dorchadas: (Green Sky)
I didn't stop watching, I just got very sidetracked!

The best line in my notes for this episode is "collective unconscious dream woo woo bullshit," because that's the perfect explanation of this episode's Mulder Moment. You know what I mean. When Mulder says, "But what if it's [incredibly unlikely woo woo explanation]," and everyone explains why that can't possibly be true, and then it is. I was fine with sleep deprivation research, but I'm not sure that we needed extending the collective unconscious into other people's brains and convincing them that their nightmares are really happening.

When they first revealed that Preacher was sending the dreams to others, I immediately to turned to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and said, "He's using Phantasmal Killer." I spent the whole time thinking that Preacher was a wizard and thinking about spells per day and it completely took me out of the episode.

That said, the mood was great, and I liked the conversation at the end between Preacher and the doctor. How should blame be apportioned? The soldiers were volunteers, but this experiment obviously wasn't approved by an ethics board and I doubt any long-term studies were done of its effects. This is X-Files, it was probably just two people in black suits in a room saying, "What never had to sleep again?" and then cackling evilly and approving a $1 billion secret budget appropriation. I wish they had taken the time spent on magic dream power and spent it in culpability, on "you did this to me" vs. "your hand pulled the trigger." Or at least spent a little more time than a single conversation.

I also liked Krycek, even though I realized almost immediately that he was evil. It's not just that he stepped out of a 1950s recruitment ad for the bureau, though that was part of it; it's that he was being too accommodating of Mulder. I mean, Mulder is a nutjob, and the only reason he's sympathetic is because this is X-Files so he's always right. It was when Mulder explained his theory that Augustus Cole is a sorcerer with the dreamspun bloodline and Krycek was like, "Yeah, that totally makes sense."  photo emot-ms.gif No! No it doesn't! It's the most ridiculous possible explanation and there's no reason you should believe it. Even if it is right. Honestly, I think they should have delayed the reveal for at least a couple episodes. Keep the suspense going.

I suspect Krycek will be compromised/redeemed (replace as applicable based on your employment by MAJESTIC) by associating too much with Mulder and turn on the bad guys, but we'll see.

Duane Barry
This episode would have been much more effective if the aliens hadn't clearly been people in suits. I could see the seams where the gloves met the rest of the outfit! They should have stayed behind the plastic sheeting with the white light and remained silhouettes.

The rest of the plot is very strange, and I'm not sure if it's because it's a two-parter and it'll get resolved next time or if there's genuinely something I'm missing. Mulder has no hostage negotiation training, but gets called in to consult on the hostage scenario for unclear reasons. The other agents think that Barry is delusional and are clearly annoyed when Mulder starts feeding into his delusions, but isn't that why Mulder was called out in the first place? Because the government knows that Barry was actually experimented on, and they want Mulder there to...what, exactly? What is this supposed to accomplish for MAJESTIC? Is it all a disinformation campaign, where Mulder was supposed to feed into Barry's delusions, screw everything up, and be horribly discredited? If so, that's almost how it worked out. Especially when he asked Barry if he was telling the truth, which led to Barry going into a rage and this quote:
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd: "Mulder, you are a fucking idiot."
My favorite part was at the end after the hostage situation had been resolved, when the lead negotiator told Mulder that X-rays found bizarre metal implants in Barry's body, in his nasal cavity, teeth, and belly, just as he describes, and even gives Mulder one. Then she just leaves. It's easy to think she's in on the conspiracy, but I think a simpler explanation is likely--she finds the concept uncomfortable, so she's going to ignore it. That happens all the time in real life, and right now I'm rereading From a Buick 8, where a big chunk of the plot is about that very human tendency. If that happens a lot, it helps explain why a world of man-eating bigfoots, alien abductions, mutant flukemen, murderghosts, and evil clones still remains wainscotted instead of leading to all-out war against the supernatural.

The truth is out there, but it's kind of weird so leave me out of it, thank you.

I had to laugh at the Netflix blurb for this episode:
Mulder attempts to rescue Scully after she is abducted by a deranged man who believes in UFOs.
Why is Mulder kidnapping Scully??  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif

Poor Skinner. Caught between a rock and a hard place. I have to imagine every morning, he wakes up, drinks his coffee, and stares into the middle distance while muttering to himself before heading into work and wondering what it is that Mulder has done now. And then he goes to work and finds out, and yells at Mulder. Or, as [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd put it:
"You're a loose cannon, Mulder!"
I'm surprised that Krycek made his villain turn so quickly. I suppose after they immediately revealed that he worked for MAJESTIC in the first episode that he was introduced, that it wouldn't be long before Chekov's gun was fired. But maybe draw out the anticipation a bit? I mean, Chris Carter had a twenty-three episode-long arc before the alien invasion of Earth, right? Take some time.

