Tag Archives: Tunguska

Vienen 8×16: How about a twenty count?


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It’s been real.

“Vienen” feels like The X-Files’ version of a buddy flick, only the buddies aren’t buddies.

Mulder and Doggett started to bond slightly in “Empedolces” (8×17) but I think it’s safe to say they still irritate each other more than they understand one another. Ironically, they were psychically and emotionally closer before they ever actually knew one another back in “The Gift” (8×11).

“Vienen” is designed to bring Mulder to the place where he’s willing to give Doggett his blessing and pass the X-Files torch. Considering where the two characters are in their relationship at the beginning of the episode, that’s a long bridge to cross over. Somehow they manage it, though. More or less.

The other thing “Vienen” does is close the door on the Black Oil plot. You remember the Black Oil, the alien virus that possessed people’s bodies and minds and would sometimes use them as gestation pods for angry baby aliens. The Black Oil was supposed to be the means of alien invasion, the viral infection spreading throughout the human race until no humans remained.

That plot has already been superseded by the new, unnamed infection that threatened Mulder and transformed Billy Miles into who-knows-what in “Deadalive” (8×15), a new infection that in some ways is a rehash of the old. Again a virus is the means of invasion, except instead if it possessing humans or turning them into flesh and blood cocoons it’s physically replacing them in a way that has yet to be defined.

Really, they should have wrapped up the one plot before bringing in the next. A mere few episodes ago I was still looking for answers about the Black Oil and wondering whether that plot had died. Well it had. Bringing it back from the dead to kill it again is redundant.

Besides, we learn nothing new about it. A store of the Black Oil has been accidentally tapped into by the unsuspecting crew of an oil rig. All of them are now possessed except for a couple of genetically immune indigenous natives. (See that? The human race could have survived invasion all along.) The Black Oil is receiving instructions from the Mothership via the oil rig’s communication system. Instructions to do what, we don’t know. But in the end the drilling is forced to stop. Voila, no more Black Oil.

However, there’s nothing here to convince me that the Black Oil is now irrelevant and no longer a threat. I realize that’s what they’re telling me, but I’m not convinced. We’ve been led to believe that the Black Oil is buried all over the earth, that it beat us to the planet. It’s been found everywhere from Texas in Fight the Future to Russia in “Tunguska” (4×9). Just because this well is closed off, why does that mean it can’t bubble to the surface of the earth some place else?

And as far as its irrelevance, what I need to hear is that the aliens know that humanity has a working vaccine for the Black Oil and found the need to use a new, unstudied virus to continue with their plans for colonization. Of course, then that would make this new plan for invasion look awfully silly in the face of “Deadalive” since the new virus was already bested by not a carefully engineered vaccine but by a regular course of known antivirals. That would make it even less dangerous than the Black Oil.

“Vienen” is more of a soft afterthought of a goodbye to the Black Oil than any sort of real explanation or resolution. The Black Oil is merely a means to an end to force the old guard to recognize the new. Mulder’s era ends right along with the Black Oil and a new conspiracy, investigated by Doggett, becomes the focus of The X-Files from here on out. New virus, new man.

Mulder and Doggett never quite gel, it seems to me. But they do develop a grudging respect for one another. In the end, I’m not sure whether Mulder has real confidence in Doggett or whether he’s just tired of the whole thing and Doggett’s there and wants the job.

It’s almost hard to believe it took this long for Mulder to get fired, but he doesn’t really care that it’s happened. He’s not even sentimental over his precious X-Files. Mulder has bigger fish to fry than to fight with the F.B.I.. There’s a little uber Scully in the oven.

Verdict:

I have to say, just like I preferred watching Skinner and Doggett to Scully and Doggett, I was more interested in watching Mulder and Doggett spar for one episode than I’ve been in Scully and Doggett’s partnership all season. It makes me wish we’d had more opportunities for all male match ups on The X-Files. I would’ve gladly taken more Mulder and Krycek too.

But as interested as I am in the two of them, I’m not interested in the overall plot. Maybe it’s just too little too late. We haven’t seen the Black Oil since Fight the Future and the momentum has been lost.

And even the evolution of Mulder and Doggett’s relationship is a little forced and rushed. Forced because Mulder’s working hard to be himself at his most aggravating and Doggett doesn’t bother to attempt an open mind the way he did with Scully. Rushed because they can barely stand each other two scenes before Mulder shakes Doggett’s hand and walks out of the X-Files office without a second look.

The baton was passed because it needed to be, but it was little more than perfunctory.

Only three more episodes left to say goodbye to my main man. Let’s hope the remaining ones leave me feeling full and satisfied instead of like I had to leave the table after the appetizers.

B

Niggles and Wiggles:
As Mulder and Doggett are having their opening argument, you can see the ritual symbol from “The Gift” on the board behind Doggett. That symbol also represents their potential for understanding.

Mulder’s face as he realizes Doggett has read every X-File is hilarious.

So Doggett knows a little Spanish.

Why is the virus dead now? Is it because of the man’s immunity?

Now Doggett’s seen the Black Oil too. He’s seen a lot. Is he starting to bend yet?

My favorite part of this episode is Mulder and Scully talking on the phone, Mulder being his irreparably reckless self even knowing that Scully’s pregnant, and Scully not even in fear or anger but exasperation effectively saying, “I can’t with you right now. Put Doggett on the phone.”

What are the aliens trying to do? Are they trying to get the infected men to land so that they can infect the populace? If they are, then why do they blow the rig?

They could’ve infected Mulder and Doggett by letting the oil seep through the door.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: We got to quarantine this rig.
Scully: No Mulder, you need to get off the rig. Have Agent Doggett give the order. We can quarantine you and the crew when we get back here.
Mulder: Scully, if these men are infected the last place we want to is onshore where they can infect other people. You’re sitting on the answer right there, Scully. The body, you find the virus, you can find what knocks it out, you can find what kills it.
Scully: And what if I can’t?
Mulder: When he’s old enough… tell the kid I went down swinging.
Scully: [Exasperated] Let me talk to Agent Doggett.

————————-

Doggett: I never would have believed it. These stories about you.
Mulder: Really, what stories are those?
Doggett: That you can find a conspiracy at a church picnic.
Mulder: What church?

Requiem 7×22: The hour is at hand.


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This is it. We’ve reached “Requiem”, where the mythology temporarily gets its groove back, where Mulder and Scully come full circle from their first meeting seven years ago in that basement office, and the episode where Chris Carter tries to destroy me.

The title is appropriate because, in many ways, this is a funeral. Not to spoil it for any newbies out there, but Seasons 8 and 9 will go down better if you don’t get your hopes up: This is the end of the Mulder and Scully era of The X-Files.*

I didn’t know that when this first aired. Fox had only officially renewed the series for Season 8 about a week before. All fans of the series knew was that David Duchovny had renewed his contract for eleven episodes for the upcoming season and Gillian Anderson’s contract still hadn’t run out. That translated to an expectation, at least in my household… and by “my household” I mean myself because my family is sane… that there would be a short lull for half a season or so and then David would return and things would get back to normal. What I know now that I didn’t realize then is that I was saying goodbye to The X-Files as I knew it.

The thing is, nobody knew. Through the writing and filming of this episode, Chris Carter didn’t know whether this was going to be a season finale, series finale or a lead-in to an ongoing movie franchise. That explains why he wrote “Requiem” in such a way that it could serve any and all purposes, and so that it could destroy me.

Agent Short: But, at the end of the day you’d say aliens are your real focus.

Mulder: That’s the reason I got started, yeah.

Agent Short: Investigating your sister’s abduction and the government conspiracy around it. Both of which have been resolved, correct?

Mulder: Nothing has been resolved exactly.

Agent Short: In this case report here it’s concluded your sister is dead as well as the men who took her. This is your handwriting here on the report, Agent Mulder?

Mulder: Yeah.

Agent Short: So, what exactly is left to investigate?

At long last, 1013 acknowledges the reason for Season 7’s lack of drive. Frankly, Mulder and Scully have little reason to still be in the game. As Agent Chesty Short points out, the main issues surrounding alien life, government conspiracy and the mystery of Samantha’s abduction have all been resolved. Oh, there are a few finer points and loose threads that haven’t been addressed. And there’s that whole upcoming annihilation of mankind thing, not that Mulder and Scully have been acting like Colonization is still on the horizon. They’ve been meandering across America, well, mostly California, flirtatious and carefree as the day is long. If the answers have been found and the conspiracy is dead, then there’s nothing important left to discover in the X-Files. If the world is still in danger of ending, then it’s time for them to take their mission up a notch and leave the routine behind.

