Tag Archives: Unruhe

John Doe 9×7: I’ll take the bad as long as I can remember the good.


JohnDoe38.jpg

Every time I try to walk away…

Here’s the thing about “John Doe”. It’s a beautifully crafted hour of television. Writer Vince Gilligan and his soon to be collaborator on Breaking Bad, first time director Michelle MacLaren, present us with an episode that looks like it’s ready for the big screen. Robert Patrick outdoes himself now that Doggett is finally given something interesting to do again, and he’s flanked by a motley crew of impressively convincing supporting actors.

The thing is, I’m incurably bored by “John Doe” and like the Eagles said, I can’t tell you why.

Is it the slow pace? Is it the token nature of the supernatural element slipped perfunctorily in at the end of the episode? Is it the atmosphere of heat and exhaustion?

Whatever it is, it puzzles me. But try though I might, by the ten minute mark I always tune out. I can never watch this episode in a single sitting. I get distracted and then rewind, distracted and then rewind. It’s a sad cycle.

It’s sad because there’s a lot of good going on here. First of all, as only the second time a woman has directed an episode of The X-Files since Gillian Anderson’s “all things” (7×17), it’s somewhat historic. Visually, it’s also an obvious homage to the film Traffic with all of its washed out outdoor scenes.

Speaking of film, I’ve always thought Vince Gilligan’s work on the show had a cinematic edge. That is to say, his X-Files often came across as stories that could easily be adapted for the big screen. His episodes are uniquely suited to Mulder and Scully, made more impactful by Mulder and Scully, but quite a few of them could be reworked without Mulder and Scully and still stand as independent stories. For example, “Unruhe” (4×2), “Pusher” (3×17), “Tithonus” (6×9), “Drive” (6×2), “Roadrunners” (8×5), etc.

“John Doe” feels even more like a mini movie, especially since unlike the days when the X-Files were run by Mulder and Scully, there’s no need to follow the show’s standard storytelling format. There’s nothing perfunctory about it like, say, a Scully autopsy. This isn’t familiar. And not only does our lead not know who he himself is, neither do we, really. We’re still getting to know John Doggett.

It is nice to see more of Doggett, to see more of his relationship with his son. Now we know he also had a wife. Whatever happened to Mrs. Doggett I wonder? I assume that one day she woke up and got out of their marital bed. I’m also assuming we’ll find out before the season wraps up, along with more of the details of Luke Doggett’s kidnapping. Meanwhile, more than anything, we learn a lot about Doggett’s character. Even without his memory and without his bearings, he keeps his integrity… and his skillset. And he’s not afraid of pain, not even the pain of the loss of his son, because he knows that his experiences have shaped him and he can’t lose that pain without losing himself.

All that sounds great, doesn’t it? They’re still doing new and different things on The X-Files, aren’t they? So what’s wrong with me, then?

I’m starting to think these kinds of amnesia tales just don’t interest me, personally. I LOVE “Demons” (4×23), in which Mulder has a limited amnesia. But when someone forgets how they wound up in hell and the audience watches them find out, that’s an interesting mystery. When someone forgets who they are and the audience already knows who they are, that’s not as much of a mystery. That’s a character study. We’re watching John Doggett remember John Doggett.

How he even came to be in no man’s land Mexico, while supposedly the big reveal of the story, is almost irrelevant to the story. The villains are obvious early on. The only question is how they did it, and even the how is given only brief screen treatment. A memory vampire? Really? It’s probably better that they didn’t spend too long dwelling on that, now that I think of it.

No, this is all just a showcase for Doggett the man. And maybe, Doggett, she’s just not that into you.

Verdict:

There’s no real X-File here. It could have been a memory vampire. It could have been a mugger who knocked him down so that he hit his head. The result is the same.

Then again, I think this recent crop of episodes is proving that Doggett and Reyes aren’t that suited to traditional X-Files. They needed something new built around them.

And it’s for that reason that I respect “John Doe” even if my attention span refuses to bend to my will. We needed episodes that sought to differentiate Doggett and Reyes from Mulder and Scully and create a unique bond between them and the audience. The X-Files needed to feel different in their hands.

So here’s what I learned about our new leads this episode –

They’re both more worldly than either Mulder or Scully were.
They’re both ready for a firefight.
They’re both built Ford tough.

The end.

I think Reyes is due for her own character episode now, isn’t she?

B+

Factoids:

It was after this episode aired that Chris Carter announced this would be the final season of The X-Files.

He should have done that after “Trust No 1” (9x).

Michelle MacLaren would go on to direct for both Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead among many other shows. Go ‘head, girl.

Mrs. Doggett is played by the real life Mrs. Patrick. Aww.

