Tag Archives: Worst Episodes

Babylon 10×4: I resent that characterization and I don’t even know what it means.


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Don’t bother adjusting your antennas, ladies and gentlemen.

Mulder: Hi. Einstein? I need you to do me a favor so we can save the world. I’d like you to feed me some quasi-legal magic mushrooms to get me high. Because if I get high and reach that higher plane of consciousness that the Beatles only dreamed of, I can communicate with a comatose terrorist currently in a lower plane of consciousness. I’d ask Scully but she never lets me have nice things. She said no to the Star Wars wedding too. Can you rush down here, please? Thanks. #TrippingAgainstTerrorism

Well, shave my knuckles and call me “Curly.” That was a bunch of mechanical bull.

And you know what? Horrible as it is, it barely even got my shackles up. I mean, I’m not happy, but to break out that venerable and ancient stick called Brutal Honesty: this is what I had braced myself for. I had hoped for better, but I had suspected worse.

If you’ve been gracious enough to read some of my mental meanderings disguised as reviews, then you know that I’ve been rooting for Chris Carter to prove himself again to the fandom.  I’m a fan of both his writing and directing and am usually game for his experimental pet projects. “Babylon” is one of those, v. SMH16.

Fourteen years after the original end of the series and it’s obvious that Chris Carter has a lot he wants to say, he just doesn’t have 8,562 hours to do it in. This is a television program, not a New York Times op-ed piece. Go ahead. Throw out an idea, an opinion or two. Heck, indulge a little and make it three or four. Paint us a visual portrait of your life philosophy. But don’t try to force feed the audience over a decade’s worth of your cultural observations in a single episode of television. They’ll only vomit it all back up.

This forcefully reminds me of “First Person Shooter” (7×13), also directed by Chris Carter, which tried to ally itself with the feminist cause only to disgrace it in yet another failed attempt by the top ‘o the heap at solidarity with the social underdog.

Now, I’m not insensitive to the issues of stereotyping “Babylon” tries to raise having grown up with practicing Muslims in my own family. I’ve also been blessed both to travel and to know people in my own neck of the woods who grew up in predominantly Muslim countries (you might find it awkward to know how many of whom are more paranoid about Islam than most Middle America Americans are, but let me not pull on that thread). If Chris Carter really wants to prove how relevant The X-Files still is then here’s a thought: How about the highly religious young Muslim guy has nothing to do with terrorism??? Too radical?

I know I’m kvetching, but the truth is that for about the first half of “Babylon”, I was following along with an open mind, even if some of the early moments I didn’t understand…

Scully: Since when do you believe in God, Mulder?

Since when did you stop watching your own show, Chris? “Signs and Wonders” (7×9), “Closure“(7×11), “Existence” (8×21), “The Truth” (9×20/21), I Want to Believe… did I imagine you took Mulder through a spiritual evolution or did you imagine I’d forget?

Scully: You know that prophecies like this have been going on for centuries, failed prognostications of doom, failed prophecy – even in the Bible.

Mulder: Yeah, God told Adam that if he at the forbidden fruit he’d die. And he lived 930 years. Top that.

He lived 930 years and then he died… right?

Anyway.

Then of course, I see Mulder and Scully doppelgangers, think “Fight Club” (7×20), and immediately get nasty chills. To my relief, Agents Miller and Einstein aren’t at “Fight Club” levels of irritating. They also aren’t interesting at all. The way Einstein is written, she’s overdone. Miller comes across as little more than an over-eager frat boy. Mulder and Scully were young and full of wonder once, but they managed to radiate capability and intelligence beyond their years. And now I know: The X-Files couldn’t have been created in or with this generation.

But what am I stalling for, right? We all know what the baloney in this sandwich is… Mulder tripping through the tulips with a 10-gallon hat on his head and an Elvis in his pelvis. My concern waxed and then waned something like this:

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And they’re trying to pass this off as the much anticipated return of the Lone Gunmen?

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Call me crazy, but I don’t think badonkadonk hony tonk, inaccurate Biblical allusions, and unoriginal socio-political commentary together a cake bake. Frost it with a heavenly horn section and I am officially unamused. That’s right. God Himself just signed off on MSR and my reaction was:

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I suppose there were a few vestiges of the thoughtful television The X-Files used to be. Do thoughts have weight? Do words have weight? Can anyone feel the weight of my thoughts like an Acme piano falling from a roof?

One (more) thing that did bother me was the not so subtle depiction of Texans and American law enforcement as a bunch of bigoted bullies. I mentioned “First Person Shooter”, infamous for attempting to elevate women by making men look like a bunch of hormone crazed idiots. “Babylon” sympathizes with a repentant terrorist to the point of making the victims, the citizens filled with righteous indignation, look mean for being angry. They absolutely should forgive and I’m not trying to suggest they shouldn’t or that bigotry against Muslims isn’t real or dangerous. But this episode wants the masses to offer forgiveness without conceding that there’s anything that needs to be forgiven. Yep. Knotted issues too big to be picked apart in less than an hour of television.

Verdict:

In the immortal words of those ladies of the barenaked variety: It’s all been done.

In the past fourteen years since the show ended, terrorism on television has been brought forward, pulled back, flipped out, dissected, intersected, and vivisected. I wanted, I so wanted, for this to be something fresh and new – something we were promised the revival would be; it was never supposed to be purely about nostalgia, remember? Instead I’m mortified to report that “Babylon” comes across as a desperate attempt to seem progressive, relevant, sexy and wise.

