Tag Archives: The Truth

My Struggle IV 11×10: I am tired of looking at him on video.


 

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#howifeel

 

I teared up before I watched this not out of excitement or nostalgia or even because I knew it was the end of The X-Files, but because I knew it was the end of The X-Files and it wouldn’t be good.

I suppose I should have given it a fair shot. But it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for Chris Carter to tie up the shredded loose ends of the mythology in a satisfactory way within the space of one episode. It can’t be done.

So, lowered expectations properly in place, I sat to watch. It’s over now and I’m sad. And I’m sad that I’m sad. I’m sad that I’m not sad the way I was at the end of “Existence” (8×21) when I knew it was the end of an era. I’m not sad the way I was at the end of “The Truth” (9×19/20) when I had the chance to remember the magic. Heck, I’m not even sad the way I was at the end of I Want to Believe when I waved goodbye back at Mulder and Scully in their rowboat from the darkness of a forebodingly empty theater. In that last moment, I was all but sure I would never see my favorite team again. In all three moments, part of me was relieved to see them go while there was still enough of their legacy intact for me to want more of them.

Today, there’s no sweetness in my sadness. I’m sad for The X-Files. I’m sad for 1013. I’m sad for David and Gillian and the years’ worth of unforgettable moments they stretched their acting chops to give the fans. I’m sad for the fans. I’m sad that we couldn’t have a comeback worthy of how great this show was at its peak. No, I would’ve taken Season 1 levels of greatness.

You know what? I’m not just sad, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed for The X-Files, for 1013, the actors and the fans. This could have been so much more and it should have been. This was a golden opportunity to complete the series in a way that those of us who campaigned for X-Files 3 back in the day didn’t dare to hope for. That opportunity has been squandered. Gloriously.

I’m not even sure how to separate my musings of this episode from my overall feelings of mourning. William may not be dead, but my enthusiasm is.

William. His name is a one-word sentence in my head because I can’t even think of this plot without stopping to close my eyes and tenderly touch my weary head. I need a moment…

So, William. [insert nose bridge pinch here] What we have here, my fellow Philes (for no one but a Phile would still be reading… or watching by this point), is the ultimate retcon. Yes, yes. I know. I was there for Seasons 8 and 9 (unlike some of you, so don’t test me) and I remember the not-so-subtle hints that Williams’ origins were neither natural nor supernatural but manmade. The thing is, after all that back and forth, after all that giving Mulder a son and teasing taking him away, we were all, Mulder and Scully included, left with the conclusion that William was Mulder’s biological child. To pretend otherwise now is disingenuous in the extreme, also known as a right-rotten case of takesies backsies.

Actually, what am I saying? This entire episode is premised on the assumption that everyone had good reason to believe and did believe that William was Mulder’s child. Now, on the word of the Father of Lies… No, on the hearsay word of the Father of Lies as related to Skinner who was given no proof, to Scully who was given no proof, we are now to take it as fact that William was never really Mulder’s son, or Scully’s, for that matter. He was merely an experiment that Scully carried in her womb for nine months.

I know some had hoped that this whole “Luke, I am your father” jagoff shoeshine tip that Chris Carter introduced in the season opener was a mere technicality. CSM was William’s father because he merely medically impregnated Scully. But frankly, I never really bought that. And when we had this little exchange…

Mulder: Your mother has those same visions.

William: Then why don’t you see them?

…I think I threw up a little. Yeah, moving on.

William is Mulder’s little brother whose mother is Mulder’s lover. I know. I said I’m moving on.

Because if that weren’t sketchy enough, Chris Carter has now introduced a new little brother or sister for William. Awwwww.

Let me just. Hold on. Hoo. Okay.

So, everything we suspected in “Plus One” (11×3) was true and nothing will ever be true and right again.

Just kidding. I would have to be emotionally invested in this nonsense for that to be the case. We’re good.

This is not good, though. It’s really not good.

Chris, did you learn nothing from William??? You’re hoping to continue the series with a pregnant Scully AGAIN? Sir… stop it.

Verdict:

I’m also going to stop because otherwise, this will turn into an endless rant. I’d like to give some serious thought to the plot, but how can I when the entire plot was a foot chase for William? William whose hobby, like Darren Peter Oswald before him, was apparently causing death and damage for the thrill of it. William who can’t decide which irrationally adoring girlfriend to run away with. William who Scully is ready to move on from mere minutes after hearing of his (supposed) true origins and after well over a decade of yearning for him from the deep recesses of her heart. She absolved herself of his existence in about 30 seconds. But don’t worry, Mulder. We can still call you Daddy.

Really, I don’t know why Chris Carter thought Gillian Anderson would come back to this. I don’t know why anyone would come back to this. William has been displaced. The X-Files has shut down yet again. CSM is dead yet again. Mr. Y is dead. Erika Price is dead. Reyes is probably dead. Skinner might be dead.

I ask you, what is there to come back to?

