Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sundays with The X Files - Season 3


This is the stuff.  For me, Season 3 is where The X Files starts to get seriously addictive by virtue of it's pure awesome.    Season 2 ended with the death of Mulder's father and season 3 begins with the death of Scully's sister from a gunshot wound that was intended for Scully.  These losses, particularly Melissa's, change the tenor of the show a bit - ramping up the stakes and sacrifices to another level and testing the faith that Scully has in Mulder and his cause.

The Mythology ramps up this season, growing huge in scope and scale.  There are enormous bunkers full of people's tissue samples being used by the government for who knows what.  Hundreds of thousands of people are involved as well as Nazi War criminals and it began many years ago when CSM and Bill Mulder were young men. There's even leprosy and death squads. At the beginning of the season Mulder and Scully are on the edge of going rogue but with the help of Skinner, and Scully's level head, they step back from that precipice.  Alex Krycek's role changes this season but into what is unclear.   Skinner's allegiances are settled once and for all and he is officially part of the Scooby gang.   The black oil makes it's first appearance and it will be a constant and iconic part of the mythology for a good while.  

In between the Mythology episodes, Mulder and Scully investigate a teenager using his ability to control lightning for evil, an insurance salesman who can see the future, an executed criminal killing all those who done him wrong, a fat-sucking monster disguised as a handsome man, a quadruple amputee army vet who can astrally project in order to do evil (why does everybody use their special powers for evil?),  a woman who is experiencing the the things being done to a kidnapped teenager, a holy kid with the stigmata, killer alien cockroaches, teenage girls turned evil by a planetary phenomenon on their birthdays, a pretentious gargoyle monster, a guy dying of a brain tumor who can make others do whatever he wants through the power of suggestion, a succubus, a lake monster, a killer ecuadorian shaman spirit thing.  Also they feature in a book and apparently TV can kill.  Not a bad year.  Other Random Notes:

>>Three Darin Morgan written episodes! (Ep. 4 Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose, Ep. 12 War of the Coprophages, and Ep. 20 Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space')
>>One fun thing that happens on The X Files is Mulder and Scully are given a random word which then starts a whole series of crazy action (Ep. 24 Talitha Cumi - Mulder's mom writes PALM on a piece of paper after she has had a stroke)
>>Agent Pendril officially has a crush on Scully.  (What?  That's an important plot point.
>>They are starting to split Mulder and Scully apart a little more and they give Skinner practically his own episode - I assume this is to give Anderson and Duchovny a slightly less crazy work schedule.


As eluded to above, I think season three is where we first start to see some of the chinks in Mulder and Scully's partnership.  They're tiny chinks at this point but they will continue to grow.  Up to this point Scully has been following Mulder's lead and drinking all the Mulder kool aid.   Her sister being murdered mistakenly with a bullet meant for her really emphasizes for Scully what Mulder's crusade is doing to her life and the people in it.  I think you sees this at work in Ep. 2 Paper Clip, Ep. 11 Revelations, Ep. 13 Syzgy, Ep. 15 Piper Maru, Ep. 22 Quagmire and Ep. 23 Wetwired (Scully's biggest fear is that Mulder will betray her).

Ep. 11 Revelations isn't a fantastic episode but it does bring up a couple interesting things about Scully's character.  First that she was at one time and still is at her core a believer in her Catholic faith.  This will show up a lot in future episodes and it's one of the contradictions of Scully's character - that she has faith in God but is not open to other less provable ideas.  Mulder is on the opposite side from her in this and is not a believer.  We also get another glimpse of Scully's innate insecurity and need for approval that I brought up in the season 2 write up.  She doubts her logic on this case because Mulder, who would normally be all over it, does not think there is anything supernatural going on. 

I spend a lot of time gushing about Scully while seeming to look askance at Mulder.  It may seem nonsensical then that I am a shipper and actually want Mulder and Scully together.  In many ways Mulder is bad news but he's got some good stuff going for him too.  For example, the thing that turns Mulder on the most is a smart woman.  One example from this season is in War of Coprophages when Scully delivers a brainy discourse on why intelligent life on another planet is improbable, refuting Mulder's own views. Mulder's response is "Scully, what are you wearing?"  He then later becomes smitten by the (admittedly also attractive) lady entomologist.  Other great things about Mulder.  He's funny, loyal, super smart and with the long hair is starting to look extra special super fine.


