Tag Archives: Triangle

Fight Club 7×20: It’s better just to avoid these encounters altogether and at all costs.


FightClub215

I got grills. They’re multiplyin’.

The first rule of “Fight Club” is: You do not talk about “Fight Club”.

That is, unless you’re morally obligated to write a review.

As I said to another Phile friend on Twitter today, I’m not sure whether I should apologize to Chris Carter for hating it so much or demand an apology for having to watch it.

Shameless snarkiness aside, I know he must have been trying to create yet another golden moment for his baby, his show, his beautiful show that I adore. But “the best laid plans” and all that.

I’m sorry, Chris. I’m really, very sorry. You still love me?

Oh, you don’t know me? Oh, okay. Nevermind.

For all its presupposed good intentions, “Fight Club” comes across as desperately chaotic instead of energetically quirky. We have two women, and later two men, who can’t be in the same vicinity as each other without fixtures rattling and the world nearly coming to an end. You know what was a better take on this theme? “Syzygy” (3×13), also penned, though not directed, by Chris Carter.

But where “Syzygy” takes the idea of two people with a close affinity being destined to clash and slowly builds the antagonism to a crescendo, “Fight Club” starts at a ten and then pushes it up to a fifteen. I feel like I’m being yelled at for almost the full forty-three minutes.

Just like wrestler Bert Zupanic, I have a hard time keeping track of when he’s with which version of Kathy Griffin. Let me try to get one part straight, though. Mulder and Scully track down Bert Zupanic because he’s in a picture with a woman they believe is Betty Templeton. Only he doesn’t know Betty Templeton, he knows Lulu Pfeiffer. Mulder and Scully don’t know about Lulu Pfeiffer yet. They only know about Betty Templeton. That’s who they have background information on and that’s who they’re looking for. Ergo, it’s hard to believe they stumbled upon a newspaper clipping of a random guy with Lulu Pfeiffer. But I’m going to assume for the sake of the plot that somewhere the F.B.I. got a hold of a clipping of Lulu Pfeiffer that was assumed to be Betty Templeton, because it’s not like newspapers include names usually. </sarcasm>

That’s enough of me trying to follow the plot. The plot doesn’t even matter. Betty and Lulu are caricatures that merely exist to facilitate the anarchy. Over the course of the episode they change not, neither does their situation. Scully’s closing synopsis doesn’t so much as address their recovery. Let’s move on.

You would think, you would think, that the banter between Mulder and Scully would be a payoff, especially that opening scene. Instead, I find myself weary of the “Look at us, we’re Mulder and Scully of the Unstoppable UST” schtick. Yes, I know you’re not like that other F.B.I. couple, the ones who have worked together for seven years without nary a hint of romance.

Five of the past six episodes have overtly questioned the sexually ambiguous nature of Mulder and Scully’s relationship. The 1013 crew may actually be overestimating how interested we are, or our tolerance for being strung along.

Haven’t we established that they’re together? I’m glad they’re together. They should be together. Now, stop winking at me like you have a bug in your eye.

All that opening scene in the office tells me is that they’ve been doing this too long. And by “they” I mean Mulder and Scully but am afraid that in truth, “they” might have been 1013. There’s a desperation to exude superficial charm in this episode, like they were mimicking their own magic instead of creating all new magic. I don’t know what was happening behind the scenes, but what I’m seeing on the screen reeks of stress, boredom, and joylessness instead of fun and excitement. Is it getting dull to write for Mulder and Scully? If not, then instead of yet another episode about how familiar the beats of The X-Files are I’d like a better X-File, please.

Back when this aired, I remember thinking the show needed an electric shock to the heart fast or someone needed to put it out of its misery before my memories were tainted. Somebody has to do something because right now I’m thinking nostalgic thoughts about “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) over here.

Verdict:

In defense of my love for you, Chris, “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6) and “Triangle” (6×3) are two of my all-time favorite moments of television. So there.

D

Whatnots:

Why would you give your future employer all your old addresses? Old jobs, yes. Old addresses, no.

I love Scully’s happy little smirk when she brings Bert Zupanic’s doppelganger into the arena.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: The interesting thing about these agents is they had worked together for seven years previously without any incident.

Scully: Seven years?

Mulder: Yeah, but they are not … romantically involved if that’s what you’re thinking.

Scully: Not even I would be so farfetched.

————————-

Scully: [On phone] Where have you been?

Mulder: [On phone] Seeing a side of Kansas City few men have the privilege to see.

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The Goldberg Variation 7×2: Maybe your luck is changing.


The Goldberg Variation 2

The unluckiest by far.

I hate to come back after an extended hiatus and bring tidings of mediocrity, but alas, I paused where I paused in this rewatch and must return where I must. And this just isn’t a great episode.

Let’s start with the good. “The Goldberg Variation” does have some cute moments. “Moments” so far being the key word of Season 7, a season that sporadically throws us knowing winks of familiarity, humor and emotional significance, but that mostly sits stares at us with bored, half-lidded eyes.

