Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sundays with the X Files - Season 8


It is obligatory to start by saying that I am not a season 8 and 9 hater. There are definitely some X Philes out there that refuse to watch or even acknowledge that season 8 and 9 exist.  I am not one of them and actually like both seasons to a moderate degree.  They don't exactly work, not like the first 7 seasons did, but they do have some good moments and episodes.  I do of course have many thoughts on how they could have worked better but will save those for the season 9 post.

For the season 7 post, I ranted a bit about how frustrated I am when real life intrudes on the storytelling of a television show.  Sometimes however it can be a blessing in disguise; for example Gillian Anderson's pregnancy necessitating the abduction storyline in season 2.  A pretty good argument could be made that season 8 does somewhat benefit by David Duchovny's estrangement from the show - he only appears in about half the episodes in season 8 with many of those appearances being of the blink-andyou'll-miss-him variety. Duchovney's absence necessitates Mulder's abduction and disappearance which gives season 8 something to do.  The Syndicate is gone, CSM is dead, Samantha Mulder has been "found". Without the search for Mulder the season would not have had the drive that it did.

The other big storyline is Scully's mysterious, seemingly miraculous pregnancy.  She has no ova making pregnancy impossible but in the X Files universe nothing is impossible. I have to be honest and say that I'm not a big fan of this whole storyline including once the baby is born and is an issue in season 9.  There's all this second coming religious imagery associated with it not to mention a lot of coy, vague BS about whether possibly Mulder could be involved in any way.  It smacks of daytime drama and smells of desperation.  In the end Scully has her baby, the aliens inexplicably do not take it or kill it as they seem to have been threatening, and Mulder, whether he be the sperm donor or not, acts like the dad.

To fill the Mulder void Scully gets a new partner, John Doggett played by Robert Patrick who I will talk more about in the character/relationship section and they are also joined sporadically by Monica Reyes played by Annabeth Gish.

So what actually happened this season?  The first couple episodes are a frantic search for Mulder.  Kersh is now Deputy Director (Boo Hiss!) and he is making a show of being concerned.  Gibson Praise makes an appearance though the logic of this is a little hard to follow.  All this information comes up, that Mulder was dying, that he was taking all these mysterious trips and Doggett keeps asking Scully how well she actually knew her partner.  She knew him REALLY well Doggett so back off!  Somewhere along the line we start learning that there are now alien replicants - alien replacements for real people that have infiltrated the government and everywhere.  It is not clear what their agenda is but they are interested in Scully's baby who they either love or hate - hard to know which.  Every OB/GYN in the greater D.C. area, possibly all of North America, is apparently all about and in on the miracle alien baby thing and Scully learns once again not to trust anyone.  When Mulder is finally found in episodes 14/15, they discover that he is meant to be one of these alien replicants but a round of anti-virals takes care of that problem.  Finally, for the mythology, Scully's due date comes and everybody wants her and her baby so she and Monica are forced to retreat to a dead little town in the middle of nowhere.  She has the baby while surrounded by alien replicants but then the bad guys just leave and no one is sure why.  And there was a bright shining star above where the baby is born - bah!

In between all the craziness of Scully's pregnancy and the search for Mulder Scully, Doggett and sometimes Reyes do investigate a number of other crimes. Doggett and Scully's first case together as reluctant partners is a bat-person creature  - way to break Doggett in easy show.  Later in the season Doggett and a Scully/Mulder fan girl from accounting (and a little bit of Mulder) investigate a reptile-human hybrid.  There is also the creepy cult who worships a banana slug as their lord and savior, a kid missing for 11 years re-appears but who hasn't aged a day and is really creepy, a man accused of killing his wife who is living his life backwards, a guy with a third eye who can kill people with his mind, a guy with x ray vision, a guy made of metal, an Indian mystic that can crawl into people's body cavities in the most disgusting way possible.  They also investigate a Native American who can cure people by eating them and then vomiting them back up, killer jellyfish, the nature of pure evil which can be passed around like a sickness, and the black oil on an oil rig (Mulder/Doggett bonding).

Other interesting tidbits:

- Scully is pregnant for something like 15 months, poor woman.
- R.I.P. dear Alex Krycek - you were a treacherous bastard but so darn cute.
- Jayne Cobb (aka Adam Baldwin) makes an appearance as Knowle Rohrer.


Two new characters to analyze!  Woo Hoo!