Before the F.B.I.’s auditor can make that decision for them, however, Mulder and Scully get a call from Billy Miles, one of the abductees that was at the center of their first case. There’s been another suspicious disappearance. So they head back to the very plausible state of Oregon for the last time on the F.B.I.’s dime and let the waterfall of nostalgic tears begin.

The renewed activity in Oregon means that plans for colonization are still going forward and the Alien Colonists are cleaning house before it does. The abductees were originally taken and experimented on in order to perfect the science needed to create alien-human hybrids – a slave race that could survive Colonization by the alien Black Oil. That plan is out since the Syndicate is dead, so the abductees are now useless and a liability. They’re evidence waiting to be discovered.

Cigarette-Smoking Man, sick unto death, realizes what the Colonists are up to and wants to capture the ship, and the evidence it holds, before they disappear again. His plan is to restart the conspiracy. Since he’s currently immobile, he calls up Marita Covarrubias who we last saw on the verge of death herself in “One Son” (6×12). But we’ll get assume that at some point she was given an effective vaccine against the Black Oil, because here she is. CSM sends Marita to go fetch Krycek from the Tunisian jail he put him in. The fact that he’s in Tunisia is a tantalizing bit of information since it indicates that the leader of the Syndicate, Strughold, is still alive and restarting the conspiracy isn’t just a far-fetched dream.

So our two teams, Mulder and Scully, Krycek and Marita, head out to Oregon. Mulder and Scully have come such a long way since their first case. I broke my unspoken rule of going backwards and rewatched the Pilot (1×79) in order to compare it to this episode. It’s amazing how recognizable the characters are even after all they’ve been through. But the devoted duo that they are in “Requiem” is not the oddly matched teammates we met at the beginning.

Chris Carter is a sucker for bookends and so am I, so we get to see Mulder and Scully retracing their past not only by reconnecting with the people they met at the start of their journey and revisiting locations that are full of meaning, but Carter even brings the little moments back. Once more, Scully shows up at Mulder’s motel door shaken and stirred and he welcomes her in. It’s the same but it’s worlds different. Then, he comforts her awkwardly and tells her his life story, why he became a nut. He lets his guard down and starts to trust her. She stops seeing his ideas as a joke and starts to bond with him. Now… Oh, now… He takes off her shoes, puts her under the covers while he gentlemanly stays on top of them, holds her close and whispers to her that she’s already lost too much by running around with him and he won’t let her lose any more, because David Duchovny is trying to destroy me.

Mulder says in the Pilot that nothing else matters to him except finding the answers he’s looking for. This is not the same Mulder who now says to Scully, “There’s so much more you need to do with your life. There’s so much more than this. There has to be an end, Scully.” Mulder is betwixt and between. He loves Scully, wants the best for her, and some part of him looks like he could use a break from all this running around himself. We already know that finding out about Samantha’s death was a relief to him because it freed him. It’s not a stretch to think he’s ready to move on from hunting aliens as well. On the other hand, his search for aliens, his search for “Truth” with a capital “T”, his search for God… what is his life without it? He’s just a man who wants to know his place in the universe. That’s not wrong. Which part of Mulder will win in this inner struggle remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Krycek is coming up with zilch on this UFO and they’re running out of time before it takes off again. So once both teams make it back to Washington, D.C., Krycek gets Skinner to spring a surprise meeting on Mulder down in the basement office. This is such a perfectly constructed moment because Skinner shoots the breeze with Mulder for a couple of minutes before Krycek and Marita appear in the doorway behind Skinner. It’s a great surprise. Mulder wasn’t too happy about it, though.

Krycek’s aim is to get Mulder back out to Oregon to look for the ship… again. This is where we’d better go back a bit.

Remember that in “Biogenesis” (6×22), Krycek led Mulder and Scully to the discovery of an ancient alien spaceship. He forced Skinner into assigning them the case by threat of death by nanobot. Rubbings from that spaceship are what activated the dormant Black Oil in Mulder’s brain that he was exposed to in “Tunguska” (4×9), effectively turning him into the first alien-human hybrid immune to the possessive effects of the Black Oil. Mulder’s anomalous brain activity nearly killed him.

It’s hard to say for sure since “Biogenesis” was a little fuzzy around the edges, but it’s likely that Krycek was purposefully leading Mulder to that fate. And it’s likely that he’s purposefully leading him toward contact with the aliens now, knowing that they don’t want a specimen like Mulder running loose. Mulder means the potential survival of the human race. This would explain why Mulder passes the forcefield test. It possibly even explains why the ship didn’t take off until Mulder arrived on the scene. Perhaps they were waiting for him to show up.

Krycek, while he wants to survive, doesn’t want to cooperate with the Colonists and he surely wants to stick it to CSM. By giving the Colonists what they want – Mulder – he’s ensuring their departure and the failure of CSM’s plans. Does he have to destroy CSM’s plans before he throws him down the stairs? No. But it’s so much more evil if you take a man’s legacy before you take his life, isn’t it?

For his part, Mulder doesn’t have reason to trust Krycek so I’m not sure why he does. He already believes there’s a spaceship out there, but he’s come home for Scully’s sake. Now he’s going out to find it again because Krycek says CSM’s behind the disappearances. Methinks Mulder doesn’t really need a lot of convincing. He’s concerned about Scully, but this is a man determined to reach out and touch the face of God.

The good news is that this is an excuse for Mulder to gather all the old gang together before he goes. Skinner, the Lone Gunmen, Krycek, Marita, Mulder, Scully… they all stand at a table together in what’s meant to be a tableau of The Last Supper. And Mulder’s our sacrificial lamb, ready to give his very life for the answers. The one thing he won’t sacrifice – Scully.

Mulder: You’re not going back out there. I’m not going to let you go back out there.

Scully: What are you talking about?

Mulder: It has to end sometime. That time is now.

Scully: Mulder…

Mulder: Scully, you have to understand that they’re taking abductees. You’re an abductee. I’m not going to risk…. losing you.

Scully: [Slowly embraces him] I won’t let you go alone.

A moment of silence for my utter destruction.

True to her word, Scully sends their boss in her place and for the second time in recent history, Skinner’s out in the field. Oh, the lost opportunities. He should have been on the ground with Mulder more. It’s amazing how much affection you can palpably feel between their two characters even though they don’t say or do anything openly demonstrative.

Back in D.C., Scully comes to the realization that she’s not the one in danger, Mulder is. The aliens are taking people who experienced the same anomalous brain activity Mulder did. No sooner does she tell the Lone Gunmen this than she faints. Hmm, Scully’s been looking a little off all episode.

In Oregon, Mulder discovers the force field of the spaceship and decides to walk through it. And in a little room in Florida, there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I know it doesn’t even make sense. This episode aired fifteen years ago. I know what happens. I know what happens in the end of the series. I know the show is coming back! But I freak the heck out. Every. Time.

Noooo!!! Mulder!!!! You get back over there!!! You idiot!!!!!! What about Scully????????

That fool. And he looks so resigned. And all the abductees look so peaceful and welcoming. What are they looking peaceful about?? Didn’t the aliens torture them?

You deserve it. You deserve to look scared. Of course there’s a Bounty Hunter. They’re going to kill you. Didn’t I tell you to get back over there????

Okay. I have to stop before my brain explodes. Let’s just say I didn’t see Mulder’s abduction coming. You have to warn people before you rip out their hearts and destroy them.

And poor Skinner. He’s left holding the bag. By the time he shows up at Scully’s bedside he’s crying and ridden with guilt for losing Mulder. (It’s not your fault, Skinner. Mulder’s a stubborn jackass. A sweet, irreplaceable, stubborn jackass.) For her part, Scully looks shell-shocked, though not entirely because of Mulder’s abduction.

Scully: [Crying] We will find him. I have to. [Skinner goes to leave] Sir, um… there’s something else I need to tell you. Something that I need for you to keep to yourself. I’m having a hard time explaining it. Or believing it. But, um… I’m pregnant.

Yep. 1013 has done it. I didn’t see it coming, but they’ve done it. I can’t believe it. They’ve left Scully alone and pregnant.

Help. Somebody. The expressions on her face. I can’t. The grief, sadness, fear, incredulity, hope, joy, panic… I can’t. That emotional intake of breath right before the credits. I can’t. Because Gillian Anderson knows how to destroy me.

