Tag Archives: Underrated Episodes

Sunshine Days 9×18: I see it all, man.


SunshineDays130

I think I’ll go for a walk outside now.

Here’s the story

Of a girl named Scully

Who was on her way to being an MD

The FBI said won’t you come

To Quantico

The rest is history

 

Here’s the story

Of a boy named Mulder

Who was busy with his bat crazy theories

He was looking for ETs

They took his sister

Now they call him Spook-y

 

Till the one day when the redhead met our fella

And they knew that it was much more than a crush

That this kook must take her from her family

That’s the way that they became The Spooky Bunch!

 

The Spooky Bunch!

The Spooky Bunch!

That’s the way they became The Spooky Bunch!

[Insert Commercial Break]

 

I have a completely different appreciation for “Sunshine Days” now in 2016 than I did back in 2002. Actually, this appreciation first began in 2011, so 2016 really can’t take credit for it. I didn’t know that everyone hated “Sunshine Days” the way that I used to until I started this blog. I even wondered if I would still appreciate it after yet another rewatch or if it would fall back down the esteem ladder like “El Mundo Gira” (4×11).

I do remember how I felt originally. We were one episode before the finale. Scully had just given up her precious messiah of a son the previous episode. And what is this we’re doing? Having a bounce house party? What the heck is Scully smiling about??

Time and distance may not heal all wounds, but they almost always lower expectations.

There’s no emotional resolution to “William” (9×17) in sight, but that’s not this episode’s fault. There was no mention of William in “Release” (9×16) either. Even though that was because the episodes aired out of order, the final result is the final result. With that in mind, I can convince myself that some time has passed between Scully succumbing to a case of the stupids and this episode. Anyway, I’ve no doubt 1013 was holding on to any semblance of emotional resolution until Mulder returned for the finale. Besides, the only possible acceptable resolution in my mind would be Mulder and Scully getting their baby back.

One last scary episode before the finale was what I wanted instead of “Alone” (8×19) in Season 8. But that was back when we had both Mulder and Scully. Having a traditional Monster of the Week would almost be moot now. What we’re getting instead is a personal goodbye to the audience. This episode is one giant “I got you” to the fans from Vince Gilligan.

Everyone knows that Vince Gilligan came to the writing staff of The X-Files in Season 2 as a fan. Talk about a dream job. And his affection for the show and the characters has always been clearly evident in his writing. Heck, even when he writes for his own show he throws in nods to The X-Files!

I love you, Vince.

Anywho… Fans get fans. Fans know why fans watch. They know that good entertainment, entertainment that has touched us somehow, be it TV shows, books, art, whatever, that it lives on in our imaginations long after it’s gone. Once it enters the human heart, entertainment can become something bigger than itself.

Doggett: One big question – Why The Brady Bunch? Seriously, you two are fans. Why are people still watchin’ a thirty-year-old TV show?

For Oliver/Anthony, The Brady Bunch was his Happy Place. It wasn’t so much the show itself, it was how the show made him feel. It became real to him and he could bring it back to life anytime he wanted to. Of course, it was never really The Brady Bunch as a thing unto itself, it was the experience of watching it.

More importantly, it was the experience of watching it with the person he loved. Because, as ever and as in “Je Souhaite” (7×21), Vince is back to remind us right before the finale that the most important things, while they may be beautifully represented on a TV show, are to be found in real life – in real, imperfect life and real, imperfect relationships.

Doggett: So close, Dana. I’m sorry you don’t get your proof.

Scully: Me too. Well, maybe I’ve had it these past nine years. If not proof of the paranormal, then… of more important things.

I hear you, Scully. That’s what I’ve gotten proof of. Proof that there’s such a thing as fighting the good fight. Proof that some truths are worth dying for. Proof that unconditional love is a truth that resonates in the heart of every human being.

And what’s more, this time I found that proof all over again with all of you.

This was never about The Brady Bunch. It’s about The X-Files… and the X-Philes and all the relationships that lie therein.

Verdict:

Far from my opinion going back to where it originally was, this time around I may have even teared up the slightest bit right there at the end. I don’t know about you, but this is what I heard:

I know it’s sad that it’s over. Just remember, once something takes hold in your heart, it never really dies.  And The X-Files will never really die because you can come back here anytime you want, anytime you need to. You can think about it and it’ll be here. Don’t get stuck here, though. Don’t forget to live. There’s a real world out there waiting. And nothing replaces real love.

Doggett: Well, here’s hopin’ the TV stays off and he learns how to love the real world.

Don’t worry. Keeping up the fantasy was slowly killing Anthony. We won’t make the same mistake. Besides, The X-Files is off the air. All is darkness and smog. The new revival, though…

And may I just say, I loved Doggett and Reyes more this episode than I have all season. Doggett was downright funny. He’s right. It’s a shame he’s losing this job just as he gets the hang of it.

A

Crazy Bread:

They can take a show off the air, but they can’t take away my head canon.

I wonder how much they had to pay just to be able to whistle The Brady Bunch theme?

I’m sure you recognized David Faustino from Married… with Children.

Unless my memory of “The Truth” (9×19/20) fails me, this was Scully’s last autopsy.

