Tag Archives: The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati

I Want to Believe: I don’t think I’m the one who’s changed.


 

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This wasn’t the plan. Within a year of the series finale, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz were brainstorming an idea for the next installment in what everyone assumed would be The X-Files’ continuing feature film franchise. The release would be sometime in 2004. The fandom was out there.

But then, there were delays, and negotiations, and delays, and scheduling issues, and more delays… and a lawsuit. By the end of all that, Carter and Spotnitz were left to work with a small budget, an unsupportive studio, and a dwindling fan base; the cultural zeitgeist of the 90’s had passed and even if it hadn’t, Seasons 8 and 9 had laid waste to much of the public’s interest in The X-Files. Oh, and they lost all their plot notes so they had to scrap their previous ideas and start the script from scratch. Oh, and there was a writer’s strike during filming which meant they couldn’t fix any of the script’s problems.

I Want to Believe was a brainchild born under less than ideal circumstances. It’s little wonder then that it wafts whiffs of the smoke of disappointment. When I squint at it mentally, I see a middle aged man looking nostalgically back on his promising youth and trying to keep hope alive for the future.

But is it good?

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One plan that stayed alive from the beginning was to make this movie an extended Monster of the Week episode, a stand-alone, rather than write it as part of the larger mythology. This way audiences who didn’t know the series could get into it; it could generate general interest and pave the path for more films. As a fan who always leaned more toward the stand-alone episodes, I was and am all for this.

IWTB is an atmospheric, contained, pensive film. That’s what it needed to be, especially on a small budget. Personally, I wasn’t looking for loud explosions or dramatic special effects. I needed a Monster of the Week, not that was bigger and badder, but that was better than what I got in a typical episode.

To that end, the film is shot beautifully. The production went back to Vancouver and the director of photography from the series, Bill Roe, was brought back for this big screen effort so it looks like The X-Files. Someone new to the franchise would get a quick and easy idea of its trademark aesthetic. The setting, the chill, the darkness, it’s all perfect. And for a while, it convinces me I’m back home, imaginatively speaking.

But the difficulty in making this a MOTW is that it creates continuity issues for long time fans. When we last saw Mulder and Scully some six years previously, Mulder was on the run for his life after being given the death penalty by the F.B.I.. After being a part of the plan to help him escape, Scully ran off with him, and I don’t suppose she handed in her resignation either. We left them in a hotel room in New Mexico, hiding from an alien infiltrated government and on their way to Canada, ready to give everything in order to prevent alien colonization before D-Day 12/22/12.

In order for this to be a proper MOTW and still fit into the framework of the mythology, I assumed they would still be on the run or in hiding, but would somehow stumble upon an X-File, an outbreak of platonic paranormal activity or some such. I was sort of right about their being in hiding. Mulder’s hiding out in his home office while Scully lives openly, not under an assumed name, and works in a private Catholic hospital. There’s no underlying sense of urgency. (I’m sorry… when did the Super Soldiers stop posing a threat? I don’t need a mythology rundown, just a wee bit of context, please.)

After all that build up Season 9 about the government being out to kill Mulder, after Carter painted these two characters into the ultimate corner where they have no choice but to leave everything and everyone behind to take on the world by themselves, the threat is magically gone, just like Scully’s cancer, just like Mulder’s brain disease, and just like William. It’s safe for Mulder to walk into F.B.I. headquarters now. There are no Super Soldiers hiding in plain sight there. And the government doesn’t care about him one way or the other. “Just do us this favor and we’ll pretend none of it ever happened, Mulder.” Well, I’m going to do this plot a favor and pretend this issue was resolved in a much more satisfactory fashion.

In the grand scheme of things, how they get to this point is not a big deal. All that matters to me is that Mulder and Scully have an X-File to solve again. Mulder and Scully. Mulder and Scully.

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Is it too much to ask to see Mulder and Scully solve an interesting case… together? That’s all I want. That’s what I tuned into The X-Files to see every week. Instead we have Scully at first urging Mulder back into the land of the living only to retreat herself just as things get interesting. If IWTB is anything, it’s a character study, but not of Mulder, of Scully.

For first time viewers, it no doubt doesn’t matter. But for obsessive Philes, we know that Scully has a long history of being a paying passenger on Mulder’s crazy train. She’s briefly fantasized about normalcy in episodes like “Emily” (5×7) and “Dreamland” (6×4). And she’s questioned her life choices a few times in episodes like “Never Again” (4×13) and “all things” (7×17). But as in the ending of “all things”, she has reaffirmed her decision to continue tilting at windmills with Mulder over and over again. She did it, for example, in “Quagmire” (3×22), “Tooms” (1×20), “Paper Clip” (3×2), “Memento Mori” (4×15), Fight the Future, etc. etc. Scully wasn’t dragged into this quest and she hasn’t been dragged along. She’s invested in the journey.

Heck, she even reconfirmed her commitment in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). It’s a strange day indeed when I have to use TFWID as evidence of anything good and true…

Anyway, the last time we saw Scully in “The Truth” (9×19/20) she was doing what she does best after debunking Mulder’s theories and that’s keeping him in the fight, like she did in “Little Green Men” (2×1), “One Son” (6×12), and “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4), to mention a few episodes of note. Scully is the official Keeper of Mulder’s Faith. And that’s why reading between the lines of the script, I believe ITWB was designed to turn the tables, that it’s meant to show us a weary Scully who now has to be urged back into battle herself by Mulder and by God.

This is potentially a very interesting and welcome moment of personal evolution for her character. Characters, like real people (and Scully is real), evolve and change. But if Scully’s going to jump from “Let’s fight the darkness, Mulder” to “I don’t wanna fight the darkness, Mulder” then we need some kind of context as to how and why.

I remember in the script stage talking a lot about what Scully could say and couldn’t say to [Mulder], that it couldn’t be selfish, her refusal to join him and wanting him to stop. She had to have legitimate reasons about where she was in her life. – Spotnitz, Blu-ray Commentary

Did going on the lam test her faith and her patience? Did she miss her family? Is that why she and Mulder settled down and she took a regular job again? Scully says that she and Mulder have a home and that she doesn’t want the darkness to creep back into that home. Is it that she and Mulder have finally found happiness and she doesn’t want to lose it? Or is it the relative peace that she values? ‘Cause they don’t exactly look like they’re living in non-marital bliss…

Is it that she’s rediscovered her calling as a physician? Are we supposed to understand she’s found fulfillment elsewhere now that she and Mulder aren’t chasing monsters anymore and that her work helping others has replaced the necessity of her work on the X-Files? Maybe it’s her relationship with young Christian, who is not so subtly named “Christian” and comes to represent both her lost son and the Christian faith she questions as she thinks on both her own losses and this young boy’s suffering.

If all that is the case, then I’m sad to say it doesn’t prove particularly effective as character motivation. The fate of the wide world rests on Mulder and Scully’s shoulders, but having Mulder out of the house for this case is too much for her to take? So she threatens to leave the only person who understands everything she’s been through? The person who she’s saved and who has saved her more times than she can count? Really? Well just roll me into a ball of confusion.

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When did Scully become that chick? When did she become the clingy girlfriend or the stereotypical cop’s wife for whom no emergency is worth her husband missing dinner? The woman who from the outside male perspective doesn’t appear logical, but purely hormonal? Scully’s suddenly the type to emotionally manipulate Mulder into doing what she wants by holding their relationship over his head?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a very low tolerance for onscreen relationship drama. Breakup or don’t. I have things to do.

I think the tension between Mulder and Scully would have worked much better if it had stayed centered around the case. We’re used to seeing Mulder and Scully at odds. The tension between them comes from their different perspectives, which actually work in a sort of harmony to drive the plot forward. There’s no need to force feed us marital drama. If there’s tension between them, let it be about the work itself, not their personal romance.

After all, as ever, they’re ultimately after the same thing. Scully is trying to save a life and so is Mulder. Not only is she after the same thing, she’s going after it in the same way – by exploring extreme possibilities. Even if Scully is wrapped up in what she’s doing at the hospital, there’s no legitimate emotional reason given for why she wants Mulder to give up trying to save these women and come back home and be a good househusband. (Oh, are you losing Mulder’s attention? I am so sorry.)

