TV Review: The X-Files 11.3 “Plus One” (dir by Kevin Hooks)


It’s time for a creepy twin episode!

If there’s anything that I’ve learned from television and the movies, it’s that twins always have special powers and that those powers often lead to people dying.  I’ve also learned that, roughly 75% of the time, one twin will be saintly while the other will be a total jerk.  I have to admit that, whenever I meet twins in real life, it’s always a bit of a let down when it turns out that they’re not planning on taking over the world or opening up some sort of soul-sucking vortex.

In this case, the twins are Judy and Chucky Poundstone (both played by Karin Konoval).  Judy is in a mental hospital.  Chucky is a hoarder.  Both Judy and Chuck are also inhabited by Demon Judy and Demon Chucky, which could be a sign of either multiple personalities or demonic possession, depending on what you believe in.  All four of them are constantly playing a telepathic game of hangman, spelling out the names of the people who have annoyed them.  (Chucky, in particular, has a judgmental streak.)  Early on, it’s mentioned that their parents both hanged themselves.  Look at their old hangman games and you’ll see drawings of both “Mom” and “Dad.”

People are dying.  The authorities say that they’re all committing suicide but almost all of them, before dying, claimed that they were being pursued by a doppelgänger.  When one man manages to survive being attacked by his doppelgänger, that’s all it takes to get Mulder interested in the case.  Scully, of course, is skeptical about whether or not people are actually being murdered by their doppelgängers.  Not Mulder, though.  He has Twin Peaks experience, after all.  He knows better than to laugh off talk of doppelgängers.

This was a stand-alone episode of The X-Files, a monster of the week episode.  There was no talk of conspiracies or the Cigarette Smoking Man or William or anything else.  Judging from the reaction on twitter, a lot of people were happy about that.  Myself, I found it a bit jarring to go from the paranoia of This to the relatively straight forward investigation featured in Plus One.  I guess I’m just always surprised to discover that Mulder and Scully are not only still working for the FBI but they still take their jobs seriously.  Speaking for myself, if I had been through half of what they’ve been through, I’d probably end up fleeing the country and living off the grid in Canada.

That’s not to say that Plus One wasn’t a good episode.  I didn’t like it quite as much as everyone else did but, at the same time, it did have its share of creepy moments.  To be honest, anything involving a doppelgänger is going to be creepy.  I also enjoyed the deliberately absurd scene where the lawyer attempted to suicide-proof his house.  How many guns and swords does one attorney need?  For some reason, the fact that Mulder and Scully didn’t really seem to care that much about any of the “innocent” people who were killed amused me to no end.  I don’t know if that was deliberate or not but there was just something very amusing about the way both of them just shrugged at the idea of the lawyer chopping off his own head.  Eh, they seemed to be saying, we’ve seen worse.  Karin Konoval played both Chucky and Judy.  She was great as Judy but a bit less convincing as Chucky.  (In all fairness, the scenes between Mulder and Chucky featured the episode’s clunkiest dialogue.)

One final question raised by tonight’s episode, what is the current status of Mulder and Scully’s relationship?  Judging from tonight’s episode, I would say that they’re friends with benefits.

TV Review: The X-Files 11.2 “This” (dir by Glen Morgan)


If nothing else, last night’s episode of The X-Files was definitely an improvement over the season premiere.

The whole thing started off with a bang, as a bunch of Russians showed up and tried to gun down Mulder and Scully.  It turns out that apparently, the Executive Branch has hired a Russian agency to handle America’s secret intelligence work.  The Russians can even give orders to the FBI.  Yes, it’s all about Trump and I’m sure the Resistance loved it while the majority of MAGA probably wasn’t watching The X-Files to begin with.  Speaking for myself, as a fairly nonpartisan reviewer, I stopped being shocked by Russian villains a long time ago.  At this point, whenever a mobster or a mercenary shows up in a movie or TV show, I always expect to hear a Russian accent before they even open their mouth.