There are a couple of interesting scenes that seem to signal a real reluctance on Mulder's part for he and Scully's relationship to be anything but professional and friendly.   The reunion scene between Mulder and Scully in Ep. 2 Paper Clip (after the three way gun stand off) is pretty great.  Scully is just looking at him with such joy and relief and she starts to say something Mulder cuts her off, seemingly afraid that she's going to say something mushy.  She was just going to say that she knew he was all right (because of the dream) and Mulder's kind of flummoxed.  Also at the end of Pusher, Scully grabs his hand and he does not meet her halfway even though just moments before he was trying to fill the Pusher up with bullets because he almost made Mulder shoot Scully.  He is hugely emotional where Sculy is concerned but he also just can't go there.  

This season also begins (at least I don't remember it from other episodes), Scully's analysis of Mulder.  I like to think of Scully sitting around analyzing the complexity that is Mulder.  I think this goes along with the first point above, that she is starting to question her role in the crusade and hence in Mulder's life.  So what's Scully's analysis?

From Ep. 15 Piper Maru:     
“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 throw in the garbage.” Mulder: “Well that’s why I’m in the basement Scully.” Scully: “ No, you’re in the basement because they are 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.” Mulder: “That’s what you think of me?” Scully: “Well, maybe not a shovel, maybe a backhoe.”
From Ep. 22 Quagmire:

-          Scully: I called him Ahab and he called me Starbuck. So I named my dog Queequeg. It's funny, I just realized something.
-          Mulder: It's a bizarre name for a dog, huh?
-          Scully: No. How much you're like Ahab. You're so... consumed by your personal vengeance against life, whether it be its inherent cruelties or its mysteries, that everything takes on a warped significance to your megalomaniacal cosmology.
-          Mulder: Scully, are you coming on to me? [My note:  Notice Mulder deflecting any too personal talk with humor again.]
-          Scully: “The truth or the white whale?  What’s the difference?”


episodes with * are my favorites

Episode 1 The Blessing Way:  Mulder spends much of this episode in a coma while Native Americans fix him up and Scully faces dismissal.  She also finds that she has a small metal implant in her neck.  She's not too worried about Mulder, because she has a dream where he speaks to her and tells her he is okay.  Finally she loses someone important to her in a horrible way and ends the episode in a gun standoff with Skinner.  It's all pretty intense and this episode plus the next will shift the tone of how they do business.

*Episode 2 Paper Clip:  Loads of good mythology stuff here and the reunion scene between Mulder and Scully is one of my favorites.  It is also a nice episode for Skinner where he gets to tell the CSM to "Pucker up and kiss my ass" and where he kind of officially joins the Scooby gang. 

* Episode 3 D.P.O.: A stand alone episode with guest stars Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black. Ribisi is a disturbed young man who can wield lightning after being struck himself.  He kills lots of people for really petty horrifying reasons.  Giovanni Ribisi is so convincing and awesome in this role that I don't think I've ever learned to not be afraid of him.

*Episode 4  Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose: And the hits just keep coming.  This is the second of Darin Morgan's episodes and probably my favorite.  Peter Boyle guest stars as a middle aged insurance salesman who can see flashes of the future mostly about how people die.  It is at once absurd and humorous and devastatingly emotional.  He also implies that Mulder will die of autoerotic asphyxiation and that Scully will not die.  Intriguing...

*Episode 8 Oubliette:  A great stand alone episode with the premise that a now grown woman who was kidnapped and abused as a child is experiencing all that is happening to a currently kidnapped girl. For Mulder this brings up shades of his sister and he is surprisingly tender with the woman who is reluctant to cooperate.  It's Scully's turn to be kind of a jerk in this episode - accusing Mulder of losing objectivity because of the parallels with his sister.  Mulder however is right and not being deluded in this episode.

Episode 9 Nisei:  Alien Autopsy!  Mulder's off on a wild and deadly goose chase while Scully is finding out that a group of women in Allentown, PA who claim to be alien abductees all know who she is.  More information about her implant is revealed and Mulder does some truly astonishing stuff (jumps from a bridge onto a moving train)!  The follow-up episode also has a ton of action but not a lot additional is revealed, so I am not including.

