“Who speaks for them?” – The X-Files Recap – Home Again

hi mom

The X-Files Season 10, Episode 4
“Home Again”
Posted by Sage

With apologies to the Peacock family and Johnny Mathis, the fourth episode of The X-Files revival is not a sequel to “Home,” the season 4 episode that shortened the lifespan of 9 of 10 Fox censors. At least not in the traditional sense. “Home Again” does happen to be set in Pennsylvania like the inbred horror show it shares half its name with, but far from the rural tranquility that murder spree interrupted. This episode brings Special Agents Mulder and Scully to West Philadelphia – thanks to Will Smith, known to all the world as an urban area with a high crime rate and a low average income. The disenfranchised are right there on every corner instead of tucked away in a crumbling farm house, out of sight and mind. The villains in this episode are the opportunists who make use of their plight, even if they’re not aware they’re doing it.

“Home Again” is a Glen Morgan story, and he directed it too. He’s another familiar name for fans, and comes to the revival with a heavy-hitting list of original series credits: “Never Again,” “Squeeze”/”Tooms,” “The Field Where I Died,” and yes, “Home” are among his greatest hits. His episodes run the gamut from tense, locked door thrillers (“Ice”) to some of the show’s most emotional hours so far (“One Breath.”) He does duty in a couple of genres in “Home Again”: A killer is targeting the scumbags behind a controversial homeless relocation program, and that has to be dealt with. Margaret Scully is also dying, and that has to be accepted.

okay okay 2
Man, I knew it was coming. I knew Maggie Scully was going to go to the lord this season, but I was not prepared. And neither was Dana. She gets the call from Bill (guess what, STILL A DICK) about her mother’s heart attack while she and Mulder are investigating the scene of the murder of one Joseph Cutler (Allessandro Juliani, also Sinclair from The 100!), the first known victim of the killer soon to be dubbed “The Trash Man.” The two stories play out concurrently: the race to catch the murderer before he kills again runs alongside Scully’s desperate bid to save her mother, and if she can’t, to understand her fully before she goes. Do these plots inform each other? Is there some symbolism in the Trash Man murders that’s mirrored in Maggie’s death? I don’t think the comparison is direct, but who ever promised that every tragedy of one’s life could be instantly understood and imbued with meaning? (Note: In his EW interview with our girl Kelly, Glen says that he would have liked to have had the room to do Maggie’s death and the Trash Man as separate episodes.)

This is one of those episodes where you can’t tell the bad guys apart without a program. Sinclair is a soulless vampire and probably an avid Trump supporter. (Prove me wrong.) When he cowers in fear to see the looming shadow outside of his dark office, he’s earned it. When the gargantuan killer rips him in half with his bare hands, it’s almost satisfying. Without knowing who the killer is or where he comes from, we know that this is not a random attack but some kind of vigilante justice. Mulder and Scully aren’t welcomed by the local police with open arms (“Wouldn’t be Philadelphia without a certain degree of confrontation.”), but it’s lucky for them that Fox Mulder sees the clues that no one else would notice. He takes note of the ominous mural of a tall, bald man on the building opposite Sinclair’s window. A review of the building’s security tapes shows that it wasn’t there before Cutler was killed. Are we in the middle of an X-Files/Don’t Eat The Pictures crossover? Because sign me the fuck up.

While Mulder is waiting for the local police to get him access to the roof of the mural building, he walks into an argument that seems ever so slightly inappropriate considering the head in the trashcan upstairs. Two suited individuals, a man and a woman, are tossing barbs at each other, both with the conviction of the righteous. “Whoa, you two married?” the agent asks. (Mulder, STOP.) This is Daryl Landry, one of Cutler’s colleagues and thus another businessman who wants the homeless hauled off and tucked away so the rest of the city can go on pretending they don’t exist. And this is Nancy Huff, school board president and, in her mind, comparatively Mother Theresa, since she puts a hairnet over her $200 haircut once a year to serve the homeless Thanksgiving dinner. (Mulder: “Oh! Buuuuutttt….” GOD LOVE HIM.) Mulder doesn’t have any friends besides Scully because the Lone Gunmen are dead (or are they?) and because he has a talent for cutting through people’s bullshit and confronting them with the exact thing they don’t want to hear. “I hear you speaking for them, but really speaking for yourself. And I hear you speaking for them, but really speaking for yourself. What I don’t hear is who speaks for them.” Truth bomb dropped, Mulder turns his attention to a cryptic fellow leaning against a dumpster opposite them. The Band-Aid Nose Man speaks for them, the fellow says. Mulder thinks of the band-aid he found on the sole on his shoe outside Cutler’s office. And the hangman mural is gone.

