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The X-Files – Nothing Important Happened Today I (Review)

This December, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the ninth season of The X-Files.

After all the promise and potential of the eighth season, the ninth season brings everything crashing down.

“Fight the future” is not just the subtitle to the franchise’s first film, nor words hastily scrawled on a CD-ROM or the walls of a prison cell. “Fight the Future” is a motto to live by, a statement of purpose. Just when it looked like Essence and Existence were about to let Mulder and Scully retire gracefully, Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II have a last-minute change of heart and clutch desperately at Mulder and Scully, as if hoping the duo will never leave.

That sinking feeling...

That sinking feeling…

The desperation is palpable. David Duchovny’s butt double appears before any of the episode’s credited regulars, with the episode offering a glimpse of Mulder in the shower as if to promise viewers that David Duchovny’s departure doesn’t mean Mulder is no longer the show’s central character. When Doggett finds Mulder missing, having evidently stopped by his apartment on the way home, he confronts Scully, panicked, “I got panicked that you’re not going to be here, that you left too.”

The eighth season had closed on a confident note, leaving Mulder and Scully at a point where they could live happily ever after, entrusting Doggett and Reyes with the office. The ninth season opens in a state of panic, terrified at the idea that Mulder and Scully might actually be gone. There is something unpleasant about that neediness, that undisguised anxiety. The end of the eighth season promised something new and different. The start of the ninth promises more of the same.

Apocalypse how?

Apocalypse how?

David Duchovny is gone. There is no getting around that fact, however much the creative team might wish it were possible. During the summer hiatus, while doing publicity for Evolution, Duchovny was characteristically candid about how he was effectively done with the show:

“To bring back Mulder peripherally is not fair to the character that I feel a lot of affinity for,” Duchovny insists. “I feel that fans respect Mulder as the consciousness of the show and for him to come back like Superman’s Dad or whatever feels cheap to me.” He also characterized his feelings as “a step-dad still having stuff in the house waiting to move out, it was weird.”

Duchovny had been quite open about his frustrations concerning Mulder’s role in the show after DeadAlive, feeling that Mulder should have returned as the centre of the show rather than simply one part of the ensemble.

Bye, bye, Mulder.

Bye, bye, Mulder.

Duchovny proved to be more or less as good as his word. He returned to direct (and contribute the story to) William, also briefly appearing as a reflection in Scully’s eye. He also agreed to appear in The Truth, the final episode of the season and the series. It was quite apparent from Duchovny’s public statements and interviews that the actor was ready to move on – to leave The X-Files in his past. This had been coming for a long time, dating to back to interviews given around the release of The X-Files: Fight the Future.

The eighth season had been written to provide Mulder (and Scully) with a fond farewell. Mulder was allowed to become a father, to rebuild the family that was shattered when Samantha was abducted. With the conspirators vanquished and the mystery of Samantha solved, it was entirely possible for Mulder to lay down his burdens and enjoy a “happily ever after.” As Krycek and Doggett both made clear in Existence, it was time to move past chasing conspiracies. In accepting his role as William’s father, Mulder reconciled with his own father.

Yes, Doggett. Just tell yourself it was a bad dream.

Yes, Doggett. Just tell yourself it was a bad dream.

And so there is something jarring in the decision to open the ninth sequence with Mulder abandoning Scully and William to go back on the run again. Mulder was scarred and defined by his own father’s absence, so it feels out of character for Mulder to walk out so easily. If Mulder were to go on the run – and it is not a bad way to explain the character’s absence, although “happily retired and at peace” would also work – why not take Scully and William with him? Why not preserve the family instead of fleeing it?

Ignoring the way that this decision undermines the character, it also undermines the show around it. Chris Carter described Mulder as an “absent centre” during the eighth sequence, a character who still defined and shaped the narrative despite the fact he was not actually on screen all that much. After the broadcast of Requiem, Carter explained, “Even when he’s there he’s going to be ‘not’ there – he’s going to be an absent presence and an absent centre. And so, his involvement in the show, even though it’s in an abbreviated fashion, is going to be very important.”