According to Wikipedia, Mulder’s old apartment set was dressed up and reused as the Mexican hotel set. Symbolic?

Scully is completely useless here. Yes, that counts as a fact.

The actor who plays Domingo, Frank Roman, does an incredible job. Also a fact.

Just One Question:

Why was Doggett investigating without Reyes in the first place?

Best Quotes:

Reyes: Y acerca de las drogas? Están en su inventario también? Usted ya sabe… cocaina, AGCO, John Deere?
Molina’s Lawyer: I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.
Molina: She says I sell drugs.
Molina’s Lawyer: Please don’t speak Spanish anymore.

———————–

Caballero: Why would you want to remember? You can’t tell me you’re happier now, because you recall your life. I saw it all. So much pain. Why would you want to struggle, so long, and hard to get that pain back?
Doggett: Because it’s mine.

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X-Cops 7×12: With all due respect, what the **** are you talking about?


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It all depends on how they edit it together.

It’s not you, Vince. It’s me.

I realize we haven’t talked for a while, or ever, but I believe it’s best if we’re absolutely open and honest and each other. Because good relationships, like Mulder and Scully’s, are built on mutual respect and trust.

Now, you know I’m not the touchiest feeliest type, but with all my little grinch heart I do love you. Way back in “Soft Light” (2×23) I knew there was something special about you. Maybe it was your sense of humor, your obvious love for the characters that came out in the dialogue, your well-placed touches of continuity… because you always were the King of Continuity, Vince. I don’t know what it was exactly, but I knew that you had it.

Then along came “Pusher” (3×17) and I was just gone. Maya Angelou once said that people will forget what you did but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. Well, “Pusher” makes me feel things, Vince. Happy things. Those happy, gushy, illogical feelings that you get when you’re watching really, really good television. You wrote and directed “Sunshine Days” (9×18), so I know you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve always thought your biggest strength is that you’re a fan first, a fan who can write like the dickens. As a fan then, you’ve had those moments when, for whatever reason, your favorite television show doesn’t do it for you one week. Maybe you had a cold. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe you didn’t like the guest star. Whatever. It could be anything. But it happens.

Well, it’s happened for me, Vince. It’s happened for me with you. It’s “X-Cops.” I just… can’t.

Don’t get upset! Please! I don’t want this to come between us. I’d hate like the devil for that to happen.

I know you’re a genius and I believe in your powers. But this just isn’t my brand of humor. I mean, I suppose I can do broad humor. It may have taken me a little longer than most to warm up to “Bad Blood” (5×12) but we get along fine now. And I’m a huge fan of I Love Lucy. So maybe I’m just a hypocrite. It really is me, not you.

But in my heart and in my mind, there’s broad and then there’s wide enough to straddle Manhattan. Each time “X-Cops” comes up on one of my rewatches I try my darndest to give it a fair try, but when Steve and Edy come on the scene, you lose me. They make The Birdcage look like an exercise in dramatic restraint.

I’m not insulting your taste because I worship the ground you walk on. I do. Or at least I imagine I would if I were anywhere near the ground you walk on… and if worshiping you weren’t blasphemous… and psychotic.

But you know how Chris is famous for saying The X-Files is only as scary as it is real? Well, if you get really real it ain’t scary either. Not that you meant for this Boggart – because that’s what this Monster of the Week effectively is, a Boggart – to be truly frightening. Still, when you take Mulder and Scully out of their alternate universe and drop them in mine, something feels off. Really off.

Frankly, you did too good of a job. The creativity and accuracy in this one is impressive. Actually, this feels so much like an episode of Cops, down to the impeccably done intros and outros, that I’ve lost the sense of mystery and wonder that I’m used to getting week after week…. not that I’ve been getting it very much recently. Season 7’s been rough on me. I’ve kinda been losing the loving feeling. So, like I said, it’s not really your fault.

But I guess I’m like your mom. I read your Entertainment Weekly interview from back in 2000 and you said when you tried to show her “X-Cops” that she left the room to do the dishes saying, “Well, turn off Cops and show me some X-Files.” I feel the same way, Vince. The truth is, you did too good of a job. As a creative exercise, “X-Cops” is impressive. I mean, it’s amazingly accurate. And your dialogue, as always, had me chuckling despite myself. I have needs, though. Emotional needs. And what I need at this point in the series is a good old-fashioned X-File. “X-Cops” just isn’t fulfilling my needs right now.

It’s not a big deal. It’s just one of those things, one of those bumps in the road that every relationship has. We’ll move past it. I still love you! I still love The X-Files! Nothing’s going to change that. Nothing’s gonna spoil us.

