Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sundays with The X Files - My Best Of Everything


It's time to wrap this re-watch up which I started back in May.  This is the final post and therefore the hardest to put together.  It's hard to sum up my feelings about nine years of a story.  Most of the post will be overall "best of" lists mostly because I like making lists.

Why Watch?

So what made The X Files such a terrific show?  If you've read any of my previous posts you will probably understand that what made me love the show was Mulder and Scully.  However, before I get there, I have to mention the mostly fantastic story-telling.  If you are interested in speculative fiction which can be both frightening and humorous, than The X Files is definitely a big honking cup of your tea.  

The balance of stand-alone episodes and long-arc mythology episodes makes it easy to love the show even if you prefer one over the other.  It is incredibly disappointing that the mythology ended up being as haphazard and frankly ridiculous as it became, but it was really fascinating and surprising for a good many seasons.  The X Files also managed to give its main characters some pretty soap-operatic characters arcs abut it almost always worked and was dramatic.  

The writing was also pretty universally top notch.  Many of the people who got their start producing, writing for and directing the shows have gone on to be huge successes beyond The X Files (Vince Gilligan, David Greenwalt, Kim Manners).  There was such a breadth of subject to write about, the more creative the better.  In my opinion Darin Morgan wrote some of the most brilliant episodes of TV ever.  Very few episodes truly disappointed me.

To sum up: how many shows can frighten you, gross you out, make you laugh, cry, and sigh sometimes all in one episode?  The X Files was a special beast.

In my opinion, the thing that helped it be extra special was its two main characters/lead actors.  I don't think it can be over stated how fortuitous the creation and casting of these two characters was.  One of the million essays about The X Files which you can find online argues that there is too much attention paid to "the 'ship" - Is there too much focus on the ‘ship.  The writer believes that too much focus on the romantic relationship, especially disappointment over the way that it was developed as well as the scarcity of Mulder in season's 8 and 9, distracts people from how great the storytelling was on The X Files.  This is a good point, but for me The X Files without Mulder and Scully is a well written and atmospheric show that's good but not addictive.  Add in Mulder and Scully's complex characters and relationship and the two actors with tons of charisma and chemistry and the show moves to a whole different level.  The lackluster quality of seasons 8 and 9 is not solely because of Mulder's scarcity but is because the show runners were unable to duplicate the dynamic with two new actors. 

So that's my retrospective - now for the lists!

Top Three Seasons

1) Season 3:  It was a a toss-up between season 3 or 4 for the top spot but season 3 edges out by a hair mostly because of 3 Darin Morgan episodes and Scully's cancer storyline in season 4 is well done but tough at times.  Duchovny and Anderson have really hit their stride with their characters and the tension is ratcheted up another notch with Scully losing her sister to Mulder's cause.  It complicates their relationship and the mythology.
2) Season 4: This season is dominated by Scully's cancer and has an emotional resonance than any of the other story lines they attempted (Mulder's sister's story, the mysterious alien baby pregnancy). It has one of the better season enders.
3) Season 6: Season 6 has it's ups and downs but it IS the shippiest of seasons and has some of the most fun episodes of the X Files (Triangle, Dreamland I and II, Arcadia, The Unnatural) and has a really strong couple of mythology arc episodes in the middle of the season  (Two Fathers and One Son). 

Top Ten Episodes Overall
This was hard! I had a list of about 28 episodes to narrow it down from and that was being pretty conservative about what were my favorites.  This is in chronological order.

1) Ice - Season 1, Episode 8
2) Humbug - Season 2, Episode 20
3) Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose - Season 3, Episode 4
4) War of the Coprophages - Season 3, Episode 12
5) Pusher - Season 3, Episode 17
6) Jose Chung's From Outer Space - Season 3, Episode 20
7) Quagmire - Season 3, Episode 22
7) Redux, Part II - Season 5, Episode 2
8) Tithonus - Season 6, Episode 10
10) Dreamland Part I and II - Season 6, Episode 4 and 5

Top Ten Mythology Episodes
In chronological order.  Multi-parters are treated as one.