I came back to The X-Files because I never really left. As you can see (*ahem*) I’ve already spent an inordinate amount of my imagination on this series. But I can’t go past this point. There has to be an end, Scully. I have now mused and bemused over every episode of The X-Files that exists in my world, and quite a few that don’t.

Naturally, I don’t mean that I won’t continue to obsess and discuss. Please. In fact, I’m going to take advantage of my current rewatch and finally post a couple of personal top ten lists. But from here on out, where 1013 goes, I can’t follow. Not on the screen, anyway. I can’t be a part of a show were William is the new Emily and discarded just as easily.

Nope. Nah uh. Not happening.

Grade: N/A

Crumbs of the Cracked Cookie:

I’m still not sure how I feel about Mulder the action hero. Sure there was Nisei and 731 and train hopping and stuff, but he was never Jack Bauer. He would drop his weapon before he’d kill mere footmen in this war.

What tipped Scully off to the lotto connection in the first place?

Scully looking in the mirror like it’s “Within” (8×1) and wearing a sweatshirt like it’s “Colony” (2×16).

Out with it, Scully. Just tell Mulder what’s going to happen instead of just telling him you know what’s going to happen.

“Kersh is blowing up my phone.” ← Should never have happened.

With CSM gone, does this mean no contagion?

So much for little green men.

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Nothing Lasts Forever 11×9: I always wondered how this was gonna end.


 

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Our irreverent constant and her touchstone.

 

 

First of all, pancreas lickin’ surgeons like what in the whole wide world?????

That one moment was harder to watch than all of “Sanguinarium” (4×6).

More importantly, who are you Karen Nielsen and how may I serve you?????

As I try to calm down, let me introduce you to me sitting down to watch this episode. Watching the teaser, I had just started chewing on a gooey Margherita pizza complete with spicy salami. You can imagine my discomfiture.

And at first, I’ll admit, I was cocking an eyebrow at this Catholic Kunoichi plot. I’m still cocking an eyebrow at it, but thankfully, the episode takes the themes deeper than vampire slaying.

Wait, no it doesn’t. It just takes the vampire slaying theme really, really deep. I won’t even try to cover all the themes touched on here. I can’t and keep things coherent. I’m surprised the episode could. But let’s cover what we shall, shall we?

You’re going to think this is strange, but the day I watched this episode, without knowing a thing about it or even remembering the previous week’s teaser, I had been having a conversation with myself in the car that morning about the Bible’s Old and New Testament proscriptions against eating the blood of animals and the inherently blasphemous nature of vampire myths. Because, doesn’t everyone?

Since said conversation has proven oddly (divinely?) relevant to the episode at hand, let me share a few verses surprisingly relevant to this conversation. Bear with me.

Leviticus 17:10-13, 14 (NLT)

“And if any native Israelite or foreigner living among you eats or drinks blood in any form, I will turn against that person and cut him off from the community of your people, for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible. That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood—neither you nor the foreigners living among you.’… The life of every creature is in its blood. That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood, for the life of any creature is in its blood.’ So whoever consumes blood will be cut off from the community.

Here we see God forbid His people to eat blood for two reasons. One, in its blood is the life that God Himself gave it. To eat the blood is to disrespect not merely the life, but the One who gave the life. Two, blood is provided as atonement, which is a $10 word that means to pay the price for a sin committed. Ergo, the innocent bull’s blood is shed for the sins you committed so that you yourself don’t have to die for them even though you deserve to. Blood is the only price that can be paid for sin.

John 6:51-58 New Living Translation (NLT)

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked.

So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”

If you’re saying “WHAT?” right about now, join a couple thousand years’ worth of multitudes before you. Unsurprisingly, most of Jesus’ disciples abandoned Him after this. But Jesus is speaking in spiritual terms, not physical ones, His point being that in the same way people eat food to live, we must feed off of Him to live spiritually and eternally.

You’re starting to see the relevance to our X-Files discussion, yes???

Matthew 26:26-28 (NLT)

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

Finally, not only is Jesus’ flesh and blood the life source provided for all of mankind, but His innocent blood is sacrificed as a payment for mankind’s sins. In other words, the innocent takes the punishment for the guilty so that the guilty don’t have to be punished for their own sins. The innocent is sacrificed in order for the guilty to live.

Whew! I know that was a lot. But we had to get on the same page with all most some of writer Karen Nielsen’s myriad Biblical allusions before we could go any further.

Anyway, this moment of breaking bread and drinking wine that Jesus first shared with His disciples is what’s known in Christianity as the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, or the Eucharist among other names. Jesus’ disciples still commemorate His death this way. Now, Catholic Christians believe that during the Eucharist, the wafer and wine that Christ speaks of here materially and substantially, and through no small sacred mystery, become the body and blood of Christ. This belief is called transubstantiation.

Now we can clearly see the parallels being made between the cannibalism in the opening scene, not only the literal licking of a putrid pancreas, but the cannibalism of one human being’s organs for another human being’s survival, be that human being an aging starlet or a nameless patient in a hospital, and Scully’s participation in the Eucharist.