I know it’s hard because up until now we’ve never had so much as an awkward moment. You know how I feel about “Unruhe” (4×2) and “Small Potatoes” (4×20) especially, not to mention “Paper Hearts” (4×8) and “Drive” (6×2). And then I could go on and on about your work as part of the John Gillnitz trio, but I wouldn’t want you to think I’m sucking up. I just want you to know that my love for your work has by no means diminished.

Besides… you don’t need me, Vince. You never have. Most people love this episode! Many a time I’ve read it lauded as the best episode of Season 7, so there you go. Never mind that my heart won’t accept it as an X-File. That’s a personal problem of mine.

One day soon we need to sit down over a cup of cocoa somewhere and catch up. I know you’ve been living your life and I’ve been living mine, but I miss you. I’ve been dying to tell you how haunting I thought the Breaking Bad finale was, how much I loved the way you used the song “El Paso”, and how I saw that little nod to The X-Files in the episode “Full Measure” and grinned like an idiot over it. And every time Breaking Bad comes up in conversation… and it does a lot…. I tell people, “Vince was a writer on The X-Files,” with all the pride my voice can handle.

I’m glad to know you’re out there and busy, giving lots of people the same geeky joy you give me.

And that’s why I say it’s not me, Vince. It’s you.

Yours devotedly,

Salome

Verdict:

If I’m going to be totally honest, and why not be? When the show first aired, it was right here at this episode that I remember thinking to myself, “I’m never going to love an episode the same way ever again, am I?” 

Yes. This was my personal “Jump the Shark” moment.

C+

Crack House Commentary:

This is the first of several episodes this season that smell suspiciously like fanfic, as if the cast and crew wanted to fulfill a few guilty pleasures before the show left the air.

On that note, part of me feels this whole exercise was just someone’s (cough!) excuse to fulfill the boyhood dream of riding along in a cop car all for the sake of “professional research.”

Okay, maybe it was an adulthood dream.

How could Steve and Edy really be sure it was Chantara? I feel like in that kind of neighborhood brightly colored fake nails wouldn’t be hard to come by.

I’m not superstitious, but I’ve found over the years that crazy really does come around when the moon is full.

Why are David and Gillian still gorgeous even on video?

That really cute moment when Scully hides behind the ambulance door.

That sketch artist came up with a drawing of Freddie Kruger in less than thirty seconds. I know. I counted.

Those scenes with Steve and Edy… I don’t think Mulder’s trying not to laugh I think David Duchovny’s trying not to laugh.

If you are going to do an X-Files/Cops crossover, an invisible MOTW is a wise choice. If a monster had actually shown up in the real world it would have been all over, for both the episode and the show.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Look, Mulder, you want to talk about werewolves to me you can knock yourself out. I may not agree with you but at least I’m not going to hold it against you. But this, Mulder, this could ruin your career.

Mulder: What career? Scully, I appreciate it. You don’t want me looking foolish. I do. I appreciate that.

Scully: I don’t want me looking foolish, Mulder.

——————-

Officer: My favorite part of the job – knocking down crack houses.

Dep. Wetzel: I heard that.

——————-

Dep. Wetzel: You really believe me, huh? You really believe I saw what I thought I saw?

Mulder: Yeah, I believe you.

Dep. Wetzel: Why?

Mulder: Why do I believe you?

Dep. Wetzel: Yeah. I mean, what proof do you have what I’m saying is real? I mean, it’s not… it’s not on the video tape.

Mulder: The camera doesn’t always tell the whole story.

Dep. Wetzel: And what about your partner? Does she believe me?

Mulder: I don’t think she thinks you’re lying.

Dep. Wetzel: Yeah, but what? Maybe I’m crazy? You know, I’ve been on the job 18 months– all I ever wanted to do. Right out of the gate, I get some kind of rep like I’m crazy? I mean, you know how cops are. How’s somebody supposed to live that down?

Mulder: I don’t know. Uh, I guess just do good work.

Dep. Wetzel: It’s a hard enough job already, you know?… And it’s hard to have a fast-track career in law enforcement when everybody thinks you’re nuts.

Mulder: Tell me about it.

Tithonus 6×9: You’re a lucky man.


The gift that keeps on giving.

Oh, Vince Gilligan. Why you make me love you so???

I watched an interview not long ago where Gilligan (humbly) admitted that when it came to writing X-Files episodes, he edited other people’s stories – no one edited his. Watch “Tithonus” and understand why.

It’s been so long since the days of “Paper Hearts” (4×8) and “Unruhe” (4×2) that I’d almost forgotten Gilligan writes serious tales too, and writes them well. Similarly to “Elegy” (4×22), this is one of the few episodes in a show populated week after week by gruesome deaths that is actually about death. Or, more accurately, about life and at what point death could be preferable.