Post-Mortem:

Dramatically, this is the perfect way to end an era. It even casts me back to the underlying bleakness of the Pilot. But I can’t fully express my relief that it didn’t end here. After all he and Scully have been through, Mulder suddenly disappearing can’t be the end of the story. It just can’t. Yes, I see the poeticism in Mulder becoming the X-File, on becoming the answer to his own questions, in his meeting the aliens, “God” as it were, face to face. But if The X-Files had ended on a note this sad it would have tainted all my memories of the previous seven seasons. I wouldn’t be able to watch episodes like “Pusher” (3×17) without crying. I might not have been able to watch them at all. My emotions are funny like that. As it is, just knowing “Requiem” exists is enough to make me teary-eyed.

But I have to give credit to writer Chris Carter and the whole team for managing to form this episode in such a way that it could just as easily have been a new beginning as an end. And they positively guaranteed that I’d be watching Season 8.

It tore my heart apart, but it’s a good episode. I’d almost give it an A+ but I’m bitter that it destroyed me.

A

Sweet Nothings:

*Or at least it remains the end until January 24th, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Agent Mulder should focus his efforts – truer words have never been spoken. But then we wouldn’t have had a show.

How glad I am to see a Bounty Hunter again, you don’t know.

Why does the Bounty Hunter also seem to have the memories of the people he transforms into? Is it just because he’s spying on them?

When the Bounty Hunter as Detective Miles opens the trunk of his cruiser to toss in the bag of shell casings, it’s a little too obvious they just want us to see the body of the real Detective Miles in there. A small bag like that you’d keep on your person. You wouldn’t risk popping the trunk so that people could see your guilt.

Mulder tells Scully the personal costs of working on the X-Files is too high. What about if the world ends? Hmm? What then?

Why didn’t they go here with the mythology earlier in the season? Or even at the end of last season? They could have answered the questions about Samantha for the season ender/opener, acknowledge that Mulder and Scully’s work was almost done, then launch this era of the mythology.

We never do find out what Krycek stole from CSM that got him thrown in prison. Did it have to do with the spaceship in “Biogenesis”?

Why don’t these UFO crashes ever happen over highly populated areas?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Is that a lot?

Agent Short: A lot? Gas, expenses… the motel rooms alone. By FBI standards these numbers are out of control.

Mulder: We could start sharing rooms.

———————

Agent Short: If you spend so much time and money looking for aliens, responsibly, you should narrow your search.

Mulder: To where?

Agent Short: Wherever they are. It’s not unreasonable. It’s just a matter of reducing your vision.

———————-

Mulder: I think I’m in big trouble.

Scully: Oh, Mulder, how many times have they tried to shut us down?

Mulder: Yeah, but I never actually assaulted an auditor before.

Scully: Did you hurt him?

Mulder: I reduced his vision a little bit.

 

S.R. 819 6×10: At least you didn’t get your ear bit off.


Call Dr. Scully.

I’m in love with Assistant Director Walter Skinner.

And I know I’m not the only one. For all those who have gone into withdrawal after the admittedly extended period of light-hearted antics that make up the first third of Season 6, we’re about to have four heavy-duty episodes in a row. Sigh no more, ladies. Sigh no more.

Krycek was a deceiver ever. And the official battle between him and Skinner has begun, though it’s been brewing since “The Blessing Way” (3×1) when Krycek and Luis Cardinal put a hurtin’ on Skinner in the stairwell of a hospital. It escalated after Skinner handcuffed Krycek to his balcony in “Tunguska” (4×9) and left him to suffer from exposure. See why revenge is never the answer?

Not that the stoically upright Skinner is a vengeful kinda guy, though it’s clear from his introspective soliloquies in this episode that he doesn’t consider himself any sort of hero.

Well, I do. And Scully’s right, Skinner judges himself too harshly.

Yes, he had to compromise himself early on in his relationship with Mulder and Scully, but it’s obvious Cigarette-Smoking Man had an unpleasant hold on his career, perhaps even wielding blackmail as a weapon. But no sooner does he get the chance than Skinner bucks CSM’s authority and aids Mulder in his quest as early as “Ascension” (2×6). Even before that he showed signs of sympathy. Remember his, “This should have been an X-File” comment in “The Host” (2×2)?

He proved to be Mulder and Scully’s protector in episodes like “End Game” (2×17) where he pummels Mulder’s location out of Mr. X in an effort to save his life and in “Paper Clip” (3×2) when he extorts the safe return of Mulder and Scully out of CSM by threatening to release classified information on the conspiracy. In fact, it’s that episode where Skinner officially crawls out from under CSM’s nefarious shadow. Too bad his hard-won independence doesn’t last long. By the time we reach “Avatar” (3×21), CSM has cooked up a cold dish of revenge framing Skinner for murder. And while Mulder and Scully… and his soon to be ex-wife… deliver Skinner out of that trap, he willingly walks back into CSM’s clutches in “Memento Mori” (4×15) in order to, what else? Save Scully. By “Zero Sum” (4×21) he’s a patsy again, but though his position may be compromised his loyalty never is.

Despite not being much older than they are, Skinner plays the harsh but protective father to Mulder and Scully. He’s willing to get his hands dirty so that they don’t have to, not because his conscience is seared but because the soldier in him is willing to sacrifice to win the war. If Skinner were to die now he would not die in vain. Mulder and Scully would have been dead long ago if not for him.

But not once did it occur to me that Skinner might actually die, no more than I though Mulder might really be dead at the end of “Gethsemene” (4×24), which is the best evidence I can give of Skinner’s unofficial status as the third lead on The X-Files; so indispensable has this character become, this character that was never intended by Chris Carter to be a major role, that it’s hard to take the threat of his death seriously.

I never believed they’d do it, but Chris Carter & Co. did consider it. Mulder and Scully no longer worked under Skinner so he was no longer absolutely vital to the plot and because he had changed over the years from a mysterious and potentially dangerous figure to a stalwart ally, he had become too predictable, too reliable. Fortunately for Skinner lovers, the plot potential in this new hold Krycek gains over Skinner convinced The Powers That Be that interesting things could still be done with the character. Thank heavens because can you imagine Season 8 with no Skinner? ::shudders::

The question is, how does a man as self-sufficient as Skinner, who has already escaped the clutches of CSM himself, wind up with his life in the hands of Ratboy? I confess, I never really understood the plot till now so for those fans as slow on the uptake as I am, here’s a rundown:

It all starts with Tunisia. And if that sets off bells of recognition in your head, it should. If I didn’t know better, I’d say there were some oblique implications here that Syndicate leader Strughold who, as we see in Fight the Future, has his base of operations is in Tunisia, is behind the S.R. 819 conspiracy. That would also explain how Krycek originally got involved since last we saw him in “The End” (5×20) he was working for the Syndicate under the authority of Well-Manicured Man. Since Well-Manicured Man is now deceased (sniffle), it’s safe to say Krycek’s loyalties within the organization have moved on. Or safer to say that his only real loyalty is to himself.

Krycek is working on his own in keeping Skinner alive. We can assume he wants him alive and at his mercy so that he can use him for his own agenda later. The Syndicate has a man at the F.B.I. in Jeffrey Spender, now Krycek has his own man on the inside, reluctant though he may be.

The original plan was to export this potentially dangerous nanotechnology to Tunisia, and possibly into the hands of Strughold and the Syndicate, under the guise of the World Health Organization. Before that happened, S.R. 819 had to pass inspection by scientist Kenneth Orgel and the F.B.I.’s own Skinner, a safeguard that was usually a mere formality. However, Orgel understands the potential consequences of the nanotechnology falling into the wrong hands and goes to warn Skinner, but is infected to keep him from talking. Skinner too is infected and is supposed to be killed but Krycek intervenes.

From what Mulder says to Skinner at the end of the episode and the surprised look on Scully’s face when Skinner claims not to be able to recognize the bearded man who tried to kill him, it looks like Mulder and Scully are aware that Krycek is behind all this. But they still don’t know what he’s up to and they certainly don’t know why Skinner refuses to give him up. As in the first Skinner-centric episode, “Avatar”, Mulder and Scully’s concern for their former boss is touching. As before, they drive the investigation to save Skinner only this time to better effect because Skinner doesn’t sit passively, fatalistically by while they work. The determination he starts this episode with must make it especially grating on him to have to slip right back into his old compromising ways.

Verdict:

I can’t say I love “S.R. 819” the way I love Skinner himself because though there’s a tangible sense of urgency, the plot is a little obscure and aside from Skinner’s pulsing veins, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. But I do appreciate the potential mythology implications and I welcome the return of Krycek with open arms. I was one of those taken by surprise when he reappeared. Maybe even “Stevie Wonder would see that one comin’”, but I didn’t.