If the innocent dying for the guilty is a spiritual principle and even Scully takes part in the body and blood of Christ, Scully, who by the end prays to Mulder rather than God, is Barbara Beaumont really so evil?

YES.

If you remember without scrolling up however many pages I’ve been venting my Phile emotions, blood is sacred for two (heavily simplified) reasons: 1. It contains within itself life given by God which man has no right to desecrate. 2. Blood is the only thing that can pay for sin. It’s blood that pays for sin in both the Old and New Testaments and blood is forbidden to be consumed in both the Old and the New Testaments (ref. Acts 15:28-29).

What is a vampire? It’s a creature that should be dead but keeps itself unnaturally and blasphemously alive by mocking Christ’s sacrifice for sin and further mocking its Creator by feeding on a life He made. Welcome, Barbara Beaumont. Come on down to Crazy Town.

By the by, if you ever wondered why Dracula was afraid of crucifixes and sacramental bread, it’s because everything he was and did was in violation of God’s natural and spiritual laws. Now you know. Tell a friend.

So, this is an episode that toys with cannibalism but is really about the physical and spiritual implications of vampirism. And might I add, it’s a much more interesting treatment of vampirism than the dreck that was “3” (2×7), which naturally, I skipped during my most recent rewatch.

For that matter, if we’re going back, “Our Town” (2×24) also treated cannibalism as another form of vampirism that provided the gateway to eternal youth for its practitioners, only blood wasn’t touched upon, visually or otherwise, so much or so often as it is here.

Wait. I forgot my comparison to Scully. Rewind. She’s Catholic again? Didn’t she just?… Wasn’t there just?… That whole “no evil” speech… I just… Mmm. Kay.

Anyway, Scully is fueling herself on the blood of Jesus (Really, she’s just reaffirming an ambiguous faith in faith itself, but why split hairs?). She’s not violating any natural or spiritual principles by participating in the Eucharist. She’s a Catholic in good standing and no Barbara Beaumont. May Scully live forever.

Mulder, though, he knows he’s a reprobate. He’s my favorite fictional reprobate ever. Mulder doesn’t believe in God, he believes in Scully. This is something I probably don’t find sweet the way that many Philes do, but I do get it. It’s very human. (It’s not quite where we left Mulder’s character development in “The Truth” (9×19/20) or I Want to Believe, but I’ve given up on continuity. You can’t be disappointed if you don’t care.) And it’s consistent with the nature of their relationship over the years. Scully, for her part, privately whispers her prayer for their future to Mulder rather than God. And even though I have my personal misgivings that Barbara Beaumont and Dr. Luvenis aren’t the only sacrilegiously attached couple who have outstayed their welcome, HOW ABOUT THIS IS PRETTY MUCH HOW THEIR RELATIONSHIP SHOULD BE ALL THE TIME, THANK YOU, CHRIS CARTER.

Seriously, though. Does Mulder worship Scully any less than Dr. Luvenis worshipped Barbara Beaumont?

Verdict:

With no intention of making a perverse pun, I finally have some meat to chew on. I have something interesting enough to muse over. It was not too much to ask.

This doesn’t just challenge your gag reflex like “F. Emasculata” (2×22) or make you squirm in your seat like “Roadrunners” (8×5). My very soul recoils at certain scenes here. Much of it felt over the top and unnecessary. And yet, I’m here to tell you that in terms of writing, I think it’s the most well thought out episode of the season and possibly the whole revival (if I had the stomach to rewatch all of Season 10).

It has to end sometime, Scully. And if this little shenanigans Chris Carter once called a breakup had to end, I’m glad it ended this way. And if The X-Files has to end (I’ll say a prayer for that), let it end with this, one last thoroughly thought out episode, ‘cause we all know the next one’s not gonna be it.

Oh yes, there are the parallels between The X-Files unnaturally extending itself through this revival and Barbara Beaumont sitting in the dark, reliving her heyday on a loop. No, nothing lasts forever.

Except for eternity in heaven or eternity in hell.

“I made a choice – It was mine. I’d gladly trade my lifetime here for an eternity in heaven.”

A-

Just for Kicks:

By the by, another conversation I had had earlier in the day before I watched this episode? About cults and about how one of the hallmarks of them is absolute control by a teacher who knows everything you don’t. This time I was actually talking with someone outside my own head, though.

Once again, Mulder’s uncanny intuition is on overdrive.

What is reverse aging when you spend your pretty-faced life in a lightless coffin of a tenement apartment in New York City with a naked, dirty crowd of grown adults who use words like “dinnie”? Go ahead and kill me.

Barbara Beaumont bordered on too comical at times, and crossed that border into farcical during her little musical recital. I confess, this took me out of the episode a bit. And yet, mad props to Season 11 for using diegetic music in in two out of its ten episodes. Y’all know I’m a sucker for that.

Speaking of Barbara Beaumont, did the actress that played her remind anyone else of Mila Kunis?

Still, no one has answered the question: Where did Juliet learn how to be a ninja?