I can’t help but think back to “Improbable” (9×14) and Chris Carter’s last off-the-wall attempt to define God for a television audience. Then God was a dancing, prancing, grinning Burt Reynolds – low in authority, high in laughter. Now God is an angry tyrant who set man off on his path of confusion but will occasionally speak to the mankind He cast away through dissonant elephant calls – if you care to listen.

I won’t vouch for either interpretation. And the thoughts expressed all throughout this episode are so random and disjointed that I can’t even engage them in debate. I will only say that this doesn’t feel like the same Chris Carter who wrote “Irresistible” (2×13), but I know he’s still in there. I want to believe.

F

The 7th Trumpet:

That final shot is basically a redo of the final shot of “Improbable”, minus Burt Reynolds.

Mulder’s conversation with Einstein wandered very close to Tulpa territory and the mysteries of creation that make up “Milagro” (6×18).

Making Einstein jealous of Scully and then using that as motivation for her to assist in Mulder’s little experiment cheapens the character almost immediately.

The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 involved neither anger nor violence, either on the part of God or man. So I’m not sure where Chris is coming from on the premise of this entire episode.

“You were 50 shades of bad.” – Absolutely. Freaking. Not.

Provenance 9×10: My baby! They’re after my baby!


 

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Because I accentuate the positive.

This is really… not good.

The X-Files’ underwear is showing. Not just right now, these last several seasons have exposed the the show’s weaknesses. Like a tragic Greek hero, the same things that made it great were the same things that caused its eventual downfall. It couldn’t sustain itself indefinitely the way it was.

“Provenance” is concrete proof that Season 9 was doomed to fail. It wasn’t 9/11 turning America off of conspiracies. It wasn’t the viewers that refused to come back after the season premiere. It’s because it wasn’t very interesting. Period.

Now, it tries very, very hard to be interesting. But I don’t care how hard you whisper it, whispering doesn’t make it so.

Back in Season 3 for instance, this style of drama that made up the mythology episodes worked. It was groundbreaking. It was epic. Even now, those old episodes stand the test of time because when you watch those, you feel like it all means something, like it’s all headed somewhere. “Provenance” is a rote exercise in trying to shock and awe the audience with impossible truths of universal import. Without any soul to back the action up it’s all sound and fury, signifying nothing. The emptiness of performance is exposed.

The routine, more or less, goes a little like this.

Impossible event.
Dangled proof.
Rogue F.B.I. agent.
Intensely whispered conversations.
Monumental inferences.
Dangled questions.

The end.

It’s tired to be sure. But like a good old-fashioned Monster of the Week episode, it might still have worked if the material itself was interesting. Too bad it isn’t.

It’s been so long since I’ve watched most of Season 9 that I forgot they did this. I thought we had let this die, but we’re back to the alien gods plot thread from “Biogenesis” (6×22). You know a plot is too weighty and unwieldy when even Gillian Anderson can’t sell it convincingly. The implications of the new era mythology can’t possibly be handled properly in primetime.

But they do try and the scene where Scully gives the rundown on this madness to Reyes, and simultaneously to the audience, is quite possibly the low point of the entire series. It’s all oblique revelations whispered intensely and pregnant pauses that pretend to give birth to meaning but only pass wind. I’ve had enough of watery eyes, shallow breathing and searching glances, thank you. Give me a story I can get excited about!

And for most of it, there’s no score from Mark Snow to take some of the emotional burden off of the actresses who are clearly working hard for their money. All I can hear are these ridiculous words and they don’t stand up on their own. Devoid of clothing they sound worse.

Is The X-Files really going to reveal the secrets to all mysteries and all knowledge? Are they really going to give us “The Truth” as more than a shadowy conspiracy of men and the secrets they hide? No. And since it can’t, it had better stop feigning that it can.

All Mulder’s search ever was was an allegory of one man’s search for God and I understand that. It should have stayed that. It was much more compelling that way. Once upon a time The X-Files was about a guy and a girl chasing ghosts and bringing conspiracies to light. Now it’s all cosmic prophecy and baby messiahs.

Yeah, so, about Baby “Jesus” William… he’s really the problem here.

The plot surrounding him, surrounding his “origins” as the title of this episode would invite us to ponder, is turning Scully stupid. And I don’t just mean she’s making foolish decisions, which she has all season. She’s becoming a truly uninteresting character and that’s making me slightly resentful.

But back to Baby “Jesus” William…

Maggie Scully: I know you’re worried about him, that there are things about him that you just can’t explain. But even if you were to get those answers what would it change?
Scully: Mom, he’s my child.
Maggie Scully: And you have to love him and raise him in spite of everything. Dana, God has given you a miracle. A child that wasn’t supposed to be. Maybe it’s not to question, just to be taken as a matter of faith.
Scully: Mom, I can’t take this on faith. I need to know. I need to know if it’s really God I have to thank.

Herein lies the key issue of this two-parter. It’s not “who” William is but “how” he is. But part of the problem with asking “how” he came to be is that it’s not a question that can be so easily divorced from the issue of his paternity, an issue that was fried, boiled and overbaked in Season 8. Chris Carter is telling us to ask, “How?” but all we can hear is, “Does this mean Mulder’s his daddy or not?” Maybe if the episode were clearer we would hear, “How did Scully become fertile again?

