oblique implications here that Syndicate leader Strughold who, as we see in Fight the Future, has his base of operations is in Tunisia, is behind the S.R. 819 conspiracy. That would also explain how Krycek originally got involved since last we saw him in “The End” (5×20) he was working for the Syndicate under the authority of Well-Manicured Man. Since Well-Manicured Man is now deceased (sniffle), it’s safe to say Krycek’s loyalties within the organization have moved on. Or safer to say that his only real loyalty is to himself.

Krycek is working on his own in keeping Skinner alive. We can assume he wants him alive and at his mercy so that he can use him for his own agenda later. The Syndicate has a man at the F.B.I. in Jeffrey Spender, now Krycek has his own man on the inside, reluctant though he may be.

The original plan was to export this potentially dangerous nanotechnology to Tunisia, and possibly into the hands of Strughold and the Syndicate, under the guise of the World Health Organization. Before that happened, S.R. 819 had to pass inspection by scientist Kenneth Orgel and the F.B.I.’s own Skinner, a safeguard that was usually a mere formality. However, Orgel understands the potential consequences of the nanotechnology falling into the wrong hands and goes to warn Skinner, but is infected to keep him from talking. Skinner too is infected and is supposed to be killed but Krycek intervenes.

From what Mulder says to Skinner at the end of the episode and the surprised look on Scully’s face when Skinner claims not to be able to recognize the bearded man who tried to kill him, it looks like Mulder and Scully are aware that Krycek is behind all this. But they still don’t know what he’s up to and they certainly don’t know why Skinner refuses to give him up. As in the first Skinner-centric episode, “Avatar”, Mulder and Scully’s concern for their former boss is touching. As before, they drive the investigation to save Skinner only this time to better effect because Skinner doesn’t sit passively, fatalistically by while they work. The determination he starts this episode with must make it especially grating on him to have to slip right back into his old compromising ways.

Verdict:

I can’t say I love “S.R. 819” the way I love Skinner himself because though there’s a tangible sense of urgency, the plot is a little obscure and aside from Skinner’s pulsing veins, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. But I do appreciate the potential mythology implications and I welcome the return of Krycek with open arms. I was one of those taken by surprise when he reappeared. Maybe even “Stevie Wonder would see that one comin’”, but I didn’t.

If my memory serves me correctly, and that’s by no means a guarantee, this was the series’ final Skinner-centric episode. That’s rather surprising considering there are three more seasons to go but it makes it all the more irritating that there’s no resolution to what happened to Skinner’s wife Karen, a character both introduced and discarded back in “Avatar”.

I wasn’t looking for anything detailed. A brief mention from a hospital orderly would have sufficed. “The patient is Walter Skinner. Widowed. Works for the F.B.I.” or “Walter Skinner – Divorced. No known relatives. In case of emergency contact Special Agent Dana Scully.” See how easy that would have been?

My only consolation is that I think there could be a cleverly veiled reference to “Avatar” here:

Mulder: This morning, you woke up…
Skinner: I woke up.
Mulder: Alone?
Skinner: Yes. Alone.

Then again, that’s probably wishful thinking on my part.

B+

The Peanut Gallery:

While I don’t think anyone fell for it, those opening moments of the episode where they would have us believe that Mulder is the F.B.I. agent about to die are well done. I quite like the idea of scaring the audience. If only that silly episode preview hadn’t ruined the surprise…

We haven’t seen Senator Matheson since “Nisei” (3×9) and the truth is, I don’t even remember him in it. The connections in congress Mulder so famously depends upon in the “Pilot” (1×79) have all but become obsolete in the current stage of the mythology. However, I’m glad they brought Matheson back one last time, if only to drive home the point that Mulder has fewer people he can trust than even he once believed. That makes the fact that one of his allies is now seriously compromised… and that he doesn’t know it… even more poignant.

Wouldn’t it have been awesome if Senator Matheson were secretly a member of the Syndicate?

It makes me a little sad to think the ear-biting references might be lost on this new generation.

Mulder and Scully are forbidden any contact with Skinner. Don’t they know there are cameras at the F.B.I.?

Parts of the movie score are recycled several times in this episode. And there’s an overhead shot of the highway that looks recycled as well – there’s no way that shot was in a television budget.

I’ve never read the fanfic, but I’m sure the Skinner/Scully Shippers had a field day with this episode.