Anyway, as Skinner explains, the fact that the Executive Branch now hates the FBI is going to make it even more difficult for Mulder and Scully to do their thing.  I’m not really sure how much I agree with Skinner on that, though.  If there’s anything that quickly became apparent about these Russian mercenaries, it was just how totally inept they were at their job.  They literally blew up Mulder and Scully’s apartment and yet, Mulder and Scully still escaped without a scratch.  Later, another Russian assassin popped up and, even though he had the element of surprise on his side, he still couldn’t manage to hit either one of them.  Part of me hopes that the Russian ineptness was deliberate on the part of the show.  That would be the ultimate joke, wouldn’t it?  The Russians aren’t even good at their job and they still managed to secretly take over the country.

When Mulder and Scully weren’t running from the Russians, they were dealing Langley, an old friend who, despite having been dead for 16 years, still kept appearing on Mulder’s phone and asking if Mulder was there.  It turns out that Langley, like a lot of geniuses, arranged for his consciousness to be transported into a simulated world after his death.  However, it turns out that the simulation is actually a prison where people like Steve Jobs are being used for slave labor.

It also turned out, of course, that Erika Price (the great Barbara Hershey) was the one behind both the Russians and the dead slave labor.  She explained that every time you use an iPhone, a piece of your mind is scanned and stolen.  When you think about it, that makes perfect sense.

Last night’s episode was all about paranoia, which is one reason why I enjoyed it.  Admittedly, things did get off to a somewhat shaky start with the whole shoot out between Mulder, Scully, and the Russians, which was so haphazardly edited that I was worried I was going to get carsick just from watching it.  But, after that, the episode became a deliberately paced mediation of darkness, death, and a paranoia.  The extended sequence where Mulder and Scully explored the shadowy National Cemetery was brilliantly handled.  As I watched, I was very much aware that there was undoubtedly a secret behind every tombstone.

That said, the main reason that last night’s episode worked was because of the playful chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.  The main problem with the premiere — well, one of them — is that Duchovny and Anderson didn’t have many scenes together.  Instead, Anderson spent almost the entire episode is the hospital while Duchovny spent his time driving through tobacco country.  Last night, though, Duchovny and Anderson were together in nearly every scene and their banter was the best thing about the show.

As I watched last night’s episode, I was able to understand why so many people love The X-Files.  It’s not the conspiracies.  It’s not even the monsters.  Instead, it’s all about the way that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson bounces lines off of each other.  Here’s hoping that the rest of the season understands this as well.

TV Review: The X-Files 11.1 “My Struggle III” (dir by Chris Carter)


Well, let’s get this over with…

(Seriously, if I ever get tired of “Stay supple!,” that’ll probably be my new catch phrase…)

As you my remember, way back in 2016, I reviewed the 10th season of The X-Files.  With the exception of the episode that featured Rhys Darby, I didn’t care much for it.   In fact, the episode that was set in Texas almost drove me to throw a shoe at the TV.  However, the 10th season did end with a big cliffhanger and, since I hate the idea of a story going unfinished, I knew I would have to watch the 11th season whenever it premiered.  And I also knew that I’d have to review it because that’s what I do.

Well, tonight, the 11th season premiered.  Armed with as much knowledge as one can hope to gain from scanning Wikipedia, I twice watched My Struggle III.

The episode began with a lengthy monologue from the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), in which he talked about how, if the American people knew about what was truly going on in the darkest corners of the government, there would be riots in the streets.  Personally, I love conspiracy theories and I’m generally opposed to all forms of controlling legal authority so I enjoyed that part of the show.   The episode managed to work footage of every U.S. President except for Obama into the opening conspiracy montage.  Personally, if I had edited the show, I would snuck Obama in there just to mess with people and their expectations.  But that’s just me!

Anyway, as much fun as that little conspiracy monologue may have been, I was more concerned with how the show was going to deal with the fact that the world literally ended at the end of season 10.  Well, it was quickly revealed that nothing that happened during My Struggle II actually happened.  Instead, it was all just a vision that Scully had.  Apparently, it’s a premonition of what will happen unless Mulder … does something.