"We're so retro, we're still using VHS."

“We’re so retro, we’re still using VHS.”

This approach worked in the context of the eighth season because the production team (and the fans) were assured of Mulder’s return. Focusing on Mulder’s absence in stories like Patience and Badlaa served to build anticipation leading towards This is Not Happening. The show could promise viewers that Mulder was still a vital part of the show because David Duchovny had signed a legal document promising to come back and be a vital part of the show. Mulder’s absence at the start of the eighth season was more a lacuna than a void.

The production team seemed to adopt the same approach towards Mulder during the ninth season, which caused problems. Although significant stretches of Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II go by without an explicit discussion of Mulder’s absence, his disappearance eats up a significant chunk of the first episode and then circles back around into the final scene between Doggett and Kersch at the end of the second episode.

"Do any of you know where Mulder is?"

“Do any of you know where Mulder is?”

Thanks to Nothing Important Happened Today II, even the relationship between Doggett and Kersch is defined by their separate relationships to Mulder. When Kersch suggests that he is secretly assisting Doggett, Doggett rejects the idea out of hand. “Now, why would I believe that you’d help me?” Doggett asks rhetorically. “Agent Mulder believed me,” Kerch suggests, as if the mere dropping of Mulder’s name is enough to establish bona fides. It doesn’t matter that the character beat makes no sense, Kersch said the magic word.

Indeed, having the relationship between Doggett and Kersch turn on a conversation about Doggett makes it seem like the two-parter is really about Mulder’s disappearance. Never mind all that Shannon McMahon stuff. Forget about the designer babies. Don’t worry about William. The episode opens with Mulder’s disappearance and closes with Doggett solving the mystery of Mulder’s disappearance. Doggett has an epiphany. “Oh my God. It was Scully. Scully made him go. That’s it isn’t it?” That’s the mystery of the two-parter that needs to be solved.

"See. The show can still do funky poaching."

“See. The show can still do funky poaching.”

There is something cloying and desperate about all this, as if the show is insisting far too eagerly that Mulder is still around and that he will remain an important and active part of the show despite the fact that David Duchovny has made it clear that he doesn’t want to come back. A lot of the hard work of the eighth season is undone within a few minutes of screen time. It is hard to sympathise with Doggett, who arrives into the office in Nothing Important Happened Today I to discover that it is like the events of Existence simply never happened.

“They can’t just make this all go away!” Doggett insists. “There’s evidence down in that parking garage, there were victims!” Sure, Doggett is talking about the conspirators, but he could just as easily be referring to the production team who just snatched out the show from under him. Existence ended with a tease of a new version of The X-Files starring Doggett and Reyes. That appears to have completely evaporated over the summer break, to the point where even video recordings no longer acknowledge it.

The truth is up there.

The truth is up there.

Over the course of Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II, Doggett is repeatedly hammered with just how important Mulder and Scully are. It initially appears like Doggett might get a mythology tying into his own history with the introduction of Shannon McMahon and the return of Knowle Rohrer, but those are quickly tied into the story of Scully and William. Even Doggett’s old army buddies are just using him to provide access to the world of Mulder and Scully.

Doggett finds himself cast in the role of only sane man, while Mulder and Scully are repeatedly used to beat him into submission. “You wanna know what I fear?” Skinner wonders at one point. “I fear for Mulder and Scully. I fear for the life of that child if you don’t stop pushing it, John.” Talk about playing favourites. Doggett complains, “It just doesn’t make any sense. Mulder leaving you here all alone, just walking out on you, not telling you where and why.” Scully brushes him off, “It makes sense in its own way. That’s all I can tell you.”

It's a wash...

It’s a wash…

Of course, Scully is just as abandoned by Mulder. While the show doesn’t have the luxury of leaning on David Duchovny while it tries desperately to keep Mulder central, Gillian Anderson signed on for a hypothetical ninth season back at the end of the seventh season as part of a salary negotiation:

“There was a lot of leveraging going on,” says Anderson, who admits that while Fox’s need to deal was a “huge” factor in the talks, she had to make a significant concession herself – signing on for a ninth year with the show – as a trade-off for a salary jump that would amount to “fair compensation.” “Because they have me on contract for this year,” she adds, “I basically had no bargaining chip unless I agreed to do the next one.”

