Tag Archives: Thomas Schnauz

Scary Monsters 9×12: I want to believe.


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Scully: Do I detect a hint of negativity?

Mulder: No! Yes. Actually. Yeah. – “Detour” (5×4)

The announcement that The X-Files would be ending at the end of the season came after “John Doe” (9×7) aired, but it also came while “Scary Monsters” was in production. How much of the writing team’s understandable feelings of disappointment, loss and rejection made it into what was probably an already completed script, I can’t say. But whether the timing was purely coincidental or not, “Scary Monsters” gives us insight to some of 1013’s conflicted feelings about the fandom that both loved them and betrayed them by disappearing in droves.

Leyla Harrison: Agent Mulder wasted no time closing that case. I just try to think like him. What would Agents Mulder and Scully do if they were in this situation?

Doggett: Agents Mulder and Scully aren’t in this situation. Agents Doggett and Reyes are.

————-

Gabe Rotter: [Looking at Mulder’s ID badge] So, this is Johnny Fabulous, huh? “Oh, Mulder’s so smart! Mulder’s so dreamy!” That’s all Leyla ever talks about. “Mulder and Scully, Scully and Mulder.” Blah, blah, blah.

————-

Leyla Harrison: I really do have to commend you, Agent Doggett. You solved this case. If it weren’t for you … I don’t even like to think what would have happened. I have to say, it’s clear to me now that you were better equipped for this challenge than even Agent Mulder would have been, absolutely. I mean, your lack of imagination saved our lives.

Doggett: Gee, thanks.

————-

[In the basement office]

Gabe Rotter: So, this is where the magic happens?

Leyla Harrison: It still happens. I’m happy it’s in good hands.

 

Um…. Fellas, you know I love you, but my nose hasn’t been tickled by pixie dust in a good long while now.

I’m not sure if “Scary Monsters” is a defense of the advent of Doggett and Reyes or a concession that Doggett and Reyes couldn’t quite cut it in the hearts of fans. Judging by the way the episode ends, I’m more inclined to consider it the former, one final argument to say that everyone from the actors to the crew have been doing a great job all along, but we fans, as represented by Leyla Harrison, have been too infatuated with Mulder and the way things used to be to recognize that.

“It’s been a very strange season,” Carter said. “We lost our audience on the first episode. It’s like the audience had gone away, and I didn’t know how to find them. I didn’t want to work to get them back because I believed what we are doing deserved to have them back.”

Weeellll.

Let’s consider just this episode for a moment since “Scary Monsters” is technically what we’re here to talk about.

The character of Leyla Harrison is back and she’s brought a friend. I already discussed my conflicted feelings about Leyla in the review for “Alone” (8×19), but suffice it to say, she was created as a representation of the fans and was named after a deceased fan. Despite the sweetness of the concept, she wearies one in her execution.

Even Scully looks awkward to see her.

Yet here she is, making sure to maintain the meta in a final countdown to the series finale that’s already fraught with meta. “Improbable” (9×14) was meta and “Sunshine Days” (9×18) will be meta squared. Still, Leyla is around as both another genuine tribute to the fans that have stuck out Season 9, and as a way of not-so-subtly telling those fans to give it up already and come around to the charms of Doggett and Reyes.

I submit that the fans that are still watching are not the ones who need to hear that message. That’s preaching to the choir.

And if you haven’t had your fill of self-awareness, there’s Tommy. Tommy is your average little boy… with an imagination so vivid and powerful that the people around him buy into the reality of his creations wholeheartedly. Oh, and he goes around saying, “I made this.”

Sounds like a little show I know.

It’s a cute idea. The whole episode is a relatively cute idea and I’m not mad at it. But it’s not particularly anything outside of a self-referential jab to the ribs. I’m neither scared nor moved nor very amused, even though the scenes between Scully and Gabe Rotter are the best parts of the episode.