Does what exactly?  I’m not sure and, to be honest, I’m not really sure that the show does either.  I understand that this episode is meant to be part of a bigger mythology and, as a result, it was supposed to be a bit open-ended.  However, as I watched My Struggle III, I got the feeling that the episode was mostly just something that was hastily whipped up so that the show could do away with season 10’s disastrous finale.  And it was hard not to feel that, narratively, the show took the easy way out.

The majority of the episode was made up of Mulder driving his car from location to location, searching for the Cigarette Smoking Man.  This led to Mulder breaking into a mansion and having a conversation with Mr. Y (Alexandre Campion) and Erika Price (Barbara Hershey) about aliens and the secret history of the world.  To be honest, it was kind of boring and it didn’t really hold my attention.

Meanwhile, the Cigarette Smoking Man and Agent Reyes (Annabeth Gish) were having a conversation with Skinner (Mitch Pileggi).  During the conversation, the Cigarette Smoking Man revealed that he, and not Mulder, is the true father of Scully’s son, William.

And twitter exploded in rage.

Don’t fear, twitter!  There’s always a good chance that next week’s episode will open with the Cigarette Smoking Man revealing that he actually isn’t the father or maybe it’ll just turn out that someone else was having a vision.  By dismissing season 10’s cliffhanger as just being a dream (or a vision or premonition or whatever), The X-Files has reminded us that nothing on the show actually means anything.  Who needs to maintain continuity or narrative integrity when you can just shrug and say, “Well, y’see, it’s all a part of the conspiracy…”

(As I watched tonight’s episode, I found myself thinking about Twin Peaks: The Return.  No matter how weird or convoluted Twin Peaks got, I still never doubted that David Lynch did have a definite destination in mind.  That’s not a feeling that I got from tonight’s episode of The X-Files.)

Now, here’s the good news!  I have heard, from people who I trust, that the upcoming episodes are nothing like the premiere.  Apparently, the premiere was one of those “we have to do it” things.  The upcoming episode will be stand-alone episodes, much like the one where Mulder met the Were-Monster.

So, with that in mind, I will tune in next week to see if episode 2 is any better than episode 1.

Will you?

A Few Thoughts On The X-Files 10.6 “My Struggle II”


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(WARNING: This review will contain spoilers.)

I have to admit that, after I finished watching the finale of The X-Files “revival,” I felt totally and completely confused.  I wasn’t really sure what I had just seen and I don’t mean that in a good way.  I wondered if maybe, as a relatively new viewer of The X-Files, I simply did not have the necessary background information to follow the episode’s plot.  And then I wondered if maybe I just had not been paying enough attention while I was watching.  Maybe I was too ADD to follow an episode of The X-Files…

So, I rewatched the episode.  I made sure to sit right in front of the TV and to turn on the closed captioning so that I would be able to understand what everyone was mumbling about.  During the second viewing, I came to understand just why exactly I had been so confused.  To say that the editing of My Struggle II was ragged would be an understatement.  It was often difficult to figure out how much time had passed between scenes or where the characters were in relation to one another.  The whole episode felt as if it had been haphazardly constructed, with scenes randomly tossed together.  But then again, that’s been true of the entire season.  Even the better episodes have shared that ragged quality.  The parts, as good as they have occasionally been, have rarely added up to a coherent whole.  I imagine that, if you were a fan of The X-Files before the revival, you might have enough of an emotional commitment, in Mulder and Scully as characters, that you can overlook the revival’s weaker moments.  But for a new viewer, like me, it can get frustrating.