If my memory serves me correctly, and that’s by no means a guarantee, this was the series’ final Skinner-centric episode. That’s rather surprising considering there are three more seasons to go but it makes it all the more irritating that there’s no resolution to what happened to Skinner’s wife Karen, a character both introduced and discarded back in “Avatar”.

I wasn’t looking for anything detailed. A brief mention from a hospital orderly would have sufficed. “The patient is Walter Skinner. Widowed. Works for the F.B.I.” or “Walter Skinner – Divorced. No known relatives. In case of emergency contact Special Agent Dana Scully.” See how easy that would have been?

My only consolation is that I think there could be a cleverly veiled reference to “Avatar” here:

Mulder: This morning, you woke up…
Skinner: I woke up.
Mulder: Alone?
Skinner: Yes. Alone.

Then again, that’s probably wishful thinking on my part.

B+

The Peanut Gallery:

While I don’t think anyone fell for it, those opening moments of the episode where they would have us believe that Mulder is the F.B.I. agent about to die are well done. I quite like the idea of scaring the audience. If only that silly episode preview hadn’t ruined the surprise…

We haven’t seen Senator Matheson since “Nisei” (3×9) and the truth is, I don’t even remember him in it. The connections in congress Mulder so famously depends upon in the “Pilot” (1×79) have all but become obsolete in the current stage of the mythology. However, I’m glad they brought Matheson back one last time, if only to drive home the point that Mulder has fewer people he can trust than even he once believed. That makes the fact that one of his allies is now seriously compromised… and that he doesn’t know it… even more poignant.

Wouldn’t it have been awesome if Senator Matheson were secretly a member of the Syndicate?

It makes me a little sad to think the ear-biting references might be lost on this new generation.

Mulder and Scully are forbidden any contact with Skinner. Don’t they know there are cameras at the F.B.I.?

Parts of the movie score are recycled several times in this episode. And there’s an overhead shot of the highway that looks recycled as well – there’s no way that shot was in a television budget.

I’ve never read the fanfic, but I’m sure the Skinner/Scully Shippers had a field day with this episode.

That abandoned warehouse set is striking. I especially enjoy the lighting when Mulder walks in on the Senator.

I recently found out that Nicholas Lea (Krycek) is about to guest star on Supernatural. That’s an interesting coincidence since both Steven Williams (Mr. X) and Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) have guest starred on that show for a series of episodes. Ah, when fate binds souls together…

This reminds me of the good old days when Scully often stared in wonder and computer screens looking at scientific data that shouldn’t exist.

I dig the “Chinga” (5×10) reference, John Shiban. I dig it.

Best Quotes:

Skinner: I was boxing. I must’ve gotten tagged.
Nurse: Yes, you did. At least you didn’t get your ear bit off. That’s something, right?

——————-

Dr. Plant: Well, the good news is… your dilation’s back to normal. Plus you still have both your ears.
Skinner: I heard that one.

——————-

Dr. Plant: Well, you’re lucky. He’s on a government HMO – no one’s even bothered to handle the samples yet.

The X-Files Movie Part 1: So much for little green men.


Little green man?

This story is so epic it spans 37,000 years. And if that isn’t enough evidence for you, they also changed the logo.

We open on two linebackers cavemen who stumble upon a cantankerous alien in an ice cave. This alien looks like nothing we’ve seen before on The X-Files where when unreliable glimpses of aliens are shown, they’re grey-green children with bug eyes in rubber suits. This alien has claws and sounds and moves suspiciously like a panther. One of the pre-historic men survives the fight, but the blood the alien leaves behind starts moving on it’s own. And already we have our first major revelation of the movie: the Black Oil is alien blood.

This means the sentient Black Oil that we were introduced to way back in  “Piper Maru” (3×15) isn’t just alien in nature, it’s the essence of the aliens themselves. Oh, and by the by, these aliens? They’re a far cry from the benignly mute little munchkins we’ve been used to envisioning the Colonists as. If this is who they’re dealing with, is it a wonder the Syndicate would rather serve than resist? Or is what we see here all there is to the aliens? Hmm.

Fast forward several millennia or so and four adventurous small town boys on lone from some heretofore unknown Stephen Spielberg film are digging holes in the Texas desert. One of them, Stevie, who looks like a miniature version of Alex Krycek, falls into the same ancient cave where our two Neanderthals from the opening met their fate long ago. Skulls are all that remain of anything human, but the Black Oil is still alive and slicking and it decides to infect Stevie post-haste.

Four firemen come to Stevie’s rescue and fall prey to the Black Oil themselves. No sooner are the firemen gonners than a crew flying unmarked helicopters and driving unmarked tanker trucks arrives on the scene and led by a worried looking man named Bronschweig proceed to take over operations.

I had you big time.

Sometime later and not too far away in Dallas, the F.B.I. is combing a federal building for a bomb that’s been reported. Mulder and Scully, meanwhile, are combing a building that is not federal and that is not under a bomb threat. That’s our team. Which begs the question, why would anyone in their right mind have Mulder and Scully hunting bombs? The X-Files burn up and this is what they have them doing? How does this match their skill set?

I have to pause here to give enthusiastic kudos to Chris Carter et. al. because this introduction of Mulder and Scully is epic (I’ll be using that word a lot this review, so brace yourselves). It’s all kinds of perfect. Not only does it tell any new viewer everything they need to know about these two people, their personalities and their relationship in a clean, efficient and fun way, but it’s enough to send any faithful fan into convulsions of Squee.

Scully smiles. Scully has fun. Scully cracks jokes. Do the events of this movie take place sometime in Season 1 and someone forget to tell me?

I’m being melodramatic, but it really isn’t often that we see Scully so loose and easygoing. And then quickly afterward to get a hefty dose of Angry Scully when she orders the evacuation of the building, it’s fangirl paradise. Though I must say, both Mulder and Scully are awfully casual for two people searching for a bomb, but we’ll let that slide for the joy of it all.

The way Mulder finds the bomb is genius; it’s just like The X-Files to take something as innocuous as patronizing a vending machine and turn it into your worst nightmare. However, having discovered the bomb, Mulder would be insane to actually open up the machine and risk blowing them all to oblivion. Mulder’s crazy but he’s not insane.

What gives me more pause than that, though, is the level of coincidence the plot is already forced to rely on. Mulder, off the X-Files mind you, happens to be investigating a bomb threat being used by a shadow government to hide the truth about extra-terrestrials. Mulder guesses based on no other evidence but his own instincts that the bomb won’t be in the building that was reported. Then, out of all the other buildings surrounding the federal building, he picks the right one to search, the one that really does have the bomb. Then, after giving up the search, he happens to pick the vending machine with the bomb in it to try to buy a drink from. Playing with coincidences as if they were building blocks is a dangerous game for a storyteller to play.

S.A.C. Michaud, played all too briefly, but memorably by an intense Terry O’Quinn, says that he will defuse the bomb, but Mulder and Scully don’t get to see him watch the clock run down without even attempting to do so. It’s a powerful moment and I can only dream that in some archive somewhere is a deleted scene giving us more insight into Michaud’s character.

I may not know why Mulder and Scully have joined the bomb squad and it may be riddled with coincidences, but this whole ten-minute sequence is perfectly executed.

One would think that having stumbled into the salvation of hundreds of people Mulder and Scully would come home to a ticker tape parade, but instead they’re sent before the Office of Professional Review Panel to explain why there were five people they missed, never mind the fact that it wasn’t their mistake that caused this mess. It makes no sense. It also doesn’t make sense to dispose of the alien infected bodies in an elaborate bomb plot rather than to, I dunno, cremate them. I can only assume that somewhere in the back of this is the Syndicate and/or Cigarette-Smoking Man looking to move Mulder out of the way once and for all.

Whatever the reason for this mess, Scully isn’t interested in being reprimanded and reassigned. If there are no more X-Files and no Mulder to work with, there’s nothing left worth doing at the F.B.I.. Mulder is shell-shocked when she sheepishly breaks the news to him and decides that evening to soak his professional and personal problems in booze. It’s not my favorite scene since something about his Spooky Mulder speech feels forced to me, but the writers had to find some reasonably inconspicuous way to let newcomers in the audience know why Mulder’s chasing aliens in the first place.

