Tag Archives: Re-opening the X-Files

Re-Opening The X-Files: Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man

musingsEarly in this episode, Frohike warns us that we shouldn’t take everything that we’re about to see and hear at face value because information about the Cigarette Smoking Man can be contradictory and unreliable. So, if you take this episode with that huge grain of salt, you can an enjoyable episode that does a much better job telling a story about a supporting character than we got with the Skinner-centric, “Avatar.”

The biggest insight of the episode seems to be that the CSM is a frustrated author who can’t get anyone to believe the endings he creates for his action-adventure stories. At multiple points, we see the CSM working on a story, only to be told it isn’t up to the standards of publication. Even when he finally sells a story to a magazine, he has his original ending re-written. Continue reading

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Re-Opening The X-Files: The Field Where I Died, Sanguinarium

fieldThe Field Where I Died

Even if I knew for certain, I wouldn’t change a day. Well, maybe that Flukeman thing. I could’ve lived without that just fine.

“The Field Where I Died” feels like it’s trying to do a lot of things. It feels a bit like an Emmy bait episode, with a showcase role for David Duchovny as Mulder but also for guest actress Kristen Cloke. Seeing the multiple personalities that flow so quickly and effortlessly out of Melissa via Cloke also seems to scream “award nomination please” in flashing neon letters.

Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, the episode also feels like it wants to make all of us who didn’t watch Space: Above and Beyond that the show had really great actors and we just missed it.

The episode also feels like it’s taking things up a notch in terms of the direction. The pre-credit sequence of Mulder in the field is a gorgeous shot, feeling almost cinematic. Continue reading

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Re-Opening The X-Files: “Teliko” & “Unruhe”

xfiles_unruhe

Teliko
Scully: Where are you going?
Mulder: To find someone who I know who plotted to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate.

The final episode of The X-Files to air on a Friday night, “Teliko” isn’t one that necessarily connected well with me then or now. It’s not a terrible episode, per se. It’s just one that feels a bit by the numbers and ends up falling flat. Continue reading

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Re-Opening The X-Files: Home

the-x-files-homeScully: The angle of movement and deeper indentation on the right side of the mark suggest a left-handed individual. I’ve collected soil specimens and although numerous shoe impressions remain from the sandlot game, I think a couple of stone casts would prove invaluable to the investigation. Meanwhile, I’ve quit the FBI and have become a spokesperson for the ab-roller.
Mulder: Smell that. It’s perfume. God this brings back a lot of memories of my sister… All-day pickup games out on the vineyard. Ride your bikes down to the beach, eat bologna sandwiches. Only place you had to be on time was home for dinner. Never had to lock your doors. No modems, no faxes, no cell phones.
Scully: Mulder, if you had to do without a cell phone for two minutes, you’d lapse into catatonic schizophrenia.

“Home” is one of the more infamous hours not only of The X-Files, but all of television. I was fortunate enough to record it and archive it to my collection of off-air VHS tapes when it first aired. This would turn out to be a good thing since the episode was then “banned” by Fox from airing for three years (though it would be included as part of the first wave of VHS tapes for season four). I recall the scrambling done on fan forums to obtain a copy of this episode when Fox refused to air it again. Continue reading

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Re-Opening The X-Files: Talitha Cumi, Herrenvolk

TalithacumiThe fiercest enemy is the man who has nothing left to lose.

Talitha Cumi/Herrenvolk

After the season finales for seasons one and two, “Talitha Cumi” and “Herrenvolk” seem almost tame by comparison. After shutting down the X-Files and then possibly killing Mulder to end the previous two seasons, the cliffhanger of the alien bounty hunter arriving to eliminate Jeremiah Smith seems positively tame by comparison. But while the stakes may seem a bit lower for the cliffhanger, at least you had an idea of where things might go immediately upon the series’ return the next fall.

“Talitha Cumi” feels like the first time the series really begins to try and bring the mythology into some type of focus. For the past three seasons, we’ve had hints of colonization, the aline oil, and just how the Mulder family ties into all of this. This two-parter provides a few more breadcrumbs to follow but Jeremiah Smith doesn’t necessarily promise the same level fo answers that the Thinker did in “Anasazi.” (And which the series had to step back from because if you give Mulder (and us) all the answers in the season premiere, there’s little incentive to come back for the full season). Continue reading

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Re-Opening The X -Files: Avatar, Quagmire, Wetwired

Scully: The doctor suggested amphetamine abuse. Maybe that coupled with, with the disturbing images he was watching, pushed him over the edge.

Mulder: All I know is television does not make a previously sane man go out and kill five people, thinking they’re all the same guy. Not even “Must-See TV” could do that to you.

Avatar

The story goes that David Duchovny pitched the idea of “Avatar” to Chris Carter in an attempt to have a bit of mid-season break in the production of the show. The result was one of the first episodes to really explore Walter Skinner a bit more, though whether or not it minimized the overall involvement of Mulder and Scully, I’m not quite sure.