This has been a very uneven season.  Season 10 was made up of 6 episodes, each of which seemed to have a totally different tone and outlook from the other.  There’s been one great episode (Mulder & Scully Meet The Weremonster), one terrible episode (My Struggle), one mediocre episode (Babylon), and two episodes that were above average but nothing special (Founder’s Mutation, Home Again).  For the first 40 minutes or so, I thought that My Struggle II would be another mediocre episode.  But, towards the very end, things started to get better.  After spending most of the episode separated from each other, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson finally got to share a scene.  (The only time that Duchovny and Anderson seem truly invested in their roles is when they’re playing off of each other.  Each brings out the best in the other.)  And the scene ended with a cliffhanger that was so batshit crazy that, almost despite my better instincts, I found myself saying, “Yes, give us a season 11 because I have to know what just happened!”

And really, thank God for that cliffhanger.  A good final scene can make up for so much.  My Struggle II opens with Mulder missing and, it’s a sign of that ragged editing that I mentioned earlier, that I wasn’t sure how long he had been missing or who exactly was aware that he was missing.  It turns out that Mulder’s missing because he’s busy driving to South Carolina so he can confront the Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis), the big villain from the show’s original run.  Apparently, the CSM is aware that humanity is about to be wiped out by an alien plague but he has a cure and he wants Mulder to join him and a few others that he has judged worthy of survival.

Meanwhile, Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) is back!  When we last heard, Tad had vanished and his web site had been shut down.  And yet, at the start of this episode, Tad has suddenly returned and his web site is once again active.  No mention is made of where O’Malley has been and nobody — not even Scully — seems to be curious about the details.  Maybe O’Malley was never really missing in the first place.  It’s hard to tell with this show.

Anyway, the main reason that Tad shows up is so that he can announce, during his podcast, that humanity’s DNA has been corrupted with alien DNA and, as a result, everyone is essentially a walking time bomb.  This, of course, leads to rioting in the streets which is … odd.  I mean, let’s be honest.  He may look like Joel McHale and his show may be surprisingly well-produced but, ultimately, Tad is just a guy with a podcast.  As I watched the original world react to Tad’s podcast, it occurred to me that Season 10 may be airing in 2016 but it still has a 2002 sensibility.

Working with Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose), Scully is able to use her DNA to create a cure for the virus.  I’m not sure how that works but, in all fairness to The X-Files, this may be one of those plot points that would make more sense to me if I had watched more of the previous seasons of the show.  By this point, Mulder has returned from confronting the CSM and is on the verge of dying from the virus.  Scully announces that, in order to cure Mulder, they have to get DNA from their son William but she’s not sure where he is and…

AND THAT’S WHEN A BIG OLD FLYING SAUCER APPEARS IN THE SKY ABOVE!

And, as frustrated as I had been with My Struggle II, I cheered a little when that UFO showed up.  Ever since this revival started, I have been predicting that William would return.  Now, I don’t know for sure who is in that flying saucer but seriously, it has to be William, doesn’t it?  I mean, who else would it be?  As frustrated as I have often been with The X-Files, I ended My Struggle II wanting a season 11 because I want to know who is in that flying saucer.

And, ultimately, I guess that has to be counted as a point in the show’s favor.  When a show can be as flawed as The X-Files has been this season and still leave the viewer hoping for more, that has to be considered a success of some sort.

So, my final verdict on My Struggle II: Uneven but intriguing when it mattered.  I think the same can be said of Season 10 as a whole.

Will The X-Files return for an 11th season?  Well, if it doesn’t, there will be a lot of disappointed people on twitter.  Assuming the show does return and that William is on that flying saucer, can we all start calling him “Sculder?”

Seriously, I’ve been trying to make Sculder a thing for a while now…

A Few Thoughts On The X-Files 10.5 “Babylon”


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“How do you say ‘howdy pardner’ in Arabic?”

Hey, X-Files, how do you say “Fuck you” in English?

I was flying between Dallas and San Antonio last Monday when the 5th episode of The X-Files revival aired.  I did DVR it but, as soon as I found out that this episode was set in Texas, I found myself reluctant to actually watch it.

Why?

Well, why not?