Dr. Alvin Kurtzweil, played by television and movie veteran Martin Landau, introduces himself to a drunken Mulder and lets him in on the secrets behind the Dallas bombing. Mulder, duly intrigued, fetches Scully in the middle of the night for an impromptu autopsy. If those firemen and the boy were dead before the bombing, they need to know. The scene where Mulder bluffs his way down to the morgue by intimidating the soldier is nearly play for play a repeat of a scene in “The Red and the Black” (5×14).

It’s quickly obvious that the fireman Scully examines hasn’t died in an explosion. The night guard isn’t nearly as quick to discover that he’s been had by Mulder. When he and his fellow soldiers do come for Scully, she makes a couple of awfully quick escapes that owe much to movie magic but are entertaining nonetheless.

Burn it. Like the others.

Meanwhile, CSM has learned from Bronschweig that this time the Black Oil hasn’t just infected its host, it’s gestating inside him, growing itself a physical body. CSM decides to keep it alive in order to test out the one potential weapon they have against the Colonists: a weak vaccine against the Black Oil virus. The 3784th Law of Movie Dynamics says that will never happen the way he intends.

Kurtzweil breaks down for Mulder the general outline of the conspiracy. Much of it long time viewers had already guessed, but this serves as more than confirmation. It also lets us know the Syndicate’s practical plans for carrying out colonization. The date for this has already been determined, and although it’s not explicitly given, we know that it will be during a holiday when people are traveling. Hint, hint!

As usual, Scully resists Mulder when he tries to pull her on a ridiculous chase only to show up after all. After complaining that she can’t afford to miss her meeting with O.P.R., Scully surprises Mulder by showing up in Dallas where he’s already trying to find evidence of a cover-up in the debris from the bomb site. Scully, who magically goes from pathologist to anthropologist, takes a quick look at fossilized bone fragments taken from the site that show the same evidence of massive infection that she saw in the body she autopsied earlier.

Help! I need help!

Back at Bronschweig’s secret base, we come to one of my favorite parts of the movie. Bronschweig is abandoned by his minions and buried alive with the fully gestated alien monster. The look on his face when he realizes what’s happening to him still fills me with cold horror. And, oh, how I remember my best friend and I covering the theater in giggles when the alien extended its malevolent claws. (Cut us some slack, we were 15).

After this is our first official introduction to Conrad Strughold. If the Syndicate has a leader, it’s him. I say “official” introduction because we’ve run into Strughold before. It was his mining facility that Mulder and Scully discovered the endless rows of medical files in during “Paper Clip” (3×2). Here we meet the man himself and it’s as he’s breaking disheartening news to his fellow conspirators: the Black Oil isn’t out to control us, it means to feed on us.

This begs several questions. We’ve seen the Black Oil trap people in coma-like states in episodes like “Tunguska” (4×9), we’ve seen it possess people and take over their wills as recently as “The Red and the Black”. If the Black Oil, the sentient essence of alien life, has always intended to repopulate the human race with itself through gestation, what’s with the comas and the mind control? Were the powerful men behind this collaboration with the aliens really so ignorant of their plans? And why, now that they have a viable vaccine, don’t these men do as Well-Manicured Man suggests and resist rather than facilitate the apocalypse?

I think they key is that the Black Oil is sentient. It doesn’t randomly take effect but chooses when and how to act. In other words, it knows when to hold ‘em and knows when to fold ‘em. Also, the samples of the Black Oil that the Syndicate has been able to get their hands on up to this point have been small and recent. They aren’t from this ancient, pre-historic stock that may not be aware of the rest of its race’s plans to negotiate surrender with the Syndicate. If it did, it probably would risk tipping them off to its actual power.

For their part, the Syndicate feels as though open resistance would be an idealist’s response and a mistake. The vaccine they have is still not 100% effective and so it has to be administered fairly quickly after infection, though it’s already much improved over the vaccine they stole from the Russians, the one that took its sweet time in curing Marita Covarrubias in “The Red and the Black”. Rather than fight with such a weak arsenal, they’d rather continue to remain under the Colonist’s protection until such time as they’ve gathered enough information to defeat them. Or so they say.

New facts of biology which have presented themselves.

The one hold out is WMM who has finally had enough of the aliens’ lies. When we’re introduced to him in the film, we see him spending time with his grandchildren and it’s clear from his benevolent expression where his priorities lay, in the future of his progeny. Now the tensions that have played out between him and the rest of the Syndicate during Season 5 come to a head. The scene where WMM faces off against the rest of the Syndicate, all the shots with him in it show him alone vs. the shots of the others show them all grouped together. What a great choice to visually show the underlying divisions between them.

Of course, the problem of Mulder comes up again. His digging is about to gum up their conspiratorial machine. Unsurprisingly, the idea of killing him is bandied about yet again as it has been since Season 2’s “Ascension” (2×6). Is Mulder really so important that they can’t kill him without risking their plans? We saw a glimpse in “Patient X” (5×13) of Mulder’s reputation in certain circles, but it wouldn’t have hurt for the show to have given the audience more of a sense over time of Mulder’s influence because, as it stands now, it’s hard to believe anyone with an I.Q. over 30 and a clean bill of mental health is listening to him. But I can’t fault them for trying to give an explanation where there is none. The longer the series continues and the higher the stakes are raised the more it feels as if the Syndicate is foolish not to kill Mulder, but we can’t have a show without a hero. Chris Carter then has no choice but to come up with an explanation for why he’s still around.

Since Mulder’s off limits, the Syndicate decides to take the sadistic approach and take away that which he loves the most, that with which he can’t live without. Cut to Scully.

You all look like door-to-door salesmen.

I should roll my eyes here at the blatant cheesiness of this moment, but no, I grin like an imbecile. However, we’ll save my gushing for Part 2 when we discuss the evolution of Mulder and Scully’s relationship in detail.

Moving on… while their futures are mapped out by others, Mulder and Scully are on the trail of the Black Oil the Syndicate has harvested from the ancient cave and is hauling away in unmarked tanker trucks. Their chase leads them to a mysterious field out of Children of the Corn, minus the children. It’s here that Mulder and Scully discover that bees are being kept, bees that pollinate corn in the middle of the desert. Like in “Herrenvolk” (4×1), these bees are carriers of the alien virus, the Black Oil, through their pollination of genetically modified corn. It’s bees like these that will eventually be released on the population of the world to infect them when Colonization goes down.

This is where we run into the most unbelievable set of coincidences Fight the Future tries to sell us. Based on Strughold’s comments and a not so subtle hint that Scully is the key to breaking Mulder’s spirit, we know that the Syndicate plans to take Scully away. If the insinuations are to be believed, the Syndicate cleverly arranges Scully’s infection and abduction through a precisely placed Arthropod. Right.

A better answer is that they intended to do something to Scully, but didn’t actually get around to it. Mulder and Scully stuck their noses where they didn’t belong and a bee took her out first. No doubt the Syndicate knew they had been to the site and were monitoring their calls, so when Mulder called 911 and described Scully’s symptoms one of their minions was on hand to intercept her before the real ambulance arrived.

It’s either that or the Syndicate leads Mulder and Scully magically to the tanker trucks and then to the giant Jiffy Pop poppers, knowing that they’d go inside, releases the bees and programs one of the said bees to sting Scully and not Mulder. But it doesn’t sting Scully right away, oh no. It crosses state lines. It survives a plane ride. It’s instructed to wait until every Shipper in the theater is falling out of their chair in painful anticipation before it strikes.

My motor functions are being affected.

Even for a series that isn’t afraid to harness the power of coincidence, this is too extreme to take seriously. It’s a good thing then that I don’t care if it actually makes sense or not.

Post-sting, Mulder is shot by the same man who bumped into him after planting the bomb in Dallas. He wakes up to the Lone Gunmen, who show up mainly so they can put a “We Were Here” bumper sticker on their car because they barely register on the screen before they’re gone again. Mulder makes a quick date with Kurtzweil to drill him for the answers that will lead him to Scully, but he’s too late. WMM has gotten there first. It’s just as well for Mulder since Kurtzweil had been out of the Syndicate loop so long he knows next to nothing and WMM is in such a generous mood that he spoon feeds Mulder the answers he’s looking for. I should’ve known then that Chris Carter wouldn’t let the character live. He would’ve made things far too easy for Mulder and they have a mythology plot they need to drag out.

I always assumed WMM knows he’s about to die in his final scene. He already suspects his colleagues will be out to get him, he even says as much to Mulder. And why else would he shoot the driver and then get back in the passenger seat? But if that’s the case, why doesn’t the bomb go off when Mulder shuts the passenger door right before WMM closes it again and sets the bomb off? Was it remotely activated? Could WMM have done it himself? Someone ask Chris Carter at the next convention.

