Tag Archives: Vince Gilligan

20 X-Files Episodes That Should Be on Your Top 10 List, but Probably Aren’t.


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Don’t worry. “Shadows” (1×5) is most assuredly not one of them.

This post is at its heart an exercise in hypocrisy since not only have I not been able to narrow down my favorites to a Top 10 yet, I haven’t worked out a Top 20. But if you do have a Top 10, or a Top 20, or a nebulous cloud of episodes that you can watch over and over without getting bored, then I humbly submit the following for consideration for inclusion into that elite group.

These aren’t the obvious darlings like “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) or “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6), these are the hidden jewels of The X-Files. And I present them in no particular order… because I can’t decide even when I’m making decisions.

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1. “Drive” (6×2) – One of several episodes that inadvertently serve as a prelude to Breaking Bad, this episode was written by Vince Gilligan and guest stars an incredibly ornery Bryan Cranston. Along with several episodes on this list, it serves as solid evidence that Season 6 wasn’t the shark jumping problem child it’s often accused of being.

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2. “Elegy” (4×22) – An honest look at death and dying and the stages of grief that the dying and their loved ones go through before death even occurs. For the first time, Scully and Mulder emotionally confront the reality of her cancer and a poignant episode is born.

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3. “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18) – This is as close as The X-Files ever came to being 24. If they had extended it by another hour, it could have been a movie. One of my favorite scenes of Fox Mulder ever is hidden in this episode.

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4. “Roadrunners” (8×5) – If you bailed after Season 7, this is the best episode of The X-Files you’ve never seen. Written by Vince Gilligan (yes, again), it features a feisty Scully and a peripheral, but clever Doggett. And it’s the only A+ I found it in my heart to give after Season 6.

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5. “Anasazi“(2×25) – As are several on this list, this is one of my favorite Scully episodes. And also as are several others on this list, this is another episode where Mulder goes crazy. He lives at the edge of sanity anyway, I know. But it’s still fun to watch. This is also when mythology really starts ramping up and branching out.

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6. “Monday” (6×15) – You really can’t trust that day. But if you dare to try, you’ll find an episode that’s equal parts mysterious, moving and funny. This is one of Mulder’s best episodes, in my humble opinion.

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7. “Milagro” (6×18) – Sadly, this favorite of writer Frank Spotnitz’s is largely misunderstood. But it’s a special one for the writing staff and if you give it another chance, I think you might understand why. Hint: It’s all about Scully as a character taking on autonomy and breaking out of the mold her writer put her in.

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8. “E.B.E.” (1×16) – A pre-mythology alien conspiracy episode written by Morgan & Wong that marks the memorable introduction of the Lone Gunmen. It’s also a turning point in Mulder and Scully’s partnership as Mulder comes to realize he and Scully are in this together and she’s the only one he can trust.

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9. “Field Trip” (6×21) – This is a trip in more ways than one, so expect the surreal. But if you want a brilliantly condensed version of what Mulder and Scully’s partnership is and why it works, this is the episode you turn to.

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10. “Aubrey” (2×12) – Written by one of the few female writers ever on staff, this episode features, well, a woman. A woman in a man’s world who can’t seem to escape the men in her life, to memorable results.

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11. “Tithonus” (6×9) – My husband, Vince Gilligan, wrote this one as well and it is great. It’s one of the rare cases that Scully investigates without Mulder, which creates for some humorous jealousy on Mulder’s end and some fun telephone conversations. But mostly, this episode shows off Scully to her best advantage and asks some profound questions.

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12. “Eve” (1×10)- We all know the Season 1 classics that turned The X-Files into a phenomenon, like “Ice” (1×7). But “Eve” marks the best in a long tradition of Creepy Kids. This one’s double the pleasure, double the fun. This is also one of the few times Mulder is ever completely wrong about a case.

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13. “Unruhe” (4×2) – By now you’re wondering how many Vince Gilligan episodes I plan to insert in this list. The answer is: not enough. Here’s another episode from the master that actually makes you think that one of our leads is in real danger… even though you know very well Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny signed contracts and won’t be going anywhere.

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14. “Ascension” (2×6) – The follow-up “One Breath” (2×8) gets more attention, I think because of its emotionality. This episode, though, features lots of action and Mulder gone for a ride on the cray cray train now that Scully’s missing and he feels responsible. It’s also Mulder’s first encounter with Maggie Scully whose scenes with him have more impact than those with his own mother.

