Tag Archives: Young at Heart

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


Underneath-Screenshot-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

But, Krycek, what are you doing here?

B+

ZZ Tops:

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

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

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

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

That beard, tho.

Best Quotes:

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

———————-

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

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The Post-Modern Prometheus 5×6: Gypsies, tramps and thieves.


Rewind. Play. Stop. Rewind. Play. Stop. Rewind…

If you’ve been with me since at least “Quagmire” (3×23), you’ll know that I’ve asserted for a while now that more than sci-fi, more than paranormal fantasy, The X-Files is really a romantic literary adventure at heart. Here we have two heroes who are, erm, heroic… not because they’re faultless, but because like their predecessors in the great romantic tradition, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, they refuse to give up their idealistic and foolhardy quest out of some antiquated sense of honor; their audience of fans being forced to waffle between nodding in admiration and shaking their heads in exasperation.

My arguments may ring flat to some but if you won’t take it from me, take it from series creator Chris Carter who wrote and directed this milestone episode giving us clear look into his personal predilections.

“Mr. Carter said he hoped the episode would remain true to the original story’s [Frankenstein’s] romantic roots. ‘I have always been a fan of romantic literature,’ he said. ‘In creating Mulder and Scully, I knew they could be likened to romantic heroes.’” [Editor’s Note: Told. You. So.]

Chris Carter based “The Post-Modern Prometheus” on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (or The Modern Prometheus), which is probably one of the most famous examples of literature produced during the Romantic movement. As an unusual of a departure as this episode is, its familiar theme, man elevating himself to the place of God through genetic manipulation, shouldn’t surprise us much.

It’s not hard to see where the Frankenstein motif has left its mark over much of the series already. From individual episodes back in Season 1 like “Young at Heart” (1×15), to the alien-human hybrid story arc encased within the larger, ongoing mythology, to the personal woes of Scully who has had her ova stolen and experimented on in the name of… well, in the name of what we’re not sure of yet.

If these fears and nightmares seem a little melodramatic, do The X-Files a favor and remember that this was the 90’s and we weren’t that far removed from Dolly the Sheep. The Human Genome had been mapped, cloning had become a reality, and not too far under the surface we all wondered just how far down the rabbit hole these new powers would take us. Could mankind be trusted with the God-like ability to remake life in its own image?

There’s a practical protection against such a danger: defining what it is, what it means to be human.

It’s not an unfamiliar subject to broach. Heck, Star Trek: The Next Generation basically tried to define humanity every other episode. (Yet another example of how 90’s progress and paranoia led to pop culture perfection.) And even aside from the pressure of rapidly progressive science, myths of synthetic humans largely predate the advance of technology. Besides Frankenstein, there’s the myth of the Golem, not coincidentally a myth also addressed by The X-Files in “Kaddish” (4×12). And not to belabor the point, but why else did the Tin Man want a heart, the Scarecrow want a brain and the Cowardly Lion want courage if not to become human rather than merely humanoid?

All that is to say that what “The Post-Modern Prometheus” is really saying is that to be “human” isn’t merely to meet a genetic requirement. After all, we share so much of our genetic material with the lowly Drosophila. No, humans are required to be humane; we’re made in the image of God and we’re supposed to act like it. Here all these freaky looking townsfolk are hunting a mutant monster only to find out that not only are they uglier on the inside than he is on the outside, but the monkey really is their uncle. Literally.

Verdict:

Sometimes I’m amazed at what The X-Files makes it possible for us to enjoy without guilt. Here’s a tale about rape and animal-human hybrids, and somehow, that’s OK.

Maybe that’s because the whole episode is a Fractured Fairy Tale from start to finish. It starts and ends as a conscious piece of fiction being deliberately framed in comic book format. The gorgeous black and white cinematography, undoubtedly a feather in the cap for Director of Photography Joel Ransom, sets this episode apart as something other than an X-File and something more akin to Chris Carter’s personal fan fiction. There are also the repetitive shots, or as Chris Carter likes to call them, “visual quotes”, peppered throughout the episode, giving a disorienting sense of déjà vu to the entire story. And best of all, the wide-angle lens shots exaggerate even the most mundane moments eliminating all traces of the real world eeriness that The X-Files is famous for. It’s not a loss, it’s a welcome departure; pure escapism in a show that’s already fantastical in content.

This one was originally written for Cher and Rosanne Barr who both expressed interest in appearing on The X-Files. Rosanne Barr who was originally supposed to play Shaineh Berkowitz and Cher who was supposed to play… Cher. But at the last minute, schedule conflicts ruled out this potential clash of the titans and substitutes had to be found. I think it’s a good thing in the long run that Chris Carter didn’t get the famous guest stars he wrote the story around (except for you of course, Jerry Springer). They would have only been a distraction. This way the “The Post-Modern Prometheus” itself gets to shine.

The question is, who do we owe its success to? You’d think it’d be obvious, and yet Mulder and Scully take over the script from Chris Carter, quite literally. Interestingly enough, they’ve already done it figuratively, recreating the show in their own image despite, or perhaps because of, their creator’s best intentions. It’s all quite meta, no?

Speaking of intentions, I saw that look cross your face, David Duchovny. Mulder and Scully came this close to making Shippers everywhere collapse in spasms of geeky bliss during that final scene. As it is, there may have been embarrassingly girly squeals rising from a in front of a little television near the Everglades somewhere. I have read that there was an actual kiss filmed, but who knows if the footage still exists or if it will ever see the light of day.

That’s OK because ultimately, I didn’t need it and I still don’t. I can honestly say that’s the most purely joyful moment of television I’ve ever been graced to witness.

The End.