I did like that he just vanished into the ether once his cover was blown and that the mysterious contact told Mulder that MAJESTIC can do anything they want. Skinner seemed to give up pretty quickly for being told that Krycek hadn't come to work and his phone was disconnected, though. Surely he could at least have some agents go to his house? How much does he know? Is he working for MAJESTIC, or aware of them? Is reactiving the X-Files part of a long-term plan to discredit Mulder, like Cancer Man seemed to indicate was the point of keeping him around?  photo ashamed2.gif

It's like when Mulder was talking to Scully's mother and asked her why she wore a cross if she was a skeptic. Mulder doesn't seem to realize that just because you believe in one thing you don't have scientific proof of doesn't mean you immediately have to believe in everything. The existence of aliens does not prove the existence of murderghosts or vampires. These are all discrete phenomena.

Also, Duane Barry proves that you should never trust someone who talks about themselves in the third person.
dorchadas: (Nyarlathotep)
You may have thought I abandoned this, but no, I'm just very slow!

Little Green Men
WTF, they weren't green at all.  photo emot-colbert.gif

The aliens in this episode were weirdly cute. Like, the door burst open, white light blazed forth into the previously dark room where the UFO had disabled the electricity, and then the alien started...doing the robot? They traveled all those light years in order to kidnap people and have a dance competition? Is Space Channel 5 an accurate depiction of human-alien diplomacy?

During the episode, they bring up the Wow Signal, so-called because the astronomer who found it wrote "Wow!" on the paper it was printed on. It was never repeated and no one actually knows what it was or where it was from. Here they say the communication they're getting is better, but I was curious while we were watching and looked it up and found up that the Wow Signal is 1) real and 2) might have been interference from a passing comet. I guess we'll know in 2017, though this does remind me a bit of that Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal about science ruining everything. At least we might still have alien megastructures.

I like how Mulder is falling into classical conspiracy thing. Scully brings up that they have no evidence they're being followed or watched and his immediate response is that's just proof of how powerful and far-reaching the conspiracy is. I mean, he's right, because this was the 90s when we thought the government was capable of this kind of comprehensive coverup and FEMA camps and black helicopters are the bedrock on which X-Files is built, but it's still a great way to come up with a ton of false positives. This is the point where [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd pointed out that Delta Green wouldn't even approach Mulder as a Friendly. He's too credulous. They'd send him on an opera and he'd be like, "It's clearly SHADOW JUMPER, probably in collusion with TATTERDEMALION. I've got the evidence right here," and he would show pictures of one of those classic rooms with papers and string everywhere and then ALPHONSE would turn to ANDREA and say, "I believe Agent FOX is due for retirement."

Also I just realized both [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I fell down. When the MOONDUST team ("Blue Beret" in the episode) showed up and just opened fire, we should have turned to each other and said, "No NORWEGIANS."

The episode ends as you'd expect, with all physical evidence useless and Mulder and Scully alive, though it was nice to see Skinner tell off Cancer Man. Oh the 90s, when you could still smoke indoors.

The Host
Ah, the infamous Flukeman episode. This is one of the few bits of X-Files lore I knew before I saw any of the show, just from hearing about it on the internet and looking it up on the wiki.

I mentioned before after watching Darkness Falls that my headcanon is that X-Files is a prelude to Fallout, and the revelation that flukeman is a Chernobyl mutant just reconfirms that. This is a universe where radiation exposure doesn't give you cancer and kill you, it gives mutates you into monsters. At least, sometimes. Enough that it can create viable new species out of insects and flatworms.

We had a bit of a debate over the course of this episode--is the flukeman a parasite that mutates the host, or does it just rely on the host for nutrients and then vanish into the sewers and grow into a mammal/flukeworm hybrid monster? The episode is kind of ambiguous over whether the flatworm grows into a human monster hybrid thing or whether it needs to mutate someone. Vomiting up the larva indicates the former, but some discussion at the end seems to point to the latter. Also, radiation turning flatworms into flukeman monster is directly Fallout--look at the mirelurk king, mutated from a snapping turtle--and that hits me right in my suspension of disbelief. It's totally arbitrary, but it happens.

I really liked the debate between Mulder and Skinner over what to do with the captured flukeman. Skinner wanted to give it a psych eval and Mulder telling him it was a monster and it was pointless. It's something I leaned on when I ran Cthulhutech--protection of human rights is very important, but human rights only apply to humans. Not even to things that look like humans. Especially not to things that look like humans.

I also liked how the Russian sailor had his own name tattooed on his arm. I guess it's in case he forgets?

Also, doesn't this totally shatter the Masquerade? This isn't like the previous episode where everyone involved is a part of MAJESTIC, dead, or our heroes. They had federal marshals try to transport it down public highways and a bunch of sewer workers got killed. Plus, the larva shows there are more out there. The one in the sewers is probably from the Russian's body--which gives them xenomorph-like powers to ignore conservation of mass, but whatever,  photo emot-science.gif radiation  photo emot-science.gif--which leaves the original and the new one from the sewer worker. They don't have supertech that lets them erase tapes and kidnap people. They're just flukemen. How is MAJESTIC going to conceal this, and do they even care about concealing it when they have aliens to deal with?

I know it's monster-of-the-week and that's not the point, but now I want armed sewer worker flukeman-hunting squads.