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15. “Kill Switch” (5×11) – Fun, fun, fun (‘til her daddy takes the T-Bird away). I love this romp of a ride and all the shenanigans it entails. Again, this is a mini movie and it stars a sarcastic Scully, who I’ve been missing since Season 1.

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16. “F. Emasculata” (2×22) – This is neck and neck with “Roadrunners” for the grossest episode in the series, but boy is it fun. This is less of a traditional X-File and more of a thriller a la Outbreak or U.S. Marshalls.

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17. “Trevor” (6×17) – Another silent gem from Season 6 that I want to hear make some noise. “Trevor” feels like a Season 3 case, but now with banter bumped up. It’s classic, but particularly cinematic thanks to director Rob Bowman’s trademark touch.

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18. “Folie à Deux” (5×19) – Giant Telemarketing Grasshoppers? Yes, please! Yet another entry from Vince Gilligan that isn’t nearly as light and silly as it sounds. Here he shows just how well he understood these two characters and the depths of their shared madness.

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19. “Wetwired” (3×23) – For once, Mulder isn’t the paranoid one. If you want to see some high drama from Scully that doesn’t involve wailing for her baby, then this is the episode for you. It also features a great guest spot by the Lone Gunmen and one of Maggie Scully’s best moments in the series.

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20. “Demons” (4×23) – Season 4 was the season of angst and this episode is Mulder in full 90’s emo mode. But don’t let that scare you off – Scully is fierce this episode. And even though it’s not technically connected to the season finale “Gethsemene” (4×24), it serves as the perfect emotional bridge to it. 

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


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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 any time you want, any time 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 cannon.

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.

Jump the Shark 9×15: Guys like that, they live forever.


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The Wrath of John

Spotnitz: Some months after the show had gone off the air, I was listening to The Wrath of Khan commentary and at the end of that movie, if you recall, Spock dies. And the producer, Harv Bennett, says that they tested it and people hated them, were so mad that they killed Spock. And then they went back and they added the scene which is the hopeful, optimistic scene, with Kirk on the bridge. And it changed the perception of the movie entirely. And I’ll say, looking back at this episode now, that’s one thing I might’ve done differently is found some way to give you that sense of uplift at the end, because it is just… grindingly sad at the end of this.

Too late. I AM BROKEN.

I almost don’t know where to begin with how sad this episode makes me. Some fourteen years after it aired and my face was all contorted like Jimmy Bond’s while I was watching this. There was jumping involved. And desperate whining. And, no. I’m not ashamed. It was the least I could do to mourn these guys.

Part of me gets it. I’m just geeky enough to have listened to the John Gillnitz (a portmanteau of writers John Shiban, Vince Gilligan, and Frank Spotnitz) commentary a few times over the years (don’t judge). I understand what they were thinking – The Lone Gunmen series had been canceled. The X-Files was ending. And while John Gillnitz may not have created the Lone Gunmen, that honor belongs to writing partners Glen Morgan and James Wong, they had taken the characters and run with them, given them a backstory, more prominence in the main series, and eventually their own show which John Gillnitz ran. They loved them like only fathers can and, with the fictional world the Gunmen lived in imploding around them, they wanted our geeksome trio to go out with a bang rather than fade into obscurity.

But they didn’t have to die.

I didn’t see it coming either. There I was, innocently enjoying the bountiful blessing of another Morris Fletcher voiceover, the only kind I like, when we get to the end of the teaser and I realize: They’re going to kill my boys!!! NOOOO!!!!

Honestly, at this point there was so little joy left in the show that losing the bright spot that the Lone Gunmen always provided felt like a finishing blow. (It felt like a finishing blow. The real finishing blow awaited us the next week.) Even so, and even though I’m still genuinely and unrepentantly bitter about the outcome of this episode, I can’t say it’s a bad episode. It’s actually the most engaging we’ve had in far too long.

Mainly, I want more of Michael McKean all the time. I want to dream about him in my sleep. I want to hear him when my alarm goes off in the morning. I want him to serve me my coffee at Starbucks (Sorry, Priscilla). For those who, like me, rank “Dreamland” (6×4) and “Dreamland II” (6×5) among their favorite episodes, and those who, like me, enjoy The Lone Gunmen spinoff series, no heroic demise would have been complete without this most lovable of villains.

