Tag Archives: The Lone Gunmen

This 11×2: You’ve really turned a corner.


 

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Adorbs.

 

So, I realize the Twitter generation is probably beside themselves with Glee right now. Me? I am amused. I am also confused.

When we left off last episode, Chris Carter and I weren’t exactly seeing eye to eye. He was gazing somewhere around my kneecaps. Skinner had just been propositioned by that immortal cockroach, CSM, and he smelled like it. Mulder is not fond of the smell of Morleys and told him so. Ergo, we find ourselves at the beginning of “This” episode with Mulder and Scully reluctant to step within two feet of Skinner, they’re so distrustful of him.

But let me take a step back. Before we even get there, how ‘bout them shootouts, eh? I bet you didn’t know that Chris Carter lent Mulder and Scully out to former X-Files writers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa so that they could get special ops training from Jack Bauer. Mine is not to judge, mine is only to say that I thought the opening teaser was a 9 that would have been a 10 if there were one, two, three fewer schizophrenic cuts during the action. Even with the frenetic action, those few minutes were a far sight better than 90% of Season 10 and on par with the other 10%… all of which occurred during “Home Again” (10×2).

Still, I would’ve appreciated just a tad more emotion on Mulder and Scully’s part over Langly’s sudden resurrection. But like I said, mine isn’t to judge.

Back to Mulder and Scully’s unjustified mistreatment of the one person in this world they can trust besides each other, Skinner explains this hullabaloo was due to an Executive Order from the White House. The White House has hired private contractor Purlieu to question Mulder and Scully about… well, he never says what about. About Langly? But how did the White House know to engage Purlieu before Langly contacted Mulder and Scully? The unholy trinity, the inverse images of the Lone Gunmen, they showed up before Langly raised his staticky head.

I’m assuming Skinner was out there in the middle of the Virginia woods because he was on his way to warn Mulder and Scully, but I’m not sure why either the White House or Purlieu would tell Skinner ahead of time what they were about to do, especially since Skinner’s history with Mulder and Scully has to be well known. Heck, it’s a part of those digitized X-Files that have now been disseminated across the globe.

Meanwhile, back in the Unremarkable House, Purlieu tries to trace Langly through Mulder’s phone and those Russian Reds trigger a… KILL SWITCH!!!

Glen Morgan, please pat yourself on the back for name dropping one of my favorite episodes: “Kill Switch” (5×11). Somebody’s been eating their Wheaties and checking their X-Files Wiki. I mean, the knowledge dropping… Mulder watching Deep Throat’s funeral through binoculars, Mulder and Langly’s shared birthday, KILL SWITCH!!!

In fact, for a minute, I thought this was going to be a repeat of the “Kill Switch” plot, that two lovers uploaded their consciousnesses into an AI and sprouted internet wings. Speaking of lovers, I bet you didn’t know Langly had a girlfriend.

And she’s normal.

I’d love to buy it, 1013. I really would. But, I don’t have that much money in my pocket.

Anyway. This frighteningly normal girlfriend of Langly’s did an abnormal thing. She made a pact with Langly to give their brains to Purlieu so that they could “live” eternally (?) in a computer simulation after death.

There are many things I don’t understand about this, but since you and I both have places to be, let me limit myself to two:

  1. What is so spectacular about merely storing your memory if your goal is to live together forever? It isn’t like they’re truly conscious. Everyone in this episode stressed that this is only a simulation. And the simulation will end, as it did, when someone pulls the plug.
  2. Why did the real person have to be dead before their memory within the simulation could “come into consciousness”? That’s awfully convenient to the plot.

Reasoned reasons or not, former girlfriend Karah Hamby leads Mulder and Scully on a Pub Quiz treasure hunt back to her classroom (puh-lease), where she schools them old school on a projector before Langly’s doppelganger rises from the dead just in time to kill her before dying again.

As it turns out, Langly handed over his mind to Purlieu with a plan already in said mind of how to test the simulation from the inside. You know, just in case paradise grew pale, which it did.

I suppose it puts a poop in your party when your mind is being mined by a shadowy Syndicate. I hesitate to capitalize “Syndicate”, but as far as we know, this new Syndicate represented by Erika Price is a continuation of the old Syndicate. The old set out to put the alien in humans, the new wants to put humans in space. And now we know the true purpose of the simulation, for all Erika Price tries to confuse Mulder with a smokescreen about evolution: the purpose is to use the greatest minds of a generation to gain the knowledge needed to colonize space. I gather asking a bunch of living MIT professors would let the cat out of the bag.

Not that Mulder would ever have considered the mind dump Price described as “evolution”.

Verdict:

You know what? I’m now less confused than I was when I started typing up these little musings. Funny how explaining what you don’t understand can help you.

This hard-earned clarity frees me up to enjoy this episode even more. Because while I may not be dancing a jig, I’m satisfied. Probably about as satisfied as this two-season revival is ever going to make me. I’m not quite at “Home Again” levels of satisfaction, but “This” just gave me something I never thought I’d have the pleasure of seeing again: A Half-Caff episode of The X-Files.

For the uninitiated, a Half-Caff episode revolves around an experimental technology or science that the government or a powerful private entity seeks to control and cover up. There’s a government conspiracy, just not one related to the mytharc. It’s a tradition that started way back in “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and ended in “Brand X” (7×19) after dying a slow death in popularity after Season 3. But now, the tradition continues.

In this case, it’s not the technology itself that’s so valuable, but the minds the technology gives Purlieu access to. Langly’s mind, even in its confused state, turns to Mulder.

It’s a touching thought. And Langly’s tearful recall of Scully, combined with Mulder and Scully banter that’s over a decade overdue, not to mention that classic early season evidence-erase ending, is nearly enough to get my heart rate up. Nearly.

Yes, maybe the plot is easier to decipher after a rewatch. And yes, the Mulder and Scully banter was old school on point… mostly.

I mean, I know Mulder can be silly. I welcome the return of The Incurable Sarcasm. But would he really be counting loudly in the stairwell when he and Scully are on a stealth mission? Sure, he would make fun of someone who hit on Scully. But would he do it in front of the security guard and break the ruse that’s supposed to get them in the building? Yes, Scully had her fair share of zingers. But would she really joke about alien butts?

Like I said, though. I’m not here to judge. And you know what? It wasn’t “My Struggle III” (11×1)… or I… or II… and it was good.

B+

The Questions:

Are there still no security cameras in the F.B.I. parking garage? Seriously? No guard? Nothing?

Why does Mulder have to be the one to kill CSM? Hmm?

Is Erika Price Mulder’s new nearly equal nemesis now that CSM has graduated to demigod?

How did Dr. Hamby get access to Langly’s tombstone to change the date? Did he leave her in his will?

How did she get access to Deep Throat’s tombstone to change the cross? Did he leave her in his will?

How did she know about Deep Throat’s connection to Mulder when he was buried under his real name and Mulder didn’t know his real name? Langly hacked the info and gave it to her because he knew she’d be able to use it when he was buried in Arlington cemetery one day even though he could have no way of knowing that?

Mulder recognized Deep Throat’s tombstone, among all these lookalike tombstones, as the one he saw from a distance, through binoculars, over 20 years ago? This, but he didn’t recognize his name on the tombstone?

So is Langly alive or not? You’ll notice that question is never truly answered.

The Backup:

The Bureau’s not in good standing with the White House these days. *snort*

“We can’t go to OUR HOME.” – You caught that, didn’t you?

And you also caught the “all things” (7×17) couch pose, yes?

Mulder and Scully made it through the 90’s without visiting an internet cafe, but here they are. And you thought internet cafes were extinct. I didn’t appreciate the PTSD “Trust No 1” (9×8) flashback, though. Scully StupidTM circa 2002.

Mulder’s taking evidence from crime scenes. Even his line delivery is back on point. I have mixed feelings about the “adorbs”, though.

Scully’s hair is so much better. It could still be even better, but at least it’s not embarrassing.

The day The X-Files references The X-Files referencing Silence of the Lambs. See “The Truth” (9×19/20), “The Jersey Devil” (1×4), and pretty much the entire plot of “Beyond the Sea” (1×12).

In case you were wondering about the 4th Gunman in the photo – This Man – The namesake of this episode?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Frohike look 57 to you when he died?

Scully: Frohike looked 57 the day he was born.

……………

Mulder: Who needs Google when you got Scully?

……………

Scully: Maybe he saw Mulder in his dreams.

Mulder: Who hasn’t?

Jump the Shark 9×15: Guys like that, they live forever.


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The Wrath of John

Spotnitz: Some months after the show had gone off the air, I was listening to The Wrath of Khan commentary and at the end of that movie, if you recall, Spock dies. And the producer, Harv Bennett, says that they tested it and people hated them, were so mad that they killed Spock. And then they went back and they added the scene which is the hopeful, optimistic scene, with Kirk on the bridge. And it changed the perception of the movie entirely. And I’ll say, looking back at this episode now, that’s one thing I might’ve done differently is found some way to give you that sense of uplift at the end, because it is just… grindingly sad at the end of this.