Let's learn cyber-Aklo!

Okay, not really. What it actually reminded me of is the old White Wolf game Hunter: the Reckoning. If you're not familiar with it, the premise is that ordinary salarymen and retirees and stay-at-home parents and taxi drivers and so on start seeing people with horrific blood-dripping fangs or horns and goat legs or looking half-wolf, and then store signs or public transit displays with messages like THEY WALK AMONG YOU or IT DOES NOT LIVE or YOU MUST STOP THEM. It's about how ordinary people deal with suddenly knowing that there are monsters among them and not being able to close their eyes to the sight. Except the art, which was all Trenchcoat McKatana of the clan McKatana hurling molotovs with abandon. That dichotomy meant it never did all that well--people who bought into the personal horror aspect refused to buy it because of the art, and people who wanted Trenchcoat McKatana found out that the rules were about your marriage breaking down and your powers not being enough to actually fight a vampire, so it never worked that well.

Anyway, I spent most of the beginning of the episode wondering if it was another crazy computer, like Ghost in the Machine, but that turned out not to be the case. They left the ultimate villain ambiguous, even though it's clearly a MAJESTIC psi-op. There's even a black helicopter doing the spraying of the mysterious chemical, which a quick google informs me is not actually a chemical but is instead an airbase in Switzerland. They clearly wanted something that was close to LSD without actually being LSD, so I suppose they succeeded in that.

I commented to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd about how fake the blood looked in the lobby after the elevator murder, and checking the X-Files wiki, I found this passage:
blood slabs – translucent, portable pieces of rubber shaped like pools of blood – were positioned on the terra cotta floor of the tower lobby.
"Blood slabs"? I didn't even realize that was a thing! I even found a recipe here, though watch out for 90s web design. Just think of it as more authenticity, considering the reason I was looking it up.

I wasn't a huge fan of the ending--I think it was a bit tacky to evoke the Clocktower Shooting so directly. Though here, in a truly statistically improbable display considering the pile of shell casings left behind, no one was killed or even injured. At least, no one on screen. I suppose it could have happened in the background, and if it did, at least it happened at a blood drive?

I guess Mulder's phone at the end is a strike against the idea that it's MAJESTIC. From what I've seen so far, I think they're above taunting Mulder with 90s phone text messages. Which isn't to say that it's not the government doing it. If there's one thing we learn from X-Files, it's that the government has roughly thirty dozen conspiracies running in parallel, all of which manage to stay perfectly hidden from each other. Taunting isn't in that headspace.
dorchadas: (Grue)
Episode 21: Tooms
This is one of those episodes that makes [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd angry because it has psychologists on TV, and that never ends well. Especially here, where we're supposed to believe a hibernating snakeman mutant from the 19th century who spends all his awake time murdering people and literally goes into murder trances over the course of the episode can fake normality for six months enough to fool multiple psych evaluations? No, that's dumb. I'm just going along with it because television.

I did love Mulder's single-minded devotion to THE TRUTH. He knew that his testimony about a century of murders would come across as bullshit and be actively counterproductive, but hey, it's the truth! Have to tell the truth even when it hurts! He has about as much respect for proper procedure as DELTA GREEN

The first appearance of Cancer Man! It's weird how this wasn't that long ago and yet smoking indoors seems like a relic of a bygone era, and so it makes him seem transgressive and kind of a dick instead of the local representative of MAJESTIC. I did love the exchange at the end, though:
"Do you believe him?"
"Of course I do."

Episode 22: Born Again
I figured this was going to be another murderghost episode like Shadows was, but they pulled a twist! It's actually reincarnation! That's basically indistinguishable in practice from a murderghost! And since it had a psychologist, it also led to this:
Mulder: "Michelle's reaction to the regression does not shake my faith in hypnosis as a tool of psychological healing."
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd: "Fuck you, Mulder."
Mulder plz.

So, we know that ghosts are real, but that doesn't necessarily imply an afterlife. The murderghost from "Shadows" episode could have been a remaining psychic emanation of Mr. Graves, impressed upon the luminiferous aether by the circumstances of his death blah blah blah, but this has straight up reincarnation. Souls are real, the afterlife is real, and X-Files is going to do as much with that as Star Trek does with transporter immortality because it's not the point. But that was my takeaway from the episode.

When I turned out that Charlie Morris had died during an investigation of the triads, I was really hoping for a Big Trouble in Little China crossover. I mean, Lo Pan wouldn't be any stranger than some of the other stuff Mulder and Scully have dealt with. But it was not to be.

Episode 23: Roland
I'm impressed. I thought they'd wait at least two or three seasons before they used a psychic brain in a jar.

The real reason this episode stood for me is the performance of the actors who played Roland and Tracy. Even [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was impressed, which I think is saying something. Even though intelligence is not a fluid which gets divided up between pairs of twins, a sensitive portrayal of people with developmental disabilities (and not just for the 90s!) goes a long, long way.