It’s such a perfect reunion of The Lone Gunmen’s main characters, including the always memorable Kimmy the Geek, twin brother of Jimmy the Geek. Why did it have to be wasted on such a tragedy?

If you listen to the DVD commentary, desperately looking for answers, as I have, then you’ll get the distinct impression that not only was the Fox network not fully behind The Lone Gunmen spinoff, but they also couldn’t have cared less about allowing for a closure episode on The X-Files. It sounds like part of the way John Gillnitz finally sold the idea successfully was by promising the big bang of the trio’s deaths. They had to promise this episode would be special.

“This episode almost never was because there was zero support for doing it,” Frank brings to light. “The studio was hostile to the idea and it was a constant fight to get the money and negotiate with the actors because they did not want to do it. We were determined, since this was the last year of The X-Files, that we were going to have our farewell with these characters. When we finally decided that this would be their death, it became a much stronger argument with the studio.” LAX-Files, pg. 218

Spotnitz: We wanted this to be very special and, sad to say, the way to do that, we realized, would be to make this their final appearance. It wouldn’t just be another Lone Gunmen episode, it would be the Lone Gunmen episode.

There are times when I feel resolution is overrated.

Gilligan: We did. We had many discussions about the ending, period, whether they should die or not. And I gotta say I never, I never wanted it to happen. But I think it’s absolutely the right way to end it… None of us did it lightly, to be sure… Ending with these three guys dying… there was a lot of hours of discussion about it: should we even do it, should we not. And at the end I think Frank and John are right about doing it because, as much as I love these characters, you want to see them go out as heroes. And we knew damn well, pardon my French, we’re never gonna see them again and, you know, that the series was coming to an end. We’re never gonna get The Lone Gunmen series going again so why not have them go out with a blaze of glory?

I get the perverse logic, I do. And it might’ve been one thing if they were any other recurring characters or dramatic guest stars. But the Lone Gunmen were such a sweet presence. They were like the lovable Lost Boys to Mulder’s Peter Pan. This is a fictional slaughter of the innocents.

Then having it happen as almost the coup de grace to a season full of disappointments… But I have to admit that, in some ways, it made the end of the series go down easier. How can the X-Files world keep spinning without the Gunmen? Yes, it is that serious.

The Lone Gunmen were also indispensably useful. I couldn’t imagine Mulder and Scully successfully countering government conspiracies and alien colonization without their hacking skills, especially now that Mulder’s out of the F.B.I.. Everyone needs a techno geek they can trust.

That’s how central to the story they had become that it was hard to imagine the action going forward without them involved in some aspect of it. I mean, what’s next? Skinner goes down swingin’? God forbid!!

Oh, X-Files. Everyone’s in agreement – It’s time to pack it in and call it a day. What is it called when you’ve passed jumping the shark? Hopping the whale? Skipping the giant squid?

Verdict:

You know what really kills me? Mulder wasn’t there. Scully and Skinner were barely there. (Though I understand there were scheduling issues so I’m giving everyone an emotional pass.)

You know what else kills me? The Gunmen knew what they were about to do. Why didn’t they run?? Someone, dive for it! Something!!!

There must be something really special about these guys that all these years later and I’m still yelling at my television screen. Or…. there’s something really “special” about me. Either way, I’m okay with that.

If they were going to take them out, I am glad that they died heroes. In the end, the Gunmen didn’t mess up at all. They kept Yves from killing the wrong man, for one. And if she had killed the wrong man, John Gillnitz would’ve been able to kill thousands of people without suspicion, for two.

Ah, John Gillnitz, our villain who symbolically dies along with the Gunman… just like our real life villains, the John Gillnitz trio who killed them. Those are the real Lone Gunmen, who despite my ravings I appreciate dearly. (The bitterness is real, it’s just compartmentalized.) And, hey, word on the street is that the Lone Gunmen are back from the dead in some capacity or other. Maybe one of these days John Gillnitz will resurrect too.

Vaya con Dios, amigos… And welcome back.

A-

Kung Fu:

So I take it Morris Fletcher and his wife broke up for good.

Oh, that’s right. Despite having read every X-File, Doggett wouldn’t have known about the “Dreamland” events since time reversed like it never happened.

I love the name Lois.

Teletubbies = Mind control

Please note that Vince Gilligan was the lone hold out against killing the Gunmen.

The actor who plays Dr. Houghton was also “Cobra” in “En Ami” (7×15).

That death scene – Is the space really airtight if they can hear each other?