That moment when you think a guy is urinating on the ground and he’s actually toasting his dead buddy.

Can you imagine if we Philes could actually walk into the basement office?

Did Doggett and Reyes just walk off into the hallway sunset?

Oliver didn’t murder those people, he accidentally killed them. Yes, he gets a pass.

Doggett makes logical inferences and comes to an extreme conclusion without being inconsistent as a character and turning from a complete skeptic into a total believer. Dagnabit, where has Vince been??

Scully, too, considers what Mulder’s position would have been without trying to be Mulder or turning into anything other than a curious scientist. (Seriously though. Was he on a break?)

Best Quote:

Doggett: And there’s no end to the harm he could cause if he goes off the deep end, which isn’t too long a walk for this guy, in case you haven’t noticed.

————————

Scully: Oh, so maybe I watched an episode or two.

————————

Doggett: A. Eyewitness places the deceased inside this house just prior to the time of his demise. B. We found a fragment of roofing shingle at the scene of the impact. It would seem it matches the discarded piece you now hold in your hand. C. There’s a hole in the roof, recently patched, this big around. Connect A to B to C.

Reyes: Much in the fashion of, say, Daffy Duck or Wile E. Coyote, the deceased shot straight up through the roof, flew high into the air and landed on his buddy’s car? You’re serious?

Doggett: A to B to C. I gotta tell ya, I think I’m finally gettin’ the hang of this job.

Drive 6×2: At this point, I want to see him alive even more than you do.


Space: The Final Frontier

You should know that before I wrote up this review I spent my morning watching a longwinded interview of Vince Gilligan by the Archive of American Television, the joy of which may be found here.

I want to upfront about this because yes, watching this may have slightly elevated my bias, but I want to assure you that this highly favorable and unbalanced accounting of my thoughts has in no way been altered from it’s original intent which was already decidedly favorable and unbalanced. Thank you for understanding.

———————-

 I love this episode, and I may even love it a little bit harder knowing that I’m somewhat alone in my regard for it; someone has to make up the fan slack. All I can say is that between “Drive” and Breaking Bad, when writer Vince Gilligan and actor Bryan Cranston get together good things seem to happen.

True to his unofficial title on The X-Files as the King of Continuity, Gilligan opens on Mulder and Scully this episode by cluing us in to the fact that our two leads are working Domestic Terrorism now. This (belatedly) explains the entire beginning of Fight the Future and why Mulder and Scully were in Dallas searching for a bomb in the first place. Since Mulder and Scully haven’t earned reassignment on the X-Files, they’re still stuck in this department. And, unfortunately for Mulder in particular, most of their work isn’t as exciting as combing federal buildings for bombs. However, why are Mulder and Scully being sent places like Dallas and Iowa? The local field offices can’t handle that? Think of the expense! No wonder our government’s in debt.

Another one of the more clever ideas used in this episode is that not only are Mulder and Scully investigating separately as they sometimes do, but they’re stripped of the crutch of constant communication with each other. Mulder’s cell phone dies a painful death on the highway and Scully is forced to figure out what Mulder is up to from a distance based on vague clues in his behavior. Not only does this highlight the different ways that Mulder and Scully have of getting to the truth, with Mulder intuitively piecing together clues as to how to keep Crump alive and Scully using her science to find the source of the problem, but it also shows just how great a team Mulder and Scully are even apart and how far they’ve come to trust each other that Scully is so easily able to interpret Mulder’s puzzling actions from afar.

I’m also impressed that since the move of the entire production to L.A., the crew at 1013 has been able to keep the interiors dark and the aesthetic of The X-Files intact even though the blinding California sunlight is hard to ignore. There’s also a great, otherworldly scene where Scully and a group of scientists go investigating Crump’s trailer at night, a great way to avoid the issue of glaring sunlight altogether. Between the eerily lit anti-contamination suits and the myriad flashlight beams the trip to the trailer looks like a walk on the moon. And if we have to be in California, they might as well put California to good use which they do by taking us all the way to the Pacific Ocean in that lovely finale to Mulder’s roadtrip with Crump.

All of these things are good things and already more than sufficient for an enjoyable episode, but the real heart and soul of “Drive” is Patrick Crump himself, played by the then relatively unknown Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle wouldn’t premier for over another year).

His character is an odd mix of red neck and patriot and provides an interesting foil to the East Coast ease of Fox Mulder, not that the two men are completely different. In fact, there are times when Mulder doesn’t sound much saner than Crump himself. But when even Fox Mulder rolls his eyes at your conspiracy theories, you know a hard line has been crossed. The unlikable Crump makes for an unlikely character to drive (no pun intended) the story, but he successfully does this for a couple of reasons.

First, despite Crump’s overt racism, you get the feeling that underneath the garbage he’s been taught beats the heart of a true man. Why? Because of his determination to live, and more than that, to live with dignity and without interference from outside forces. It’s not the same desire to survive that we see in the Syndicate, a sort of sinister selfishness. Crump wants to live because it’s his American, scratch that, his human right to do so. Just like it’s his right to let trash spill out of his mouth if he so chooses.

