Unexplained Phenomenon, Unexplainable Episode

After last week’s goofy entry ‘Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster’, the fourth episode of event season 10 of The X-Files, ‘Home Again’, goes back to the days of Scary Dead(ish) Guys Killing Seemingly Random People.

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Garbage Truck
He kind of looks like Lurch. The guy that steps out of a garbage truck, kills somebody, only to step back into the truck on the wrong side. The side where he’s crushed to death. And then comes back to life. He’s tall, bald, gory and leaves no footprints. Just the occasional green goo on the floor, with worms swirling in it. Yup, this is The X-Files, alright. After his first victim’s pulled to pieces, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are asked to come in. Their reputation precedes them. If there’s something spooky in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?

Bandaid
As soon as they enter the crime scene, Scully’s called away by her brother Bill. Her mother suffered a heart attack and has been taken to the hospital. The nurse tells Scully that she’s been asking for Charlie, her estranged son. But she’s in a coma now. Meanwhile, Mulder discovers Banksy-like graffiti, close to where the man was murdered. It may have some significance. When he leaves the building, he finds a bandaid stuck to the sole of his shoe. After analyzing, it’s neither organic nor inorganic. Not alive and not dead either. It’s basically, well, nothing. So it’s not even a bandaid?

Adoption
Mulder visits Scully in the hospital. She’s gotten a hold of Charlie. He talks to their mother over the phone, and she wakes up. Sees Mulder and confuses him with her son, but then slips back into a coma and passes away. Scully’s been thinking about her own son. How she and Mulder had to give him up for adoption. To keep him safe. She’s starting to doubt if they made the right decision.

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Trash Man
Creepy Bandaid Man resurfaces. Two guys have taken down the graffiti piece – an image of the Bandaid Man – to sell it. Not going to happen. In full Ghostbusters II style, the Man steps out of the painting and kills them. Before walking out the door, he signs one of the canvases lying around with ‘Trash Man’. A little while later, he’s at it again. The song ‘Downtown’ by Petula Clark starts to play and, cheerful as that song is, it oddly enough perfectly fits gory horror sequences. It’s a popular song, given it’s used in many other TV shows, such as Glee, iZombie, Mad Men and in the episode ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ of LOST.

Clay
Mulder and Scully get on the trail of a graffiti artist who might know more about the Trash Man. They follow him into an abandoned building. He pulls out a gun, but Scully is still capable of disarming someone just as well as ‘back in the day’. It is, however, 2016, and they don’t run up the stairs anymore – let alone in high heels – so the guy escapes them soon after. They check out the building and find a man in the basement. Sort of a painter/inventor, who says he created the Trash Man. He’s got a whole speech which is pretty hard to follow. There’re flashbacks of Mulder and Scully’s child. There’s a Trash Man model of clay. There’s a lot going on, a lot being half-explained, Scully’s associations that may or may not have anything to do with the story. I do feel we’re going to get to see the 15-year old Mulder/Scully hybrid – probably in the event finale. As in: you don’t show a gun in the first act and never let it go off. As in: you don’t show three dragon eggs and never let them be hatched.

Mulder and Scully Put The ‘Fil’ In ‘X-Files’

The X-Files has always been a show built on four legs. The conspiracy leg, like the 10th season opener ‘My Struggle’, the scary monster leg, like second episode ‘Founder’s Mutation’, the disturbing leg, like next week’s ‘Home Again’ and the goofy leg, like episode 3, called ‘Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster’.

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Lizard
Two people getting high in the woods. Suddenly, they encounter a man in a lizard suit, running past them. Welcome to one of the silliest X-cases of the entire series. Without a dead body, there’s no reason for the FBI to investigate. Next to gamekeeper Pasha (Kumail Nanjiani, Silicon Valley, Franklin & Bash), who doesn’t have a scratch, lies a dead man with his throat eaten away. Time for another trip to the forest; Mulder and Scully’s most favorite destination. Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), who just got back to work, is already doubting his decision to have done so. Going through dozens of case files in which the seemingly supernatural suspects are all either pranks or crazy people, he’s hit a rough patch. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) has to almost literately pull him from his office and convince him the lizard man might actually be a real lizard.

