Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sundays with the X Files - Season 9


This is the season where David Duchovny truly bails and Scully gets a storyline that would put a daytime soap opera to shame.  In order to explain Mulder's, let's face it, inexplicable absence they make ominous and vague claims that Mulder is in terrible danger and Scully makes him leave to protect him.  The only problem with this scenario is that it makes no sense at all.  Why is Mulder in greater danger than William or Scully herself? As the show itself bears out in numerous episodes where Scully and William face many dangerous threats, he isn't at all.  Also, how does him abandoning them to fend for themselves make any sense in the context of his character?  And why don't Scully and William just go with Mulder?  They do provide some weak explanations for this -  Scully hopes that she can find and stop the men hunting Mulder and also find out more out William's uncanniness.  Regardless of the flimsy reasons offered and the mythical appearances of Mulder - he's in the shower, he's on that train but can't get off as it zooms past Scully - it is all a big disgusting mess.

It's very easy to get distracted by all of the above and not notice that elsewhere on The X Files things are in pretty fine form.  There are some really great stand alone episodes this season and Doggett and Reyes do their best to engage the audience.  They are both likeable enough actors/characters but they don't have the spark or depth of Mulder and Scully.  Doggett's a tough guy stereotype and Reyes sometimes just seems generically kooky without much else going on.  They also try to set up a romance between these two (after they strongly hinted that Doggett had a thing for Scully) that I just found mortifying and embarrassing.

So do I need to summarize the crazy mythology plot of this season which makes only the barest hint of sense? You could just watch the final episode, The Truth, where a succession of our old favorite characters exposit the entire mythology arc during Mulder's trial.  They make it sound very linear and logical which is a pretty neat trick.  This season in particular is all about the super soldiers created by the government?, the aliens? some bad people. They are after Mulder or William or somebody and we are not supposed to like them even though Xena, Warrior Princess and Jayne Cobb are two of them.  The Biogenesis fragments make a comeback as well and they have something to do with William (S&M's miracle baby).  William can move things with his mind and isn't burned up like everyone else when one of the biogenesis ships sends out a pulse of radiation.  A mysterious burned man shows up and shoots up baby William with some metal that makes him normal again but Scully decides that keeping William also keeps him in danger and she gives him up for adoption. I wish she had done this in episode two.

Other cases that are tackled by Doggett and Reyes with an assist from Scully include: an evil professor that might be possessed by the devil, a guy who gravely injures Doggett by crossing into a different dimension, a teenager that can control insects, Doggett's amnesia and his fraternization with a gang in Mexico, some ex-cons that are being flayed alive, a murderer who can split himself physically into two different people, a serial killer who is also being investigated by Burt Reynolds who may be God (I think), a kid whose evil imaginings come true, an FBI cadet who has an uncanny ability to know hidden details about a case, and a lonely psychokinetic who brings The Brady Bunch to life to keep him company.  Also along the way, Reyes almost dies and discovers a shadowy alternate hospital created by a mentally handicapped candy striper and The Lone Gunmen die.  It's pretty sad.

Other interesting tidbits:

- This season has all sorts of surprise actors: Cary Elwes, Lucy Lawless, Burt Reynolds.  It's like they were trying to keep the show afloat in season's 8 and 9 by bringing in all these surprising guest stars,
- CSM ain't dead, surprise surprise, but he should be now.  Maybe. 


This is the season where Doggett and Reyes become a team, and fall in love while Monica does a bunch of babysitting.  Meanwhile Scully shows up from time to time and frequently acts like someone else entirely.  So lets get Scully out of the way first.

The entirety of Scully's storyline in season 9 is centered around missing Mulder and having William who seems to have special abilities.  In fact a good analogy may be that she becomes a military wife.  At home with the baby while her man is off God knows where, doing God knows what.  I have to be honest - I didn't like this Scully. 