*Episode 12 War of the Coprophages:  Another Darin Morgan episode that comes in just after Clyde Bruckman as a fave.  This episode is mostly for laughs and it works really well.  Alien cockroaches. *shudders*.  What Scully does on a Saturday night: 1) cleans her gun, 2) eats dinner while watching the news, 3) washes the dog (queequeg), 4) reads Breakfast at Tiffany's by the fire, 5) eats ice cream right out of the tub while researching cockroaches on the internet for Mulder.  There are SO MANY quotes and favorite moments from this episode.

*Episode 13 Syzgy: This is the one where a rare planetary alignment causes Mulder and Scully to be REALLY irritated with one another. Well maybe it's because of the planets:) The bickering is epic.  The people in the town that is at the confluence of the effects of this planetary occurrence is also having a bad couple of days, particularly two teenage girls. This is the first episode where we really see Mulder and Scully annoyed with one another and it is ostensibly because of this planetary happening but it also very likely is not.  Pretty funny and fun episode as long as you don't take the irritation with each other too seriously.

*Episode 15 Piper Maru: This is Gillian Anderson's daughter's name, FYI.  Cool mythology episode where we follow the conspiracy back in time and get introduced to the black oil.  It's a great episode for Scully because part of what she is fighting is that her sister's murder case is being closed.  Gillian Anderson portrays the grief that is sitting with her just under the surface really well. 

Episode 16 Apocrypha: The follow up episode to Piper Maru fleshes out the black oil a little bit. The episode begins with Scully having to run around visiting all the men in her life (Mulder and Skinner) in the hospital.  By the end, Mulder and Scully have found loads of human tissue samples hidden in North Dakota.  What they don't find is a alien space ship which is also there and which Alex Krycek gets locked up with.  In room 1013 (That's the name of The X Files prodcution company).  The X Files aesthetic is every where in this episode.  I love the first shot in the silo with all the pinpricks of light coming through.

*Episode 17 Pusher: This is a great one off episode about a man who can make people do what he wants with the power of suggestion.  The final standoff is super intense and a great scene.  Pusher snags Mulder with his abilities and of course Scully rushes in to help.  She walks in on a Russian Roulette set up.  Mulder is struggling mightily not to shoot Scully and she in her brilliance breaks the spell by pulling the fire alarm.  Mulder instantaneously swivels and shoots Pusher and then keeps trying to shoot him with empty rounds.  It's a fantastic scene and good overall episode.

*Episode 20 Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space':  The fourth and final Darin Morgan written episode.  It's probably my least favorite but it's still awesome and we get to see a story told (and also see Mulder and Scully) from many different perspectives.  I will be quoting the hell out of it down below.

*Episode 22 Quagmire: Another one of the more light-hearted episodes that has Mulder and Scully chasing after a lake monster - much to Scully's disgust and eventual sadness as she loses poor Queequeg.  It's an over all fun episode with lots of good relationship stuff.  You can really see Scully's increasing disillusionment with Mulder.  Fun wildlife fact - Rana spenocephala, the endangered frog in the episode, is the Southern Leopard Frog and is in no way endangered as far as I know.  I wonder if they just picked a random latin name out of a hat?

*Episode 23 Wetwired: TV will kill you and it almost does Mulder and Scully.  It's Scully's turn to go crazy and get all paranoid because of hidden messages being transmitted through the TV feed.  Mulder is not affected because he is red-green color blind.  Scully tries to shoot Mulder and instead of getting mad Mulder is desperate to find her before law enforcement authorities do.  It does make you wonder what Scully's mom/family must think of her job and of Mulder.  There's never a great explanation as to why the TV feed was altered to make people paranoid and murderous.  Scully's biggest fear is that Mulder will betray her and we find out that deep throat #2 works for CSM. 

Episode 24 Talitha Cumi: Apparently, Mulder's mom also had a relationship with CSM.  After she has a tense meeting with him she has a stroke and is not doing well.  Mulder is also in a world of hurt and CSM knows just how to divert him.  It's not the best of season finale's but it's pretty darn good.


Episode 2 Paper Clip>> Skinner to CSM: "This is where you pucker up and kiss my ass." You go Walter!