Here it takes a vain stab at touching humor a la “Small Potatoes” (4×20). It’s trying to do everything right  – We have a quirky, socially awkward anti-hero who’s lovable despite himself, an X-File that’s fantastic rather than frightening and Mulder made a mess of. What’s not to love, right? But I can’t love it. I haven’t even been able to watch the entire episode in a single sitting since it first aired. I keep getting distracted by things like my dog snoring and my overgrown toenail cuticles and have to rewind.

The highlight of the episode for me happens very early on, within the first quarter. Scully’s stifled smile as Mulder tries and fails to go from G-Man to handyman makes me laugh every time. So there is that.

But for an episode based on the inescapable force that is Cause and Effect, the plot feels like a loosely connected series of coincidences rather than a logical chain of events. And even if in hindsight we’re supposed to see that there was a reason for all this madness, that a force was behind the plot and driving it to an inevitably good conclusion, it still feels haphazard and goofy rather than controlled.

That’s too bad since this episode’s two main guest stars, prolific actor Willie Garson and soon-to-be prolific actor Shia LaBeouf, could potentially have given us some real television memories. And writer Jeffrey Bell already has – Some good (“The Rain King”) and some not so good (“Alpha”).

The Mulder/Scully dynamic is enjoyable as always, but perhaps they’ve been feeding on too much L.A. sunshine in the absence of alien angst. Neither of them are dealing with drama at the moment and it shows. There’s no conspiracy and no cancer. There isn’t even an X-File that poses any actual danger. What are they to do but crack jokes and smirk at each other?

They deserve it after all this time, to be sure. So why do I suddenly miss the driving sense of urgency that characterized earlier seasons and the built-in mystery that the Vancouver fog used to lend to the production? I know I’m a hypocrite since I loved the famously lighthearted Season 6 which was also shot in L.A.. But cheeky and experimental as “Triangle” (6×3) is, it still has an intensity that episodes like this one lack.

Verdict:

So what separates the “Small Potatoes” from episodes like “The Goldberg Variation”? In a word: soul.

It’s not the acting talent. It’s not the writing talent. It’s not the production budget. It’s that “something” that’s impossible to define but that you can’t forget once you encounter it. That “something” that brought us all to The X-Files in the first place.

Somehow, all the moving parts were there but didn’t come together with any chemistry. The result is a cute but lackluster forty-three minutes and thirty-three seconds.

Gone, perhaps, are the days when I would call up my best friend during commercial breaks going, “OMW, did you see that??”

C

Unnecessary Comments:

Mobsters using words like “impervious.” *mildly amused smirk*

The props department outdid themselves with those Rube Goldberg machines. Or where they borrowed?

This won’t be the last time Lady Luck stars as an X-File…

Quotes:

Mulder: Hey, nice outfit! {Editor’s Note: Funny, I was thinking the same thing. Scully looks awfully well-tailored for a government worker.}

————————

Scully: So, basically, we’re looking for Wile E. Coyote.” {Editor’s Note: Would that you were, Scully. Would that you were.}

————————
Scully: I like baseball too. {Editor’s Note: I see what you did there, Jeffrey Bell.}

Hungry 7×1: I don’t believe in monsters.


The New Atkins Diet

Leave it to Vince Gilligan to give us a mutant with an eating disorder.

I swear, I don’t know how I watched unaware of these patterns back in the day, but this rewatch has gotten to the point where I can think ahead to episodes I haven’t even rewatched yet, the credits of which I’ve never before paid attention to, and successfully match up the writer to the story. Their signatures are that distinctive sometimes and Vince Gilligan is by far the quirkiest of them all. (Love you, Vince.) In “Hungry” he gives us something that The X-Files has been threatening to give us since “Leonard Betts” (4×5): A Monster of the Week episode from the Monster’s point of view.

“Leonard Betts” was the first episode to show us a reluctant mutant, with the camera occasionally choosing to follow the eponymous monster and his story instead of Mulder and Scully. Later on, “Terms of Endearment” (6×6) would half-heartedly attempt to make its audience identify with villain Wayne Weinseider. But the episode’s perspective waffled too much between Wayne’s point of view and, well, everyone else’s. That schizophrenia made it less successful than it could have been. Combine the reluctant killer of “Leonard Betts” with the decisive camera perspective that “Terms of Endearment” was looking for and voila, “Hungry”.

I have to take my proverbial hat off to Chad Donnella of the charming voice crack for being able to carry this episode all on his skinny shoulders as Rob Roberts. That’s a hard enough job when the fill-ins for Mulder and Scully are familiar and beloved characters like Skinner or the Lone Gunmen or even the Cigarette-Smoking Man. “Travelers” (5×15) is largely ignored by fans for daring to replace Mulder with his spiritual progenitor, Arthur Dales. For a stranger and a villain to fully take over the role of protagonist is unprecedented on this show and Donnella does a great job. I wonder if it’s merely a coincidence that he goes on to star in famous X-Files alumns Morgan and Wong’s Final Destination. Hmm.