All I want, all I want in life right now is a t-shirt that says:  “Langly Lives!”

Best Quotes:

Morris: Let me give you a hint. I used to work at Groom Lake, Nevada. Area 51? I was a man in black. “The” Men in Black. What you’ve never heard of us?

Doggett: I saw the movie.

Morris: Yeah, well… there were a lot of technical inaccuracies in that thing. Anyway, I’m ready to make a deal.

Doggett: What deal would that be?

Morris: The one that saves my furry pink ass.

———————–

Morris: This is pointless. These three monkeys couldn’t find stink in an outhouse.

———————–

Morris: Agents, I’m tellin’ ya, you don’t want these three involved. I mean, they don’t even have their ridiculous tinker toy gizmos. This place is like “How The Grinch Stole Radio Shack.”

 

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


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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.

Lord of the Flies 9×6: You can’t have it both ways.


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What if there was an X-Files/Breaking Bad/Glee mashup?

In which Breaking Bad takes over The X-Files for the second of three times.

But before we get to that, I think I’ve come to a mini understanding. Doggett and Reyes as characters don’t have the comedic capabilities that Mulder and Scully did.

Now, I’m more tired than anyone of hearing myself compare Doggett and Reyes to Mulder and Scully. I prepared myself for change when Season 9 first aired and I’m certainly resigned to change now. My complaint isn’t that we have a new team. No, it’s that this new team isn’t equipped to handle this kind of episode. To put it in layman’s terms, I don’t think they’re ready for this jelly.

Doggett jokes around, sure. But his jokes fall flat because he sounds like an old fogey shaking his head at kids these days. There’s no point at the end of his pitard. Mulder would have delivered those very same lines with a sardonic bite that would have left me giggling.

Scully would have shared knowing or appropriately horrified looks with Mulder at all the right moments, because her character knows how to play up the chaos around her to the best effect. Reyes spends most of the episode looking nothing but bemused, as if this crazed cast of characters genuinely needed the help of the F.B.I..

This episode is not good. But even with its shortcomings it had the possibility of providing us some memorable moments. The scenes in the morgue with Dr. Herb Fountain are still my favorites of the episode. Erick Avari, a veteran character actor who I love, plays Dr. Fountain. He carries the comedic weight of these scenes on his own, and not just because he’s the broad character. Doggett and Reyes give him next to nothing. Their reactions are way too subdued; they shouldn’t be over the top but they need to be appropriately surprised

I know my comparisons are unfair since Mulder and Scully had time to develop a shorthand and a status quo before being thrust into the world of comedy. Yet I still find myself longing for “Humbug” (2×20) and their pitch perfect responses to the madness, and even for “Bad Blood” (5×12) when they showed us they could themselves be the madness.

Frankly, despite the madness that is Dr. Rocky Bronzino, King of the Fake Bronzer, some of the better parts of this episode are watching Scully deal with him. He’s not a great character, but at least he gives Scully something to do besides pine for Mulder and worry about William.

Then again, the low point of this episode is watching Dr. Scully give CPR to a man who’s already breathing. So I guess it’s a wash.

The truth is, “Lord of the Flies” is confused. The basic plot is a serious X-File, but the overall tone is that of an episode of The Lone Gunmen. Why do I say that? I’m glad you asked.

Sadly, The Lone Gunmen only lasted thirteen episodes, but Thomas Schnauz wrote two of them. Two good ones, I might add. A personal friend of Vince Gilligan’s from film school, he was pulled onto The X-Files after the show ended and went from there to… yep, Breaking Bad.

But back to The Lone Gunmen for a moment, Dr. Rocky Branzino is a character perfectly in keeping with the over the top tone of that show. What he’s doing here in an X-File that’s also trying to be both scary and emotional is beyond me. This is a jumbled mess of goals. Is it a broad comedy? Is it a serious murder investigation? Is it a character study in teenage angst? Is it a short horror film? Is it a Twilight Zone mystery with a twist? Is it trying to be all things to all men, that it might by all means win some?

Tonally, “Lord of the Flies” doesn’t know if it’s a real X-File or a light X-File. It’s possible to straddle the fence and it’s been done successfully before, but this isn’t one of those times.

And if you’re going to have a comedic episode with Jane Lynch in it then she should get the chance to be funny. I’m sorry.