“Every human being has a time bomb built into their genes.” TRUE. And in more than one way. The Bible calls it original sin. Like yeast in a loaf of bread, decay by a more palatable name, it’s eventual corruption is built in it from the beginning.

Scully would, could, should be dead after her fall through that dumbwaiter and yet Mulder was pretty much chilling.

Continuity Control: During Season 1, Mulder wore glasses while reading more times than I have the patience to post links for, not least of which was the very first shot we ever had of Mulder in the Pilot (1×79).

What a coincidence that Juliet comes walking into the church that Scully’s praying at. Of all the diocese in all the towns in all the world, you walk into mine.

Am I the only one? I’m a veteran X-Phile, but sometimes the cinematography was so dark I, mercifully, couldn’t make out what was happening.

There are moments of supreme tension here. I actually partially covered my eyes when Barbara Beaumont leaned in to kiss one of her minions. I was afraid I was about to witness a bloodbath.

Juliet and Olivia’s last name, Bocanegra, “black mouth”. I wonder if there’s a history to that name I don’t know about? Or am I just supposed to be visualizing a mouth black with blood? Eww.

Best Quotes:

You may have noticed that this section of my reviews has been neglected for a while now. That’s because there hasn’t been anything worth quoting. But somehow, this time around, there was so much great dialogue I had to pick and choose and still left some great quotes out. Scully and Mulder have the best banter they’ve had all season. Nay, since the final episode that awaits is none other than the inventively named “My Struggle IV” (11×10), I think it’s safe to officially call this the best banter of the season. Period.

Scully: Are those new? Bifocals?

Mulder: They’re not bifocals, Scully. They’re… progressives. They’re called progressive lenses.

Scully: No need to get defensive.

Mulder: I’m not defensive, I’m just…

Scully: Presbyopia’s a natural part of the aging process.

————————–

Mulder: You know, sometimes I wonder why we keep doing it, Scully, in the face of all this indifference and presbyopia… Did you get your hair cut?

Scully: …Are you kidding me?

—————————

Mulder: Now I know why I’m not a Christian, Scully. My parents never got me a puppy.

—————————

Scully: You always bear north, Mulder, no matter which way or how hard the wind blows against you.

—————————

Scully: You think she’s involved?

Mulder: I think she is. My gut tells me she is. And my gut doesn’t need glasses.

 

Kitten 11×6: He’s a good man.


 

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Do you see the dead person?

 

My first thought at the opening of this episode: FINALLY. A Skinner-centric X-File.

My second thought: Hey, that guy looks like a chubby Haley Joel Osment.

(!!!!!)

I guess this was just an episode for 90s reunions.

The last time we saw Kersh in “The Truth” (9×19/20), he was on our side. Color me confused. I guess when the Super Soldiers magically disappeared he began to doubt Mulder and Scully’s conspiracy theories? Weird.

What’s weirder is that I walked away from a Skinner episode without feeling like I understood Skinner any better. I mean, okay. I get that nuggets of government distrust were implanted deep down within his soul many years ago. And? So? This explains why he famously headbutted Mr. X so many years ago? This explains why he sold his soul to CSM for the cure to Scully’s cancer? This explains why he cradled a drugged and beaten Mulder in his arms on a dark and snowy night?

I know I’m being difficult and I don’t really mean it. “Kitten” doesn’t try to kid us that Skinner’s love for Mulder and Scully is primarily based on his latent doubts about the good old U. S. of A. But this just may explain why he never seemed completely at ease with CSM in his office even before he outed himself as an ally of the X-Files. Frankly, I always thought it was because he was a decent man with a moral compass who didn’t like being bossed around. I suppose it could have gone deeper.

Even so, outside of some internal emotional conflict over the war in Vietnam (and how many Americans already share those?) I honestly don’t feel like I know Skinner any better after this. He has the same moral core I always thought he did, even if his duty sometimes ran counter to his personal feelings. That, my friends, is what you call “a soldier”.

Regardless of how much we did or didn’t find out, I’m grateful for any extra attention paid to our too long unacknowledged third lead. Skinman for the win.

This episode, though… it’s just kind of “there”.

The Mulderisms are on point. Thank you for that, Gabe Rotter. But after watching and rewatching it, I can confirm that nothing much happens. Oh, a throwback to the mind-control cropdusters of “Blood” (2×3) happens, but not much else.

Wait, let me take that back. Mulder and Scully kinda sorta come to their senses without ever actually apologizing for the way they’ve treated their closest ally all season. Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

Verdict:

Let’s put to bed this ridiculous lack of trust Mulder and Scully have been showing Skinner lately, shall we? Because it is ridiculous. Walter Sergei Skinner has put not only his career but his very life on the line too many times for these two for them to treat him the way they have been.

The monster? Meh. It’s a half-caff episode of mythology disconnected government conspiracy mixed with a serial killer style “Monster” of the Week. Neither aspect of the mystery faired all that well.

As an episode of The X-Files, it falls flat for lack of plot. But at least it isn’t flat-out horrible.