And I must say, maybe it’s because of Vince Gilligan’s now infamous skill when it comes to characterization, but probably the best thing about this episode is how recognizable Mulder and Scully are even when viewing them from the outside. I get a smug satisfaction from being able to tell what they’re thinking, and successfully surmise what kind of conversations they’ve been having at the coroner’s office based purely on their expressions. If Season 7 has an angle, it’s that it openly celebrates the glorious routine of Mulder and Scully’s partnership. “Hungry” starts that trend in a quiet way by highlighting how by the numbers their investigations have become, and well it should because routine has its own charm.

Speaking of the way we see Mulder and Scully, I’ve never appreciated how frightening it must be to be on the wrong side of them. Mulder especially is more than a little intimidating and the camera highlights that fact. For instance, there’s a great moment in Rob’s apartment building when Mulder and Scully seem to gang up on him from either side of the stairs, one above and one below him. It has the effect of watching two Jack the Rippers slowly advance toward you – there’s no escape. And later on in the scene where Mulder and Scully interrogate Rob Roberts they’re shot from right over Roberts’ shoulder. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen both of them, in the same shot, head on like that before. It’s almost startling to see them so clearly from someone else’s point of view. Usually the audience is more of a fly on the wall, that is if we’re not seeing things clearly from Mulder and/or Scully’s perspective, so this is a fun departure for me.

I quite like this episode, but I can’t seem to love it as much as I do respect its uniqueness. Despite this episode’s best intentions and my best attempts to stay open minded, fifteen minutes into the action and the inevitable always happens. I can’t help it. I miss Mulder and Scully. I said above that Chad Donnella carries this episode well and I meant that but… I still miss them.

Really, The X-Files is just doing what it’s done for the last couple of seasons right after an emotional season premiere – it takes a step back from the Mulder and Scully dynamic, possibly to give the audience a breather. Since Season 5, we usually have to wait a couple of episodes until we get a sort of emotional coda to the events of the premiere. Season 5 it was “Detour” (5×4), Season 6 it was “Triangle” (6×3), and this season it’ll be “Millennium” (7×5). Me, personally, I don’t need a breather. Go ahead and suffocate me with Fangirl emotion.

Still, my viewing of “Hungry” would work out perfectly if not for one thing. Maybe if I could I could fully sympathize with Rob Roberts the way I’m supposed to. Maybe if he had shown enough control not to kill Sylvia, or even if he had struggled with it more, if he had cried right before he killed her instead of looking determined and unapologetic. Maybe then I could have felt bad for him when he died and I could love “Hungry” the way I want to.

Everyone he kills previous to Sylvia is a jerk so I don’t begrudge him those moral lapses. But Sylvia was warm, friendly, and relatively helpless. Outside of the therapist, she’s the only person we see show Rob some genuine kindness. And whereas the therapist is somewhat vapid in her Hallmark Card sweetness, Sylvia is engaging and somewhat vulnerable thanks to that hilarious little snippet she shares about her ex-husband. After that last kill, I agree with Mulder and with Rob himself. He can’t help himself. He has to go.

Verdict:

Ostensibly, this episode’s message is that you can’t be something you’re not. Ostensibly. Rob Roberts is what he is and nothing can change that. This makes Mulder almost villainous in his determination to stop this man who’s only following nature’s orders.

Yet in the end, doesn’t Rob prove that he’s more than merely his biological drive with his dying act, his suicide by cop? Whatever his instincts, his conscience, his humanity is what won out, causing him to prefer death to fighting a losing battle against his impulses. It’s more honorable to die a righteous man than live to be an evil one, right? If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better to enter heaven with one eye than sink down to hell with both.

Rob’s death is ultimately an act of self-control, ironically a character trait he’d been desperately seeking this entire episode. And if we do have sympathy for Rob, it’s for this reason. If he had accepted who he was from the beginning and relished his killer instinct a la Tooms, we wouldn’t be able to identify with him at all. “You can’t fight Bi-o-lo-gy,” he says. But it’s Bi-o-lo-gy he overcomes in the end.

I guess after all he’s his own man, and he controls everything he does.

B+

I’ll Have Fries with That:

I don’t know how it took me so many years to recognize this dude, but this rewatch my subconscious just wouldn’t let go until I Googled. The actor who plays Donald Pankow, the customer service nightmare who’s killed in the teaser, is Chase Hampton formerly of The Party fame. I know I’m not the only one here who was watching The All New Mickey Mouse Club back in the day. MMC like what.

Speaking of the teaser, this is one of my favorite openers of the season. I love that creepy Lucky Boy mascot.

Mulder’s intuition is in overdrive… again. A proboscis? Really?

I know I don’t usually go there, but Scully looks amazing this episode. I’m digging the longer hair after all this time. It makes me feel nostalgic for Season 3 Scully.

Meanwhile, does Scully always look this bored?

Lingering Questions:

Wouldn’t there have been surveillance cameras that captured the entire attack at Lucky Boy’s?

