Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sundays with the X Files - Season 5


Season 5 is weird.  I mean all seasons of the X Files are a little weird - that's its allure and charm - but it's weird in a structural, logistical sort of way.  The feature X Files movie, Fight The Future was filmed during the break between seasons 4 and 5 and then was released after season 5 ended.  As a result, either because of continued filming or just overwork, Mulder and Scully are a little absent in season five.  There are two episodes that don't really feature them at all and which Gillian Anderson is completely absent from and even when they are both in an episode they work separately quite a bit.  It's also a shorter season with four less episodes than normal.  There are some great episodes but I think the overall quality of the season suffers a little bit.  

It starts with a bang with Redux Parts I and II.  Scully collapses and is essentially in the final stages of her cancer.  Meanwhile Mulder is being forced to question everything he's seen and learned with the X Files thanks to DOD employee Michael Critchgau.  While I think he's regained his motivation by the end of Redux part II he is definitely more doubtful, especially about the existence of aliens and this change in his attitude permeates the whole season.  His real struggle now is against the government conspiracy.  Another big event in the Mythology is that Scully discovers that she has a child, Emily, who ends up dying and leaving Scully broken hearted.  All of Scully's ova were harvested when she was abducted and it appears they are being used to create children but the children aren't stable.  Season 5 also introduces Cassandra Spender and her son Jeffrey who is an FBI agent.  Cassandra is a multiple abductee and she appears on Mulder and Scully's radar just as a surge of apparent mass suicides by fire start sweeping the world. All the people in the mass suicides are abductees.  These episodes also introduce the Alien freedom fighters with their eyes and mouths sewn shut as a defense against the black oil. Finally, at the end of the season we have the introduction of Gibson Praise, a little boy who can read minds and may be the key to everything in the X Files.  Mulder and Scully gamble to try to bring to light the truth and the X Files ends up getting shut down and also burned down. It's pretty hardcore.

Also in this season we get the back story on how the Lone Gunmen came to be and how they meet Mulder(no Scully, little Mulder).  We also learn how Mulder became aware of the X Files (no Scully, little Mulder).  Mulder and Scully also investigate a forest that appears to be eating people, a Frankenstein's monster, another visit by Pusher (surprise! he's not dead), a man who was killed by  being sucked into the ground, a creepy kid and doll who may be killing people (mostly Scully), a murderous computer program, vampires, a blind woman who can still see murders in her mind, a battle against good and evil (mostly Scully), some anti-government militants, and a monster lurking in corporate America. Other Random Notes:

-       The foul one, i.e. Diana Fowley,  makes her first appearance.
-    In episode 2 it appears that the CSM is shot to death but CSM ain't dead - Big surprise!
-   There's a decent amount of role reversal in this season with Scully believing in Cassandra Spender and in the angels and devils in All Souls.  However when she is not being a believer she seems more stubbornly close minded than usual.


Season 5 is simultaneously a great season of character development and utterly weird.  Again, I think the weird logistics of the season, because of the movie, interrupts the flow of what is going on with our two favorite dysfunctional FBI agents.  I'll just tackle this chronologically.

We start the season with Scully and Mulder really united and trying to pull a fast one on the Powers that Be.  But when Scully takes a turn and ends up in the hospital under palliative care at this point, the game is up and Mulder rushes to her side.  In my opinion this is where Mulder has his come to Jesus moment in regards to his feelings for Scully.  Lord knows she's been in danger of dying before, so I don't know why this life-threatening situation gives him the push he needs to examine his feelings but in my opinion it does.  Maybe it's that she offers to take a murder rap for him which I think completely stuns him.  He is faced with the fact that she has sacrificed so much for him (pointed out really harshly by her brother Bill) and how even at what looks like the end, what she is still willing to do for him.  He is also forcibly reminded of how much integrity Scully has and actively turns to her as his moral compass.  The scenes of him losing it while she sleeps and then coming in the next morning to get her approval of his decisions is Mulder struggling with his emotions and realizing all that she means to him.  While there may be some shipper goggles involved, I also feel like there is a different quality to their interactions in the first few eps post Redux II (Detour, Post-modern Prometheus). There is a frisson of sexual tension that has only been there sporadically before.  The dance at the end of Post-Modern Prometheus is ummmm.... real good.