But that’s enough of my sarcasm because this isn’t a horrible movie. In fact, it starts off really well. There’s a creepy murder. Mulder and Scully are on a new mission – the team is back together. Mark Snow’s music is as effective as ever. It’s dark, it’s atmospheric, Mulder’s spouting mumbo jumbo nobody cares about and Scully looks worried about him. All is well in my world.

I especially like how the movie keeps us guessing as to the current status of Mulder and Scully’s relationship. Is it just that she knows how to find him for the F.B.I. or that they’re in regular contact? Are they in regular contact or is she at home in that house? Even at the end of the movie, is Scully moving out and saying goodbye or is she leaving for another day at work? See how things don’t have to be out in the open to stay interesting?

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Unfortunately, though, the movie hops over the boredom line at about the halfway mark. As the relationship drama ramps up, the mystery itself winds down. Instead of taking time to develop the villain or up the stakes of the plot, IWTB focuses on Mulder and Scully’s adventures with the peodophile priest. Father Joe is played convincingly and even sympathetically by Billy Connolly. But the overall plot is sacrificed to the themes of persistence and redemption that Father Joe represents. I love those themes, but isn’t there still supposed to be a mystery here worth solving?

Father Joe is here more than anything to be the voice of God for Scully, to convince her not to give up on young Christian or her faith. But, Scully’s like the prophet Jonah. Some people she’d rather not see God forgive. There can’t be a more unregenerate soul than a priest turned pedophile, right? If so, then the theme that absolutely anyone can be redeemed and anyone who presents themselves available can be used by God comes through loud and clear. By the end, Scully seems to have accepted the message on behalf of us all. 

As ever in The X-Files, God, Providence is at work behind the events. These are themes Chris Carter keeps coming back to, no doubt because they’re a part of him.

Verdict:

It’s not great, it’s not horrible. It’s just okay. But “okay” isn’t a satisfying comeback after six years. And “okay” doesn’t get you a third movie.

I remember seeing this in the theater for my 25th birthday. One of my best friends had come down to help me celebrate my quarter life crisis and what perfect timing! Mulder and Scully were back. After the way Season 9 ended and the amount of time that had passed, I had assumed all momentum was gone and that there would be no movie franchise forthcoming. Imagine the thrill when I found out we were getting a new movie, and a MOTW at that!

I was duly giddy with excitement, but I couldn’t help noting that we were about the only ones in the theater. And while the movie started out great, even as I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was happy to be seeing Mulder and Scully onscreen even when I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying myself, I knew even then that this wasn’t the kind of movie that spawned yet another movie. Mulder and Scully waved to me and I waved back to them (shamelessly) with the sad knowledge that this likely really was the end this time.

And then it wasn’t…

“I think we always had the desire that we would potentially do a third feature. I think we all felt that the second one that we did wasn’t necessarily the right way for us to end.” – Gillian Anderson

“I feel like we didn’t end on the right note before.“ – Gillian Anderson

I so agree. And I’m so, so grateful that it didn’t end here. If this had been a mediocre episode of the series, I could’ve shrugged off some of its failings much easier. When I thought it was The X-Files’ last gasp, it was a more painful thought. I’ve gone through ups and downs in my feelings about IWTB, but I think I’ve finally learned to accept it for what it is.  IWTB sounds like an instrument tuning back up. But you don’t listen to the orchestra tune up without then sitting through the concert. This was The X-Files getting a feel for itself again. This was the actors connecting with the characters again. This wasn’t a fully satisfying outing that left you feeling like Mulder and Scully’s journey was complete.

In the end, I’m glad IWTB wasn’t sufficient to launch another movie. In the end, the only satisfying way to finish out this series is to finish it out as a series. A couple of hours of screen time isn’t going to cut it to resolve everything that needs to be resolved. We don’t know where this new miniseries will lead, if it will lead to other miniseries. But if I can see the old team solving cases together one more time, it’ll all be worth it.

C+

Misplaced Bush Jokes:

“This stubbornness of yours… it’s why I fell in love with you.” I HATE this line. It’s the low point of the movie and one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the entire franchise. And no, I’m not surrendering my shipper card.

Enough with the free ads for Google. Google’s doing just fine on its own.

Realistically, this stood no chance being released during The Dark Knight’s massive reign.

A gay man kills innocent people to harvest limbs for transplant for his lover as part of a Russian medical conspiracy. They really thought that would work as a plot, huh?

Amanda Peet and Xzibit don’t feel like X-Files characters.

Speaking of which, what was the point of Agent Whitney’s toothless Mulder crush? I mean, other than kinda grossing me and Scully out?

Scully’s abilities as a doctor were always suspect given her resume. But when did she find time while on the run from the government to undergo training in pediatrics? And now the pathologist is poking around in the brains of the living? Scully does a quick Google search then wheels the boy into the OR for an experimental procedure the same day?

And, really? We’re going to bring Scully back to Seasons 1 & 3 with the “Samantha is Mulder’s only motivation” schtick?

THE BEARD, THO.

I can’t believe the Russians would successfully do those surgeries in those kind of unsanitary conditions.

“Write it down. Put it in a book.” – HUH???

William left me with an emptiness that couldn’t be filled either. Let’s see what happens now…

Dear Revival – As you can see, we’ve already been there, done that with the breakup idea.

Movin’ On Up:

The Skinner Hug. Squeal me.

I remember the actress who plays the missing agent from “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6). TPMP – My eternal debt to Chris Carter.

Between this and TPMP, it’s clear Chris Carter has a Frankenstein fetish.

Father Joe can’t have visions with Scully in the room. Echoes of the Stupendous Yappi in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4).

The hospital asks Scully to let go of her case, Scully asks Mulder to let go of his.

I love the effortless elegance of Scully’s hair.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: If it were me, I’d be on the guy 24/7, I’d be in bed with him kissing his holy ass.

Whitney: Father Joe’s a convicted pedophile.

Mulder: …Maybe I’d stay out of bed with him.

——————–

Scully: What is this?

Whitney: Dorms for habitual sex offenders.

Scully: Dorms?

Whitney: They manage the complex and police themselves. Father Joe lives here voluntarily with his roommate.

Mulder: Just avoid the activities room.

——————–

Scully: What are you doing?

Mulder: [Walks off] I’m trying to ignore you. {Editor’s Note: ME TOO.}

——————–

Skinner: I know Mulder. He’d get to a phone and call first. He wouldn’t do anything crazy.

Scully: [Looks at him]

Skinner: Not overly crazy.

 

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Providence 9×11: You don’t need to put yourself through this.


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Whew. I’m so relieved to be able to say I like this more than “Provenance” (9×10).

When we last spoke, The X-Files had bitten off more than it could chew in the storytelling department. Does “Providence” aid in digestion? Well, let’s sum up the mythology as stands as of the end of this episode, shall we?

Once upon a time, there was a man with the improbable name of Josepho. Josepho fought in the Gulf War and led a squad of soldiers on a failed mission. All of his men died. Josepho himself was about to die, when he saw men, like angels, throw themselves into what should have been certain death and survive. On that day, Josepho realized that he’d been given a vision, a vision of otherworldly beings come to deliver mankind. And you know he had a vision because he cried blood. Yes.

Josepho took his message to the people and started his own UFO cult. The cult worshipped the aliens as gods who would eventually return to earth to save humankind. Josepho himself heard from “God” on the regular.

Then one day, Josepho learned of a prophecy, either from “God” directly or he read it on one of the Holy-Special-Sacred Spacecraft. The prophecy was similar to the Navajo one alluded to by Albert Hosteen in “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×2), because as you know, Native Americans are automatically closer to “God” than the white man and with indigenous peoples lie the secrets of life.

Albert Hosteen: I was hoping to see your partner.
Scully: He’s missing.
Albert Hosteen: You must save him.
Scully: He’s very ill.
Albert Hosteen: You must find him before something happens not only for his sake, for the sake of us all.

Scully: [Regarding Native American Beliefs and Practices, Chapter 3 – “The Anasazi – An Entire Native American Indian Culture Vanishes Without a Trace – History as Myth and end of the world symbolism. Apocalypse and The Sixth Extinction.”] It’s all here, sir. A foretelling of mass extinction, a myth about a man who can save us from it. That’s why they took Mulder. They think that his illness is a gift, protection against the coming plague.