Meanwhile, saint, queen, angel-among-us Dana Scully is alone at her mother’s bedside in DC. A nurse tells her that Maggie became cognizant for a few moments; all she asked for was Charlie, her estranged son. (The why and the since when, we don’t find out. Charlie was never much of a presence on the show, nor was a rift presented in the first nine seasons.) Scully is baffled. Like I mentioned above, Glen Morgan also penned “One Breath” – the conclusion of the Gillian Anderson maternity leave Dana Scully abduction arc. Maggie and Dana’s roles are reversed now. It’s Dana who holds her mother’s hand and speaks to her, with the benefit of knowing firsthand that her words can reach the plane where Maggie now resides.”I’m here. I’ve been where you are. I know Ahab is there. And Melissa. And Mom, I’m here. Bill Jr.’s here, and William. William’s here. And Charlie is here. Please Mom, don’t go home yet. I need you.” The “William is here” killed me, because it shows that Scully has never and will never give up hope of finding her son. And the sheer possibility of that should beckon Maggie back too.

As if the parallels weren’t already raw enough for Philes like me, Glen actually gives us a “One Breath” flashback. Scully remembers how Mulder chose to be with her over possibly taking down the men who put her in that condition in the first place. (And who most certainly could have led him to more of the answers he was looking for.) It’s a huge relationship moment for them, and she remembers it as the first proof that she means more to Mulder than unraveling any conspiracy. “I feel, Scully, that you believe you’re not ready to go,” he’d said. “And you’ve always had the strength of your beliefs.” Scully is confident that she knows what her mother is feeling as well. Maggie had told Dana after her abduction that she did not want to be taken off life support should she end up in a similar state. But her faith starts to crack when she finds an unfamiliar quarter on a chain among her mother’s things. What meaning does it hold? Why hasn’t Scully seen it before? She watches the patient in the next bed code, die, and be bagged by orderlies. The nurse returns to tell Scully that her mother signed a Do-Not-Resuscitate order the previous year, and the document was witnessed by two former naval officers. Everything Scully knows about her mother tells her that this can’t be right, but yet it is. What happened? What changed her mother’s heart so completely? The idea that Scully will never know – that Maggie didn’t choose to share this with her – scares her to death.

Mulder has one urgent task to take care of before he can go emotionally support his wife. The lab tech who tests the band-aid from Mulder’s shoe is perplexed by the results. There’s no inorganic or organic material on it, even though it looks like it’s been used, and heavily. Meanwhile, the mural didn’t disappear into thin air as we supposed. It was stolen by two street art thieves, who think they’re sooooo tricky. The men hijack art that’s meant for public consumption, turning it over to an establishment that upholds the elitism of the industry. “We should go to Sotheby’s on this,” one says to the other. When he returns from listing the piece, he finds a blank wall (well, almost blank – there’s the blood) and his colleague in the same condition as Sinclair. He meets his fate too. This time, the artist (or art itself) signs the piece before dragging his trophies out to his waiting garbage truck: “Trash Man.”

im here im here 2
Isn’t exactly like Mulder to show up just in time? He calls from outside the ward as Scully’s having one of the worst conversations of her life: discussing Maggie’s extubation with her doctor. She’s been handling this on her own like a champ, and she looks so relieved to see him. Scully has always been strong, but she learned over the course of the series that it’s not weakness to let someone tend to her emotional needs. Mulder isn’t going to know what Maggie was thinking. He’s not going to fix everything just by being there. But he’ll sit with Scully and listen, and hold her when she needs to cry. He even says at one point that he should probably leave, because there’s still an arm-ripping mutant out there. But then he doesn’t. How can he? (RIP Nancy Huff with her stupidly opulent Bucks County house, her K-Cup trolley, and her probiotic yogurt.)

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“A mother never forgets.” – The X-Files Recap – Founder’s Mutation

flashlights

The X-Files Season 10, Episode 2
“Founder’s Mutation”
Posted by Sage

The critical buzz on The X-Files revival was mostly of the opinion that the quality jumped up several notches after the premiere. Not wanting to spoil the chance to watch brand new episodes live with friends and fandom, I ignored screener access to wait for broadcast, and put my faith in reviewers I trust. Kim’s reflections on “My Struggle” are almost identical to my own opinion, so I won’t bother reiterating them much beyond this: what a hot damn mess. But Fox scheduling did the revival a massive favor by putting the first two episodes on back-to-back nights. Best that the majority of the viewing public didn’t have a week to marinate on the shortfalls of the pilot, but were thrown right into a honest-to-god X-File. “Founder’s Mutation” turned me into a hyped-up NBA commentator, basically. “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT,” I believe I yelled at one point.

founders

“Founder’s Mutation” skipped past the paperwork and basement office renovations and caught up with a fully re-installed FBI Special Agents Mulder and Scully. But first, the cold open – a device that The X-Files was among the first network dramas to use efficiently and creatively. A Dr. Sanjay walks through the security check-point in the lobby of his workplace, Nugenics Technology. Things are not okay. There’s a piercing, dog-whistle sound in his ears and his eyes are bloodshot. He sits at the head of a boardroom table while a bland but reproachful middle-manager reams out Sanjay and the rest of his colleagues. “He sent a message this morning: do-over,” the man says. The message comes from a man usually referred to as “the founder” – a little theatrical for someone who claims to want his anonymity, but that’s just me. Sanjay looks over his shoulder out into the lawn outside the office park and sees that it’s nearly covered by gathering crows. (A murder of crows, if you will.) He stumbles abruptly out of the meeting and into a room lined with servers. Sanjay initiates a data transfer behind a locked door, but he never finishes it. While his colleagues bang on the glass separating him and them and the piercing noise still envelopes him, he falls to the ground, picks up a letter opener, and shoves it into his own brain. HIT IT, MARK SNOW.