Gabe Rotter feels more like an over-the-top goofy character off of The Lone Gunmen, which was the same for the character Dr. Rocky Bronzino in “Lord of the Flies” (9×6), also written by Thomas Schnauz who wrote for both shows. “Scary Monsters” is only slightly more sure of its footing than “Lord of the Flies”, but it’s still unconvincing in tone.  According to my copy of LAX-Files, Thomas Schnauz admits it was written in “basically panic.” Considering The X-Files’ famous production schedule, I can believe that. The problem is, it shows.

It’s been showing. The ratings must have been a disappointment but the ratings tell the story. If the audience had come back would they have been excited? Satisfied? Thoroughly entertained?

The X-Files used to be great all the time, magic almost all the time, but lately it’s been chronically good to middling. Sometimes it’s downright confusing and aggravating. As sad as it makes me to admit it, I would argue that Season 9 was destined to fail.

There’s a sentimental moment at the end of “Scary Monsters” when Leyla and Gabe come face to face with Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster. We all want to believe, which is why like the characters who get so wrapped up in Tommy’s imagination that it becomes real to them, some of us find ourselves passionately loyal to a television show. We believe in it because we want to.

And we’re still here.

Verdict:

I wasn’t sold on the X-File itself, but I did think the resolution to the case was well done. Mulder would have believed in Tommy’s reality. Doggett succeeds because he couldn’t believe in it. When it comes to solving X-Files cases, there’s more than one way to skin a giant bedbug…

Which is why I’ve been saying since Season 8 that it wasn’t necessary to so exactly repeat the Skeptic/Believer dynamic, but let me hop back off my soapbox.

It’s kinda nice to have one more creepy kid story before we go. Still, I can’t help thinking one good spanking would’ve nipped this all in the bud long ago.

B-

Pure Imagination:

Why wouldn’t Mulder’s ID have been turned in the day he was fired from the F.B.I.?

Cats have imaginations?

Mulder’s fish tank is in Scully’s apartment again.

So that ending… Is that a subtle hint to stop watching so much TV because it’s stifling our imaginations? ‘Cause that’s, sadly, about to be arranged.

Mostly, I’m pretty sure the ending is a homage to “D.P.O.” (3×3), which is also mentioned by Leyla earlier in the episode.

Lord of the Flies 9×6: You can’t have it both ways.


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What if there was an X-Files/Breaking Bad/Glee mashup?

In which Breaking Bad takes over The X-Files for the second of three times.

But before we get to that, I think I’ve come to a mini understanding. Doggett and Reyes as characters don’t have the comedic capabilities that Mulder and Scully did.

Now, I’m more tired than anyone of hearing myself compare Doggett and Reyes to Mulder and Scully. I prepared myself for change when Season 9 first aired and I’m certainly resigned to change now. My complaint isn’t that we have a new team. No, it’s that this new team isn’t equipped to handle this kind of episode. To put it in layman’s terms, I don’t think they’re ready for this jelly.

Doggett jokes around, sure. But his jokes fall flat because he sounds like an old fogey shaking his head at kids these days. There’s no point at the end of his pitard. Mulder would have delivered those very same lines with a sardonic bite that would have left me giggling.

Scully would have shared knowing or appropriately horrified looks with Mulder at all the right moments, because her character knows how to play up the chaos around her to the best effect. Reyes spends most of the episode looking nothing but bemused, as if this crazed cast of characters genuinely needed the help of the F.B.I..

This episode is not good. But even with its shortcomings it had the possibility of providing us some memorable moments. The scenes in the morgue with Dr. Herb Fountain are still my favorites of the episode. Erick Avari, a veteran character actor who I love, plays Dr. Fountain. He carries the comedic weight of these scenes on his own, and not just because he’s the broad character. Doggett and Reyes give him next to nothing. Their reactions are way too subdued; they shouldn’t be over the top but they need to be appropriately surprised

I know my comparisons are unfair since Mulder and Scully had time to develop a shorthand and a status quo before being thrust into the world of comedy. Yet I still find myself longing for “Humbug” (2×20) and their pitch perfect responses to the madness, and even for “Bad Blood” (5×12) when they showed us they could themselves be the madness.