A+

Sweet Nothings:

The quote above from Chris Carter was surreptitiously stolen from here: http://www.nytimes.com/1997/11/19/arts/tv-notes-x-files-tries-frankenstein.html

Not to be blasphemous, but Marc Cohn’s original version of “Walking in Memphis” is actually my favorite. Speaking of which, does anyone remember when it was featured on VH1’s Pop Up Video? I’m aging myself, yes?

Composer Mark Snow has absolutely outdone himself. For reals. The whole score is a vaguely circus-like dream.

The looks on Scully’s face this entire episode… you can watch it with the sound off and it’s still hilarious. Her face says it all.

Recurring guest star Chris Owens is back for his 3rd appearance on The X-Files, this time as a monster that doesn’t smoke.

The Great Mutato wants to create someone just as miserable as he is so they can be miserable together. How… touching.

For once, there’s no need for Chris Carter to reign in the purpleness of his prose. It works to this episode’s fantastical advantage.

I could touch on why, yet again, Cher is presented as the sacred mother to all the outcasts and misfits of the world. But then, that’s been done.

Best Quotes:

Scully: [Reading in a deadpan voice] Dear Special Agent Mulder, I’m writing to you for help. Several years ago I had an experience I cannot explain. I was lying in my bed when I felt a presence in the room. Though I was awake, I felt that something had taken control over my body. I don’t remember much else, but I woke up three days later pregnant with my son Izzy. [Exchanges a look with Mulder] That was eighteen years ago but now it happened again. I was in bed and could swear I heard Cher singing (the one who was married to Sonny). [Exchanges another look] Then the room got all smoky and I saw some kind of monster. He had a really gross face with lumps all over his head. I was too scared to scream then I got all groggy and conked out for three days. Guess what happened when I woke up. I got your name off the TV. Some lady on The Jerry Springer Show who had a werewolf baby said you came to her house. [Yet another look] Well, I got her story beat by a mile, so maybe you’ll want to come see me too. Sincerely, Shaineh Berkowitz.
Mulder: Scully, do you think it’s too soon to get my own 1-900 number?

———————–

Mulder: I’m alarmed that you would reduce these people to a cultural stereotype. Not everybody dreams to get on Jerry Springer.

———————–

Scully: Mulder, I’m alarmed that you would reduce this man to a literary stereotype, a mad scientist.

———————–

Scully: Mulder?
Mulder: You may have been right, Scully.
Scully: What, that these people could be reduced to a cultural stereotype?

———————–

Mulder: This is all wrong, Scully. This is not how the story’s supposed to end.
Scully: What do you mean?
Mulder: Dr. Frankenstein pays for his evil ambitions, yes, but the monster’s supposed to escape to go search for his bride.
Scully: There’s not gonna be any bride, Mulder. Not in this story.
Mulder: Well, where’s the writer. I want to speak to the writer.

Unusual Suspects 5×1: Sure, baby. My kung fu is the best.


Do I look like Geraldo to you?

I have to say, as fond as I was of the Lone Gunmen, coming off of the emotional rollercoaster that was the “Gethsemene”/”Redux”/”Redux II” trilogy, I was not looking forward to sitting through an episode sans the Mulder/Scully dynamic.

It’s not that it wasn’t high time the Lone Gunmen got their own episode. Who didn’t look forward to their brief, two minute guest spots of comic delight? No, it’s just that I was dying to see what life was like now that the threat of Scully’s cancer had passed. What I wanted was a real meat and potatoes X-File and a good heart to heart between our leads a la the “conversation on the rock” scene in “Quagmire” (3×22).

Unrealistic expectations notwithstanding, I wasn’t disappointed in this episode. I was feeling impatient, yes, slightly irritated even. But that’s not “Unusual Suspects” fault. In retrospect, probably the wisest thing the 1013 Productions crew could have done was to give us a little comic fluff, a slight departure from the series’ norm in the wake of the drama that just went on. There’s no sense in trying to compete with the unrelenting tension of the previous episode.

Now we’ve covered why “Unusual Suspects” starts off as an underdog even before it airs, much like the Lone Gunmen themselves. So what does this episode have going for it?

1. The Lone Gunmen (Duh): Fans had been clamoring for a while to see the nerdy trio get their own episode. Skinner had one. Even Cigarette-Smoking Man had one. Surely the Gunmen had it coming. Honestly, their characterizations don’t disappoint. Byers was seemingly the least likely to be the focus of an episode, considering the popularity of Langly and Frohike especially, but that was a clever move from writer Vince Gilligan. Byers is the most normal of the bunch and watching him of all people turn paranoiac is satisfying and it grounds the events of the episode. In fact, it reminds me of how The X-Files is originally told from Scully’s decidedly normal point of view. That’s precisely where its sense of wonder came/comes from.

2. That Retro Swag: Maybe the desire not to compete with the emotional impact of “Redux II’ is part of why “Unusual Suspects” is not only a departure in content, it’s a departure in time. Off we go back to the days before Mulder opened is precious X-Files, back to the dark ages of 1989, when cellular phones were larger than the heads that cradled them. We even get to see Mulder whip one out in an understated moment of pure comedy. Truly this is where the Gunmen belong, surrounded by impossibly bulky and outdated computer equipment.

3. X: After just a full season, X is back. As Chris Carter famously said, “No one ever really dies on The X-Files.” X has returned to do what he does best, clean up a leak and protect a potentially dangerous advancement in science to make sure the government is the only one to profit by it. Isn’t that how we learned to love him in episodes like “Soft Light” (2×23) and “Wetwired” (3×23)? And I have to say, corny though it may seem to some, I enjoy the tie-in to the mythology here. I love that X knew Mulder long before Mulder knew him, that we get to see him when he already must have been working for Cigarette-Smoking Man, and most of all, I love that he indirectly names the Lone Gunmen.