Too late. I AM BROKEN.

I almost don’t know where to begin with how sad this episode makes me. Some fourteen years after it aired and my face was all contorted like Jimmy Bond’s while I was watching this. There was jumping involved. And desperate whining. And, no. I’m not ashamed. It was the least I could do to mourn these guys.

Part of me gets it. I’m just geeky enough to have listened to the John Gillnitz (a portmanteau of writers John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, and Frank Spotnitz) commentary a few times over the years (don’t judge). I understand what they were thinking – The Lone Gunmen series had been canceled. The X-Files was ending. And while John Gillnitz may not have created the Lone Gunmen, that honor belongs to writing partners Glen Morgan and James Wong, they had taken the characters and run with them, given them a backstory, more prominence in the main series, and eventually their own show which John Gillnitz ran. They loved them like only fathers can and, with the fictional world the Gunmen lived in imploding around them, they wanted our geeksome trio to go out with a bang rather than fade into obscurity.

But they didn’t have to die.

I didn’t see it coming either. There I was, innocently enjoying the bountiful blessing of another Morris Fletcher voiceover, the only kind I like, when we get to the end of the teaser and I realize: They’re going to kill my boys!!! NOOOO!!!!

Honestly, at this point there was so little joy left in the show that losing the bright spot that the Lone Gunmen always provided felt like a finishing blow. (It felt like a finishing blow. The real finishing blow awaited us the next week.) Even so, and even though I’m still genuinely and unrepentantly bitter about the outcome of this episode, I can’t say it’s a bad episode. It’s actually the most engaging we’ve had in far too long.

Mainly, I want more of Michael McKean all the time. I want to dream about him in my sleep. I want to hear him when my alarm goes off in the morning. I want him to serve me my coffee at Starbucks (Sorry, Priscilla). For those who, like me, rank “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II” (6×5) among their favorite episodes, and those who, like me, enjoy The Lone Gunmen spinoff series, no heroic demise would have been complete without this most lovable of villains.

It’s such a perfect reunion of The Lone Gunmen’s main characters, including the always memorable Kimmy the Geek, twin brother of Jimmy the Geek. Why did it have to be wasted on such a tragedy?

If you listen to the DVD commentary, desperately looking for answers, as I have, then you’ll get the distinct impression that not only was the Fox network not fully behind The Lone Gunmen spinoff, but they also couldn’t have cared less about allowing for a closure episode on The X-Files. It sounds like part of the way John Gillnitz finally sold the idea successfully was by promising the big bang of the trio’s deaths. They had to promise this episode would be special.

“This episode almost never was because there was zero support for doing it,” Frank brings to light. “The studio was hostile to the idea and it was a constant fight to get the money and negotiate with the actors because they did not want to do it. We were determined, since this was the last year of The X-Files, that we were going to have our farewell with these characters. When we finally decided that this would be their death, it became a much stronger argument with the studio.” LAX-Files, pg. 218

Spotnitz: We wanted this to be very special and, sad to say, the way to do that, we realized, would be to make this their final appearance. It wouldn’t just be another Lone Gunmen episode, it would be the Lone Gunmen episode.

There are times when I feel resolution is overrated.

Gilligan: We did. We had many discussions about the ending, period, whether they should die or not. And I gotta say I never, I never wanted it to happen. But I think it’s absolutely the right way to end it… None of us did it lightly, to be sure… Ending with these three guys dying… there was a lot of hours of discussion about it: should we even do it, should we not. And at the end I think Frank and John are right about doing it because, as much as I love these characters, you want to see them go out as heroes. And we knew damn well, pardon my French, we’re never gonna see them again and, you know, that the series was coming to an end. We’re never gonna get The Lone Gunmen series going again so why not have them go out with a blaze of glory?

I get the perverse logic, I do. And it might’ve been one thing if they were any other recurring characters or dramatic guest stars. But the Lone Gunmen were such a sweet presence. They were like the lovable Lost Boys to Mulder’s Peter Pan. This is a fictional slaughter of the innocents.

Then having it happen as almost the coup de grace to a season full of disappointments… But I have to admit that, in some ways, it made the end of the series go down easier. How can the X-Files world keep spinning without the Gunmen? Yes, it is that serious.

The Lone Gunmen were also indispensably useful. I couldn’t imagine Mulder and Scully successfully countering government conspiracies and alien colonization without their hacking skills, especially now that Mulder’s out of the F.B.I.. Everyone needs a techno geek they can trust.

That’s how central to the story they had become that it was hard to imagine the action going forward without them involved in some aspect of it. I mean, what’s next? Skinner goes down swingin’? God forbid!!

Oh, X-Files. Everyone’s in agreement – It’s time to pack it in and call it a day. What is it called when you’ve passed jumping the shark? Hopping the whale? Skipping the giant squid?

Verdict:

You know what really kills me? Mulder wasn’t there. Scully and Skinner were barely there. (Though I understand there were scheduling issues so I’m giving everyone an emotional pass.)

You know what else kills me? The Gunmen knew what they were about to do. Why didn’t they run?? Someone, dive for it! Something!!!

There must be something really special about these guys that all these years later and I’m still yelling at my television screen. Or…. there’s something really “special” about me. Either way, I’m okay with that.

If they were going to take them out, I am glad that they died heroes. In the end, the Gunmen didn’t mess up at all. They kept Yves from killing the wrong man, for one. And if she had killed the wrong man, John Gillnitz would’ve been able to kill thousands of people without suspicion, for two.

Ah, John Gillnitz, our villain who symbolically dies along with the Gunman… just like our real life villains, the John Gillnitz trio who killed them. Those are the real Lone Gunmen, who despite my ravings I appreciate dearly. (The bitterness is real, it’s just compartmentalized.) And, hey, word on the street is that the Lone Gunmen are back from the dead in some capacity or other. Maybe one of these days John Gillnitz will resurrect too.

Vaya con Dios, amigos… And welcome back.

A-

Kung Fu:

So I take it Morris Fletcher and his wife broke up for good.

Oh, that’s right. Despite having read every X-File, Doggett wouldn’t have known about the “Dreamland” events since time reversed like it never happened.

I love the name Lois.

Teletubbies = Mind control

Please note that Vince Gilligan was the lone hold out against killing the Gunmen.

The actor who plays Dr. Houghton was also “Cobra” in “En Ami” (7×15).

That death scene – Is the space really airtight if they can hear each other?

All I want, all I want in life right now is a t-shirt that says:  “Langly Lives!”

Best Quotes:

Morris: Let me give you a hint. I used to work at Groom Lake, Nevada. Area 51? I was a man in black. “The” Men in Black. What you’ve never heard of us?

Doggett: I saw the movie.

Morris: Yeah, well… there were a lot of technical inaccuracies in that thing. Anyway, I’m ready to make a deal.

Doggett: What deal would that be?

Morris: The one that saves my furry pink ass.

———————–

Morris: This is pointless. These three monkeys couldn’t find stink in an outhouse.

———————–

Morris: Agents, I’m tellin’ ya, you don’t want these three involved. I mean, they don’t even have their ridiculous tinker toy gizmos. This place is like “How The Grinch Stole Radio Shack.”

 

Three Words 8×18: Fight the future.


 

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That sound you hear is me sobbing with joy.

Scully: Mulder, I don’t know if you’ll ever understand what it was like. First learning of your abduction, and then searching for you and finding you dead. And now to have you back and, uh… [Her voice cracks]

Mulder: Well, you act like you’re surprised.

Scully: I prayed a lot. And my prayers have been answered.

Mulder: [Indicates her growing belly] In more ways than one.

Scully: Yeah.

Mulder: I’m happy for you. I think I know… how much that means to you.

Scully: Mulder…

Mulder: I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be cold or ungrateful. I just… I have no idea where I fit in…  right now. I just, uh… I’m having a little trouble… processing… everything.

If you expected Mulder and Scully’s reunion to pick up at the warm and fuzzy place where it left off in “Deadalive” (8×15) you were mistaken. Mulder’s been abducted by aliens, tortured for almost a year, been returned dead or something that looked a little too close to it, been buried, exhumed, hooked up on tubes and given a rigorous course of medical treatments that barely allowed him to escape transforming into something inhuman. He’s come back to find he’s not dying despite having shelled out for a tombstone, his position on the X-Files has been filled by a stranger, and his partner and lover is knocked up. Oh, and Molly his fish died. He has some things to work through.

It makes sense for Mulder to feel out of sorts and angry. If anything, I wish he’d been given more time to work through those feelings. But with only six episodes left to wrap up David Duchovny’s time on The X-Files, his character doesn’t get that luxury. Mulder’s clock is running out and before he goes he has to wrap up his personal issues, say goodbye to the old gang, meet and greet the new crew, and give some clarity to his relationship with Scully.