If Mulder knows Rob Roberts is the killer and he knows he kills out of compulsion, why in the heck does he keep putting himself in a position to be alone with him? Has Mulder gotten that cocky? I know he baited Tooms back in “Tooms” (1×20) but that was in public, not it the privacy of the killer’s apartment where he could take you without anyone seeing.

How much blood could Rob Roberts possibly have gotten on that shirt?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: What if this man’s brain was eaten? It’s not sociologically unheard of. There are certain tribes in New Guinea that consider human brains a delicacy.
Scully: Yeah, but Mulder, we’re in Orange County.
Mulder: Yeah, what’s your point?

———————–

Mulder: Oh. Hello. Look at this. Does that look like blood to you?
Scully: Yes, looks like it.
Mulder: What is that? Next to it. Is that, uh… oh my… ugh. Is that brain? Is that brain matter there?
Scully: No, I’d say that’s ground beef.

———————–

Derwood Spinks: Uh, since this is farewell, when nobody was looking… I used to dip my boys in the cole slaw. Bon appetit!

———————–

Rob Roberts: I’m sorry, but this is like good cop… insane cop.

———————–

Rob Roberts: I, I guess it’s the taste I respond to the most, salty and juicy… kind of buttery. The, the texture of it inside of your mouth… You know you, your teeth just sink into it like this juicy cloud, and it tastes so good you don’t, you don’t even want to swallow it. You just want to work it around your taste buds until your eyes roll right back into your head… Anyway, it’s a real problem.

———————–

Sylvia: He said I was too fat to ride in his sports car, that I’d just mess up the springs. So, I sat on the hood and I bounced. And I didn’t stop until the police showed up.

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

Trevor 6×17: I just wanted another chance.


Don’t we all?

Scully: Spontaneous human combustion.
Mulder: Scully…!
Scully: Well, isn’t that where you’re going with this?
Mulder: Dear Diary, today my heart leapt when Agent Scully suggested spontaneous human combustion…
Scully: Mulder, there are one or two somewhat well-documented cases…
Mulder: [Makes an effort at a conciliatory expression]
Scully: Mulder, shut up!

And I could end this review right here.

Believe it or not, my favorite part of that moment isn’t the “Dear Diary” hilarity. It’s when Mulder says, “Scully,” like she just paid him the sweetest compliment he’s ever been given, or rather like she just surprised him with two front row tickets to the Knicks game. He’s inordinately touched.

From the inspired banter to a socially backward antagonist in charge of the forces of nature, “Trevor” is about as classic an X-File as you can get. I may even have to take the title of “Most Classic of Season 6” away from the well-intentioned but flawed “Agua Mala” (6×14) to give it to the more well-rounded “Trevor”.

Its success shouldn’t be a surprise since one half of its writing team is former X-Files production crew Property Master Ken Hawryliw. Having worked on the show in Vancouver for five years, if anyone is familiar with what constitutes an X-File, he is. We’ve seen this kind of behind-the-scenes to front of the class success before with Special Effects Supervisor Mat Beck’s “Wetwired” (3×23) and Executive Producer R.W. Goodwin’s “Demons” (4×23). All three episodes are among the best of their respective seasons, all three are underappreciated. For this one, Hawryliw teams up with writer Jim Guttridge so I can’t forget to spread the credit around, but I am again amazed by the multi-tasking talent on this show.

I’ve never loved Season 6 quite this much before. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed it. I was never a Season 6 hater. But I’m especially struck this rewatch by how frighteningly consistent it is in quality. Okay, there are some slight missteps as there are in every season, but there’s only one trip and fall – “Alpha” (6×16). Other than that, it’s one near perfect hour of television after another.

“Trevor” continues that trend though you may not guess it based just on how often episodes are discussed on the boards. Somehow, this little gem seems to slip under the radar of fans. I can only think that in a season full of more attention grabbing episodes like “Triangle” (6×3)  that it’s easy to get lost in the mix.

But I’m not one to talk because I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated “Trevor” before either. I thought about why for a minute and I figured it out: I had never watched it directly after “Alpha” before because I always (accidentally, I swear) skip “Alpha” and go straight to the next DVD and watch “Trevor” right after “Arcadia” (6×13). Watching the already weak “Alpha” crumble like a stale cookie at its climax leaves me with all the greater relief at the tension and emotional high stakes of “Trevor”. This climax delivers. Where I rolled my eyes at Scully’s look of pity for Karin at the end of “Alpha”, Mulder’s bittersweet empathy here for the doomed Pinker Rawls strikes a chord.

You see, Pinker is both the antagonist and the protagonist. He’s the villain and the hero, the victim of his own personal Greek tragedy. All Pinker wants is a second chance at life and the son that was stolen from him represents that possibility. Sure, he’s a cold-blooded psychopath, but psychopaths need love too.

I don’t think there’s ever any question that this man isn’t fit to be loose in society. But it’s hard to fault his desire for fatherhood and the normalcy that comes with it. In Trevor he imagines his chance to finally become the man a young boy would want as a father. It’s only when he sees Trevor’s terror at the end in that phone booth that he realizes he himself is destroying his own chances of experiencing real fatherhood.

