Tag Archives: Underneath

Season 9 Wrap Up – There’s a lot of crap to cut through.


Providence07 (1).jpg

Unbreak my heart.

“Working on a demanding show like The X-Files can take its physical toll on a person. I kept at it pretty regularly for the entire nine seasons,” Chris continues. “All I can say is on the last season of the show, I was writing or re-writing a lot and I would take a nap every day. As the season went on, it became two naps a day. Those nine years caught up with me pretty fast.” – LAX-Files, pg. 220

I would love to officially close out this rewatch of Season 9 and say that it was wonderful, tragically underestimated and that it exceeded my expectations. I would love to be able to conclude that our two new leads stole the show in every sense of the expression, that in the history of The X-Files, Season 9 was a new creation; old things had passed away, all things had become new.

But I can’t. I’d be lying. A new creation was what we needed, but it’s not what we got.

I don’t want this to turn into a diatribe on Season 9, and I also don’t want to expend any more mental energy on Season 9 than I have to for the sake of completion. So we’ll focus on a few main things that I think might have made the season better.

We needed a new mythology.

Because, no. Tacking on the Super Soldiers to the old mythology did not suffice.

I listed a series of questions in the review for “One Son” (6×12) that the Syndicate mythology still had left to answer when it ostensibly ended. But as of Season 6, the mythology had already grown way past anything the 1013 staff had originally hoped for and lasted well past what they had originally envisioned. It had grown large and unwieldy and Chris Carter decided to scrap it and do something new rather than dig a deeper hole and make it even more confusing. Um, that was the goal, anyway.

He did something “new” in “Biogenesis” (6×22) with alien gods, but it was still directly related to the mythology we were already familiar with. Then, with Mulder bowing out in Season 8, the Super Soldiers were introduced so that the new team, Doggett and Reyes, would have something fresh and scary to go up against. But the mystery of the Super Soldiers was tied to the mystery of the alien gods – was tied to the mystery of the Syndicate – was tied to the era of Mulder and Scully. We don’t have to play a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with it, either. The Super Soldiers went directly after Mulder and Scully’s baby and are working for the alien colonists that Mulder and Scully are working against. You can’t think of the Super Soldiers without thinking of the history of Mulder and Scully.

By the time we get to Season 9, not only are we more confused than ever by the connections between the conspiracies, but Doggett and Reyes aren’t on their own turf, they’re still effectively playing in Mulder and Scully’s sandbox. They’ve inherited a through-line so convoluted that:

“I looked at what many people had written about the mythology,” Spotnitz said, “and I was alarmed at how many people who are extremely knowledgeable about the show and had followed it religiously had drawn false conclusions and false connections between things… It was an amazingly complicated, sometimes convoluted conspiracy. I’m just astonished people stuck with it for as long as they did.”

But when I say that we needed a new mythology, I don’t just mean a plot that was brand new for Doggett and Reyes and for the audience. I mean we needed a new mythology because this one’s plot was a complete failure. The most interesting thing about it was how hard it bombed.

Please, no more alien gods. No more alien babies. No more god-like alien baby messiahs. And for the love of all that is Scully, if you’re going to write in a miracle child, don’t erase him like you wrote him on a whiteboard. No takesies backsies!

We needed the leads to star in their own show.

I think the plan to attach the fans to Doggett and Reyes by bonding them to Mulder and Scully, while it may have been the only plan available in Season 8, backfired. They became in effect, sidekicks; the less interesting sequel to a massive summer blockbuster.

I do believe they could have stood on their own as characters and that they had their own chemistry as a partnership. Yes, they started off as a reheated rehash of the Skeptic-Believer dynamic, which as I explain in the review for “Daemonicus” (9×3), probably should have stayed unique to Mulder and Scully. But they did prove in episodes like “4-D” (9×5), “John Doe” (9×7), and  “Audrey Pauley” (9×13) that they could hold their own and had the potential to build a unique dynamic. They needed cases that were suited to their strengths as a partnership rather than Mulder and Scully’s strengths. They needed to be free of Scully as the third wheel and free from the shadow of MSR. And they needed a quest all their own.