The motivation made no sense, though. The brain in a jar was pissed off because the scientists on the team he was on were...continuing his work? After he died in a random car accident that they had nothing whatsoever to do with? I guess you could argue that the lead scientist was a dick who was going to steal all the credit, but how could the brain in a jar have known that since his telepathy was specifically cast as twin telepathy? And why kill the rest of the team? All I can conclude is that being a brain in a jar makes you evil, which is admittedly consistent with the 50s B Movie sources.

Also, A+ on the Beakman's World reference. I used to watch that all the time as a kid!

Episode 23: The Erlenmeyer Flask
a.k.a. The One Where X-Cell Investigates a Deep One hybrid. Come on--green blood, can stay underwater indefinitely, super strength? That scientist was injecting humans with Deep One DNA. The extra base pairs are from the way Xothian genetics work. That was [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's observation, along with this quote born of long suffering:
Mulder: "I don't even know what I'm supposed to find!"
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd: "Welcome to DELTA GREEN, Mulder!"
I loved how they had to spend all that time explaining the Human Genome Project and DNA base pairs and so on. Maybe that it's not as common knowledge nowadays as I think, but it's definitely better known.

I knew Deep Throat was going to die because of a spoiler on the internet I saw while looking something unrelated up, but really, he put himself in enormous risk by constantly showing up. Like, when he was lurking outside Mulder's apartment--I'm surprised that MAJESTIC didn't just snatch him then. But admittedly, it's because he had bad information. He figured that alien baby was the only source available and was willing to trade it for Mulder, and then at the end Cancer Man completes his six-pack of alien babies in the Secret Projects vault at the Pentagon.

There's also more of MAJESTIC killing people and making it look like an accident, back when we thought the government could just kill people secretly in car accidents before drone strikes and passing laws that target vulnerable groups for deliberate neglect. MAJESTIC just likes the more direct approach, I guess.

Season One Thoughts
This is definitely a show I would have loved if I had watched it back when it was originally airing, but I'm not super keen to watch it now. I mean, I enjoy it a lot when I'm actually watching it, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I are also watching Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig now, and given the choice, I'll usually suggest that instead of X-Files. Some of that is because X-Files episodes are twice as long, but that's not all.

I think the main reason that what I really want is DELTA GREEN: the TV Show. Mix X-Files together with True Detective and throw out all the monster-of-the-week episodes that serve to just dilute the focus on MAJESTIC and Mulder figuring out what's wrong and I'd be glued to the television set. I realize that was a huge gamble in the 90s, because you were never sure who would be watching on any given week and if your show was tightly-focused and continuity-driven, you'd risk losing a ton of viewers as they lost the thread of the plot. But I think it would have been a better show if it were more focused, and not only because the monster chase episodes leave me with tons of questions about the world of X-Files like how come no one believes in psychic powers if apparently you get them from any significant life trauma?

I'm in for another few seasons at least, though!
dorchadas: (Nyarlathotep)
Episode 18: Miracle Man
This would have been a perfect choice for a hoax episode, and it wouldn't have even needed that many changes for it. I mean, "faith healing." It's right there in the name. They just need to provide plausible deniability and let the viewers draw their own conclusions, and they come so close to doing that. There are locusts in the courtroom, and it turns out that they were in cages near the ventilation system. The (targets? beneficiaries? victims?) of the faith healing die, but they were poisoned with cyanide! And then they throw in the visions of Mulder's sister to reassure the viewer that it's okay. He really does have superpowers.

I did like the character of Samuel. I liked the way he was having a crisis of faith and didn't turn out to be some kind of evil serial killer, but I think that the visions undermined the ambiguity of the story to its detriment. They were trying to tie it into the mythology, sure, but. Ugh. I just wish that they'd at least have one hoax episode. I'm going to keep banging this drum until it breaks.

I do appreciate that you never see the "resurrected" Samuel, though. I'm kind of surprised he didn't show up Children of the Corn-style to punish the sheriff with G-d's wrath. And the identity of the killer was a good twist, as compared to how "Shapes" worked. But most what stuck with me was that it was too neat and should have been less clear. I don't have that much else to say on it.

Episode 19: Shapes
This was the werewolf episode. It wasn't a bad episode, necessarily, but it was the werewolf episode and it did all the things that always happen in the werewolf episode. They kill the werewolf early, but gasp, the murders continue! Why? Could it be that the person who was injured by the werewolf is, himself, now a werewolf? Well, now that you mention it...

And Mulder can tell it's the werewolf episode, too. You can almost see him ticking off the boxes as he looks for evidence.

I didn't realize that Native American werewolves was an older trope, though I suppose it's something that's often applied to marginalized groups--see also the whole Romani werewolf thing. I was glad that they actually cast Native actors for the parts, and then a little annoyed that the mythology was basically window dressing. Sure, manitou and so on, except it was a werewolf. It wasn't passed down in family lines, it may or may not have been spirit possession, but it was definitely "I got attacked and now I'm a werewolf too," which is your standard Wolf Man-style werewolf. That goes back to what I was saying about it being the werewolf episode.

The wiki tells me that "Shapes" came about because the suits wanted to include more standard monster scenarios, so I can see where they tried to spin it into being a bit more exciting within the bonds of keeping it standard, but it didn't stray far enough from the tree for me.