On the other hand, June, his former lover whose family he terrorizes in an effort to find Trevor, is far less sympathetic than Pinker. Ostensibly, her only real crime is having hooked up with Pinker Rawls. She’s just a girl trying to make it out of the trailer park and onto Park Avenue. However, she hasn’t chosen to hand over the raising of Trevor to her sister out of some emotional aversion to mothering Pinker’s child but because it’s hard to catch a good man when you’re saddled with a kid.

She’s not trying to become something else so much as she’s trying to pretend she’s someone else. In contrast, Pinker knows he’s a killer and doesn’t attempt to suddenly reform now that he’s loose. But he’s a killer that wants to be more than just a killer and June ultimately takes that hope away from him, not once but twice, the last time for good. Nope, I can’t say I like June.

Verdict:

Please understand that if you’re ever randomly gifted with freaky “gods of Olympus” style powers you cannot use them to force someone to be with you. That’s a no-no. We’ve seen this type of situation go badly before.

There are echoes of “D.P.O.” (3×3) here, not only because we have an… er… less than morally adept gentleman who can control the forces of nature because he survived a freak storm, but because that same dude keeps chasing after someone he can’t have and leaves destruction in his wake. It’s that desperation for another human being who would be good for them but who they themselves are no good for that links Darren Peter Oswald and Wilson Pinker Rawls in spirit. They’re like X-Files blood brothers, both unsympathetic and yet tragic at the same time.

Yes, the look Mulder gives June at the end of the episode says it all: Killing Pinker Rawls was unnecessarily cruel. He had already let Trevor go. Then again, Pinker allows her to do it. I guess he realizes all his chances are gone.

Undeserving though Pinker is, in that moment you know he’s been robbed of something precious.

A

I want what’s mine:

Since when do people board up for tornadoes? Shouldn’t they be bunkered in a basement somewhere? And if a tornado is coming, who has time to pick a fight?

Is it supposed to be ironic that Pinker went to prison with so many condoms on hand meanwhile he had a kid he didn’t know about? Or am I finding things that aren’t there?

Wow. Scully knows the ICD9 billing code for c-sections. That’s ridiculous.

Shouldn’t Pinker have been able to reach his hand through the metal part of the phone booth?

Is Jackie dead?? Pinker seems to be able to touch people like a normal fella when he so chooses. Perhaps all that’s left of Jackie’s face is an ashen hole. Perhaps not.

Give me my son:

That’s a pretty O, Brother, Where Art Thou? style prison we open upon.

I love the way Scully reaches for Trevor’s hand right before they run for the phone booth.

If a naked man is chasing after you in the dark of the Mississippi night, it’s a good idea to run even if he can’t walk through walls.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Should we arrest David Copperfield?
Mulder: [Nods] Yes, we should. But not for this.

How the Ghosts Stole Christmas 6×8: I just gave myself chills.


The romance is the first thing to go.

I have had a revelation. It only took thirteen years and several cups of coffee.

“How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” is essentially the story of what happens when Mulder tries to romance Scully in his own strange, Mulderish way. Back in the day, I used to think he’s merely lonely and wanting for company, but he plans this evening. This isn’t a spur of the moment outing brought on by boredom. And then he tries to impress Scully with the spooky atmosphere of his story the way that normal men take their dates to scary movies in hopes that their ready arms will look more masculine and appealing when their date has no place else to run to. Why else take her on a scary Christmas Eve rendezvous traditionally taken by lovers?

Notice the way writer and director Chris Carter chooses to shoot both characters from the back as Mulder weaves his winter’s tale in the dark car. No sooner does he start discussing the story of Maurice and Lyda than Mulder and Scully are framed in a rather romantic looking portrait. Oh, yes. Brooding hero Maurice is Mulder and Lyda of the sublime beauty is Scully. Perhaps as a Christmas present to the fans, Chris Carter doesn’t even attempt to be subtle about it. Thank you, Chris.

Mulder: His name was Maurice. He was a… a brooding but heroic young man beloved of Lyda, a sublime beauty with a light that seemed to follow her wherever she went. They were likened to two angels descended from heaven whom the gods could not protect from the horrors being visited upon this cold, grey earth.

Yeah, methinks Mulder was trying to get his mack on. Well, sorta. I’m not trying to say that Mulder was about to put the moves on Scully. But does he know what he’s saying when he tells her the story of Maurice and Lyda? Oh yeah. He’s acting the teenage boy here, no doubt about it, and that’s the backdrop for our story at hand. Any excuse to bring television legends Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin into The X-Files family is just fine. They’re supposed to steal the show here and indeed they do.

Actually, Ed Asner was originally intended for the role of Clyde Bruckman in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4), but glory be, Peter Boyle owned that character and we still get to relish Ed Asner’s charm in the role of Maurice. See? Everyone wins.

Already Season 6 has set itself apart with an impressive list of guest stars. Bryan Cranston before he was famous in “Drive” (6×1), Michael McKean and Nora Dunn in “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II” (6×5), Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin here, next up will be Bruce Campbell in “Terms of Endearment” (6×6) closely followed by Victoria Jackson in “Rain King” (6×7), and it won’t end there.