The prophecy said that there would be a messiah. (FYI: Mulder wasn’t it.) It also said, apparently, that the messiah would bear a strong resemblance to Darth Vader because he could play on either side of the force. If the messiah and his human father lived, the messiah would lead humanity against colonization. If the messiah lived and his father died, he would lead the Super Soldiers in the colonization charge. Ergo, from the point of view of the UFO cult and the Super Soldiers who both want colonization, the father had to die so that the messiah could lead them. Or, if the father remained alive, then the messiah would have to be killed so as to kill the resistance.

And so, Josepho and his people made it their business to try to kill Fox Mulder because, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, William is the “Jesus” of our little Space Soap Opera. The F.B.I. found out about these threats against a former one of their own and sent Agent Comer in undercover to find out what the cult was up to and stop them. Comer heard about the prophecy and witnessed enough to believe it. He also heard that Fox Mulder was dead.

Then, like any sane human being who wants to prevent the end of the world, he made it his personal mission to kill William. After all, if Mulder is dead and William lives then colonization will most certainly take place. However, Comer didn’t count on Scully who went all Psycho Mama Bear on Comer, put brotherman in the hospital, and saved her baby.

If you’re keeping track, this now means humankind is in danger since Mulder is dead and William is alive.

Scully only temporarily saved her baby, however, as he’s then kidnapped by Overcoat Woman. The inventively named Overcoat Woman brought him back to the UFO cult and they just held him and stuff.

Again, if you’re keeping track, she didn’t kill him because they believed Mulder had already been killed and they wanted William alive to lead colonization.

Josepho, who I now pronounce the villain of our tale, called Scully and dangled William’s life in front of her. He and Scully met and he revealed that Mulder was likely still alive, but he wanted Scully to rectify that.

Josepho: If you want to see the boy, you’ll bring me the head of Fox Mulder.
{Editor’s Note: Snort.}

Scully had no intention of doing that so she and Reyes secretly, and rather easily, followed Josepho back to his lair. They arrived right as the Holy-Special-Sacred Spacecraft Josepho had been trying to open activated at William’s cry. Unfortunately for Josepho, the Holy-Special-Sacred Spacecraft liked William but didn’t feel the same about his new friends. “God” killed the cult, left William alive for Scully to find, and flew off into the night.

Is that all vaguely clear? Is the mythology coming together for you?

Now let this sink in: You can disregard almost everything you learned in “Essence” (8×20) and “Existence” (8×21). The Super Soldiers never wanted to kill Baby “Jesus” William. Quite the contrary, they wanted to protect him. Oh, and you can likely discount “Nothing Important Happened Today” (9×1), “Nothing Important Happened Today II” (9×2) and “Trust No 1” (9×8) because while there may be many Super Soldier babies, there is only one messiah. William’s conception was different than the others.

Mulder: [Voiceover] How did this child come to be? What set its heart beating? Is it the product of a union? Or the work of a divine hand? An answered prayer? A true miracle? Or is it a wonder of technology, the intervention of other hands? – “Essence”

Scully: I need to know if it’s really God I have to thank. – “Provenance”

Skinner: [To Krycek] You wanted to destroy her child.
Krycek: I wanted to destroy the truth before they learn the truth.
Mulder: That there’s a God… a higher power. – “Essence”

This plot is crazy, so let’s have a rundown, shall we?

Where did William come from?

Mulder and Scully had sex. And God.

So basically he’s just like everyone else?

Yes. Only with superpowers.

Why did God create William?

Probably because God loves humanity and these aliens attempting colonization are messing with His children. He gave mankind William to save them.

I thought Scully was infertile?

She was. But God gave her back her fertility because… William. Quite likely, the contact she made with the spaceship in “Biogenesis” (6×22) brought her womb back to life. Those ships bring everything else back to life, so why not?

The spaceship made her pregnant?

Sorta kinda. It’s like the virgin birth only it’s nothing like the virgin birth.

And that’s why William has superpowers?

It was an alien influence, yes.

I thought the spaceship belonged to the colonists?

At this point, not much is clear. At no point will it be.

Why did Krycek want to kill William?

Because Mulder was dead/dying in “Deadalive” (8×15) and he wanted to kill William so that he wouldn’t live to usher in colonization.

Then what was Krycek up to in “Essence”?

He really wanted William to live now that Mulder was okay. He was likely telling Mulder the truth, for once. He was on the side of the resistance and was double crossing the Super Soldiers by leading them away from William.

Then what was Krycek up to in “Existence”?

He had likely switched sides yet again, had given up on keeping William safe and had joined up with the Super Soldiers. That’s the only reason he’d be willing to kill Mulder with William still alive out there somewhere.

So the Super Soldiers didn’t kill William at the end of “Existence” because…

Because they want him to lead them.

So then, the Super Soldiers didn’t kill Mulder at the end of “Existence” because…

I don’t know. You got me.

Whew! Okay. There you have it, folks. The “Provenance” of William is that “God” healed Scully and allowed her to conceive for the purposes of “Providence.” He’s living proof that God is at work. It only took nearly three years to make any sense out of what I saw as far back as “Biogenesis.” Strike that, it took me seventeen years. But I was really paying attention this time.

Dear X-Files, I love you. But let’s leave the Space Saga to Star Wars, shall we?

Verdict:

“The Truth” was out there, but it’s been buried under cryptic revelations and misleads for so long that, quite frankly, I care one minced oath less than Rhett Butler.

Even if I did care, the whole thing is hard to believe even within the context of the series. William as the new son of God? Does that seem like too much to you? It is. It’s too much. Mulder and Scully were just a guy and a gal solving cases, fighting spooks and beasties, and searching for the truth in life. Now Mulder and his miracle son are the subject of ancient prophecy and destined to change the fate of the cosmos.

One thing I must say, Chris Carter is often accused of having made it up as he went along, but I finally see in this episode that he was planning for the eventuality of these developments as far back as the end of Season 6. There is a plan here. But it’s much harder to follow than the mythology of the early years and even harder to swallow. It’s too crazy, too grand, too epic and too mythic.

Still, it was a crazy, grand, epic, mythic ride while it lasted.

B-

Thoughts:

Who *is* speaking to Josepho?

Where does this cult get the money or the technology for these digs? How did they find what the rest of the world hasn’t? Through whoever or whatever is speaking to Josepho?

The verse Josepho quotes is not from Ephesians, it’s from Ezekiel. We know Scully went to Sunday School so I’m not sure how she got that pop quiz wrong. I realize both books share an “E” but they’re otherwise separated by about three hundred pages and five hundred years. All that effort to find a relatively unknown Bible verse to suit the story and no one checked the reference?

All three of the Lone Gunmen wouldn’t ID the suspect in the same place at the same time.

If they had a tracker on the baby why didn’t Scully try that immediately?

I’m not buying Scully as Jack Bauer. A few seasons ago she was much more believable when she threatened somebody.

If Scully was given her fertility back in “Amor Fati” then the doctors’ reports were most certainly wrong in “Per Manum” (8×8) OR the events of that episode took place before “Amor Fati” in Season 6, which would certainly make more sense in terms of where Mulder and Scully appear to be in their relationship. Raspychick even suggested that in the comments for “Per Manum”.

Scully runs in the darkness yelling for William as she approaches the cult’s base. Shhh, woman! They’ll know you’re coming!

And it’s official: Reyes is a sidekick.

Doggett’s experience in the hospital also underscores the message that there’s a God, Providence, working behind all of this.

Josepho worships the aliens as God, but you see where that left him. Fried, died and laid to the side.

So Toothpick Man, the new Cigarette-Smoking Man, is an alien replicant/Super Soldier. That reveal isn’t as shocking or interesting as it should be.

When did God come to Jesus on a mountain top? I know Satan came to Jesus in the wilderness…

Season 8 Wrap Up – Can’t we just go home and start this all over again tomorrow?


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It’s been a hard road. But for all the frustration of David Duchovny being half in, half out all season, and the blasphemy worthy of Beelzebub that is Scully having a partner who’s not Mulder, the bald-faced truth is I actually prefer Season 8 to Season 7.

Stop, stop! Don’t panic! Everybody breathe!

Better?

Okay.