4. Mulder’s Innocence: It seems clear from their introduction in “EBE” (1×16), though it is never directly stated, that Mulder knew the Lone Gunmen long before he met Scully. We never did question how or why. I guess I just assumed that he met them somewhere along the way, maybe in a MUFON meeting somewhere. We also knew that Mulder’s search for Samantha and his belief that she was taken by aliens was the foundation of his start on the X-Files, (You’ll note how Gilligan cleverly has Mulder make his way to the “Alien Life” themed booth), but we also knew that Mulder didn’t always believe in aliens, neither was he always such a pain in the backside of the establishment. So his hypnotic regression therapy sessions with Dr. Werber weren’t solely responsible for his mental and social downfall after all.

And the Verdict is…

Checks in the plus column aside, I’m not sure this episode is a resounding success. It’s fun, to be sure, but Susanne Modeski’s paranoia, the paranoia that was the catalyst for all the rest, is a bit of a hard sell in the end. It’s a little over the top… except for that part about not being able to trust your dentist.

Speaking of Miss Modeski, perhaps the issue is more akin to what went on in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). We have an outsider in a stand-alone episode who the audience is suddenly required to accept as an intricate piece of the mythology puzzle. Here it works better because Susanne Modeski only inspires the X-Files in an indirect way and only has the briefest contact with Mulder himself – no eternal soul pact required.

Lastly, the Modeski character brings in some fun elements of Film Noir. Even though she turns out to be one of the good guys, she still plays The Femme Fatale by leading an otherwise law-abiding man down a dangerous and morally ambiguous path. Poor Byers never had a chance.

In the end, I enjoy it and I probably enjoy it more in retrospect just to relish as much of the Lone Gunmen as I can get.

B+

Miscellaneous:

Still not so sure why Frohike recruits Langley to help with the hack. I thought he said his kung fu was already the best?

This is our first Vince Gilligan solo script since the masterpiece that was “Small Potatoes” (4×20).

Nice touch having Mulder answer the phone with, “Hey, Reggie.” No doubt this is the era when he was still working under Reggie Perdue of “Young at Heart” (1×15) fame. Vince Gilligan always was a Phile at heart – he remembered the little details.

We’ve reached the halfway point of the series. There are 201 episodes of The X-Files and this is #100. Well, technically there are 202 episodes, but that’s only because the series finale is counted double.

Why are they selling bootleg cable right in front of representatives of the Federal Government? Was that legal back then and I missed it?

That “Holly’s” daughter’s name was supposedly Susanne Modeski should’ve Byers’ first clue. Well, second after the whole sugar thing. Susanne isn’t exactly a name you heard on many little girls in 1989.

One has to wonder why X bothers to let the Lone Gunmen live at all.

And, finally, how could I ignore the nice little guest spot by Detective Munch? My how that character gets around a television set.

Best Quotes:

Munch: Start with your name and birth date.
Byers: John Fitzgerald Byers. 11-22-63.
Munch: Seriously.
Byers: I was named after JFK. Before the assassination my parents were going to name me Bertram.
Lieutenant Munch: Lucky you.

——————-

Byers: You’re talking about a premeditated crime against the United States government!
Frohike: Hey, your second today. [Removing Byers’ FCC badge] Welcome to the Dark Side.

——————-

Langley: There’s no game here.

——————-

Langly: Government hack is a snap. Last week I got into the Maryland DMV, changed my endorsement so I could handicap park. [Byers stares] I got tinnitus.

——————-

Modeski: No matter how paranoid you are, you’re not paranoid enough.

——————-

Frohike: Now I’m sorry. You’re telling me that the U.S. government, the same government that gave us Amtrak…
Langly: Not to mention the Susan B Anthony dollar…
Frohike: Is behind some of the darkest, most far-reaching conspiracies on the planet? That’s just crazy!
Langly: I mean, like this guy [Byers] works for the government!

——————-

Mr X: Behave yourselves.
Byers: That’s it? You’re just trying to intimidate us, to scare us, so we’ll keep quiet!
Frohike: [Under his breath] Byers, I swear to god, I’ll shoot you myself.
Byers: It’s all true what Susanne said about you people, isn’t it? About John F Kennedy! Dallas!
Mr X: I heard it was a lone gunman.

——————-

Lieutenant Munch: Do I look like Geraldo to you? Don’t lie to me like I’m Geraldo. I’m not Geraldo!

——————-

Byers: You want the truth?
Mulder: Yeah. I want the truth.
Byers: You might want to sit down, this is going to take a while. The truth is… none of us is safe. Secret elements within the U.S. government seek to surveil us and control our lives.
Mulder: What?!
Frohike: Tell him about the hotel Bibles.
Byers: Yeah, I’m coming to that. It all started with Susanne Modeski…

Paper Hearts 4×8: Tell me about this dream.


"Tut, tut, child! Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it."

Writer Vince Gilligan first popped up on The X-Files’ roster with Season 2’s “Soft Light” (2×23) before breaking out with the hallmark episode “Pusher” (3×17) in Season 3. It turns out that Gilligan began as a screenwriter and was a fan of The X-Files as a regular ole’ viewer long before he came on staff. This explains both his predilection for cinematic stories and why this episode is almost unnervingly cannon in content.