Second, Crump’s philosophies aren’t all that dissimilar to our beloved Mulder’s which creates a chemistry and connection between the two men, despite their overt antagonism, that’s fun to watch. They have a certain mutual understanding and respect by the end of the episode, a bromance, if you will. Despite their obvious differences in lifestyle and opinion, both men have attitude in spades and both men possess a fierce determination to survive and by doing so, stick it to a government that invaded their lives and tore them apart.

Yet, Crump doesn’t seem to get much love on the internet and a guest spot that probably deserves legendary status in retrospect is largely ignored. Could it be that Bryan Cranston does so good a job that some in the audience take his racist rantings seriously? I don’t think that’s the spirit in which it was intended. You’re meant to roll your eyes at his nonsense, not shake your fist.

For me, it’s the strength of character, the determination in this otherwise offensive man that gives him enough recognizable humanity so that I can’t help but sympathize. By the end I’m rooting for him wholeheartedly and the moment when both Mulder and we realize that he’s not going to make it is unexpectedly heartbreaking.

At least Scully bravely standing up to Kersh, who proves in this episode to be just as inflexible and unsympathetic as his expression promises in “The Beginning” (6×1), lightens the emotional load in the final moments of this episode. I can’t wait to see what other plans he has to make Mulder and Scully’s lives miserable.

Verdict:

Would “Drive” make my top 10 list of favorite episodes? Probably not. But that’s not because I can find anything wrong with it. And I absolutely do get a kick out of it, several in fact. From Mulder’s classic impatience in the beginning to Scully’s deliciously gross autopsy and one heck of a guest star, I can’t see where it makes a misstep. Well, except for maybe that hokey newscast it opens with. But that’s easily forgiven, especially as I suspect it was meant to be cheesy.

Both the sense of urgency here and the, well, head-explosions remind me forcefully of “F. Emasculata” (2×22) and that’s a good thing. But I hesitate to call this a Half-Caff episode because while there is a dangerous science involved, the government isn’t seeking to control it but instead may have accidentally and unknowingly unleashed it. The jury is still out as to whether Crump and his wife were unofficial or inadvertent test subjects for the Navy.

Either way, this is an unexpectedly poignant story about citizens losing their dignity at the hands of a government that’s supposed to preserve it.

A

Sugar Beets:

Fun Moment – When Virgil Nokes opens the door for Mulder and Scully only to let it slam back on them.

Am I the only one that gets a kick out of the fact that Mulder says “stoopid” rather than “stupid?”

When Crump first notices his nose bleed a high pitched ringing is cleverly inserted into the score, mimicking Crump’s symptoms for the entire audience. That’s brilliant. Except that I’m surer than ever that tinnitus could drive a person mad.

The scene where Scully calls Mulder when Crump has him at gunpoint and he calmly answers as if nothing’s wrong forcefully reminds me of “Herrenvolk (4×1). But that time it was Scully being held hostage by the Alien Bounty Hunter and Mulder calling her on the phone, oblivious.

Oh, how I begged Scully to stop poking around in that dead woman’s ear.

I’m digging Mulder’s knew haircut. The Elvis look was wearing thin.

There are clear echoes of the movie Speed here, which makes me want to take a trip down pre-adolescent lane and go rewatch it.

How about that needle Scully’s sporting is the stuff of nightmares?

Best Quotes:

Scully: Uh, Virgil Nokes? I’m Agent Scully. This is Agent Mulder. We’re with the F.B.I.
Virgil Nokes: Jehovah’s Witness?
Scully: No, sir, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Mulder: But we do have a free copy of the Watchtower for you, if you’d like.

———————-

Mulder: If you stop moving you die? I think I saw this movie.

———————-

Mulder: Crump? Crump, what else can you tell me about what’s happening to you?
Patrick Crump: Mr. Crump. You call me by my last name, you say Mister in front of it.
Mulder: Mister. I got you.
Patrick Crump: Not Crump. Mr. Crump.
Mulder: I can think of something else I’d like to call you. I could put Mister in front of that too if you’d like.
Patrick Crump: You know, what kind of name is Mulder, anyway? What is that, like… like, Jewish?
Mulder: Excuse me?
Patrick Crump: Jewish. It is, right?
Mulder: It’s Mr. Mulder to you, you peanut-picking bastard.

———————-

Mulder: Well, on behalf of the international Jewish conspiracy I just need to inform you that we’re… almost out of gas.

The Pine Bluff Variant 5×18: Oh, is this the Pepsi Challenge?


Musta been something I ate.

We were overdue for this.

The last three episodes haven’t been… bad… they’ve just been rather quiet and unassuming, a characteristic I know how to appreciate but, dang it, this is The X-Files. I should be nearly falling off my chair with excitement more often than not. Usually, that kind of adrenaline rush is brought on by vile beasties and such, but “The Pine Bluff Variant” ignores the usual scares for an old-fashioned, Hollywood style action mystery – it’s a welcome departure.