Adjusting to Modern Times
Mulder finds it hard to believe. He wants to believe, of course, but some days it’s easier than others. When they go down to check things out, meet with Pasha, he’s occupied most of the time with his phone – and a new app, to take pictures as soon as they spot something. It’s been a running gag, and it hasn’t gotten tired yet; Mulder and Scully adjusting to the world of fast internet, smart mobile phones, speaking of which, have they befriended each other yet on Facebook? This would’ve been the perfect episode to address that.

Distinguished Gentleman
They do get lucky pretty fast. Before Mulder’s found out how to take proper pictures, they’re attacked by a lizard-like creature. It steps into a port-a-john, but when Mulder and Scully open the door, a distinguished gentleman’s inside. They must’ve made a mistake. We all know they haven’t, of course. This is another case of shapeshifting, and we were right. When the man, simply called ‘Guy Mann’ (Rhys Darby, Hot in Cleveland), gets out, a few horns are still sticking out of the back of his head. They quickly retract and Guy walks away.

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Twist
Mulder does eventually get on the trail of Guy and finds him at a cemetery. There, the twist is revealed. Guy tells him it’s precisely the opposite of what Mulder thinks is going on. It’s not a human turning into a lizard, it’s a lizard – who got bitten by a human – that turns into a man, including all of the strange human behaviours that come with it. Now all they’ve got left to do is track down the one who bit; and I think you know who that is, since there’s hardly any supporting cast.

Special/Spoof
It’s an original idea, in an overly goofy X-Files episode, and I like it. However, it’s a huge departure from the first two episodes of the tenth season, that it doesn’t quite feel like ‘X-Files canon’. More like a MTV Movie Awards Special/Spoof, or something. That said, ‘Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster’ is very enjoyable. O, and there’s a very nice sex scene between Scully and the lizard guy.

Wait, what?!

X-Cruciating Pitch Of The Week

The second episode of season 10 of The New X-Files, or The Elderly Files, or even The Redeployment Of The Scully Fox, called ‘Founder’s Mutation’, has Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigating a suicide. No ‘X’ in suicide, though, so why they’ve been put on the death of a scientist at Nugenics is an X-File all in itself.

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Original Order
It’s one of those ‘monster of the week’ episodes, an important part of The X-Files DNA, starring a high pitch as the monster in question. Initially, ’Founder’s Mutation’ wasn’t supposed to air. Originally, the order of the six episode event was slightly different. The way it was:

1. My Struggle
2. Home Again
3. Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster
4. Babylon
5. Founder’s Mutation
6. My Struggle II

And the way it is:

1. My Struggle
2. Founder’s Mutation
3. Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster
4. Home Again
5. Babylon
6. My Struggle II

I’m not a big fan of these kind of switcheroos. Sliders, The Shield, Supergirl, among many others, have all done it for different reasons. Usually, you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you often sense something just doesn’t add up. In this case, jumping from a massive conspiracy theory in ‘My Struggle’ to quite a small standalone episode does feel a bit weird. However, this is The X-Files and the show used to do this all the time, so I guess it’s what was to be expected.

2016 Toolbox
The episode starts off with Dr. Sanjay (Christopher Logan, Alcatraz) committing suicide, because of an excruciating pitch in his ear. Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) arrive on the scene, collect evidence, even when they’re not supposed to (despite their clearance level), which leads them to experimental doctor Augustus Goldman (Doug Savant, Desperate Housewives, 24, Melrose Place, Harsh Realm). Presumably using alien DNA, he’s treating kids with the most outrageous forms of special effects. It’s 2016, and The X-Files has got all the tools to create as much deformities as they want, but it does make one a bit nostalgic, reminiscing to the good old days. The time when it was just puppets and paper maché.