For a man who claimed that mythology episodes weren’t his strong suit, Gilligan is awfully accurate about the myriad of X-Files facts that he scatters throughout “Paper Hearts”, an episode that uses the mythology as its base even though it’s certainly not a mythology episode and can barely be categorized as a Monster of the Week. It’s more a psychological study than anything else, along the lines of “Irresistible” (2×13) and “Grotesque” (3×14). But I digress. Every fact except Mulder’s birthday makes its way in here through such fleeting references as a mention of Mulder’s former mentor Reggie Perdue who was killed in “Young at Heart” (1×15) and a quote from the episode “Aubrey” (2×12). That’s not even counting the word-for-word recreation of Samantha’s abduction with adult Mulder inserted into the mix, a scene that’s perfectly done.

Clearly, “Paper Hearts” is written by a man who understands the language of fandom.

And like the fans, Vince Gilligan is well aware that the whole premise of The X-Files hinges on Mulder’s belief that his sister Samantha was abducted by aliens. If indeed she turned out not to be, the payoff wouldn’t be as grand. And indeed, eventually it wasn’t.

That’s why this episode isn’t pretending to be a legitimate explanation for what happened to Samantha but an exploration of the possibilities. What Gilligan is tapping into is that seed of doubt. Mulder himself stated back in “Little Green Men” (2×1) that he wasn’t sure if his memories of Samantha’s abduction were real, and since then he’s run into a couple of different versions of “Samantha”, or at least her clone.

What is Mulder to believe? Is she still out there somewhere? Is this whole alien conspiracy a ruse as Scully claims in “Paper Clip” (3×2) so that the men behind a set of secret and sadistic experiments can hide their crimes?  It’s an issue that will come up again for Mulder later in the season and will be explored at length in Season 5. But I digress.

Part of the reason I used to not enjoy this episode was because I could so easily dismiss the idea of a serial killer being responsible for what happened to Samantha. The main reason is that I always go into Monster of the Week Withdrawal around this point in the series. We haven’t had a really satisfying one since “Unruhe” (4×2) and “Paper Hearts”, while technically a Monster of the Week episode, is more of a character driven episode than a scary or paranormal one.

That said, it’s satisfying in its real world horror in the same way that “Irresistible” is. And it’s far more satisfying than the one note insanity of “Grotesque”. In the same vein of both of those episodes, there’s very little of the supernatural to speak of, if indeed anything of it exists at all. And that’s just fine because the implication of what Roche is doing to these little girls is worse than the vague fetishism of Pfaster in “Irresistible”.

Not only that, but similarly to what Mulder experienced with Modell in Gilligan’s other masterpiece, “Pusher”, this is an adversarial game. There’s a vast difference between having a Monster to hunt and a Monster to be outwitted. The villains that are a match for Mulder in terms of cleverness always turn out to be the most memorable. (This is why Samuel Aboa in “Teliko” (4×4) can’t pull off what Eugene Victor Tooms does in “Tooms” (2×20). For one thing, he doesn’t have three names. That’s always a tip off.)

Roche is more than just your run-of-the-mill sociopath; he’s a match for Mulder intellectually. It’s another game of which genius can outplay the other. One almost thinks Mulder and Roche could have been friends… if Roche wasn’t a sadistic pervert. At the very least they get each other. Admittedly, the “nexus” idea is a little weak as a plot device. But I suppose Gilligan had to give some sort of a name to their unusual connection. And, after all, this is The X-Files. Something has to remain unexplained.

Conclusion:

This season is low on scares but high on character development. It makes sense because the show is a major hit at this point in its run; this means that the writers are trying to keep themselves out of a rut, the audience is calling for more information on their favorite characters and the actors are looking for a way to show off their skills. It only makes sense to give Mulder and Scully more time to shine than they have on their average case.

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny were more than up to the task. And that Tom Noonan as Roche… whew! He’s so cavalier that he almost transcends being creepy.

And I just love the way that Gilligan has written these characters. I particularly love Scully in his episodes as she’s almost always a woman to be reckoned with. Here her barely restrained anger is palpable and even Roche seems a little afraid of her. Her eyes were saying something along the lines of “I will drop you.” Not only that, when it comes to her partner she knows when to hold ’em and knows when to fold ’em. She chastises him when necessary and ignores his mistakes when the situation calls for it. The strength of her compassion for Mulder in this episode is memorable and considering what episode is coming up in just a few days, it’s an emotional buoy of sorts.

Now Mulder, well, what’s most interesting is that Mulder is coming to the more rational conclusion that his sister was simply kidnapped, not abducted by aliens. Yet he’s coming to a rational conclusion in the most irrational way so that at least we know he hasn’t changed… at all.

David Duchovny really should have gotten an Emmy for his performance in this one.

Scully: You’re right, Mulder. It’s not a match. It’s not her.

Mulder: It’s somebody though.

Oh, what a powerful scene. In a season that’s going to give me lots of reasons to hate Mulder, thank you, David Duchovny for reminding me that I love the heck out of this character.

In closing, I’d just like to note that this episode is another strike against the “Mulder as Jackass” stereotype that’s hijacked his legacy over time. Mulder closes a potential door to the answers he’s seeking in order to save a little girl, just as he’s closed doors and will continue to close more doors for Scully’s sake. Mulder is a deeply flawed human being, but he’s an incredibly humane one as well.

A

Questions:

The nexus theory still doesn’t explain how Roche knew what model vacuum cleaner The Mulders had in their house.

Comments:

In another point of continuity, remember the scene in “Conduit” (1×3) where Scully tries to stop Mulder from digging up the potential grave of Ruby Morris, another little girl lost. Even their positions are the same. The difference in this case is that rather than hinder him, or even just watch him break the rules, Scully puts Mulder’s emotions above procedure and digs right alongside him. I heart these two.

Yep. It’s true. David Duchovny sunk that shot on the first take.