And while it’s nice to give Mitch Pileggi something more substantial to do, I’m not quite sure this is the best showcase for him. For one thing, there are moments that “Avatar” feels a bit more like something out of Duchovny’s previous series Red Shoe Diaries than it does as an episode of The X-Files. Sure, we’ve got the succubus thread, but it feels almost as if it were tacked on to give the episode a supernatural element rather than organically part of the story.  (And  boy, does this story seem to be obsessed with the woman Skinner sleeps with turning out to be a lady of the evening) Continue reading

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Re-Opening The X-Files: Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’

jose-chung_lendl-1Jose Chung: Aren’t you nervous telling me all this? After receiving all those death threats?

Blaine Faulkner: Well, hey, I didn’t spend all those years playing Dungeons and Dragons and not learn a little something about courage

Looking back over the long run of The X-Files, I’d argue that the best seasons of the show were seasons two and three. What two has going for it is that the mythology episodes are tighter, feel more like an event, and give us hope that Chris Carter and company have some kind of end game in mind for government conspiracies and cover-ups. Season three has three of the best stand-alone episodes of the entire run of the show, all by writer Darin Morgan. Continue reading

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Re-Opening The X-Files: Pusher, Teso Dos Bechos, Hell Money

xfiles pusher

Mulder: Modell psyched the guy out, he put the whammy on him!
Scully: Please explain to me the scientific nature of the Whammy.

Pusher

Vince Gilligan’s second episode of The X-Files is not only a superb monster-of-the-week story, but it can also be looked at as a rough draft for Breaking Bad.   There are elements of Walter White in Robert Patrick Modell — cancer, a “little” man who wants to be something more.   And both characters give us a quotable through line.  In Walter’s case it’s “I’m the one who knocks” and with Modell it’s “Cerulean blue.”

OK, so maybe I’m reading a bit too much into things and being overly analytical.  But I can’t help it because “Pusher” is one of my favorite “stand alone” episodes of the show.

Part of what makes the story work so well is the connection we see between Mulder and Modell. If Modell were just your average monster of the week, I’m not sure he’d be so memorable. The fact that he gets under Mulder’s skin so and takes such a personal interest in Mulder is what makes the episode work.  Modell is an ordinary guy who dreams of being something more — in this case, he wants to be a ninja warrior.   He wants respect, he wants power and he’s willing to put his own life on the line to do it.   Continue reading

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Re-Opening The X-Files: Piper Maru, Apocrypha

alex_krycek_infected_with_black_oil

Scully: I’m just constantly amazed by you. You’re working down here in the basement, sifting through files and transmissions that any other agent would just throw away in the garbage.
Mulder: Well, that’s why I’m in the basement, Scully.
Scully: You’re in the basement because they’re afraid of you, of your relentlessness, and because they know that they could drop you in the middle of the desert and tell you the truth is out there, and you’d ask them for a shovel.

Piper Maru/Apocrypha

One of the things my re-watching The X-Files has done is remind me of just how good the early mythology episodes of the series could be.    These episodes had just a bit of extra buzz and hum to them that set them apart from the monster of the week stuff that was the show’s bread and butter from week to week.  And no where is that more evident than in the mythology episodes from season three.

We get a lot of mythology in season three — no less than seven episodes are devoted to the on-going arc.   It’s also a time when it felt like the creators had some idea of what the end game for all of this was and were slowly layering in elements that would pay off at the big eventual reveal.   It felt like the Syndicate had a plan and it was only a matter of time before Mulder uncovered the truth behind everything.

And then it all started to go horribly, horribly wrong. Continue reading

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Re-Opening The X-Files: Syzygy, Grotesque

x-files-season-3-14-grotesque2

Scully: I’m driving. Why do you always have to drive? Because you’re the guy? Because you’re the big, macho man?
Mulder: No. I was just never sure your little feet could reach the pedals.

Today’s look back gives us guest appearances by two actors who will later be part of Fox’s That 70’s Show.  I’ll leave you draw your own assumptions…

Syzgy

Or as I like to think of it — Chris Carter tries to write like Darin Morgan.  And doesn’t really quite succeed.

Coming right after “War of the Coprophages” this installment feels like Carter is trying to emulate the quippy one-liners that are (just one of) the highlights of the Darin Morgan episodes without necessarily understanding what makes those episodes funny.   Part of what makes Morgan’s episodes work is they are poking fun at the series’ conventions and tweaking them a bit.  This one, by contrast, just seems a bit more mean-spirited in how it depicts the characters — not just Mulder and Scully but everyone we meet in the small town of Comity.

I recall that when this one first aired, fans began to wonder if there was some kind of rift developing between our two leads.  It could have started in “Revelations” with Mulder’s lack of support in Scully’s belief and continued to develop to this point.  And while we can look back and see that the mean-spirited lines and tension between these two are because of the phase of the moon that is creating the havoc in this small town, it still doesn’t seem to be done for any other reason than to make jokes at the other’s expense and have Scully get jealous — again. Continue reading

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