1) Erlenmeyer Flask  - Season 1, Episode 24
2) Duane Barry - Season 2, Episode 5
3) One Breath - Season 2, Episode 8
4) Tunguska and Terma - Season 4, Episode 8 and 9
5) Gethsemane - Season 4, Episode 24
6) Redux, Part 2 - Season 5, Episode 2
7) The End - Season 5, Episode 20
8) Two Fathers and One Son - Season 6, Episodes 11 and 12
9) The Sixth Extinction Part II Amor Fati - Season 7, Episode 2
10) Requiem - Season 7, Episode 22

Top Ten Shipper Episodes
1) Tooms - Season 1, Episode 21

2)  Pusher - Season 3, Episode 17

3) Redux Part II - Season 5, Episode 2

4) Triangle - Season 6, Episode 3

5) Milagro - Season 6, Episode 18


6) The Unnatural - Season 6, Episode 19

7) The Sixth Extinction, Part II Amor Fati - Season 7, Episode 2

8) Requiem - Season 7, Episode 22

9) Empedocles - Season 8, Episode 17

10) The Truth - Season 9, Episode 20


Honorable Mention  - Fight The Future Movie

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - The Best Desert Island Companions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week they have instructed their minions to list  the top ten literary characters we'd be most interested in hanging out with on a desert island.  Interesting thing is I couldn't come up with ten.  I decided it is because I'm a hard core introvert and not having too many people around sounds pretty awesome :0).

I went for two different kinds of people:  those that are problem solvers and those that would be good company.  Some of them are a little of both with a useful skill to boot.

1) Francis Crawford of Lymond from the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett)
Lymond is a force of nature and chameleon, who is able to deal with any situation.  He's a 16th century James Bond.  He's also one of those annoying people who has tons of energy and is really good at almost any skill he tries.  PLUS he's a charmer so he should be entertaining when not solving all the Desert Island's problems.

2 and 3) Miles and Cordelia Vorkosigan from the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold:
Miles is somewhat similar to Lymond in that he is hyper and a problem solver.  However I would find him super annoying so I'd also like to have his mother Cordelia there who would be amazing company, would be very motherly when needed and would keep Miles in check.

4)  Brother Cadfael from The Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters:
He's awesome and wise and worldly AND he knows his plants.  He could start a garden and figure out the medicinal uses for all the plants on the island which he could then use to heal anybody who got sick.  Bonus is that he also spends a good chunk of his time solving murders so if needed, he'd be all over that.

5) Stephen Maturin from the Aubrey and Maturin Series by Patrick O'Brian:
Maturin is also a physician and he is used to working in primitive conditions such as 19th century sailing vessels.  In addition, he's a naturalist and he and I would have a blast inventorying and cataloging all the fauna on the island though I'm not sure I'd be down with his 19th century techniques; i.e. kill it and stuff it. Also Paul Bettany who played him in the movie, Master and Commander, is a stone cold fox.

6) Fermin Romero deTorres from The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:
I could listen to Fermin expound on whatever subject strikes his fancy all day long.  And he's also pretty resourceful.

7) Mildred Lathbury from Excellent Women by Barbara Pym:
Mildred is quietly and cleverly funny and once you got past the polite exterior (which should be easy on a desert island) she would be an amazing companion. I feel like we'd have a lot in common.

8) Renee from The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Renee is a very well read Concierge at a fancy Paris apartment building.  She hides her awesome personality under a layer of servitude.  She'd be great to talk to as long as one of us can learn the others language.And of course we could talk about books!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sundays with the X-Files - I Want to Believe Movie

In 2008, roughly six years after the series ended, a new X Files movie came to theaters.   X Philes were elated and then after watching it usually deflated (more on that later) but I Want to Believe was certainly an event.

I watched (well re-watched) this out of order.  I watched it just after finishing the first movie,  Fight the Future, which took place in between season 5 and 6.  It's an interesting juxtaposition.  At the end of Fight the Future Scully, who has been wanting to quit throughout the whole movie, has been revitalized and gives this whole we need to keep searching and fighting speech.  Fast forward ten years and you see just what kind of destruction has been wrought.

I think it's fair to say a lot of people were really disappointed with this movie.  It's not terribly cinematic, unlike Fight the Future, and it's really just an extended Monster of the Week type story.  Considering that the last we saw of our heroes, they knew the date of a massive alien invasion, it seems bizarre that the rare event of a follow up movie would not deal with that impending doom. But aliens and imminent Armageddon are ignored in favor of a very emo and somewhat lackadaisical MOTW.    It really seems to be more about checking in with our favorite duo and seeing how they are surviving in this new world of theirs.  It appears, they are struggling. 


It begins with an FBI agent being attacked while showing simultaneously an intensive search for something by a large group of FBI agents led by a shambling older civilian.  They find an arm, wounded in the same way as we've just witnessed the FBI agent maim her attacker.

