Tag Archives: The Unnatural

Hollywood A.D. 7×18: Is this a real fake or a fake fake?


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Champagne and strawberries. That’s my man.

Is it the year of Hollywood or the year of our Lord? Or is it the year of Walter Skinner?

Well, it’s definitely the episode of Walter Skinner, since seeing him act silly for once is about all I need to get by. About all I need. Not quite all I need.

“Hollywood A.D.” is David’s second outing as both writer and director on The X-Files, but it lacks the focus of his earlier effort, “The Unnatural” (6×20). “The Unnatural” was a story about belonging and bonding as brought to you by baseball. This is more of an end of the year keg party on film. I can’t view it as an X-File, only as an act of gleeful self-effacement.

There’s a story within a story within a story, here. We have the X-File of the Lazarus Bowl, The X-Files as a show, and then the Hollywood machine behind The X-Files. David Duchovny is smart so, plot-wise, it’s surprisingly easy to follow considering how complex it is. What’s confusing for me is figuring out what’s important. Is there a theme here? What’s sincere and what’s a joke? Is there a point? Am I supposed to take seriously that bit at the end about Hollywood taking real people’s stories and rendering them meaningless? Is something meant to be significant or are we just having fun?

Fun is good, but if it’s fun we’re meant to be having than the potentially serious themes about religion, belief, and faith as a form of insanity are distracting. There are things just tossed into the script, like gnosticism and latin phrases, that he can’t actually expect the audience to understand the meaning and implications of unless they have a religious or academic background in such things. The resurrected Micah Hoffman throws his, “Noli me tangere, baby.” at Scully like it’s an in-joke that would take too much time to explain.* It’s an in-joke extravaganza.

Going over the heads of the unfamiliar is one risk, offending those who are familiar is another. I won’t get into that but I’m sure there were irritated fans out there. The relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus can be a touchy subject. *cough* The Da Vinci Code *cough!* And those pictures in Micah Hoffman’s studio were a bit much…

If he had explored those religious ideas and made a serious episode out of them, we might have something more to talk about. As it stands, I think it’s best to ignore the religious themes completely and focus on the comedy, because the situational humor and the one liners are basically all this episode has going for it.

“Hollywood A.D.” is probably the most meta The X-Files ever got. It’s like David Duchovny threw a house party and invited the cast, the crew, his family and his friends and they’re sending a home video of them waving to the fans. It does make for some memorable moments. I personally find the little rib nudges about David as Mulder having a crush on his then real-life wife, actress Téa Leoni, absolutely adorable. Dang it, I loved them together.

The parade of friends is so long it would take the entire review to name them all, but I am going to shout out David Alan Grier. It was completely age inappropriate but I used to love him on In Living Color back in the day. Oh, the 90’s. Good times.

Another highlight is watching Scully teach Tea Leoni how to run in heels. And they just keep going in the background while Gary Shandling quizzes Mulder about his dressing habits. That bit cracks me up every time.

And, of course, who could forget the three-way bathtub conversation? Because that really is all kinds of hilarious.

The bottom line is that the parts of it that are funny are really, really, funny. But as an episode, it’s disjointed.

Verdict:

I wish this had been an out-and-out comedy instead of a comedy burdened down by an X-File that was never fully explored. We never do find out the whole story. Micah Hoffman was resurrected, then died again. He wasn’t Jesus then, I take it? Who was the corpse Scully autopsied???

But I’m not here to moan and gripe. The only question for me is, is it worth it?

Is it worth it? Well, Scully’s face as she watches Hollywood Scully and Mulder make out on screen is pretty much priceless, so… yes?

B-

P.S. I’m in love with Assistant Director Walter Skinner.

P.P.S. Mitch Pileggi isn’t far behind.

Them bones, them bones, them dry bones:

So… Scully’s Catholic again?

Speaking of Scully, she would have freaked out so much more during that autopsy. Anyone in their right mind would have lost their mind.

All that talk about Richard Gere and the guy who plays Micah Hoffman actually looks like him to me.