Episode 4 Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose>>
  • Clyde looking at Mulder’s FBI badge:  “I’m supposed to believe that’s a real name?” 
  • Clyde: "You'll find a woman tomorrow morning... by the fat little white Nazi stormtrooper at Glenview Lake." Later after finding the woman… Mulder: "Be honest, Scully. Doesn't that propane tank bear more than just a slight resemblance to a fat little white Nazi stormtrooper?" Scully: "Mulder, the human mind naturally seeks meaningful patterns and configurations in things that don't inherently have any. Given the suggestion of a particular image, you couldn't help but see that shape somewhere. If that tank weren't there you'd see it in a, in a rock or in a tree..." Mulder: "Did you answer my question?" (long pause) Scully: "Yes, it looks like a fat little white Nazi stormtrooper, but that only proves my point!"
  • How Scully gets Queequeg – Note from Clyde - Miss Scully: My neighbor, Mrs. Lowe, passed away last night, please see that the remains of her remains are taken care of. Would you like a dog? He is paper trained and well behaved, regardless of his actions last night, which you can't really blame him for.
  • Clyde: "You know, there are worse ways to go, but I can't think of a more undignified one than auto-erotic asphyxiation." Mulder: "Why are you telling ME that?" Clyde: "Look forget I mentioned it, it's none of my business."   
Episode 5 The List>> Mulder asks, essentially, If you could come back after death and take out 5 people that had treated you badly who would it be. Scully:”I only get 5?” Mulder:”I remembered your birthday this year didn’t I Scully.”

Episode 9 Nisei>>
  • Scully about the alien autopsy: “This is even hokier than the one that they aired on the Fox network.” ;)
  • Scully: “Believing’s the easy part Mulder. I just need more than you. I need proof.
  • Scully about her implant to a technician: “So it’s man made?” Technician: “What else would it be?” Scully looks chagrined. She spends too much time with Mulder.
Episode 10 731>>  Agent Scully: “Well done Agent Pendril. Keep up the good work.” Agent Pendril with a goofy love struck grin: “You keep it up yourself.”   Scully smiles nervously and leaves. Agent Pendril to himself: “Keep it up yourself?  What a doof.”

Episode 12 War of the Coprophages>>
  • Police Officer (coming up to Mulder sitting in his car by the side of the road): “What are you doing?” Mulder: “Just sittin’. Thinkin’."  
  • Mulder: “Just because I work for the federal government, doesn’t mean I know anything about cockroaches.”
  • Mulder: “That makes perfect sense Scully, I don’t like it at all.”
  • Mulder: "Yeah, I had a praying mantis epiphany and, as a result, I screamed. No, not... not a girlie scream, but the scream of someone being confronted by some before unknown monster that had no right existing on the same planet I inhabited. Did you ever notice how a praying mantis' head resembles an alien's head? I mean, the mysteries of the natural world were revealed to me that day, but instead of being astounded, I was... repulsed."  Scully: "Mulder... are you sure it wasn't a girlie scream?" 
  • Dr. Berenbaum while examining one of the cockroaches: “He’s hung like a Clubtail Dragonfly.”
  •  Scully: [Watching Dr. Berenbaum and Ivanov walking away] "Smart is Sexy. Well, think of it this way, Mulder. By the time there's another invasion of artificially-intelligent, dung-eating robotic probes from outer space, maybe their uber-children will have devised a way to save our planet." Mulder: You know, I never thought I'd say this to you, Scully... but you smell bad." (They are both covered with manure.)
Episode 13 Syzgy>>

  • Mulder (looking at a strange burned impression on one of the victims. There is a fear of satanism.): “...Some kind of horn-ed beast” Scully (Incredulously): “Horn-ed Beast? 
  • Mulder (in the snottiest tone ever):  “Go ahead …I know how much you like snapping on the latex.” Scully rolls her eyes. And then slaps on the latex:) 
  • Mulder: Let me drive. Scully: I’m driving. Mulder (About Scully walking in on the female sheriff straddling Mulder): Scully, it’s not what you think. Scully: I didn’t see anything anyway. Mulder: Will you let me drive!? Scully: I’m driv-- 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. [My Note:  This scene came out of making fun of fan complaints that Mulder always drove.]
  • "Sure, Fine, Whatever."  Said multiple times by Scully and once by Mulder.
Episode 15 Piper Maru>> 
  •  Johansen:  “Conscience is just the voices of the dead trying to save us from our own damnation.”
Episode 17 Pusher>>

  • Pusher : “You and your pretty partner seem awfully close. Do you work well together?” 
  • Mulder “…he put the whammy on him.” Scully: “Please explain to me the scientific nature of the whammy.” Scully later in the conversation: “I’m just looking for an explanation that’s a little more mundane than the whammy.”
  •  Not a quote but Mulder and Scully share an intense moment just before Mulder goes in alone to face Pusher.  And of course the Russian Roulette scene