Scully appears a little put out by Mulder’s lack of enthusiasm at being back. But she doesn’t show hurt until he acts too emotionally removed from the baby situation. “I’m happy for you?” “I know how much that means to you?” Those are the words of a mere sperm donor.

Excuse me? Oh, are we going to start this now? So now you’re going to make Mulder and Scully dance around whether or not they’re having a baby together? You’re going to pretend “all things” (7×17) never happened? Play like they aren’t a couple? So it’s like that, huh, Chris Carter? Okay. Fine.

I wish I could just ignore this plot and I usually do. But because of “Per Manum” (8×8), for the rest of Season 8 it becomes the main question right up until the last scene of the finale. So for the purposes of this rewatch I can’t escape it. And for those of you who are watching for the first time, you can’t escape the wait. Put your patient panties on.

Before I stop complaining and move on to the rest of the episode, let’s take a moment to discuss Mulder’s magically disappearing no-name brain disease because we will never hear of it again. Yep. After the tears, trauma and drama… that’s it. It’s gone and even Mulder doesn’t care. This plot existed purely to put extra emotional pressure on the viewing audience. It was never an integral part of the overall Season 8 storyline or of Mulder’s character development.

With Scully’s cancer, there were things that led up to it and things that derived from it, connections with other storylines that were made stronger because of it. There were places that it took the characters that they otherwise wouldn’t have gone. This brain disease… this was useless. And for it to miraculously go away and never be mentioned again adds insult to storytelling injury.

I’ll discuss this more in the Season 8 Wrap Up, but one weakness The X-Files had that came to a head in the last two seasons especially was the habit of wriggling out of difficult plots by invoking a miracle at the last second. We’ll get to that. For now, this is one more miracle. Mulder is cured. The end.

I know that so far it sounds like I hate this episode but I don’t at all. So let me finish with the gripes and get on to the good stuff.

The old team is finally back together but instead of teamwork we get tension. I’m glad it happened, though, because it needed to happen. As I said, a man can’t just walk back into his old life after all the people in it have emotionally and physically buried him. There is a sad moment, though, when Mulder is back at his desk and Skinner and Scully don’t look at all happy to see him there.

Since Mulder’s back, Skinner and Scully are free to go back to being skeptics. Which they do. Immediately. Scully now claims Absalom defies all standards of credibility when she believed he and Jeremiah Smith could help her save Mulder a mere two episodes ago.

O Absalom, Absalom! We barely knew ye before the conspiracy killed ye. But at least you served to open Doggett’s eyes to the possibility that he was being used. This episode was not poor Doggett’s happiest hour. After working so hard to save Mulder and being genuinely happy to see him back and healthy, Mulder returns the favor by hating him instantaneously and irrationally. It’s irrational but it’s understandable. Doggett is the kind of stubborn unbeliever that Mulder naturally dislikes, and it’s a man like him of all men who is running his precious X-Files division and has taken up affection space in the hearts of his loved ones. All this while Mulder was being tortured and buried. Poor Mulder. Poor Doggett.

At least we finally get an emotional reprieve from all this angst when Mulder is reunited with the Lone Gunmen. Finally! A heartfelt Welcome Back and a little funky poaching. I am appeased, gentlemen.

Verdict:

This episode makes me wish so hard that we had had Mulder for more time in Season 8. He needed more time to work through his trauma. And he needed more time with Doggett… with whom he had a good antagonistic kind of chemistry. I’ve said it before, but I enjoy Skinner and Doggett as a pair more than Scully and Doggett. More Mulder and Doggett could have been delicious too. But that’s a subject we’ll pick back up a couple of episodes from now.

If it seems like I’m spending an unbalanced amount of time on the series’ relationships it’s because I am. As for the plot of “Three Words”, like much of the mythology this season, there isn’t much to it. We learn precious little more by the end of the episode than we did at the beginning.

Basically, it’s been confirmed yet again that the alien invasion is still going forward. As a matter of course, that information is being covered up. It’s also confirmed yet again that the coming invasion won’t look the way we expected it too. So I’m assuming that means the Black Oil infection has been rendered passé. We’ll hear one last gasp from that old plot before it sizzles out for good.

Even the revelation that there are creatures running around that look human but aren’t is really confirmation of what we suspected in “Deadalive”. The only telltale sign that they’re not normal is a bump on the nape of the neck. What’s with The X-Files and the nape of the neck? Oh yeah, and Doggett’s formerly trusted source is one of them. I guess there’s something new after all.

B+

Comments:

Scully just got Mulder back and she doesn’t want to risk losing him again. That’s a tough battle considering Mulder has always been irreparably reckless and self-destructive.

Doggett realizes that he too has been lied to and that there’s a conspiracy afoot. That’s always the first step in inextricably intertwining oneself with the X-Files.

When this first aired, I totally assumed that the eponymous three words would be “I love you.” I know I’m not alone.

Interrogatives:

Kersh says Scully and Doggett had a higher arrest rate than when Mulder was on the X-Files. Huh? I didn’t witness that.

The Lone Gunmen tease Mulder over their suspicions that he’s the father of Scully’s baby. Scully has almost no reaction. Mulder looks at her questioningly. Is the question, “You mean you didn’t tell them?”

Why does Mulder still have an apartment? Who’s been paying his rent this whole time? Even for three months after his death? Scully? Was she using Mulder’s savings? G-Men have savings?

Best Quotes:

Mulder’s back again so I have more to choose from… Hooray!!

Scully: Mulder, I know you know this, but if anything leaves this room you could be in violation of the law.

Mulder: Really? When I was dead I was hoping maybe they changed the rules.

Scully: Mulder, just being here could be used by Kersh as cause for dismissal.

Mulder: Then why don’t you shut the door so he doesn’t find out.

———————

Frohike: You know, it’s really not fair. You’ve been dead for six months and you still look better than me. But not by much. [They hug]

Mulder: [Chuckles] Melvin. I’d be a whole lot happier to see you if you’d just take your hands off my ass.

Frohike: [Lets go] Sorry.

———————

Mulder: [On communicator] Frohike? Langly? Byers? Let’s go. I’m dying out here.

Frohike: [On communicator] Well, let us just finish our cappuccino and biscotti, and we’ll see what we can do.

The Gift 8×11: Are you calling Mulder a liar?


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Sniffle.

We’ve had a string of episodes I don’t care for and they culminate in this, “The Gift”. I warn you here and now that I have mixed feelings about it. That said, maybe because I’ve been so bored lately, or maybe because I missed Mulder more than I realized, but seeing his face in the opening teaser is such a joy and relief. In fact, I may have teared up a little.

I used to think I hated “The Gift” but I realize now that isn’t true. I only have one problem with the gift, it’s just a really, really big problem: The entire premise rests on a storyline I despise. That’s right. Not only is Mulder missing, even if he weren’t missing, he’d be dead or dying. Mulder has a deadly brain disease that he never saw fit to tell a soul about. So go ahead, steal Mulder back from the aliens. His eventual death remains inevitable.

I’ve already expressed my opinions on this ridiculous, horrible, abomination of a distraction from the primary plot in my review for “Within” (8×1). It went a little like this.

“It’s not enough that Mulder’s gone, you’ve gotta ruin the memories too? Stop retroactively killing what little joy I found in Season 7! He was happy in Season 7! This doesn’t even fit the timeline!

Let me try to get this straight. In Season 7, Mulder and Scully are sleeping together, but she has no idea he’s traveling nearly four hundred miles round trip every weekend. Mulder’s dying of an incurable disease, but devastated as he was when his mother killed herself after hiding her illness, he plans to keep his disease a secret from Scully. Scully and Mulder are happy as clams almost all of Season 7, but what we didn’t know was that Mulder was merely hiding his suffering. He was showing “clear signs of decline” but they didn’t catch that when Mulder went to the hospital in “Signs and Wonders” (7×9) and “Brand X” (7×19), just to name a couple of times. Things are so dire that he already had his name etched on the family grave stone. And all this he manages to hide from Scully, a doctor so brilliant she can diagnose nearly any disease from a single symptom despite never having practiced medicine.

I call revisionist BS.”

My feelings remain unchanged.

So now we’re back to that, are we? Doggett has suddenly and conveniently remembered that X-Files assignment aside, he’s still charged with the task of finding Mulder. He remembers just as the audience is starting to grow restless… though I’m sure the timing of this episode and bringing David Duchovny back had nothing to do with that… or with February sweeps.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. The thought of Mulder dying makes me cranky, that’s all.

Let me focus on the positives because, as I said, I don’t hate this episode the way I thought I did.

Like #1: Skinner and Doggett make a good team.

Every thundercloud has its rainbow and the rainbow in the storm of Mulder’s disappearance is Skinner. Our dear A.D. needed to get out more and it’s good to see him investigating a case again. This is a trend that started towards the end of Season 7 with “Brand X” and “Requiem” (7×22) and I see no reason for it to stop. Besides, he and Doggett have more onscreen chemistry than Scully and Doggett. They genuinely challenge each other instead of just assuming the position.

