Wednesday, December 9, 2015

X-Files Xtras: Thoughts on Season 6

Season five was not my favorite of The X-Files so far. The latest set of episodes gave me a mix-bag of reactions. Chris Carter's format of recycling ideas of the supernatural and paranormal became too obvious. The only real exciting revelations centered on Mulder and Scully's individual quests, and their when-will-they chemistry. Everything else was a lot less interesting or entertaining.

Color me surprised when everything seemed to turn around for the sixth season. The direction and writing really hit its stride as nearly every episode was fun and exciting. Both Mulder and Scully's journeys go much further and deeper, opening up one can of worms after another.

In the last season finale Mulder and Scully's investigation of the truth comes to a head when they discover a young boy Gibson with rare psychic capabilities is everything their X-Files stands for. Of course, Cancer Man and his legion of henchmen are trying to extract the boy for their own experiments as the agents try to get him to safety. Season six begins with Scully and Mulder being exiled out of their department and new agents taking over. The new crew both who have close ties to them and to Cancer Man. Sculder's (Scully + Mulder) jobs literally go up in smoke when their office is set on fire, extinguishing most of Mulder's hard work and files over the years.

Their partnership expands in a lot of ways once they are separated and given new jobs in other departments. Of course nothing is going to stop Mulder from hunting the truth and goes rogue with some of his own investigations involving Cancer Man and links to extraterrestrial activities. Scully, on the other hand, tries to play by the rules that the X-Files is temporarily closed. She's even given more freedom by the Assistant Director Mersch for other murder-related crimes and is given a new partner. Their separation challenges her to see all the possibilities the way Mulder would and continues to challenge her own skepticism towards the unknown.

The sixth season had a really great balance in dealing with the agents' connection to Cancer Man and their conspiracy over alien experiments, and dealing with the individual agents' connection to this arc.
David and Gillian were given a lot of different emotions and styles of episodes to play with; some were quite quirky or suspenseful and serious.

It didn't matter if an episode was a standalone quest or dealt the Cancer Man arc. Both styles were fun as well as well-rounded. I didn't feel that the stories were becoming stale and expired, recycled ideas. The chemistry and repartee between Mulder and Scully became fresh again, which was lost in season five. I try to keep these X-Files lists to about ten episodes, but I couldn't resist with a lot of more categories this time around. Be prepared for a long list of favorites! Hope you enjoy!

Most Exciting Episode: Drive
A high speed chase is not the first thing you really think of with the X-FilesDrive was not only a great episode for its unexpected appearance by Bryan Cranston (way before Breaking Bad) fame, but by just how exciting his encounter was with David Duchovny.

Mulder is taken hostage by a man who has developed a severe ear condition; one that can only be eased by driving west at high speeds. Meanwhile Scully tries to find a cure for his condition, and others who have suffered similar conditions and died mysteriously.

It seems that the latter's character is a deranged psychopath but, as Mulder spends more time dwelling on this stranger's pain, more details come to light. Mulder's ability to draw the truth out of his kidnapper while Scully is trying to find the scientific proof was a good 'reminder' of their personalities that seemed sorta lost in season 5. They want to do their jobs via the X-Files, but also help someone who authorities are tossing aside as a nutball. Their brief connection to this stranger echos so many levels of Scully and Mulder's unexplained experiences that were denied and covered-up by their bosses. It's also a throwback that hinted at something not something necessarily paranormal, but energetically environmentally, can still have a severe, almost unexplained affect on us.

Episode Most Like The Twilight Zone: Triangle
The energy to Triangle is palpable. Mulder's boat is wrecked when he travels to the Bermuda Triangle investigating a British luxury liner that disappeared in World War II. When he is hauled aboard, he is trapped in alternate timeline where the Nazis have hijacked the ship. Not only is it always a treat to see the characters acting outside of their normal behavior, but there is such an intensity to Scully finding Mulder in our present timeline. Her ingenuity and determination is so dynamic, roping together the help of the Lone Gunmen. Just her walking around the floors of the FBI in secret meetings with Skinner and trying to track down Mulder is lively. I loved the parallel aspects too and how creative the direction was - with Cancer Man cast as a Nazi, Scully's alternative kick-ass personality in the 1940s, and of course, Gillian and David's awesome chemistry.

Funniest Episode, Favorite "Out of Character" Episodes: Dreamland and Dreamland Part 2
When you think of Mulder and Scully hitting every location of alien lore or urban legends you can think of, Area 51 is probably at the top of the list. But, this is and isn't the episode you'd quite expected from them visiting such a top-secret location. There aren't aliens, experiments, or the like. Instead it's your typical throwback to Freaky Friday.

Mulder and Scully finally reaches the epitome of alien lore known as Area 51. Instead of reaching its gates or making contact with an unknown informant, they gain the attention of nearby military base. One flash of lights illuminating the dark sky overhead, and Mulder switches minds with the bases' top agent Morris (played by Michael McKean).