Still on the topic of soon to be wildly famous guest stars, if you had told me that the intrepid Sky Commander Winkie would later blow my mind as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, I would have raised a Scully brow. And there’s our Breaking Bad trifecta for this episode: Vince Gilligan produced it, Thomas Schnauz wrote it and Aaron Paul starred in it.

Verdict:

The X-Files has a long tradition of mixing puberty with the paranormal. You know the drill – your body’s going through changes and you don’t know where you fit in, so you electrocute your friend in the parking lot, have an astrological meltdown, or plow your teacher into the cafeteria wall. Or, you can turn into a B movie fly monster and cocoon your enemies, which appears to both the biological fate and freewill choice of Dylan Lokensgard.

Whatever the try-hard philosophical ponderings of the closing monologue, Dylan isn’t sympathetic, or scary, or even interesting. And as such he adds nothing to the Puberty Pantheon. “Hungry” (7×1) was a better take on a monster who wanted to be anything but.

*cough*MoreVinceGilligan*cough*

C+

Pheromones:
What kind of pheromones are Mulder and Scully excreting that they keep attracting entomologists with silly names?

Mothers are women too, Scully. “I’m with someone,” would have been a more definitive answer.

The teenage romance doesn’t sell. It rarely does in real life either.

When was the last time we had an ending voiceover/case report?

Once again, Scully is a distraction from Doggett and Reyes. Worse, she’s outshining them.

I have no idea why Dylan’s little love interest suddenly feels affection toward the murderous nerd once he’s gone.

No, really. Who hits on somebody by talking about shared menstrual cycles?

FYI, Breaking Bad’s first takeover was “Drive” (6×2) and the next will be “John Doe” (9×7).

Best Quotes:

Dr. Fountain: Well, it’s the kid’s parents. They’re suing everyone.
Reyes: For what?
Dr. Fountain: Everything. They’re suing the county for making the street too steep, the supermarket he stole the shopping cart from, the company that made the helmet he was wearing.

——————–

Dr. Rocky Bronzino: Dr. Scully? This is so exciting. I’ve never had a partner before.
Scully: I have.

Roadrunners 8×5: You’re going to be so loved.


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Highway to hell.

Warning: Do not take this episode with food. May cause stomach upset.

I flailed all through this, but not for my usual fangirl reasons. The sheer grossness is mindboggling. I haven’t contorted my face this much since “F. Emasculata” (2×22).

My king, writer Vince Gilligan, is back… boy, is he back… with his first serious X-File since “Tithonus” (6×9). The only solo offerings he gave us in Season 7 were comical so I guess he’s trying to make up for lost time. I don’t know. But I know he’s freaking me out.

One of the things I love most about Gilligan’s writing is his characterization of Scully. Too often Scully is left to look bored and aloof, because we know that all serious scientists are bored and aloof. Gilligan, though, likes to give her new things to do, things that bring out other sides of her. And he gives her back some of the sarcasm she originally had in Season 1. I find it interesting that his last serious X-File was Scully-centric too.

Scully’s in real trouble this time. She’s on a case alone because, while she’s stopped resenting Doggett, as demonstrated by her procuring the desk she promised him, she would still rather not have him around. The X-Files don’t matter to him the way they matter to her and she wants to keep him on the periphery. Besides, there’s no sense in getting attached when Mulder will be back soon. But what Scully’s forgotten is how many times she’s nearly died investigating an X-File.

One of the things I liked about the good but not great “Brand X” (7×19) was that it was the first time in a long time that it felt like there was a very real threat to Mulder. Well, it’s Scully’s turn. I haven’t feared for her life like this since I don’t know when. She’s surrounded by the faithful from hell and she has a giant slug stuck in her back that thinks it’s the second coming of Jesus. I’m pretty sure that’s called a “pickle.”

Right from the teaser, we see a bus full of zombie-like strangers calmly stone a crippled man to death in the desert in the middle of the blackest night. Don’t hold any horror tropes back, Vince. It starts freaky and it only gets freaky-er.

Scully gets trapped in this little village after being sabotaged by Marty Taylor from Home Improvement. Then she’s introduced to this guy with a thing crawling up his spine. He’s got a big hole in his back where it went through, and Dr. Scully seems to think the best medical course of action is to squeeze the hole to see what comes out of it

Here’s where Scully starts to get a little gullible. It could possibly read out of character that the townspeople catch her off her guard, but I think she is on her guard. She knows these people are up to something and she doesn’t trust them. It’s exactly because she doesn’t trust them that she’s inclined to think the guy with the thing up his back is a victim, which really, he is. As a doctor, her heart also naturally goes out to the patient. Why she’d give him her gun though…

The result is a scene in a dark barn that’s deliciously horrible. Scully slowly realizes she’s cornered, she struggles, the crowd is shouting, “Amen!” as yet another crippled man get stoned to death. Oh, the creepiness. I know what happens and I had to watch through my fingers.