I almost committed a travesty of justice by failing to mention The Magical Mystery Tour of Whimsy that Mark Snow’s score takes us on this episode. Consider it mentioned.

Best Quotes:

Scully: You said it yourself once. You said that a, a dream is an answer to a question we haven’t learned how to ask.

———————

Scully: Don’t you think the car might have been searched at least once already?
Mulder: Not by me.

———————

Mulder: Sixteen victims, John. How come you said there were only thirteen?
John Roche: I don’t know. Yeah, thirteen sounds more magical, you know?

———————

John Roche: How about this? Sink one from there and I’ll tell you.
Mulder: [Nothing But Net]
John Roche: Trust a child molester?

———————

Roche: This man, this man hit me!
Guard: I didn’t see it.
Scully: I did.

———————

Roche: It was Karen Ann Philiponte. She lived in a green rancher in… East Amherst, New York. Minter grew outside her window. I stood outside her window atop springs of mint. It smelled wonderful.
Scully: [Through gritted teeth] What year?
Roche: July… 1974. I had her mother on the hook for an Electrovac Argosy, but at the last minute she said, “Thanks but no thanks.”
Scully: [Drops pen in disgust]
Roche: Oh well.

Grotesque 3×14: You never fit your own profile.


Art Therapy

“Grotesque” is a unique episode and admirably ambitious, yet I can’t help feeling that it takes itself a little too seriously at moments. And that, of course, just makes me want to roll my eyes at the most inappropriate times. I appreciate the plot and the concept and while it’s mostly successful, I feel slightly disengaged when I watch it. It’s sort of Mulder’s answer to the Scully-centered episode “Irresistible” (2×13) where the line between the paranormal and natural human evil is blurred, but this one is psychological rather than emotional. Good, and admirably ambitious, but not great.

Last time we actually saw Mulder care about someone’s negative opinion of him we were still somewhere in Season 1, when the memory of his former glory days at the F.B.I. weren’t far behind him and you could tell that the occasional dig still hit a nerve. Skepticism directed at Mulder’s abilities/sanity is nothing new. “Squeeze” (1×2) and even “Lazarus” (1×14) give us a glimpse at how often there’s sniggering behind his back. But every time we meet one of Mulder’s former colleagues, Jerry in “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and Reggie in “Young at Heart” (1×14), they have a healthy respect for Mulder’s capabilities. Heck, later on there will be Diana Fowley, another former partner who, er, recognizes Mulder’s strength. Between what we know of these characters’ relationships with him and his current partnership with Scully, to know Mulder is to love Mulder, or at least to learn to appreciate him despite himself. This is the first time we’ve seen someone who worked alongside Mulder actually dislike him. And it’s the first time in a long time that Mulder has reacted to anyone’s dislike. So what is eating Agent Patterson?

We never really find out why Mulder irritates Patterson so. But I remember having this genius friend in High School who aced Latin even though she spent 99% of every class passing notes with me, when she even came to class that is. Our teacher couldn’t stand her. I suspect something similar is going on with Patterson and Mulder. Either that or he’s the stereotypical 1950’s father who can’t tell his son how proud he is of him but put a few drinks in him and he’ll have no problems telling the rest of the world. I’m leaning towards the former as his venom toward Mulder denotes both admiration and jealousy.

His relationship with Scully in this episode isn’t much better. The further down the rabbit hole he goes the more he consciously shuts her out. Season 3 has seen the writers as a whole putting distance between Mulder and Scully in quite a few episodes. Things were too perfect between them in Season 2 to continue that way; they’d lack depth in the long run. But maybe there’s too much distancing going on now. Too often only one of them has enough of a personal connection to solve a specific case. Whatever happened to them figuring it out together? That hasn’t really occurred since “2Shy” (3×6) or possibly “The Walk” (3×7). Even “Nisei” (3×9) and “731” (3×10) saw them going down different investigative paths and drawing different conclusions. I submit that such a device makes logical sense in mythology episodes where the writers need to disseminate lots of material to the audience, and it allows both Mulder and Scully to grow as characters. But at some moments this season I’m left wondering why they’re even partners when they’re not working together.

I think soon the collective writing club at 1013 Productions comes to realize the Mulder and Scully seesaw is tilting too far in one direction and they start adding weight to the other side for the last half of the season, a development which I’m forever grateful for. It’s not that I don’t agree that Mulder and Scully should have independence, autonomy and interests apart from each other and even apart from the X-Files. That was part of what I enjoyed about “Revelations” (3×11) was that Scully had a supernatural niche all her own. I just miss seeing them work as a team rather than acting as an antagonist of sorts in each other’s individual drama.

The Verdict:

Besides the less than inspirational interpersonal dynamics, my other bone to pick with this episode is that the solution is too clear from the beginning. Only someone from the crime team knew the ins and outs of the murders? Then someone from the crime team committed the murders. And it’s certainly no shock when Patterson, obsessed with finding the killer, turns out to have found his killer’s obsession instead. In fact, we’re expecting it. With the 1980’s/1990’s rise to prominence of Criminal Profiling, the tale of an investigator becoming what he hunts isn’t exactly fresh and new. I couldn’t say for sure, but I don’t believe it was fresh in 1995 either.

I don’t think “freshness” is a concern here regardless. It’s a vehicle to let David Duchovny strut his emotional stuff, which he certainly does a solid job of. This episode is about exploring more of the tragic side of Mulder’s nature and his ability to intuitively understand people, the gift that’s actually a curse. Writer Howard Gordon, even more so when working with partner Alex Gansa, has a propensity toward the solemn and the serious when it comes to giving us X-Files. His previous offerings include “Conduit” (1×3), “Born Again” (1×21) and “Sleepless” (2×4), all episodes with a rather grim sense of loneliness, a theme echoed again here. He also successfully adds poeticism into the mix in “Dod Kalm” (2×19). “Grotesque” reminds me a lot of “Dod Kalm” in tone and theme; both show us a man slowly turning into what he hated and both are continually swathed in blue light.