If we’re going to lose Scully for an episode and have an abundance of untempered testosterone, then I’m glad it went down like this. I would hate to see her absence wasted.

Like #2: The monster is unsettling.

And so are the monstrously selfish humans. Yes, the monster is gross, but more than anything it makes you wonder how far you yourself would go if you found yourself incurably ill, if you could live with saving yourself at the expense of someone else’s pain. Are the suffering entitled to the sin-eater’s help? Is their desperation excusable?

There’s a Christlike allegory in here somewhere…

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a Man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-5 (NIV)

The difference is that while Christ died willingly, the sin-eater has no choice. He’s dying a constant death because no one is brave enough to bear their own suffering, not when there’s someone else who can pay the price instead.

It may sound like I’m pulling this out of nowhere, but I think this is actually a parallel that writer Frank Spotnitz wanted us to see, especially in the scene of Mrs. Hangemuhl’s deliverance.

Watching the sin-eater stretch its mouth to eat her alive while her husband recites The Lord’s Prayer in the background, I’ll admit it’s pretty disturbing. It’s supposed to be.

Like #3: Mulder makes sense.

His dying makes no sense, but if he were dying, it would be completely in character for Mulder to destroy the means of his own salvation if by doing so he could save someone else.

One thing the series has lost sight of as of late is the original vision Chris Carter had of Mulder and Scully as romantic heroes, and I do mean romantic in the literary sense. Their main purpose is to seek the truth and to do right even if it costs them. To that end, Scully was originally imbued with a strong sense of justice, Mulder with compassion. Sometimes Mulder empathizes with victims to an almost frustrating extent, but that’s who he is. He’s a compassionate human being who would rather die than force someone else to suffer for him.

Heck, when Scully was dying in “Redux II” (5×2) he wouldn’t let her take the blame for his killing a man who was spying on him. He wouldn’t let her reputation suffer for him even though she wouldn’t be alive to feel it. That’s my Mulder.

Like #4: Doggett bonds with Mulder.

This is The X-Files. You don’t ever have to have met to develop a spiritual connection.

Somehow, despite having been a confirmed skeptic as recently as the last episode, Doggett puts together the pieces of this case so well you would think he was reading from Mulder’s playbook. While that does move my eyebrow up toward my hairline a tad, I’m glad that if Doggett finally experienced the paranormal in his own person, it’s Mulder who led him there. Mulder is the emotional and spiritual center of the X-Files, which started out as the expression and fulfilment of his own passion, the vehicle for his quest. He’s the one who initiated Scully on this journey of discovery, and it’s only fitting that he should initiate Doggett, even if it’s in his absence.

Doggett also finishes what Mulder was trying to do. Through Doggett’s death he saves the sin-eater. Ah, there’s that cycle again: death – resurrection – salvation.

In saving the sin-eater an emotional link is created between Mulder and Doggett. Mulder shoots it to save it, Doggett stands up for it and is shot. I’ve avoided this episode for so long that I didn’t remember the ending. I had forgotten that Doggett died and came back. I like it.

Mulder’s a good man. John Doggett’s a good man too.

Verdict:

I’m both relieved that they brought Mulder back and more than slightly resentful that they brought him back this way and to serve the purposes of this storyline. But it is what it is and if it has to be, at least “The Gift” makes better use of the characters than the last several episodes.

Well, most of the characters. Mulder could’ve remained completely unseen and the story wouldn’t have suffered at all.

For the love of all that is Scully, stop wasting David Duchovny’s eleven episodes!!!

A-

The Peanut Gallery:

All this time and no one had given Mulder’s apartment a proper search before?

So, in order to be healed, you get eaten and come back as monster vomit.

The monster vomit and the yellowish underground caves remind me of “Gender Bender” (1×13). That was my very first episode of The X-Files.

We’re getting so much of the Lone Gunmen this season that I’m starting to feel spoiled. Another silver lining to the Mulder is Missing rainbow.

There’s a great shot director Kim Manners does in the hospital scene. We can see Mr. and Mrs. Hangemuhn lovingly celebrating her recovery in Doggett’s reflection. That’s a beautiful shot.

That rustic woman’s accent throws me off.

Best Quotes:

Byers: We learned what we could. This is somewhat short notice, of course.

Frohike: And a little outside our area of expertise.

Langly: Plus the fact we were sleeping.

Doggett: You wearing pants, Langly?

Langly: Uh… yeah.

 

Via Negativa 8×7: Mondo Bizarro.


negativa250

Because I couldn’t bring myself to post one of those “third eye” pics.

I remember being good and truly freaked out by this episode the first time it aired, and I’m not easily disturbed. This rewatch too, I made sure to watch it with the lights on and my door open. Sure, we’re used to creepy paranormal happenings on The X-Files, but these are some dark, dark images. It’s so dark that I had never watched it again until now.

The good news is, that meant that other than knowing it was dark, I had no preconceived notions or solidified memories of it. I came to “Via Negativa” with an open mind.

Uncle Frank wrote this one. And by “Uncle Frank” I mean Frank Spotnitz. Why do I call him “Uncle Frank”? I think it’s some kind of awkward outlet for my tightly governed affections.

When it came to The X-Files, Uncle Frank had a funny way of bringing out the best in everybody else. He was Chris Carter’s right hand man for the mythology episodes, also co-writing Fight the Future and I Want to Believe with him. When he wasn’t making a point of keeping me guessing with the mythology, he was busy cracking me up as part of the John Gillnitz trio (John Shiban – Vince Gilligan – Frank Spotnitz) who specialized in writing crazy goodness. His own solo offerings have been tragically few and far between, but so far I’ve loved all of them: “End Game” (2×17), “Our Town” (2×24), and “Detour” (5×4). So how did the two of us wind up here, Frank, with me sucking my breath through my teeth in the heaviness of horror?

It seems it’s Doggett’s turn to have the best brought out of him; Doggett who’s had a rough time of it being forced to take Mulder’s spot in the X-Files division. It’s time to give him something to do other than be wanting in comparison to Mulder and be rescuing Scully all the time. Here he’s on the trail of a killer who can’t be caught because if you catch him, it really means he’s caught you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t completely understand this plot. But I don’t think it’s about the plot. The plot is a vehicle to bring us the imagery. I don’t understand the imagery either. Except that it’s dark and evil and one can only take so much of it. I couldn’t have sat through it for more than a one hour episode of television. I could barely do that.

Doggett: Just ’cause I’m assigned to the X-Files you want me to think like Scully or Mulder would. You got the wrong guy. I need facts, not wild ideas.

Doggett doesn’t really understand what’s going on either, but he too is disturbed. Yes, he’s a different type of investigator than both Mulder and Scully. His isn’t the ordered scientific mind nor the disordered mind of the fanatic. But one trait he does share in common with Mulder is that he trusts his own instincts. In this case, his instincts lead him to a conclusion that his mind can’t process: Cult leader Tipet is psychically killing people in their sleep.

I’m still not sure why Tipet is killing. I gather that he accidentally reached a lower rather than a higher state of consciousness, or that “Via Negativa” is telling me that those two states are one in the same. It’s suggested that he kills to prevent others from reaching that cursed state, but while that makes sense for his followers, it doesn’t make sense for the two F.B.I. agents, the homeless man or Doggett. Tipet seems reluctant to kill, yet somehow he must. Another thing I’m not sure about is where the threat of Doggett killing Scully came from. Are his visions of her death meant to induce Doggett to kill himself?

If so, he very nearly succeeds. Doggett nearly goes mad trying to figure out what’s a dream and what’s reality. Or does he nearly go mad? Maybe he just dreamed he did.

That whole dream sequence was wonderfully acted by Robert Patrick who finally gets to do something other than just be a good guy. It’s good to see Doggett discombobulated and uncomfortable instead of collected and capable. And I’m glad his first up close and personal experience with the paranormal happened when Scully wasn’t around. This way, she didn’t prompt him to come to certain conclusions. Actually, she seemed to talk him out of his conclusions right there at the end, so I’m not sure if Doggett’s growth has been partially undone or if he’ll be taking this experience with him into the future.

Verdict:

The nice thing about episodes that are low on Mulder and Scully is that some other of our favorite characters get to come to the forefront. So, see? There’s a silver lighting to every cloud. Okay, so Doggett isn’t most people’s favorite. But who isn’t a fan of Skinner? And who doesn’t like the Lone Gunmen? If that’s you, please don’t answer. Some secrets are best kept.

Skinner seems to be drinking the “I am Fox Mulder” Kool-aid which does make me roll my eyes a little. But it’s still good to see him interact with Doggett one on one. I enjoyed that scene they had together in “Without” (8×2) as well and I think they have good chemistry. We’re so used to Mulder and Scully that we don’t get to see two strong male leads share the same screen space very often and it’s a nice refresher.