It may not have been the way I would have preferred it to happen, but David Duchovny’s absence woke everybody up. There was passion again and a sense of urgency, from the acting to the writing. For too long, for all of Season 7 – which is ironic since “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×2) was all about Mulder’s renewed will to fight – there had been nothing driving Mulder and Scully, nothing that you felt like they were fighting for. Come Season 8, Scully’s fighting for Mulder’s life and their future with their child, the latter part of which fight Mulder joins when he graces us with his presence again. Also, Mulder leaving meant we had a reunion to look forward to and, while it may have been rushed, these two characters did not disappoint.

But if I may back it up for a moment to the improved writing again, when it comes to Monster of the Week episodes, Season 8 may be the scariest season of them all. I don’t scare easily and while The X-Files has regularly thrilled me, it’s never actually made me uneasy before. But there were moments this season that I thought were honestly frightening. Moments I wouldn’t watch in a room with the lights off. I’m thinking of you, “Via Negativa” (8×7).

I think the writers lost their crutch and found out they could walk again unassisted, albeit with a limp. They couldn’t rely on the failsafe of that old black magic that was the Mulder and Scully partnership. Together, those two could elevate even the most mundane episodes, make an insignificant finding appear the key to all mysteries. And it was on that foundation that Season 7 leaned a little too heavily, with lackluster plots and performances sneaking through and held afloat by desperate appeals to the characters’ chemistry.

In Season 8, since they couldn’t give us Mulder and Scully, and since Mulder and Scully couldn’t give them a head start off the mark every episode, 1013 pulled out all the stops to remind its audience that The X-Files could be freaky. Period. It’s like they figured if they couldn’t squee us, they’d scare us. I honestly have no idea whether it was in desperation or confidence, but our favorite writing team definitely upped their game.

That praise delightfully and duly given, Season 8 still had its problems. Serious problems.

1. Scully starts to slip.

Now, when I say this, it has nothing to do with Gillian Anderson’s performance as Scully. Season 8 is, without question, Gillian’s best year of acting on The X-Files and that’s saying a lot… a lot, a lot. Probably more than we should get into at this hour.

No, Scully was acted beautifully. Some of her characterization, though…

Scully doesn’t have much to do except miss Mulder and worry about her baby…. Scully will never again have much more to do except miss Mulder and worry about her baby. Oops. Spoilers.

Of course she needs to be upset about Mulder, but I wish she’d been given a more active role in investigating Mulder’s abduction. I realize the abduction plot was stretched out to make room for David Duchovny’s return in the latter half of the season, but the result is that Scully spent long stretches of time not even mentioning Mulder let alone looking for him. Instead, she was working through her mixed feelings about her new partner who was both worthy and unwanted.

Some of that may have been necessary, but not all of it. We’ve seen Scully work with temporary partners before. And she did so while still remaining true to her core characterization. Yep, I’ll see your “Chinga” (5×10) and raise you a “Tithonus” (6×9).

This Scully takes ten standalone episodes to gel with her partner and ten episodes to realize that she can’t solve cases pretending to be Fox Mulder. Why would she need to? *whispers* She’s solved them as a skeptic before.

I get that she’s on an emotional rollercoaster and it makes sense for her to resist liking Doggett and it makes sense for her to try to feel closer to Mulder by thinking like he’d think and doing what he’d do. But Scully is a smart and sensible woman. Having her work through the same issues for so long felt like the series had her caught in an ouroboros… and me stuck on a treadmill.

2. In with the new before we’re out with the old.

I’m a fan of Doggett and I like Reyes too. What I wish for them and for the series is that they’d had time to develop as characters away from the looming spectre that was Mulder and Scully.

The idea was to get the audience interested in and attached to them by the time Season 9, if there was a Season 9, started. Season 9 wasn’t confirmed till after the season finale was shot and not long before it aired. If and when Season 9 did come, it would come without Mulder.

Again, I get it. We needed to bond with Doggett and Reyes in time for us to want to tune in to the premiere of a Mulder-less Season 9. But I submit that this plan backfired. Or maybe it was destined to fail regardless, I don’t know. All I can say is that as much as I kept my mind open to Doggett and Reyes and even appreciated their contributions in Season 8, the new skeptic and the new believer sharing screen space with the old skeptic and the old believer only made me more sure that while the show might be able to survive, the magic would be gone.

Episodes like “Empedolces” (8×17) and “Alone” (8×19) showed a promising dynamic between Doggett and Reyes, but up against the hard earned connection Mulder and Scully showed us in their brief scenes in both those episodes, Doggett and Reyes couldn’t help being less interesting in comparison.

It’s impossible to ever know and I may be wrong, but I suspect Doggett and Reyes as a team would have benefitted from being completely removed from Mulder and Scully and given a fresh start Season 9 or placed in their own spinoff.

3. Is that a mythology or are you just happy to see me?

Season 8’s mythology was a jumbled mess of the old and the new, as if 1013 wanted to change things up but were afraid to flip the switch outright. To be sure, most casual fans were so confused by the mythology as it already stood, both the core mythology of Seasons 2-6 and the brief pitstop into creation theory that was the beginning of Season 7, that springing something totally new on them without any connection to what came before probably would have lost them completely.

I concede that the transition to something new needed to happen, but it was a rough, uncertain transition. The character of Gibson Praise was brought back after a two year absence, Jeremiah Smith after four. Both were again dropped unceremoniously, Gibson when he was on the verge of finding Mulder, Jeremiah when he was on the cusp of saving him. And two things we haven’t heard about since the 1998 movie, the Black Oil that was to be the means of alien invasion and the phrase “Fight the future”, both showed up once more only to just as quickly die in episodes “Vienen” (8×16) and “Three Words” (8×18).

1013 is dropping large hints that old things are passed away and all things are become new. At the same time, they’re making inconsistent connections between the old and the new, basing the new mythology of the Super Soldiers on what came before without giving us a reason for or a logic behind the evolution.

I humbly submit that we needed a clear end to the old mythology, with the loose ends tied up and Mulder and Scully set free from their quest, before we moved into a completely different conspiratorial territory that would be uniquely suited to Doggett and Reyes.

4. That’s just my baby daddy.

Baby William. Sweet little baby William. He, for me, becomes the major headache of both Seasons 8 and 9.

We first found out about Scully’s pregnancy in the heart-wrenching cliffhanger that was “Requiem” (7×22). Then and in the Season 8 premiere, Scully seems to be living with the assumption that, despite being declared barren, she and Mulder are having a baby. She all but admits to Skinner that her drive to find Mulder is fueled by her pregnancy, i.e. I don’t want to have this baby and lose its father at the same time.

But thenPer Manum” (8×8) comes along and with revisionist history comes perplexities of nations. Now we’re told that at some point in Season 7, when we were previously led to believe that Mulder and Scully were having a sexual relationship, Scully either before or after or in the middle of said relationship asked Mulder to donate sperm to her quest for conception. Shocker – the IVF treatments Scully underwent were administered by a fertility specialist who had secretly worked for the Syndicate and was still carrying on experimentation in alien-human hybridization with unsuspecting mothers. Shocker – Scully may have been one of them.

But thenEssence” (8×20) comes along and we’re told that this is a very, very, very special baby. No, it’s not normal. It’s an uber Scully, a super human. And the Super Soldiers want to kill this Super Baby because it carries within itself the potential to resist colonization and possibly save humankind.

But thenExistence” (8×21) comes along and… Psych! Just kidding. Everything’s exactly the way you thought it was at the end of Season 7. We were just messin’ with ya.

Somewhere and at some point, I imagine the conversation went a little like this:

How do we get our audience back? I know! We’ll make them wonder again whether or not Mulder and Scully are a couple. Hey, it’s not like we absolutely said that they were sleeping together, we just showed Mulder splayed out naked in bed. There’s deniability there. And then we’ll tease them with whether or not Scully’s baby is Mulder’s. That’ll work because we know they lurve Mulder and Scully. That’ll get them to stick around all the way to the finale. We’ll make them beg for it, then give the people what they want.

Stop it. Tricks are for kids.

Which brings us to…

5. Lot’s wife syndrome.

Season 8 spent too much time looking backward to Season 7 to spark interest in current events. It should have spent more time making current events interesting.