Trust no one, Mr. Mulder.

Mulder wastes no time in taking the vaccine and the information he’s been given and setting out for Antarctica. Thankfully, we’re spared the minutiae of his trip and we catch up with him right as he stumbles onto the alien spaceship. Literally. He stumbles onto the alien spaceship by falling through a well-placed hole in the snow. Those coincidences are running amok.

After five years on the X-Files and even longer spent searching for the truth about alien life, Mulder gets to see an alien spaceship from the inside. But he doesn’t have much time to marvel at the money spent on special effects for this movie as time is running out for Scully’s vaccination window. Not to worry. Though the spaceship is filled with rows of occupied pods, Mulder finds gestational Scully within seconds of discovering them.

Unfortunately for Mulder, administering the vaccine, weak though it may be, to Scully, results in the entire spaceship being compromised. In some pre-programmed attempt to save itself, the dormant spaceship awakes and turns on the heat in order to more quickly gestate the little alien babies. This means that not only does Mulder have to carry out a limp and goo covered Scully, he has to do it while evading alien teeth.

Of course they both make it. So do CSM and his lackeys who were guarding the spaceship from above at Base 1. But the everlasting question on every Phile’s heart is: How do they get home?

We don’t know how they avoid hypothermia, nor where Mulder hid the satellite phone, nor how Scully miraculously winds up with a pair of shoes even though Mulder didn’t know he’d find her naked, but they do make it back to Washington, D.C. where Scully goes before the O.P.R. panel yet again only this time, she has even less evidence and an even wilder story. Don’t tell her that, though, since her new found confidence is so impressive she cowers the O.P.R. into silence.

Mulder is in a different frame of mind altogether and bitterly complains that he and Scully are, yet again, right back where they started. No proof. No definite answers. No justice. Just the two of them riding nowhere, on their way back home. Mulder may complain, but for me, that’s all I need.

If I quit now, they win.

And somewhere in Tunisia, the bees drone on…

The Verdict:

This script was written by Carter and Spotnitz in two weeks during Season 4 and filmed during the hiatus between Season 4 and Season 5. That means they not only had to plot a feature film fast enough that it could be developed and filmed in time, but they also had to plan out the rest of Season 4 and Season 5 in order for the story to work. On top of that, the movie needed to be a sufficient lead-in to Season 6 in terms of the mythology.

So, yes, there are some less than sophisticated moments in the plot. I’m no I Want to Believe Basher, but as fans have pointed out about The X-Files’ long-awaited return to the big screen, it’s a film with some flaws. If we’re honest with ourselves, Fight the Future is no less flawed but it faces less criticism because, frankly, it’s more fun. It’s easier to overlook gaping plot holes when you’re busy oohing, ahhing and giggling.

There are some forced dramatic moments that should bother me, but I’m so in love that they don’t. They work where they wouldn’t in a lesser show. Yes, I still say “show” and not “movie” because the backstory of the series is what makes this movie great. The history of its characters is what allows them to take sentimental liberties that would torpedo a lesser franchise because it gives the events that occur a weight that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Rides like this are why I go to the movie theater. And they’re why I used to tune in to The X-Files week after week. I can’t say they made something here that’s going to wind up on AFI’s list of the top 100 movies of all time, but they did the fans proud.

Stay tuned because for our next installment, we’ll Ship the heck out of this movie.

A

The Trivialities:

That super slide Mulder goes on in the spaceship is worthy of something out of Goonies.

Is there a reason Mulder litters Byers’ suit jacket on the ground? I mean, other than to make David Duchovny look like an action hero?

They put too much makeup on Gillian Anderson. It’s caked like she’s about to open on Broadway. She still looks gorgeous, though.

There’s a great shot in the F.B.I. hallway were we get a clear view of Scully’s shoes. They’re boss.

I’m sure this is just me, but there’s a moment when Well-Manicured Man says “The location of Agent Scully and the means to save her life,” and then switches the vaccine from one hand to the other before gesturing Mulder into the waiting car – I love it. There’s something about the rhythm of it and the sound the vaccine package makes.

The Nitpicks:

Mulder just happens to fall down the rabbit hole that will take him to the heart of the alien spaceship? Let’s not call it coincidence; let’s call it Providence.

I understand that Mulder took off a layer of his clothing to put on Scully when he discovered her nakedness, but where did the shoes she’s wearing come from?

In the end, Blythe Danner’s character says there’s now evidence and S.A.C. Michaud was implicated in the bombing. What evidence is this that she speaks of?? Mulder and Scully didn’t bring any souvenirs back from Antarctica.

If the Syndicate didn’t know that the virus would gestate, what about the alien spacecraft they had their base on top of where a bunch of people are suspended ice with little aliens in their bellies? Aren’t CSM and his men the ones that transferred Scully into the ship in the first place? What’s more, the bee that stings Scully infects her with the version of the Black Oil that gestates. Assuming they could even re-genetically engineer the corn fast enough to allow for that, they wouldn’t want to. It would clue the Colonists in to the fact that they know the truth and would erase their advantage.

Scully escapes detection by the military guards in the morgue, but will somebody please explain to me how she exits this heavily guarded hospital without being noticed?

Grabbing Scully’s wrist when bees are swarming them seems like a pretty dumb move on Mulder’s part. What if one was trapped inside her clothes?

The Players:

Bronschweig is played by Jeffrey DeMunn, AKA Dale from The Walking Dead, AKA That Guy from That Movie and That Show. Ubiquitous much? I kid, but he does an awesome job here.

There’s also an uncredited appearance by Jason Beghe, David Duchovny’s long-time friend who introduced him to acting. Watch that scene by the vending machine closely and you’ll recognize him from “Darkness Falls” (1×19).

You’ll also recognize Gary Grubbs, the Fire Captain, as the Sheriff in “Our Town” (2×24).

One of the great casting coups of this film is that they landed Martin Landau of Mission Impossible fame among much other work. Personally, I knew him better as Geppetto in The Adventures of Pinnochio which I saw during my JTT phase… which immediately preceded my X-Files phase.

Casting Armin Meueller-Stahl as Strughold was no small accomplishment either.

The impressiveness doesn’t end there. Actress Glenne Headly is a little overqualified for her brief role as Bartender.

Did I mention they even brought in Blythe Danner?

Doesn’t Stevie, the kid who falls down into the cave, look kinda like a baby Krycek?

The Quotes:

Bronschweig: Sir, the impossible scenario that we never planned for? Well, we better come up with a plan.

—————————

Scully: I saw your face Mulder. There was a definite moment of panic.
Mulder: Well you’ve never seen me panic. When I panic I make this face. [Demonstrates]
Scully: That was the face.
Mulder: You didn’t see that face.
Scully: I saw that face.

—————————-

Mulder: Scully, you know that face I just showed you? I’m making it again.

—————————-

Bartender: So, what do you do?
Mulder: What do I do?
Bartender: Mmm hmm.
Mulder: I’m the key figure in an ongoing Government charade, the plot to conceal the truth about the existence of extraterrestrials. It’s a global conspiracy, actually, with key players in the highest levels of power, that reaches down into the lives of every man, woman and child on the planet. [Laughs] So, of course, no one believes me. I’m an annoyance to my superiors, a joke to my peers. They call me “Spooky.” Spooky Mulder, whose sister was abducted by aliens when he was just a kid and who now chases after little green men with a badge and a gun, shouting to the heavens or to anyone who’ll listen that the fix is in, that the sky is falling and when it hits it’s going to be the shit storm of all time.
Bartender: Well. I would say that about does it, Spooky. [Takes his glass]

—————————

Mulder: I woke you. Did I wake you?
Scully:  No.
Mulder: Why not? It’s 3:00 in the morning.

—————————

Kurtzweil: Are you familiar with the Hanta virus, Agent Mulder?
Mulder: Yeah, it was a deadly virus spread by field mice in the southwestern United States several years ago.
Kurtzweil: According to the newspaper, FEMA was called out to manage an outbreak of the Hanta virus. Are you familiar with what the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s real power is? FEMA allows the White House to suspend constitutional government upon declaration of a national emergency. Think about that! What is an agency with such broad-sweeping power doing managing a small viral outbreak in suburban Texas?
Mulder: You’re saying it wasn’t such a small outbreak.
Kurtzweil: No, I’m saying it wasn’t the Hanta virus.