As I said, William is the root of all evil as far as Season 9’s bloated mythology is concerned. And I know what you’re thinking. “If the baby needs to die, why doesn’t somebody just kill the baby?? Yet if you’ll humor me, we’ll wait to discuss him in excruciating detail next episode. That’s when the chaos around him begins to make sense… not good sense, but sense. There is a method to Chris Carter’s madness. It may just be revealed a little too late. The viewing public’s goodwill wears thin.

Verdict:

You know, it’s not just the content of the plot, it’s the way it’s presented. It’s very hard to follow, much crazier than the mythology ever used to be. Where it was vague before, it’s opaque now. Where it was slow to reveal before, it backtracks now. Wait till you see how much it backtracks in “Providence” (9×11)…

Just so long as you understand that all of this is of the greatest import and magnitude. If you don’t hurry up and understand that, they may resort to whispering it even more forcefully.

The MOTW episodes are flagging. The legacy of MSR is on life support. The mythology is shot to pieces.

Pop me on a shish kebab. I’m done.

D

Comments:

Doggett’s a regular Mulder now. Unbridled insubordination, showing up where he has no business being, taking things he has no business taking.

Doggett and Follmer spar like equal rivals, not like a boss and his upstart subordinate.

The travel times are unreal. A man attempts to cross the border one night. Border Patrol finds the rubbings and immediately turns them over the the F.B.I.? The F.B.I. recognizes them as part of an X-File and summons Scully the next morning. Scully warns Doggett and Reyes something’s up. Doggett flies to North Dakota where he finds Follmer already there and working a scene that hasn’t been cleared yet, this despite the fact that Follmer was at the meeting with Scully that morning.

Scully’s rubbings had covered the entire spacecraft? The pile of papers didn’t look that huge.

I’m with Maggie Scully. Scully doesn’t seem all that interested in actually raising the baby. She keeps defending him as her real son, but then acts like she believes he’s something altogether different.

And if the aliens are God, then shouldn’t you stop fighting against them? But it’s really not clear if they are God or if they’re at war with God and have somehow interfered with the human race.

We can easily dismiss the notion that Mulder’s dead. Not only do we know Chris Carter would never kill him offscreen, but David Duchovny is scheduled to appear in the series finale. So we are unmoved.

The ONLY moment I find worthwhile in this episode is watching Scully hand baby William over to the Lone Gunmen. That’s still not worth my watching this ever again in life.

Trust No 1 9×8: You can’t do that to me!


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I always feel like somebody’s watching meeee!

No.

No, no, no, no, no.

Noooo.

Nope.

The first time I saw this episode I remember thinking, “Somebody, END THIS.”

Funny. Fourteen years later and nothing has changed.

As a genuinely grateful and devoted fan, I planned to watch till either The X-Files died or I did. And as of “Trust No 1”, death by cancellation was preferable, anything was preferable to watching the sanctity of MSR desecrated by paint gallons of pink tinted goop. Ending it is the only mercy left.

Oh, who am I kidding? I wanted the show to end after “Existence” (8×21).

But this, THIS, was worse than I ever imagined it could get.

“Dearest Dana”?!?!?!?!?!

Who are these people?????

They must be alien replicants. They can’t be Mulder and Scully. Mulder fell in love with “Scully” and “Scully” she shall be.

This woman is an imposter. This woman is an idiot. This woman leaves her Super Baby unattended while she goes to see about somebody else’s baby. This woman not only invites strangers into her apartment when her baby’s under threat, she lets them spend the night. This woman let’s them spend the night alone in the same room with the baby. This woman.

“I’m physically shaking right now seeing your words.”

You know what I’m physically doing? I’m physically pressing the pause button because I need a minute to compose myself.

Let me try to focus.

The NSA is watching… everyone. That includes Scully. One NSA agent tasked with spying on Scully and his wife come to Scully for help. They have a baby showing similar signs of abnormality as the little uber Scully. The NSA agent’s supervisor has been trying to contact Mulder on his behalf both to give him information and hopefully receive some answers. It’s too bad the supervisor, the Shadow Man, is actually a Super Soldier trying to lure Mulder out into the open so he can kill him because as he cryptically states, “Mulder must die. Mulder or your son.”

To which I state, “Well then why don’t you just kill her son since Mulder appears to be unavailable?”

Come to think of it, I haven’t watched Season 9 in so long… do we find out before the series ends why the Super Soldiers keep eschewing chances to kill William? Will I care once we get there?

If I may indulge in one more shipper tinted rant, I’m as disgusted as Scully at the thought that she and Mulder’s first time together was watched. I also hate the idea that after all they’ve been through, Scully initiates a relationship with Mulder because she’s lonely one night and doesn’t want to sleep alone. So desperation was the final nail in the coffin, eh?

I’ll yet repeat my oft repeated request of Season 8: Please stop going back and adding drama where there was none instead of propelling the story forward in new and interesting ways. Thank you for your consideration.

I’m not going to drag my complaints out. The bottom line: watch at your own risk. I’m sure there are fans out there who enjoy or can at least tolerate Mulder and Scully’s newfound Hallmark card sentimentality. If you’d rather skip it, all you need to know is that the Super Soldiers’ weakness has been discovered and it’s magnetite, not to be confused with kryptonite. When around it they shake like a Weeble having a seizure and then they blow apart. Now you know.