I know she has become very dependent upon Mulder but before this season, she still seemed independent and self-contained and in control of her emotions.  But in season 9 she's an emotional wreck and she also loses her smarts.  The mantra to Trust No One becomes Trust Everyone. In the ironically titled Trust No 1, she lets her own desire to see Mulder color her assessment of a shady operative who she trusts without really investigating and she also invites a random lady into her home for the night and then puts her in the same room with the baby while Scully sleeps.  This isn't the Scully we've known for the past 9 seasons.  I know all of these changes can be a part of having a baby and being sleep deprived but Scully is a superstar.  She should not be affected by things that affect us mere mortals.

It felt like the show wasn't entirely sure what to do with her and needed to shift the focus onto Doggett and Reyes.  I found the whole baby story eye-rollingly ridiculous which is funny because I will cheerfully go along with most anything else crazy X Files throws out there.  The point is, my biggest disappointment in season 9 is that the character of Scully got thrown under the bus.

The relationship with Mulder is mostly one sided because Mulder's not around but we do get some glimpses which made me cringe.  Mulder writes this florid, schmoopy e-mail where he calls her Dearest Dana (seriously?!).  When Mulder does appear in the series finale he's affectionate but he also seems to still possess his convictions while Scully is a needy wreck. Her moral compass has completely broken down.

In the meantime, Doggett and Reyes are doing their best to fill in some big shoes on the X Files.  I don't even have a really good sense of their working dynamic.  Reyes is obviously "the believer" but there doesn't seem to be much conflict between them and quite frankly their dynamic was just not that interesting.

Individually we find out the Reyes had been in a relationship with the unbelievably smarmy new A.D. (Elwes) which doesn't really seem to fit her style at all.  She now seems to have a thing for Doggett and she is played like she knows she has a thing for him from day 1.   Doggett is the one that's clueless perhaps blinded by the red-haired one:).  Other than this we don't really learn much about Reyes except that she's kind of generically kooky and she has "feelings" about things she can't explain. At one point she has the chutzpah to mercy kill Doggett in order to allow a healthy Doggett from another dimension to appear (or something).  She ain't weak and she does have one really brilliant moment in The Truth when she tells off the Committee who has Mulder on trial.

Doggett starts out the season somewhat smitten with Scully but when Reyes is seriously injured he realizes he loves her but of course does nothing about it that we can see.  Doggett and Reyes are more likely to go out and socialize with each other outside of work, however than Scully and Mulder. At one point Reyes describes Doggett as a dog person: "You're faithful, you're dependable, you're without guile, you're very comfortable to be around."  Sounds like a great guy but interesting enough to fill Mulder and Scully's shoes?

Besides his development of love for Monica, he is also able to put his son to rest.  He has blamed himself for it and carries around an immense amount of guilt and weight which ruined his marriage.  It's touching enough but also pretty cliched.


episodes with * are my favorites

Episode 1 and 2 Nothing Important Happened Today Parts 1 and 2: This pair of episodes are infuriating but also important for setting up season 9 and actually a lot is going on.  Mulder splits within 48 hours of his son's birth because he is in more danger than Scully and William which is code for David Duchovny is a brat.  Oh and Scully and Mulder's son?  Can move his mobile with his sleeping mind.  Monica Reyes is now officially part of the Scooby gang as Doggett's new partner.  There's also a storyline about a water additive that is the introduction of the super soldiers formerly known as alien replicants.  The Dread Pirate Roberts and Xena Warrior Princess make an appearance.

*Episode 3 Daemonicus: This episode leans towards the horror side of things and has some pretty disturbing imagery.  I like the manipulative, super smart type of villains.  We also get a little bit better look at the inside of Doggett's head.  Sort of.  Scully is apparently teaching at Quantico and doing some freelance autopsy work.

* Episode 4 4D:  This episode has a unique and interesting structure.  The relationship between the perp and his mother is seriously creepy.  There is some development of Doggett and Reyes partnership/relationship.