Two characters switch minds and bodies; one is trying to show his true identity, while the other takes advantage of a break from his everyday life. There isn't a lot of mystery or suspense; in fact, it's really hilarious. It's insane how easily you feel like things will never get back to normal (as normal as it gets on this show). What's funnier is that there's really no profound explanation as to why this shift happens. This is another strange phenomenon and file to add to their cabinet of chalk full of weird encounters, and keeps adding onto the lore of the famous site - which is really out of this world.

Episode That Sums Up The Whole Series: How The Ghosts Stole Christmas
Just the very beginning of the episode speaks volumes of how much this one sums up the series. Scully, once again, just wants an evening of normality, especially since it's Christmas. Instead Mulder's convinced her to take a trip and visit a reputed haunted house. Two spectral residents of the mansion prove to the agents how lonely the holidays can be. The conversations between the agents are one prime example of how Mulder and Scully's relationship works; Scully compounds all the scientific evidence imaginable to prove there aren't paranormal/supernatural forces out there, while Mulder is up for a good ol' adventure into Anythings Possible Ville. Their encounter with the ghosts are full of twists and turns; you never really know who is going to make it out alive, or who is truly dead. It's one helluva spooky way to spend Christmas.

So Freaking Cute Episode: The Rain King
There are plenty of X-Files episodes that break out of the suspenseful, darker material it's known for. I usually like to call these "out of character" episodes because their style is usually humorous, quirky, but still deal with weird literature-inspired monsters, or ones from out of our imaginations. While The Rain King doesn't deal with monsters, demon possessions or psychic abilities, it is an out-of-character episode because it's mostly a love story - a man who transforms his repressed emotions for the woman he loves (and doesn't love him back) through the weather. This episode is packed with humor and great chemistry, especially between Scully and Mulder (and their own ignored feelings for each other). Plus, there's Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland references ( my fave ). And, it's just all so freaking cute. Like possibly the cutest episode of the series - ever.

YAY MORE SKINNER, Favorite Speech: S.R. 819
Finally we get another Skinner-centered episode, but unfortunately, his life is on the line as Mulder and Scully race against time to track down who poisoned him. It never really feels like we get enough of Skinner, even when we do. As his life hangs in the balance, Skinner reflects on his relationship to Mulder and Scully, and whether he's done them well as their Assistant Director.

We've often seen the witty and strict relationship he's had with his agents, but sometimes his loyalty to play the book got in his way of supporting Mulder and Scully. His fatherly-relationship to them was one of watching them cause a ruckus and having to make up to his bosses, and holding them on very tight leashes so he didn't get in trouble. Skinner's interests in abiding the laws as well as protecting his employees are a difficult balance to maintain. I loved the brief examination of his regrets about not protecting or supporting Mulder/Scully more, and the revelations he feels of having failed them by holding onto his loyalties to the law.

Favorite Speech:
Every minute of every day we choose. Who we are. Who we forgive. Who we defend and protect. To choose a side or to walk the line. To play the middle. To straddle the fence between what is and what should be. This was the course I chose. Trying to find the delicate balance of interests that can never exist. Choosing by not choosing. Defending a center which cannot hold. So death chose for me.

Favorite Scully Episode: Tithonus
Death has been a large factor in Mulder and Scully's struggle with the X-Files. They've both faced its door a number of times from the murders of their families, their individual abductions and Scully's cancer. Here the grim reaper rares its ugly head again in a more philosophical form when Scully, partnered with a new agent, investigates a crime scene photographer Fellig who has the ability to capture the victims' last moments. What she doesn't anticipate is becoming one of his latest subjects.

Normally in television shows and movies, we learn to "say goodbye" to our favorite characters by watching them get killed off. Scully is a lucky character who had many close calls to dying but never had to heed the final one. Here, the taunting of killing off her off, becomes less explosive or a "surprising twist". Here, death is still unpredictable to its unsuspecting victims but it also gives choices - to die, to sacrifice, to let someone else live. Tithonus gave the concept of Death a much bigger power and tangible presence that's really mysterious and still enjoyable.

Favorite To Be Continued Parts, Favorite Mulder Episode, Episode with ANSWERS FINALLY SOME ANSWERS: Two Fathers and One Son
I can't even put into words the importance of these two episodes. The alien conspiracy arc pops into the picture halfway through season six. So much of what we suspect about the 'sacrifices' FBI agents made to hold onto their power against alien colonization, Cancer Man's past, Mulder's father, Scully's abduction, all of the cover-ups, comes to light with these two episodes. It's ridiculous.

Earlier in this post I have a category of Episode that Sums Up The Whole Series, but I couldn't resist awarding a Scene that Sums Up The Whole Series. Mulder has answers. Sadly nobody ever takes them seriously.

A.D. KERSH: You have answers now? Why didn't I hear about those answers before?
MULDER: I've had answers for years.
A.D. KERSH: Then why didn't we hear about them?
MULDER: Nobody ever listened.