Doggett also gets introduced to the Lone Gunmen, and while that’s a cute scene, color me confused. I thought Langly’s first name was Ringo? Or maybe it is Richard, nickname Ringo? As in Richard Starkey, Ringo?

Anyways, “Via Negativa” is a risky, shocking, effective episode. It’s a trip down memory lane I’m not sure I’ll ever take again willingly, and I’m quite sure I won’t be taking any acid trips to reach a higher plane. But I must say that Robert Patrick’s looking pretty darn good.

A-

Comments:

Another way Doggett uses his instincts: Checking the hospital register for Scully’s name.

On that note, it’s sweet of Doggett to be so concerned about Scully’s welfare right after his own near death experience.

Watching a man take a razor blade and slice his forehead open is not something I ever want to do again.

At the time, memories of the mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult were still fresh, so this kind of story resonated.

Our first look at Doggett’s place – the first X-Files agent with a house.

Those aren’t the footprints of someone who’s walked in blood. Those are the footprints of someone whose shoes are bleeding.

So Scully really is going to be in the hospital every other episode this season.

Yo, 1013. If there’s nothing wrong with the baby, don’t make us think there’s something wrong with the baby. The welfare of The Scully Spawn automatically trumps in importance anything that might happen in a one-off episode. A plot point that major shouldn’t be used as a distraction or, worse, a way to merely get rid of Scully. Thanks. Peace.

Curiosities:

Since when would Mulder consult the Lone Gunmen on paranormal cases? Did I miss something? Am I wrong or did he not use Chuck Burke for that?

Agent Crane is working under Skinner now?

I don’t get Kersh. I don’t get him at all. First he wants real world answers. Then he doesn’t care if he gets any answers. Is he really acting on someone else’s orders or does he just have a psychological disorder? Right now he’s being difficult just to be difficult, and that isn’t the behavior of a character acting logically within his universe but a character who’s being used to create a problem whenever a problem needs to happen.

Why Doggett turns off the lights after having a vision like that is a mystery that will never be solved.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: A third eye?

Frohike: We all have a third eye. If we could open it, we’d see a new reality, one closer to God. At least that’s what Kesey told me on the bus back in ’64.

Langly: You were not on the bus with Kesey in ’64.

Frohike: Hey, I got the pictures to prove it, my long-haired friend.

Langly: Before or after you partied with the Stones at Altamont?

Frohike: Don’t be a boob, Altamont was in ’70s.

Langly: Whatever.

——————–

Doggett: What if Tipet could invade his victims’… consciousness in their sleep? I mean, that’s why you’d be afraid to fall asleep, right? If you thought your nightmares might come true?

Byers: You believe that?

Doggett: No… but if Tipet does… he’ll need more drugs… to keep killing. [Leaves]

Frohike: That’s not bad for a beginner.

 

First Person Shooter 7×13: Well, that’s rather sexist, isn’t it?


fps215

Stay out of my way, geeks.

 

Season 7 is not going well for me. Then again, it never does.

We passed the halfway point of the season a couple of episodes back and yet I’ve experienced very few twitches and tingles.

I remember having my hopes up for this one back in the day, though. After all, it brought back the Lone Gunmen and I’ve missed these guys. It also brings back sci-fi writer William Gibson and novelist Tom Maddox who brought us Season 5’s “Kill Switch” (5×11), one of my all-time favorite episodes.

This should go well, right?

Then why do I hate this episode? Because I do hate it. Absolutely.

Somewhere buried within the good intentions that made up this episode is some kind of convoluted attempt to tackle issues of entertainment and violence, civilization and instinct, fantasy and reality, and the feminine response to unrealistic male sexual objectification which includes self-glorification as well as objectification. Yes, they threw all of that in there. Really.

Maybe they didn’t exactly mean to tackle all these, just mention or include them all. Maybe they felt they couldn’t present a virtual reality based episode without at least addressing in passing the issues that surround video games in the public discourse.

I don’t know, but mixing up all these potentially thoughtful issues in an episode that’s clearly designed to be a rip-roaring good time feels unfocused. Granted, “Kill Switch” raised a couple of questions in passing about consciousness and creation. But that was it, a couple of questions in passing. Can we create life? Is consciousness digitally transferable? Done. The end.

If I’m wrong I really do apologize, but it feels like this is a case of a script going through too many hands, as though there were several people trying to do several different things.

Mulder: We came, we saw, we conquered. And if the taste of victory is sweet, the taste of virtual victory is not Sweet ‘N Low, nor the bullets made of sugar. Maybe out past where the imagination ends our true natures lie, waiting to be confronted on their own terms. Out where the intellect is at war with the primitive brain in the hostile territory of the digital world where laws are silent and rules disappear in the midst of arms. Born in anarchy with an unquenchable bloodthirst we shudder to think what might rise up from the darkness.

I… This closing monologue… I have no words.

Yes, I do. This has Chris Carter written all over it. (I love you, Chris. I swear.)

But as I said in the review for “Closure” (7×11), these monologues have a way of summing things up for us. It would indeed appear that the overall crux of the story, besides the obvious takeaway that blasting things is fun, is that video games allow us to let loose our own primordial urges but by so doing, we run the risk of creating something new and frightening out of the ooze.

Is that it, Chris? Did I get it?

Ergo, video games serve a vital purpose. Ergo, if we take away this indulgence then men won’t be able to hold their urges in check in a civilized society, like the cops at the precinct when they encounter Jade Blue Afterglow and suddenly forget they’re cops and have seen plenty of strippers. Ergo, accidentally creating something we can’t control, like Matreiya, is the risk we as a society must take.

I realize that these exaggerated versions of gamers and men are meant to be funny and only serve to make Phoebe and Scully look better by the end of the episode. Did they really have to make the girls look good at the expense of the guys? And as much as I like seeing Scully kick butt and wish she had the chance to do it more often, do the girls really look so much better overall? Phoebe comes off as downright selfish – letting people continue to die rather than to destroy her virtual, idealized version of herself. Yes, because that’s feminism. We can be just as violent and self-absorbed as men.

Verdict:

Alright. I realize this is all supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and I know it sounds like I’m taking this episode seriously. The truth is I don’t. I’m just racking my brain trying to figure out some logical, rational, explicable reason why I don’t like it.

Maybe there is no legitimate reason. Maybe I’m mad because they finally brought back the Lone Gunmen, but even they deliver their lines with forced enthusiasm. And these guys always come through for me, even in episodes as bad and as far back as “Fearful Symmetry” (2×18)!

It’s trying to be an X-File, it’s trying to be a sci-fi fantasy, it’s trying to be a comedy, it’s trying to be social commentary… It’s trying and failing. Not that X-Files episodes haven’t been several things at once before, but this attempt isn’t successful. And it’s a little insulting to men and women alike.

Frankly, I’m frustrated and I’m bored. Thank the 1013 heavens that’s about to end.

D

P.S. And don’t get me started on Scully’s head being interposed on Jade Blue Afterglow’s body by way of a compliment at the very end.

Immature, Hormonal Fantasies:

Mindless destruction and sex just seem to go together, don’t they? Scully seems to find it all relatively harmless. I find it mostly gross. I think better of men than this.

In other words, take a man’s idealized caricature of a woman and destroy him with it.

Scully’s leather jacket is back.

Now we know how the Lone Gunmen finance their, er, other projects.

Donkey Lips! From Salute Your Shorts!! I can’t believe I never recognized him before as one third of the geeky trio in the teaser.

All I could think as I started watching this again was, “This must have cost a lot of money.”

“No fair pickin’ on a girl.” Scully would never say this without irony.

I actually find the gear a little hokey.

Questions:

The body of the gamer that died in the teaser waits, unmoved, for Mulder and Scully to cross the country and show up on the scene? No matter what killed him, the company should have been in trouble for not calling the police and leaving him there to rot.

Speaking of bodies, in the autopsy scene, why was Musashi’s head placed between his feet?

Since when does Mulder know all this game design lingo?

Why doesn’t Matreiya kill Mulder when she has the chance?

Best Quotes:

Langly: Dudes! Agent Mulder, what’s up, wild man? Welcome to the land where silicon meets silicone.

Frohike: Can I get you a latte from the bar or perhaps a bottle of designer H20?

——————-

Mulder: Is that him? Is that Daryl Musashi?

Byers: Yeah, that’s him.

Langly: He just stepped into the game.

Mulder: Why is he just standing there?

Ivan: Because he knows no fear. {Editor’s Note: Okay, I chuckled despite myself.}

 

Three of a Kind 6×19: It’s the Three Stooges I’m not so sure about.


Michael Bolton and the Band.