Verdict:

The one thing that does work for me in this episode is the teaser, and that despite the highbrow language. The weight and history of Mulder and Scully’s relationship actually stands up to the heaviness of the words. But the retrospective is a poignant reminder of what we’re missing and consequently sabotages the rest of the episode when it’s supposed to set it up. Yes, I do remember when magic happened here. What did happen to the comfort and safety we shared for so brief a time?

Melissa Scully: She’s dying. That’s perfectly natural. We hide people in these rooms because we don’t want to look at death. We have machines prolong a life that should… that should end!

That’s probably what happened.

To the fans for whom this is a happy indulgence and felt they needed a little more gross affection out of Mulder and Scully, I judge you not. Neither do I judge Messrs. Carter and Spotnitz. In fact, I beg your forgiveness and understanding of my ravings. I’m known to get protective of characters that don’t belong to me. I’m working on the problem.

Until next time, I remain forever yours…

D

Surveillance:

They keep changing taglines, yet I’m not intimidated.

If I believed that this episode ever happened, and I don’t, I’d suspect the “one lonely night” of being the day Scully came home with bad news in “Per Manum” (8×8).

It’s Terry O’Quinn again. Chris Carter, understandably, loved to use him in his various shows. For The X-Files alone he appeared three times. The original movie and “Aubrey” (2×12) were the first two.

Doggett can’t seem to catch a clean shave.

No explanation is given for when or why the NSA started surveilling all the people at all times. It’s more important that every shamelessly sappy emailed word be read and savored.

There’s no real tension in this trip Scully takes at the insistence of Shadow Man. I’m supposed to feel something might happen to her, but I never do. Are we to be impressed with this dated subterfuge?

And I still don’t get why he blows up the car. If there was tracking on it, they’ll still know where to find you.

Doggett and Reyes feel more like Scully’s sidekicks than the new leads.

Shouldn’t an infant that young be sleeping in the room with mom?

Mulder and Scully prearranged the manner of his return before he left. So Mulder knew before he left that the Super Soldiers were vulnerable to magnetite and picked a train that would pass a quarry that contained it?

Whatever Happened to Baby Joy?

 

Fight Club 7×20: It’s better just to avoid these encounters altogether and at all costs.


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I got grills. They’re multiplyin’.

The first rule of “Fight Club” is: You do not talk about “Fight Club”.

That is, unless you’re morally obligated to write a review.

As I said to another Phile friend on Twitter today, I’m not sure whether I should apologize to Chris Carter for hating it so much or demand an apology for having to watch it.

Shameless snarkiness aside, I know he must have been trying to create yet another golden moment for his baby, his show, his beautiful show that I adore. But “the best laid plans” and all that.

I’m sorry, Chris. I’m really, very sorry. You still love me?

Oh, you don’t know me? Oh, okay. Nevermind.

For all its presupposed good intentions, “Fight Club” comes across as desperately chaotic instead of energetically quirky. We have two women, and later two men, who can’t be in the same vicinity as each other without fixtures rattling and the world nearly coming to an end. You know what was a better take on this theme? “Syzygy” (3×13), also penned, though not directed, by Chris Carter.

But where “Syzygy” takes the idea of two people with a close affinity being destined to clash and slowly builds the antagonism to a crescendo, “Fight Club” starts at a ten and then pushes it up to a fifteen. I feel like I’m being yelled at for almost the full forty-three minutes.

Just like wrestler Bert Zupanic, I have a hard time keeping track of when he’s with which version of Kathy Griffin. Let me try to get one part straight, though. Mulder and Scully track down Bert Zupanic because he’s in a picture with a woman they believe is Betty Templeton. Only he doesn’t know Betty Templeton, he knows Lulu Pfeiffer. Mulder and Scully don’t know about Lulu Pfeiffer yet. They only know about Betty Templeton. That’s who they have background information on and that’s who they’re looking for. Ergo, it’s hard to believe they stumbled upon a newspaper clipping of a random guy with Lulu Pfeiffer. But I’m going to assume for the sake of the plot that somewhere the F.B.I. got a hold of a clipping of Lulu Pfeiffer that was assumed to be Betty Templeton, because it’s not like newspapers include names usually. </sarcasm>

That’s enough of me trying to follow the plot. The plot doesn’t even matter. Betty and Lulu are caricatures that merely exist to facilitate the anarchy. Over the course of the episode they change not, neither does their situation. Scully’s closing synopsis doesn’t so much as address their recovery. Let’s move on.

You would think, you would think, that the banter between Mulder and Scully would be a payoff, especially that opening scene. Instead, I find myself weary of the “Look at us, we’re Mulder and Scully of the Unstoppable UST” schtick. Yes, I know you’re not like that other F.B.I. couple, the ones who have worked together for seven years without nary a hint of romance.

Five of the past six episodes have overtly questioned the sexually ambiguous nature of Mulder and Scully’s relationship. The 1013 crew may actually be overestimating how interested we are, or our tolerance for being strung along.

Haven’t we established that they’re together? I’m glad they’re together. They should be together. Now, stop winking at me like you have a bug in your eye.

All that opening scene in the office tells me is that they’ve been doing this too long. And by “they” I mean Mulder and Scully but am afraid that in truth, “they” might have been 1013. There’s a desperation to exude superficial charm in this episode, like they were mimicking their own magic instead of creating all new magic. I don’t know what was happening behind the scenes, but what I’m seeing on the screen reeks of stress, boredom, and joylessness instead of fun and excitement. Is it getting dull to write for Mulder and Scully? If not, then instead of yet another episode about how familiar the beats of The X-Files are I’d like a better X-File, please.