Favorite Episode: Monday
Ever get a case of the Mondays? Mulder and Scully certainly have. In Monday, they are literally stuck in time, repeating events that lead to a bank's robbery and subsequent explosion. Only one woman seems to know that the world is stuck in a time loop, and the little clues she leaves the agents' start to help them prevent the bomb exploding and from time standing still. Little details and choices change their plans slightly, inch by inch. More choices seem to be the right ones because they might lead to different outcomes. Instead nearly identical results rise again and again, and their lives only alter inch by inch. Monday reminded me so much of Christopher Nolan's Inception, I couldn't help loving it. Not that Inception is boring (for me at least); the episode deals obviously and very heavily with time, but also free will - can we cheat it or does it cheat us?

I Didn't Know I Needed This Epiosde In My Life: Arcadia
There comes a time in every fangirl's fandoming when an episode walks into her life she didn't know she needed. Arcadia is such an episode. Mulder and Scully go undercover in a home owners' association community where it's rule-breakers are mysteriously killed. Having lived in an home owners association community where everything is scrutinized, fined, and criticized, there was so much I could relate to about the rules and regulations that members and boards of directors take so freaking seriously. It's ridiculous. But the icing on top of the cake was not only do the agents go undercover, their new identities are *wait for * ROB AND LAURIE PETRIE from The Dick Van Dyke Show. That's only one of my favorite shows of all time!!!.. This moment helped cement X-Files even more as another all-time favorite.

Least Favorite Episode: Milagro
A series of murders where the victims are hearts are removed guides Scully and Mulder to investigate a writer who seems to know about the crimes before they happen. The writer also happens to have a romantic interest in Scully, which naturally draws her attraction towards him. Usually, I love anything with John Hawkes but Milagro was pretty boring. Which is strange because there is a lot of depth between Hawkes' Padgett, who is a writer thinking like his characters and becoming obsessed with them, and Mulder, who is trained to think like criminals but won't let go of his obsession with the truth. But I don't know - the episodes' motive and theme felt repeated from other shows and movies that deal with the same subject; an author sacrificing himself for his muse who becomes attracted to him. UGH.

Unexpected Emotional Episode, Favorite Ending: The UnNatural
The agents are thrown a curveball when Mulder seeks out one of the X-Files' original detectives and his ties to an old case from 1947. From the depths of baseball history, an African-American baseball player Josh Exley is targeted by the KKK, the leader of which turns out to be alien.

The UnNatural is written by Duchovny, who at the time didn't feel he had the skills to write a teleplay. He impressively weaves a lot of Mulder's desires, passion, and innocence together with the history of the X-Files and his current relationship with Scully. From inning to inning, it's a great episode that covers a range of fun layers; racism, aliens, and a love of the game. It's also unexpectedly emotional in bringing out a lighter side to the show, as well as a great ending with Mulder teaching Scully how to play baseball.

MULDER: All right, fire away, Poorboy. Ooh! That's good. All right, what you may find is you concentrate on hitting that little ball... The rest of the world just fades away-- all your everyday, nagging concerns. The ticking of your biological clock. How you probably couldn't afford that nice, new suede coat on a G-Woman's salary. How you threw away a promising career in medicine... to hunt aliens with a crackpot, albeit brilliant, partner. Getting into the heart of a global conspiracy. Your obscenely overdue triple-X bill. Oh, I... I'm sorry, Scully. Those last two problems are mine, not yours.

SCULLY: Shut up, Mulder. I'm playing baseball.

Other Favorite Mind-**** Episode: Field Trip
Reality and fantasy clash when Mulder and Scully are drawn into the North Carolina mountains where the skeletonized remains of a couple are found. Delving further into their investigation, a giant fungal which releases LSD-spores and slowly digests its victims is discovered. Mulder and Scully are adversely affected by the LSD, making us think if the the worst happened - do the corpses belong to our agents? Like Monday, I'm not sure where this episode realistically (haha, using logic in the X-Files) fits into series' timeline. It's a complete mindgame that the writers play on us. While Mulder and Scully are under the drugs' affects, we never really know if they manage to escape or survive. We see each of perspectives of what happened, who they think is right or wrong with the outcome of their findings, but we never really uncover the truth. It's one hell of a mental field trip.

The Chandler 'I Don't Know What's Going on But I'm Excited!' Bing Episode: Biogenesis
A lot of the time I didn't know what was going on in Biogenesis, but I was excited! The agents travel to Africa where ancient metallic objects are discovered and provide proof that life originated on other planets. Unfortunately, Scully is left to helm the case on her own because Mulder is severely affected by their findings, leading him into a psychological and physical breakdown. Meanwhile Skinner strangely jumps aboard their investigation as some of Cancer Man's henchman looking over his shoulder.

What's really exciting was the exotic location of the case, as well as Scully's chance to investigate on her own (with some girl power by her side). Duchovny gives some of his best acting in the series too, as Mulder's psychological state ventures into some scary territories. The episode itself also challenges us to think who is on Mulder and Scully's side, especially Skinner. Biogenesis had so much going for it, and once the plot gets underway, everything comes into focus....a little.

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