Dr. Sanjay’s death is one of those cases that Mulder and Scully are assigned to by pure happy accident. No immediate X-File in the instance of the reclusive man with the high-stress job who had a breakdown and then killed himself. The FBI are investigating instead of the police because they have the security clearance, and Nugenics is in bed with the Department Of Defense. That clearance doesn’t get them permission to bag Sanjay’s hard drive and take it as evidence, nor are they afforded the chance to speak to Dr. Augustus Goldman aka the Founder aka Dr. Moreau. (That last one is mine.) But the good cop/kindergarten cop routine is still in Mulder and Scully’s repertoire, and watching Mulder slyly pocket Sanjay’s smartphone makes it feel like old times. Well, old times plus Siri.

old school

“He isn’t a victim, he killed himself.” “Then I’m sure he won’t mind me talking to some of his friends.”

A quick scan of Sanjay’s call history introduces a contact saved as Gupta; leading up to his breakdown, Sanjay was calling him nightly. Mulder arranges a meeting with the mystery man in a wood-paneled DC bar. It’s Vik Sahay from Chuck. (Rock on, Jeffster.) What follows is a Mulder snafu I’d be more apt to expect from Darin Morgan, a writer who (hopefully still) loves to poke fun at Fox’s outsider status. Informant-speak is vague and suggestive; it’s actually shocking that Mulder’s intent hasn’t been misconstrued before. The X-Files hasn’t always been the most sensitive or progressive show, but the joke is absolutely on Mulder here. Even when Gupta realizes that Mulder isn’t actually cruising him, he’s not embarrassed. (“When it comes down to it, you’re all repressed.” Ain’t it the truth, Gupta?)

the truth is in here

“Yeah, I’ve heard something like that.”

Gupta and Sanjay had had an ongoing sexual relationship that mellowed into a friendship. Basically, because Sanjay was living a closeted life in more ways than one, Gupta was the only witness to Sanjay’s downward spiral. He fielded phone calls from Sanjay where he fretted about “his kids,” an intriguing choice of words since the deceased was single and childless. Let’s take a moment to appreciate Gupta as a friend, though. He doesn’t make a star witness because he didn’t press Sanjay for information, just tried to listen. This brief look into the relationship between two people brings some much-needed humanity into this episode. So put that in your pocket, because it gets even rougher from here on out.

Meanwhile, Scully is back at home with her stiffs, doing an autopsy on Sanjay. She notices that there are words written on the corpse’s palm. She tells Mulder later that she had to break his fingers to be able to read them. And we get a nice visual of it, because these are the details that make The X-Files the nauseating horror-show that we love. The reminder or message is “Founder’s Mutation,” and that’s not the only strange piece of evidence Scully gathers from the body. An x-ray of Sanjay’s skull shows that the letter opener almost changed trajectory inside of his brain, plunging upwards and into his auditory cortex. About that ringing, then.

x-ray

The Special Agents drive their shiny new Ford (RIP Taurus) over to Sanjay’s secret residence, a spot that only Gupta knew about. Unlike his “antiseptic” public apartment, this one is a scrapbook of Sanjay’s project and secret obsession. One wall is wallpapered with photos of children with extreme physical abnormalities: his “kids.” Before Mulder and Scully can dig much deeper, the police arrive. Scully endeavors to prove the legitimacy of their presence to the responding officer, but Mulder is incapacitated. The same ringing that Sanjay heard sends him crumpling to the floor. He watches Scully and the officer talk, but the words he hears aren’t theirs. “Find her,” someone says. “Help me,” someone else answers.

scully protective

LOOK AT THE FEAR IN HER EYES. MSR isn’t dead, just limping a little.

When Mitch Pileggi announced his involvement in the revival on Twitter, he expressed his excitement at Skinner being back in the lives of “his two wayward kids.” If that isn’t the dynamic, though. So little has changed. The Assistant Director can still aim a withering glare across his desk to his two most troublesome reports. Mulder and Scully, both in their 50s, can look just as sheepish and defiant as they ever have. And there’s even a new shadowy figure serving as an unwelcome audience. The unnamed man – a minion of the DOD – snidely delivers the news that the Eugenics files that the agents took from Sanjay’s apartment are classified and cannot be used as evidence. Skinner backs him up; the case is officially closed….until the snooty DOD man leaves the room. (Hasn’t word gotten around Washington yet that Skinner is always, always on his favorite agents’ side? I guess that page got lost on the Hill.) “I assume you made copies,” Skinner offers. Of course they did. Scully isn’t convinced yet that Sanjay’s death was anything but a suicide, but these sinister genetic experiments must be scrutinized. Skin Man’s got their back. “The bureaucracy of the FBI has become increasingly complex and inefficient,” he explains, needlessly. “It might take days for your incident report in order to close the investigation to make it through the proper channels. Welcome back, you two.” #OT3Goals, as always.