Back when this aired, I remember thinking the show needed an electric shock to the heart fast or someone needed to put it out of its misery before my memories were tainted. Somebody has to do something because right now I’m thinking nostalgic thoughts about “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) over here.

Verdict:

In defense of my love for you, Chris, “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6) and “Triangle” (6×3) are two of my all-time favorite moments of television. So there.

D

Whatnots:

Why would you give your future employer all your old addresses? Old jobs, yes. Old addresses, no.

I love Scully’s happy little smirk when she brings Bert Zupanic’s doppelganger into the arena.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: The interesting thing about these agents is they had worked together for seven years previously without any incident.

Scully: Seven years?

Mulder: Yeah, but they are not … romantically involved if that’s what you’re thinking.

Scully: Not even I would be so farfetched.

————————-

Scully: [On phone] Where have you been?

Mulder: [On phone] Seeing a side of Kansas City few men have the privilege to see.

First Person Shooter 7×13: Well, that’s rather sexist, isn’t it?


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Stay out of my way, geeks.

 

Season 7 is not going well for me. Then again, it never does.

We passed the halfway point of the season a couple of episodes back and yet I’ve experienced very few twitches and tingles.

I remember having my hopes up for this one back in the day, though. After all, it brought back the Lone Gunmen and I’ve missed these guys. It also brings back sci-fi writer William Gibson and novelist Tom Maddox who brought us Season 5’s “Kill Switch” (5×11), one of my all-time favorite episodes.

This should go well, right?

Then why do I hate this episode? Because I do hate it. Absolutely.

Somewhere buried within the good intentions that made up this episode is some kind of convoluted attempt to tackle issues of entertainment and violence, civilization and instinct, fantasy and reality, and the feminine response to unrealistic male sexual objectification which includes self-glorification as well as objectification. Yes, they threw all of that in there. Really.

Maybe they didn’t exactly mean to tackle all these, just mention or include them all. Maybe they felt they couldn’t present a virtual reality based episode without at least addressing in passing the issues that surround video games in the public discourse.

I don’t know, but mixing up all these potentially thoughtful issues in an episode that’s clearly designed to be a rip-roaring good time feels unfocused. Granted, “Kill Switch” raised a couple of questions in passing about consciousness and creation. But that was it, a couple of questions in passing. Can we create life? Is consciousness digitally transferable? Done. The end.

If I’m wrong I really do apologize, but it feels like this is a case of a script going through too many hands, as though there were several people trying to do several different things.

Mulder: We came, we saw, we conquered. And if the taste of victory is sweet, the taste of virtual victory is not Sweet ‘N Low, nor the bullets made of sugar. Maybe out past where the imagination ends our true natures lie, waiting to be confronted on their own terms. Out where the intellect is at war with the primitive brain in the hostile territory of the digital world where laws are silent and rules disappear in the midst of arms. Born in anarchy with an unquenchable bloodthirst we shudder to think what might rise up from the darkness.

I… This closing monologue… I have no words.

Yes, I do. This has Chris Carter written all over it. (I love you, Chris. I swear.)

But as I said in the review for “Closure” (7×11), these monologues have a way of summing things up for us. It would indeed appear that the overall crux of the story, besides the obvious takeaway that blasting things is fun, is that video games allow us to let loose our own primordial urges but by so doing, we run the risk of creating something new and frightening out of the ooze.

Is that it, Chris? Did I get it?

Ergo, video games serve a vital purpose. Ergo, if we take away this indulgence then men won’t be able to hold their urges in check in a civilized society, like the cops at the precinct when they encounter Jade Blue Afterglow and suddenly forget they’re cops and have seen plenty of strippers. Ergo, accidentally creating something we can’t control, like Matreiya, is the risk we as a society must take.

I realize that these exaggerated versions of gamers and men are meant to be funny and only serve to make Phoebe and Scully look better by the end of the episode. Did they really have to make the girls look good at the expense of the guys? And as much as I like seeing Scully kick butt and wish she had the chance to do it more often, do the girls really look so much better overall? Phoebe comes off as downright selfish – letting people continue to die rather than to destroy her virtual, idealized version of herself. Yes, because that’s feminism. We can be just as violent and self-absorbed as men.

Verdict:

Alright. I realize this is all supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and I know it sounds like I’m taking this episode seriously. The truth is I don’t. I’m just racking my brain trying to figure out some logical, rational, explicable reason why I don’t like it.

Maybe there is no legitimate reason. Maybe I’m mad because they finally brought back the Lone Gunmen, but even they deliver their lines with forced enthusiasm. And these guys always come through for me, even in episodes as bad and as far back as “Fearful Symmetry” (2×18)!

It’s trying to be an X-File, it’s trying to be a sci-fi fantasy, it’s trying to be a comedy, it’s trying to be social commentary… It’s trying and failing. Not that X-Files episodes haven’t been several things at once before, but this attempt isn’t successful. And it’s a little insulting to men and women alike.

Frankly, I’m frustrated and I’m bored. Thank the 1013 heavens that’s about to end.

D

P.S. And don’t get me started on Scully’s head being interposed on Jade Blue Afterglow’s body by way of a compliment at the very end.

Immature, Hormonal Fantasies:

Mindless destruction and sex just seem to go together, don’t they? Scully seems to find it all relatively harmless. I find it mostly gross. I think better of men than this.

In other words, take a man’s idealized caricature of a woman and destroy him with it.