Then we get into Christmas Carol (pretty much Mulder free) and Emily and we are headed somewhere different.  Scully finds out that she inexplicably has a child, and in the fastest turn around ever starts adoption proceedings.  She is obviously really emotional and struggling and her cancer has made her examine her priorities in a profound way.  As was first brought up in Home in season 4, she really wants to be a mother and is kind of scarily intense about it here.  Mulder is pretty awesome and supportive though also a little worried.
The very next episode (Kitsunegari) after Emily, Scully turns around and is completely unsupportive of Mulder - it's unlike her and sharply contrasts with Mulder in the previous episode.  This trend kind of continues into ep. 10 Schizogeny where she's a little surly about... well...everything.  This is just the beginning of the surly - it will get worse.  In the very next episode, Chinga,  we see that she is  taking some time for herself and insisting that Mulder leave her alone.  It definitely seems like her worldview has shifted.

Next we get the first of the reversal episodes where Scully is more ready to believe than Mulder.  He's become disillusioned with his past beliefs.  Critschgau's stories have really shaken him and he is no longer sure about the existence of Aliens.  His focus now is on the government and he suspects conspiracy everywhere.  It makes him less than sympathetic to Cassandra Spender who Scully connects with.  Scully tries to convince Mulder that there is something to Cassandra's story and now it's Mulder's turn to get surly.  After Scully is involved in one of the mass immolations, Mulder takes her to a hypnotherapist and as Scully reveals what appears to be an interaction with Aliens, Mulder holds her hand but looks like he wants to leave the room disgusted.  He looks like Scully has betrayed him.  There is also another reversal of roles in All Souls which because of the religious overtones makes Scully a believer and Mulder contemptuous.  Scully even kinda ditches Mulder for the first time ever.
In Folie a Deux, we again see Mulder's disillusionment with himself and his work.  He quickly gets sucked in however and again, Scully is really unsupportive of him until he tells her she's his 1 in 5 billion:0).  I think Mulder knows how to manipulate Scully!

And that's where things stand as we head into The End where everything between the characters is just wonky.  First, we are shocked to find Scully happily sitting in a briefing from which Mulder has been expressly excluded.  Not only that, but she gets all embarrassed by him when he, correctly of course, challenges Spender's reading of the assassination of the chess player.  Also emerging from this briefing is the re-appearance of an old flame of Mulder's  - Diana Fowley. Scully is at first not sure how to take this woman who seems to think everything Mulder says is pure gold. She quickly decides she is definitely in the dislike category when she learns that Diana and Mulder actually know each other and they are being very coy about it.  I think Scully is legitimately suspicious of Diana who seemingly appears out of nowhere and who Mulder has never mentioned.  But she is also jealous, both professionally and personally.  She can not and will not support everything Mulder says like Diana. When she catches Diana and Mulder holding hands, Anderson has one of her finer acting moments as she returns to the car in order to regain her composure and gather herself.  A lot of folks claim that this is the moment Scully realizes her feelings for Mulder - that seeing him with Diana pushes her into it -  but I don't think so.  I think what we are seeing is a Scully who for 2 years has been patiently and hopefully waiting for Mulder to really see her and to return her feelings and be ready to open himself up to her.  His secrecy regarding Diana and then seeing him smiling warmly and holding hands with her is a pretty big blow.  She sees it as the death of all her hopes and it makes her question how useful she really is to Mulder professionally.  At this point the episode takes a turn and Mulder and Scully are again together as a team facing the world and they do so as all their work for the past 5 years is burned to ashes.

So, this is how they enter Fight the Future.  Mulder struggling with whether he still believes and Scully questioning her life choices and wondering if in the end if she isn't just more of a burden to Mulder then a help.  


episodes with * are my favorites

Episode 1 Redux Part 1: Mythology episode.  This episode rewinds the last episode of season 4 to the point where Mulder sits weeping on his couch.  But things don't happen like Scully described things in Gethsemane.  Mulder discovers he's being spied upon and decides with Scully's help to fake his death in order to flush out their enemies. At the end of this episode Scully collapses.  I don't love the episode (there's a whole passel of exposition in the middle) but it's a crucial link to get to Redux Part 2. 

*Episode 2 Redux Part 2: Mulder comes out of hiding when he learns of Scully's collapse.  Most of the episode is spent with Scully coming to terms with her mortality and Mulder dealing wth the consequences of his ruse while also being torn apart by Scully's worsening illness.  In the end, reinstalling the chip that was taken out of her neck seems to cure her and I think Mulder comes to the realization that his feelings for Scully may not be strictly platonic and professional.  The interactions between Mulder and Scully in this episode are amazing.

It's just two people who care desperately for each other, trying to communicate the immensity of that feeling without succumbing to it. – Zach Hanlen Av Club

* Episode 4 Detour: Two words.  Scully Singing.  Scully sings a little CCR to Mulder while cradling him for warmth in the woods.  There's also Mulder's hilarious aversion to and avoidance of the Team Building training with the two perky agents and the fact that the perky agents kind of save the day in the end.  It's also a pretty good and scary X File. 