Like “Unruhe” and another previous episode, “Oubliette” (3×8), the action in “Tithonus” revolves around that unnerving staple of modernity, that casual bit of creepiness that hides in plain sight: Photography. There’s something so much more… invasive about an old-fashioned camera like the one Alfred Felig uses, something that’s been lost with the advent of the pocket digital camera, something that is fundamental to the success of stories like this where the camera is a villain in its own right – an uninvited violation, a soulless enemy. We say the lens “captures” an image and it’s a subtle way of acknowledging an unspoken discomfort. Between the blinding flash and the disorienting sound, the subject of the photograph is momentarily vulnerable. A part of them has been “possessed” by the camera whether they were willing participants in the event or not.

And who is more vulnerable than those who are already half dead? That’s where Alfred Felig comes in. The man that time forgot. In echoes Clyde Bruckman before him, this is a man saddled with a curse that anyone on the outside looking in would think is a gift, and it’s taken all the joy out of living.

Unlike the mythological Tithonus, the eponymous source of this episode’s title, who lives forever but shrivels up with age until he turns into a cricket, Felig doesn’t physically grow old and withered. But he is cursed to live forever without the heart of youth, the heart that desires, as Scully says, to learn and experience and love. Tithonus’ immortality becomes a curse because his goddess lover forgot to add eternal youth to the gift of eternal life and, abandoned by his love, he longs for death. Felig has the opposite problem in that he has a form of eternal youth without the substance of it; he’s been dead a long time, he just can’t convince his body to follow. As Agent Ritter says, “He’s always been a geezer.” He scoffs at Scully’s suggestion that love is worth living for. What use is love to him?

But what if Felig hadn’t forgotten the name of his long deceased wife? If Mrs. Felig could have lived eternally with her husband in wedded bliss, would he still have hunted death so relentlessly? Would invincibility still feel so cold a curse?

I submit that someone who merely possessed immortality would be cursed, but someone imbued with eternal youth may feel differently. Either way, who would want to live forever in this world? Perhaps one of the greatest acts of mercy God ever bestowed on mankind was to curse them with death in the Garden of Eden; they wouldn’t spend eternity in a world corrupted by evil. Even if, like Felig, death refused to touch you, you’d live to watch generations of others suffer. No, only the disturbed are in a hurry to leave but no one in their right mind wants to stay indefinitely either. Well, except for me. But then, no one said I was in my right mind.

For her part, Scully doesn’t understand Felig because she’s still so full of energy and curiosity. You can tell from her reaction that she finds his, shall we say, unappreciative view of life a little depressing.  She hasn’t grown tired yet the way the aged do. I remember how my 90-odd-years-old grandmother used to tell me that being old was exhausting, not because she wasn’t happy to live a long life, but because at some point, living takes effort. Felig is just tired. And when he’s eventually allowed to stop, to be at peace, you can see the relief on his face. Felig’s dying moments, when he’s reunited with death, are like a master class in acting from guest star Geoffrey Lewis.

But I know what many long time fans are wondering, will Scully ever even know what that feels like? Way back when, X-Files legend Darin Morgan penned this oft discussed exchange between Scully and psychic Clyde Bruckman for “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4):

Scully: All right. So how do I die?
Clyde Bruckman: You don’t.

Does this mean that “Tithonus” confirmation of the long held speculation that Scully is immortal? By looking at death in Scully’s place, does Felig cause Scully to take his place in the land of the perpetually living?

While Vince Gilligan is famous for throwing clever references to earlier episodes in his scripts and so it wouldn’t be beyond him to do something like this, the clear message of this episode is that too much life is no life at all and I suspect Gilligan loves Scully too much to make her immortal. And I can’t find the interview, but I know he’s said that wasn’t what he was implying. Besides, he would have already known that Darin Morgan never intended to hint that she was either:

“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” contained several lines of dialogue that sent fans into a frenzy pondering their meaning. The first came when Bruckman told Scully she wouldn’t die. “Some people took it to mean that Scully was immortal, but the meaning was that Clyde knows how Scully’s going to die, but he likes her so much he’s not going to tell her, because telling her would ruin her life, whether she believed it or not. Telling someone they’re not going to die is one of the nicest things you can say. That’s why he says it to her. It had nothing to do with whether she was immortal or was going to be hurt in the show.”

http://web.archive.org/web/20020220130917/http://www.morganandwongonline.com/darin2.html

Though I admit that if it were true it’d be some kind of poetic justice considering everything Scully’s been through in recent years. And that’s why it makes emotional sense that this X-File was handed to Scully and not to Mulder. Scully and Felig’s interaction is all the more poignant because Scully is very aware of her own mortality, because she’s someone who wants to live and not too long ago fought desperately against the violating evil of her own cancer. Only someone who has fought so hard for life would be a fitting foil for someone fighting just as hard for death.