Scully’s leather jacket is back.

Now we know how the Lone Gunmen finance their, er, other projects.

Donkey Lips! From Salute Your Shorts!! I can’t believe I never recognized him before as one third of the geeky trio in the teaser.

All I could think as I started watching this again was, “This must have cost a lot of money.”

“No fair pickin’ on a girl.” Scully would never say this without irony.

I actually find the gear a little hokey.

Questions:

The body of the gamer that died in the teaser waits, unmoved, for Mulder and Scully to cross the country and show up on the scene? No matter what killed him, the company should have been in trouble for not calling the police and leaving him there to rot.

Speaking of bodies, in the autopsy scene, why was Musashi’s head placed between his feet?

Since when does Mulder know all this game design lingo?

Why doesn’t Matreiya kill Mulder when she has the chance?

Best Quotes:

Langly: Dudes! Agent Mulder, what’s up, wild man? Welcome to the land where silicon meets silicone.

Frohike: Can I get you a latte from the bar or perhaps a bottle of designer H20?

——————-

Mulder: Is that him? Is that Daryl Musashi?

Byers: Yeah, that’s him.

Langly: He just stepped into the game.

Mulder: Why is he just standing there?

Ivan: Because he knows no fear. {Editor’s Note: Okay, I chuckled despite myself.}

 

Alpha 6×16: Don’t mind him, he’ll go on forever.


Bad dog.

“Alpha” holds a special place in my heart.

I realize that probably sounds strange to you, so allow me to explain.

About a year and a half ago, after I had recently completed the rewatch that spawned this one, I was nostalgically flipping through my book of X-Files DVDs, bemoaning the fact that I had watched every episode I wanted to watch and there was nothing left. Lo and behold, my eyes dropped down and I saw something I had never noticed before.

“Alpha”… What’s an “Alpha”?

I searched my extensively detailed mental database of X-Files and I could not for the life of me remember the plot of this episode.

Did I miss this? Is that possible?? What in the heck is “Alpha”???

So of course, I popped the DVD back in the player thinking I must be having a mental block, possibly due to low levels of caffeine in the blood.

Sweet Mulder on a cracker… have I ever even seen this episode?

You see, that’s when I realized I have this habit of pulling the DVD from the player directly after “Arcadia” (6×13). Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.  Do not watch “Alpha”.

There are certainly episodes that I’ve been known to skip out of dislike, others I pass over due to impatience. But “Alpha” remains the only X-File whose actual existence I’ve wholly forgotten. It’s a dubious distinction indeed. In fact, I’m not even positive I saw this episode on its first run because my memories of it are so vague they may be retroactive counterfeits. Perhaps the VCR malfunctioned one Sunday night. I’ll have to dig out my old VHS tapes one day to be sure.

The benefit to this oversight, and there was a benefit, is that it essentially became a Lost X-File for me. Imagine waking up one day and finding out there’s another Mulder and Scully adventure out there for you to enjoy, one that you never knew about. Score!

Right?

Wrong.

I wanted to love “Alpha”. I wanted to have a new X-File to treasure. But yegads, I couldn’t. I suspected that if I couldn’t remember it there was probably a good reason and my instincts were correct.

Even on this rewatch, when I honestly tried more than ever to like it, it only got worse. Coming after the pitch perfection of “Monday” (6×16) and the fun of “Arcadia”, its failures are especially hard to accept. I found myself shaking my head involuntarily with irritated boredom before the episode was through. Frankly, it had me thinking nostalgic thoughts about “3” (2×7)…

This is our second episode in a row with an underwhelming monster. But whereas “Arcadia” had copious amounts of humor to fall back on, “Alpha” has no such crutch.

As I was watching this episode (for what may be only the second time ever), I started to smell the distinctively noxious odor that comes out of the kitchen when too many cooks are cooking in it. I wasn’t there and I can’t prove it, but I highly doubt that 70% of the script belonged to writer Jeffrey Bell, though the credits may tell me otherwise. The script feels disjointed, as if several different people worked on it, all with different points of focus. At least, that’s the excuse I’m giving because not much else can explain this fiasco.

But I’m complaining without giving any details. So… “Alpha”. This is an episode about territoriality, both human and non-human. There’s a noticeable amount of pissing and marking going on, but the hind legs being lifted up aren’t owned by any alpha male, but by a couple of frustrated women, one aggressive and the other passive-aggressive. One is Scully, the other is the newly introduced Karin Berquist, one of Mulder’s shadowy internet friends.

Karin is a socially maladapted loner who would rather be, and has been, living in the wild with wolves than walking on two legs amongst her fellow humans. Probably because he’s socially maladapted as well, and certainly as bright, she’s made a connection to Mulder and it’s because of information she feeds him that Mulder and Scully are on this case in the first place.

Karin, Karin, Karin. I’m all for geeks and losers, but Karin is a little too awkward to be sympathetic. Sadly, she’s just annoying. Which is a shame because I feel I should be rooting for this woman a little. After all, she’s dying, she has no life, and a man like Fox Mulder is giving her some attention. Can I blame her for trying to drag this situation out? However, her manner is off-putting. I realize it’s supposed to be, that she’s written that way, but I don’t believe it serves the story as well as if she had been either a clear object of empathy or a full on nemesis for Scully.