Last time writers Gilligan and Shiban came together they gave us “Monday” (6×15), which I don’t hesitate to call a bit of television brilliance; one of the best X-Files episodes that no one ever talks about. I said in that review that we’d have to wait a while for the inspired team of Gilligan and Shiban to disappoint and, well, we’ve waited long enough. Okay, that sounds far more dramatic than I mean it to because “Three of a Kind” isn’t some kind of dismal failure. But while it pains me to say it, it’s not a rousing success either.

This episode picks up emotionally where “Unusual Suspects” (5×1) left off though it takes place many years hence. Femme Fatale Susanne Modeski is as much on Byers’ mind as the day she disappeared and ever since that day he’s been trolling “conventions” (of all kinds, apparently) looking for her. Like Cinderella she left and like Cinderella she shall return. And she does return. Only Cinderella already has a handsome prince and it’s not Byers.

After Byers tries to drown his sorrows… and himself… in a bucket of hotel ice, the Lone Gunmen get about the business of conspiracy hunting and they trick Scully into joining them. Yes, Scully and not Mulder because David Duchovny was off prepping for his directorial debut in “The Unnatural” (6×20), which aired before “Three of a Kind” but was filmed after.

Sadly, I think it’s the conspiracy plot itself that flounders. It doesn’t help that it revolves around Susanne Modeski, a character who was sufficient if not thrilling in “Unusual Suspects” but who’s even less fascinating reheated. She’s only interesting inasmuch as she inspires Byers to play the hero. And this is when the idea starts to shape up of the Lone Gunmen, and Byers in particular, as patriots and not just conspiracy geeks. If you aren’t sure, please re-consult the opening monologue.

But it’s geekiness that makes up the most enjoyable parts of this episode. Jimmy the Geek in particular almost steals the show. His character must have made an impression on Gilligan and Shiban too because they bring him back as his twin brother, “Kimmy the Geek” in the soon to come spin-off The Lone Gunmen. I’m glad they found a way to resurrect him. Now if only they could find a way to resurrect… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to the Gunmen themselves, this is a welcome chance for their characters to be fleshed out even further, though I’m not sure I can say with complete honesty that Langly or Byers move forward much. They’re pretty much the same people we see in “Unusual Suspects” even if Byers’ patriotism shines a little brighter. However, Frohike is established as the sensitive one here, which doesn’t come as a complete surprise. We first learned of Frohike’s less perverted, gentler side in “One Breath” (2×8) when he memorably shows up to pay respects at a comatose Scully’s bedside. Here, not only does he chivalrously come to a drugged Scully’s rescue, removing her from the Pervert Pool before they started groping her outright, but he also proves insightful and sympathetic when it comes to Byers’ broken heart, picking up on his odd behavior and giving him some rather sage advice. But let me not skip over that more interesting topic, Frohike rescuing Scully from the Pervert Pool.

All these years and I’m still not a fan of Bimbo Scully. I much prefer her Slap-A-Pimp persona (see “Tithonus”). However, while this version of Scully may not be my favorite, it’s ultimately a pseudo-check mark in the plus column because it’s another example of how diversified Season 6 allows Scully to be. She confronts, she slaps, she flirts, she tickles… And I will say that watching Scully return Morris Fletcher’s famous butt slap from “Dreamland” (6×4) satisfies the juvenile in me.

Yes, I smile with immediate delight to see Michael McKean back again in a cameo role as Morris Fletcher. Why is it that episodes that Vince Gilligan bears responsibility for always seem to have the strongest sense of continuity? Hmm… food for Fangirl thought.

Anywho, “Three of a Kind” like “Dreamland” before it is a bit of a Saturday Night Live reunion what with Michael McKean and now Charles Rocket guest starring. He’s actually the fourth Saturday Night Live alumnus to guest star this season, which says an awful lot about the overall tone of Season 6.

Not that you’ll hear this Fangirl complaining about “X-Files Light” (not this season, anyway), but “Three of a Kind” isn’t my favorite example of the genre. There are some cute, funny moments, but nothing particularly memorable. Between the two Lone Gunmen-centric episodes (two because I refuse in this moment to acknowledge the third), “Unusual Suspects” is definitely my favorite. Entertainment-wise they’re pretty comparable, but “Unusual Suspects” has the advantage of giving us new information on the history of the characters. “Three of a Kind” is just a diversionary romp, a weekend trip to Vegas, if you will.

And the Verdict is…

I want to like this episode more than I do. And, indeed, it is enjoyable; I looked forward to popping it in the player for the rewatch. But when I ask myself how rewatchable it is, the dirty truth is that outside of a sequential rewatch or a serious Lone Gunmen craving, I probably wouldn’t watch it just to watch it. In fact, I know I don’t.

I think the truth is that as much as I adore the Lone Gunmen, and Gilligan and Shiban, I’m just not invested in this storyline.

B

Chips:

After all these years, why does Susanne Modeski have the same haircut?

And we never hear from Susanne again. Funny, after that “Someday” line and the Lone Gunmen getting their own spin-off I expected her to return. Maybe Spotnitz, Shiban and Gilligan planned it but the series didn’t make it that far?

I really don’t get what “the government” is up to here. I know, I know… mind control. But why was “Timmy” planning to frame Jimmy? For what? And if they already had Susanne’s technology, why continue the expensive ruse? Kill her and get it over with. Maybe they were planning on tricking her into making more for them? I don’t know. But the vagueness of what they were really up to adds to the lack of urgency.

Scully’s a little dismissive of the Lone Gunmen considering last we saw them they were digging up dirt on Diana Fowley for her.

I’m still not sure why a little ole’ injection turned Scully into a ginger Marilyn Monroe.

Best Quotes:

Langly: What if she calls him back?
Byers: I trapped her cell number. If she calls him, it rings here.
Frohike: [Laughs] She’s gonna kick our a**. What do you need Scully for, anyway?
Byers: We’re up against agents of the government. We need our own government agent.
Langly: And that would be Mulder. Why do you want just Scully?
Frohike: [Chuckles] She’s gonna kick our a**.

———————-

Scully: [On Cell] Hello, Mulder? Can you hear me? I’m at the hotel. Where are you? What do you mean, “What hotel?” Las Vegas. I’m in Las Vegas, aren’t you? You called me. What do you mean you didn’t call me? [To self] Aw man! I am gonna kick their a**es.

———————–

Jimmy the Geek: [To Langly] Oh, go brush your hair, Michael Bolton!

———————-

Byers: It’s not her. They’re making her do this somehow.
Frohike: Buddy, now, I know something about the fairer sex. Trust me, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make her drink.

Unusual Suspects 5×1: Sure, baby. My kung fu is the best.


Do I look like Geraldo to you?

I have to say, as fond as I was of the Lone Gunmen, coming off of the emotional rollercoaster that was the “Gethsemene”/”Redux”/”Redux II” trilogy, I was not looking forward to sitting through an episode sans the Mulder/Scully dynamic.

It’s not that it wasn’t high time the Lone Gunmen got their own episode. Who didn’t look forward to their brief, two minute guest spots of comic delight? No, it’s just that I was dying to see what life was like now that the threat of Scully’s cancer had passed. What I wanted was a real meat and potatoes X-File and a good heart to heart between our leads a la the “conversation on the rock” scene in “Quagmire” (3×22).

Unrealistic expectations notwithstanding, I wasn’t disappointed in this episode. I was feeling impatient, yes, slightly irritated even. But that’s not “Unusual Suspects” fault. In retrospect, probably the wisest thing the 1013 Productions crew could have done was to give us a little comic fluff, a slight departure from the series’ norm in the wake of the drama that just went on. There’s no sense in trying to compete with the unrelenting tension of the previous episode.

Now we’ve covered why “Unusual Suspects” starts off as an underdog even before it airs, much like the Lone Gunmen themselves. So what does this episode have going for it?

1. The Lone Gunmen (Duh): Fans had been clamoring for a while to see the nerdy trio get their own episode. Skinner had one. Even Cigarette-Smoking Man had one. Surely the Gunmen had it coming. Honestly, their characterizations don’t disappoint. Byers was seemingly the least likely to be the focus of an episode, considering the popularity of Langly and Frohike especially, but that was a clever move from writer Vince Gilligan. Byers is the most normal of the bunch and watching him of all people turn paranoiac is satisfying and it grounds the events of the episode. In fact, it reminds me of how The X-Files is originally told from Scully’s decidedly normal point of view. That’s precisely where its sense of wonder came/comes from.

2. That Retro Swag: Maybe the desire not to compete with the emotional impact of “Redux II’ is part of why “Unusual Suspects” is not only a departure in content, it’s a departure in time. Off we go back to the days before Mulder opened is precious X-Files, back to the dark ages of 1989, when cellular phones were larger than the heads that cradled them. We even get to see Mulder whip one out in an understated moment of pure comedy. Truly this is where the Gunmen belong, surrounded by impossibly bulky and outdated computer equipment.