C+

Uninventive Nicknames:

This town looks too big to only have one doctor. Just look at the number of cubbies in the morgue.

Okay, who can explain to me the tooth thing? I realize it’s a side effect of the gas. But why are all these people losing teeth without showing any symptoms of visions or violence? Have they been exposed to a more sophisticated version of the gas that the government is just waiting for the right opportunity to trigger? Was Skinner exposed before or after he came looking for Kitten? Is Kersh coming back???

If this has suddenly and understandably given you an itch for Skinner-centric episodes that you want to scratch, “Avatar” (3×21), “Zero Sum” (4×21), and “S.R. 819” (6×10) are all waiting at a Fox.com near you.

And, yes. They’re all better than this episode.

Funny, they’re all cases where Skinner’s in trouble and Mulder and (except for one instance) Scully have to save his reputation and/or his life. Pattern much?

I appreciate the diegetic use of John Cale.

Ghouli 11×5: It was in this borderland that I found myself frozen.


 

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You can shed a tear, Mulder. Sheesh.

 

I know it looks like I forgot, but I didn’t. I wanted to forget, but I didn’t.

Oh, no. I did my duty and watched “Ghouli” twice within the first 24 hours of it airing. I watched it a third time before finalizing these musings. I’d like to tell you that time and distance has settled all dissatisfactions. They have not.

I mean, listen. You don’t want to hear me kvetch. I don’t want to hear me kvetch. I’ve kvetched enough. And frankly, I’m not annoyed enough to kvetch. Not really. It seems these days when it comes to The X-Files, I’m either staring at my screen under half lids of bored bemusement, or I’ve closed my eyes completely to ask God for patience. This must be that state of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness that Scully so duly described to us in one of her famous voiceovers.

I never thought I’d say this, but I half miss how ticked off Season 9 made me. At least it gave me a reason to feel passionate.

But enough about my cold love. You’ve come here to discuss William – the boy who once was lost but now is found… sort of. I think it helps to know nothing whatsoever about an episode before watching it. That’s what I did here so that I had no preconceived notions or expectations, good or bad. I didn’t even know this was definitely going to involve William until Scully finds him lying “dead”.

And he is dead. Because whatever else happened or will happen, a funeral has been held for the William of my imagination. Ladies and gentlemen, William is a punk.

I kid. The William of my imagination isn’t dead. #headcanonwins

But I’m not kidding about Mulder (?) and Scully’s lost alien-miracle-super baby being a punk. To be sure, he’s a two-timing, game-playing punk. Scully still seems rather fond of him, though. She has her reasons. In fact, here’s the story of that lovely lady:

Once upon a time, in an episode the excellence of which seems an alternate universe away now, Scully lost Mulder and found herself pregnant in “Requiem” (7×22). The mom-to-be kept mum about it (get it?), but most everyone assumed the unnamed father was the improbably named Fox Mulder. In “Per Manum” (8×8), two possibilities are raised at once. One, Mulder impregnated Scully through IVF, you know, as a friend. Two, Scully was made pregnant by men who, what else? Were trying to create an alien-human hybrid. This second possibility remained, despite the vague assurances of episodes like “Existence” (8×21) (RIP the majesty of MSR) and hung over William’s head all of Season 9. Oh, and then there was the whole plot line about him being the New Messiah, come to bring salvation to the human race, but I don’t have time to go over that. If 1013 can ignore it, so can I. Anyway, by the time William is “cured” of his Carrie-like abilities and abandoned without so much as a few days to think it over, “William” (9×17) assumes Mulder’s paternity. Scully even calls him “our baby” to Mulder in “The Truth” (9×19/20) (italics hers). I need not mention IWTB, or Season 10 of the revival, or the whole “Mulder needs stem cells from his son to survive the alien apocalypse” plotline.

I need not mention them, but I bet you wonder why I do. Why rehash this nonsense at all? Because I want to know when in the good Green Goblin William became the product of experiments conducted by a Dr. Masao Matsumoto, formerly of Virginia. No, I want to know how William got to Virginia in the first place.

As to my first point of bewilderment, I’m sure this Dr. Matsumoto plot has something to do with the nefarious hints dropped by CSM that he’s somehow William’s “father”, that William is the product of science experiments conducted on a pregnant Scully, not a miracle given by God to Mulder and Scully after years of pain and heartache. As to the second, Wyoming, anyone?

Sigh. Anyway, so much for the buffalo flag. And so much for William’s adoption protecting him from the government that wanted to kill him. At no point is the irony of his current predicament addressed, considering Scully gave him up only because he was in danger. Then again, I think the failure of this episode is that there’s too much ground to cover in a MOTW. Think of it: Mulder and Scully find William. They find William dead. They believe William is a murderer who committed suicide. William is reunited with his biological parents. He loses his loving adoptive parents when they’re murdered by the people after him. William is discovering his superpowers. Mulder and Scully discover their son (still) has superpowers. He’s a regular Pusher in the making. Mulder and Scully kinda sorta confirm their son is the result of government experiments. William is a teenager all alone in the world and on the run for his life. William is a two-timing punk.