Too bad Mulder has man ears and not dog ears, or else he would have been able to hear the high pitched sounds coming from the mental catfight between Scully and Karin. Men are so oblivious to the ever-present subtext between females. Now, I know that it would be easy to interpret Scully’s actions here as the product of jealousy, but I don’t believe jealousy is what motivates her in any real sense. Mulder isn’t sexually, or even emotionally, interested in Karin and Scully knows that. Scully is being territorial, protective even, over poor, ignorant Mulder who is about to be caught in a web of womanly wiles. Scully essentially gives her the talk that big brothers give to their little sisters’ dates: I’m watching you. See, she perceives in a way that only a fellow woman can what Karin’s true motivations are and she resents them, not because they exist but because of Karin’s covert methods. Oh, and because Scully has been dragged all the way across country to California, probably on a red-eye flight since they arrived on the scene so soon, all so Karin can get the chance to moon over Mulder in person. I’d be a little resentful too.

The scene where Scully confronts her with this knowledge, where she gives her the old “I’m watching you” schtick, falls flat, however. Not because Scully isn’t a force to be messed with, but because Karin isn’t really worth having a woman-to-woman talk with. She’s no Diana Fowley. Scully’s righteous indignation is wasted on a woman who barely registers as human.

Alright. Enough griping about Karin because I’ve decided she’s not anywhere near my least favorite aspect of this episode. The next contender? Well, that would be the werewolf wannabe itself, the Wanshang Dhole. I’ve said before that The X-Files never handled exotic or foreign myths very well. It’s hard to introduce the audience to an unfamiliar legend and convince them to be afraid of it in the same 45 minute window. It can be done, of course, but it isn’t here. The playful pit bull my aunt used to own was scarier than this Wanshang Dhole, in human or in “canid” form. You can give a dog glowing eyes but you can’t make me fear it.

I was reading that one of the original ideas for this dog tale was to make the X-File about a kid who worked at a dog pound whose anger was expressed through the dogs there. Now, a pack of vicious dogs chasing Mulder and Scully down darkened streets? That could’ve worked. It could’ve been like “D.P.O.” (3×3), only with the SPCA involved.

But even the underwhelming monster in this Monster of the Week isn’t what dooms “Alpha” for me. It’s the painfully lackluster “climax” of the episode. Scully’s napping and Mulder’s reading a magazine while a mortally ill woman who tricked them into inaction with a see-thru lie uses an even more see-thru trap to easily defeat what’s supposed to be the smartest dog ever known to man.

I can’t even with this stuff.

I’ve read another draft of the script. I know there were better ideas out there both for the climax and for the episode in general. Maybe budget and time constraints forced them to resort to this nonsense, I don’t know. But it’s a doggone shame.

Verdict:

The best few minutes in “Alpha” come right after the opening credits when Mulder regales both Scully and us with a handful of bad dog jokes. Yes, even they fall flat, but this is the first time we’ve seen Mulder and Scully back in the basement office since they were reassigned to the X-Files. It looks a little bare, but Mulder’s hard at work making it feel homey again. It’s just missing one thing…

Mulder’s I Want to Believe poster.

Now, it’s about time we got it back. It’s just too bad that we get it back at the hands of a less than memorable character. If Karin Berquist is going to go down in history as the person who gave Mulder his poster back I want to have some kind of emotional connection to her. Instead, I spent the last few seconds of the episode resenting her spiritual intrusion into the basement office.

“Alpha” is still better than “Space” (1×8). I’ll give it that… and only that.

D

Claw Marks:

If the cage in the teaser hadn’t been opened and they didn’t know the animal was missing and that it had killed two of his crew, why does the captain or whoever he is say, “I don’t know how this happened. It makes no sense. We found the cage still locked. Two of our men are missing?” It makes no sense to me either.

Lupus is a disease I’ve been around a lot in my life. How Scully, a pathologist, not a rheumatologist, diagnosis this disease with so little information and such ease is beyond me.

This dog is supposed to be so smart, yet he falls into Karin’s trap so easily. And how could she have been sure they’d fall back hard enough to land on the fence post? That fence is some distance from the house.

“I think that I believed her very quickly.” Yes, Mulder, you have a tendency to do that.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Aren’t you going home?
Mulder: I am home. I’m just feathering the nest.

——————-

Scully: What happened to the dog?
Mulder: Dog gone… Dog gone… Doggone.
Scully: Yeah, I got it.

Schizogeny 5×9: Talk about puttin’ down roots.


It's kinda like Children of the Corn except... not.

Here we have an X-Files episode about some emotionally disturbed teens in control of the forces of nature. Sound familiar? It should. It has strong similarities to Season 3’s “D.P.O.” (3×3).

Here we have an X-Files episode where a single and socially isolated woman unwittingly channels the personality and desires of an evil male ancestor, so much so that she even takes on his voice and perpetrates his crimes. Sound familiar? It should. It has strong similarities to Season 2’s “Aubrey” (2×12).

In case this hasn’t already clued you in, “Schizogeny” is an exercise in The X-Files By the Numbers. Mind you, there’s no disparagement when I say that because there’s nothing at all wrong with a tried and true X-File. The problem is that with this one, someone forgot Number 10: The Plot Makes Coherent Sense.

Sure, for a hot minute we think there might actually be something interesting going on. But the plot quickly melts into a mishmash of teenage angst, ghostly possession and sentient plants. Throw in issues of child abuse, a mental health practitioner projecting their own issues onto their patients and some Daddy complexes and now we have ourselves an unfocused jumble of ideas.