Episode 20: Darkness Falls
With the revelation that radiation turns wood mites into man-eating deathbug swarms, it is now my headcanon that X-Files is a prequel to Fallout. And a sequel to all those 50s B movies. All of them. That's why there's all those x-files out there.

This episode had a good premise--killer bugs that are maddened by darkness and eat people--but I thought it was hampered a bit by the other characters. The ecoterrorist and logger were both thinly sketched caricatures, so I didn't care when they got eaten. The bottle episode aspect, where they were all stuck in the cabin with a limited supply of gasoline powering the light, wasn't as good as in "Ice" just because there were fewer characters, though the revelation that they couldn't keep the bugs out at all and it was only the light that kept them safe was pretty well done.

The wiki points out that the weather during the shooting was terrible, and I kind of wish they had done a bit more with that. Maybe if the rain also kept the bugs from swarming, adding tension based on the uncontrollable weather? I suppose they wouldn't have been able to time that as effectively as the generator running out of gas, though it might have added another element on the side of nature being terrible and unpredictable.

Also, I liked this exchange at the end:
MULDER: "How you going to contain it to the forest? What if the swarm migrates?"
MAN: "The government has initiated eradication procedures. They're quite certain that by using a combination of controlled burns and pesticides, they will be successful."
MULDER: "And if they're not?"
MAN: "That is not an option, Mr. Mulder."
The MAN's dialogue was really odd and wooden, but it was just ambiguous enough that it could have been creepy foreshadowing instead. It was a "Top. Men." kind of moment, and a great way to end the episode.
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
Maybe I need an X-Files specific user icon?

Episode 15: Lazarus
I would have liked this episode so much more without the stupid tattoo. They keep bringing up that Willis was obsessed with Dupre, that he had been chasing him for over a year, that the case had been his would have been perfect to keep a little ambiguity and leave the viewer wondering if it was some kind of soul switching or if Willis just had a psychotic break under the stress of being shot by the man he was trying to capture.

But we can't have that! Therefore, body-hopping tattoos.  photo emot-raise.gif

I think my favorite part was how they did house-to-house checks with the guy disguised as a door-to-door missionary. Both [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I commented on how brilliant that was immediately after it happened. Other than that, and Mulder's surprising lack of gloating at the end, I don't think there was much here that was particularly memorable.

And pro tip, Mulder--maybe Scully would have an easier time believing if you weren't so fucking spooky all the time.  photo emot-iiam.gif

Episode 16: Young at Heart
I think this episode suffered for me for having a magical serial killer. I really hate the magical serial killer trope, even in a show that already has murder ghosts.

It'd be different if the experiments done on Barnett had given him telepathy or super speed or even just the ability to squeeze through tiny spaces like Tooms could--I was okay with it in "Squeeze" because he legitimately had mutant powers--but a salamander hand isn't going to do any of that. It doesn't give you super stealth, it doesn't let you strangle people one-handed, it doesn't make you a super-hacker or give you super information-gathering abilities...ugh.

And then he gets hired on as a piano repairman despite clear vision problems? Maybe he demonstrated that he can perform the the twelve or so hours that he probably had to get hired, get his shifts worked out, and get in place.

No more magical serial killers.  photo emot-byodood.gif

I did like how Dr. Ridley apparently fucked off to go work for the Karotechia for a while. They'd certainly be interested in his research. I mean, Galt doesn't need it and it's too late for Frank, but Bitterich would certainly be willing to hack off a couple body parts and put salamander limbs there as long as it doesn't impede his ability as a mathematician.

(shoutout to The Unspeakable Oath for the nomenclature!)

Also I would have appreciated some kind of twist, but as soon as I saw the flashback and I knew that they'd set up a scenario where Mulder took the shot this time. And yeah, spoilers make you like media more, but I'm not sure if heavy-handed foreshadowing falls into that category.

Episode 17: E.B.E.
Alright, another MOON DUST operation!  photo 6-0faa7aa343f6c067899c8c2579e6ea91d335662e.gif

...or so I said when this started. The truth is, I think it suffers for being entirely setup. There's a lot of chats with Deep Throat, a lot of MAJESTIC using semis to haul greys around the country, and tepid revelations like that there's a multi-country agreement to murder any aliens who survive a crash. And we wonder why they want to conquer the Earth. Though I'm curious how that squares with "Fallen Angel" where we learn that humanity have the ability to stop the aliens, so why would they let their own die?

It's a bit like Signs where I have to start speculating about what the hell they're thinking. Like, the aliens there clearly have some kind of adulthood initiation ritual where they go down to the acid planet and kidnap the fauna to be accepted into society, which is why they show up naked and weaponless--if they came in sealed environment suits with energy weapons, it would prove they weren't ready for adult responsibilities[1]. Maybe the greys think that anyone stupid enough to to be shot down by a pre-interplanetary civilization deserves what they get?  photo emot-commissar.gif

Deep Throat can't be trusted! Maybe not to the point of deliberately setting Mulder up to act as a disinformation campaign like I originally thought, but enough that he's willing to try to set him on a wild goose change. And Scully was right! Sometimes you shouldn't jump straight to the crazy explanation.
"The truth is out there, but so are lies!"
If nothing else, "E.B.E." sets the mood that there are things going on out there that we have no idea about, right under our noses.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was excited when the Lone Gunmen showed up, and even more when I told her that the X-Files Files episode about "E.B.E." has Dean Haglund of said gunmen as the guest. It doesn't mean anything to me, but it's a good podcast.