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Telepathy
The alien DNA detail, Sanjay’s suicide and the experimentation on children, all tie into the conspiracy of ‘My Struggle’, so the episode’s not as standalone as you may have thought at first. When Mulder gets the same pitch in his ear, time is of the essence. As it turns out, it’s a side effect of the ‘alienness’ inside these kids, which allows them to communicate telepathically. At least, in theory. Normal human beings just want to stab themselves in the head to make it stop. Goldman’s laboratory of human/alien hybrids, makes Mulder and Scully wonder about their own child. Their son, whom they had to abandon for his own safety.

Antagonist
What if he’s out there, also being experimented on, carrying some sort of alien gene? We see Mulder and Scully imagining what it would be like, to raise him. He must be 15 years old by now. Old enough to be an antagonist, me thinks. Would that be the ‘huge cliffhanger’ creator Chris Carter has promised us? A direct confrontation between DanFox (or SculMul) and their own green little monster? That would actually be something, although The X-Files has never been about big action packed superhero-esque climaxes, so we’ll just have to wait a couple more weeks. O, and Mulder has shaved.

Wait, what?!

Don’t Stop Belieeeving

Like many other people, I kind of called it quits on The X-Files around the 7th or 8th season. I checked in on Fox Mulder and Dana Scully every so often, but after 7 years, Mulder had a lot of vacation days. He was regularly nowhere to be seen, and who could blame him. It also felt like creator Chris Carter dug himself deeper into evermore incomprehensible conspiracies, so the series finale (season 9, double episode 19) came as a relief.

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Quality Drama
When the FBI duo came back, in the 2008 movie I Want to Believe, it proved everybody’s point that The X-Files were done. Until Hollywood began digging up graves of past successes, that is. And me too, got excited about a return of Mulder and Scully on the small screen. Call it an inclination to nostalgia, a chance to relive my first encounter with the show, call it what you will. Fact is, The X-Files brought movie quality to television drama in 1993. Carter changed the game. It took however another decade before the game was actually changed, with 24, Alias and The Sopranos as the first wave of shows that meant business. There’s more quality drama out there than ever now, more competitive outlets with onorthodox play books all getting a piece of the pie. It will be very interesting to see how The X-Files (albeit with only 6 episodes in 5 weeks) is going to fare amidst all these hungry sharks – X’s own offspring – in the water.

My Struggle
Season 10, episode 1, titled ’My Struggle’, takes Mulder (David Duchovny), Scully (Gillian Anderson), Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and The Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis) out of retirement. Carter has big plans for them, because the old conspiracy’s dusted off, repackaged and very 2016. Everything they missed out on these past 14 years, plays a vital part in one giant scheme. In terms of special effects, there’s no limit to what they can do these days, and they’re not holding back. In terms of direction, it’s flawless. In terms of music, Mark Snow is back at the controls. In terms of main titles, it’s like the show never left. It basically picks up right where it left off, with Mulder forgetting about his depression and diving right into the extraterrestrial rabbit hole.

Old Properties
Really, any reservations you may have had concerning this ‘event’, they’re efficiently dismantled in the first episode. The X-Files has splendidly returned to form, and I couldn’t be happier about it. For Carter, the actors, FOX (the network) and a dozen other reboots, continuations and events currently being in the works. After Heroes Reborn, and the constant production calamities of Twin Peaks, studios might think twice about bringing an old property back to life. And I really would like to see the new A-Team, the inventive jailbirds of Prison Break and the Jack-less 24: Legacy. Luckily, Carter and company have shown there’s nothing to be afraid of. Kickstarting old franchises can be executed brilliantly.

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On Board
So, okay. That’s enough praise, I think – right? The story, then. As we’ve known from 9 seasons and 2 movies, men inside the government used to fumble around with alien technology. Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), a populistic conspiracy thinker AKA personality television show host, has put (more than) a few pieces together. He invites Mulder and Scully for a glass of champagne, trying to get them on board and guess who bites and who doesn’t. On board of what, that remains a bit of a mystery, since there’s only the conspiracy theory at this point and no real plan to expose whoever’s behind it.