* Episode 5  Lord of the Flies: I like and include this one because it is a rare spark of humor in an otherwise humorless season and Sue Sylvester!  Seriously Dr. Rocky Bronzini is a brilliant and hilarious guest character.  It's also chock full of angsty teenage goodness with an unexpected twist at the end.

Episode 6 Trust No 1: I dislike this episode - I think it is a complete assassination of Scully's character as well as Mulder's (Dearest Dana?? Really?).  We get a brief confusing glimpse into the people that are threatening Mulder.

Episode 11 and 12 Provenance and Providence:  The Biogenesis fragments makes a reappearance and this time it seems they may have some information about Scully and Mulder's miracle possibly alien baby, William. There's more super soldier stuff.  William is in terrible danger and Scully actually turns him over to The Lone Gunmen for safe keeping.  Again, why did Mulder have to run off for his safety and leave Scully and William?  In the end there's a big disaster with one of the Biogenesis ships while William is there and everybody gets burned up but him. 

Episode 17 Jump the Shark: I have to say, the passing of The Lone Gunmen made me tear up a little bit.  The rest of the episode is pretty lame for anyone who didn't watch their spin off show but their passing warrants noting.

Episode 18 William: A horribly burned man shows up and there's all these cloak and dagger hints that it might be Mulder.  Whoever it is, ends up shooting up William with some serum with a metal that makes him normal but he'll still always be in danger as long as he's with Scully so she gives him up to this nice farming couple.  And again?  Why did Mulder have to run off?

*Episode 20 Sunshine Days: This is Doggett and Reyes' last hurrah and is pretty sentimental but in a good way.  It also involves The Brady Bunch.

*Episode 21 The Truth: Mulder re-appears and we get a retrospective of all the mythology from the last 9 episodes while Mulder is on trial for murder. They break Mulder out of jail after he is found guilty and he and Scully run off to find the not dead yet CSM who tells them the date the world-as-they-know-it is set to end. In the final moments, Mulder and Scully go into hiding together and contemplate the hopelessness of it all.  It's a sweet and melancholy ending.



Episode 6 >> Trust No 1

Scully (when The X Files briefly turns into a French art film): (voiceover) One day, you'll ask me to speak of a truth - of the miracle of your birth. To explain what is unexplained. And if I falter or fail on this day, know there is an answer, my child, a sacred imperishable truth, but one you may never hope to find alone. Chance meeting your perfect other, your perfect opposite - your protector and endangerer. Chance embarking with this other on the greatest of journeys - a search for truths fugitive and imponderable. If one day this chance may befall you, my son, do not fail or falter to seize it. The truths are out there. And if one day you should behold a miracle, as I have in you, you will learn the truth is not found in science, or on some unseen plane, but by looking into your own heart. And in that moment you will be blessed - and stricken. For the truest truths are what hold us together, or keep us painfully, desperately apart.

Episode 17 Jump the Shark>> 

(at Arlington Cemetery at TLG's funeral) MORRIS FLETCHER: Langley said to me, those that never give up, they never die.  I still don’t know what that means.  SCULLY:  It means that like everyone buried here the world is a better place for them having been in it. It means that they're gone but they live on through us all.

Episode 20 The Truth>>

REYES: What is the point of all of this? To destroy a man who seeks the truth, or to destroy the truth so no man can seek it? Either way, you lose.