That abandoned warehouse set is striking. I especially enjoy the lighting when Mulder walks in on the Senator.

I recently found out that Nicholas Lea (Krycek) is about to guest star on Supernatural. That’s an interesting coincidence since both Steven Williams (Mr. X) and Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) have guest starred on that show for a series of episodes. Ah, when fate binds souls together…

This reminds me of the good old days when Scully often stared in wonder and computer screens looking at scientific data that shouldn’t exist.

I dig the “Chinga” (5×10) reference, John Shiban. I dig it.

Best Quotes:

Skinner: I was boxing. I must’ve gotten tagged.
Nurse: Yes, you did. At least you didn’t get your ear bit off. That’s something, right?

——————-

Dr. Plant: Well, the good news is… your dilation’s back to normal. Plus you still have both your ears.
Skinner: I heard that one.

——————-

Dr. Plant: Well, you’re lucky. He’s on a government HMO – no one’s even bothered to handle the samples yet.

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


On the Big Picture Front

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

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

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

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

On the Relationship Front

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

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

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

On the Whole

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

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

On the New Tip

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

“Most Improved”
Revelations

“Desperately in need of a rewrite”
Syzygy

“Victim of too many desperate rewrites”
Teso Dos Bichos

“The Copycat”
2Shy

“The Sleeper Hit”
Wetwired

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

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

D.P.O. 3×3: No, man, not the cows again.


Thor: The Prequel.

“D.P.O.” marks the first in a series of episodes revolving around adolescent turmoil that continues all the way to Season 9’s “Lord of the Flies” (9×6). Is something so pedestrian as teenage angst the right choice after the mythology has whipped The X-Files’ audience into a fan frenzy?

Personally, I’m not averse to it. With this episode the series slips right back into the status quo, only taking a brief moment from the mouth of Scully to acknowledge the events immediately preceding it. That might irk some and I can understand why it’s hard to accept it when the adrenaline stops pumping. But unlike later shows like Lost, The X-Files never intended for the mythology to evolve every episode but gives us breaks in between; not to mention there are several different genres contained within one series here and the episodes fluctuate between types. I admit I’m biased because I love Monster of the Week episodes and while this one may not be as memorable as earlier ones such as “The Host” (2×2) I do find it’s surprisingly good at times.

For that, I have to give credit mostly to guest stars Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black, both of whom play younger versions of the types of roles they’ll later become famous for. Ribisi gives us a frighteningly convincing Darren Oswald, a brooding loser seemingly passed over by a life he was never interested in living in the first place. Jack Black is, well, Jack Black. Here they call him “Zero” but that’s merely a formality. Thankfully, he gives us a hint of his dramatic capabilities and, even more thankfully, he doesn’t sing. Actually, my favorite scene in the episode is Zero’s death scene which is surprisingly tragic. I actually pity the anti-freeze addled adolescent as he begs for his life in a voice edged with real panic.

Not that Darren cared. Darren didn’t care about anything or anyone besides the object of his obsession, Mrs. Kiveat. In fact, he’s so disconnected from reality that he doesn’t evoke the sympathy that underdogs typically do. He’s greasy and gross and one look at him almost compels you to snub him. One gets the feeling that before lightning transformed him into something out of X-Men, he got his kicks through porn and cow-tipping. Did it matter to him that Mrs. Kiveat was teaching him remedial math? He resents being thought so little of by his mother, but not with any sense of drive to prove her wrong but with the cold knowledge that he could zap her like a fly.

Darren kills just like he’s killing insects, without any more regard. Or maybe, more accurately, he kills as though he were defeating a video game opponent and with just as little expression. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t rank up there will villains like Tooms; he kills for amusement rather than for evil, like a bratty two-year-old who just learned how to annoy the cat.

Consequently, his obsession with Mrs. Kiveat doesn’t hold much emotional punch either. After all, it’s not as though he’s clinging to the one person who gave him hope or some such drivel; she’s hot and he’s coveting his neighbor’s wife and that’s that. The actress who plays Mrs. Kiveat is perfect for the role because she’s lovely enough that you can understand Darren’s teenage obsession but you can also feel her physical revulsion to him and her guilt as a teacher for feeling that kind of repulsion toward a student. She goes with him in the end at least in part to prevent him from being shot, but she goes as a lamb to the slaughter and ultimately can’t go through with it.