Verdict:

I won’t lie to you. For all that philosophizing, my favorite part of this episode is watching Mulder pout with envy. But it’s his own fault – he created a monster.

Scully, while she will ever be Scully, is far more open than she used to be. No, she’s not the instant believer that Mulder is, but after considering all the evidence she’s surprisingly willing to admit that something supernatural is at work here.  She already proved she could handle an X-File on her own back in “Chinga” (5×10), but she’s less unsure of herself in “Tithonus”. She’s so sure of herself that it’s a joy, I repeat, a joy to watch her stand up to Agent Ritter, the Anti-Mulder.

Mulder needn’t have worried. If anything, pairing Scully with Ritter only highlights the weaknesses of any other partnership but Scully and Mulder. When Scully trades places in the car with a by-the-book Ritter, I can’t help but take my mind back to “Tooms” (1×20) when her less orthodox stakeout with Mulder was far more entertaining. I also can’t help but think back to “Squeeze” (1×2) when Mulder and Scully first discover a man who has lived way beyond his years and how they similarly trace his history through low-tech means. Ritter is smart enough to realize there’s a case here, but not as brilliant… or as accepting… as Mulder and so can’t get past the surface of Felig’s situation to the real truth. Even his haircut is square. He’s like vanilla ice cream to Mulder’s Rocky Road. I mean, good grief, his name is Payton.

This is one of the rare Scully-centric episodes that I actually love. In fact, it might be the only one. Yeah, I’ll say it – This is a more well-rounded episode than “Never Again” (4×13).

A

P.S. I can’t leave without mentioning Mulder’s not so veiled threat to Ritter, ‘cause y’all know Mulder would’ve literally killed him if Scully had died, right? He says it so calmly, he’s like Michael Corleone in The Godfather. That’s how you know he means it. Ritter knows it too.

P.P.S. Mulder and Scully and the thumb war. That is all.

Background Checks:

From Cherish the Past: Undoubtedly, the biggest line item for visual effects producer Bill Millar was the postproduction transformation into black-and-white instead of color of the individuals, including Scully, whom Felig sees as doomed. “We used a technique very similar to the one used to wreck all those old movies by colorizing them,” said Millar. “In fact, it’s basically the same, only in reverse.” …Millar, who first used this method on an episode of the short-lived NBC series, Nightmare Cafe in 1992, noted that the hit movie Pleasantville, released within a week or two of the night “Tithonus” first aired, was much praised for its innovative use of decolorization, while its employment on “Tithonus” passed virtually without notice. “Interesting, don’t you think?” Millar said wryly.

If you have the DVDs, this is one of those rare episodes with deleted scenes to watch to help you extend the magic. Go ahead. Live a little.

Did you see that scene where Scully saves the hooker? Did you see it? I’m going to start thinking of her as “Slap-a-Pimp Scully” from now on.

The way the room is lit during the interrogation of Alfred Felig is absolutely stunning. It’s like something out of a Film Noir handbook.

What does Agent Ritter shoot an unarmed Felig for anyway? It’s not like you could mistake that bulky camera for a gun when the light is behind you.

Scully has a rather sentimental look in her eye when she asks Felig about love and her disappointment at his answer is obvious – don’t make me say it.

Between this and “Unruhe”, methinks Vince Gilligan has a not so secret fascination with photography.

Best Quotes:

Scully: [Answers cell] Scully.
Mulder: [In affected voice] Hi, my name is Fox Mulder. We used to sit next to each other at the F.B.I.

——————–

Agent Ritter: You know, Kersh warned me about you.
Scully: Uh, he did?
Agent Ritter: Yeah, you and your partner. God knows his reputation precedes him so I guess I should have seen this coming. You muck up my case, and Kersh’ll hear about it. Are we clear, Dana?
Scully: Scully. And we’re done with this conversation. {Editor’s Note: Bam! My girl.}

——————–

Mulder: Now we’re talking about a guy for whom the phrase “life in prison” carries some seriously weighty connotations.

Small Potatoes 4×20: Should we be picking out China patterns, or what?


The "H" is silent.

This is where Season 4 really starts picking up momentum again. It’s time for one of the all time Vince Gilligan masterpieces – “Small Potatoes”.

It’s sometimes easy to forget given his knack for writing tension filled episodes like “Pusher” (3×17), “Unruhe” (4×2) and “Paper Hearts” (4×8) that Vince Gilligan started out writing comedies for the big screen. (Does Home Fries sound familiar?) But with this outing he suddenly inherits Darin Morgan’s crown as The X-Files’ comedy genius in residence. His style is definitely different from Morgan’s, more lighthearted and less philosophical I’d say, but it’s just as memorable none the less.