[1]: Another explanation I've heard for the way aliens behave in Signs is "they're demons," which fits all the religious allegory but isn't that exciting.
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
Episode 12: Fire
Faxes! Cassette tapes! Welcome to the 90s! Or Japan!

(spoiler: It's not Japan)

I'm starting to love Mulder's bullheaded gullibility. There's a conversation with an actually kind of creepy arson specialist about accelerants and flammability and how conceivable it is to start fires under certain conditions and he's suddenly like "but guise wat if pyrokinesisisisisis?" And he's right because this is X-Files, but it makes me wonder how he conducts his personal life. If one of his socks is missing, does he assume it's been abducted by aliens or fallen into a dimensional rift or something? I'm surprised Scully's hand isn't permanently melded to her face.

 photo tumblr_mhnipbYeKd1r8rcm5o1_500.jpg

"But what if it is lizard people?  photo 8-d597b39b37de51c39f6f27ba12636c163f5666f5.gif

I was a bit distracted by Badger being the villain and showing his true psychotic lowlife credentials, but not enough for it to harm my enjoyment. And the plot and his behavior tied into a concept I've found interesting about psychic powers--that they're related to the psychic's mental state. Like, someone who can speak to ghosts has had a brush with death, or a telepath not respecting anyone's privacy, or a pyrokinetic being an arsonist. Like so many ideas with mythic resonance, it's really easy to read this an in extremely uncomfortable way. Mental illness gives you superpowers!  photo emot-psyduck.gif

It's a bit like my flip characterization of Changeling: the Lost as "abuse gives you superpowers."

I didn't buy most of the rest of it, though. Mulder's old flame (hiyoooo!) had no chemistry with Mulder at all and her showing up was a bit too James Bond. The car and the cassette were ridiculous. And the government is imprisoning a pyrokinetic, taking precautions to show that they know he's a pyrokinetic, so why is any of this stuff secret again? I wonder how far the show will be able to stress my acceptance that this somehow remains secret without breaking it?

Oh, that's right. In the 90s, everyone thought the government could conduct a successful conspiracy.

Episode 13: Beyond the Sea
Last episode had Badger, and this episode has General Hammond as Scully's father and Gríma Wormtongue as a creepy serial killer psychic. I recognized Don Davis right away and now Stargate and X-Files will forever take place in the same universe for me (even though here he was in the Navy and in Stargate he's in the Air Force), but I had to look up who Brad Dourif was. Amazing performance.

This was probably my favorite episode of the show so far. I know that just swapping Mulder and Scully's narrative roles is kind of cliche, but I thought it worked even if I would have preferred to see more General Hammond around and I'm annoyed that they introduced Scully's father just to kill him off. After episode after episode of Mulder's wild-ass guessing that's constantly proven right, I'm glad to see him wrong. And there was enough ambiguity until the half-way point of the episode that Boggs could have been running a scam to get back at Mulder. And then at the end, Scully does the natural human thing--she handwaves it all away and justifies it in light of her pre-existing beliefs.

I do wish she hadn't had the visions, though. That pretty quickly tipped it over into telling us that there was something X-Filish happening and that Boggs was legit. In a show about mysteries, a little more mystery would be nice. Though the scene with the spirits of Bogg's victims was genuinely creepy.

It's also a good example of how X-Files works because of interplay between Mulder and Scully, and why I've been told to only watch up to season seven. The tension between skeptical and naive believer who is always right ( photo emot-argh.gif) and the chemistry between the actors combine together to drive the show. And Scully not coming to the execution at the end? Wow. Wow.

If I had to pick one X-Files episode to show people to get them to watch, it'd be this one. Not to knock "The Post-Modern Prometheus," but...

Episode 14: Gender Bender
Alright. So we have a group of Orthodox Jews / Amish / the Strangers from Dark City who live in a cult compound up in the hills of Massachusetts. Also, they can change their sex at will. Or maybe not at will, and it requires some kind of eldritch ritual in their womb-temple to the Black Goat of the Woods. Honestly, once Mulder went down there and saw them using the Milk of Shub-Niggurath to resurrect someone, he should have called DELTA GREEN. Except they would have just come in and burned everything down, and then we wouldn't have had an episode.