This episode is a pure thriller from top to bottom. I don’t think the series ever had another episode that was quite like it in tone and if not for a few key elements like the familiar characters, the distinctive cinematography and particularly horrific effects of the biotoxin, it wouldn’t even feel like an X-File. The closest episode to it in style would have to be “F. Emasculata” (2×22), which has a rare sense of urgency to it for a non-mythology episode, with “Sleepless” (2×4) running second just because both episodes are echoes of The Manchurian Candidate in their own way.

All three episodes are what I like to refer to as Half-Caff: They involve a more generalized and vague government conspiracy than the mythology proper that’s centered around a highly coveted piece of science or technology. It’s one of my favorite sub-types of Monster of the Week episodes because the “monster” is so much more dangerous than an individual mutant, it’s all encompassing and nearly invisible – it’s a government. And isn’t The X-Files, a product of men who grew up in the Nixon era, a show grounded in government distrust? It’s a foundation of cement, really. The monsters, the aliens, they’re all just stand-ins and allegories for groups of nameless, faceless men with all the power and none of the integrity, men who control the future of the masses while exercising no self-control over their own whims. At least, that’s how you’ll feel if you watch too much of this show.

Mulder made a mistake and opened his mouth a little too wide back in “Patient X” (5×13) voicing not only his then doubts as to the existence of extra-terrestrials, but also some particularly jaded views on the Federal government. I always appreciate continuity on The X-Files when I see it, and goodness knows it becomes a hot commodity in later seasons, so I think it was clever of writer John Shiban to throw in a nod to a significant moment earlier in the season.

But back to Mulder… thank heaven for this episode! Mulder has either been irritating or relatively useless for the last five episodes, that is when he’s even present. Finally, he’s redeemed as our anti-hero hero and I’m forcefully and gleefully reminded why I love this man… er… character. Yes.

Mulder has one of his greatest moments ever here with his,  “If you touch me again you better kill me!” line. Actually, that entire interrogation scene is golden both for Mulder’s sarcasm and his action hero antics. If you haven’t watched it in a while, please do. Pop it in the player a moment for your own sake. Go on. It’s okay. I’ll wait.

………….

And we’re back.

Not to be outdone, Mulder isn’t the only one with a chance to shine, Scully wakes up this episode and I just love her when she has attitude. I know her little feet can’t reach the peddles but I swear, she’s more dangerous than Mulder. U.S. Attorney Leamus has no idea how narrowly he escaped a hurtin’.

The villain isn’t the only object of her wrath, either, as wonderfully evidenced in that scene where Scully tracks Mulder to an out of the way motel. Scully’s furious at Mulder, more so because he’s lying to her than because he’s colluding with a dangerous criminal. Even so, she doesn’t betray him when she has the chance. It’s like I said back in “Demons” (4×23), Scully will defend Mulder whether he’s innocent or guilty, as long as he needs her she will compulsively be there. She might not be happy about it, though.

Things were supposed to be a little tense between Mulder and Scully this season what with Mulder’s doubts about the existence of aliens and Scully dealing with the after-effects of her cancer, but whatever the writers intended, for the most part, they didn’t pull it off. I can’t think of when the characters have ever felt closer.

Verdict:

This is absolutely the best episode John Shiban ever gave the show solo and it’s one of the best examples of how The X-Files could transform itself from week to week and from genre to genre. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I don’t see it pop up more often on “Best Of” lists.

I’m still not sure what the government gets out of this in the end. Were they using these terrorists to test the biotoxin or were they trying to retrieve the stolen technology from them? If the former, were the terrorists aware they were being used? Is August Bremmer a government plant put there to organize and control them into using the weapon the way the government sees fit?

In the end, I just don’t care. I enjoy the ride far too much to be disappointed by my own inability to follow a plot.

I’ve always loved this episode, but watching Scully and Skinner walk into that movie theater again with flashlights flashing… it just may have rolled up into my top ten favorites.

A+

Random Comments:

Kate Braidwood, the daughter of Tom Braidwood, the First Director on the show and the actor who plays Frohike, shows up in this episode as the Usherette.

Putting the biotoxin on the bank’s money sounds scary in theory, but it would never make it out into the general population anyhow. The moment someone who worked at the bank touched it they’d die, which would lead to an investigation, which would lead to the money being confiscated. After all, how can anyone pass on the cash without flesh?

So the motel featured so heavily in this episode… I feel as though I’ve seen it several times, a fact which I can neither confirm nor deny. But if I’m not much mistaken, it’s not only the motel from “Conduit” (1×3) and “Wetwired” (3×23), but possibly from “Colony” (2×16) and “Tempus Fugit” (4×17) as well. But I’m not going to bother to go back and check so…

The set design and lighting in that F.B.I. conference room is immaculate. Come to think of it, the set designs throughout this entire episode are amazing.

Oh, my Shippers, you caught that moment, right? Right? Right.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Maybe you can tell me what’s going on.
Motel Manager: What?
Scully: There seems to be a problem. A man just told me you gave him keys to my room. Room 130.
Motel Manager: Who are you?
Scully: Who am I? Who is he?
Motel Manager: Mister, uh, Kaplan.
Scully: Mr. Kaplan?
Motel Manager: Yes.
Scully: Thank you.
Motel Manager: Are you the wife?
Scully: Not even close.