The good news is this madness gets Scully riled up. And Scully may be in trouble this episode, but she’s no damsel in distress. Nosirree. This is another moment brought to you by Scully Squared ™. Even tied up and gagged she’s causing trouble and starting fires. That’s my girl.

However, there’s no way she’s getting out of this on her own. Doggett shows off his investigative skills and has a couple of cool moments himself before showing up to help Scully. One character trait he and Mulder do share is that they both trust their instincts. His instincts tell him something’s wrong in this no-name town. I especially like seeing him knock Marty Taylor the gas station attendant out. And then he cuts that thing out of her back. Ugh! Now that’s commitment. I’m sorry. If it were me, Scully would have had to die. There’s no way I would have been within thirty feet of her back. And then he holds it with his bare hands. Kill me.

Verdict:

All hail King Gilligan because this was the perfect way to bring Scully and Doggett together. Not only has he saved her life, he’s saved her baby’s life. Scully can’t hate him now. And a very mature Scully is forced to realize that she can’t keep treating Doggett like he’s sort of her partner. He’s here and she’d better accept him. Or else.

And while I miss the Mulder/Scully dynamic as much as anyone, I don’t think “Roadrunners” suffers from the loss of it. We’ve had episodes without one or both of them before and few of those are quite this memorable.

In summary, “Roadrunners” freaks me the heck out.

A+

Pocket Change:

This guy is stranded in the middle of the night, hails a bus, and then insults the driver after she picks him up? What, does he want to end up stranded back on the road? Then he doesn’t even bother to ask where the bus is going, just puts on his headphones and settles down for the ride.

It’s so dark, I can’t see what Scully finds when she looks at Mr. Milsap’s phone plug.

Danny’s back!

Is Scully going to be in the hospital every other episode this season?

It’s funny, when I thought ahead to this episode I figured it would be Vince Gilligan. These X-Files writers really do distinguish themselves.

“F. Emasculata” also involved buses in its grossness.

I don’t think we’ve seen Scully have a proper freakout since “Wetwired” (3×23).

Mulder wasn’t mentioned at all this episode…

Best Quotes:

Scully: What did you put in me?! I’m going to get every last one of you bastards!

Mr. Milsap: No! You’ll love us. You’ll protect us. You’ll teach us, make us better than we are. We’re taught not to envy, but I do envy you so… that you’ll soon be one with him.

Scully: Him?! That thing in my spine is a “him“?!

————————-

Doggett: [On phone] Just talked to a guy who had a gun in his pocket and I don’t mean he was happy to see me.

Je Souhaite 7×21: How many centuries now has disco been dead?


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Breakfast of champions.

First off, disco is not dead.

Second off, it wasn’t until I joined the internet fandom many years after the show first aired that I realized people really loved this episode. ‘Cause I didn’t love it. I didn’t know what to do with it. I was bored.

Maybe it’s that every time I reach this point in Season 7 I’m so bored and frustrated that it really would take a magic wish to wake me up. – Or some devilish shenanigans a la “Requiem” (7×22). Maybe I would’ve liked it better if we hadn’t just had two kooky episodes in a row. Maybe.

I should love it because “Je Souhaite” is classic Vince Gilligan. And Vince Gilligan is probably my favorite television writer ever. Here he also directs an episode of The X-Files for the first time, which is in keeping with Season 7’s theme of letting everyone have a chance to take the wheel.

But my hangups with this episode are the same ones I used to have with “Bad Blood” (5×12 ) and that I should have but don’t with “Small Potatoes” (4×20) because I’m a hypocrite. There are radical, life-altering, world-changing events happening here and the responses are so… comedic that I find it jarring. In “Bad Blood”, Mulder is under investigation for killing an unarmed teenager but basically limits his reaction to sarcastic one-liners directed at Scully. In “Small Potatoes”, women are basically being raped by a man who tricks them into believing he’s their husbands, but dang it, it’s hard to hate Eddie Van Blundht. And here Mulder makes a wish that wipes out the human race and all he can say is, “Oh, crap.”