With Mulder and Scully, they had their marching orders from the Pilot (1×79). We knew why they were here and what they were doing. And while they were waylaid by Monster of the Week pitstops, we knew they were searching for something bigger in the X-Files and that these cases were merely detours or the chance to pick up small pieces of a larger puzzle. And both agents had not only a larger truth to prove or disprove, but they had personal reasons for being invested in their work; Mulder because of his sister and Scully because of her science.

Doggett and Reyes are never given their own mission or personal impetus to investigate the X-Files – No, Doggett’s crush on Scully doesn’t count as a personal impetus, nor does Reyes’ interest in Doggett.

Their fight against the Super Soldiers is an inherited fight. The closest thing Doggett has to a connection with the conspiracy is that an old, somewhat distant friend turned out to be a Super Soldier. Reyes? That her boss and former lover is nebulously aware of a conspiracy that he’s not directly a part of. If we’re being honest, the only reason they’re here is because they’ve become friends with Mulder and Scully. Considering what’s on the line, I don’t think that’s enough.

It was touched on in “Empedolces” (8×17), the idea that Doggett might be here because he wants to prove that there was nothing in the X-Files that could have helped his son. Unfortunately, this was never fully developed as a concept. Reyes’ reasons for investigating are even less developed. She gets “feelings” about cases and has a background in Religion. That makes the X-Files her dream assignment.

A genuine quest all their own, and motivations that carried real emotional weight – those two things could have made a world of difference.

We didn’t need Scully.

We didn’t need Scully or the little uber Scully. They should have run off with Mulder.

Not only did her presence force episodes to take precious time away from developing Doggett and Reyes as characters, her presence also inevitably invited comparison, conscious or not, to the time when Mulder and Scully used to investigate the X-Files. That inevitable comparison inevitably came out in Mulder and Scully’s favor, to the detriment of Doggett and Reyes’ budding partnership.

In fact, episodes like “Trust No 1” (9×8) and “Providence” (9×11) downright turned Doggett and Reyes into Scully’s sidekicks. They became supporting players in the continuing saga of Mulder and Scully instead of leads in their own, less melodramatic drama.

And even when the story had nothing to do with Scully, the script had to make room for her, whether she was useful to the plot or not. Most of the time, she wasn’t.

She spends the majority of the season doe eyes tearily wet with thoughts of Mulder. Either that or she’s crying out, “My baby! My baby!” O Scully, Scully. Wherefore art thou, Scully? What happened to the feisty redhead I once knew? The enigmatic doctor? The lofty example of female intelligence?

Just like that, the legacy of television’s favorite duo is cheapened into a tale of star crossed lovers and their accursed love child.

There has to be an end, Scully.

“If you ask me, we should have ended it two years ago,” Anderson said when the news was announced. “They couldn’t have found two better actors than Robert and Annabeth to take over, but the show was about Mulder and Scully.”

It was about Mulder and Scully and, unfortunately, it never stopped being about Mulder and Scully even when Mulder and Scully were gone. “The Truth” (9×19/20) only confirmed that fact. I second Gillian’s feelings – Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish did an excellent job. The failure of the show wasn’t Doggett and Reyes’ fault. The failure had everything to do with business, the logistics of network television, and most of all, the writing.

In order for Season 9 to have worked, we needed a clean break with the past. We needed two new heroes on a new quest with new perspectives, new dynamics and new enemies. Instead, we got Doggett, Reyes, Skinner, Follmer, Frohike, Langly and Byers playing the dwarves to Scully’s Snow White. (I would have included Kersh, but that’s not seven anymore, is it?)

What we needed, really, was a spinoff. Now, I know very well that wouldn’t have happened, but in an ideal world and all that.

It was just a shame to see this iconic, legendary show that provided so much joy over the years end its run on a low note. Then again… without a proper death, resurrection means nothing. I’m so glad I can look back and say this wasn’t really the end.

On that note of hope, here are the final set of awards for the series proper:

Give it Another Shot

Sunshine Days

Gave it Another Shot

Improbable

No More Shots

Provenance

Best Shot

Audrey Pauley

Long Shot

Underneath

Shoot Me

Jump the Shark

Shoot the TV

William

Underneath 9×9: You can’t think Milli Vanilli is cool!


Underneath-Screenshot-2

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

– Romans 7:18-21
I had no earthly recollection of this episode.