———————-

Scully: Exactly what agency are you guys from?
Agents: [Stony silence]
Scully: Obviously not the Office of Information.

———————-

Scully: Oh, Mulder, what did they do to you?
Mulder: [Winces]
Scully: This needs to be set. You’re in pain.
Mulder: Yeah, if you keep pullin’ it around like that…

———————-

Mulder: If you don’t hear from me by midnight, feed my fish.

Demons 4×23: Can I see what’s in the bag now?


Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits.

This episode always satisfies me. Scully gets to play doctor. Mulder gets to play dumb. And Chris Owens gets to play Cigarette-Smoking Man in flashback again. What’s there to complain about?

It’s not a Fright File. It’s not meant to be scary, but it is meant to make you lean forward in your chair and I think it certainly succeeds at that. Temporary amnesia is a motif that’s been done, many, many times over in every kind of pop culture medium; television, movies, books, comics, etc. But since a sense of displacement and a lack of self-knowledge are endlessly disconcerting concepts, this theme can be replayed countess times without being as boring as it probably should be. In fact, The X-Files will tackle temporary amnesia again come “John Doe” (9×7).

This is one of the best in the category of “Mulder is an Impossibly Infuriating Idiot” episodes. For one thing, Mulder seems to make it his personal mission here to self-destruct. For another, this episode features one of his worst Scully-ditches ever when he leaves Scully stranded at his mother’s house in a highly awkward situation.

David Duchovny does a great job here dabbling in what Season 4 is famous for, angst. But I have to say, Scully is my favorite part of this episode. I love Scully when she’s like this: Mama Bear Mode. Mulder isn’t just legally innocent in her mind he is innocent and she won’t believe otherwise unless someone can show her a picture of him with a smoking gun in his hand. Even then, she’d think of some way to find him not responsible. She’s too loyal to willingly believe anything truly horrible of him or to allow anyone else to either and I dare say her fierceness only would have accelerated had The Powers That Be tried to go forward with Mulder’s prosecution. And when she’s a mere heartbeat away from putting a hurtin’ on Dr. Goldstein during that scene where she confronts him in the back of the police car? Golden. No wonder he coughed up the information.

Speaking of coughing up the goods, we’ve already heard that Bill Mulder made the choice that Teena Mulder couldn’t make, the choice to give up Samantha to the Colonists rather than Mulder as a sort of living guarantee that he wouldn’t betray the project, a hostage, really. Now it looks like there was more to the story than just playing Eeny Meeny Miney Mo to decide which Mulder had to go. There was vague innuendo back in “Talitha Cumi” (3×24) that there may have been more history between Cigarette-Smoking Man and Teena Mulder than he and Bill. For those that need a refresher, here’s a clip from their conversation:

Teena Mulder: I have nothing to say to you.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: Really? We used to have so much to say to each other. So many good times at the Mulder summer place… your kids young and energetic. I remember water-skiing down there with Bill. He was a good water-skier, your husband. Not as good as I was but then… that could be said about so many things, couldn’t it?
Teena Mulder: I’ve repressed it all.

So is Mulder right when he accuses his mother of adultery? Did Cigarette-Smoking Man force Teena to give up Samantha because she was Bill Mulder’s child rather than his own? Is Mulder really a Mulder??

Was Samantha abducted by aliens or by men? Was she abducted for extraordinary reasons such as the survival of the human race, or for mundane ones like being born to an adulterous mother?

The questions raised in this episode tie in nicely with the Season Finale coming up next. When we leave our hero at the end of “Demons”, he has no way of differentiating between the truth and the lies. With all the tinkering he’s done to his own mind through regression hypnosis and, er, other means, he can’t be sure that his own memories aren’t skewed beyond recognition. And a question for a future date, how does he know the memories he does have weren’t given to him through some nefarious purpose, a way of keeping him under control?

Frankly, this episode doesn’t give us any answers, only tantalizing suggestions that will shortly be exploited even further. Think of it as a primer of sorts. It does have some good news buried in it, however: At least Mulder can trust Scully when he can’t trust himself.

And the Verdict is…

“Demons” is the only episode Executive Producer R.W. Goodwin ever wrote though he directed quite a few, including the very next episode, the season finale, “Gethsemene” (4×24). Along with Special Effects Supervisor Mat Beck’s underappreciated “Wetwired” (3×23), I wonder very seriously why Chris Carter didn’t move more of the crew to the writing staff.

In a way, this set of episodes that ends Season 4 and begins Season 5 feels like a four-parter because starting with “Demons”, certain themes are continuous and one episode’s story arc flows into the next. In fact, I never watch “Gethsemene” without watching “Demons” first. It sets the mood.

Even though it’s technically separate, it’s emotionally tied to the three-part season finale/season premier. But is it a mythology episode? Well, it’s a character study. This is about Mulder and his past. And since his past is inexorably linked to the mythology… well, it’s mythology by default. Certainly, it presents information that will prove important to the mythology plot later on, but whether or not that information is true, whether or not Mulder’s memories are real, is a subject up for debate and that debate is about to come to the forefront of The X-Files very quickly.