Episode 5  Post-modern Prometheus: This is a unique and creative episode but I actually don't love it.  Except for this:


Episode 6 and 7 Christmas Carol and Emily:  Not a favorite arc but it is  part of the mythology.  All of Scully's eggs were harvested when she was abducted back in season 2 and apparently the nefarious others have made a kid with them.  And their using old women to birth them.  And then the kid dies.  It's all very tragic but you know Scully almost died of cancer like 4 episodes ago - tragedy's been a little overdone at this time.

*Episode 10 Chinga: Talking dolls and little girls are super creepy y'all!  Scully's on her own on this one though there are some fun phone exchanges with Mulder.  Like the following:


*Episode 12 Bad Blood: A fun episode which pits Mulder and Scully's version of events against one another regarding an investigation of possible vampirism.  Luke Wilson is a hot (though possibly dumb and bucktoothed if you believe Mulder's side of events) sheriff who Scully has a little crush on.  The exaggerated versions of each other are hilarious as well as how they see themselves:). 
*Episode 13 and 14  Patient X and The Red and the Black: Mythology episodes that introduce Cassandra Spender who is an important person the next season or so.  She's Agent Spender's mother and a multiple abductee who claims the aliens are benevolent.  This arc is notable because Scully feels drawn to Cassandra and believes her story while Mulder is close minded.  We see how disillusioned he has become.  Scully almost dies...AGAIN.... but escapes from one of the mass immolation events being staged by alien freedom fighters.  The syndicate contemplates whether to join the freedom fighters to try and stop colonization or join the aliens against the freedom fighter in hopes of buying favor.  Mulder's position is interesting because no one believed him when he shouted about aliens and nobody believes him now that he's shouting government conspiracy.  The thing is BOTH things are right.

*Episode 19 Folie a Deux: Mulder starts off the episode pretty bitter and disillusioned - he's the guy everyone calls as soon as the word monster is uttered.  He used to love that!  He gets sucked in pretty quickly though and this is a pretty cool send up of office culture and the monsters who may be lurking there that only a few can see.  Mulder, possibly at his most manipulative, possibly being sweet, tells Scully that she's "...his one in 5 billion."  Also the episode title means a madness shared by two which is kind of a nice encapsulation of the entire show. Well played, X Files, Well played.

*Episode 20 The End: This is definitely one of my favorite season enders.  I really like the character of Gibson Praise even if he doesn't make a ton of sense in the larger picture.  The introduction of Diana Fowley is not entirely frustrating and even holds some promise for interesting story lines to come (they never do surface but we don't know that at this juncture). The final scene with Mulder and Scully standing in the wreckage of the X files office, makes it look like all is coming to an end.  How will they continue after this??


Episode 1 Redux 1>>

Mulder stops Scully in her dark apartment just before she removes her shirt by saying “Keep going FBI Woman.” 

Episode 2 Redux 2>>
There area so many beautiful scenes between Mulder and Scully in this episode but no real quotes.  The scene when Mulder comes in to see Scully, his affection and love are so plain. Then of course the scene where he breaks down over her sleeping form and his confession the next morning.

Mulder answering his phone after Scully's brother has just given him a tongue lashing: “One sorry son of a bitch speaking….”

Mulder to CSM: “If Scully dies, I’ll kill you. I don’t care whose father you are I will put you down.”

Episode 4 Detour>>

When Scully shows up with wine and cheese at Mulder's hotel room. Mulder: “Partay.” Scully: “However I must remind you this goes against Bureau policy about male and female agents consorting in the same hotel room while they’re on assignment.” Mulder: “You try any of that tailhook crap on me Scully and I’ll kick your ass.”

Scully: “Where is that filed next to? The Cockroach that ate Cinicnnatti?” Mulder: “No, the cockroach is filed in the c’s and the Mothman’s over in the Ms”

Scully: "Mulder, you need to keep warm, your body's still in shock." Mulder: "I was told once that the best way to regenerate body heat is to crawl naked into a sleeping bag with somebody else who was already naked." Scully: "Maybe if it rains sleeping bags you'll get lucky. (there's a pregant pause) You ever thought seriously about dying?"

Episode 5 Post-modern Prometheus>>

The dance at the end.  The way Mulder pulls Scully into his body and his face.  Just. Damn.

Episode 7 Emily>>  

Mulder's Mr. Potato head face:

Emily’s origins are murky to say the least and Mulder is really concerned for Scully’s safety.  Scully’s response: “… I’ve also considered that there’s only one right thing to do.” Pure Scully.

Scully needs Mulder as a witness. He wishes he hadn’t come then because: “I should have declined if I never want to see you hurt or harmed in any way.”  Aw… Mulder.  