The only lead left to follow lies with the elusive Augustus Goldman. Scully tells Mulder that she might have a way to get to the Founder, an understatement since he funds research at the same hospital where she worked for the past six years. A. Why is this just coming up now? B. Catholics are shady. The agents walk the halls of Our Lady Of Sorrows with a sketchy nun (Scully is deferential, Mulder is unimpressed), who talks about Goldman as if he’s the second coming of Christ himself. “A true champion of the unborn,” Sister Whatever The Fuck calls him, a descriptor usually aimed at 900-year-old Southern senators who think of birth control as Satan’s candy. The public facing side of Goldman’s research has him providing prenatal care to women whose fetuses have or will develop a deformity. Curiously, all of these women are alone; no baby daddies or family around to provide support. No population is more at risk in the world of The X-Files than mothers-to-be, and this ward stinks to high heaven of exploitation. Sketchy Nun buys Scully’s story about wanting to give Goldman a warning about being the target of an upcoming federal investigation (Mulder: “Obamacare.”), and goes to retrieve his contact information. Agnes, a wild-eyed waif of a pregnant girl (Abigail from Hannibal, always in danger), takes the opportunity to get the agents attention and begs for them to get her out. They ask if there’s something wrong with her baby, and she looks confused. “My baby?” She regrets her decision, she says, and Dr. Goldman is not “right.” A harsh look from returned Sketchy Nun silences her, but Mulder slips Agnes her card. “Men and their lies…no offense,” Sketchy Nun glances at Mulder. “Desire is the devil’s pitchfork.” Now is that a sensational name for a fic archive, or what?

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There’s some dark comedy in Sketchy Nun’s austere religiousness, but it also shows something fundamentally important about the setting Dr. Goldman (presumably Jewish, though we don’t know) chose for his research. The “ruined woman” is simultaneously a victim of male desire and weak and sinful due to her own. The Madonna/whore complex at work in this Catholic institution dehumanizes the women (girls, really) in the study just enough so that no one – until now – has bothered to looked closely at what’s happening to them. Goldman and his superiors are banking on them being completely forgotten.

In the parking lot of the hospital, Mulder and Scully reflect on what they’ve just seen. In typical bulldozing Mulder fashion, he begins to go off on the violation these women are experiencing, too keyed up to consider the feelings of the person in front of him.

Mulder:“The women are the incubators.”
Scully: “Is this what you believe happened to me 15 years ago? When I got pregnant? When I had my baby? Was I just an incubator?”

I AM REVIVED

I AM REVIVED

If this series is going to end with Mulder and Scully back together as a couple – and I believe it will – it will happen by way of them dealing with their baggage, together. William would be 15 years old now, Scully reminds Mulder, and you know that she tracks every single birthday he’s celebrating without her. (“A mother never forgets.”) She asks Mulder if he ever thinks about their son, and I had to sit with his answer for a while to make sense of it. “Yes, of course I do,” he says, “but I feel like I’ve had to put that behind me.” Well what a fucking LUXURY, Fox Mulder. Must be nice to compartmentalize your life like that. Fortunately for him, this BTS interview with writer James Wong came along right in time to save Mulder (at least a little) from my wrath.

Wong says that David actually added the “of course I do” to the line, to soften that dismissal. And the rest of his response? It’s self-preservation. Mulder knows where Scully is headed in her mind, and it’s straight to questioning herself and her love for her child. (Imagine how many times they had this same conversation in their little house.) The last few seasons of the original series had so much value that’s been overlooked over the years. The way that Mulder reacts to Scully’s decision to give William up is as moving as anything that’s ever happened on the show. Mulder loves his son as desperately as Scully does (let those fantasy sequences be proof for the doubters), but there was never any danger of him resenting her for what she did. He doesn’t even need to know the details that led to that choice. He trusts Scully always; he especially trusts his heart with her, and that’s what William is. Selfless as ever, Scully put their child before herself. She’s the one left with the most pain, and Mulder doesn’t want to see her adding incertitude to the constant agony of just missing him. It’s not fair.

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“Someone has to stop these sons of bitches.” – The X-Files Recap – My Struggle

The X-Files Season 10 (!!!!!!!!!!!), Episode 1
“My Struggle” 

Posted by Kim

Confession time. The first time I saw “My Struggle”, I was in a room with several thousand X-Philes at New York Comic Con. The energy in the room was ELECTRIC. It was Day Three of the Con and everyone was slightly delirious thanks to the combination of very little sleep, pop culture over-stimulation, and the fact that OMG WE WERE SEEING AN ACTUAL NEW EPISODE OF THE X-FILES AND GETTING TO TALK TO CHRIS CARTER, DAVID DUCHOVNY, AND MITCH PILEGGI AFTERWARDS. It was insane and I will NEVER forget that emotional high.  Between that high and the fact that my expectations for “My Struggle” had been drastically lowered thanks to the response from the TCAs, I walked away from the screening having thoroughly enjoyed the episode. Now that I have some distance, I can see “My Struggle” for what it is: a poorly written mess that banks on you being too excited to see Fox Mulder and Dana Scully on your screen to really care.