So what was going on? Were they cultists? Aliens? Alien-human hybrids? Mutants? Who knows. My personal explanation based on how they talked about "humans" as a separate group is that they were some of the Thousand Young of the Black Goat of the Woods, and there's not really anything to contradict me except that I know X-Files was made before Cthulhu got its tentacles into everything. That's actually one of the aspects of this episode I liked the most--there was no explanation. The viewers were just as confused as Mulder and Scully were. Some of the venom in my previous episode commentary has been defused now, though I'm sure it'll come back if the show goes back to Mulder always having the proper explanation five minutes into the episode. Or maybe it'll wrap around and be kind of charming like it was in "Fire."

I also like how federal agents had no problem rounding up a posse and busting into a cult compound. You can tell this was written pre-Waco.

Brief non-episode point: Apparently Chris Carter was planning on having a lot of hoax episodes mixed in with the actual supernatural ones, according to the X-Files Files, but they realized that the hoax episodes simply weren't as interesting as the supernatural ones. And I can understand that, as much as it sometimes annoys me.
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
Episode 9: Space
Murder ghosts weren't bad enough, I guess, so now we need space ghosts!

This episode felt half-finished at best. The basic idea, that there's something out there in space that's dangerous and doesn't want us poking around in their territory, is the premise that great horror is (or at least, can be) made of. I mean, look at this:
He hopes that if the balloon ever does go up, if the sirens wail, he and Andrea and Jason will be left behind to face the nuclear fire. It'll be a merciful death compared with what he suspect lurks out there, in the unexplored vastness beyond the gates. The vastness that made Nixon cancel the manned space program, leaving just the standing joke of a white-elephant shuttle, when he realised just how hideously dangerous the space race might become. The darkness that broke Jimmy Carter's faith and turned Lyndon B. Johnson into an alcoholic.
-Charles Stross, A Colder War
And the tie-in to the face on Mars was kind of neat. But it was never clear exactly what was going on. The plot is basically "There's a space ghost that's bad for Reasons," and this definitely falls on the "stupid and random" side of the inscrutable motivations divide. The space ghost was never actually scary, it just kind of ran around and did spooky things and then went away.

They had a lot of stock NASA footage, but the footage made it seem like the shuttle was in orbit around Mars, presumably because of the Martian space ghost. But obviously that never happened, so what's the ghost's connection to Earth? How did it get here? How come there's no followup when the shuttle crew starts freaking out about ghosts? Why did they waste an amazing name like "Marcus Aurelius Belt" on an episode like this?


Episode 10: Fallen Angel
A MOON DUST operation by MAJESTIC. I'm into it. Even when it's obvious that the alien is a raver kid Predator who came to Earth for the ultimate drop and to find people to take back to the space raves.

In some ways, I thought this episode did the same thing the good parts of The Forgotten did, which is demonstrate that the reason that MAJESTIC are being such huge dicks and concealing everything is because the aliens can do whatever the hell they want and no one on Earth can stop them. They quarantine off a whole area of forest, bring in the military, successfully spread disinformation, and the end result is that over a dozen people are dead and the aliens got what they came for. That's not going to look good during the budget hearings.

I also like to think that the reason Deep Throat saved Mulder from the Office of Professional Responsibility's claws is because Mulder's behavior is way more effective at discrediting investigations into the X-Files than any amount of coverups and stonewalling would be, but I suspect he's not actually playing things that underhanded and is probably a good guy. We'll see.

Episode 11: Eve
Twin telepathy is a relatively common bit of cultural flotsam, so I'm not surprised that they put it into an episode with clones (all the "We just knew" comments). And creepy murderkids is about as well-worn a path in horror as murder ghosts. I feel like there was something missing, though.

Or maybe it's just the what has science done angle that annoys me. Cloning experiments, okay, pretty cool. Clones are all homicidal and mentally ill? Um. Why? It's because we tampered with the stuff of life! You can't do that or you get murderclones! Well, let's consult the Chairman:
We hold life to be sacred, but we also know the foundation of life consists in a stream of codes not so different from the successive frames of a watchvid. Why then cannot we cut one code short here, and start another there? Is life so fragile that it can withstand no tampering? Does the sacred brook no improvement?
- Chairman Sheng-ji Yang, Dynamics of Mind
I don't think it helped that when they went and questioned Eve 6 (now that would have been an interesting episode), who implied that the reason for their superior characteristics are because they had more chromosomes. But genes aren't like chocolates, and putting more of them into the box isn't better. Generally the further you get from 46 chromosomes in humans, the more problems you have.

Though I guess being a murderclone could be considered to be such a problem, so perhaps the science here is sound.

The mood was definitely creepy, though. I mean, that's why murderkids are overused in horror. They are legitimately creepy. Even though Fallen Angel was the most DELTA GREEN of the three episodes here, this one was my favorite.
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
Watched more X-Files with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and [ profile] chronicluscious and I wanted to post about it. Enough so that I made a tag for it. I'm not going to post about every episode--I already missed episodes 1-5, so--but I'll post occasionally.

Episode 6: Shadows
So I already wrote about how it's a problem that Mulder's always right, but this episode kind of drove that home. Alien invasions are all well and good, but as [ profile] chronicluscious pointed out you can't just run that week to week, you need something else to break the monotony. And X-Files's answer to that is a murder ghost.