Exposition Extraordinaire
The key to everything is a girl called Sveta (Annet Mahendru, The Following, The Americans). She’s been abducted and impregnated multiple times, supposedly by aliens. Mulder figures out they never were aliens, but men. Powerful people who want to destroy the world and blame it on extraterrestrials. David Duchovny has got an extreme amount of exposition to do throughout the episode; he gives Jules Winnfield a run for his money. ‘My Struggle’ is rich in every way, there’s a lot to take in, but doesn’t feel bloated (like, for example, the first two episodes of season 7 did). Now that Mulder has gotten a glimpse of a global threat, which is already in progress, he can’t let go. Skinner – still only assistant director, by the way – sees the importance of it, too. He reopens that damp dark room in the basement. Ladies and gentlemen, The X-Files have been reopened. O, and Mulder and Scully have a child together.

Wait, what?!

The X-Files: The Erlenmeyer Flask

It took a while, not to mention a lot of patience, but we’ve finally arrived at the finale of the first season of The X-Files. The 24th file to be solved by Mulder and Scully, before a well deserved vacation. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, far from it, with only a handful of memorable episodes (‘Ice’, ‘Fallen Angel’, ‘Gender Bender’, ’E.B.E.’ and ‘Darkness Falls’) and lots of missed opportunities and quite similar cases. You’d think the world of the supernatural gives you a wide playing field – if not the widest – but either Chris Carter didn’t want to accidentally contradict himself, or ran out of ideas to fill a 24-episode first season. It feels like the writing team was in over their heads, unprepared for the massive success their little green series would become.

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Something Cool
By fits and starts, they delivered the finale – which just had to address the tiny conspiracy thread that’d been running through the season. Mainly through Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin), who occasionally showed his face and told Mulder he could only say so much. He’s back indeed, more cryptic than ever.
‘The Erlenmeyer Flask’ starts off quite un-X-File-like, with a car chase. The police is after a guy – let’s call him the Runner – who seems to be fine getting shot at. Bullets have no visible effect on him. When he gets out of his car on a suspiciously quiet construction site, he gets two in the back, but keeps on running. Jumps into the water, leaving just a bit of green goo on the docks. It’s a very fast-paced and action packed scene, probably because the budget for this final episode was bigger. That also explains the many big sets and props used. They really wanted to leave the audience with something cool, during the show’s 4 month hiatus until the second season started.

Trust
‘Flask’ is the first episode to change the words at the beginning, ‘The Truth is Out There’, into ‘Trust No One’. In the scene before last, we find out why. Speaking of trust, Mulder (David Duchovny) is getting more than just a little tired of ‘this Deep Throat character’ – as Scully (Gillian Anderson) describes him. Throat (Jerry Hardin) puts Mulder on the case of the Runner (who still hasn’t been found), but won’t say why, of course. There’s nothing Mulder can do but go on, despite all this ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi crap’. His shadowy friend told him he was ‘closer than ever’, so trust it is, then, but he’s quickly running out.

Probably by Definition
That wasn’t a lie. The episode pulls out all the stops, answers a lot of questions. Maybe a bit too many, actually. Their investigation leads them to the lab of a monkey scientist, including angry caged monkeys, where Scully finds an Erlenmeyer flask. It contains a dark red fluid. Monkey pee, probably, she figures, but Mulder wants it analyzed. Dr. Anne Carpenter (Anne DeSalvo) discovers a rare type of bacteria in it. Actually, beyond rare. Extraterrestrial by definition, she says, or as Scully puts it – when she informs Mulder – ‘probably extraterrestrial’.

Fish Tanks
Mulder’s being followed by a nameless (and badgeless) man in a suit, who goes about it a little sloppy. He leads Mulder directly to a secret warehouse, and Deep Throat wasn’t kidding when he said he was closer than ever. Inside, Mulder discovers many huge fish tanks. Kind of like in the movie Avatar, but this time it’s real people – test subjects – hooked up to cables, instead of James Cameron’s blue alien costumes.