After all that tepid to cold praise, I do like this episode. It’s a brave departure from the norm. I just wouldn’t turn it on to have a good time.

B

Peanut Gallery:

It’s a little difficult to believe Mulder went that crazy that fast, but then, they only have 43 minutes.

I kinda dig the exploration of insanity vs. demon possession. Which is which and how do we know? Like “Irresistible” before it, we don’t get a straight answer in the end.

Didn’t Mulder already have his tortured soul moment in “Oubliette” (3×8)? Maybe that doesn’t count since this one brought up Samantha and this one has absolutely nothing to do with his sister issues?

Scully’s one moment of glory in this episode, as she cocks her chin in Skinner’s office, is my favorite part.

Best Quotes:

Scully: So you’re not going to tell me when your love affair with Patterson ended?
Mulder: Patterson never liked me.
Scully: I thought you were considered the fair-haired boy when you joined the bureau.
Mulder: Not by Patterson.
Scully: Why not?
Mulder: Didn’t want to get my knees dirty. Couldn’t quite cast myself in the role of the dutiful student.
Scully: You mean you couldn’t worship him.
Mulder: Something like that, yeah.

——————–

Mulder: Patterson had this saying about tracking a killer. If you wanted, uh, to know an artist, you have to look at his art. What he really meant was if you wanted to catch a monster you had to become one yourself.

——————–

Agent Patterson: I have to tell you, I am really disappointed in you.
Mulder: Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint you by not disappointing you.

——————–

Agent Patterson: My advice to you, Scully: Let Mulder do what he has to do. Don’t get in his way and don’t try to hold him back… because you won’t be able to.

——————–

Skinner: Are you worried about him, Agent Scully?
Scully: No, sir.
Skinner: Off the record.
Scully: [Cocks her head]
Skinner: So am I.

Guest Post – X-Files: A Shipper Guide, Part 5


*Editor’s Note: Nina is a long time X-Phile and shipper extraordinaire. (Seriously. You guys thought I was rabid.) You can find more of her humorous insights into The X-Files, Supernatural, 24 and other fandoms on her tumblr at myspecialhell.tumblr.com. Here’s the final installment of her Season 1 analysis. You can check out parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 herehere, here and here. Agree/disagree with her observations? Duke it out in the comments section. We can’t wait to hear what you guys think!

And with that, take it away, Nina!

Biased, completely personal, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Tooms

~ It’s amazing how things change, isn’t it?
 – Mulder (Tooms)

Eugene Victor Tooms is one of the most beloved mutants among the Philes, and Tooms is the episode all the Philes recall for two things mostly: the introduction of Assistant Director Walter Skinner[1], a character who would become more and more important in the show, and for the infamous conversation in the car.

Just out of curiosity: what’s the what with Mulder, Scully and stakeouts, anyway? Between Tooms and Pusher one can’t help but wonder!

I remember when I first saw Tooms and the conversation in the car. I remember that my jaw hit the floor. For a moment I really thought they were going to go at it. I mean, usually, when a scene like that happened in another show, next we knew the two lead characters were kissing like there was no tomorrow.

How naive, uh?

Even before the scene in the car, it was clear that Mulder and Scully had truly become partners  at work: there was trust, there was complicity. Scully didn’t hesitate to put herself on the line for Mulder, when talking to Skinner.

She was supposed to be the spy, she was supposed to be the tool to close the X-Files…and yet, there she was, defending Mulder.

Skinner had ordered Scully to make sure things were done by the book, and yet when she went to Mulder, while he was checking on Tooms, it wasn’t the job she was worried about. Do you remember Deep Throat? In the episode she was worried about what she was going to write in her report. She had come a long way from that night…and she showed it.

SCULLY: Mulder, you know that proper surveillance requires two pairs of agents, one pair relieving the other after twelve hours.

MULDER: Article 30, paragraph 8.7?

SCULLY: This isn’t about doing it by the book. This is about you not having slept for three days. Mulder, you’re going to get sloppy and you’re going to get hurt. It’s inevitable at this point.

MULDER: A request for other agents to stake-out Tooms would be denied. Then we have no grounds.

SCULLY: Well, then I’ll stay here. You go home.

(Mulder sighs.)

I’ve always loved how Mulder seemed genuinely concerned about Scully’s career in the scene in the car. I think that was the first time Mulder actually voiced concern about Scully’s career. He had come a long way too from the pilot episode and the infamous lines:

“So, who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully”

And

MULDER: That’s pretty good, Scully.

SCULLY: Better than you expected or better that you hoped?

MULDER: Well… I’ll let you know when we get past the easy part.

When Scully was assigned to the X-Files, she had basically zero experience on the field, Mulder had seen her becoming a good agent, one whose career he felt the need to protect, feeling his was already in the crapper. The fact that he acknowledged that he had put Scully’s career and reputation and her possible future within the Bureau in jeopardy, spoke volumes of the depth of their bond at that point.

MULDER: They’re out to put an end to the X-Files, Scully. I don’t know why, but any excuse will do. Now, I don’t really care about my record, but you’d be in trouble just for sitting in this car and I’d hate to see you to carry an official reprimand in your file because of me.

After such an opening from Mulder, it was no surprise that Scully felt the need to do the same.

(Scully sighs.)

SCULLY: Fox…

Why did she call him Fox?

Why was she embarrassed while she said his name?