Everyone knows that Mulder and Scully’s partnership is at the heart of the show, however you may feel about ships and the destinations they sail to. 1013 knows it too and Mulder being gone for half the season only served to intensify the palpable presence of Mulder and Scully’s history, not diminish it.

Since there was bound to be a void due to Mulder and Scully being apart, and since fans were and are ravenous when it comes to the two of them, it seems like the idea was to fill that void by continuing to evolve their relationship… by devolving it.

What I mean by that is that we were retreading old ground. Mulder and Scully are in a romantic relationship… or are they? Mulder and Scully are having a baby together… or are they? Mulder and Scully don’t keep secrets from each other… or do they? Mulder and Scully were having the time of their lives Season 7… or were they?

There’s a real irony here because while Chris Carter once swore that Mulder and Scully would never become a couple, by playing these mind games with the audience, their coupling ended up dominating the series and the search for clear answers about their relationship ended up being the main draw for those loyal enough to tune into the Season 8 finale. This is a tragedy.

All this hemming and hawing and revisionist history also resulted in a crazy pregnancy timeline and, even more irritatingly, Mulder’s magically disappearing brain disease. It’s not even subtle. Mulder was retroactively made to be dying in Season 7 not because the plot would move the characters forward, but to shock the audience. It was shamelessly designed to manufacture tears. Then, that job done, it all goes away like nothing ever happened. Mulder hears the good news of his recovery and couldn’t care less. Scully doesn’t so much as broach the conversation of why Mulder kept her in the dark.

Okay, so I had more to gripe about than I thought.

But I really do prefer Season 8 to Season 7. I’ll take being frustrated over being bored. Though there’s nothing worse than being bored with being frustrated and that point also can and will be reached.

Like I said, Season 8 has momentum. And for all the focus backward, you know that Mulder and Scully are headed toward something: Freedom, if you can believe it.

We needed Mulder to reach this point. We needed him to willingly walk away from the X-Files. If he hadn’t, if things had ended the way they did in “The End” (5×20) and his work was taken away from him, then his era would have ended in tragedy and not in victory. And what a waste of eight years that would have been. No, he had to make a choice.

The Fox Mulder who started the X-Files didn’t have anything more important in his life to rival his work. He lost his family that day when Samantha was taken and his work was all about redeeming that loss and finding Samantha. But now he’s found the truth, more or less and there are two people that now mean more to him than the work that used to give his life purpose. Mulder never said he wanted to spend the rest of his life hunting demons, he said he wanted to find his sister. Well, he found her and he’s found his family.

If he could get the hang of the thing his cry might become: “To live would be an awfully big adventure!”

If our Paranormal Peter Pan is going to grow up, we have to believe that Mulder is leaving behind one great adventure for another, even greater adventure; the adventure of loving and being loved and passing on that love.

And I do. I want to believe.

—————–

So without further ado, the Season 8 awards:

Best Episode You Haven’t Watched Because You Skipped Season 8

Roadrunners

You’re Not Missing Anything

Surekill

AND

Salvage

Work it Doggett

Via Negativa

Gillian Anderson for All the Awards

This is Not Happening

Best Old-School X-File

Invocation

Believe the Banter

Empedolces

 

Empedolces 8×17: The pizza man is not above suspicion.


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My regular pizza man.

“Empedolces” is one of my favorite episodes of Season 8. The X-File itself isn’t all that engaging, but Agent Reyes is established as a trustworthy character, Doggett’s backstory is at long last revealed, and we get more pure Mulder and Scully interaction in this one episode than in any other episode from the time of Mulder’s return to the season finale.

This X-File isn’t a fright fest, it’s a springboard for character and therefore audience discussion. There is an evil that leaps on a person when they’re emotionally vulnerable and can cause them to commit acts they never thought themselves capable of. I’m feeling echoes of “Irresistible” (2×13) in Mulder’s musings on the nature of evil, that once again, evil isn’t something so easily explained by psychology. Perhaps sometimes there’s an actual force behind it and people are open to that force at certain moments. Some things mommy issues can’t account for.

This X-File also finally lets us into Agent Doggett’s world. We now know how he and Agent Reyes met. They met on the case of Doggett’s missing son who was later found dead. It turns out, Doggett does have some previous experience with the paranormal, he just talked himself out of believing it. He and Reyes both saw a vision of his dead son burned to ashes that matches visions Reyes is having again on this new case.

It’s about time now for Doggett to start believing at least a little bit. He’s seen things he can’t explain all season. He’s even experienced things personally in “Via Negativa” (8×7) and physically in “The Gift” (8×11). No, what’s holding him back from belief isn’t lack of knowledge or experience, it’s the nagging guilt that if the paranormal is real then there’s another avenue of help that he failed to use to try and save his son.

Fortunately for him, Reyes is an unlicensed therapist and a pushy one at that. She’s not going to let him get away with lying to himself any longer. And she’s not going to let Mulder get away with ignoring Doggett’s plight.

You would think that since Reyes is a believer she and Mulder would get along. And they kinda do in the end. But the new-agey, spiritual type has always annoyed Mulder as evidenced by his relationship with the late Melissa Scully. Then again, Mulder’s also annoyed by the Doggetts of the world and this particular Doggett is not only stubborn in the face of loose coincidences but this non-believing heretic is in charge of his precious X-Files. Mulder only hears Reyes out in the first place because he thinks she’s going to give him some dirt on Doggett. It takes a lot for Mulder to swallow his pride and learn to tolerate Doggett, but he does this episode. He’s still not sold on him, but he does make overtures of peace.

When you think about it, these two men have experienced similar losses. They both know what it’s like to have a missing loved one and for that loved one to turn out to be dead. If anything, Doggett’s loss as a father is even greater than Mulder’s. Mulder and Doggett have already been established as very, very different men so I think giving them this single point of contact was a good choice. It forces Mulder to recognize Doggett as a man and not just as an interloper. Mulder shows stirrings of empathy after hearing what Doggett’s been through, but the only thing that manages to fully convince him to make an effort to help Doggett is Scully.

Scully is off the playing field this episode by virtue of the football in her tummy. Like in “Via Negativa”, Scully is sidelined by threatening the pregnancy. But whereas in “Via Negativa” that felt like a poor plot device to get her out of the way and one that distracted the audience from the plot at hand, I’m not as mad at it here because it serves a purpose other than just getting Scully out of the way.

Drugged out, bedridden Scully becomes the fount of all wisdom, leading Doggett and Mulder toward each other on the path to peace. Seeing how far Scully’s come in her own beliefs causes Doggett to reevaluate his own fear of believing and Mulder to reevaluate Doggett’s potential. Scully being in the hospital also forces Mulder to shift his focus off of being separated from his precious X-Files.

This is the first time we’ve seen Mulder engaged with Scully’s pregnancy. Between bringing a very personal gift for the baby and holding a vigil at her hospital bedside, he’s no longer the disinterested and distracted Mulder of “Three Words” (8×18). If anything, he resents Reyes bringing him this X-File that takes his attention away from caring for Scully and the baby.

Scully: I feel like I’m stuck in an episode of Mad About You.
Mulder: Well, uh, yeah. But, small technicality: Mad About You was about a married couple and we just work together.

ER Nurse: Who are you? The husband?
Mulder: No.
ER Nurse: Then you wait outside.

Mulder’s being set up to make a choice. He can choose to prioritize the X-Files and keep running and running and running, or he can choose to define his relationship with Scully and focus on protecting her and the baby, on making sure that she doesn’t lose anything else because of this quest of his. That was the choice he was in the middle of making back in “Requiem” (7×22) right before he was abducted, to stop fighting for the X-Files and let Scully have her life back because “there has to be an end.”

It may seem odd to think of Mulder being seriously tempted by the possibility of domestic bliss, but this is the same Mulder who dreamt of dropping out of this conspiracy rat race, settling down and having kids in “The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati” (7×2). Even as far back as “Home” (4×3) he showed signs of longing for the simple life. Perhaps these latent desires are merely bubbling back to the surface.

What will Mulder do? He has until the end of the season and David Duchovny’s contract to tell us. But I’m pretty sure that look of joy and wonder on his face as he feels the baby in Scully’s tummy is what they call “a clue.”