TV shows and movies never get my home state right.  After all, Texas is the state that the rest of the world loves to hate.  We are a convenient scapegoat for the rest of America.  Every sin of this country is blamed on my state and it gets a little tedious after a while.  And yes, I know that some people (mostly folks up in Vermont) would claim that it’s our own fault for being so confident and outspoken but you know what?  We only do that because we know it bothers you.

But anyway, the Babylon episode of The X-Files was set in Texas and, having just watched it, I have to say that it really is no surprise that it gets the entire state wrong.  After all, The X-Files movie portrayed Dallas as sitting out in the middle of the desert, surrounded by mountains and caves.  (There are no mountains or caves in North Texas.)  Babylon, meanwhile, portrayed every single person in Texas as wearing a cowboy hat and denim and talking like a bunch of actors who just finished the first day of James Lipton’s “How To Talk Southwestern” class at the Actor’s Studio.  I lost track of how many denim skirts I saw in the background of a scene that was meant to be set at DFW.  It was embarrassing.  Seriously, X-Files, do a little fucking research in the future, okay?  I mean, I know it’s hot but it wouldn’t kill you to spend two hours down here and see what we actually dress and sound like.

And if I seem like I’m making a huge deal about this, you should understand that Babylon made a huge deal about being set in Texas.  If I had taken a drink every single time somebody made a point of saying that they were in Texas or that they were going to Texas, I would have gotten drunk off my ass within a matter of minutes.  Of course, I would already have been drunk from taking a drink every time that someone wandered by wearing a cowboy hat or a denim skirt.

As for the rest of the episode — well, it was technically okay.  It actually had an interesting idea at the center of it, with Mulder attempting to communicate with a brain-dead terrorist.  Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose showed up as Agents Miller and Einstein, who were basically younger versions of Mulder and Scully.  (Lauren Ambrose, in particular, was well-cast.)  If, for some reason, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson refused to ever appear in another episode of The X-Files, I wouldn’t have any problem with the series following the adventures of Miller and Einstein.

But, I have to be honest here.  I could not look past how thoroughly this episode failed in portraying my home state.  And really, there was no reason to set this episode in Texas.  Draw Mohammed exhibitions take place all over the country and Babylon could have just as easily been set in New York or California.  (Except, of course, that would have meant acknowledging that there is prejudice in all the states of the union, even the ones that serve as home base for the entertainment industry.)

Anyway, this upcoming Monday will give us the finale of The X-Files revival.  My Struggle II will feature the return of Joel McHale and, if I had to guess, I would say that it will somehow involve Mulder and Scully’s long-missing son, William (a.k.a. Sculder).  If you want a season 11 of The X-Files, be sure to watch.

I just hope they won’t return to Texas.

A Few Thoughts On The X-Files 10.4 (“Home Again”)


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Tonight’s episode of The X-Files had the unenviable task of following last week’s episode, Mulder & Scully Meet The Weremonster.  As our own Leon the Duke pointed out over on twitter, that episode was not only the best of season 10 but one of the best of the series overall.  It was also that episode that convinced me, who up until that point had been a skeptic about The X-Files revival, to stick with this show.

Interestingly enough (and this is something that did not occur to me until about five minutes agp), Mulder & Scully Meet The Weremonster was also the halfway point of this 6-episode revival.  I assume that both tonight’s episode and the next week’s episode are meant to set the foundation for the season finale, My Struggle II.  A good deal of tonight’s episode consisted of Mulder and Scully just talking.  With Scully’s mother dying in the hospital, they talked about the “big” issues of life, death, and family.  They also talked about their son, William.  This is the son that they gave up for adoption and which they both ususally spend a good deal of time trying not to talk or think about.

So, I’m going to make this prediction right now.  It’s not a huge prediction and I’m hardly the first one to make it.  You’ve probably already made it yourself.  The 6th episode of season 10 — My Struggle II — will be about William.  At first, I thought that William would probably be reunited with his parents during this episode but, narratively, that’s short-sighted and way too easy.  Instead, I imagine that season 10 will end with either Scully or Mulder announcing that he or she is going to find their son and rescue him from whatever conspiracy has gotten its hands on him.

