Monday, February 29, 2016

I Want To Believe!


Leap Day seems an apt time to discuss The X-Files. Back in 1993 this show was a blockbuster - a well-crafted suspense-filled show in those halcyon days before cellphones and the internet when conspiracy theories depended upon the quaint transmission systems known back in those days as radio, paperbacks, magazines, and tabloids.


Mulder and Scully tapped a vein, rich and brimming, and brought to life all those delicious modern myths which enrich the daily hubbub.


But that was then and this is now. The X-Files has been revived in recent weeks in a short six-episode tenth season and frankly the appraisal is that the show looks rather long in the old tooth. Mulder and Scully no longer wreak of youth seeking to shatter the walls of secrecy and doubt erected by their elders, but rather like those elders themselves, part of a system which takes but rarely gives, except what it wants you to have.

Here's what I thought of the six episodes.


My Struggle

This one began with a real bang, the actual on-screen crash of an actual UFO. The development of special effects since the advent of this show has been phenomenal and it's great that the development was so slow or we'd not have the wonderful mysteries we now have in the lore of the show, but just a bunch of great pictures. The crash is spectacular, but if that had been in the original run, the core of the story would've been undercut. We meet a committed sensationalist named Tad O'Malley who seeks out the agents to get them onto the case and we encounter a mysterious young woman who suffers mightily and becomes a truly tragic figure. The bend of the story with Mulder now an aging skeptic with Scully having become more open to the mysteries is fun and by the end of the story the X-Files are properly up and running again. These plot elements get picked up again in the season finale. (See below.)



Founders Mutation

This one is a good enough episode with some proper mystery which Mulder is able to decipher eventually. The actual visual spectacle of the altered kids is in keeping with the carnival aspects of the classic series and there are some aha moments, but mostly this one left me a little cold. It does open with an interesting locked room murder of sorts, but then doesn't really do that much with it. Not the most compelling. 


Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster

Loved this one, though I will have to say it was so zany that it almost tore itself apart before the story was done. The lack of youthful energy though from Mulder and Scully is felt here as Mulder in particular seems weary as he plumbs the depths of the mystery. The turnabouts are fun and the shout out to the Night Stalker series which inspired the X-Files was most entertaining. Darren McGavin might be gone but Kolchak will live on forever. The sexual gag with Scully was a real surprise, a nice one at that and very funny. This is an episode filled with laughs.



Home Again

This one was a properly scary story. "The Band-Aid Nose Man" was a truly frightening monster, a brutal killer who despite all of that got your sympathy for his cause if not his methods. The special effects here are held in check and what is shown is raw but what is not shown is even more impressive. Good storytelling is about suggestions to the audience's imagination and this one filled with dark shadows everywhere does that magnificently. This is the most Night Stalker like episode of a show I've seen in many a moon.




Babylon

Headlines are what make this one striking. A terrorist suicide bomber survives (perhaps) his Texas attack and two agents in charge of the case named Miller and  Einstein consult the X-Files experts Mulder and Scully (for the record the two teams bare a marked and intentional resemblance) for a way perhaps to contact him in his near-death state to forestall new attacks. It's a curious and downright weird trip (literally for Mulder a "magical mystery tour") as the two teams (reassembled for this mission) take different approaches which prove some things and disprove others. God seems to be at the center of this exploration of the nature of mind and how thoughts can move and change lives and the world.




My Struggle II

This final episode of this small season was a real letdown. It follows on the plot elements of the debut and suddenly we find the whole world (it seems though it's hard to really tell) has fallen victim to a wave of infections such as anthrax, influenza, and more. People are getting sick and people are dying and only Scully seems to know why. Tad O'Malley returns to the internet to announce that the world is under attack by nefarious forces which have engineered this wave of disease with something called the Spartan Virus to winnow the population. While Scully and new agent Einstein work in a hospital to find a vaccine Mulder, suffering mightily from an infection finds the smoking man, who has survived and confronts him. For those looking for a satisfactory conclusion to this little mess, you should prepare yourselves. 


Gillian Anderson's "Dana Scully" seems rather weary and her voice thrums as a whisper. David Duchovny as "Fox Mulder" looks downright old (he's a few years younger than me, so what does that say) and seems less filled with the manic desire to discover which motivated the young Fox. Now he's an old Fox, less ripe with curiosity and more inclined to cynicism. And that's the key I think to why this one hits only occasionally. He's still like us, but old and tired and that's not very inspiring.


While the show and the nigh endless quest by two FBI agents rarely resulted in answers, it was a quest taken on with the hope eternal that answers would be out there if one only pressed on and looked with fresh eyes on a world which sought always to hide that which filled. The shadows were rife with secrets, needing only a wily Fox to find them and a wise Scully to decipher them. Now the mysteries still abound evolving into dull enigmas, and the seekers seem less concerned with hope than with stifling regret.

It's a shame.

Because like so many fans of the show I still want to believe.

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2 comments:

  1. I loved the X Files for the first few seasons but I got tired of the convoluted conspiracy theories, black oil, bees, alien invasions and so on and so on. I see the Lone Gunmen wearing cowboy hats in one of those pictures - they were supposedly killed at the end of their short-lived spin-off in 2001 so are they alive again ?

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    1. I agree the main alien mythology story line went from fascinating mystery to enigma with no end in sight. It was the one-off monster adventures which made the show click for me, the more Kolchakian style stuff. But in the last few years it was getting quite tiresome.

      The Gunman appeared in an elaborate hallucination Mulder has when he experiments with magic mushrooms.

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