1947
When he goes back with Scully the next morning, the whole space is cleared out. All evidence has been destroyed. Or killed – like Dr. Carpenter, who supposedly died in a car crash. Deep Throat walks in. Apparently now is a good time to share everything he knows. ‘They’ have been experimenting with alien DNA that they found way back in 1947. The goal was – and still is – to create some form of human/alien hybrid. It hadn’t been possible before, because they didn’t have the technology to store people like gold fish. They do now. Unfortunately, test subjects like the Runner (Simon Webb) still have a lot of side effects.

The Hybrid
Mulder manages to track down the Runner, but he’s not the only one. ‘They’ shoot the Runner before he can do anything. ‘They’ also keep Mulder hostage, which makes Deep Throat contact Scully. A trade has to be made to save Mulder’s life. Somehow Throat finds a way to get Scully inside a highly classified facility, where she sees with her own eyes the human/alien hybrid they’re cooking up in there (actually more like deep-freezing it). She smuggles the embryo out of there, hands it over to Throat, who persists on doing the exchange himself.

Nobody Ever Dies
Scully watches from afar how the embryo changes hands (and will soon be brought to the gigantic secret evidence room of the Pentagon, by the Cigarette-Smoking Man). Mulder’s released, but not before Deep Throat gets shot in the chest. His last words: ‘Trust no one’.
Legend has it, that when Jerry Hardin got the script, a note from Chris Carter was attached that said: ‘Nobody ever dies on The X-Files’.
Were there notes on Duchovny and Anderson’s copies as well? Something like: The X-Files will always continue? Because in the very last moments, Mulder calls Scully and says he just heard the X-Files Project is over. Done. They’re going to be reassigned. Just now Scully’s confessed she doesn’t know what to believe anymore.

Now that we’ve reviewed the complete first season, we take a short break. On January 24, 2016, the series’ highly anticipated 10th season will premiere – 6 episodes in total. After that, we’ll once again go back and take a look at the second season.

The X-Files: Roland

The penultimate episode of the first season of The X-Files is about a guy named – wait for it – Roland, and yet again it features an actor we’ve come to know pretty well over the years: Željko Ivanek (don’t forget that tiny twitter bird on top of the Z). His body of work includes practically every TV show ever made (Oz, Law & Order, Heroes, Big Love, Damages, The Mentalist, The Event, Banshee, Revolution, LOST, The Americans, The Mob Doctor, Suits, True Blood, Madam Secretary, to name a few), but to me, he’ll forever be Andre Drazen (24).

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The Janitor Did It
At the time of ‘Roland’, Ivanek had been in the business for over 10 years, but nothing worth mentioning. The team of The X-Files had a knack for attracting talent, brought him on board and turned him into – because they also liked to borrow a lot of stuff – a television version of Rain Man (and perhaps inspired Edward Norton for his portrayal of Jack Teller in the movie The Score, who knows).
Roland is a janitor, sweeping the floors, avoiding eye contact, not knowing how to unlock doors of the laboratory, who suddenly seems to step outside of himself to operate machinery, kill scientists and write brilliant mathematical equations on white boards. It looks like we’ve got ourselves another ghost of some kind, taking over the body of an innocent antagonist.

Comfortably Confident
We’ve seen it before, more than once this season, so it’s getting a bit tiresome. However, it is actually a clever spin on the concept. It’s not a ghost. Not really. And Roland isn’t faking his autism either. While Mulder and Scully are investigating the case, they’re kind of flirting with each other again. Whether it’s because they were almost done shooting the season (only one more episode to go) or not, they both have found their humor again and we haven’t seen that for some time. They seem to be much more comfortable in their roles. I think we have to go back to the pilot when they last looked this confident to do the tongue-in-cheek thing.
Figure of speech, of course. We know Mulder and Scully will never have any intention to stick either tongue in either cheek. Except maybe for that one time, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Arthur
Roland has a twin brother. Arthur. But he died. Or did he? He’s being preserved, is more what it is. Kept in a cosy tank, waiting for the day technology’s figured out a way to bring him back from the dead. Because there’s a strong psychic connection between siblings – especially twins – Roland’s brain is being accessed by Arthur. Needless to say, to Mulder this makes perfect sense. Arthur uses Roland’s body, not only to finish his research, but also to get rid of some (or all) of his former colleagues.