Where I actually start to disconnect  is when an invisible body is “discovered” and taken in for an autopsy. Would anyone believe it was a human body some guy on the bike had fallen over? And if they believed it was, wouldn’t the CDC, NIH and the Surgeon General have been called out? Why would the local coroner’s office have contacted Mulder and Scully? It’s not like they were investigating the deaths of invisible men.

I realize it’s comedic, but my mind has to be in “Real World according to The X-Files” mode or “Fantasy according to The X-Files” mode. I have a hard time switching back and forth between the two. At first, I think “Je Souhaite” is going to be funny but still somehow real like “Small Potatoes” manages to be, and then suddenly it’s not and a switch turns off in my head. This is a personal problem.

My second problem is that this trope is a little too familiar. Like Mulder, I too grew up watching I Dream of Jeannie, so I know it’s dangerous to be too literal with the jinn. And then there’s that episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Man in the Bottle” warning me to be careful what I wish for. Heck, even Duck Tales warned me that a genie’s power was dangerous.

And, most of all, I saw Aladdin. So we know where Mulder’s final wish is headed, m’kay?

My point is that none of this is new. Trickster genies are a tradition.

Tradition is fine. But there’s no point in telling the story unless there’s a fresh perspective on the tale, and by “fresh” I mean something more than the genie wearing a leather jacket.

If you’re still here, let me assure you that my griping is now done. Unlike “Fight Club” (7×2), this episode has real merit.

Even though my brain may have trouble suspending disbelief, it is funny. Most of my laughter is drawn out by the Stokes brothers who steal the show. I could’ve used a lot more of them. I love Anson’s kitchen table scream. Leslie trying to throw off Mulder and Scully’s suspicion. Chilly Zombie!Anson blowing up the house while Leslie rants and raves in the background. That’s good stuff. That’s Gilligan stuff.

Since Season 3, I’ve noticed that the penultimate episode of the season usually serves as a sort of emotional finale before the mytharc themed season finale. In Season 5, Vince Gilligan gave us “Folie à Deux” (5×19), an episode that reaffirmed Mulder and Scully’s partnership right before it was tested by the advent of Diana Fowley in “The End” (5×20). I don’t know if “Je Souhaite” was originally conceived of as the penultimate episode, but we do know that when it was written and filmed the fate of The X-Files was still up in the air. This very well could have been its last stand-alone episode. Just in case it was, Gilligan had a little message for the fans:

Mulder: The trick is to be specific. To make the wish perfect. That way, everyone is going to benefit. It’s going to be a safer world, a happier world. There’s going to be food for everyone, freedom for everyone, the end of the tyranny of the powerful over the weak. Am I leaving anything out?

Scully: It sounds wonderful.

Mulder: Then what’s the problem?

Scully: Maybe it’s the whole point of our lives here, Mulder, to achieve that. Maybe it’s a process that one man shouldn’t try and circumvent with a single wish.

You heard it here. World peace isn’t achieved by wanting it or wishing for but by working for it. And you don’t have to start big; you start by treating the people around you better.

Mulder: I don’t know if you noticed but, um, I never made the world a happier place.

Scully: Well, I’m fairly happy. That’s something.

Yes, it is, Scully.

If the world ends tomorrow, and knowing season finales on The X-Files it just might, we can rest at ease knowing that even if Mulder didn’t change the world he made a difference in one life.

Verdict:

All my kvetching makes it sound like my grade is going to be more dire than it is. But now that I know what to expect from it, this episode has grown on me over the years, which seems to be my recurring theme for Season 7. I guess when there’s nothing else left, you learn to appreciate what you have.

And who knows? In a few years I may like this as much as “Bad Blood”.

B

Random Observation:

Funny. Jenn doesn’t talk like she last came out of the 70’s.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I can’t believe you don’t want butter on your popcorn. Uggh. It’s un- American.

——————–

Jenn: The only thing you people are cursed with is stupidity. All of you. Everybody. Mankind. Everyone I have ever come into contact with without fail. Always asking for the wrong thing.

Mulder: You mean making the wrong wishes.

JENN: Yeah, it’s always: “Give me money. Give me big boobs. ” [Indicates crotch] “Give me a big hoo-hoo. Make me cool like the Fonz.” Or whoever’s the big name now.

Mulder: You been out of circulation a long time.