 Episode 20 Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'>>

  •  Jose Chung to Scully: “And here I just thought you were some brainy beauty. But turns out you have good taste as well.” 
  • Jose Chung: “Truth is as subjective as reality.”
  • Blain Faulkner: “I just want to be taken away to someplace where I don’t have to worry about finding a job.” Don't we all Blain, Don't we all.
  • Blaine Faulkner “I didn’t play all those years of Dungeons and Dragons without learning a little something about courage.” 
  • The closing monologue by Jose Chung (how his book ends):
    Evidence of extraterrestrial existence remains as elusive as ever, but the skies will continue to be searched by the likes of Blaine Faulkner, hoping to someday find not only proof of alien life, but also contentment on a new world. Until then, he must be content with his new job. Others search for answers from within. Roky relocated to El Cajon, California, preaching to the lost and desperate. Seeking the truth about aliens means a perfunctory nine-to-five job to some. For although Agent Diana Lesky [Scully] is noble in spirit and pure of heart, she remains, nevertheless, a federal employee. As for her partner, Reynard Muldrake [Mulder], that ticking timebomb of insanity, his quest into the unknown has so warped his psyche, one shudders to think how he receives pleasures from life. Chrissy Giorgio has come to believe her alien visitation was a message to improve her own world, and she has devoted herself to this goal wholeheartedly. Then there are those who care not about extraterrestrials, searching for meaning in other human beings. Rare or lucky are those who find it. For although we may not be alone in the universe, in our own separate ways on this planet, we are all alone.

Episode 22 Quagmire>>

  • Mulder says he's sorry about Queequeg in this phony way and then launches in to a long theory about the lake monster. Scully sitting dazed: “Could you repeat that last part? I kind of faded out.” Mulder: “Um…which part?” Scully: “The part after you said ‘I’m sorry.’”
  • The whole scene when they are stranded on the rock is great.

Episode 23 Wetwired>>

  • Mulder: “Scully, you are the only one I trust.”
  • Scully: “…It was like everyone was out to get me.” Mulder: “Now, you know how I feel most of the time.”



No not the real ones.  These are ones I made up.

Best Episode: Aw man there are just too many! A multi-episode ties between Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose, Quagmire, Pusher and War of the Coprophages?  Is that allowable?  I make the rules so I say yes.
Worst Episode: Ep. 19 Hell Money  It's just kind of boring.  And actually I think that Netflix does not include the subtitles for some reason so there were big swaths of the episodes with people talking to each other in Chinese and I had no idea what was going on.  Not the eps fault but I still think this is the best call. 
Most Paranoid:  Ep. 2 Paper Clip though you could go with a LOT of episodes this season - Wetwired, The Blessing Way, Nisei and 731...But Paper Clip has a three way gun stand off between Skinner, Scully and Mulder.
Best Mulder Episode: Ep. 12 War of the Coprophages.  He's just really adorable and funny in this one.
Best Scully Episode: Ep.15  Piper Maru  Scully does indignation well and the throb of her sister's loss is visible throughout.
Best Episode for Shippers:  Probably a tie between Pusher and Quagmire. Pusher is an intense emotional episode for them and Quagmire highlights more the things that keep them apart.
Worst Episode for Shippers: Ep. 14 Grotesque  Mulder gets completely subsumed in a super creepy case and he and Scully are not anywhere near on the same page in this episode. 


This is an amazing season with 15 out of the 24 episodes coming out as significant or a favorite.  It doesn't hurt that there are 3 Darin Morgan penned episodes.  There is also so much good character stuff presented in the subtle and gradual way X Files does best.  I'll just quote Todd VanDerWerff here as he says it best:
Season three of The X-Files is, for me, hands down, its best season and maybe one of the greatest TV seasons of all time. Despite what Zack was saying last week, season three is where the mythology really works for me. It's also the season where the standalones are generally the sharpest, despite a few clunkers here and there (no season is perfect). And, as the perfect capper, Darin Morgan turns in three episodes that rank among the best television episodes of all time. It's a brutally consistent season of television, swinging from strength to strength, handily taking the show from cult sensation to genuine pop culture phenomenon, a show that would become a major part of the '90s cultural landscape and an Emmy Award-winning sensation, instead of just a show a handful of devoted, fervent fans watched.  - Todd VanDerWerff, The A.V. Club


Other Sunday with the X Files:

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