I heard Heisenberg! Another X-FilesBreaking Bad connection.

Heck, he even brought back Chuck Burke. Thank you for that, David Duchovny.

Forgive me if my skepticism is showing, but I can’t see Skinner and Wayne Federman being buddies. Ever.

Why do I see palm trees outside a Washington, D.C. cafe?

That shot of the Nokia phone is also making me feel nostalgic.

That moment when an almost complete stranger intimates to Mulder that Scully and Skinner are having a fling.

*This is the Latin version of what Jesus said to Mary Magdelene after His resurrection in John 20:17 – “Touch Me not…”

Best Quotes:

Wayne Federman: She: Jodi Foster’s foster child on a Payless budget. He’s like a… Jehovah’s Witness meets Harrison Ford’s “Witness.”

————–

Wayne Federman: How about the Shroud of Turin?

Cardinal O’Fallon: No, afraid not, but we do have the Bathrobe of St. Peter.

Wayne Federman: You’re kidding?

Cardinal O’Fallon: Yes, I am.

————–

Wayne Federman: I like the way you guys work– no warrants, no permission, no research. You’re like studio executives with guns.

————–

Mulder: Well, you know, sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction.

Wayne Federman: Well, fiction is quicker than truth and cheaper. You want my advice? You’re both crazy.

Mulder: Well, why do you say that?

Wayne Federman: [To Mulder] Well, you’re crazy for believing what you believe. [To Scully] And you’re crazy for not believing what he believes. I’ll leave you with that. Thank you.

—————

Scully: You’ve seen this movie 42 times?

Mulder: Yes.

Scully: Doesn’t that make you sad? It makes me sad. {Editor’s Note: What would Scully think of us?}

 

all things 7×17: That’s like saying you’re having David Crosby’s baby.


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Ok. Fine. I do melt.

Gillian Anderson spoke to me today.

Well, she tweeted me a thirteen word sentence but that counts and I’m counting it.

And she spoke to me while I was in the middle of my upteenth rewatch of “all things” in order to prep my final draft of this review. Destiny? Clearly.

In the interest of full disclosure, I used to hate this episode. I’m talking not just dislike, loathing. The shippy moments barely assuaged me. This was exactly what I was afraid of back when David Duchovny first stepped behind the pen and camera for “The Unnatural” (6×20), that the actor’s point of view, or maybe more accurately, my awareness of the actor’s point of view, would irritate me and get in the way of my viewing pleasure. With still palpable relief, I can say I ended up enjoying that one. So by the time “all things” came along I was much more open. Sadly, I spent the entire episode thinking, “Why is Gillian Anderson blocking my view of Scully? ‘Cause I’m hearing a whole lot of Gillian right now.”

It wasn’t until one day a few years back, as I was rewatching “all things” with the DVD commentary on, that I realized I actually like what Gillian Anderson was trying to achieve. But while there’s a lot to appreciate here, there are also things standing in the way of some good ideas turning into a great episode.

Let’s take the good ideas first. Scully is meant to come to the understanding that she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. A series of choices, and destiny disguised as a woman in a khaki cap and jacket, have led her on this path. There’s no going back to who you used to be because you’ve grown now. And besides, our emotions and attachments can sometimes make us see good in situations and relationships that really weren’t good for us at all. So don’t waste too much time looking back and wondering. I get it. I’m with you, girl.

Scully slowly comes to this realization after accidentally/not-so-accidentally coming back into contact with her old mentor, professor, and lover (?), Dr. Daniel Waterston. I’ll admit Scully’s relationship with Waterston, as we got to see it, always bothered me. Apparently, though, as written, Scully never slept with Waterston. What they had was a close relationship that was quickly turning into an emotional affair. Scully leaves him and medicine behind in order to resist the temptation of an affair and leave Waterston’s family in peace. Now, that sounds more like the romantic heroine I know. I realize that people have faults, they sin, they make mistakes and they grow. It’s still hard to picture Scully, even the young and relatively inexperienced Scully as we knew her in Season 1, knowingly being party to an affair. If anything, she used to be even less of a “shades of gray” sort of thinker. Regardless, the nuances of Scully and Waterston’s relationship had to be left out because of time constraints.