Scully: [Voiceover] …but I am concerned that this experience will have a lasting effect. Agent Mulder undertook this treatment hoping to lay claim to his past, that by retrieving memories lost to him he might finally understand the path he’s on. But if that knowledge remains elusive and if it’s only by knowing where he’s been that he can hope to understand where he’s going, then I fear Agent Mulder may lose his course and the truths he’s seeking from his childhood will continue to evade him, driving him more dangerously forward in impossible pursuit.

A

Comments:

Does anyone else love that moment when Dr. Goldstein invites Mulder and Scully to sit down and they both smirk at him and keep standing?

All I can think when I see Dr. Goldstein is, “Hey! It’s that dude from Men in Black!”

Season 4 may just have set a record for use of flashbacks.

This is why Scully shouldn’t drive: what a horrible parking job.

“It’s my risk,” he says? For shame, Mulder. Where’s the solidarity you demanded from Scully at the end of “Elegy” (4×22)? He’s not exactly spilling the beans to Scully about these colorful visions of his any more than she confessed to him, “I see dead people.”

Nags:

Scully walks into the motel room and handles all these objects, a gun that’s been fired, a bloody shirt, that might be evidence of a crime, with her bare hands.

It’s really not clear why the abductees, or even Mulder, want to kill themselves. Are the memories just that painful? Why kill yourself just as you’re finally figuring your life out?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I had those peoples’ blood on my shirt, Scully. I was missing for two days. I have no recollection of my actions during those two days. There were two rounds discharged from my gun. I had the keys to this house, the keys to their car. Do the words Orenthal James Simpson mean anything to you?

—————————-

Mulder: What did you do to me?
Dr. Goldstein: I told you…
Mulder: You treated me. I asked you to treat me, to recover my past.
Dr. Goldstein: I did nothing wrong.
Mulder: You put a hole in my head!
Dr. Goldstein: A slight electrical stimulation…
Mulder: Triggered my memory.
Dr. Goldstein: Yes, as you had hoped.
Mulder: Now, I want you to finish the job.

El Mundo Gira 4×11: I just met a girl named Maria.


Remind anyone of their fridge?

This episode always brings back memories of El Chupacabra sightings that made the local news so often when I was in Junior High, sightings that no one outside the Latin American community seemed to take seriously. Funny, but despite its political grandstanding, this episode doesn’t take the legend seriously either.

Last time I watched “El Mundo Gira” I decided I enjoyed it. Maybe I was feeling nostalgic about the Spanish soap operas that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. I never understood them, but you didn’t need to understand Spanish to pick up on the melodrama. Or maybe I just finally decided that the Chia Pet style fungus in this episode is more satisfying than I had originally thought.

But upon a fresh rewatch and coming off of the notable success that is “Paper Hearts” (4×8), its errors are harder to ignore.

First, and most obviously, Season 4 seems to be when the team at 1013 Productions decided that along with the great power of The X-Files’ success came the great responsibility of social commentary. We saw them try to sneak it in the back door with “Teliko” (4×4) and they’ll soon try to force it in the front in “Unrequited” (4×16). Unlike a movie where they would have a couple of hours to let the story speak for itself and therefore could allow the audience to slowly put the pieces of the message together, a 42 minute running time means that in order to make their point we get heavy-handed lines such as…

Scully: Nobody’s examined the body?
Mulder: Nobody cares, Scully. The victim and many of the witnesses are illegal immigrants, migrant farm workers.

And…

Skinner: You would think that with the resources we have we’d be able to find these men. I’m not hearing a good explanation why this hasn’t happened.
Scully: Well, sir, they have a way of being almost invisible.
Mulder: The truth is… nobody cares.

And…

Scully: Mulder, I know you don’t want to hear this but I think the only aliens in this story are not the villains. They’re the victims.

The only thing Illegal Immigrants and Little Green Men have in common is a word that ties them together by sound, no longer by connotation. Giving the Chupacabra an alien shaped head does not a parallel make, and so it’s hard to choke down what they’re trying to force feed us. On top of that, such a serious pathos undermines the pseudo-comical melodrama of a Spanish soap opera that the episode is trying to imitate, resulting in a haphazard tone a la “Syzygy” (3×13).

It’s already difficult enough to take a distinct cultural legend and translate it to an “alien” audience in a way so that it carries emotional force. That experiment is rarely effective as evidenced by episodes like “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) and “Hell Money” (3×19).  But combining serious political observations with the “Mexican soap opera” theme that many may find unfamiliar is a recipe for disconnect.

Conclusion:

I still enjoy this one though, despite itself. At the very least it gives us a few memorable lines. And one thing I’ve always loved about The X-Files is how it’s able to give the strange a scientific foothold. This is one of those episodes where neither Mulder nor Scully are correct but together they make a new scientific discovery.

By the end the story morphs yet again, this time into a Rashomon style fairy tale. I can’t help feeling that if they had taken that tone all the way through, it could have been more successful. But then again, “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) has already been done.