To fill in the Duchovny void, 1013 decided to create a new character, John Doggett.  He's an ex-marine, ex-NYPD detective and all around tough but super ethical guy.  He's the type of guy who says things like "dollars to donuts".  His introduction in episodes 1 and 2 is actually very interesting. He is in conflict with Scully and Skinner but comes across as clever, driven and with hidden depths.  Unfortunately this is not the same John Doggett who ends up getting assigned to work with Scully.  Once assigned to the X Files, he morphs into this stubbornly close-minded and rather conventionally boring jerk.  His version of skepticism is to just declare that Scully's idea is the stupidest he's ever heard and then not providing any alternative explanations.  I think it is Jessica, the recapper at Television Without Pity who points out this key difference and it really was for me why Doggett was hard to take at first.  While Scully denied all of Mulder's crazy ideas she at least tried to provide scientific explanations.  Since Doggett doesn't have the science background he just denies things are true and sticks his head in the sand.  I did not find him at first endearing.

Doggett and Scully do not trust each other at all for the first several episodes they work together, exacerbated by the fact that Scully is keeping her pregnancy a secret from him.  Once he knows what is going on with her, Doggett's whole demeanor towards Scully changes and he becomes very protective.  Also early on, the dynamic between them is interesting because Scully is trying to play the role of Mulder but it fits so poorly on her.  Her unease in the role probably only served to increase Doggett's overall feeling of being out of his comfort zone and not having any back-up to rely on.  By mid-season it became easier for me to like Doggett though I never thought he became a particularly interesting character.  By mid-season there are also hints that his feelings for Scully may verge on the romantic - he has learned to respect her as he learns more and more about what she has gone through and has seen her toughness and determination.  Some other relevant information about Doggett is that he had a young son who was murdered and that before his code of ethics landed him on Kersh's bad side he was on his way to becoming a super star in the FBI. 

Monica Reyes also starts to make a few appearances though she will not become a regular until season 9.  Monica is meant to fill in the woo woo part of the equation.  Her specialty is tackling cases suspected to have satanic overtones and she has "feelings" about things.  She's pushy but in a very non-sequitur sort of way - she's very confident and comfortable with who she is.  Scully likes her almost immediately because Reyes reminds her of Mulder. It is nice to see Scully with the support of another woman. Mulder interestingly clashes with her and finds her annoying.  Doggett likes her - they met while investigating his son's murder and he trusts her judgment despite her openness to some crazy things.

I like the character though in the two years she appears on the show we find out little about her personal life.  I think she was an appropriate addition to the show and if they had paired her with someone other than Doggett things may have worked a little bit better but that's a topic for season 9. 

So what's Scully up to?  Scully is having more horrible things happen to her.  Just as she and Mulder have gotten their "act together", he is abducted and she finds out that she is inexplicably pregnant. She's not sure who she can trust but can't distance herself from the FBI because it's her only avenue for making progress in the search for Mulder.  She appears to quickly develop some respect for Doggett but does not trust him.  She also feels like she needs to keep the X Files going by filling Mulder's shoes but of course it is very unnatural for her. She find's out in Per Manum that she can't even trust her doctors.   Basically, everything really sucks for Scully - she's isolated, grieving and frightened/hopeful/confused about what her pregnancy means.  Gillian Anderson as usual is AMAZING.

Meanwhile, Scully also seems to lose control of her patented stoicism.  It becomes clear to everyone, if it wasn't already that Mulder is more than just her partner.  When Mulder is finally found and they are reunited things are pretty awkward.  Mulder is understandably disoriented while Scully is desperately needy.  Episode 16 Three Words is actually equal parts frustrating and brilliant.  It's just after Mulder has been resurrected and they aren't sure how to communicate with each other.  Mulder is obviously confused about Scully's pregnancy and it seems like he suspects that she has potentially hooked up with someone else in his absence while Scully for whatever reason is not enlightening him.  They are just so awkward and unsure of each other but they also don't want to leave each others' side.  By the next episode, Empedocles it's obvious that they have talked, off screen of course and that things are good between them.  Mulder becomes doting and adorable though I did miss the  bickering.

Mulder for his part is struggling, after being gone for months, with where he fits.  He is pretty much immediately dismissed from the FBI and the X Files but he is not really ready to let go.  He clashes with Doggett, he clashes with Reyes, he's unsure of where he stands with Scully.  Considering all that he's really remarkably functional.

While the first half of season 8 worked okay it is amazing how the show comes alive again once Mulder is back.  Even though I love Scully the best, I recognize that Mulder is the heart and driving force of the show and that it is their partnership - not just either of them alone - that keeps it together.  This is the almost insurmountable issue of continuing the X Files without the two of them.

The last scene of the last episode is between Mulder and Scully and baby William and has this vague ridiculous statement of "the truth we both know" followed by smooches.  I think it's meant to be Mulder saying we're a family even if junior here ain't the product of our sexy times.  It didn't really need to be said but it is nice to have some real honest to goodness smooches and I think people did see this at the time as the first time a romantic relationship was acknowledged.


episodes with * are my favorites

Episode 1 and 2 Within and Without: This episode has got some good and it's got some bad.  The bad is the super sappy emo music of immense sadness and loss that follows Scully around.  Gillian Anderson doesn't have a problem conveying Scully's feelings without the overwrought music.  Duchovny appears but only for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance.  It's poopy.  However, the introduction of Doggett is pretty great and really he's more interesting at this point than I think he is at any other point in the next two seasons.  And there is the aforementioned Gillian Anderson breaking my heart with Scully's vulnerability and desperation.  