—————————-

Scully: This is weird, Mulder.
Mulder: Very weird.
Scully: Any thoughts as to why anybody would be growing corn in the middle of the desert?
Mulder: Well, those could be giant Jiffy-Pop poppers.

—————————–

Langly: What can we do?
Mulder: You can strip Byers naked.
Byers: What?
Mulder: I need your clothes.

——————————

Strughold: You look hot and miserable. Why have you traveled all this way?
CSM: We have business to discuss.
Strughold: We have regular channels.
Smoking Man: This involves Mulder.
Strughold: Ah. That name, again and again.
Smoking Man: He’s seen more than he should have.
Strughold: What has he seen? Of the whole he has seen but pieces.
Smoking Man: He’s determined now. Reinvested.
Strughold: He is but one man. One man alone cannot fight the future.
Smoking Man: Yesterday, I received this… [Telegram Reads: X-FILES REOPENED. STOP. PLEASE ADVISE. STOP.] {Editor’s Note: Telegrams still exist???}

Max 4×18: Where I come from, that’s what we call a whopper.


<mourn>Pendrell</mourn>

Here’s the thing about this episode: It’s hard to believe our military is a match for beings who can literally stop time.

It’s partially because of this that I can’t help feeling there should be something more at stake here than suddenly wimpy aliens trying unsuccessfully to recover technology that the mean ol’ humans stole. And despite my best efforts to take myself back to a Season 1 mentality, where conspiracies were just conspiracies unto themselves and the Cigarette Smoking Man had nothing to do with them, conspiracies where some opaque and sinister organization called “The Military” was solely responsible for inscrutable reasons, it still feels as though the aliens must be holding back their wrath as a part of some grander purpose that ties into the plans of the now conspicuously AWOL Syndicate. Yet somehow, with the military handling the cover-up so poorly that even the TSA can see through it, it’s hard to believe the old wise men of the Syndicate are pulling the strings on this one.

I enjoyed myself, as I always do (or nearly always) watching The X-Files. But I found myself asking questions the entire time, questions that will never have an answer.

The aliens took the assassin in the end because he was literally “holding the bag,” right? So then, they took Max for the same reason and not because he was a repeat abductee? Are these then the same aliens that have been abducting Max or another race/community altogether? And if they returned Max, why didn’t they return Pendrell’s assassin?

But most of all, why couldn’t the aliens have broken into whatever facility the mysterious objects were kept at in the first place rather than mugging innocent commuters in midair? Surely creatures that can halt planes in the middle of the open sky can breach a government security system or two!

S’kay though. When it comes to certain types of X-Files episodes, it’s best not to think on the whys and wherefores but so long. We wouldn’t want to ruin it for ourselves. So leaving issues of incredulity behind, there are only a couple of minor things that struck me.

For the first time since “Memento Mori” (4×15), Scully’s cancer comes back as a plot point. Blink and you’ll miss it because her brief nosebleed is barely a point of reference; it’s only there to remind us that they haven’t forgotten. “Yes, she still has cancer. No, we’re not ready to do anything about it yet.”

I’m actually quite glad that they didn’t fall into the emotional trap of milking Scully’s cancer to death. Then again, moments like this feel a little awkward since Scully et. al. have been acting as though her cancer didn’t exist for the past two episodes and after this will again ignore it for another two. Possibly it would have been smoother if Scully’s cancer hadn’t stopped and started in fits and spurts. Perhaps a mention of a doctor or medication here or there? I’m happy she wasn’t  a chronic victim, but these out of the blue reminders make her cancer seem more like an incidental fact to keep in mind rather than a life-changing experience. Then again, having the cancer be a constant presence would have been irritating in the extreme. Oh, I don’t know what I want. I’m just looking for a happy medium.

On a final note, I only want to bring up this:

Mulder: …the object which ultimately brought down this plan, the cause which has eluded you.

“The cause which has eluded you?” No one talks like that. No one.

Mulder: Something happened. Something went terribly wrong, something unimaginable.

Mike Millar: Okay…

Okay…” indeed. Maybe once in a while, Mulder should just come out with it.

And the Verdict Is…

I’m not sure that The X-Files can ever go home again. The “Tempus Fugit”/”Max” two-parter is a nice change of pace and a welcome nod to things past, but it inadvertently highlights just how much the central core of The X-Files has evolved over the years. At it’s heart, it’s still all about conspiracy and mistrust, but with a web of lies that’s grown almost confusingly intricate it’s possible that an episode like “Max” either undoes the threads or falls itself into the trap. Does this prove that the mythology has already gone too far? That it’s taken on too much? Or does this one-off just pale in comparison? I’m still not sure myself. Possibly both.

“Max” is lacking the high stakes games that were ever present in Season 3, but then again, with the exception of “Tunguska” (4×9) and “Terma” (4×10), the rest of Season 4’s mythology has so far suffered the same fate. Mulder and the Search for the Holy Grail of Scully’s Ova in “Memento Mori” is great fun, but it never felt particularly urgent to me since it’s not like Scully was every really going to die that same night.

Overall, despite my lingering doubts, I’d say “Max” is a worthwhile experiment. Sure, I’ve never gotten over the fact that Agent Pendrell dies off screen without so much as a parting pout for Scully, but if they have to cut back on the mythology revelations to save some goodies for Season 5 and for the upcoming movie, so much the better. At least they spread the goodness out rather than watered it down… for the most part.

B+

Nagging Questions:

What in the heck was Mulder thinking by recreating the perfect storm? Didn’t Max already crash an entire plane by boarding it with that mysterious object in tow? What exactly did he suppose would happen if he bought himself a ticket on another one???

Unnecessary Comments:

Let me get this straight, the gunman, Pendrell’s killer, never bothered to change his bloody pants even a day or so later? Mulder should have smelled him walking down the gangplank.

One thing you can always count on Carter and Spotnitz for is some great Mulder and Scully dialogue.

Best Quotes:

Mike Millar: You’re saying, in effect, that Flight 549 was in the grip of a sort of UFO tractor beam?
Mulder: That’s a Hollywood term… but, yes.

———————–

Mulder: Do you know where she is?
Scully: In a mental institution.
Mulder: I, I’d go with you but I’m, I’m afraid they’d lock me up.
Scully: Me too.

———————–

Mulder: More people are trying to get their hands on this thing than a ‘Tickle-Me Elmo’ doll.

———————–

Mulder: I’m standing outside an airplane bathroom where I’ve got the man who shot Pendrell locked up.
Scully: What?
Mulder: Yeah and looks like I’m going to miss the in-flight movie. And it was something starring Steve Guttenberg.

———————–

Scully: Actually, I was thinking about this gift that you gave me for my birthday. You never got to tell why you gave it to me or what it means, but I think I know. I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women, and extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals, that what can be imagined can be achieved, that you must dare to dream, but that there is no substitute for perseverance and hard work… and teamwork. Because no one gets there alone. And that while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifice of those who make these achievements and leaps possible.
Mulder: I just thought it was a pretty cool key chain.

Terma 4×10: They’re all honorable, these honorable men.


A White Russian.

Believe it or not, I have only just realized, on what must be at a minimum my 6th viewing of this episode, that Krycek is the one who ordered retired assassin Vassily Peskow on his mission in the first place under the name of Comrade Arntzen… Arntzen being the name Krycek gave when he infiltrated Mayhew’s militia back in North Dakota and set off the chain of events that would lead Mulder to him and eventually to Tunguska.

Is Krycek even Krycek? Is he the American-born son of Russian immigrants turned conspiracy double-crosser or is he a Russian-born Soviet plant named Arntzen who has been lying even to the Syndicate this whole time? My bet is that he’s a Russian who infiltrated the American branch of the conspiracy as a spy. It’s the explanation that best matches his nature.

It makes sense that the Russians would be antagonistic. For one thing, the Cold War isn’t so distant a memory from the point of view of the mid-1990’s. But also, it seems that the Russians, as far as we’ve seen, are the only major world power that’s not at least partially involved in the Syndicate’s machinations. “Anasazi” (2×25) is evidence that the Syndicate’s reach extends to at least all the WWII Axis powers that are clearly in on the game (though admittedly it wouldn’t have been tough to convert Nazis to their cause). The French are a little on the outs as we see in “Piper Maru” (3×15) when they’re scrambling for evidence and information, but there’s no indication of any antagonism. The Russian Bear is another story, however, and Krycek is the perfect face for their stereotyped image.