C

Randomness:

If this is a community of illegals, why report Maria’s death at all? Surely that would have brought the cops around long before Mulder and Scully came on the scene.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Witnesses described a bright flash about 30 degrees off the horizon, then a hot yellow rain fell from a cloudless sky. Fortean researchers call these “liquid falls.” Black and red rains are the most common, but there have also been reported cases of blue, purple and green rains.
Scully: Purple rain?
Mulder: Yeah. Great album. Deeply flawed movie, though.

————————-

Agent Lozano: Let’s see… Okay. We have a Jose Feliciano. We have Juan Valdez. We have Cesar Chavez. We have Placido Domingo here. But I don’t see any “Eladio Buente.”

————————-

Mulder: They think he’s the Chupacabra.
Agent Lozano: That may be. But I will tell you with a tremendous degree of certainty this guy is not Erik Estrada.

————————-

Agent Lozano: This guy is better than Erik Estrada.

————————-

Mulder: Scully, I’ve been thinking. I know that’s dangerous, but just bear with me.

Wetwired 3×23: You’re the only one I trust.


Mulder for a day.

I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t we already see this episode and didn’t they call it “Blood” (2×3)?

Admittedly, the two episodes are similar in premise. Both are “Half-Caff”, pseudo mythology type episodes (Which, by the way, we haven’t had all Season 3. Believe it or not, there hasn’t been one since “Soft Light” (2×23) and I’ve missed sensing CSM’s shenanigans behind these technology and science driven conspiracies). Both involve technology based mind-control experiments secretly carried on by the U.S. government.

Or do they? In “Blood” the trigger was actually a pesticide, the result was that people saw messages in all sorts of mechanical devices that drove them to violence. “Wetwired” addresses the T.V./Violence correlation specifically and doesn’t bother dragging other modes of communication into the picture. By now I’m sure you can smell the irony; a television show prone to violent images is pondering whether images on television can lead to violence in real life. Talk about self-conscious.

But when you consider the source, the subject makes sense. This episode is written by Visual Effects Supervisor Mat Beck who presided over the show’s first 5 seasons as well as both movies. Is it any wonder he’s interested in the effect of the image on the American public? But most importantly, why didn’t he write more??

Believe it or not, I actually enjoy “Wetwired” more than all the world-class mythology episodes this season. (Shock!) There’s something meaty about it. We have the Lone Gunmen, X, CSM, mind control, a paranoid Scully, and some great emotional beats on the M&S front to boot. It’s so chock full of X-Files goodies that I find myself wondering why Chris Carter didn’t add Mat Beck to the writing staff.

But enough about background and concept and on to the episode itself. You would expect that if anyone on The X-Files would go psycho it would be Mulder. And in fact he’s done it before and under similar circumstances when CSM’s forces drugged him nearly into paranoid oblivion in “Anasazi” (2×25). Mulder also trashed his apartment looking for bugs in “E.B.E.” (1×16) the way Scully does here, but she does it with more flair, don’t you think? Mulder’s always so close to the edge of insanity as it is that it’s more fun to watch cool, calm and collected Scully lose her mind for a bit. It’s more satisfying. In particular, there’s a great moment when Gillian Anderson leans into the camera, wide-eyed and chomping on ice. Classic.

That’s all fun and games but the real meat is what Scully’s paranoid about. It makes sense that Scully’s deepest fear would be Mulder’s betrayal. She’s devoted her life to this man. She’s made her quest her own and has suffered in the process. It’s not like she’s the one looking for a “white whale.” She’s still here, working on the X-Files, because she believes in Mulder, not because she believes in little green men. What a nightmare it would become if she suddenly found it was all a lie. Mulder didn’t trust her. He didn’t depend on her. In fact, he was out to get her. It’s like that moment in “End Game” (2×17) when the Bounty Hunter morphs into Mulder and attacks Scully. It’s horrible because it shouldn’t be. Mulder should be the last person, save Maggie Scully, who would ever hurt her… er, purposefully anyway.

Verdict:

This is definitely one of my favorite episodes of Season 3. It might not be as inventive as some, but it has all the necessary ingredients of a good X-File and is always, always fun to watch.

Both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny turn in some great emotional performances on this one. And it’s nice to have the mutual importance of Mulder and Scully’s relationship confirmed at the close of a season that features a lot of loss and tension in the partnership. The Shipper in me is satisfied.

But I especially love how it ends, with that short but memorable scene between X and CSM. Now we know that X is one of CSM’s hired guns and it’s him X has been undermining in order to feed Mulder information. How long can the apprentice work against his master without being found out? When X looks into CSM’s cold, dead eyes and lies I still get an ominous chill.

A

Questions:

Even after the Lone Gunmen’s short and pithy explanation of the magic of television, we still never learn exactly how CSM & Co. are creating paranoia in the viewing public, just that something must be being transmitted through the signal. And for that matter, how far did this experiment reach? And for how long? They wouldn’t have stopped at a handful of murders.

Surely this episode calls for a follow-up with some exploration of X’s background. So what happened to it? Mulder confronts him on being too much of a coward to fight the power himself, CSM glares at him with thinly veiled suspicion… His character is just begging to be revealed at least a little.

Comments:

He’s red-green colorblind. Finally, an explanation is given for the atrocity of Mulder’s ties.

