Re-Opening The X-Files: 3, One Breath, Firewalker

x-files_one_breath

I used to be you. I was where you are now. But you’re not me, Mulder. I don’t think you have the heart. Walk away. Grieve for Scully. And then never look back. You will be able to live with yourself, Mulder. On the day you die.

3

Before he began working on The X-Files, David Duchonvy worked on the Cinemax series The Red Shoe Diaries.  In many ways, “3” feels like it’s trying to be hybrid of both shows with Duchovny in the lead — the supernatural factor of The X-Files coupled with the sexy factor of Shoe.

Alas, it comes up not being really great at being either one.

One of the problems about coming to the episode now after watching seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and five of Angel is that those series did a lot of what “3” is trying to do here but better.  Of course, those series had more than 45 minutes to explore things.   In fact, as we heard about the trio of vampires who are apparently pursuing Kristen (aka Mulders’ love interest)  across the United States, I couldn’t help but be reminded a bit of Buffy‘s “Lie to Me” with the group of teenagers who wanted to become vampires and live forever.    Honestly, that episode handled a lot of what this one is trying to go, but much better.

The re-open the X-Files, Mulder heads to LA to look into a series of murders with an apparently ritualistic and supernatural nature.   He meet a woman named Kristen who has a connection to the a trio of people who see themselves as vampires and are stalking her across the country.  Kirsten used to date the leader of the trio but broke things off.  Mulder is intrigued by Kristen, who notes that he’s lost someone and that he is in a dark place.

The X-Files tries to make this all seem sexy and hot but honestly it all comes off as a bit ridiculous and silly.   There are some interesting scenes in isolation — like the opening scene where Mulder goes back into his office and puts the X-File on Scully into the filing cabinet.   There’s also the sequence where one of the trinity is caught and apparently dies after exposure to sunlight burns him to a crisp.   

The script feels like it wants to up the sexy quotient by bringing in Duchovny’s real-life girlfriend at the time, Perrey Reeves.  But while Duchonvy’s underplaying of things works for him because we know the character, her underplaying just makes it look like she’s wandered onto the set and it spouting off lines given to her.   The fact that these two have very little romantic chemistry on-screen together probably does not help things much.

The script throws in a lot of vampire cliches as well.   Honestly, the series will do better by vampire mythology later in the run.

Interestingly, this is one of the first episodes I watched back in the day and while it’s not where I’d start a fan now, it apparently had enough potential to either hook me or keep me coming back for more.   So, I guess it’s got that going for it.

One Breath

If you want to be really confused, trying watching “One Breath” as one of your first three or four installments of The X-Files.  This happened to me and I can recall being slightly off-put but the amount of backstory being referenced by the show but still intrigued enough to see where all these pieces just might fit together.

Scully is returned but she’s on the brink of death.   Lying in a coma, Scully is deciding if she will live or sever her ties to the world.   Meanwhile, Mulder becomes obsessed with finding out what has happened to her and goes on a one-man crusade to find the answers.

With the exception of Krychek, “One Breath” gives us a moment with every major player in the X-Files universe up to this point in season two.  The Lone Gunman, Skinner, Mr. X, CSM, Scully’s family.   They’re all here and they all contribute something to the story.   X reveals his motivations of helping Mulder and just how far he’ll go.  Skinner goes from possible enemy to an ally (the scene in Mulder’s office where Skinner reveals he had his own supernatural experience that he won’t look further into is marvelous).   And we find out a bit more about CSM — and William B. Davis gets his name in the opening crawl for the first time.

“One Breath” has some fantastic moments — Scully’s father coming to her to encourage her not to let go just yet, Mulder’s confrontation with the CSM, Skinner’s speech in Mulder’s office.   We get a lot of glimpses into the various players in this world and where they stand.   And we find Mulder at a crossroads.  He can fully embrace the darkness and become like X (he’s given a chance to take out the men who took Scully by X) or he can be there for his partner and friend.   Mulder is challenged by Scully’s sister Melissa to not go into the darkness and to be there for Scully.  Duchonvy runs the gamut from over the top anger and obsession to the quiet moments as he talks to the comatose Scully and when he breaks down in his apartment after sitting with her all night instead of taking revenge.

With “One Breath” we come to the end of what I feel is the most consistent block of episodes the show produced.   And one thing I hope this re-watch may do is prove me wrong.

Firewalker

One of the general criticisms of the show as it went along is just how can Mulder and Scully get so close to so many fundamentally series altering discoveries in the mythology episodes only to go back to the monster of the week story without blinking an eyes.   “Firewalker” starts this trend.  While there are moments that refer to what Scully’s gone through and her desire to return to work, there is little else to indicate just how momentous the events of the last nine or so episodes have been.

Instead, we’re given our third take on “Ice” in the first year and a half of the show.  Isolated group is put under quarantine by possible virus or infection.  There are a whole bunch of team members who might as well be wearing red shirts becuase as soon as we meet them, we know they’re probably all going to die.

This time around it’s some kind of infection dredged up from the floor of a volcano that may be a silicon based lifeform.

Howard Gordon’s script feels a bit derivative of other episodes.   We also get a feeling that only Mulder and Scully will make it off the mountain alive, but the story doesn’t give us much to invest in the minor characters other than to see how horribly they can die.  And the infection and the way it kills people is truly a gross-out one.   Trust me on this one.  You don’t want to be enjoying a snack while viewing those moments.

The one thing that makes it almost worth recommending is that Bradley Whitford is there in a guest starring role.

But that’s really about the only thing this one has going for it.  It’s not terrible along the lines of “3” but it just feels so familiar.

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Filed under Re-Opening the X-Files, review, The X-Files, TV review

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