Verdict:

In some ways this is the reunion of Mulder and Scully that “Three Words” couldn’t be because Mulder had to deal with the immediate aftermath of his abduction. Their banter is as golden as ever, maybe better after Mulder’s long absence. Mulder seems to be more at peace with his situation now and even more so by the end of the episode, which is part of the point. All of the episodes from Mulder’s return to the season finale are about fleshing out interpersonal relationships. There’s very little by way of spooks and scares. There isn’t even much conspiracy.

There are rumors about the pizza delivery man and those are worth every second of this episode. However much 1013 may be trying to tease us and milk the “Who’s the Baby Daddy?” plot up to the very last second, “Empedolces” makes it obvious that Mulder and Scully at least believe this baby is theirs, Mulder’s insinuations about the pizza man notwithstanding.

I only have two nitpicks with this episode besides the lackluster X-File and the cheesy 80’s horror movie special effects.

The resolution is more than a bit of a copout. We go straight from “We have to find the connection, Doggett!” to “Don’t worry about finding the connection, Doggett!”. I mean, really. But as I said, this doesn’t exist as a story unto itself so much as it’s a vehicle to set up the characters. There’s a time crunch to phase out Mulder and Scully and establish Doggett and Reyes before the season ends, so these developments don’t happen as gradually and naturally as one might have wished.

The other nitpick is Doggett and Reyes. I like them and I can see that they’re going to be a good team. But in this episode they’re paralleled against the best, skeptic and believer to somewhat reformed skeptic and believer. Doggett and Reyes can’t possibly shine in comparison. Sorry, guys. My screen actually lights up when Mulder and Scully are on it.

A-

Stray Observations:

Scully’s reduced role also allows Reyes to get some needed airtime.

Mulder’s final Elvis joke… I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

The scene where Mulder puts his hand on Scully’s belly reminds me of Scully putting her hand on Mulder’s chest to feel him breathe in “Deadalive” (8×15).

It’s that kid, Jay Underwood, from that Disney movie Not Quite Human and its sequel. He also showed up in Chris Carter’s Millennium.

I also recognize Denise Crosby from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Her second claim to fame is that she’s Bing Crosby’s granddaughter.

That last line of Scully’s, though. That was a little on the nose, dontcha think?

Best Quotes:

Reyes: What if this is a thread of evil… connecting through time, through men, through opportunity, connecting back to you. In India, in Africa, in Iran, in the Middle East, in the Far East, most of the world… they take it as a given. They see evil in death the way other people see God in a rose.
Mulder: I saw Elvis in a potato chip once.

———————–

Scully: Mulder?
Mulder: What?
Scully: I was just about to jump in the shower but I was waiting for the pizza man.
Mulder: You got something going on with the pizza man I should know about?
Scully: The pizza man?
Mulder: Well, correct me if I’m wrong but you just said you were waiting for the pizza man to jump in the shower.
Scully: No, what I mean was the pizza man’s usually late, and so… You want to come in?
Mulder: Thank you.

———————–

Mulder: You miss your regular pizza man, don’t you?
Scully: [Meekly] Yes.
Mulder: [Feigns devastation]
Scully: [Cheerful now] That’s okay. He’s coming by later.

Within 8×1: Nice to meet you, Agent Doggett.


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Hallo from the outside.

Aliens are eliminating evidence. The X-Files department is over budget. Cigarette-Smoking Man is… dead? Krycek’s not. Skinner’s a believer. Scully’s pregnant. Mulder’s been abducted by aliens. Chris Carter got us into this mess, how’s he going to get us out?

And so begins the much maligned Season 8 of The X-Files. I’ll admit I was filled with as much trepidation as anyone at the prospect of a season half without Mulder. Mulder! Chris Carter swore he wouldn’t do The X-Files without David Duchovny, but contract negotiations are a fickle thing. Anyway, there was no way my viewership was about to drop off. I needed resolution. I needed Mulder back.

Scully does too because she’s having his love child. (Boy, I never thought I’d have to type that sentence.) She’s not supposed to be able to get pregnant, so there’s some mystery surrounding that, but Scully seems not to be overly concerned with that right now. Her first priority is finding her baby daddy. Fortunately-Unfortunately for Scully, she and Mulder are still so connected that she’s witnessing his alien torture sessions in her sleep. I’m glad to see that psychic link the two had in “The Blessing Way” (3×1) is still live and intact.

In keeping with Scully’s new position as the Queen of Angst, she’s been given new theme music so that every time she thinks sad thoughts about Mulder we can know about it. It’s good. It’s mournful. Slightly hopeful. It gets old fast. Fast. For those of you who are starting Season 8 for the first time, just you wait, Henry Higgins, just you wait.

For the sake of interest, Chris Carter can’t let Scully find Mulder too quickly or easily. Here to serve as roadblocks are the newly promoted Deputy Director Kersh, back as the Boss from Hell, and Agent John Doggett, Kersh’s current golden boy who’s been assigned to find Mulder.

We haven’t seen Deputy Director Kersh since “One Son” (6×12), when he was still Assistant Director Kersh and he handed the X-Files back over to Mulder and Scully, and Mulder and Scully back over to Skinner. Kersh was always a bit of a mystery, since he never quite appeared to be a part of the Syndicate conspiracy, yet he was an unsympathetic obstacle who wouldn’t give Mulder and Scully a break. It seemed he was written to thwart them for thwarting’s sake.

And now? Well, he’s here to thwart Skinner. I’m sure of that. Skinner’s a new believer in aliens, and like any good convert, he wants to share his convictions with the world. Kersh has made it clear that if he does his job is finished. Scully can’t afford to lose both of the g-men in her life, so she persuades Skinner to stay in the closet for the time being. We’ll see how this mini drama plays out over the course of the season, because for the life of me I can’t remember.

Kersh is also here to thwart Scully. I’m sure of that too. What I’m not sure of is whether he’s doing it because he’s a grumpy old man who likes to be difficult or whether he’s receiving orders from on high. If he’s receiving orders from someone, who? CSM is dead(?). The Syndicate is dead. Is there a new conspiracy we need to know about? Please let there be a conspiracy…

As for Doggett, I’m not going to get into a comparison of him and Mulder just yet. We’ll wait until he’s officially Scully’s partner. For now, all we know about him is that he’s capable, trusted, and his experience and assignment both put him at odds with Scully.

What I will talk about are the ridiculous ideas that come out of his mouth. Ideas that make no sense. Ideas that we all know Chris Carter put in his mouth just to tick me off. Because he’s a sadist and he enjoys frustrating his fans.

Doggett implies that Scully may not know Mulder as well as she thinks she does and he keeps on implying it. It becomes a theme of the season: Make Scully doubt her relationship with Mulder.

First of all, Doggett is making the same mistake that Diana Fowley made back in “Biogenesis” (6×22). Never question Mulder’s trust in Scully. That kind of crap she can smell without wind.

And then, what? Mulder was dying before he disappeared? What???

Stop it, Chris Carter. You stop it right there.

What in the Good Queen Bess are you trying to do to me now? 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.

You know how I know it’s BS?

“You were my constant, my touchstone.”

That’s how I know. So stop trying to mess with my head. Scully doesn’t appreciate it.

But back to Doggett. His practical methods only emphasize the loss of Mulder who is anything but practical. 1013 is taking the “make it hurt good” approach. They don’t merely leave a hole where Mulder once was, or fill said hole with a replacement of the same ilk; they give us someone completely different so that we’ll feel Mulder’s loss more keenly, so that we’ll resent Doggett and resent him but good. They want to heighten our resentment so as to let it run its course as quickly as possible.

If we had to lose Mulder, I think that the characterization of Doggett and Robert Patrick’s approach to playing him was a perfect choice. As I said, I’m going to hold off on discussing his character a little bit until we get to see him on a real X-File, but he serves as a foil to Scully in her current state; Scully, who misses Mulder so much that she’s trying and failing to become him. I guess that’s supposed to be an interesting bit of character development. I find it annoying and easy, which is why it’s too bad that it’s another theme that sticks around for a while.

Scully is emotionally overwhelmed. She’s so desperate for Mulder, she’s falling asleep in his bed in one of the saddest scenes that ever aired on The X-Files. She’s lashing out at Agent Doggett as though resenting him will somehow bring Mulder back. And she’s referring to the basement office as “Mulder’s office.” Huh? Since when?

Mulder’s become a larger presence absent than he ever was in person.