We get a couple of notable guest stars in this one, the first being The X-Files’ own Darin Morgan, back this time not as a writer but as an actor, giving a memorable turn as the King of all Losers, Eddie Van Blundht. The second is actress Christine Cavanaugh as Eddie’s onetime sweetheart Amanda Nelligan, who most will remember as the voice of Babe the Pig and of Chuckie in Rugrats among many other notable cartoon series. But me, I’ll always remember her first as Mona Tibs in Salute Your Shorts. That’s classic television, folks.

But back to the story at hand.

I’ve never questioned the hilarity of this episode; it’s always been one of my favorites. And for those of you out to convert your friends into the Cult of the Phile, this is an episode that easily translates into language a new viewer can understand. It’s prime example of how well The X-Files could do anything, even comedy.

It’s only recently that I’ve started to wonder in between guffaws, why doesn’t Eddie’s crime seem as evil as it really is? If we’re going to get technical, this comedy revolves around a man raping and impregnating women without their knowledge. His only (hypothetical) defense?

Eddie: Look, I’m not saying anything one way or another. I’m just saying hypothetically, if some women wanted to have kids, their husbands weren’t…capable, and everybody was happy and no one got hurt, well hypothetically, where’s the crime?

Oh, Eddie. True, this isn’t forcible rape and maybe therein lays the only caveat that keeps this from being a comedy in poor taste. Eddie figures, these women think they’re sleeping with their husbands anyway, so no harm, no foul. But it’s less easy to excuse his actions when these women are also unwittingly impregnated with another man’s baby. That he chose women who were trying to get pregnant in particular would seem to indict him.

Not only did he realize impregnating them was a possibility, he wanted to use that possibility to cover himself. To insert himself where he was unwanted in an effort to feel like he was actually a part of society at large.

But is that really so uncommon? A man lies about having money when he doesn’t, about being single when he isn’t. A man gets a girl drunk so that she’s more likely to say “Yes.” A lie/tactic that makes a girl willing when she otherwise wouldn’t be in order to prove to yourself and the world that you are who you aren’t. Does that sound familiar? Which line crossed is the point of no return? At what point does it become criminal? Eddie here waddles over a line that’s already toed around too often, so as much as he’s justifiably locked up by the end of the episode, it’s hard to take him seriously as a menace to society.

Conclusion:

This is another one of those episodes that makes me laugh every time, and I won’t reveal the extent of my geekdom by confessing just how many times I’ve seen it. Let’s just say I haven’t quite approached Amanda Nelligan’s level of Star Warsian devotion.

There are so many memorable moments that I would get lost trying to chronicle them all and for the sake of brevity I won’t. Suffice it to say that this episode is one of my favorite performances ever from David Duchovny and the whole Eddie as Mulder bit never quite gets old. For her part, Scully’s already the straight man on this show and stoic looks are her specialty, but the look on her face as Amanda Nelligan reveals the identity of the baby’s father is a priceless moment.

Then there’s the autopsy scene. And, of course, the scene at the doctor’s office. Oh! And the seduction…

You didn’t think I’d forget that, did you?

So, I know we Shippers tend to love this one largely because of this scene, and how could we not? But I find two moments in particular absolutely hilarious:

  1. The look of panic on Scully’s face as Eddie/Mulder leans toward her: Okay, she loves Mulder, as a friend, so she doesn’t insult him by rejecting him outright, but did you catch the look that clearly reads “Oh no…” just as he starts to move in for the kill?
  2. Scully gets busted: The best part of Mulder bursting through the door is that all he does upon discovering this rather uncomfortable situation is stare at Scully. See? I cracked up just typing that.

Alright. I’m done. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? If it’s been a while, I suggest watching this episode again. If it hasn’t been a while, I suggest watching this episode again.

A+

Random Comments:

It’s not Eddie we see mopping the floor at the end of the episode, but one of the inmates that keep stealing his hats.

Best Quotes:

Nurse: Now is there anyone you need us to contact? The father of the baby?
Amanda Nelligan: I’m not sure how to get a hold of him.
Nurse: If you give me his name I can try.
Amanda Nelligan: You know, he’s not from around here.
Nurse: Is he from out of state?
Amanda Nelligan: Another planet.