3. X: After just a full season, X is back. As Chris Carter famously said, “No one ever really dies on The X-Files.” X has returned to do what he does best, clean up a leak and protect a potentially dangerous advancement in science to make sure the government is the only one to profit by it. Isn’t that how we learned to love him in episodes like “Soft Light” (2×23) and “Wetwired” (3×23)? And I have to say, corny though it may seem to some, I enjoy the tie-in to the mythology here. I love that X knew Mulder long before Mulder knew him, that we get to see him when he already must have been working for Cigarette-Smoking Man, and most of all, I love that he indirectly names the Lone Gunmen.

4. Mulder’s Innocence: It seems clear from their introduction in “EBE” (1×16), though it is never directly stated, that Mulder knew the Lone Gunmen long before he met Scully. We never did question how or why. I guess I just assumed that he met them somewhere along the way, maybe in a MUFON meeting somewhere. We also knew that Mulder’s search for Samantha and his belief that she was taken by aliens was the foundation of his start on the X-Files, (You’ll note how Gilligan cleverly has Mulder make his way to the “Alien Life” themed booth), but we also knew that Mulder didn’t always believe in aliens, neither was he always such a pain in the backside of the establishment. So his hypnotic regression therapy sessions with Dr. Werber weren’t solely responsible for his mental and social downfall after all.

And the Verdict is…

Checks in the plus column aside, I’m not sure this episode is a resounding success. It’s fun, to be sure, but Susanne Modeski’s paranoia, the paranoia that was the catalyst for all the rest, is a bit of a hard sell in the end. It’s a little over the top… except for that part about not being able to trust your dentist.

Speaking of Miss Modeski, perhaps the issue is more akin to what went on in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). We have an outsider in a stand-alone episode who the audience is suddenly required to accept as an intricate piece of the mythology puzzle. Here it works better because Susanne Modeski only inspires the X-Files in an indirect way and only has the briefest contact with Mulder himself – no eternal soul pact required.

Lastly, the Modeski character brings in some fun elements of Film Noir. Even though she turns out to be one of the good guys, she still plays The Femme Fatale by leading an otherwise law-abiding man down a dangerous and morally ambiguous path. Poor Byers never had a chance.

In the end, I enjoy it and I probably enjoy it more in retrospect just to relish as much of the Lone Gunmen as I can get.

B+

Miscellaneous:

Still not so sure why Frohike recruits Langley to help with the hack. I thought he said his kung fu was already the best?

This is our first Vince Gilligan solo script since the masterpiece that was “Small Potatoes” (4×20).

Nice touch having Mulder answer the phone with, “Hey, Reggie.” No doubt this is the era when he was still working under Reggie Perdue of “Young at Heart” (1×15) fame. Vince Gilligan always was a Phile at heart – he remembered the little details.

We’ve reached the halfway point of the series. There are 201 episodes of The X-Files and this is #100. Well, technically there are 202 episodes, but that’s only because the series finale is counted double.

Why are they selling bootleg cable right in front of representatives of the Federal Government? Was that legal back then and I missed it?

That “Holly’s” daughter’s name was supposedly Susanne Modeski should’ve Byers’ first clue. Well, second after the whole sugar thing. Susanne isn’t exactly a name you heard on many little girls in 1989.

One has to wonder why X bothers to let the Lone Gunmen live at all.

And, finally, how could I ignore the nice little guest spot by Detective Munch? My how that character gets around a television set.

Best Quotes:

Munch: Start with your name and birth date.
Byers: John Fitzgerald Byers. 11-22-63.
Munch: Seriously.
Byers: I was named after JFK. Before the assassination my parents were going to name me Bertram.
Lieutenant Munch: Lucky you.

——————-

Byers: You’re talking about a premeditated crime against the United States government!
Frohike: Hey, your second today. [Removing Byers’ FCC badge] Welcome to the Dark Side.

——————-

Langley: There’s no game here.

——————-

Langly: Government hack is a snap. Last week I got into the Maryland DMV, changed my endorsement so I could handicap park. [Byers stares] I got tinnitus.

——————-

Modeski: No matter how paranoid you are, you’re not paranoid enough.

——————-

Frohike: Now I’m sorry. You’re telling me that the U.S. government, the same government that gave us Amtrak…
Langly: Not to mention the Susan B Anthony dollar…
Frohike: Is behind some of the darkest, most far-reaching conspiracies on the planet? That’s just crazy!
Langly: I mean, like this guy [Byers] works for the government!

——————-

Mr X: Behave yourselves.
Byers: That’s it? You’re just trying to intimidate us, to scare us, so we’ll keep quiet!
Frohike: [Under his breath] Byers, I swear to god, I’ll shoot you myself.
Byers: It’s all true what Susanne said about you people, isn’t it? About John F Kennedy! Dallas!
Mr X: I heard it was a lone gunman.

——————-

Lieutenant Munch: Do I look like Geraldo to you? Don’t lie to me like I’m Geraldo. I’m not Geraldo!

——————-

Byers: You want the truth?
Mulder: Yeah. I want the truth.
Byers: You might want to sit down, this is going to take a while. The truth is… none of us is safe. Secret elements within the U.S. government seek to surveil us and control our lives.
Mulder: What?!
Frohike: Tell him about the hotel Bibles.
Byers: Yeah, I’m coming to that. It all started with Susanne Modeski…

Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man 4×7 – This isn’t the ending that I wrote.


You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

“No one would kill you, Frohike. You’re just a little puppy dog.”

Oh, if he only knew.

Mssrs. Morgan and Wong are back in a slightly different format this time. Rather than co-writing, Morgan authors the script while Wong sits in the director’s chair. In fact, for his directing debut Wong would go on to win the Emmy for Best Direction. That’s no mean feat.

As they would in all four of their offerings this season, Morgan and Wong try their best to think outside of the frame of a typical X-Files episode, in this case changing up both form and content. Besides giving us an almost Shakespearean play quite clearly delineated into four acts, there’s a fluctuating tone to the tale so that we’re never quite sure from one act to the next whether we’re watching a history or a parody, if this is CSM’s view of himself, Frohike’s view, or the view put forth by the seedy magazine Frohike nabbed the story from.

Even more significantly, this is the first episode where David Duchovny doesn’t make an onscreen appearance. He’s essentially limited to a book-ending set of voiceovers. Gillian Anderson narrowly misses this technicality by appearing in a single scene in flashback. At first watch, I remember missing Mulder and Scully. Over a decade later, I appreciate getting a more in depth look at such a fabulous character.

Certainly CSM deserves it by now.

Part I – An Extraordinary Man

Here’s where everything starts going Forest Gump on us. We always knew CSM was a significant man behind the scenes, but just how significant is he? Well, it turns out that he was the lone gunman that day on Dealey Plaza. Oh, and he didn’t always smoke cigarettes.

Actor Chris Owens makes his X-Files debut here. He would go on to play CSM again in flashback, as well as two other memorable characters, The Great Mutato and Jeffrey Spender. He plays the role with such seriousness that you can believe in this young CSM, that he wasn’t always evil, just pragmatic and ambitious, and that it was a downhill spiral from there.

Part II – A Jack Colquitt Adventure

And now we jump forward in time to CSM the would-be Civil Rights activist, AKA author Raul Bloodworth.

This CSM has successfully and speedily climbed his way up the middle management ladder of the netherworld. Young though he is, he’s powerful enough to chastise J. Edgar Hoover to his face. It seems that the F.B.I. has been under his control since long before Mulder and Scully came into play.

But what’s striking is how typically unfulfilling his day job is. He spends his nights typing pathetic manuscripts living off of beer, cigarettes, and unfulfilled dreams. And while his job description requires that he root out Communism in all its forms, he secretly sympathizes with liberal dreamers, thinking so highly of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that he honors him with a more… personal assassination.

At this point, I’m starting to believe we’re hearing less of Frohike’s news article while more of CSM’s sense of self-importance is creeping in.

Part III – Buffalo Wants it Bad

If we thought CSM was stuck in a crappy boardroom job before, now his position has rusted into the downright mundane. CSM has successfully defeated the Communists. But like every man who reaches the pinnacle of his profession and finds there’s nowhere else to go, he’s left weary and unfulfilled. He goes from killing presidents to rigging football games because, well, what else is there to do? Now it’s hard to see this as anything but a parody.

Getting to see Deep Throat again is a real treat. And their brief, opaque and slightly comical conversation is the highlight of the whole episode. It’s hard to put much stock in their talk, however, as some points don’t agree with the larger mythology arc. But since this is fantasy anyway, you can take and leave what you will.

Part IV – Pack of Morleys

And now, like any great hero, it’s time for CSM to have his heart broken.

I love that they work in that flashback to the “Pilot” (1×79), where CSM was more an enigmatic if ominous presence rather than the Darth Vader that he’s become. This way we can consider who he was and who he’s come to be.

He’s no longer an idealist. He’s not even a realist. He’s just a middle-aged man stuck in a shallow life whose memories of youthful dreams grow duller with every year.