They were venturing into an unknown territory. Mulder and Scully sucked at those kind of emotional displays, if we choose to consider the original timeline of the series, they had been working together for two years, yet, that was the first time either of them opened up that way. Mulder had just told Scully that he valued her work, that he valued her both as a person and an FBI agent and Scully wanted to…open up as well, by calling him Fox.

(Mulder laughs. Scully looks at him.)

MULDER: And I… I even made my parents call me Mulder. So… Mulder.

I think Mulder was panicking. He was surprised by Scully, by the shyness in her voice, and by the sudden turn that conversation was taking…so he panicked. It’s not a fanwank, it’s not fanon…it’s the only plausible explanation I’ve ever been able to give to what he said…

Although I think Mulder fell for Scully at first sight, I really don’t think he was ready to explore the feelings he had for his partner, he didn’t have the energies to focus on anything else that it wasn’t the X-Files.

I believe, I strongly believe that at the time the events of Tooms took place, Mulder was in full denial, as far as his feelings for Scully were concerned.

He had too much going on through his head, his life was devoted to a cause that was not only time consuming but demanding everything out of him. It took him a couple of tragic events to wake up and smell the coffee.

So Mulder panicked, and babbled about making even his parents call him Mulder. Scully, though, needed to tell her truth, for once.

SCULLY: Mulder, I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you.

Mulder’s look when Scully told him those words was priceless: he was floored by Scully’s admission.

In “Squeeze” Mulder had said that the need to mess with people outweighed the milestone of humiliation. While I think that he wasn’t lying to Scully when he  told her that, I also believe that at that point, Mulder needed someone to trust…and needed someone to have faith in him, to trust him.

Mulder had been alone for quite some time, whether it was willingly or not, is not important…his work on the X-Files had slowly shaped into a crusade, I’d wager Mulder felt the loneliness, the frustration that came from being unheard. I don’t think he gave a damn about what people thought of him, but the human need to be believed, especially knowing that he was telling the truth, had to be quite a burden.

He had accepted the loneliness as one of the prices to pay, to sacrifice at the altar of his faith: the truth. He hadn’t lied to Scully when he had said he had a life…the X-files were his life. However, to hear such a line, bearing an implicit trust, a commitment, and mostly faith in him, I think it floored him.

Mulder had another proof that he wasn’t alone in his search, that there was someone who would look for the truth with him, someone who, finally, believed him, believed in him.

MULDER: If there’s an ice tea in that bag, could be love.

SCULLY: Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer.

(Mulder kiddingly sighs.)

You’re delirious. Go home and get some sleep.

He reacted with humor. That’s a coping mechanism Mulder used all the time. When things got difficult he eluded fear and panic with humor.

My God, how much I still love the guy!

I don’t think Scully was hurt by Mulder’s reaction. I mean…c’mon, she had eyes! And she could read him pretty well…she knew that he had gotten the message, and she knew it was appreciated.

Maybe that’s a fanwanking…but I’ve always loved how Mulder didn’t let Scully go after Tooms. On a practical reason, I know it was because of Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy, but to me that was other than a very sweet gesture, just another proof of how protective Mulder had become of Scully…especially if you compare this with such episodes as Ghost in the Machine.

The final scene let us understand that things were going to change very soon, for Mulder and Scully. Mulder watched a caterpillar cocoon and commented on how amazing it was how things changed.

He said a change was coming for them…

Of course he was talking about the X-Files…but the caterpillar cocoon symbolized their relationship as well.

The X-Files had to be shut down, their relationship had to die a little for it to really blossom.

The Erlenmeyer Flask

Aka: they’re shutting us down

~ I should know by now to trust your instincts.

Why? Nobody else does

 – Mulder and Scully (The Erlenmeyer Flask)

The Erlenmeyer Flask was a painful episode for me to watch. It was the first mytharc episode, it was the episode where Deep throat[2] died. Mulder and Scully had their first taste of hell…of the conspiracy in its glory, and they were burned by it, badly.

Scully came to a few important understandings concerning Mulder and his crusade. In the pilot episode he had told her that there were people who were trying to cover up the truth. I’ve always thought that she hadn’t really believed …not even when their motel rooms were burned down…but the episode showed Scully that there was indeed a conspiracy, that Mulder was nowhere near as paranoid as he appeared.

She witnessed things…for the first time and she felt the need to apologize to Mulder, who, on the other hand didn’t think apologies were necessary.

The look in Mulder’s eyes when Scully apologized to him, was priceless…in Tooms she had told him that she wouldn’t put herself on the line for anybody else…and in The Erlenmeyer flask, she told him she believed him, she told him that she trusted his instincts.

They had really come a long way from the pilot episode. In Ice, Mulder had told Scully that he wanted to trust her, but throughout the first season Scully had never really said anything about trust.

Of course, she had showed her trust to him, in such episodes like Young at Heart, EBE, Darkness Falls.

It was somewhat heart breaking to hear Mulder’s reply to Scully’s words: “Why? Nobody else does.”

I love how Mulder, who apparently brushed off Scully’s words, showed how he actually took them into consideration…he showed it when talking with Deep Throat and told him to cut the crap and talk already, to skip the whole Obi-wan kenobi routine…

It showed how Mulder valued Scully’s words, how important they were to him. She had been assigned to the X-Files to be a spy, but in the end she had become his only ally, the only one who would tell him the truth.

But Scully did more than telling Mulder that she trusted his instincts, she risked her career, her life, to save Mulder when he was kidnapped.

At the end of Tooms, Mulder had said he felt a change was near, and never truer words were spoken. The last scene of the first season finale…is heart breaking, the circle closed with two scenes similar to the final scenes of the pilot episode: Mulder called Scully to tell her that the X-Files had been shut down.