Don’t get me wrong. When the voiceover began with “My name is Fox Mulder…”, I got chills.  When the theme song and the original credits (with the deserved addition of Mitch Pileggi) rolled, I had tears of joy in my eyes. As a fandom, we have waited SO LONG for this. But we can’t let our joy cloud our judgement and this episode was sloppy as hell. Look, I am forever grateful to Chris Carter for the world he created. But like George Lucas, his genius is often best left to ideas rather than execution. The writing of “My Struggle” was awkward and overly expositioned at its best and downright awful at its worst. The porch scene between Mulder and Scully was like bad fan fiction. Did you really have to insert all those catchphrases? I worship at the altar of Gillian Anderson’s acting but even she couldn’t make that scene work. David and Gillian were so disconnected in that scene and it just felt like they were spouting lines at maximum intensity rather than believing in their words. And the whole new conspiracy? To borrow from Sage’s tweets, it felt like Carter just went to Wikipedia and searched for conspiracies for the basis of the plot. Basically, the government is shady as fuck, using alien technology to fuel a planned and calculated Armageddon. People (women mainly) have been repeatedly abducted to be part of experiments and MAYBE their DNA has been fused with aliens for whatever reason. Any proof vanishes when it’s needed most. It’s really a means to an end and that end is getting The X-Files re-opened, because there is no way this arc can be resolved in less than 6 episodes.  Alrighty? So let’s just talk about what “My Struggle” did with our beloved characters, shall we? Because really…that’s why we are all here.

Another similarity between George Lucas and Chris Carter is that they both like to rewrite history. Lucas does it by adding Jabba the Hut into A New Hope and Hayden Christensen into Return of the Jedi, both of which are insulting to the original films. Chris Carter does it by ignoring character growth and regressing relationships to a point that is insulting to long time fans. Carter is/was notoriously against the Mulder/Scully romance, despite accidentally writing the greatest and deepest love story of all time, so I’m not SURPRISED that they are broken up. I’m just disappointed. Not that I expected/wanted everything to be puppies and rainbows with Mulder and Scully. They’ve been through and seen too much for that. But what I did expect was for them to be a united front. They are each other’s constants, they are each other’s touchstones. That is CANON. Hell, even at the end of I Want To Believe we had them choosing each other, once again. The movie ended with them LITERALLY sailing off into the sunset. So this “estrangement” nonsense is just that. It’s nonsense. It’s insulting to the characters he created. Are you really telling me that after EVERYTHING they have been through that Scully’s self-diagnosis of Mulder’s depression is the straw that broke their relationship? Sure, Jan.

(Also, I SEE YOU trolling with that “for better, for worse” line, Chris Carter. I don’t appreciate it.)

Look. When you look at it objectively, Scully has every reason to walk away from Mulder. He’s no picnic even without the weight of a massive global conspiracy bringing him down. Scully has lost so much thanks to the fact that on a dreary night in Oregon, she chose to trust Fox Mulder. She’s lost her sister. She’s lost TWO children. She’s lost her fertility. (Yeah, I know those contradict each other BUT THIS IS THE SHOW.) She’s become estranged from siblings, she’s had her career in shambles, and she’s had her personal faith tested. It’s too much for any person to bear. But this is what I love about Dana Katherine Scully. In the face of all of that, time and time again she charged into the darkness after Mulder. She’s ALWAYS chosen him and she’s always chosen the fight that they were in together. Having her estranged from him now is an insult to the character’s legacy. To quote Scully herself, SHE WOULDN’T CHANGE A DAY OF HER RELATIONSHIP WITH MULDER. Except for Flukeman. Again, that’s CANON. So why all of a sudden has Scully decided it’s all too much for her?

Don’t get me started on the Scully/Tad O’Malley dynamic. First of all, Joel McHale, ILYSM but I would love for you to talk to your agent about playing a non-smarmy character for once. It’s a good performance but it basically felt like Jeff Winger in one of his Goldblummy meltdowns. Secondly, are you really telling me that Dana Scully, who can make men wilt with a single arch of her eyebrow, would fall prey to Tad’s “charms” and insincere flattery? Okay. Everything about Scully and Tad is off from the very beginning. He goes straight to calling her Dana as opposed to maintaining a professional distance (Mulder’s FACE though. And I love how he mocks her for that later in the episode). He shows up AT HER WORK just to chat because he wants to see her again and he somehow gets Scully to join him in his car for Champagne. THEN he goes off about her wonderful (I mean it is wonderful, but still) work at the hospital for no apparent reason.  It’s all SO WEIRD. The Scully *I* know would have just given him a bitch face from the very first “Dana” and wouldn’t have let him get near her. So I really don’t get what Carter was going for here. Do they have a past? Does Scully DATE? Why are you doing this?