Touching
It’s only when Arthur makes Roland about to kill again, that Mulder and Scully show up just in time. Roland’s able to turn Arthur off. However, he must leave the home where he lives with other autistic people. That means saying goodbye to Tracy (Kerry Sandomirsky, The Killing), who ‘loves’ him. He loves her, too, he says. It’s actually a touching moment, even though there isn’t any form of touching going on.
Like I said, it’s hard to be too enthusiastic about this episode, since it’s basically yet another play on the same idea. The series, 23 episodes in, shows a little fatigue already. Still, ‘Roland’ has got a lot going for it.

The X-Files: Born Again

Mulder and Scully tackle reincarnation in their 22nd X-File ‘Born Again’, about a young girl who’s made a habit out of throwing grown men out of windows.

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Mysterious
The episode starts off mysterious. A young girl is found in an alley, around the corner from a New York police station, where Janice AKA Sharon Lazard (Maggie Wheeler, Friends, Ellen, Californication and David Duchovny’s girlfriend at the time) works. Sharon brings her inside, but next thing you know, someone’s being thrown out through the window. It couldn’t have been the girl, surely? She claims she saw another man; he’s the one who did it. Sharon makes a few calls and Mulder comes highly recommended, because of his work on the ‘Tooms case’. I wonder exactly which part of his investigation into Eugene Tooms made his reputation precede him. We all know how the story of Squeezey Boy ended, not to mention Mulder’s day in court, which everybody laughed at.

The Ghost
It’s unclear what happened exactly. Usually, it’s easy to connect the dots right away, but this time The X-Files leaves some room for interpretation. Is it the girl, a man, someone or something inside the girl or something else completely? After the title sequence, Mulder can just smell reincarnation, and he’s not wrong often. It quickly becomes clear a ghost inhabits her body. A ghost that comes out occasionally. The episode borrows heavily from an earlier one, namely ‘Shadows’. In that one, the ghost didn’t need a body to avenge its death; it was just happily flailing around. Now it’s a little girl, but the two stories are very similar. Too much so, given supernaturalism isn’t bound to ghosts alone, right?

Confession Time
Mulder and Scully stumble upon a coverup within the police force, with Tony Fiore (Brian Markinson, Mad Men, Fargo, Continuum, The L Word and another X-Files episode) at the heart of it. With a little help from the girl, who’s mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore (read: is blowing up fish tanks which leaves no water on the floor; now that’s weird), Tony confesses. Case closed. Ghost gone. Girl happy.

Old Wine
Whether it’s true or not, I totally understand if indeed David Duchovny once said he hates this episode. They can’t all be winners and this one is an obvious miss. Old wine in a new bottle. Actually, make that old wine in an old bottle.

Making It Up As They Went Along
It may have been too much, a 24-episode long first season. I guess there was hope the show’d be picked up, but no one could predict the smash hit it’d become. It feels like they weren’t quite ready for it. Two FBI agents investigating supernatural phenomena, with the ‘government denying knowledge’ of the existence of extraterrestrial life running through it. There was probably going to be an audience for it, but the show blew up big time.
I can only assume creator Chris Carter and co. were figuring out what they could do on the show as they went along. That meant experimenting, but carefully. They didn’t want to go overboard and lose their newfound fanbase. They’d craft their stories with precision, staying away from the bigger concepts; ideas so crazy they’d go over the viewers’ heads. At least that’d explain their choice for a safer script like ‘Born Again’. Safe was better than Wild & Experimental, for now anyway.