I remember at the age of 14 how my best friend and I found that monologue hilarious. In fact, I had it memorized… and tacked up on my wall. That’s 14 for you. Always drawn to the innocent and uplifting.

Now it’s a bit tedious, and, dare I say it? It tries too hard. It’s amazing how our tastes change.

Conclusion:

Originally, the title was supposed to be “Memoirs of a Cigarette Smoking Man”, reflecting Morgan’s intention that this be a true account of CSM’s past. Chris Carter came in and added both ambiguity in the title and in the narration. Not only can we not be sure of the accuracy of CSM’s memories, we can’t even be sure the plot is being driven by CSM’s mind or by Frohike’s.

The seriousness of the story was supposed to be driven home by the killing of Frohike at the end of the episode, a plot point that 1013 Productions justifiably balked at. While I enjoy that Morgan and Wong weren’t afraid of thwarting the party line, the desire to kill off Frohike represents a serious misjudgment of the tone of the series. Sure, Chris Carter liked to claim that no one’s really safe on The X-Files. But then, he also likes to say that no one ever really dies on The X-Files either. Just like Deep Throat in this episode, ghosts return without warning.

Why? Because Deep Throat’s presence adds value to the series’ development at this point? No. Because the fans love him and nostalgia is a powerful force.

Even aside from emotional reasons, killing Frohike would have ill fit the tone of the episode, which lent itself to something just short of a parody. Taken as a whole, it makes CSM, as Chris Carter so appropriately put it, “sort of a silly person.” I’m not so sure he can be silly and frightening at the same time, despite the fact that Morgan’s goal was to make CSM a real threat again:

“I told Chris, ‘Look, the Cancer Man is becoming a bore. When you get to episode one hundred and he and Mulder have the guns to each other’s heads, I’m not going to worry, because the Cancer Man has never done anything. I’m telling you right now, you’ve got the Cancer Man as a wuss ball. He’s nothing. He’s got to do something dangerous.’”

Maybe they missed that CSM had both men exposed to the Black Oil’s radiation killed and his henchman, Luis Cardinal killed in “Apocrypha” (3×16). Or that he keeps trying with all sincerity to kill Krycek. Or that he just had X killed in “Herrenvolk” (4×1).

The truth is, whatever the pile of murders on his conscience, the audience will never seriously believe that he’ll kill either Mulder or Scully. We’d have no show if he did. It’s enough to show that he’s willing. Suddenly turning things deadly serious by killing Frohike would have lent credence to the whole tale, which would have made some obvious issues of cannon more of an issue.

Besides, Morgan and Wong created the Lone Gunmen. Why so eager to kill one of them off? (As an aside, it’s interesting how in television you can create something only to find that it’s no longer yours. Not only do they characters take off on their own based on an audience’s response and interpretation of them, but production companies and film studios end up having more of a say in their future than you do.)

The best thing about this episode is that it’s clever, in both form and content. Is it great? I can’t quite call it that because I still get bored at moments, but I appreciate what Morgan and Wong were trying to do here. Once again, they’re pushing the boundaries of the show. In that regard, it’s not as successful as “Home” (4×3) but it’s surely not as polarizing as “The Field Where I Died” (4×5)… thank goodness.

At times the story is a little bogged down by the nitty gritty of History. Because of this, it moves slowly. And there’s nothing paranormal to speak of save for a fleeting view of a dying alien. But looking back on the history of the show, it’s nice to have this change of pace, if only to prove that The X-Files could do it.

B+

Comments:

Whatever details Morgan and Wong may have missed, there’s a nice thread of continuity with Deep Throat. He mentions having served in Vietnam and in “Little Green Men” (2×1), Mulder claims to have seen his funeral at Arlington Cemetery. That explains that.

Even the acts are filmed in different colors. Saturated 1960’s hues for the Kennedy assassination, black and white for the second act, reflecting the majority of photos of the Civil Rights era.

Questions:

Who is CSM writing a letter of resignation to? How do you resign from The Syndicate? Do they have a payroll? And why is he purposefully leaving a paper trail??

Best Quotes:

William Mulder: My one year old just said his first word.
Smoking Man: What was the word?
William Mulder: JFK.
Smoking Man: Catch you later, Mulder.

———————–

Smoking Man: What I don’t want to see is the Bills winning the Super Bowl. As long as I’m alive that doesn’t happen.
Third Man In Black: Could be tough, sir. Buffalo wants it bad.

————————

Smoking Man: So did the Soviets in ‘80.
Third Man In Black: What? You saying you rigged the Olympic hockey game?
Smoking Man: What’s the matter? Don’t you believe in miracles?

————————

Deep Throat: I’m the liar, you’re the killer.
Smoking Man: Your lies have killed more men in a day than I have in a lifetime. I’ve never killed anybody.
Deep Throat: Maybe I’m not the liar.

————————

Smoking Man: Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you’re stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there’s nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there’s a peanut butter cup or an english toffee but they’re gone too fast and taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits of hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. If you’re desperate enough to eat those, all you got left is an empty box filled with useless brown paper wrappers.

————————

Smoking Man: I can kill you whenever I please… but not today.

Apocrypha 3×16: Is anybody not looking for Krycek?


Those things'll kill you.

I warn you, this will be short. Mainly because though I’ve racked my brain, this isn’t an episode where a lot is revealed or explored. Oh, it’s a fun ride and there are some memorable and iconic moments but there isn’t too much to dig into analysis wise. But without further ado, I’ll give it a shot.

We open with a great black and white teaser. Finally, there are more than just hints about Bill Mulder’s involvement in the conspiracy. We get to glimpse the reluctant conspirator in action. The trust that the poor dying crewman so desperately gives to Bill Mulder is chill inducing. Little does he know that he’s giving his secrets away to an organization far more sinister than the Navy could ever be. Though, really, Young CSM’s face should have given it away. And just who is the third “Man in Black” tagging along with Bill Mulder and CSM? A young Deep Throat, maybe? Another question that’s never answered.

But on to the present day plot, CSM has figured out that Krycek is back in the country and sends his goons to kill a man who’s supposed to already be dead and recover a disk that was supposedly already destroyed. All the while he’s trying to keep his fellow Syndicate members in the dark. This results in a great scene where the Syndicate show some obvious signs of cracks in their armor. CSM gets chastised like an errant child; He’s their errand boy, the flashy muscle a la John Gotti. Well-Manicured Man meets Mulder to gather information and finds out that CSM has been lying. Krycek’s alive and so is the disk. Busted.

In the Syndicate, we have a group of powerful old men who each have a slightly different personal agenda that they’re trying to keep under wraps. Even though they’re ostensibly working together, the elephant in the room is that they can’t really trust each other. It’s a thread just begging to be pulled until the whole mess unravels.

There’s only one glaring hole that gets to me: Why didn’t Hosteen just tell Mulder what was on the tape way back in “Paper Clip” (3×2)?? He memorized the whole thing, did he not? All Mulder has to do is pick up the phone.

Verdict:

I’m starting to realize how little of the mythology I ever understood. I watched it for the effect, not the plot. But now that I’m paying attention the machinations of the Syndicate and their political wars within things are starting to make sense and I’m glad there was a leftover element of The X-Files that I had never fully enjoyed.

Does much actually happen in this episode? Not at all. But it’s like a chessboard where the pieces are slowly moving into position, turn by turn. Krycek is back in the U.S. and presumably buried alive. The Black Oil has made it back to its ship. Mulder again thinks he knows something he has no real proof of. Scully meets her sister’s killer only to have him slip through the fingers of justice. And, my personal joy, Well-Manicured Man is onto CSM’s shenanigans.

Yep. Pieces keep moving. But will there ever actually be a checkmate?

I only wish that Syndicate thread would get pulled a little harder.

A-

Unnecessary Questions:

After the black oil gets back to its ship, then what? Did it fly it out of the silo and we’re just not shown it?

More importantly, how does Krycek ever get out?

Unnecessary Comments:

CSM’s a lot like Mulder. His sits alone in his apartment watching old movies.

Interesting to note that in the early stages of its mythology the Black Oil used actual oil to transmit itself. I’m not sure if that always held true. So I’ll just have to watch carefully.

This is an episode that makes Skinner/Scully Shippers everywhere swoon.

Best Quotes:

Sick Crewman: That thing is still down there. The Navy’ll deny it. But you’ve got to make sure the truth gets out. I can trust you to do that, can’t I, Mr. Mulder?
Young Smoking Man: You can trust all of us.

——————–

CSM: Have the bodies destroyed.
Navy Doctor: But sir, these men aren’t dead yet!
CSM: Isn’t that the prognosis?

——————–

Frohike: Nothing to it.
Byers: You should call upon our services more often.
Langly: We show talent for these G-man activities.
Mulder: You mean if I want somebody whacked on the knee with a lead pipe?
Frohike: Only if you want the job done right.

——————–

Scully: I think the dead are speaking to us, Mulder. Demanding Justice. Maybe that man was right. Maybe we bury the dead alive.