Call me Mariah Carey right now because I cahn’t, dahlings.

Verdict:

Who feels this is anticlimactic?

I’m raising both hands. And lifting a toe.

Maybe it’s not William’s fault he’s a punk. Maybe it’s James Wong and 1013’s fault for stuffing too much in the emotional bag of this episode rather than neatly unpacking it. Maybe if we had even a second to watch William mourn his life, either the life he had or the one he never got to have. Maybe if 1013 didn’t stubbornly insist on keeping Mulder emotionally distant from the William situation.

All hail Gillian Anderson and the one moment of this episode that felt real, true, and well, interesting.

C

Snowflakes:

I always expected William to be a much more powerful version of Gibson Praise. At least all my hopes weren’t completely disappointed.

I’m having “Dod Kalm” (2×19) flashbacks in here.

The last time a “Chimera” (7×16) came up, I was witness to some excellent Mulder and Scully banter. *nostalgia break*

James Wong steps in the director’s chair. I’m ready.

As many complaints as I’ve had this revival, let me take a moment to salute the very authentic sounding pre-case car convo.

I see a trenchcoat and I can’t understand why neither Mulder nor Scully is in it.

Of course, their child plays baseball.

Naturally, Mulder would question his son’s lack of a porn habit.

All these subdued reactions are subduing me.

Call me untitillated at the idea of CSM holding court in Skinner’s office again.

I’ve lost track of how many alien experiments William is supposed to have been connected to, either directly or through his parents. And now with this Project Crossroads, I’ve also lost interest.

William has two girlfriends. He says things like “Oh, babe.” Oh, really?

I can’t believe Scully’s not suspicious of that odd little man who keeps whispering sweet vagueries in her ear.

What’s this “bigger picture” William speaks of?

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?

My Struggle II 10×6: Spoken like a true psychopath.


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The (un)emotional reunion we’d all been waiting for.

I do understand, Chris. I want to forget about the Super Soldiers too.

It seems that in order to facilitate said forgetfulness, we’re going to take it back… alllll the way back to the perverse politics of “Paper Clip” (3×2) and the Hitler-esque horrors of “Herrenvolk” (4×1).

Ah, yes. Hitler. I’d been wondering since “My Struggle” (10×1) what the connection would be between the hijacked title of Hitler’s defining autobiography (“Mein Kampf” in German) and this new era of conspiracy on The X-Files. It would seem that old is new again, and Chris Carter is reeling back in the real world fear of eugenics and calculated experimentation by humans on humans, humans unfettered by morality and governed by nothing but humanism and ambition. (Maybe he should have named this two-parter “Babylon” and “Babylon II”?)

We’ve eschewed the supernatural for a super human evil: Heil Cigarette-Smoking Man, the new Hitler, who is almost single-handedly punishing mankind for its failure as a species — or for his own failure to bring about Colonization, take your pick as to which — and is ready to to wipe out humanity as we knew it and repopulate the planet with the Ubermensch: the human species upgraded with alien DNA. If Mulder would just cooperate, together he, Daddy Dearest, Scully and William could become the new master race, the Herrenvolk.

Oh, and Monica Reyes. I can’t forget about Monica Reyes.

What the heck now??? Monica Reyes as the new Diana Fowley? Stah-ap!!

What’s most insulting to the character is that she’s so easily manipulated by CSM with nothing but the vague threat of impending doom. She already knew there was a battle for humanity; that’s why she helped Mulder and Scully escape in “The Truth” (19/21). What kind of science could have proven to someone who was not at all a scientist that hope was hopeless? How did she explain herself to John Doggett?? And you’re telling me he was willing to save her life purely in exchange for lighting his smokes???

I’m so done with this desperate attention seeker of a plotline. Moving on.

Scully: The technology wasn’t there, Mulder. DNA wasn’t even identified until 1944. This is all a lie! – “Paper Clip”

Scully’s doubts reflected my own for much of this episode. How could CSM & Co. have been manipulating human DNA through the Smallpox vaccine when we hadn’t yet mapped the human genome? Well, kudos to Chris Carter for harkening back to what he established way back in Season 3, that the government had long been keeping its scientific knowledge from the public.

But I’m going to have to dock a few kudos for not keeping more of this scientific knowledge from the public. “My Struggle II” is 90% science and 10% story. If in order to pull off the plot the science is so complicated that you have to take your audience back to school for half an hour for them to understand it, it’s too complicated. Leave it out. Way too much time is spent listening to Scully and Einstein explain things to each other that doctors would never have to explain to each other. What’s more, as always, Scully has special knowledge far beyond her speciality. But I suppose I’m used to that by now.

I’m also used to William being treated like a prop. Yet it would seem that if we do get a Season 11, FINALLY, the hunt for William will become paramount. That’s all I ever wanted and it was not too much to ask.