Did I mention the teaser is awesome? ‘Cause the teaser is awesome.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: It’s just you, me and the drug dealers.
Plain-Clothed Man: Well, this area’s always been known for its criminal element.
Mulder: Especially when Congress is in session.

———————

Mulder: I just watched 36 hours of Bernard Shaw and Bobbi Battista. I’m about ready to kill somebody too.

———————

Mulder: All I know is television does not make a previously sane man go out and kill five people thinking they’re all the same guy. Not even ‘Must See TV’ could do that to you.

———————

Mulder: What do you think, Scully?
Scully: I think television plays a large part in both of these murderers lives.
Mulder: As it does in almost every American home. But television does not equal violence. I don’t care what anybody says. Unless you consider bad taste an act of violence.

———————-

Scully: I was so sure, Mulder. I saw things and I heard things, and… it was just like world was turned upside down. Everybody was out to get me.
Mulder: Now you know how I feel most of the time.

———————-

Smoking Man: Have you completed your work?
Mr X: All the personnel and hardware has been removed. But Mulder still has one of the devices.
Smoking Man: That proves nothing. What about Mulder’s source?
Mr X: He’s been eliminated.
Smoking Man: And his source? Who’s he working with?
Mr X: That person remains unknown.

Roland 1×22: Did you catch the bouquet?


The “once an episode” pose.

This is a very quiet X-File, so quiet that you almost can’t hear it nearly 20 years later. Mulder and Scully never even have to run or break out their flashlights. Neither of them is ever in danger. Considering the immediately preceding episode “Born Again” (1×21) wasn’t much louder, it’s a sad lull before the season finale.

That being said, I don’t think this is a bad episode just a lackluster one. The performances by Kerry Sandomirsky and Zeljko Ivanek in particular are outstanding. His performance is heartbreaking. It’s too bad the story didn’t give him a better vehicle to shine in. But how could the story hold our attention when it’s based on a faulty foundation?

Arthur Grable is not dead. Really? He physically died and then was frozen. He wasn’t preserved alive a la Han Solo to merely be defrosted at a later date. Blood had stopped flowing through his brain long before it made it into stasis. A plot where Arthur Grable came back from the dead would have actually made more sense. Mulder claims that Arthur Grable is in a state that no one has ever come back from. To which I say, “Really?” yet again. He’s a dead man whose body was (partially) preserved. He’s no more than a modern day mummy.

Later on a similar plot line pops up in the second season. In “The Calusari” (2×21) we have another set of twin brothers separated by death, only the writers don’t bother to pretend that the plot is anything more than the ghost of one brother possessing another. But unlike “The Calusari”, which was more like a traditional horror story, Roland is introspective, focusing on the power of an unbreakable bond between siblings. Till death do us not part.

Contrived plots aside, with such memorable performances, why doesn’t this episode garner more attention? I think it goes back to it being one of the quieter episodes of the series. It’s a character study, not an adventure or even a drama. Watching the wind machine whir hardly sets one’s pulse to racing.

And the Verdict is…

It’s an age-old tale. Here we have competitive, socially maladapted scientists killing and stealing research in order to be recognized as one of the masters of the universe. I know I saw this once on an episode of Law & Order, minus the paranormal aspect, of course.

Stripped down to its underwear this episode is just another “haunting” courtesy of a dead man seeking vengeance, all too similar in tone and pacing to both “Born Again” and “Shadows” (1×5). The main advantage it has over the other two is the quality of the acting. The halfway house romance between Tracy and Roland is neither cloying nor pitying, a hard line to walk.

As a bonus, a series of crumbs fall off the table of Scully’s personal life. This is the first we hear of any siblings, none of whom made an appearance in “Beyond the Sea” (1×12).  Two brothers? No wonder she’s tough.

Bottom line: It’s an under-appreciated episode that’s still underwhelming.

C+

Nagging Questions:

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but there’s a particular strain of music used for the first time in this episode that Mark Snow continues to use for some time to come. It’s eerie and eccentric. In other words, it’s wonderfully X-Filesian. I’d love to know for sure if this was its debut.

Mulder and Scully got to the crime scene THAT fast? Morning on the west coast is already afternoon on the east.  At best, if the body was found in the morning Pacific Time, Mulder and Scully shouldn’t have been there until that evening. That’s a six hour flight at best. When do the writers start letting our dynamic duo show up a day or two after the fact? Season 2?

What do you want to bet the other man in Mulder’s dream was CSM? OK, so they probably didn’t mean it that way. But in hindsight, it’s a valid interpretation.

Random Thoughts:

There was a time when Scully got as many punch lines as Mulder.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: So how was the wedding?
Scully: You mean the part where the groom passed out or the dog bit the drummer?
Mulder: Did you catch the bouquet?
Scully: Maybe.

————–

Mulder: I don’t think they’ll be performing this experiment on Beakman’s World.

————–

Mulder: You got a brother, don’t you, Scully?
Scully: Yeah, I’ve got an older one and a younger one.
Mulder: Well have you ever thought about calling one of them all day long and then all of a sudden the phone rings and it’s one of them calling you?
Scully: Does this pitch somehow end with a way for me to lower my long distance charges?