Verdict:

This can only loosely be called a mythology episode. What it really is is an emotional exploration of the aftermath of Mulder’s disappearance. And it’s a setup for a new web of relationships. It also introduces new recurring themes for the season, mostly centered around Scully’s emotional journey. Lastly and only just barely, it leads us into the next chapter of the mythology.

Interspersed we get a few shots of Mulder Torture. I feel bad for him and all, but I told him not to get on that ship.

On top of that, I’m a little concerned that they might not be using David Duchovny’s eleven episodes wisely. But this is just the beginning of the season and only the first in a two parter. They’ll give him much more to do than this. Right? Right?

For all my irritation and misgivings, I’m relieved. I’m relieved to be into the storyline again. I’m relieved to care. At last, something’s at stake.

B

Fish Food:

The new opening credits are a little on the nose, don’t you think?

The teaser was too, but I liked the lead in from the beating heart of Scully’s baby to Mulder’s heart racing as he’s in the clutches of the aliens. And love that Scully is somehow a conduit for them both.

I know they were making a point of it, but that cup of water to Doggett’s face felt good.

Scully, you’re a doctor. Wash your hands in between touching the toilet and wiping your face.

The idea is to find Mulder’s ship. What do they do once they do? Do they climb aboard? Do they call him to come down?

So Skinner’s calling Scully “Dana” now?

Kersh’s reintroduction is delicious. He starts off nice just to be extra cruel.

The way to ingratiate Doggett to the fans is not by using him to drive an arrow through the heart of the memory of what Mulder and Scully once were. Thanks for that. Thank you soooo much.

The jump from spaceship sightings over Arizona to Gibson Praise is a big jump. How does Scully know he’s still in Arizona?

I assume Gibson’s at a school for the deaf so he doesn’t have to listen to people say things they don’t mean.

Best Quotes:

[Morning in Mulder’s apartment]

Scully: [From Mulder’s bed] What are you doing here?

Doggett: I could ask you the same.

Scully: I came by to feed Mulder’s fish.

Doggett: And then you got tired and decided to take a nap.

————————–

Scully: [In front of the fish tank] What do you want to get on me, Agent Doggett? What is it you hope to find?

Doggett: I’m just trying to find Mulder.

Scully: You wouldn’t know where to look. [Searches shelves for fish food]

Doggett: It’s in the desk, middle drawer.

Season 7 Wrap Up – You don’t want me looking foolish.


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Let me preface this by saying that I don’t mean this insultingly. But if I had to pick one keyword for Season 7, it would be “Self-Indulgent.”

At this point in the series, the cast and crew of The X-Files have been churning out classic television at an unbelievable clip for the past seven years. Their work schedule was famously insane, averaging almost twenty-two one hour episodes a season. Somehow, despite that, they were able to function at such an impressively creative level that the numbers of the show’s fans keep increasing with time, some thirteen years after it went off the air. Not only was it a pop culture phenomenon in its day, but it remains such a present part of the public’s consciousness that Fox is airing a six episode revival of the series starting in January. If it’s successful, there have been hints of more to come.

I know I’ve just jumped from Season 7 into the future, but my point is that the talents behind The X-Files had earned a little self-indulgence by the time Season 7 rolled around. They had worked hard, they had made the show a success and, what was key, they had no idea if they’d be back for an eighth season. Fox didn’t officially renew the series until almost a week before “Requiem” (7×22) aired, meaning the final episode of Season 7 was written and shot without Chris Carter being sure whether he was ending the season or ending his series. From what I’ve read, the vibe behind the scenes was “This may be it.” And if Season 7 was “it,” then it was their last chance to say what they had to say and try what they wanted to try. I can’t blame them and I don’t.

How does Season 7 indulge itself? Let us count the ways.

  • Chris Carter’s Basic Instinct homage in, and frankly all of “First Person Shooter” (7×13)
  • Vince Gilligan creates a crossover of two of his favorite shows in “X-Cops” (7×12)
  • William B. Davis writes himself real screen time with Scully in “En Ami” (7×15)
  • Gillian Anderson cues us to the importance of chakras in “all things” (7×17)
  • David Duchovny hosts a block party in “Hollywood A.D.” (7×18)
  • Mulder & Scully flirting like they didn’t know how to stop in almost every episode
  • A third of the episodes taking place in the production’s home state of California
  • The mythology’s loose threads are ignored in favor of the new alien-gods

Deserved? Yes. And some moments are more successful than others. The overall result, though, is that the season feels largely unfocused. It’s like a free for all. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we get canceled.

I think part of the lack of focus and direction is due in part to the mythology not serving as the series’ backbone any longer. The X-Files is wobbling around without an alien conspiracy to hold it together. Not that there weren’t still unanswered questions about the conspiracy that the fan’s wanted addressed, but they weren’t vital questions and the series seemed content to move forward without answering them. But if “Requiem” proves anything it’s that there was still life left in the pre-Season 7 mythology.

Season 7 doesn’t act like it, but the human race is on the verge of complete annihilation. The threat of alien takeover is still there, it’s just not being addressed. Why isn’t there a fire lit under our heroes? ‘Cause Mulder and Scully certainly aren’t acting like they have anything to be concerned about. They’re flaunting their flirtation at the Bureau’s policy against male and female agents consorting in the same motel room while on assignment. But, they’re together now, as the not-so-subtle jabs to the audience’s ribs often remind us.

And I’m glad of their togetherness, don’t get me wrong. It was well-earned and well-timed. Stringing the fans on too long becomes palpably artificial past a certain point. Season 7 was that point. Stringing Mulder and Scully themselves along would have felt disingenuous too. They had reached a catharsis in their relationship and that’s good. You don’t have to keep ribbing me about it. That’s bad. The end result is that Season 7’s main legacy is the ongoing debate over when Mulder and Scully started having sex. That’s really bad.

So, the mythology is largely resolved. Mulder and Scully are at peace. Samantha’s dead. What are we here for? The Monster of the Week episodes? Most of those have been lackluster and weak. There’s no driving force behind the season, no push or pull, no sense of urgency or adventure. When The X-Files first started, Mulder and Scully were on a quest. Now there is no quest, just a rag-tag mix of episodes. The result is that Season 7 feels like a coda to Season 1-6’s main piece. Mulder and Scully have done all they came here to do and things are winding down.

It may just be the natural progression of things. Everything has a beginning, middle and end. The story and relationship arcs The X-Files started off with have inevitably run their course.

Maybe.

I can’t help but wonder inf 1013 Productions had known early on that there was going to be a Season 8, if they could have planned ahead and plotted out the show’s trajectory for Seasons 7 and 8 the way they did for the mythology of Seasons 4, 5 and 6… I wonder what the show would have been like.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda territory, I know….

We have what we have, and what we have is a stagnant series. Season 7 is standing still instead of heading somewhere. It’s not going backward towards the show’s roots or forward into a new battle for Mulder and Scully. It’s just kind of biding its time, spinning in circles until the show ends.

What I’m seeing on my screen is a show that’s suffering from chronic self-awareness, that’s bored with itself, and that reads a little too much like childish fanfic: “What would I make Mulder and Scully do if I could make them do anything?”

Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the Season 7 Year Itch. When it first aired, there were five episodes I actively resented, and seven more I passively disliked. Twelve out of twenty-two ain’t good. The rest I found middling with a few bright spots dispersed here and there.

I came to a sober realization this rewatch –  most of Season 7 I will never watch again.

On that sad note, here are the awards for the season…

Most Improved

all things

Least Improved

First Person Shooter

Missed Opportunity for Backstory

The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati

Deceptively Deep

Signs and Wonders

Successfully Experimental

Hungry

Overrated

Je Souhaite

Underrated

Theef

Closure 7×11: I guess I just want it to be over.


x-files-265

Don’t look any further.

I want to believe so badly, in a truth beyond our own, hidden and obscured from all but the most sensitive eyes, in the endless procession of souls, in what cannot and will not be destroyed.

Sure, I’ve skipped the more annoying parts of this voiceover. But if there’s anything an X-Files voiceover does, besides aggravate us with misplaced poeticism, is it gives us a shortcut to the heart of the matter. And this one picks us up emotionally, thematically and chronologically where “Sein Und Zeit” (7×10) dropped us off. The kids are dead, but the kids are alright. We don’t have proof of it, but we want to believe it. We know we should believe it.