To what do we owe the pleasure? It has to be the move to L.A. Now there are all sorts of actors willing to share screen time with Mulder and Scully who wouldn’t have been available for the trek to Vancouver. And I suppose it doesn’t hurt that Season 6 was the heyday of a television phenomenon. Who doesn’t want to be a part of history? It’d be like turning down a guest spot on Star Trek.

Whatever the sentimental loss over the built-in atmosphere of Vancouver and the original production crew that turned The X-Files into the legend it became, we can’t deny that the move to L.A. has not only brought great side benefits like impressive actors, the production quality hasn’t suffered in the least. The set of “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” is absolutely stunning; it’s a character unto itself. This is especially important because ninety percent of the action happens in this one place with only four actors involved, the smallest cast of any episode of the series. The cast is so small and the action so relegated to one spot that it feels very much like a stage play. And if going off with the family to watch a staged performance isn’t Christmas, I don’t know what is.

If I’m to be honest (there’s no need to be but it’s Christmas so why not?), I never much cared for this episode before this rewatch. Not to say that I didn’t like it, but I always felt that something was missing, that it was a little soulless, perhaps. I didn’t see that it had a point. And it doesn’t, really. It’s a festive frolic, a Christmas card to the fans, and that’s all it’s meant to be. And why not? Episodes previously had acknowledged the Christmas season, “Beyond the Sea” (1×12), “Christmas Carol” (5×5), but neither of those had ever acknowledged the audience on the other side of the television screen. Now The X-Files has reached its zenith and is understandably a little self-conscious about its legion of fans, enough that rather than scare them it deems it better to send a little Christmas spirit their way. An episode like this couldn’t have been attempted in any season previous except possibly Season 5; it’s too meta for a show that doesn’t know its own power.

There’s another element of this episode that The X-Files never would have attempted before it was an official piece of pop culture history. 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. As it is I believe the writers did an excellent job of utilizing the MSR subtext without relying on it. “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” works because it’s funny. If you happen to understand the layer of meaning just beneath the surface then so much the better.

I must admit, though, that watching this episode when it originally aired was my first “Danger, Will Robinson” moment. Why? I’m glad you asked.

First there was “Triangle” (6×3), a lighthearted tale meant to cleanse the palette after the high emotional tension of “The Beginning” (6×2) and to reward the fans whose hopes were thwarted during that infamous hallway scene in Fight the Future. It was incredibly well done and almost universally praised. Do you see a problem there? No? I didn’t think so.

Directly after that was “Dreamland”. Sure, two lighthearted episodes in a row is unheard of on The X-Files but production order gets switched around sometimes and besides, “Triangle” wasn’t really a comedy. Ah, but then we have “Dreamland II” which of course must follow part 1. We can’t find fault with that, can we? It just so happens that having three of these episodes in a row is the way things played out.

But now we’re at “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” and a disturbing pattern begins to emerge. Yes, I’ve already said that I appreciate that the show was willing and able to do something fun for Christmas for once. I’m all for it. And yet… part of me is starting to worry. No, nothing has been bad by any means. This string of episodes has been fabulous! Still, my spidey sense is atingle: where are the X-Files? At what point does the show become too self-conscious?

Verdict:

A quick word of caution about this episode: the whole thing is tongue-in-cheek. Yes, that seems obvious and why would I warn you about that? But I fear that the pop psychology invoked here, the witty observations of Maurice and Lyda that Chris Carter never intended to be taken as gospel truth, has been accepted a little too literally over the years. Read the fanfic, don’t let it corrupt you.

Yes, Mulder is prone to a self-centered form of tunnel vision. But a narcissist? Hardly that. And while Scully may enjoy a good intellectual tête-à-tête with Mulder, who would believe that she’s spent so many years with him risking life and limb merely for the right to say “I told you so?” Part of the point of this episode is that Maurice and Lyda misread Mulder and Scully, assuming that they’re much lonelier and less balanced than they actually are.

However, if you want to take away anything about the psychology of the characters please note that Scully does admit she really wanted to be out there hunting things she doesn’t even believe in with Mulder. Yet again Chris Carter sets up the tension between Scully’s overt desire for normality and her unacknowledged desire to travel a bumpier road with Mulder. For some reason, Scully has a hard time understanding herself and why she’d rather suffer with Mulder than live out her life in peace with anyone else.

A-

P.S. Speaking of Christmas, I suppose you already know what day it is. So allow me to wish a very Merry Christmas to you and yours! A huge thank you to all of you who follow along because you make this a blast. See you in the new year!

Armchair Psychology:

How can Mulder possibly be surprised that Scully doesn’t believe in ghosts? Wasn’t he there for the events of “Shadows” (1×5)?

Did anyone else catch the moment where Mulder pauses during the telling of his gothic tale to wiggle his eyebrows?

I love that telltale heart moment.