They’re shutting us down

There is a world in this line. As much as Chris Carter’s writing became sloppy in the latter seasons, as much as I still have issues with him, the final scene of the last episode of the first season is so powerful that it took my breath away and it still does. The scene is very dramatic, but in pure X-Files fashion is downplayed, to let the viewers absorb the blow.

“They’re shutting us down”

For Mulder, Scully had become part of the X-Files, for Mulder, Scully had become his partner. The X-Files were the core of Mulder’s life… for him to include Scully, to acknowledge her role in them, was a testament of how much she meant to him.

Scully was incredulous at the news: she had really come to love her job, she had really come to an understanding about her job, she knew that she would always be Mrs. Spooky, chasing little grey men, to people, but she knew as well that their job, was important. They had become partners and friends…and their new found strength was taken away from them.

The X-Files were closed, but their relationship was going to enter a new level very soon.


[1]              Played by Mitch Pileggi

[2]              Played by Jerry Hardin

Young at Heart 1×15: I’d say that’s going a little out of your way.


We are Siamese if you please.

This is another example of one of my favorite MOTW sub-types, a Half-Caff X-File. Like “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) before it and “Soft Light” (2×23) after it, Young at Heart depicts a government conspiracy to control an unspeakably valuable yet potentially mankind-destroying science.  No paranormal activity, just extreme science gone horribly awry. We’ve already had two similar episodes this season with the previously mentioned “Ghost in the Machine” and even “Ice” (1×7) to a certain extent. But with “Young at Heart”, it would seem that Chris Carter has a Frankenstein fetish. (And in case this episode doesn’t make that clear enough he later writes and directs “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6) just to make sure we get it.)

Season 1 spends a lot of time delving into Mulder and Scully’s past. Scully just had a go with “Lazarus” (1×14) so now, tit for tat, it’s Mulder’s turn again. One element of Mulder’s history that tends to get lost as the seasons go on is that he once held a lofty position as the FBI’s resident Boy of Promise. Mulder banished himself into the nether regions of the basement, but not before he proved he was an investigative genius. It’s during Season 1 that we see the memory of Mulder as a profiling Ace still alive and well in the Bureau’s collective consciousness. Now through his former superior, we learn just how great Mulder really was. Well, he still is great only no one but Scully knows it anymore.

His fairly recent fall from grace still seems to affect Mulder emotionally in this first year, whereas later, he’s jaded and indifferent. We see his resignation to his fate in “Squeeze” (1×2), we glimpse hurt feelings for a moment in “Lazarus” but in “Young at Heart” he has to face his former glorious past head-on. He barely flinches.

Mulder himself bears some resemblance to Dr. Ridley, a brilliant man who bucks the establishment because he single-mindedly believes in his cause. Called names by his peers, he shrugs off their disdain with self-righteousness as his armor.

Mulder’s guilt over the Barnett case? We never hear from it again. We were led to believe that part of the reason Mulder shrugs off the rules so easily in the present is that playing by the rules caused him to be responsible for two deaths, and that these deaths continue to haunt him. I suppose they eventually saw fit to haunt him no longer. Like Scully’s godson et al., these histories of Mulder’s and Scully’s fall by the wayside after Season 1.

And the Verdict is…

One of the great things about Season 1, as it progresses, is that Mulder and Scully start feeling more like a team, with Scully playing the clueless tag-a-long less often. In the very first scene after the teaser, Mulder and Scully even walk shoulder to shoulder, or more accurately, shoulder on top of shoulder. They just can’t help themselves. They don’t even know what personal space is when it comes to each other. I know I sound as repetitive as Toucan Sam but I still don’t think this is sexual. It’s just that they are inexplicably, spiritually drawn to one another.

If that weren’t enough, one by one, the writers pick off their former allies and friends. The few people at the Bureau with any admiration left for Mulder are falling by the wayside. Jerry was offed back in “Ghost in the Machine”. True, he was Jerry the Jerk, but he had to have a certain amount of respect for Mulder’s abilities to want to consult him and steal his work, right? Now Reggie, who is a mentor to Mulder, is gone just as we get to liking him. And as we shall soon see, Deep Throat’s days among the reliable are numbered as well. It won’t take too much longer before Scully is the only friend Mulder has left.

Besides being able to enjoy their now tangible camaraderie, “Young at Heart” makes for a decent episode even looking back into the abyss of Season 1 awkwardness. My one disappointment is that John Barnett was a lot more intimidating in profile and in flashback than he was in the final act. At least the ending is happily foreboding.

B

Perplexities:

Why does the defense attorney ask Mulder why he didn’t shoot? That seems an oddly placed question… unless of course you’re a writer and you want Mulder to admit in front of a crowded courtroom that people are dead and it’s his own fault.

How did Barnett snag a job fixing the piano at the cello recital? That was awfully short notice and he wouldn’t be able to fake that skill set easily.

How did Dr. Ridley figure out that Scully was looking for him, and more than that, where she lived?

Why is it that Barnett is getting younger while Ridley merely stays the same age?

Wouldn’t Barnett notice that Mulder’s at the recital too and realize it’s a set-up? It’s not like Mulder was there incognito. Truth be told, he does look back after Mulder when he’s onstage tuning the piano.

Here and There:

Mulder and Scully are such cute little youngins and they have no idea what’s coming 3, 4 and 5 seasons down the road. Am I the only one with the overwhelming urge to pinch their television cheeks?

The segue into the courtroom scene? Hilariously bad.

Agent Henderson could’ve been a fun recurring character a la Agent Pendrell.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Mulder, I know what you did wasn’t by the book….
Mulder: Tells you a lot about the book, doesn’t it?