Getting some solid clues regarding Krycek’s backstory is tantalizing enough, but the real scene-stealers of the episode, in my humble opinion, are the darling duo of Well-Manicured Man and CSM. The barely contained antagonism between the two of them is priceless. And for once, CSM has a reason to gloat, an opportunity he relishes since usually he’s the one whose mistakes have to be cleaned up. They’re like foes that are forced to be friends.

Anyway, it would appear that some of the tension between them is caused because not only is Well-Manicured Man’s girlfriend killed, but the implication is that she was targeted because of her research for the Syndicate. She was testing a vaccine against the Black Oil on her convalescent patients. The problem is, the Syndicate wasn’t supposed to have access to the Black Oil, the samples were smuggled out of Russia as we saw back in “Tunguska” (4×9). The Russians, led it seems, by Krycek, decide to put a stop to American progress by wiping out not only those involved with arranging the experiments, but by killing the subjects also eliminating the American stores of Black Oil. This leaves Russia well ahead in the vaccine race.

The American experiments weren’t exactly speeding along anyway, since all they’d managed to do was to force the Black Oil to go dormant in their elderly test subjects. The Russians at least had a vaccine that would expel the Oil even if it didn’t yet protect against reinfection.

Maybe if our national test scores were better?

And the Verdict is…

Just on the sheer weight of its meaty revelations, I actually enjoy “Terma” more than “Tunguska”. Objectively, I’m not sure it’s really a better hour of television, but I certainly get more out of it, especially now that the storyline is finally beginning to make sense to me. Besides, who can resist Mulder sauntering into the Senate hearing to just the right dramatic beat? And who can forget that “tea bag dippin’ hand?”

“He wants you to know the Cold War isn’t over.”

A

P.S. As always, check out http://www.eatthecorn.com/eps/4X09_4X10.htm for some mythology clarification.

P.P.S. Updated to add this because I love it so: http://imadethischriscarter.blogspot.com/2011/09/x-files-4x10terma.html

Annoying Comments:

I love the idea of an older assassin… an assassin who shares his apples and takes the bus. He’s certainly charming enough.

The tagline for this episode, “E pur si muove”, means “And yet, it does move”, which is supposedly what Galileo said what the Inquisition forced him to recant his assertion that the Earth moves around the Sun. No doubt this is meant draw a parallel between our own little Galileo, Agent Mulder, and his, er, enthusiastic stance before the Senate committee. Too bad some of the irrefutable evidence he cited in his speech is now in question. Ah, Mulder. Even when he means well he slides so close to irritating sometimes.

Lingering Questions:

Why did the Syndicate put Senator Sorenson up to this investigation to find out Mulder’s whereabouts if they already knew where he was? I think we’re assume that it’s just to slow up Mulder and Scully’s investigation, but that doesn’t seem like a completely logical step.

Is the version of the Black Oil that we’ve seen in this two-episode arc supposed to be an even more basic form of alien life? The pre-evolutionary version of the more advanced Black Oil that we saw in “Piper Maru” and “Apocrypha” (3×16)? Perhaps this version ended up on earth accidentally via the meteor while the previous version was purposefully sent by the aliens. Or maybe the previous version wasn’t meant to be left on earth either but was a casualty of war… Color me Clueless.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I’m not going to die.
Prisoner: No? Why not?
Mulder: I have to live long enough to kill that man Krycek.

———————

Well-Manicured Man: [Smokes a cigarette]
Cigarette-Smoking Man: That’s a nasty habit. It’s bad for the health.
Well-Manicured Man: Health is the least of my concerns at the moment.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: Yes… [Lights a cigarette] According to reports your… personal Physician suffered a serious riding accident here on your property.
Well-Manicured Man: Dr. Charne-Sayre was murdered.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: By whom?
Well-Manicured Man: If I knew, do you think I’d be standing here talking to you?
Cigarette-Smoking Man: So… you need me now, a man of my capabilities, is that it?
Well-Manicured Man: This was a professional hit.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: Really? And you out here all alone, so vulnerable… Were you sleeping with her? Surely you wouldn’t be so foolish as to put the project at risk for the sake of your personal pleasures?

———————-

Scully: Several of the men on this committee are lawyers. It is my experience that lawyers ask the wrong question only when they don’t want the right answer.

———————-

Mulder: It’s good to put my arms around you… both of them.

Tunguska 4×9: These men, they make it up as they go along.


Shock and awe.

The Black Oil is back, or should I say, the Black Worms have arrived. This time it’s not transporting itself through human carriers, but it’s being excavated and transported within ancient rocks. However creepy its earlier form may have been, this is the first time I think a mythology episode ever tiptoed this close to the horror genre. Those little worms are memorable and fantastic.

I said earlier that a mythology primer is almost necessary to keep track of the various forms of alien and half-alien life we’ve been exposed to. If it would have been nice before it’s vital now. Is this the same Black Oil that we were introduced to in “Piper Maru” (3×15)? That version was decidedly unwormlike, but more than that, it “possessed” human beings to further it’s own agenda, clearly having sentience. It could also use its radioactive properties as a weapon if need be.

This new (same?) version acts more like a basic organism than something highly evolved. When expelled from one person, it makes no effort to jump to the next and so preserve itself. And it certainly doesn’t possess or manipulate anyone. Instead it puts them in a sort of coma, the purpose of which isn’t ever explained.

And what about the Black Oil’s eventually to be revealed version in Fight the Future? Reconciling that incarnation of it to the story at large is a headache I’ll save for another time.

Needless to say that after numerous rewatches, this two-parter still leaves me a tad confused. Okay, I’m lost. That doesn’t completely interfere with my enjoyment of it, though. After all, Krycek’s back and hanging off of balconies and such. Scully’s at her Sculliest in that Senate hearing. And, most of all, I had sorely missed Well-Manicured Man.

On a less satisfying note, you’ll think I’m naïve, but this watch is the first time I realized that Marita Covarrubias was inserted to add some sex appeal to the show. She doesn’t serve much of a purpose outside of that, which is probably why outside of giving Mulder access to a few bits of information, she hasn’t actually done anything yet and we’re already a third of the way through the season. Funny how the show becomes a sensation and then they feel like they have to add a femme fatale to give it some flavor. Wasn’t Scully doing the job just fine?

Alright, I’m being mean because I’m biased. That strangely affected cadence of hers gets on my nerves. She wouldn’t actually become interesting until Season 5 when they let her hands dirty with conspiracy much. Let’s look forward to it, shall we?

Conclusion:

“They found me in North Dakota” is not a sufficient explanation for how Krycek escaped from that former military silo in which he was so memorably abandoned in “Apocrypha” (3×16). Either a radical militia broke into the silo while on a hunt for supplies and he charmed them with some reasonable explanation for why he was locked in the silo in the first place, or, to hear Terry Mayhew tell it, he escaped and came looking for them. The first scenario seems more likely, but whatever version is closer to the truth at least we can know for sure that Krycek is lying. Why? Because he always lies. Watching him betray Mulder to his torturers in Tunguska is one of his more satisfying double-crosses.

But what is the man really up to? Did Mulder really lead him to Tunguska or the other way around? Who’s he working for now and what’s his agenda?

There should be a lot more to discuss in “Terma” (4×10) when hopefully things will begin to connect. This episode is solid in terms of the experience, but it presents more questions than it answers. That’s partially because it’s the first of a two-part arc, and even more so because it’s a mythology episode.

I’m starting to remember how many threads of the mythology never got woven into the whole

A-

Bepuzzlements:

How did Krycek reach his hand up that high to pull his would-be assassin down over the balcony?

Comments:

Scully’s hair suddenly got shorter. Now she truly has the “Scully cut.”

Krycek is like a brat throwing a tantrum sometimes.

I remember when you could freely enter the gate area of an airport like that.

Best Quotes:

Krycek: They found me in North Dakota. They liberated me on a salvage hunt. Hey, you go underground, you got to learn to live with the rats.
Mulder: I’m sure you had no trouble adapting.

———————-

Krycek: These men, they fear one thing: exposure. You expose him, expose his crimes, you destroy the destroyer’s ability to destroy.
Mulder: The only thing that will destroy this man is the truth.
Krycek: The truth, the truth… There is no truth. These men just make it up as they go along. They’re the engineers of the future. They’re the real revolutionaries.

———————-

Krycek: You can’t leave me out here! I’m going to freeze to death!
Skinner: Just think warm thoughts.

———————-

Mulder: I’m leaving the window rolled down. If I’m not back in a week I’ll call Agent Scully and to come bring you a bowl of water.