The shot where you can see Scully’s face through that hole in Maurice’s head still impresses me. I wonder how much that cost…

So, Chris Carter knows exactly what Mulder and Scully gave each other for Christmas and he refuses to tell. Scrooge.

*MSR – Mulder/Scully Romance

Best Quotes:

Scully: I see. The dark, gothic manor the, uh, omnipresent low fog hugging the thicket of overgrowth… Wait… is that a hound I hear baying out on the moors?
Mulder: No. Actually that was a left cheek sneak. {Editor’s Note: I JUST got that. Sometimes I wonder about myself.}

———————-

Maurice: You drink? Take drugs?
Mulder: No.
Maurice: Get high?
Mulder: No.
Maurice: Are you overcome by the impulse to make everyone believe you?

———————-

Maurice: My specialty is in what I call soul prospectors, a cross axial classification I’ve codified by extensive interaction with visitors like yourself. I’ve found you all tend to fall into pretty much the same category.
Mulder: And what category is that?
Maurice: Narcissistic, overzealous, self-righteous egomaniac.
Mulder: Wow, that’s a category?
Maurice: You kindly think of yourself as single-minded but you’re prone to obsessive compulsiveness, workaholism, antisocialism. Fertile fields for the descent into… total wacko breakdown.
Mulder: I don’t think that pegs me exactly.
Maurice: Oh, really? Waving a gun around my house? Huh? Raving like a lunatic about some imaginary brick wall? You’ve probably convinced yourself you’ve seen aliens. You know why you think you see the things you do?
Mulder: Because I have seen them?
Maurice: ‘Cause you’re a lonely man. A lonely man, chasing paramasturbatory illusions that you believe will give your life meaning and significance and which your pathetic social maladjustment makes impossible for you to find elsewhere. You probably consider yourself passionate, serious, misunderstood. Am I right?
Mulder: Paramasturbatory?
Maurice: Most people would rather stick their fingers in a wall socket than spend a minute with you.
Mulder: All right, now just, uh… Just back off for a second.
Maurice: You spend every Christmas this way? Alone?
Mulder: I’m not alone.
Maurice: More self-delusion.
Mulder: No, I came here with my partner. She’s somewhere in the house.
Maurice: Behind a brick wall? How’d you get her to come with you? Steal her car keys?
Mulder: [Guilty silence]

——————–

Scully: Not that, uh, my only joy in life is proving you wrong.
Mulder: When have you proved me wrong?
Scully: Well… Why else would you want me out there with you?
Mulder: You didn’t want to be there? Oh, that’s, um… That’s self-righteous and… narcissistic of me to say, isn’t it?
Scully: No, I mean… Maybe I did want to be out there with you.

Triangle 6×3: I would’ve never seen you again, but you believed me.


And it’s Skinner for the win.

This is the first of, well, quite a few episodes in Season 6 that strike me as officially stamped productions of fanfic. Brilliant fanfic, mind you, but fanfic nonetheless. And I mean this as the best possible sort of compliment.

If there’s one common complaint about Season 6 is that it’s largely dominated by “X-Files Light” episodes, episodes in the vein of “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) that are more fluff pieces than hardcore Monster of the Week scare fests. These episodes aren’t always necessarily overt comedies, but they purposefully lack depth in an effort to give the audience a break both from mythology angst and MOTW seriousness.

It’s a far cry from the types of episodes that dominated Season 1 and Season 2, but if you look at the direction The X-Files has taken since Season 3 I don’t see much cause for indignant surprise. And considering the show has just come back after the climax of a hit feature film, a little self-conscious indulgence has been well earned. How could The X-Files pretend that it’s not iconic? That Mulder and Scully aren’t beloved stereotypes? If the show didn’t start poking fun at itself on the regular or throw out knowing winks and nods to its bulging audience it would implode in unvaried solemnity.

“Triangle” is one such wink and nod and it’s quite possibly the best of them. The whole adventure feels like a reward, a thank you card if you will, to a long-suffering audience; as if Chris Carter knows that we love these characters and decided to treat us to a fantasy. Like Mulder we’re having a really cool dream where all our favorite people are transplanted into unusual circumstances, but that’s exactly its charm.

This is why I say it feels like fanfic because it’s usually fanfic that fans have to resort to in order to see their favorite characters loosen up or imagine how they’d behave outside of their usual context. Now, this way of consciously acknowledging the audience and of lovingly nudging itself in the ribs can be a trap for any show, especially for one with such a serious and dramatic premise as The X-Files. But “Triangle” is so well done that I think we can ignore those fears for now and just enjoy the gift.

I can’t get over how gorgeous this episode is, it is absolutely lush. The colors saturate the screen. When I think of how far The X-Files’ production quality… and budget… has evolved from Season 1, I shake my head in amazement.

“Triangle” was shot in a series of especially long takes, which gives it a very fluid, very urgent feel. It forced the Carter & Crew to use some creative staging in order to avoid revealing production details that are normally disguised by cuts, and also to disguise the cuts themselves with creative editing. Visually, I adore this method as I love those moments where the camera conveniently looks away to avoid revealing trade secrets and I particularly I love the smoothness of the camera movement throughout.