It has the dubious distinction of being the only episode of The X-Files that I ever missed when it aired. It was my freshman year in college and I woke up in my dorm room with a start and realized that I’d missed my show. It was a sad moment because it was a blemish on my perfect record of fanservice. It was made sadder still because I knew I probably hadn’t missed anything interesting.

And those were the days when you couldn’t run to the internet the day after a show aired to watch what you missed. Sleeping through The X-Files that night meant I had to wait until the DVD set came out to see it, and there was a relatively long turnaround time on that.

So I watched it… eventually. But for the life of me, it didn’t take in my head. I only remembered bits and pieces as I rewatched it for this review.

And you know what? I was wrong that night. I had missed something interesting.

Now, it could be that I find it unduly interesting coming off of the first half to a season that has been alternately aggravating, boring, laughable, and occasionally mildly entertaining. After all, I had completely forgotten the content of “Underneath” so it couldn’t have been that great either. And it probably still isn’t that great.

But for whatever reason, I was invested from the teaser this time and I found myself more entertained than I’ve been all season. My heart hurts a little for Robert Fassl, aka The Cable Guy, because he looks truly innocent and tormented. I really, really want to know what’s happening to him. Quick! We need some paranormal investigators to figure out what happened to the victims and clear his name.

Unfortunately, half the X-Files team is working to prove his guilt. That would be Doggett, who as it turns out was one of the arresting officers that night thirteen years ago, when Fassl was found looking guilty as sin in the house of the deceased.

You have to admire Doggett’s integrity in this episode. Yes, he’s as resistant to extreme possibilities as ever and one has to wonder when he’s ever going to open up a little bit. After all, he’s seen his fair share of the inexplicable now. But he genuinely wants to get to the truth of the matter, which is more than can be said of the District Attorney charged with seeking justice on behalf of the people.

And even Reyes proves herself genuinely useful! She’s not just a sidekick with a crush on Doggett, she’s actually an intelligent woman whose background in Religious Studies offers her unique insight into this case. For once, her leap in logic isn’t based on her feelings but, in echoes of Mulder, a unique ability to connect the seemingly disparate dots.

And wait for it… even Scully isn’t dead weight! That dark cavern that has opened up before you is my mouth gaping in shock.

Could it be they’ve found a way to utilize all three characters believably on the same case? Are we getting more insight into who Doggett is and who he used to be? Is that Reyes walking around in a Matrix coat? Gee golly willikers.

Between the three of them they solve this case, but it turns out that for all the compassion the teaser inspired in me, Fassl was the one responsible for these gruesome murders. My compassion wasn’t completely misplaced, though. This is a man trapped in the endless cycle of his own sin and who hasn’t been there?

Verdict:

In many ways, this reads like a classic X-File to me – a man so in denial, unable to face his own evil, that he accidentally creates a monster he can’t control. Yes, parts of it are a little standard, but I like standard. I miss standard. This case could have easily fit in the Mulder and Scully era, yet it perfectly fits our little duo plus one. So thank you, John Shiban, for bringing us back to basics.

One has to wonder what they would have done if they had merely caught Fassl instead of having been forced to kill him. Is there a treatment for split-body disorder? Is there an app for that? Or is recognition and repentance the cure? I find Fassl’s story interesting. And for Season 9, this is the most I’ve enjoyed myself so far.

But, Krycek, what are you doing here?

B+

ZZ Tops:

How would Fassl have replaced the cover over the cable access hole behind himself?

The actor who plays Fassl with such pathos, W. Earl Brown, graduated from The Theatre School at DePaul University one year before Gillian Anderson. He’s been in lots of things, most famously Deadwood. Actress Lili Taylor who guest starred in “Mind’s Eye” (5×16) is also a fellow alumnus.

John Shiban has been a writer on the show since Season 3, but this was his first directing effort.

Giving Doggett a close former partner who breaks his heart through his lack of integrity is a good choice. It reminds me of how the audience learned more about Mulder in Season 1 through his relationships with former co-workers – “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6), “Fire” (1×11), “Young at Heart” (1×15).

That beard, tho.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: A cop I know, a man I respect deeply, he told me one time, “You don’t clock out at the end of your shift unless you know you did everything you could.” That’s what this is about. Me not clockin’ out.

———————-

Bob Fassl: I pray all the time. I pray even when it looks like I’m not praying.