Scully: What are you thinking? Mulder?  Mulder: I'm thinking... I'm a guilty man. I've failed in every respect. I deserve the harshest punishment for my crimes.  Scully: You don't believe that. Mulder: I believe... that I sat in a motel room like this with you when we first met... and I tried to convince you of the truth. And in that respect, I succeeded, but... in every other way... I've failed. Scully: You don't believe that either.  Mulder: Mm. I've been chasing after monsters with a butterfly net. You heard the man — the date's set. I can't change that.  Scully: You wouldn't tell me. Not because you were afraid or broken... but because you didn't want to accept defeat.  Mulder: Well, I was afraid of what knowing would do to you. I was afraid that it would crush... your spirit.  Scully: Why would I accept defeat? Why would I accept it, if you won't? Mulder, you say that you've failed, but you only fail if you give up. And I know you — you can't give up. It's what I saw in you when we first met. It's what made me follow you... why I'd do it all over again. Mulder: And look what it's gotten you.  Scully: And what has it gotten you? Not your sister. Nothing that you've set out for. But you won't give up, even now. You've always said that you want to believe. But believe in what Mulder? If this is the truth that you've been looking for, then what is left to believe in? Mulder: I want to believe that... the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us... as part of something greater than us -greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen, to what's speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves.  Scully: Then we believe the same thing.  Mulder: Maybe there's hope.   - The End -


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

Best Episode: Ep. 20 The Truth. This is the end of it all so it kind of has to be the best episode but it is also a decent farewell and retrospective.
Worst Episode: Ep. 6 Trust No 1.  I HATE how Scully is in this episode and all the stupid hand-waving to pretend that Mulder is making an appearance.
Most Paranoid:  Ep. 18 William.  Is he or isn't he? That is the question.
Best Scully Episode: I'm going to be a brat and say none of them.  One of my biggest complaints about season 9 is what they do with Scully's character.
Best Episode for Shippers:  Ep. 20 The Truth. It's the only episode that Mulder and Scully appear in together and there is one seriously hot kiss even if Mulder's first real words to Scully are terrible. ( "I  smelled you coming Clarice." Really, Mulder?)



It's not a bad season at all. It certainly doesn't deserved to be shunned. Most of the stand alone episodes are pretty good except for perhaps the one where Doggett has amnesia in Mexico which actually has some nice cinematography, it's just boring.  But the season does have some serious problems:

- It's lost its sense of humor.  There's a couple of light-hearted episodes but they only serve to emphasize how unfunny the show is these days without Mulder.
- Scully is no longer Scully.  I miss bad ass in control Scully and she doesn't seem to have much of a purpose beyond freaking out about everything.
- Doggett and Reyes just don't have a terribly interesting dynamic.
- Real life interfering in a bad way with fictional life.

All of this begs the question of whether The X files went on too long or on the flip side if there was anything that could be done, beside shackling Duchovny and Anderson to the show, that would have made these final two seasons a success?  Who knows but here's my stab at it.  First of all, they still had some good stories to tell - the stand alone episodes in this season are pretty good. Sure the mythology was in the toilet but with some serious work they could have, if not saved, at least reinvented it yet again.  The real issue is, as it always is for me with this show, the characters.  As much as it pains me I think they probably should have mostly wrapped up Mulder and Scully's storylines and sent them off into the sunset maybe to return twice a season to fill us in on all the renegade fighting of the future they've been doing. The X Files mantle would be handed over to two new agents who were introduced and got to know Mulder and Scully in season 8.  What is that you say?  This is what happened?  It is what happened but unfortunately, I just didn't feel that Doggett and Reyes were sufficiently unique and interesting to make their own mark.  And while Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish do a fine acting job in their roles they just didn't have the natural chemistry that Duchovny and Anderson had.  Finally, one of the new characters needed to have some personal stake or drive because Duchovny's/Mulder's leaving, left the show without it's heart and organic drive.  Reyes is supposedly the one driving the boat, The X Files is her dream job, but we we know very little else about her except that she's a little kooky which doesn't really measure up to the depth of Mulder's quirks.

I think in the end they tried too hard to mimic Mulder and Scully's roles too closely and I think perhaps the powers that be focused on the wrong things.  I think what they really needed to replicate was the dynamic and chemistry between the characters while going somewhere completely different with them.  But maybe that's just impossible to replicate.


Only two more posts!  I'll do a post next Sunday on the 2008 I Want to Believe movie and then a final wrap up post. Sniff!  I've enjoyed my revisit to this awesome show.  It's kind of sad that it's almost over.

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