Sunday, October 11, 2015

X-Files Xtras: Thoughts on Season 3

The X-Files season three
Not hooking an audience from the get-go can end a series in a second these days. Networks don't take a chance on shows like this anymore, even if characters are loved and the story is interesting. At season three the characters have us us hooked, but X-Files struggles with what it wants to be.

The major constant for X-Files is FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Each have separate beliefs about "the truth" - mystery, faith, the paranormal and supernatural. They solve a different case every episode, and many of them don't have an overall arc, except for their interests and partnership. The core episodes where Mulder and Scully get in too deep with leper experiments, her sister's murder, and his sister's disappearance is when they evolve as individuals and grow closer. On top of that, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are exemplary with their chemistry. They are a duo that comes around very rarely, where they are seamless and just click. 

X-Files falls into the mystery genre, but it's also suspenseful, a bit wacky, a bit of product from its times, and even humorous (depending on the investigation Mulder/Scully are on). Importantly, all of them are centered on the truth being out there. It has a little bit of everything and a general premise to keep it grounded.

My only qualm with this season is the rotation of stories. Several stand-alone episodes focused their mythologies and themes around cloning, psychic connections, or demonic possessions. Some of these stand apart, but a fair few are too similar. Other plots surrounding the overall expedition of aliens had a continuous "To Be Continued" finales, linking the strongest episodes together. I don't know of another equally successful show that keeps audiences interested for three cliffhangers in a row, and do this once or twice every season. Successfully, it's addictive to see where their leads journey, but the resemblances of characters and tall-tales blurred the plots together too.

Having blasted through season three, and got a slow but awesome start on season four, I gathered some thoughts on the best, my favorites and (one only) least favorite episodes of the season. Hope you enjoy!

Least Favorite Episode: Syzygy
A rare alignment of the planets give a pair of best friends dangerous telekinetic power. Besides the splendid peak of Ryan Reynolds before he hit it big, this case was simply a dud. Too similar to other episodes where people are possessed or attacked in some towns, this version blended with the others.

Episode I Didn't Really Watch 'Cause It Was So Gross Episode (AKA Scariest Episode): 2Shy
Lonely, insecure women are lured online into blind dates by a flesh-sucking creeper. It was cringe-worthy and sad how supporting female characters were portrayed; most of them dumpy, overweight, and not confident at all. Excluding Scully, several other characters fall into the vixen or Cat Lady trope with guys leering at them, and that was another qualm to the episode. Plus the fat-sucking vampire just made it even more visually atrocious. Did we need to see his mouth or his victims cocooned in puss? True to the picture above, this case was just so gross.

Best Minor Victory Against Cancer Man: Paper Clip
Mulder comes across files about the existence of aliens and the attempted cover-up of a buried bunker in the desert. It's the last thing Cancer Man and his associates want. Lucky and unlucky for them, the information is encrypted in Navajo. Mulder's digging into its meaning and origins takes him and Scully to a tribal leader who can translate the recordings. After securing the safety of the confidential intel. Skinner finally lays it into Cancer Man: he's screwed (temporarily, at least).

Cancer Man: What is this?
Skinner: This is where you pucker up and kiss my ass.

Favorite Speech: Piper Maru
Cancer Man and his mysterious band of cohorts are stopping Mulder and Scully at every turn. When Scully is denied furthering the investigation into how her sister's wrongful murder was committed by one of their buffoons, Scully - with her usual amount of dignity - let's loose. This scene and speech is fitting not only in the show but also real life, in many regards.

Scully: You know, it's strange - men can blow up buildings, and they can be nowhere near the crime scene. But we can piece together the evidence and convict them beyond a doubt. Our labs here can recreate out of the most microscopic details their motivation and circumstance to almost any murder. Right down to a killer's attitude towards his mother and that he was a bed wetter. But in the case of a woman... my sister... who was gunned down in cold blood in a well-lit apartment building by a shooter who left the weapon at the crime scene, we can't even put together enough to keep anybody interested. 

Skinner: I don't think this had anything to do with interest.

Scully: If I may say so, sir. It has everything to do with interest. Just not yours and not mine.

Favorite Ending: Quagmire
A species of frogs are dying off, and their near-extinction is drawing close correlations to  murders in a Georgian local town - at least to Mulder. This was a classic episode of waiting for a popular urban legend to show its scales. Their inquiry was adventurous and humorous, but what really sticks is the ending. When they conclude that an alligator was responsible for townspeople's deaths, Mulder turns away from the lake and rejoins Scully. The moon shining bright from above onto a Lochness Monster swimming towards his next feast.

Favorite "Out of Character" Episode: War of the Coprophages

While Mulder is suffering an existential crisis and is drawn towards a small town invaded by killer cockroaches, Scully is at home off-duty. She may be at home reading Breakfast at Tiffanys, washing her dog, and cleaning her gun but Scully is still drawn into aiding Mulder and his half-crazy schemes. Mulder and Scully share a special wit, full of sarcastic exchanges almost to challenge who is more stubborn or clever. This episode, overall, is just funny and ludicrous. It's completely out of character from the rest of the series making it one of the most memorable.

Episode Most Like The Twilight ZoneWetwired
An everyday object like a VHS gives off illusory images to those who watch them. But, energy from the local cable lines also seem to be submitting people to commit irrational murder. Scully becomes one of these victims, growing increasingly paranoid of Mulder and his unknown secret informant who helps him with their X-Files.

While most incidences in the series evoked ideas about the paranormal or supernatural and related them to 'realistic' scientific possibilities, Wetwired goes all Twilight Zone on us. It's a very cool premise, and the effects on Scully to question Mulder's intentions is powerful - for a duo who have been abducted, chased down, and hunted, only a little celluloid makes her doubt everything.

Favorite Episode(s): Nisei and 731
Coming across evidence of an alien autopsy, Mulder and Scully are sucked into an investigation involving Japanese ambassadors and surgeons dating back to eugenics and torture in World War II. This is one of the series examples of linking episodes together, and here it's like an action movie - engaging and totally thrilling.

Runner-up episodes: The Walk, Wetwired, Avatar

Scene that Sums Up The Whole Series: War of the Coprophages
Mulder and Scully make a great team because of their contrasts; his wide-eyed innocent in everything, and her doubtful yet curious faith in what's possible is what glues them together. But, even if Scully is invested in the X-Files, Mulder's explanations are hard to swallow. They usually also drive Mulder to go off-the-grid, turning over every dangerous leaf that could wind him or her dead. She tries her best to prevent him from going off the deep-end, and those efforts are mostly fruitless. Like in War of the Coprophages, there's a great exchange of what life with these two is all about.

Scully: Mulder, you're not thinking about trespassing on government property again, are you? I know you've done it in the past but I don't think this case war...

Mulder: Too late. I'm already inside.

Scully: (heavy sigh)

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