Maggie Waterston: Do you have any idea the hell you created in our lives?

Scully: Maggie, to be honest, I left so that there wouldn’t be hell in your lives.

One thing that wasn’t left out but I wish had been was the tease in the opening teaser.

No, I won’t be accepting death threats. Thank you for your cooperation.

The truth is, the implication that Scully had spent the night romantically with Mulder wasn’t Gillian’s idea. 1013 Productions had been planning to slip a nugget like this in around this point in the season and it got worked into “all things”. It was meant to serve as confirmation that Mulder and Scully were already in a romantic relationship, which explains the shameless flirting that’s been going on all season. If you thought Mulder and Scully seemed a little too happy lately, now you know why. In fact, keeping in mind their happy-go-lucky attitudes lately, Scully suddenly slipping into “What is my life?” mode feels incongruous within the context of the season, no?

But there I go losing sight of my topic again. As I said, the teaser is a bit of a problem only because it distracts from the rest of the episode. Even today, it’s a distraction. The audience spends the rest of the episode trying to figure out whether Scully’s roamings through the spirit world tell us whether or not she’s sleeping with Mulder. I realize after waiting so long for the two leads to come together a casual confirmation might not have been possible, but that’s my take on it.

The toughest hurdle for me is Scully’s lightspeed transition from a Catholic to a New Age Spiritualist. Again, maybe this is one of those things that would have gone down a little (and only a little) more smoothly if Gillian could have kept in more of her original ideas. She had enough material for a two hour special, sounds like. But we have what we have and Scully makes a turn so abrupt, I end up flying out of the passenger seat of the car. Scully kneeling in front of a Buddha statue in a moment of religious ecstasy, with a cross around her neck no less, is about where my head hits the asphalt. Next time I’ll wear a seatbelt.

Mulder: I just find it hard to believe.

Scully: What part?

Mulder: The part where I go away for two days and your whole life changes.

Scully: Mmm, I didn’t say my whole life changed.

Mulder: You speaking to God in a Buddhist temple. God speaking back.

Scully: Mmm, and I didn’t say that God spoke back. I said that I had some kind of a vision.

Mulder: Well, for you, that’s like saying you’re having David Crosby’s baby.

I’m of Mulder’s mind on this one. Honestly, this New Age through line makes Scully feel more like a vehicle for some deeply felt ideas to be expressed rather than that these expressed ideas were servicing Scully’s character. But I know this episode was very personal. And, hey, at least the suddenness of the change is acknowledged.

What I’m actually more impressed by than the story is the directing. It doesn’t look or feel like a first time effort. Moby makes his second guest appearance on The X-Files soundtrack this season. Gillian and I must have something in common because I also had Moby on repeat back in the day. I didn’t travel without my Moby CDs. (Kids, that’s how mommy and daddy used to listen to music.) “My Weakness” fit a little more seamlessly into the overall aesthetic of the show in “Closure” (7×11), though, than “The Sky is Broken” does here. It draws attention to itself, sometimes purposefully, sometimes distractingly

I love the pattern of musical rhythms and beats, however. Time is the other star of this episode and it draws attention to itself, not only through rhythms but visually. I confess, it took me forever to catch on… Scratch that. I didn’t catch on until Gillian explained it, that time slows down every time Scully needs to pay attention because an important decision is coming up. I wish someone would drop me hints like that.

This is my long-winded way of saying I think it’s a good first effort. There is something much more modern, sometimes jarringly so, about this episode and its sensibilities, from the music to the content, than we usually see in The X-Files. From what little I know of Gillian, I suspect she wanted to get our attention. I heard you.

Verdict:

I know what you’re thinking. That I have no taste. What you’re also thinking: What did Gillian Anderson say to her? Well, she said that Scully’s on a spiritual journey, one that she’s only on because of Mulder and one that Mulder, and not Waterston, can help her complete.

That’s what she said in “all things”.

The Twitter exchange went like this…

And then I died.