Scully appears, looking older and working in a hospital.  She's obviously fully immersed in her job when one of the FBI agents we saw in the earlier scene appears and tells her they desperately need the help of Mulder.  She denies all knowledge of him and is basically pretty rude.  She heads home and walks into an office covered in newspaper clippings etc... and there's Mulder, looking a little ragged.  She tries to convince him to come out of hiding and help the FBI find this missing agent. She's worried about his isolation.  He's very reluctant and professes he's happy as a clam.  He finally agrees to go but only if Scully goes with him.  Scully does not seem pleased at the prospect. 

It appears that a former catholic priest (the shambling older civilian from earlier), a convicted pedophile, claims to be having visions of the missing agent.  He believes her to be alive but has few details.  You can tell that as soon as Mulder gets involved that he's jazzed.  The problem is he wants his Scully with him and she is less than jazzed.  In fact she quickly gets over her worry about Mulder's isolation and immediately moves to regret at getting Mulder involved. 

There is also a secondary storyline with Scully struggling to cure a terminally sick child at the hospital. She doesn't want to let him go but there are no treatments except highly controversial ones available. 

Meanwhile back on the case of the missing F.B.I. agent they go back to the original spot that Father Joe led them and they find all sorts of body parts.  Also another woman goes missing from the area. This leads them to believe that the culprits are targeting people for their organs to sell on the black market.  Mulder tries to use this to lure Scully into the case with him but it leads to a more fundamental discussion about how they are, in an essential way, different.  She can no longer "look into the darkness" with him and he can't help but jump right into the darkness.  It is who he is.  It is the same conflict as always and while she used to put aside her misgivings and follow him she is now standing her ground.  Now that he's back in the game, Mulder can't and won't let it go.

I won't reveal too much about the resolution of the movie but Mulder's perseverance pays off in the end and Scully  plays a role in the finale which is even more awful and weird than they previously suspected.  Mulder and Scully reconcile but it is not smooth or easy.

Final Verdict: 

Since the characters are the key to my love for this show, I liked it just fine though it is rather pale in comparison to Fight the Future.  It is indeed odd that they chose not to address the mythology arc at all but my guess is that they did not get the budget to do an all out alien invasion movie. 

It also made me really sad to see Mulder mouldering away in  his office of news clippings.  Maybe he doesn't just while away the lonely hours there but that is all that they let us see and considering how excited he gets about the case, I'd say that it is his first opportunity to really be involved in investigating in a long time.  Scully's response to his enthusiasm is somewhat frustrating as she seems to be saying "I followed you for 9 years in your crazy quest, now it's my time to do what I want"  but I think it's more nuanced than that.  The FBI agents that call Mulder in don't see Scully as remotely important; they don't realize how much Mulder relies upon and needs her.   I think what causes Scully to rebel is that Mulder keeps pushing her to come with him and she will not - she is done.  Which begs the question as to what will she be doing when the aliens invade?  It also begs the question as to whether they really should be together?

As a character study, the movie is gloomy and interesting.  As an X Files episode it is perhaps less successful. 

Great Scenes and Quotes

 (In bed at chez Mulder/Scully) MULDER:  I can hear you thinking. SCULLY: I can't sleep.  MULDER (trying to be seductive): I have a little something for that. SCULLY:  Just a little something?...  (later after talking for a bit) MULDER: "Just go to sleep. Let me curse God for awhile."

The scene where Skinner tries to reassure Scully by telling her that he knows Mulder and that he wouldn't do anything crazy and Scully just gives him this look like "are we talking about the same guy?" 

Other Random Thoughts

- Scully claims that it's Mulder's stubbornness that she fell in love with but he responds that it is why they can't be together. Which is really true.

-  Except when he is not, Mulder is a bona fide gentleman.  He first opens the door and helps Scully into the helicopter before he gets into the back. 

- Scully works at Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital.  Seriously X Files?

- It appears Mulder finally got his wish of living in a farm house in the middle of nowhere (he expressed this desire in season 4's Home).

- There's sort of this weird moment where Mulder and Scully share a look over a portrait of George Bush and J. Edgar Hoover.  Not sure I get it. 

- There is a bunch of weird vibes from the young female agent who seems to be all hot and bothered by Mulder.  I get that of course but what's the point.  After he shaves his beard she's all flummoxed and she touches his face.   

The Rabbit Hole

Other Sundays with The X Files posts

So what I am really interested to know - the big mystery is - are there any other X Files fans out there that didn't completely hate this movie?