And who could blame her? For once, here’s a teenager who isn’t absolved of his guilt by parents being blamed or by casting aspersions on a neglectful society. Darren Oswald was just nasty to begin with and there’s no sense trying to rehabilitate him; his brain is already fried like an egg. The lightning is really a physical manifestation of his rebellion and anger, anger that empowers him and gives him confidence not to take part in society, but to act out his Mortal Kombat fantasies.

So…what?:

This is a very solid episode. Maybe it’s not what most were hoping for during the series’ initial run, but I think that looking back, without the urgency of solving the mystery of the mythology, it can be appreciated for what it is.

Darren Oswald may not be the most strikingly evil villain, but he’s memorable just the same. He causes destruction because it amuses him, as if he’s channeling every negative teenage impulse along with that lightning. And, really, what would be more frightening than a teenage boy with superhuman powers? A teenage boy who isn’t Clark Kent?

Come to think of it, I wonder if that’s how this started; maybe writer Howard Gordon thought about what would happen if wholesome farm boy Clark Kent were actually a hick pervert with too much boredom on his hands. Antifreeze: The New Kryptonite.

In the end, like a video game, he self-destructs, and it is a little unsatisfying that Mulder and Scully are powerless to stop him. That last shot at the end is one of the most creative final shots the series ever gave us, however, with Darren mindlessly changing channels as Chris Carter’s name pops up on the screen. At this point The X-Files was quickly becoming a phenomenon and it shows. The production value is better and Scully’s suits actually fit her at the waist.

If it wasn’t for the fact that the climax fizzles out so abruptly I’d grade it even higher.

B+

Questions:

Why is EMS about to jump-start a man’s heart when he hasn’t stopped breathing yet?

Comments:

That car in the parking lot should have/would have been taken away long before Mulder and Scully arrived. For a while there the writers had Mulder and Scully on a semi-realistic timeline, but I see that’s over.

Best Quotes:

Scully: I don’t understand.
Sheriff Teller: That’s as clear as glass.

——————-

Scully: Feel free to jump in any time.
Mulder: Why? You were doing just fine.

——————–

Darren Oswald: Why do you want to watch all that stuff anyway? They’re all a bunch of losers.
Mrs Oswald: Cause they’re on TV. I don’t see you on TV.

——————-

Darren Oswald: Hey, you know, I think you ought to be some place else right now. Cause I’m in the mood for a little barbeque.
Bart Liquori: No, man, not the cows again.

——————-

Scully: Here we go. Well, considering it’s a partial imprint, there’s a lot of information here.
Mulder: That’s great, now can you make me a little cherub that squirts water?
Scully: The tread looks like a standard military boot. Men’s… size 8 1/2.
Mulder: 8 1/2? That’s pretty impressive, Scully.
Scully: Well, it says it right here on the bottom.

F. Emasculata 2×22: This is Smokey and the Bandit.


Hey, Mister...

“F. Emasculata” is famous for being one of the grossest, if not the grossest episode that The X-Files has ever done. It even outdoes “The Host” (2×2). Whatever synapses are misfiring in my brain, I actually love this episode for its gratuitous distaste. I scrunch up my mouth and watch through my fingers every time.

This episode relies largely on the distrust of Big Pharma that was pervasive in the ‘90s. Who are we kidding? It still is. Somehow, it’s easy to believe that a big, faceless corporation would be willing to subject the human race to anything to build its empire. We Americans in particular are distrustful of any large concentration of power and money. I’m only touching on this lightly, but it’s exactly that collective fear that is at the heart of the mythology; there’s a small group of men hoarding their power and saving themselves at the expense of the little guy.

I have to say I had forgotten how much overlap there was in early seasons between the overarching mythology and minor, mini conspiracies perpetrated by the Federal Government. CSM is back for the first time since “One Breath” (2×8) not because extra terrestrials are involved but to give the goings on in this episode a diabolical edge. Enjoyable as it is to see him, I’m not so sure his presence serves the plot. Scully later reiterates everything he says but in a less sinister fashion and with more conviction. Regardless, once again the government is running secret tests on innocent civilians only this time they have a partner.

Those who have been following for a while know that I refer to these types of episodes as “Half-Caff” X-Files. They’re not paranormal or supernatural, instead there’s a science or technology that the government is trying desperately to control. “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) was the first of its species. I enjoy these types because they tend to be a little more scientific. “F. Emasculata” is not. The science of the disease is never explained. Why should it have been? The thrill isn’t in discovering its cause it’s in watching those horrible boils explode.