The ending leaves much to be desired. The episode leaves much, much to be desired – less exposition, more Mulder and Scully some, any, a crumb of Mulder and Scully would have sufficed. The whole point of this revival was to put the team back together. I didn’t campaign like a house-bound otaku for Miller and Einstein.

But it’s not “Babylon” (10×4), and for that, let us all give thanks.

Verdict:

Let me tell you about my struggle. It’s the struggle of a teenybopper fangirl who desperately wants to believe in her first love with the enigmatic skeptic inside. If The X-Files keeps going, will it get better or will it get worse? Are we apexing toward another Season 5 or are we snowballing toward more of Season 9?

I’m betwixt and between. And “My Struggle II” leaves me feeling little more than apathetic.

Though at last, AT LAST we’re seeing something akin to an apocalypse. Colonization has been threatened for so long without any significant movement in that direction. True, this large scale immunological breakdown is the machination of man, not of aliens… or is it? Chris Carter giveth and Chris Carter taketh away; he’s wont to take back a plot he’s discredited only to discredit it again. We might find that CSM put this current drama into motion in 2012 for a reason.

There may be a master plan here, but even if I make sense of it I’m not sure it will be satisfying. The ending left me with neither a sense of completion or anticipation. I get both out of “Requiem” (7×22) and even “The Truth”. “Existence” (8×21) has its faults, but at least the characters’ story arcs are made whole. “My Struggle II” ends with a pure cliffhanger, but not the kind of cliffhanger that makes you pick up the phone and call your mother screaming. The characters haven’t evolved and they’re not in any sort of emotional crisis. Mulder’s sick, but he’ll be healed. Scully’s likely been abducted… again… but she’ll be back. Then what? More giant jumps of assumption from our level-headed scientist? More mini Moose and Squirrel? More Truth Squad?

C+

Musings of a Madwoman:

If I’m reading this right, CSM is behind the murder of Sveta and the abduction of Scully, the first to keep her quiet and the second to keep her from saving lives.

Seeing Well-Manicured Man and Krycek in the teaser made me all kinds of nostalgic. That helped propel my “Paper Clip” and “Herrenvolk” rewatches, which in turn were the best parts of watching and rewatching “My Struggle II”.

Mulder’s beat up and Scully doesn’t know where he is. It’s like old times.

Speaking of beat up, the fight scene was a little long, but it was bomb.

Scully looks the best she has the whole revival.

Okay, are we just going to utterly ignore CSM and Mulder’s familial relationship? One “S’up, Pop!” would’ve sufficed.

Scully wouldn’t have had room to weave through traffic like that if the world was in a real panic.

That’s it, huh? Scully gets abducted… again? Time for another ride on the abduction merry-go-round? How about taking Skinner next time, hmm? I guess he’s overdue for a turn.

Inevitable Questions:

I could have sworn that somewhere in the previews for the revival I saw a glimpse of the old warehouse used to store vaccination records in “Paper Clip”, but then it never materialized. Or did I just imagine it? It would have made perfect sense with the plot.

What about the people who either somehow avoided or missed the vaccine, or those who came to the country after the vaccine? They wouldn’t be affected and neither would their children.

Mulder, the Patriarch of Paranoia, has a GPS tracker on his phone? But really now?

Best Quotes:

There are times when the awkwardly formal dialogue of The X-Files can be endearing. This was not one of those times.

Babylon 10×4: I resent that characterization and I don’t even know what it means.


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Don’t bother adjusting your antennas, ladies and gentlemen.

Mulder: Hi. Einstein? I need you to do me a favor so we can save the world. I’d like you to feed me some quasi-legal magic mushrooms to get me high. Because if I get high and reach that higher plane of consciousness that the Beatles only dreamed of, I can communicate with a comatose terrorist currently in a lower plane of consciousness. I’d ask Scully but she never lets me have nice things. She said no to the Star Wars wedding too. Can you rush down here, please? Thanks. #TrippingAgainstTerrorism

Well, shave my knuckles and call me “Curly.” That was a bunch of mechanical bull.

And you know what? Horrible as it is, it barely even got my shackles up. I mean, I’m not happy, but to break out that venerable and ancient stick called Brutal Honesty: this is what I had braced myself for. I had hoped for better, but I had suspected worse.

If you’ve been gracious enough to read some of my mental meanderings disguised as reviews, then you know that I’ve been rooting for Chris Carter to prove himself again to the fandom.  I’m a fan of both his writing and directing and am usually game for his experimental pet projects. “Babylon” is one of those, v. SMH16.

Fourteen years after the original end of the series and it’s obvious that Chris Carter has a lot he wants to say, he just doesn’t have 8,562 hours to do it in. This is a television program, not a New York Times op-ed piece. Go ahead. Throw out an idea, an opinion or two. Heck, indulge a little and make it three or four. Paint us a visual portrait of your life philosophy. But don’t try to force feed the audience over a decade’s worth of your cultural observations in a single episode of television. They’ll only vomit it all back up.