Well, no. First, I spun around my room like a top. Then I died.

Here’s the way Gillian described the discarded scene in her commentary:

Initially, our [Colleen and Scully’s]… our second meeting was in Chinatown. Initially, I had a scene where Scully walks into an apothecary. And she was going to go so far as to actually try and find some alternative medicine, tinctures and salves, to help heal Dr. Waterston when nothing else in the world of Western medicine was working. And she finds herself in this wonderful, in my mind, apothecary [laughs] with this wonderful old woman behind the counter. And, initially, right when she’s about to leave, a woman comes from the back who’s been… who’s had accupuncture. And it’s Colleen and they end up going through a walk through Chinatown, through the streets, and having a conversation that had a lot more dialogue than those scenes and less exposition for her [Colleen], and more color and everything. But neither of those things worked out.

I can hear Gillian Anderson speaking, and I’m okay with that.

B

Wind Chimes:

The lady who plays Colleen, whose name is… Colleen, was also in “Detour” (5×4), one of my favorite episodes.

Gillian and I also share procrastination in common. It’s an issue.

I believe this is the first slideshow since “Field Trip” (6×21) and before that it was “Bad Blood” (5×12). What’s with it only being used as a source of tension between Mulder and Scully lately?

Am I the only one who thinks Mulder looks funny in that getup? No?

Gillian’s is one of those rare DVD commentaries that actually gives me what I want – insight into story choices rather than technical details.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: But that was merely prelude of what was to come. Three years later, in 1994 even more complex formations occurred simultaneously on opposite ends of the English countryside with the Mandelbrot Set, were it still there, at its center. Then, in 1997, even more complex formations occurred…

Scully: [Eats her salad and ignores Mulder]

Mulder: … and I’m not wearing any pants right now.

Scully: [Looks up after realizing Mulder’s gone quiet] Hmm?

———————

Scully: I once considered spending my whole life with this man. What I would have missed.

Mulder: I don’t think you can know. I mean, how many different lives would we be leading if we made different choices. We… We don’t know.

Scully: What if there was only one choice and all the other ones were wrong? And there were signs along the way to pay attention to.

Mulder: Mmm. All the… choices would then lead to this very moment. One wrong turn, and… we wouldn’t be sitting here together. Well, that says a lot. That says a lot, a lot, a lot. I mean that’s probably more than we should be getting into at this late hour…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it is superb. Truly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

B+

The Mystery Continues:

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

The Options –

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

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

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

Bepuzzlements:

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

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

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

And I’m Done:

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

Best Quotes:

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

——————-

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

——————–

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Not even a kiss?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————

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

And the Awards go to….

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

The Beginning

“You’re forgiven, Chris Carter.”

Triangle

“Most Underrated”

Drive

AND

Trevor

“Most Overrated”

How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

“Not Rated”

Alpha

“Best Use of a Guest Star”

Dreamland/Dreamland II

“Scully for Queen”

Tithonus

“Coulda Been a Contender”

Agua Mala

“Don’t Judge Me”

The Rain King

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

The Unnatural

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


Michael Bolton and the Band.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Verdict is…

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

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

B

Chips:

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

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

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

———————-

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

———————–

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

———————-

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

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


You rebel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hint. Hint.

A+

Bottom of the 9th:

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

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

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

——————-

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

——————–

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

——————–

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

Milagro 6×18: I live in my head.


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

                                                                                    -Frank Spotnitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                               –Men at Work

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

You see, an idea is real. It’s an intangible reality that’s as real as any physical manifestation. Faith is real. Hope is real. Love is real. No one but of Karl Marx would call me crazy for believing that. But if I said that I would only believe Faith was real if it stood before me and I touched the proverbial scars in its hands, then I’d have earned my right to a padded cell.

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

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

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

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

Arrogant? Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, I’m not done yet:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Imagine that.”

            -Philip Padgett

A

The Middle C of Consciousness:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hegelian Self-Justification:

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

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

This is one of Mark Snow’s best scores.

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

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

——————

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

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

——————

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

——————-

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