Speaking of a lack of science, how can Scully possibly be as stupid as she’s presented??? She’s a doctor. She knows that germs can be spread in a multitude of ways, yet in the face of a contagion whose method of communication is unknown, she opens up a sealed body bag with only a pair of gloves and a cheap mask. If it’s bad enough that the bodies are being incinerated, it’s bad enough that you should put on a containment suit, woman. And then she takes off her mask!! I’m incredulous, that’s what I am. If we’re going to be perfectly honest, it’s because of Scully’s recklessness that Dr. Osbourne dies.

Maybe to make up for the sheer lunacy of her actions in that scene, we later get a glimpse of Heroic Scully. Why does Scully keep from Mulder that she might be dying? Either that’s too heavy a conversation to have over the phone and/or she knows Mulder would stop what he’s doing and go to her rather than put his full effort into stopping this thing. Even if Scully’s stupid, she is sweet.

On a last film school related note, much of this episode is filmed in shadow. I know, I know. That’s pretty much every episode of The X-Files. But even more so here, when CSM first appears on the scene, he’s filmed almost entirely in the dark except for his eyes. At other moments, actors are lit from a single light source such as the fire from the incinerator or a slot through a cell door creating a heightened sense of tension and drawing our minds away from any holes the story might have. It’s no surprise that we have Rob Bowman to thank for this.

Conclusion:

How much should people know? Does the public have a right to know everything? Does knowledge always help, or can it sometimes endanger? “You can’t protect the public by lying to it.” Oh, Mulder, you know better. At least Scully is able to talk some sense into him. This means CSM was right too, for once. Could he be right when it comes to the mythology as well?? If you take it as a whole, “F. Emasculata” is arguing for full disclosure, only I’ll give it credit for acknowledging the risk involved.

Now, while I thoroughly enjoy this episode I’ll be the first to tell you that the whole premise is faulty. Mulder claims Pink Pharmaceuticals conducted this secret experiment to avoid having to go through years of FDA trials and get their drug on the market faster. The whole point of FDA trials, first of all, is that they are a line of defense between manufacturers and the American public that can’t be circumvented; you have to show proof of all your collected data. Ergo, a secret experiment is useless when it comes to getting FDA approval. But what really gets me is that I don’t know what Mulder’s on about since there’s no drug being tested at all! So what would they get approved? They’re spreading a disease just to see what it will do, to understand the science behind it (which vaguely reminds me of the Tuskeegee Experiments). It’s not a stretch to conclude that they’re creating a problem so that they’ll have a jump on the competition in learning how to solve it and eventually earn themselves revenue. But there are some serious variables involved before that can happen, as the events of this episode bear out.

I bet you think after all that griping I’m about to downgrade this episode. How could I do that when I enjoy it so much? So the plot has some pitfalls. Whatever excuse they need to bring me those boils a-poppin’ is just fine.

A-

Questions:

Wouldn’t Pink or the government have warned the U.S. Marshalls that there’s a contagion? These escaped men pose a threat to their testing as they’re outside of the focus group and unmonitored. The situation is tumbling out of control, something they don’t want because that would only draw more attention to what they’re doing. You would think that they’d make more of an effort to contain the situation by preventing others from being infected, if only so that no one would catch on to what’s actually happening.

Comments:

It’s interesting to see Dean Norris (U.S. Marshall) in his younger days before Breaking Bad, a series he stars in that’s written and created by fellow X-Files alum Vince Gilligan. Plug.

Best Quotes:

Scully: According to the briefing, prisoners escaped by hiding in a laundry cart.
Mulder: I don’t think the guards are watching enough prison movies.

——————–

Smoking Man: In 1988 there was an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in Sacramento California. The truth would have caused panic. Panic would have cost lives. We control the disease by controlling the information.
Mulder: You can’t protect the public by lying to them.
Smoking Man: It’s done every day.
Mulder: I won’t be a party to it. [To Skinner] What about you?
Smoking Man: You’re already a party to it. How many people are being infected while you stand here not doing your job? Ten? Twenty? What’s the truth, Agent Mulder?

——————–

Mulder: What about you? Where do you stand?
Skinner: I stand right on the line that you keep crossing.