This forcefully reminds me of “First Person Shooter” (7×13), also directed by Chris Carter, which tried to ally itself with the feminist cause only to disgrace it in yet another failed attempt by the top ‘o the heap at solidarity with the social underdog.

Now, I’m not insensitive to the issues of stereotyping “Babylon” tries to raise having grown up with practicing Muslims in my own family. I’ve also been blessed both to travel and to know people in my own neck of the woods who grew up in predominantly Muslim countries (you might find it awkward to know how many of whom are more paranoid about Islam than most Middle America Americans are, but let me not pull on that thread). If Chris Carter really wants to prove how relevant The X-Files still is then here’s a thought: How about the highly religious young Muslim guy has nothing to do with terrorism??? Too radical?

I know I’m kvetching, but the truth is that for about the first half of “Babylon”, I was following along with an open mind, even if some of the early moments I didn’t understand…

Scully: Since when do you believe in God, Mulder?

Since when did you stop watching your own show, Chris? “Signs and Wonders” (7×9), “Closure“(7×11), “Existence” (8×21), “The Truth” (9×20/21), I Want to Believe… did I imagine you took Mulder through a spiritual evolution or did you imagine I’d forget?

Scully: You know that prophecies like this have been going on for centuries, failed prognostications of doom, failed prophecy – even in the Bible.

Mulder: Yeah, God told Adam that if he at the forbidden fruit he’d die. And he lived 930 years. Top that.

He lived 930 years and then he died… right?

Anyway.

Then of course, I see Mulder and Scully doppelgangers, think “Fight Club” (7×20), and immediately get nasty chills. To my relief, Agents Miller and Einstein aren’t at “Fight Club” levels of irritating. They also aren’t interesting at all. The way Einstein is written, she’s overdone. Miller comes across as little more than an over-eager frat boy. Mulder and Scully were young and full of wonder once, but they managed to radiate capability and intelligence beyond their years. And now I know: The X-Files couldn’t have been created in or with this generation.

But what am I stalling for, right? We all know what the baloney in this sandwich is… Mulder tripping through the tulips with a 10-gallon hat on his head and an Elvis in his pelvis. My concern waxed and then waned something like this:

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And they’re trying to pass this off as the much anticipated return of the Lone Gunmen?

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Call me crazy, but I don’t think badonkadonk hony tonk, inaccurate Biblical allusions, and unoriginal socio-political commentary together a cake bake. Frost it with a heavenly horn section and I am officially unamused. That’s right. God Himself just signed off on MSR and my reaction was:

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I suppose there were a few vestiges of the thoughtful television The X-Files used to be. Do thoughts have weight? Do words have weight? Can anyone feel the weight of my thoughts like an Acme piano falling from a roof?

One (more) thing that did bother me was the not so subtle depiction of Texans and American law enforcement as a bunch of bigoted bullies. I mentioned “First Person Shooter”, infamous for attempting to elevate women by making men look like a bunch of hormone crazed idiots. “Babylon” sympathizes with a repentant terrorist to the point of making the victims, the citizens filled with righteous indignation, look mean for being angry. They absolutely should forgive and I’m not trying to suggest they shouldn’t or that bigotry against Muslims isn’t real or dangerous. But this episode wants the masses to offer forgiveness without conceding that there’s anything that needs to be forgiven. Yep. Knotted issues too big to be picked apart in less than an hour of television.

Verdict:

In the immortal words of those ladies of the barenaked variety: It’s all been done.

In the past fourteen years since the show ended, terrorism on television has been brought forward, pulled back, flipped out, dissected, intersected, and vivisected. I wanted, I so wanted, for this to be something fresh and new – something we were promised the revival would be; it was never supposed to be purely about nostalgia, remember? Instead I’m mortified to report that “Babylon” comes across as a desperate attempt to seem progressive, relevant, sexy and wise.

I can’t help but think back to “Improbable” (9×14) and Chris Carter’s last off-the-wall attempt to define God for a television audience. Then God was a dancing, prancing, grinning Burt Reynolds – low in authority, high in laughter. Now God is an angry tyrant who set man off on his path of confusion but will occasionally speak to the mankind He cast away through dissonant elephant calls – if you care to listen.

I won’t vouch for either interpretation. And the thoughts expressed all throughout this episode are so random and disjointed that I can’t even engage them in debate. I will only say that this doesn’t feel like the same Chris Carter who wrote “Irresistible” (2×13), but I know he’s still in there. I want to believe.

F

The 7th Trumpet:

That final shot is basically a redo of the final shot of “Improbable”, minus Burt Reynolds.

Mulder’s conversation with Einstein wandered very close to Tulpa territory and the mysteries of creation that make up “Milagro” (6×18).

Making Einstein jealous of Scully and then using that as motivation for her to assist in Mulder’s little experiment cheapens the character almost immediately.

The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 involved neither anger nor violence, either on the part of God or man. So I’m not sure where Chris is coming from on the premise of this entire episode.

“You were 50 shades of bad.” – Absolutely. Freaking. Not.