————————

Amanda Nelligan: He dropped by my apartment one day and… one thing sort of led to another.
Mulder: But the baby’s father is an alien.
Amanda Nelligan: No, no, I didn’t say he was an alien. I said he’s from another planet. His name is Luke Skywalker. He’s what is known as a Jedi Knight.
Scully: Did he have a lightsaber?
Amanda Nelligan: No, he didn’t bring it. He did sing his song for me though. [Hums the theme to Star Wars]

————————–

Mulder: How would this happen?
Scully: Birds and the bees and the monkey babies, Mulder.
Mulder: Birds do it, bees do it, even educated MDs do it. All five women shared the same OBGYN didn’t they?
Scully: Well, yeah. He’s the only one in town.
Mulder: And four of the five women, the four married women, not including Amanda Nelligan, are on record as receiving insemination therapy as a means of conception.
Scully: So you’re thinking that the doctor might have something to do with it.
Mulder: So much for not putting all your eggs in one basket.

————————–

Mulder: I have a theory, if you want to hear it?
Scully: Van Blundht somehow physically transformed into his captor then walked out the door leaving no one the wiser?
Mulder: Scully, should we be picking out china patterns or what?

————————–

Scully: But what are you saying? That Van Blundht is an alien?
Mulder: Not unless they have trailer parks in space.

—————————

Skinner: Which one of you wrote this?
Eddie/Mulder: I did, Sir.
Skinner: You spelled “Federal Bureau of Investigation” wrong.
Eddie/Mulder: It’s a typo.
Skinner: Twice.

Unruhe 4×2: Ich habe keine Unruhe.


Scully and the Beanstalk.

The main thing that occurred to me as I sat down to watch this one is that I’m unlikely to watch anything like it again. “Unruhe”, “Tithonus” (6×9), heck, One Hour Photo… Short of finding a period piece, with the advent of digital cameras, the underlying creepiness of photography may be gone for good. Point and click cameras don’t give you that same eerie sound as they capture an image (or is it someone’s soul?). Gone is the sinister subtext of the dark room, where creepy men leer creepily at ghost like images forming on slick pieces of paper. And the Ye Olde One Hour Photo Shoppe has all but gone extinct. Instead of delivering your most personal memories to be ogled by a 40 year old man who still lives with his mother, you can print them out in the privacy of your home, should you decide to print them out at all.

Progress though this may be, it terms of entertainment, it’s a sad loss. This episode is part of the last dying gasp of film.

Fortunately for us, Vince Gilligan wrote this episode before the Revolution was complete. If Darin Morgan owned Season 3, Vince Gilligan is the stand out star of Season 4. His humor isn’t as poignant, but it’s memorable. And more than that, he could give us a classic thriller just as easily as a psychological study or a fantasy romp. He was always, always cinematic. And with “Unruhe”, true to his form, while the characters are exceptionally well written, you could squint your eyes and almost pretend you’re at you’re local theater. This story was built for Mulder and Scully and it serves them well, but you can see how they could be replaced and the story expanded to serve other needs. It’s barely contained at a 43 minute running time.

What they do manage to squeeze in is memorable and engaging. It’s amazing how an X-File really doesn’t need much fuss to be successful; A creepy idea, a villain with three names, a few memorable images, Mulder posing something ridiculous and Scully countering. It’s magic in a can. I don’t think lobotomies have been this frightening since One Few Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Nowadays, when we think of serial killers we mostly think of men who brutalize prostitutes and crack whores. It’s a concept far more removed from the minds of everyday people than it was in the mid-90s when the collective memory of men like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer was still fresh and constantly refreshed in the media by news reports and movies like Silence of the Lambs. Gone are the days when single women watched their backs in the grocery store parking lot, but watching Schnauz stab a hypodermic needle into the flesh of an unsuspecting victim brings it all back.

Gerald Thomas Schnauz, Jr. isn’t one of my all-time favorite X-Files villains, probably because he doesn’t recognize or relish his own evil, but he more than does the job here. And for once, Scully is identifying with the victims and the killer rather than Mulder, our resident criminal profiler. It becomes more and more obvious that the case is wearing on Scully and I like that Vince Gilligan weaves in a little discomfort between her and Mulder throughout the episode, it makes the payoff of Mulder frantically trying to save her that much more satisfying.

And while I’m on the topic of Scully, did you notice the vague foreshadowing of what would come later in her Season 4 arc? It’s so quiet that it might be almost impossible to catch for the first time viewer, but that’s part of what’s so satisfying about rewatching The X-Files, being able to savor the subtleties.

I was able to make out one single word in German: Angst. Funny how that would become the theme of the season.

A

P.S. And as to Scully playing the damsel in distress, which complaints occasionally come up, I don’t even want to hear it. She just rescued Mulder in Distress the previous episode.

P.P.S. This is not the episode to watch if you’re trying to get over a fear of Dentists.

Questions:

Tsk. Tsk. Isn’t Scully supposed to ask if there are any sharp objects she should know about before she pats down somebody?