——————-

Skinner: Agent Mulder, I’m saying this as a friend. Watch your back. This is just the beginning.

Fresh Bones 2×15: No more magic than a pair of fuzzy dice.


A compass by any other name.

We open with a family that appears to be having some issues. At first you think it’s another case of a man dissatisfied with his life, his family, his career. That is until you see the maggots in his bowl of cereal. Once again, The X-Files does a wonderful job of playing with our presumptions.

Also in true X-Files fashion, it takes the familiar Zombie legend and legitimizes it with science. Here’s an idea that you dismissed as a kid made intelligent, even feasible. With that said, you have to keep in mind that “Fresh Bones” has to be experienced, not understood. It’s not the plot that’s gripping, it’s the idea, the suggestion. This is an episode that’s truly supposed to be watched.

Isn’t all TV supposed to be watched, you say? Well, for this episode, the visuals are all one has to hold on to. It’s certainly not the acting and, as I mentioned, not the writing. Instead it’s the camera angles, the frightening images that it burns into your retinas. And I’m not knocking that. In this case it’s sufficient for entertainment.

Whatever you may think of the story, the production is top notch even after all these years. Already the most recent episodes are so much more polished than they were even at the beginning of the season. Just compare these last three episodes to “Little Green Men” (2×1), “The Host” (2×2), and “Blood (2×3).” It isn’t just that the subject matter is more shocking, it’s the direction, the acting (for the most part). They’re getting the hang of this thing.

One thing I had forgotten about over the years is how often crossover took place between the mythology and the stand-alone episodes in these early seasons. It doesn’t always make sense. Why would X go all the way to North Carolina just to tell Mulder that guards were abusing refugees? Doesn’t he have aliens, green ones, to exterminate? I smell an unnecessary plot device.

…And the Verdict is:

This episode doesn’t have very many fans and while I personally like it, I can understand why that is. We’re not left with many resolved questions in the end and it falls prey to Season 2’s An Excess of Red Herrings Syndrome. The plot is at points too mysterious for it’s own good. And there’s some political rhetoric thrown in which I confess I don’t fully understand because I was too young to know about what was happening at the time in regards to refugees. But for me, it walks that fine line of leaving the audience with questions and yet giving them a satisfying resolution. No, I don’t know what all went down but I know that Wharton was behind it. Watching him receive his comeuppance is enough.

There’s an abundance of striking images that are hard to forget. Maggots in the cereal, Wharton buried alive, bleeding meat, the dog’s corpse, and of course, a man digging his way out of Scully’s hand. That was a straight-up horror moment right there. In fact, it’s best to think of this episode as a horror film in miniature. Do you complain about the lack of a plot in Nightmare on Elm Street? No. It wasn’t made to have a plot. Take it for what it is.

Me, I’m just loving that The X-Files has reached the point where you can tune in every week and know that you’re going to see something freaky.

B

Random Questions:

What secret was Wharton looking for? The secret to immortality or something? Was he trying to bring Bouvier back from the grave? You’d think he’d know better than to resurrect a man he murdered. That doesn’t a happy reunion make.

Last we left off with X, he had warned Mulder that the men who took Scully would be at his apartment that night and claimed that they couldn’t see each other again for several weeks. Why did Mulder think that would be the end of their relationship? Because he didn’t take X up on his offer but instead went to the hospital to be with Scully? How did Mulder interpret that vague calling card so easily? 

Random Thoughts:

Scully’s a doctor. She knows about infections and she would know to get that wound checked out. Not only that, but with all this talk about poisons and toxins she’d be even more on the alert. Instead, she rubs her hand idly and ignores the obvious. But as long as it gives us an excuse to have that scene in the car where Scully goes all wild-eyed, I’m cool.

Scully is way too obvious when she looks out the window after Mulder tells her they’re being followed. Where’s that covert training, G-Woman?

Rob Bowman was probably capable of making even the most ridiculous episode fun to watch.

An X-Files episode in New Orleans would have been an utterly awesome match made in Heaven. The Skeleton Key meets Silence of the Lambs.

Best Quotes:

Scully: [On finding a bag of frogs] Maybe I should kiss a few and find out if one is Guttierez.

—————–

Colonel Wharton: I’m sorry. I’m having my breakfast.
Mulder: That’s alright. We already ate.