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The Truth is Out There – Our Top 15 Episodes of The X-Files, Part Two

Posted by Kim and Sage

For those of you not suffering with us, I’ll have you know that the heat index of New York City is currently at about 3 billion degrees. This has been a summer of eschewing all those cool, free activities around the city in favor of window units, hermit-like behavior, and Netflix. So I felt not one iota of guilt for staying in for much of this weekend and crazy-marathoning the short list of finalists for our definitive favorite episodes of  The X-Files.

Revisiting this series has been a complete and utter joy for me. Like Kim said in her intro to the first post in this series, The X-Files was a gateway fandom to many, myself included. It came into my life right when I needed it, too. For the ninth grade, I left behind my tiny, close-knit Catholic grade school class and moved over to the big (to me) public high school. It was the most awkward year of my existence. I didn’t know what to wear or how to talk to people, and subsequently had zero friends from 7am-3:30pm, Monday through Friday. It was tragic. I was Tai, but without Cher, Dionne, or a weed hook-up. So OBVIOUSLY, I was home on many a Friday night, where I fatefully met this show and subsequently, its fandom.

It was like coming home, you guys. We take it for granted now that there’s always a community ready and waiting to welcome us, no matter what show, book, movie, or celebrity we want to love together. But The X-Files and their fans CREATED that culture, at least in the online world. I’m sure I would have continued watching and enjoying the show even without our slow-ass dial-up connection and ye olde Usenet threads, but the connection to other fans and the ability to log-on right after an episode to dissect and flail just fueled the fire. It meant so much to me in that time to have something to care about and focus on. (I used to be able to recite every episode of the first four seasons, in order.) It distracted me from the rest of my pathetic, lonely situation. This fandom also spoiled me, because X-Philes are fucking SMART. I too know the Gossamer archive quite well and have been making myself insane for days trying to remember the title of one particularly exquisite novel-length story that I read and re-read. It’s really too bad that publishers hadn’t discovered that world yet, because 97% of X-Files fic would bring 50 Shades of Grey to even more shame than it brings itself.

During this marathon, Kim and I have been tweeting excessively about our favorite moments and our history with this show. And while we joke about being “drunk on our power,” we’re mostly just excited that we’ve inspired a few first-time watchers and re-watchers to embark on the journey. There’s so much STILL to mine from The X-Files and not just for nostalgia’s sake. I’ve been experiencing my standard feels in all the same places of course, but I’m also gaining new perspectives. For one, I’m realizing just how hard Chris Carter was trolling us for YEARS, denying at every turn that Mulder and Scully’s relationship was anything but platonic, when their love story was clearly the show’s raison d’être. More on that later.

It’s interesting too that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, both of whom have at one time or another sought to distance themselves from the show, have been enthusiastically supportive of another movie and, in Gillian’s case, actively engaging with the fandom. Of course, they’ll both be at the 20th anniversary San Diego Comic Con panel with Chris Carter and “special guests.” (All fingers and toes crossed for a cameo by bald-headed sex god, Mitch Pileggi.) Not there? US. And we’re not likely to get over it.

For now, the countdown continues with episodes #10-#6. Agreements, arguments, and conspiracy theories in the comments, please.

— Sage

10) “Leonard Betts” (4 x 12)

The X-Files was at the height of its popularity in Season Four and Fox gave it the coveted Post-Super Bowl slot.  Post-Super Bowl episodes tend to start big in order to hook as many of the football viewers as possible…think Grey’s Anatomy opening with its three hot female leads taking a shower together or Alias opening with a shot of Jennifer Garner in lingerie.  And boy, does “Leonard Betts” open big with a spectacular ambulance crash resulting in the decapitation of mild-mannered paramedic Leonard (played by future ER star Paul McCrane, whose character would go on to lose an arm on the show in an equally spectacular manner).  And if that wasn’t enough to get them interested, the HEADLESS corpse then proceeds to kick its way out the morgue, hit the attendant over the head and walk away.  Football fans…welcome to the world of The X-Files.  It’s spooky and gross and weird here.

Like I said. Gross.

For most of the episode, “Leonard Betts” plays out like the standard monster of the week type.  There’s the typical Mulder/Scully banter (David is particularly delightful in the early scenes, as Mulder is positively giddy at the prospect of someone who can regrow body parts), a compelling villain (Leonard is a wonderful villain because he is driven by biological imperative as opposed to psychotic blood lust) and the kind of gross-outs that only The X-Files could pull off.  And what’s wonderful is that the special effects in this episode hold up in 2013 as much as they did in 1997.  I dare you to watch the scene where Leonard regenerates without wanting to gag.

And then…the rug is pulled out from underneath us.  Leonard, we have learned, needs cancerous tumors to survive.  He eats them and he can look at someone and tell if they have cancer.  He corners our heroine Dana Scully in an ambulance, looks at her and says…”I’m sorry…but you’ve got something I need.”