*Episode 6 Redrum: This episode is a little pretentious but I like it regardless.  It's got an interesting structure moving backwards and the conflict at the heart of the episode isn't what it seems.  Plus it stars Joe Morton (Terminator 2 and Eureka) who I really like.  Scully and Doggett are barely in the episode.

* Episode 10 Badlaa: I'm a little weird for liking this episode but I find it delightfully creepy (the squeaky wheel) and totally gross.  It's also a big break down moment for Scully - she shoots the bad guy who looks like a kid at the time and she loses it.  She's been trying so hard to channel Mulder and she's just not him and she misses him and Scully's life really kind of sucks right now.  

Episode 13  Per Manum: This is an important episode for the pregnancy storyline but it doesn't mean I have to like it.  It's riddled with inconsistencies from earlier episodes - I'm pretty sure Emily way back in season 5 was when Mulder revealed he knew about Scully being barren - and I hate that a Duchovny appearance was wasted on this.  The point of the episode is that at some undetermined time - Scully asked Mulder to donate some sperm to be her baby's daddy.  However it didn't work so her current condition is truly is inexplicable. 

*Episode 14 and 15 This is not Happening and DeadAlive: Mulder's Back! Mulder's Back! And it's difficult not to want to list every episode after this as notable and a favorite.  Episode 14 ramps up the search for Mulder after some of the people that were abducted with him start to be returned.  Jeremiah Smith also makes an appearance and is trying to help the returnees. When they find Mulder he is dead and in episode 15 they actually bury him for three months before digging him up because HE'S ALIVE!  They almost turn him into an alien replicant or something but Skinner accidentally saves him.  Mulder's back! Mulder's back!

*Episode 16 Three Words:This is Mulder's first real episode back.  Kersh officially fires him from the X Files and there's all sorts of tension between Mulder and Scully, between Mulder and Doggett...We also find out more about these alien replicants or super soldiers and that Doggett's friend Knowle is one of them. 

* Episode 17 Empedocles:  We get a little look into Doggett's son's murder case and Reyes and Mulder team up and butt heads.  Lots of adorableness between Mulder and Scully.

Episode 20 and 21 Essence and Existence: Scully has her baby with Reyes and a whole passel of alien replicants watching over.  Skinner shoots and kills Krycek - delicious delicious Krycek.  I officially hate the baby storyline actually but it will dominate season 9 so it's notable.  The season ends with a lovely little family portrait between Scully, Mulder and baby William which you should savor that because next season it'll be like it never happened.


Episode 1 Within>>

The scene where Scully and Doggett meet is pretty awesome.  He's pretending to be someone else and is feeling her out.  She figures it out and is PISSED!

Episode 15 Deadalive>> 

MULDER's first words having just woken up and seen Scully: "Who are you?" after a pause he smiles to show he's kidding  "Anybody miss me?" What a brat!:0)

Episode 17 Empedocles>>

MULDER while paying for Scully's pizza and being told it is $29.08: "What'd she get on it? A tank of gas?" 

This episode has many adorable scenes between Mulder and Scully:
If this isn't a happy soon to be papa I don't know what it is


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

Best Episode: Ep. 15 Deadalive. It's kind of crazy but it really does look desperate until it's not and it's so GREAT to have Mulder back.
Worst Episode: Ep. 9 Salvage.  It's just kind of boring.
Most Paranoid:  Ep. 1 and 2 Within and Without.  Scully pulls a gun on Skinner at one point because the bounty hunter is skulking around pretending to be people.  She seems very alone and isolated.
Best Mulder Episode: Ep. 17 Empedocles.  He is doting, adorable and actually puts Scully before a case. 
Best Scully Episode: Ep.10  Badlaa. Scully has to deal with autopsying a man with another little man inside of him and she struggles with trying to channel Mulder.
Best Episode for Shippers:  Ep. 17 Empedocles.  Maybe this should be Ep. 21 but I think Ep. 17 is more blatantly coupley



About half the episodes for the season are notable or were favorites though I had a hard time picking one for best episode because none of them really stood out.  Favorite quotes and moments really suffered because for me those are mostly about Mulder and his sense of humor and the dynamic between Mulder and Scully.  Doggett is not funny nor light-hearted in anyway which is one of the smaller reasons why the continuation of the show minus Mulder doesn't completely work.  However, I would say the majority of the episodes this season were solid if not outstanding - the storytelling hasn't really gone away.  It's definitely a season worth watching.


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