Frankly, despite the madness that is Dr. Rocky Bronzino, King of the Fake Bronzer, some of the better parts of this episode are watching Scully deal with him. He’s not a great character, but at least he gives Scully something to do besides pine for Mulder and worry about William.

Then again, the low point of this episode is watching Dr. Scully give CPR to a man who’s already breathing. So I guess it’s a wash.

The truth is, “Lord of the Flies” is confused. The basic plot is a serious X-File, but the overall tone is that of an episode of The Lone Gunmen. Why do I say that? I’m glad you asked.

Sadly, The Lone Gunmen only lasted thirteen episodes, but Thomas Schnauz wrote two of them. Two good ones, I might add. A personal friend of Vince Gilligan’s from film school, he was pulled onto The X-Files after the show ended and went from there to… yep, Breaking Bad.

But back to The Lone Gunmen for a moment, Dr. Rocky Branzino is a character perfectly in keeping with the over the top tone of that show. What he’s doing here in an X-File that’s also trying to be both scary and emotional is beyond me. This is a jumbled mess of goals. Is it a broad comedy? Is it a serious murder investigation? Is it a character study in teenage angst? Is it a short horror film? Is it a Twilight Zone mystery with a twist? Is it trying to be all things to all men, that it might by all means win some?

Tonally, “Lord of the Flies” doesn’t know if it’s a real X-File or a light X-File. It’s possible to straddle the fence and it’s been done successfully before, but this isn’t one of those times.

And if you’re going to have a comedic episode with Jane Lynch in it then she should get the chance to be funny. I’m sorry.

Still on the topic of soon to be wildly famous guest stars, if you had told me that the intrepid Sky Commander Winkie would later blow my mind as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, I would have raised a Scully brow. And there’s our Breaking Bad trifecta for this episode: Vince Gilligan produced it, Thomas Schnauz wrote it and Aaron Paul starred in it.

Verdict:

The X-Files has a long tradition of mixing puberty with the paranormal. You know the drill – your body’s going through changes and you don’t know where you fit in, so you electrocute your friend in the parking lot, have an astrological meltdown, or plow your teacher into the cafeteria wall. Or, you can turn into a B movie fly monster and cocoon your enemies, which appears to both the biological fate and freewill choice of Dylan Lokensgard.

Whatever the try-hard philosophical ponderings of the closing monologue, Dylan isn’t sympathetic, or scary, or even interesting. And as such he adds nothing to the Puberty Pantheon. “Hungry” (7×1) was a better take on a monster who wanted to be anything but.

*cough*MoreVinceGilligan*cough*

C+

Pheromones:
What kind of pheromones are Mulder and Scully excreting that they keep attracting entomologists with silly names?

Mothers are women too, Scully. “I’m with someone,” would have been a more definitive answer.

The teenage romance doesn’t sell. It rarely does in real life either.

When was the last time we had an ending voiceover/case report?

Once again, Scully is a distraction from Doggett and Reyes. Worse, she’s outshining them.

I have no idea why Dylan’s little love interest suddenly feels affection toward the murderous nerd once he’s gone.

No, really. Who hits on somebody by talking about shared menstrual cycles?

FYI, Breaking Bad’s first takeover was “Drive” (6×2) and the next will be “John Doe” (9×7).

Best Quotes:

Dr. Fountain: Well, it’s the kid’s parents. They’re suing everyone.
Reyes: For what?
Dr. Fountain: Everything. They’re suing the county for making the street too steep, the supermarket he stole the shopping cart from, the company that made the helmet he was wearing.

——————–

Dr. Rocky Bronzino: Dr. Scully? This is so exciting. I’ve never had a partner before.
Scully: I have.