I won’t bore you with a rehash of the discussion of being, death, life and walk-ins that was the “Sein Und Zeit” review. That was then. This is Samantha.

The search for Samantha has been the bedrock, the backbone of the show. Even Mulder’s search for the truth of alien life was fueled by memories of his sister’s abduction and his desire to find her or at least find out what happened to her.

Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Mulder hardly mentions Samantha anymore. He’s mostly moved on. Oh sure, she comes up as a token topic of conversation every mythology two-parter. But if you’ll cast your mind back to “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4), you’ll remember that even during Mulder’s famous dream sequence, when he imagines his life through a Leave it to Beaver lens and is reunited with his long-lost sister, their reunion lasts one scene. That’s it. “Hey! Luv ya, how ya doin’?” And it’s over. He spends almost no time on her mentally.

I see three main reasons for the growing lack of interest in Samantha:

  1. Hearing about her without making any real progress toward seeing her gets old after a while.
  2. Scully has taken her place emotionally, insofar as Mulder has found the family that he was missing and that Samantha’s abduction destroyed. Way back in “End Game” (2×17) we saw that Mulder was willing to trade the woman he then thought was Samantha for Scully. And in “Redux II” (5×3) we found out that the deepest desire of his heart was not to be reunited to his sister, to find out what happened to her, or to know the truth of alien life. It was to find a cure for Scully’s cancer. Mulder still misses Samantha, of course, but he’s lost the urgency of loneliness.
  3. We really already know what happened to Samantha. We just don’t know what happened after that.

Chris Carter was right to finally give us the last word on Samantha. Like Cigarette-Smoking Man says, “There was so much to protect before. It’s all gone now.” I know Carter wanted to take people by surprise by presenting this story in the middle of the season rather than waiting till the end for the traditional mythology finale. Considering where the series ends up going, and the mythology ends up going, and David Duchovny ends up going, it likely wouldn’t have been possible to give Samantha her proper treatment come season end. And we needed, we needed some emotion from Mulder at this point. Some people say David Duchovny was phoning it in this season. I say there wasn’t much else for him to do. After all, what’s driving Mulder? What’s pushing him? What’s pulling him?

Samantha’s storyline needed an end and we got one. Good. Yet, I still have mixed feelings about the way it went down. Overall, this episode was very well done. Some eye-rolling over the concept of the walk-ins and over the melodramatic language in the teaser aside, this and its predecessor are the most emotionally compelling episodes we’ve had in a long time. However, after all the ups and downs we’ve been through over Samantha… seeing her as a clone (Colony), a drone (Herrenvolk), and even an unknown (Redux II), the repressed memories (Conduit), the new and improved repressed memories (Demons), the strong hints that she’s alive out there somewhere (every frickin’ season)… to have it all end so matter-of-factly, to say that she just disappeared one day into the starlight, feels anticlimactic. And to effectively say all hope was lost long ago, before you ever started watching and wishing, is a bit of a let down.

Ah, Samantha, we never knew ye. You were abducted one night by the Alien Colonists, taken to ensure your father’s cooperation in the plot to take over the human race. Then you were returned and handed over to the Cigarette-Smoking Man, subjected to a series of experiments to try to turn you into an alien-human hybrid because, of course, the Syndicate betrayed the Colonists by trying to create a hybrid race that could withstand takeover by the Black Oil. You suffered for two years, then like the biblical Enoch, you were not, for God took you.

It was over before it had begun.

Mulder’s entire family is officially dead. Ponder that, if you will.

Mulder, for all his grief, or maybe because of it, is more himself than he’s been in a while. He’s sneaking into air force bases again, he’s following his instincts no matter how irrational, and he’s hanging up on Scully like he’s got a bad cell phone plan. He’s irritating. He’s classic. He even drops a flirt in the middle of a seance to find his sister.

Scully: Oh, yay. A seance. I haven’t done that since high school.

Mulder: Maybe afterwards we can play postman and spin the bottle.

How does he drop a gem like that at a seance to find his sister and say it that way? The inappropriateness. The melts. The rewinds. Oh, Mulder. Why do you make me love you so much more after I hate you?

Samantha may be gone but Mulder’s here. God is in His heaven, all’s right with the world.

Verdict:

Dear David Duchovny,

I’m so glad you exist.

A-

Lack of Closure:

It’s never directly stated, but some of Mulder’s speculations in “Sein Und Zeit” had to have been wrong. Teena Mulder probably didn’t have a vision of her daughter dead and never wrote a note. Nurse Ray saw her dead because she was with her and there probably was no note, since Samantha’s death turns out to have had nothing to do with Ed Trulove, the serial killer discovered in the previous episode. It’s only the walk-in connection that ties Samantha to Amber Lynn. Probably Teena Mulder saw a vision of her daughter in starlight at some point afterward and realized she was dead, she just didn’t have the heart to tell Mulder.

But if that’s the case, will someone please explain “Colony” to me? Because that Teena Mulder had no idea her daughter was dead.

At the very end, when Nurse Ray confirms to Scully that Samantha disappeared from the hospital mysteriously, every time I think to myself, “How did we get here? How did we get from walk-ins to Samantha to murder to Samantha and back to walk-ins again?” Every time.

For reals, though. Mulder finds this case that matches another unsolved case. The mother from the first case explains to him about walk-ins. His mother kills herself, probably unrelated to any of this directly. Mulder assumes that his mother must have known about the walk-ins and that his sister is one of them. Then he thinks his sister has been murdered by a serial killer. A random psychic comes and tells him Samantha has been taken by the walk-ins after all. Mulder develops a new theory that Samantha was abducted by aliens, but was returned afterwards to CSM who raised her for a period – true. He also believes she wasn’t taken by walk-ins and is alive somewhere – false. And then, boom. She’s in starlight after all. The story comes full circle but it isn’t the easiest to follow.

The diary idea seems an almost too convenient way to have Samantha speak to Mulder from beyond the grave. But it’s a touching scene nonetheless. Scully’s compassionate reaction to Mulder’s grief is perfect. She doesn’t drop stilted wisdom. She doesn’t try to talk him out of being sad. She’s just doesn’t let him grieve alone.

Who is this Agent Lewis Schoniger that Scully consults with about Mulder’s recovered memories? And why do I have to go to the credits to get his name?

David Duchovny’s 1989 Wig. It should get its own special.

That scene with Scully and CSM – we don’t get enough of those. Apparently, William B. Davis agreed, because soon he’ll give us “En Ami” (7×15). Meanwhile, a juicy little tidbit is embedded in that brief conversation: CSM is sick. In fact, I’d be willing to bet Chris Carter brought him physically to Scully just so we could know that.

Back to the serial killings, was Ed Trulove ever in Idaho? Because if not, he didn’t kill the boy in Mulder’s original X-File about the walk-ins and the mother writing a note referencing Santa Clause doesn’t make sense.

It looks like it isn’t just the walk-ins and the souls they help that live in starlight. All dead people do.

It’s very cool to see Anthony Heald from Silence of the Lambs, even if psychic Harold Piller is so annoying even Mulder almost throws him out.

Scully’s wearing a leather jacket.

There’s this great moment in the diner after Mulder calls out Harold for hiding information only to be persuaded by his words yet again. The expression on Mulder’s face says, “Well, Scully? Can I go with him? Can I?”

Jeffrey Spender spent at least a couple of years of his childhood raised alongside Samantha Mulder by CSM. How did Spender not ever mention this? That’s a pretty significant piece of information we learned this episode. A piece of information I don’t believe ever becomes relevant again.

As Mulder sleeps, Planet of the Apes plays in the background and we hear, “Don’t look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.” This echoes what Scully said to Mulder in the previous episode. “Don’t go looking for something you don’t want to find.”

Oh, how I had Moby’s Play album on repeat back in the day and his music here is perfect. The vibe actually reminds me a lot of the aesthetic composer Mark Snow has already established for the show.

So that moment in the seance makes me wonder if Mulder and Scully are already sleeping together. But we’ll get to that.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I have this powerful feeling, and I can’t explain it, that this is the end of the road. That I’ve been brought here to learn the truth.” {Editor’s Note: Just in case the audience was tempted to think otherwise.}