And that search will lead to Season 11 and perhaps every season after that.  It’s a search that will go on until Fox decides to cancel the show for a second time.  And I’ll be watching as Mulder and/or Scully search for William because, despite my initial skepticism, The X-Files has captured me.  Though I still sometimes strain to understand what they’re saying and I’m starting to get seriously concerned about my hearing, I’ve grown to love the chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.  That chemistry was on full display in tonight’s episode.  If last week’s episode featured Duchovny at his deadpan best, this episode was all about Anderson.  It was heart breaking to watch her as she struggled to deal with her mother’s death and the legacy of her fractured family.

As for this week’s monster — well, the Trashman was no Weremonster but he was still scary enough to make me go, “Agck!” whenever he showed up and he helped to turn Downtown into an unlikely but powerful anthem of doom.  As well, whenever he popped out of the back of that trash truck, I was reminded of the final scene of Once Upon A Time In America and that’s always a good thing.

(Seriously, Once Upon A Time In America is such a good movie!)

Overall, it was a good episode and I look forward to seeing what happens next week.  Also, I’m going to keep referring to William as “Sculder” until that becomes his official nickname.  It may not happen tomorrow but give me two years and Sculder will a trending topic.

It’s going to happen!

A Few Thoughts on The X-Files 10.3 “Mulder & Scully Meet The Were-Monster”


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After watching last night’s episode of The X-Files, I finally feel like I’m starting to get it.  You have to realize that I came into this revival with only a casual knowledge of what the whole show was about.  Since I didn’t watch the show when it originally aired and have only seen a few reruns (and the movies, neither of which did much for me), I’ve often felt rather detached from all the excitement that’s been generated by the revival.

And the previous two episode did not help.  My Struggle was a mess.  The second episode was a definite improvement but still, it did not exactly blow me away.  I watched these episodes and I assumed that The X-Files was one of those revivals that would largely succeed only on the strength of nostalgia for the show it once was.

But then I watched last night’s episode, the wonderfully titled Mulder & Scully Meet The Were-Monster.  After two episodes that occasionally felt as if they were straining a bit too hard to be taken seriously, Mulder & Scully Meet The Were-Monster was a comedic deconstruction of the whole “cult-show-about-paranormal-investigators” genre.  While never quite slipping into the realm of self-parody, the episode had a lot of fun with the conventions of the show.

It also had a lot of fun with David Duchovny’s performance as Fox Mulder.  Duchovny is one of those confident actors who is always more likable when he’s befuddled.  A good deal of the pleasure of last night’s episode came from watching Mulder literally stumble through the plot.

As for the plot itself, it was wonderfully nonsensical.  Someone is murdering random people.  Is it a frightening lizard-like creature that some of the locals have spotted?  Well, there is a lizard-like creature but he’s not the murderer.  The murderer is Pasha, a sociopathic animal control officer, played by the always welcome Kumail Nanjiani.  You pretty much know that Pasha is the murderer from the minute you see him, if just because there’s no other reason for him to be played by a familiar actor.  When Pasha is unmasked as the killer and arrested, he starts to give the usual lengthy explanation for his crimes, just to be ignored by Mulder.  Mulder mentions that he’s sick of serial killer profiling.  Take that, Criminal Minds!

The Were-Monster of the title was played by Rhys Darby, who we all remember and love as Murray on The Flight of the Conchords.  It turns out that the Were-Monster was a lizard creature who was bit by a man and who now cursed to turn into a man whenever the sun rises.  Whenever the Were-Monster transforms into Guy Mann (that’s the name it uses!), he has to worry about stuff like holding down a job and impressing other people by lying about his sex life.  Poor Guy!  But, at least he wasn’t a murderer and at least he wasn’t successful in his attempt to convince Mulder to kill him.

(You can’t kill Murray!  He was the last Bret!)

Hopefully, the quality and sheer fun of Mulder & Scully And The Were-Monster is a sign of things to come as far as the remaining episodes of The X-Files are concerned.