Comments:

This is the second closing field report/voiceover we’ve had in a row. I rather like that they’re trying hard to pretend that The X-Files isn’t leaving it’s early years far behind in the rearview mirror. And I missed those field reports.

More masterwork from the School of Rob Bowman. The tension in Scully and Schnauz’s first meeting is all in the way he shot it. And don’t even get me started on the glories of all that plastic tarp.

Six fingers = six headstones is rather a stretch, don’t you think?

Howard Unruh, part of the inspiration for this episode, was the first modern mass murderer. How’s that for a legacy?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Stand back, Scully. It’s loaded.

——————-

Scully: She’s been given what’s called a trans-orbital lobotomy. It used to be called an ice pick lobotomy. It involves inserting a leucotome through the eye sockets.
Mulder: So we’re looking for a doctor? Someone with training?
ER Doctor: Not judging by this?
Scully: Whoever did this, Mulder, did it wrong.

——————-

Mulder: So… which one of us gets to use the stun gun on Bruno Hauptmann back there?

——————-

Schnauz: Great. Now they’ve got you talking like Sigmund Freud.

Shadows 1×5: It’s a big bell with a big crack.


These are our "interested" faces.

This is the second outing for Morgan and Wong, though it’s ultimately not as memorable as Squeeze (1×2). Looking back, the episode spent too much time focused on the victim, Lauren Kyte. My understanding is that the network wanted to see Mulder and Scully helping people through their cases and this was Morgan and Wong’s response. Consequently, Mulder and Scully do more to help Lauren Kyte reach an emotional breakthrough than they do to catch the ghost. Fox probably should’ve kept its opinions to itself.

I have to say that overall, this is an episode I don’t have much at all to say about. It’s not particularly frightening, neither is it absolutely boring. There are quite a few humorous moments and some memorable side characters what with the pathologist and the graveyard caretaker. Scully starts throwing in the one-liners, which is a bonus. There’s also Mulder and Scully’s wild ride…

Part of the problem is that we, as the audience, know that the poltergeist is Howard Graves from early on. Mulder and Scully are playing catch up, which diminishes some of the excitement the episode should have had. Their investigation is sound, just boring because we already have the answers.

Most disappointingly, there isn’t much to observe about character development because, well, there is none. Mulder and Scully’s evolution is traded for Lauren Kyte panicking and sniffling. I suppose I can’t say there’s no character development. Scully does reveal that she’s an undiscovered actress. She certainly fooled Lauren Kyte. Mulder, for his part, if he isn’t angry at Scully for the charade, does seem a little disappointed that his partner would use Lauren Kyte’s belief to manipulate her. We all know that believing in ghosts is sacrosanct. Let’s go the positive route and say that Scully was trying to find a way for everybody to win.

At least Mulder and Scully learn to live a little… while they’re alive. This is the first time we see them just killing time together with Mulder’s suggested field trip to the Liberty Bell. Maybe they did learn a lesson from “The Jersey Devil” (1×4).

And the Verdict is…

Let’s just say the tone of this review isn’t negative but rather a little uninterested. I’ve seen this episode I don’t know how many times and still have the same reaction. Not that there aren’t some decent moments, but the story overall isn’t engaging.

Certainly the bathtub scene is creepy. It feels like something out of a horror movie. And like in Carrie, watching people get thrown around by an invisible force is always good for some fun.

Shadows does bear the lonely moniker of being the first, and maybe only real, X-Files ghost story. The later episode, “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) was more of a jolly romp than a paranormal nightmare. Fun, mind you, but not frightening. This episode was influenced by the greats that came before it: Carrie, Poltergeist. In case we’re unsure of what the writers had in mind, the characters reference those films directly. It was a good attempt if not a rousing success.

At least we can be sure a truly platonic love existed somewhere in The X-Files universe.

C-

Bepuzzlements:

Why didn’t Graves exact his revenge from the beginning?

Who knew Mulder was a photographer? Why didn’t this knowledge pop up in later episodes like “Unruhe” (4×4) for instance?

General Observations:

Mulder’s first Elvis reference!

Scully in that green jacket and peach blouse… she looked like pumpkin pie on a Christmas dinner table.

During the interrogation scene, Mulder and Scully have his and her pink and black mugs. Hilarious.

Scully conveniently can’t get out of her seatbelt and so misses the poltergeist party. Is it predictable yet?

Did anyone else feel that Dorland was propositioning Lauren… just a tad?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I would never lie. I willfully participate in a campaign of misinformation.

——————

Scully: Psychokinesis? You mean how Carrie got even at the prom?

——————-

Mulder: You know how difficult it is to fake your own death? Only one man has pulled it off: Elvis.

——————-

Mulder: Hey, Scully, do you believe in an afterlife?
Scully: I’d settle for a life in this one.