Even with its complexity against it, I think if Karin Matthews’ character had been a bit more fleshed out the episode might have pulled through. My natural instinct to compare Karin to B.J. Morrow in “Aubrey” doesn’t come out in her favor. You can feel the conflict within B. J. Morrow that makes her sympathetic while Karin Matthews is an emotional blank. I realize she’s a psychiatrist and she’s supposed to have control over her feelings, but I don’t sense any depth of character with her, there’s nothing going on under the surface.

To compare “Schizogeny” with something outside of The X-Files realm, there are also echoes of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho here, only instead of a mummified Mummy in the cellar, it’s Daddy Dearest who’s been preserved in the dark recesses of a creepy old house. And where Janet Leigh’s character overhears Norman Bates argue with his “mother” in Psycho, Lisa is kept awake listening to Karin Matthews’ long deceased father verbally humiliate her. In fact, the more I think about it, the more this episode comes off as a well-intentioned homage to Hitchcock. The X-Files certainly makes an excellent backdrop to attempt Hitchcock’s style.

But style is about all “Schizogeny” has going for it since there’s no substance. There really isn’t much going on in this episode of interest, and consequently, there isn’t much to discuss. So I’ll take this opportunity to wax analytical instead.

Mulder: Hey, Scully, is this demonstration of boyish agility turning you on at all?

Listen up, fellas, because I have a theory and I’m sticking to it: Mulder was Scully-crushing Season 5. Think I’m wrong? I’m not. And the beginning of Season 6 will prove me right.

Chris Carter may not have intended it, David Duchovny may not have meant it, the writers may not even have purposed it, but television has to be accepted as the sum total of what we as the viewers end up seeing. And after all the editing is said and done, the overall impression is that Mulder harbors some feelings for Scully in Season 5 that edge ever so perceptibly away from the platonic.

I know, I know, Mulder’s always been a flirt. But his jokes have an edge of earnestness to them now that, in my opinion, they didn’t have before. Take the above quotation, for instance. Sure, Mulder might’ve teased her with something like that in Seasons 3 or 4. But this time Mulder doesn’t just flippantly throw this line out there, he actually looks down to make sure Scully’s paying attention, as if to say, “Well, is it?” I realize that’s a small moment but try adding it to the next several episodes in particular and it starts to equal something more than merely playful.

Not that I’m about to advocate the fantasy of some dime store romance style piece of fanfic that would lead you to believe Mulder is crying in his Wheaties every morning wishing Scully would finally notice him, I’m just saying that Mulder’s heart is more obviously on his sleeve this season when it comes to Scully, that’s all. After that cancer scare coupled with the loss of all he believes in, who could blame him? Scully’s the last thing he has left.

Verdict:

I don’t hesitate to say “Schizogeny” is the nadir of Season 5. It’s noticeable even in the middle of a streak of so-so episodes. But unlike episodes like “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) that implode in a blaze of glory or episodes like “3” (2×7) that inspire righteous indignation, “Schizogeny” commits no grave sin outside of being plain old boring. There’s nothing memorable going on here one way or the other. I could wish that it were either hot or cold but being lukewarm I just want to spit it out. Like most other lackluster episodes, it’s forced to rely on the failsafes of Mulder/Scully banter and The X-Files’ gorgeous cinematography.

Underneath it all I believe there’s supposed to be a message here about the cycle of abuse, but the plot connections are so tenuous that it’s hard to take any social commentary seriously. Worse, it’s hard to side with these kids and fault the parents when all I want to do is reach through the screen myself and give Bobby a good slap.

D+

Here nor Theres:

The shots of the bare, wintry orchard are so lovely I could wish it had been used as the backdrop to a better episode.

There’s a joke in here somewhere about psychologists needing psychologists, I just can’t seem to find it.

Interestingly enough considering the parallels this episode has to “Aubrey”, Sarah-Jane Redmond who plays Karin Matthews appeared in that episode as well.

If that weren’t enough, the actress who plays Lisa’s Aunt played Darin Peter Oswald’s mother in “D.P.O.” At this point, it’s almost creepy.

Even the title of this episode is obtuse. “Schizogeny” isn’t a word, but “Schizogony” refers to the asexual reproduction of protozoans. Maybe the substitute of “geny” is a reference to “progeny” since this episode is all about the difficulties of parent-child relationships?

The Creepy Woodsman red herring is a little overdone. Scully backs away from him one too many times and it feels forced.

Factiod: “Scully’s line about the town getting ‘400 inches of rain a day’ is a reference to a comment David Duchovny jokingly made about Vancouver during his appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, getting himself into a lot of hot water with the people of Vancouver. ‘Now that’s a bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think?’ was a perfect comeback by Mulder, given the circumstances.” http://cleigh6.tripod.com/CTP/CTP-schizogeny.html

Best Quotes:

Mulder: All that came out of his stomach?
Scully: Most of it. The small amount in his lungs is what killed him.
Mulder: Is it possible that he took the term “mud pie” literally?

———————

Mulder: Then how did the victim swallow 12 pounds of this stuff?
Scully: Well, when you fight for air a vacuum is created and maybe once he sucked down a mouthful of mud it turns his esophagus into a siphon. And with his head pushed down it filled all his passages like a gas can.
Mulder: [Grins and nods in amusement]
Scully: [Sheepishly] Well, you asked me for answers. These are the best ones I’ve got.

——————–

Scully: His mother says that Bobby can’t make friends. He’s been in therapy for his anger since 1995.
Mulder: That could be me.