EXCUSE ME?!?!?!?! WHAT DID HE JUST SAY?????

I remember watching this and feeling like I was just punched in the face.  Gillian is marvelous in this scene.  You see the look of realization flit across her face.  She knows in that moment that she believes him and she is HORRIFIED.  Then, because she is Dana Scully, Ginger Queen of the Universe, she proceeds to kick the ever-loving shit out of him (in heels no less!), finally killing him with a defibrillator.  But she is shaken.  You see the numbness and shock in her face in her final scene with Mulder.  And then the final scene, where she wakes up in the middle of the night, coughing and blood dripping from her nose, confirms it.  Our tough as nails, unflappable, enigmatic Dr. Scully has cancer.

And THAT, dear readers, is how you reveal a plot twist.

–Kim

Best Line:

Leonard Betts: I’m sorry…but you’ve got something I need.

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Trust No One – Our Top 15 Episodes of The X-Files, Part One

Posted by Kim and Sage

It’s hard to believe that The X-Files turns 20 this year.

Let that sink in for a bit.

TWENTY YEARS ago we were introduced to Fox “Spooky” Mulder, believer in extra terrestrials and all around dreamboat, and Dana Scully, skeptical scientist and flawless ginger queen of all things.  Twenty years ago we were introduced to a government wide conspiracy of the highest degree, to alien bounty hunters, to liver eating mutants, to giant Flukemen, to satanic substitute teachers, to lovable conspiracy theorists, to fang-less vampires, to shadowy figures known only by monikers such as Well Manicured Man and Cigarette Smoking Man.  And twenty years ago, the most epic love story of all time began.

Yes.  Mulder and Scully are even more epic than Rose and The Doctor.

I didn’t discover The X-Files until it hit syndication in the spring of 1998.  I had heard about it, of course, but I was a busy and overachieving high school student who was rarely at home in front of the television on a Friday Night (oh how times have changed).  I started seeing previews for the movie and was intrigued…and thought that that Fox Mulder guy was AWFULLY pretty.  Little did I know the rabbit hole I was about to fall down.  At the time, the whole concept of releasing TV shows on video was relatively new…The X-Files started pioneering that trend by releasing select episodes (2 per tape) from the early seasons.  I went to my local Blockbuster (God, I am OLD) and checked out as many tapes as they would allow and I devoured them.   I then lost my mind when I got to the tape that had “Sleepless” and “Duane Barry” and Scully was abducted and I DIDN’T HAVE THE NEXT TAPE.  I started recording all the episodes on FX so I could watch everything in order (even then I was a completeist).  I went to the movie all by myself and ended up clutching the arm of the complete stranger sitting next to me whenever anything exciting happened.  I wrote LETTERS to a college friend about how in love with the show I was.  I hung up an “I Want To Believe” poster in my dorm.  I bought companion books.  To this day, I wish I had a picture of the look of glee on my father’s face when he presented me with a gift that he totally thought of himself…a vanity license plate that read “XFILES”.

In other words, I had discovered fandom and The X-Files was my gateway drug (as it was for many people my age).  It was amazing to discover that I was not the only one who felt this way about a television show.  I was astonished to learn that it was completely normal to watch The X-Files and LONG for Mulder and Scully to just kiss already.  There was even a NAME for that…shipping.  And I had been a “shipper” my whole life and didn’t know it until I delved into the world of The X-Files.  I don’t even remember how I found it…I must have been searching for more background on the movie…but one day I stumbled upon the treasure trove that is the Gossamer Archive (that wonderful old school archive still exists today).  My GOD!  Fan Fiction?!  People were writing STORIES about these characters…and they were GOOD!!  I can’t even count the hours I spent…hours when I should have been studying…hours when I could have been out socializing…but instead I spent those hours reading stories about my favorite characters.  Stories that filled in gaps in episodes, stories that stood entirely on their own and stories where Mulder and Scully FINALLY got it on.  It was a marvelous time and I definitely would not be the fangirl I am today had it not been for my obsession with The X-Files.

One of the things that cemented my life partnership with Sage was the discovery that we were both X-Philes.  We’ve wanted to do a series on our favorite episodes ever since we launched Head Over Feels, and with the 20th Anniversary Panel at Comic-Con this week, we realized that the time had finally come to do it.  But HOW?  In a genre bending show like The X-Files how in the world do we single out episodes that are both definitive to the series and ones that meant a lot to us??  Luckily, after we made a preliminary list, we found that most of them were one and the same.  We both agreed that we could count two and three parters as one episode, since they encompassed the same story arc.  So we set out over this past weekend and marathoned over 25 episodes to narrow our list down to 15.  There was a LOT of screaming at each other over Twitter and fighting over gChat, but we emerged from the weekend with not only our friendship in tact but a list that we were both fully satisfied with.  I hope you enjoy our picks.  I know I do.

The truth is out there.