But my favorite aspect of this episode has nothing to do with technique. My favorite part of this episode is Scully. In fact, this is my favorite episode of all for Scully’s character. Why? Because she’s so much fun! And how often does Scully get to be fun? You know I love her, but our girl is generally a stick-in-the-mud. Every so often she’s allowed to crack a joke or suppress a smirk and if we’re really lucky, she’ll tell off a madman or two in that impressively authoritative voice of hers.

What a joy it must have been for Gillian Anderson to play a different sort of Scully. Not that she’s out of character here, but how often does Scully get to show us such a huge range of facial expressions in one episode? How often is she flustered? Or angry? On top of that, 1939 Scully is Rosie the Riveter rather than a medical doctor which means she’s allowed to be even more feisty. My favorite part is the entire second act where we follow Scully up and down the halls of the F.B.I. as she tries, yet again, to save her incurably foolish partner.

And, of course, she’s ultimately successful both in the past and present. Scully saves Mulder, literally, in the past and in the present she saves him metaphorically because of the same reason: she believes him. Scully has to believe Mulder; the woman can’t help herself, it’s a compulsion. Whether in an alternate universe, alternate dimension or alternate time stream, it’s in her job description and on her business card: Mulder Believer.

That’s the ultimate beauty of this episode and the reward that I think Chris Carter was trying to give fans, validation of their belief in the Mulder/Scully partnership that at this point beats as the heart of the series. There’s a certain amount of destiny involved in all of Mulder’s relationships as presented because Mulder can’t avoid the people in his life, good or bad but they follow him even in unconsciousness. But when it comes to Scully in particular, her belief in him is instinctive rather than rational which again lends itself to the idea that these are two people with a God-given understanding of each other that was foreordained. This mystery of the unexplained is probably unsolvable, but it’s also worth more than all the other truth Mulder so stubbornly seeks and it’s nice to know he finally realizes that too.

And the Verdict is…

It would have been too much to expect that Chris Carter would allow his characters to kiss at this stage of the game, and I can’t blame him for refusing to indulge his needy audience (of which I was one) quite that far. But I’ll take a kiss between Mulder and “Scully” in shadow any day. The truth is that I’m glad the kiss happens mostly in the dark because I love that romantic air of mystery and I’m even gladder that Mulder and Scully didn’t become a television couple yet. Else what would I have had to look forward to? Besides, Mulder kissed her like a man who had thought long and hard about doing this before. That’s more than enough for me. And with a love confession on top of it? I remember nearly collapsing in shock and joy – I do believe there was screaming.

So does any of what we see on the 1939 version of the Queen Anne actually happen? The split screen moment between the two Scullys and Mulder’s ginger touch to his cheek would certainly have us believe so. Though the references to The Wizard of Oz sprinkled all through the episode and the fact that we see our hero conked out at the beginning would indicate that this is all a very realistic fantasy inside Mulder’s head, or maybe a world that is real but is only real because he created it.

I don’t care, really. I just want this episode to come out in HD so that my life can be complete.

A+

P.S. You know she punched him because she enjoyed that kiss a little too much, right?

Puddin Tame:

Mark Snow’s score is like another character in this episode.

For that matter, so is the camera.

I hadn’t noticed before that the guy who plays Thor’s Hammer in 1939 is the same Agent who overhears part of Scully’s conversation with the Lone Gunmen in 1998.

I can’t figure out how Kersh’s character winds up in the bowels of the ship in 1939. How does that represent his position in Mulder’s life? Well, I suppose no one would have believed he was a Nazi…

I have ransacked my brain and I can only think of two episodes where Scully ever wears a dress, this one and “En Ami” (7×15).

Agent Fowley is absent from this whole play. Interesting. Perhaps that brewing love triangle would have distracted too much from the action. I tend to think so.

I had hoped that Chris Carter’s experimental episodes, you know, the ones he helmed from beginning to end, would be a once-a-year occurrence, but alas. We get a similarly experimental if not quite as ambitious episode later in the season in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) but the next time Chris Carter gives us a distinctly “Chris Carteresque” episode will be Season 9’s “Improbable” (9×14), so you might want to unbuckle your seatbelt for that wait.

No Germans were harmed in the making of this episode.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Well, you… you can relax. There’s no war going on. The world is at peace. There’s a little trouble over at our White House, but that’ll blow over… so to speak.

———————-

Scully: I want you to do me a favor. It’s not negotiable. Either you do it or I kill you, you understand?
Spender: You okay, Agent Scully?
Scully: No. I’m not. I’m a gun ready to go off so don’t test me, Spender. Don’t even think about trying to weasel me.

———————–

Kersh’s Secretary: I was sent to come get you.
Scully: Yeah, I was waiting for Agent Spender, he was, uh… I’m supposed to pick up a delivery from him.
Kersh’s Secretary: Agent Spender is with Assistant Director Kersh.
Scully: That rat bastard!

———————–
Mulder: Hey, Scully.
Scully: Yes?
Mulder: I love you.
Scully: Oh, brother.