I'll ignore the metaphysical questions that the existence of murder ghosts raises and jump to Mulder. I mean, Mulder's not instantly right--he initially thinks it's telepsychokinesis--but he's right enough. It's a bit like the problem that Delta Green has, where to rights there should be a lot of cases with completely mundane explanations where Mulder's wild-ass guessing is totally wrong, we cut to one of those shots of Scully reacting appropriately to his theories, roll credits. But that's boring and we don't watch X-Files to see CSI with conspiracy theorists--and that "we" includes me, I admit--so it's not in there. Thus, murder ghosts.

I'm surprised MAJESTIC (as I'll call the conspiracy from now on, because it's too perfect, and also it's another Delta Green reference and I have a reputation to maintain) didn't roll in and try to figure out how to weaponize murder ghosts, honestly.

Episode 7: Ghost in the Machine
I love the way they talked about computers in the 90s. That bit with "Data travelers, electro-wizards, techno-anarchists" is just a perfect summary of computers on 90s media. I mean, computers are still magic boxes that can do anything on TV, but in the 90s the language they used to talk about them was better.

I did have a bit of a hard time taking the AI seriously, though. First off because they kept calling it an "intelligent machine," and second because I'm imagining the AI stored on a 100 mb hard drive. I have show episodes on my computer now that are bigger than that AI probably was. Yeah, I know that multi-gig desk-sized hard drives existed, but the computer wasn't that big.

Also, I really want the computer geek's house. One level, flowing water everywhere, dark color scheme? Only problem is the lack of window shades.

And Mulder's old partner was totally a deep cover agent in House Slytherin.

Episode 8: Ice
I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of The Thing.

I mean, the episode starts with a dog. It has alien parasites frozen in ice. It has distrust and people not knowing who's infected. It has a throwaway line from one of the scientists about whether there's something out there when Scully throws the magazines out into the storm.

And I think that it's the best of these three. The way the parasites kill each other but they only have one parasite sets up a nice tension. They have the cure with them, but they don't know who's infected and if they put the cure in the wrong person then it'll just infect them. The parasites don't turn you into a shapeshifting alien monster, they make you way more irritable and prone to bursts of anger--in much the way that being trapped in a small space with several other people who are all under severe stress makes you irritable and prone to bursts of anger, so it was entirely reasonable that any of the characters could have been infected. The episode kept the suspense throughout, which I think is a first for me in my experience with this show. Usually I can figure out what's going to happen pretty quickly.

And then MAJESTIC rolls in and blows the whole thing up. I'm surprised, since I figured that they'd want it for research, but maybe they decided the risk of a rage zombie outbreak was too great. I mean, one of the conceits of this show is that the secret government organization is staggeringly competent, so I can actually imagine them performing a proper risk assessment and making a reasonable conclusion based on it. Forget murder ghosts, MAJESTIC is the most unbelievable aspect of the X-Files.

More next time (maybe)!
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
So yesterday, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, [ profile] chronicluscious, and I watched the X-Files, which I have never seen before.

That always catches people by surprise when I tell them about it ([ profile] chronicluscious's roommate and [ profile] tastee_wheat were both astonished), which I think it's a reasonable reaction. I mean, look at the way I dress. Look at how I love conspiracy theories. Look at the music I listen to and how I have whole albums of what's basically X-Files background spooky music (I recommend Cryobiosis, Sabled Sun, or Atrium Carceri). Look at how I ran a three-year-long game of Delta Green, which I always describe as "X-Files crossed with Call of Cthulhu" even though technically, the very first game of what would become Delta Green ran at a convention in March of 1993, six months before the X-Files pilot aired.

And as it turned out, a good quarter of the backchat was [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I throwing Delta Green references back and forth that meant nothing to [ profile] chronicluscious.  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif

I've picked up a lot of things about X-Fies over the years just through geek osmosis, like the black oil, the alien bounty hunters, the flukeman, and so on, but I've mostly managed to remain unspoiled about the actual episodes. And then the first episode we watched was Post-Modern Prometheus, which is probably the least representative way to go into the show. But once that was done, we went back to the beginning and started in and...yeah. Why haven't I watched this already?

 photo abkB6ej.gif

Part of the answer to that can probably be found in how I had to make a 'television' tag for this post, because I've apparently never written about it before.  photo emot-v.gif

I can see why there's so much internet love for Scully, though I have some reservations since I know that Mulder's always right and it is always a werewolf or aliens or vampires or witches or mutants or ghosts (are there ghosts? Not actually sure about that one). It's a bit like Kirk and Spock--it's hard to have a proxy debate about reason vs. emotion when one side is always right. But that's me bringing in outside knowledge, and I'm going to try to avoid doing that as much as I can.

In a moment of  photo emot-irony.gif, I just started listening to Kumail Nanjiani's The X-Files Files a couple weeks ago, figuring that I'd probably never make time to actually sit down and watch the show so I might as well pick it up second hand. And, well, it turns out I was wrong and now we're planning to watch the whole run, or at least up to the point where it goes to shit. Wherever that is. I'm sure I'll find out!


dorchadas: (Default)

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