–Kim

Honorable Mention: “Die Hand Die Verletzt” (2 x 14)

After paring down our initial list of close to 30 episodes, we were left with 17.  Rather than pad the list and bring it up to 20, we opted to go to 15 and give one honorable mention.  So…apologies to “Home” (losing that one hurt), but I absolutely could not have a list dedicated to the best episodes of The X-Files without mentioning “Die Hand Die Verletzt” because it was the first episode to genuinely TERRIFY me.  And it terrifies me to this day.  It starts out very tongue in cheek, with the witty banter that we had to come to expect from monster of the week episodes, but it then takes a VERY dark turn and never looks back.

I may not be an overtly religious person, but I AM a spiritual person (Good God, someone slap me in the face for sounding pretentious) so I firmly believe that you don’t mess with the Devil or Satan Worship.  That shit is REAL.  I will never forget watching this episode for the first time.  I was in the middle of a marathon session, and it was relatively late at night.  Everyone else in my family was asleep and our TV room is on the opposite side of the house, so I felt totally and completely ALONE.  I was watching in total darkness and was getting more and more freaked out as the episode went on.  And then Mulder handcuffed Jim Ausbury and left him alone in the basement, running to Scully’s aid (or so he thought).  Cut to demonic substitute teacher Mrs. Paddock chanting.  The basement door opens…and a giant snake slithers down the stairs…ever so slowly wraps himself around Ausbury…and then fucking EATS HIM (have I mentioned I have an absolutely crippling fear of snakes?).  And then the next shot is THIS:

Cue me screaming and screaming, hitting pause, and running around the room turning on EVERY SINGLE LIGHT.  I sat there for several minutes, curled up in a ball, and whispering to myself “It’s only a show, it’s only a show, it’s only a show” before eventually finishing the episode.  But I definitely didn’t sleep well afterwards.

–Kim

Best Line:

Mulder: Did you really think you could call up the Devil and ask him to behave?

15) “Squeeze/Tooms” (1 x 03, 1 x 21)

“Squeeze” was the first “monster of the week” episode of The X-Files and it introduced us to one of THE iconic monsters of the entire series, Eugene Tooms (played by Doug Hutchison, he that would grow up to be the grossest man alive and marry Courtney Stodden), a serial killer mutant who kills 5 people every 30 years, ingests their livers, and then goes into hibernation in a nest made of newspaper and bile (gross).  Did I mention he can squeeze himself through the TINIEST crevices in order to get to his victims?  In “Tooms”, he tries to get to a victim by coming up through the TOILET…and would have been successful had it not been for some very convenient child-proofing.  Way to tap into everyone’s greatest fear, Chris Carter.

What “Squeeze” also does is establish the great cost to Scully’s professional standing by working with Mulder.  Her peers don’t take her seriously.  They make fun of her and feel sorry for her, calling her “Mrs. Spooky”.  Any other person would bristle at this, but Scully defends Mulder right away.  She may be able to roll her eyes at his outlandish theories…but if anyone else does?  Forget it.  They have not earned that right.  By the end of the episode, Scully firmly establishes whose side she’s on and who she wants to work with…and that’s Mulder.  Their partnership is firmly cemented and it’s only the THIRD episode of the series.  Like I said in the intro…greatest love story of all time.

I thought it was a brilliant move to bring Tooms back at the very end of the season.  “Squeeze” leaves us with image of Tooms grinning at the small door in his prison cell where his meals are delivered.  It would have been very easy to leave it at that because it is always dangerous to try to attempt a “sequel” with a successful villain.  But “Tooms” comes at a point where things are beginning to unravel for Mulder, Scully and their investigation of the X-Files.  A sense of foreboding pervades the whole episode, and we can see that Mulder knows it…which is why his behavior starts to get erratic and desperate.  He feels as if his whole career rests on this case…and as we see in the season finale, in a way it does.

As far as shippery moments, “Tooms” has the infamous iced tea/root beer scene (Oh, the fan fics I have read where there actually WAS iced tea in that bag…) that still gives me feels to this day.  When Scully says she wouldn’t put herself on the line for anyone but Mulder, it is an incredibly heartfelt and honest statement.  You can SEE the weight of it on both of their faces (the pause that hangs in the air after Scully says that is rife with tension) and to Mulder, there is nothing else more important for this.  He is a man who has never had someone who is so unconditionally THERE for him.  Until the day Dana Scully walked into his office, he was completely on his own.  And now he’s not.  So what does he do?  He diffuses the moment with flirting.  And you can see relief flit across both of their faces as she flirts right back.  It’s a defining (and maddening because they are BOTH so emotionally stunted) moment of their partnership and that pure devotion to each other would be an ongoing theme for the rest of the series.  Their partnership is about trust.  It’s about loyalty.  And yes, it’s about love…love in the purest sense of the word. It’s a love that transcends romance while still remaining deeply romantic.  Anyone who doesn’t think so is watching the show wrong.

–Kim

Best Line:

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

Mulder: If there’s an iced tea in that bag, it could be love.

Scully: Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer.

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