Episode 9 Schizogeny>>

Mulder: ”Hey Scully, is this demonstration of boyish agility turning you on at all?”
    Episode 10 Chinga>>

    Mulder sitting in his office apparently watching “The World’s Deadliest Swarms” which sounds an awful lot like porn.  But then it does end up being The World’s Deadliest Swarms – Touche` X Files.

    Scully: "Me? No. No. I was, uh, I was on vacation. Just ... getting out of my own head for a few days. What about you? Did you, uh, get anything done while I was gone?" Mulder: "Oh, God. I mean, it's amazing what I can accomplish without incessant meddling or questioning into everything I do. It's just ... (a pencil falls, he looks up and another one falls causing Scully to slowly look up at the ceiling ... covered in pencils hanging from their sharpened tips. More pencils begin falling on him) There's ... GOT to be an explanation." Scully: "Oh, I don't know. I think some things are better left unexplained."

    Episode 11 Kill Switch>>  

    Invisigoth: “Are you going to take off these cuffs or do I have to use my tongue.”  The lone gunmen are drooling. Mulder laughing at the TLG: "You don’t want to take a vote.”
    Episode 12 Bad Blood>>

    Scully into a tape recorder: "4:54 p.m. begin autopsy on one white male, age 60, who is arguably having a worse time in Texas than I am...although not by much."

    Sheriff:  “We used to have swamps but the EPA took to making us call them wetlands.”

    Mulder: (voiceover)"Tired, frustrated, and lacking a solid lead, I just wanted to get cleaned up. I had the sheriff drop me at the motel, which is where I ran into you."  Scully: (sitting on the vibrating bed, yelling at Mulder) "What do you mean you want me to do another autopsy?! Why do I have to do it now?! I just spent hours on my feet doing an autopsy, all for you! I do it all for you, Mulder! You know I haven't eaten since 6 o'clock this morning, and that was half a cream cheese bagel. And it wasn't even real cream cheese, it was light cream cheese! Now you want me to run off and do another autopsy?! (finally notices how beaten up he looks) What the hell happened to you?"  Mulder: (voiceover) "Finally you left."  Scully: (leaving the motel room) "Don't you touch that bed!"

    Mulder singing the theme song to Shaft while all loopy on the drugs.

    Scully: “But he was dead!” Mulder: “I noticed that.” Scully: “With a stake through his heart.” Mulder: “I noticed that too.”    Duchovny's delivery of his lines is perfect!

    Episode 19 Folie a Deux>>

    Mulder strapped to bed because he is thought delusional : “Five years together Scully. You MUST have seen this coming.”

    Mulder: “You have to be willing to see….Scully you have to believe me. Nobody else on this whole damn planet does or ever will. You’re my one in five billion.”

    Episode 20 The End>>

    Gibson to Scully (probably could have been said to Mulder as well): “You don’t care what people think.”


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

      Best Episode: Ep. 2 Redux II. A very powerfully emotional episode where both characters are at their best.  
      Worst Episode: Ep. 8 Kitsenugari  This is the follow up episode to Pusher which was a really fantastic episode.  In this one, Pusher is somehow alive and has an unknown twin sister with the same tumor and abilities as him.  Besides one nice image of a man covered in blue paint, it's pretty awful. Skinner and Scully are total jerks and at odds with Mulder the whole time.
      Most Paranoid:  Ep. 1 Redux 1 This is where (we think) the scope of the government conspiracy is unveiled and Mulder and Scully are trying to be sneaky and trick the complicit members of the government and FBI to reveal themselves.
      Best Mulder Episode: Mulder has a a couple of really good episodes.  The winner is Episode 2 Redux II.  He's dealing with a lot in this episode and he shows fortitude and lots of love for Scully.  Close second is Episode 7 Emily where he exercises just the right mixture of challenging and unwavering support of Scully.
      Best Scully Episode: Ep.4  Detour Scully's snark is turned up to 100 in this episode and she sings CCR!
      Best Episode for Shippers:  Ep. 2 Redux II  The emotion between them is super intense and as my theory goes this is when Mulder realizes he has romantic feelings for Scully.
      Worst Episode for Shippers: Ep. 20 The End Diana Fowley and Mulder's secretiveness about her.




      As I started the post, this season was weird.  Even though a high proportion of the episodes are notable or really excellent there are some real duds.  Mulder and Scully feel particularly absent in this season.  And even when they are around they seem to be apart a lot which isn't ideal.  The show works best when they work together.  Still, for a short season it packed a pretty good wallop and has some of my favorite moments from the show. 


             >> Bad Blood
       Other Sundays with the X Files posts:

      So what are your favorite Season 5 moments?

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