Why bargain at all? The truth is in Duchovny’s lucrative deal. “There was a gulf for five years,” says Anderson of the longtime pay disparity between her and Duchovny, “and then we narrowed the gulf. And then, based on what was being offered for the few episodes that he was doing [this year], we were back in the caveman ages… It was ludicrous.” Anderson will now make between $200,000 and $300,000 an episode.

It is very hard not to feel sorry for Anderson, with everything else going on. She gave a tremendous amount of energy and vitality to the show, even during its twilight years. It is a shame that she had to sign on for a ninth season simply to reestablish equity with her co-star.

Follmer's really hoping that the season doesn't tank.

Follmer’s really hoping that the season doesn’t tank.

This is, of course, the reason why Mulder left without Scully and William. While David Duchovny was now free to do whatever he wanted outside the confines of the show, Gillian Anderson was still under contract to the studio. Having paid good money to ensure that Anderson would be available for a hypothetical ninth season, there was simply no way that Scully would be afforded the opportunity to ride off into the sunset with Mulder. It is interesting to wonder what might have happened if Anderson had not signed that extension or received a stronger deal earlier.

Anderson’s presence defines the ninth season just as much as Duchovny’s absence. The production team can never quite figure out what to do with Scully without Mulder. Every moment that Scully and William are on the screen, the television series seems to be asking “where’s Mulder?” Scully no longer officially works on the X-files, but she still exerts gravity over the show. Watching the series, it seems like Scully should be playing the role of a recurring guest star akin to the Lone Gunmen. Unfortunately, Anderson’s contract means she appears in almost every episode.

Closing a door on an era of the show...

Closing a door on an era of the show…

Indeed, it was relatively public knowledge that Anderson was not entirely happy to still be working on the show nine years into its run. In a number of interviews around the end of the eighth season and the start of the ninth season, Anderson made it clear that her interest in the show had largely been exhausted:

Ms. Anderson let her ambivalence about her role on the show be known in a recent telephone interview in which she was to promote the show’s two-part season finale, which starts on Sunday. She said she would probably not even remain on the show if she were not required to be by her contract.

“For a lot of people, if you don’t like your job, you can quit your job,” Ms. Anderson said. “I don’t necessarily have that option.”

It’s not that she does not like the series, Ms. Anderson said; it is just that she has been with it eight years, and “eight years is a long time.” During those years her character, the F.B.I. agent Dana Scully, has gone from feeling skeptical about the existence of aliens to being abducted by aliens. She said she had not believed that The X-Files would last more than seven years without running out of plot lines. But somehow, she acknowledged, the program has managed to remain fresh.

Anderson only became more candid as the ninth season approached. Asked whether she was really convinced to sign on by the quality of the scripts, Anderson honestly replied, “No. It was because they were not going to pay me fairly unless I added on a ninth season. It was purely political.”

Reyes-ing the dead...

Reyes-ing the dead…

It is, to be fair, impossible to begrudge Anderson any of this. After all, eight seasons is an incredibly long time to commit to a single project – particularly when that project produces more than twenty episodes a year and takes a person away from their family. The production team had worked hard to keep Anderson happy, with the eighth and ninth seasons structured so as to allow Anderson time off to visit her daughter in Vancouver. To her credit, Anderson never once phoned in a performance, even when the material was not Emmy-worthy.

In fact, Anderson earns pretty much every penny of her pay check on the ninth season, which frequently reduces Scully to a mother panicking about her baby. Anderson carries a lot of the material quite well, even if it frequently feels like a thankless task. This is apparent even at the climax of Nothing Important Happened Today II, when the episode decides to throw in a possible secret history of William on top of everything else unfolding over the course of the two-parter. It is a paper-thin emotional hook, but Anderson does her level best to sell it.

Watered down...

Watered down…

Scully is a fantastic character and Anderson is a fantastic actress. Anderson is quite possibly the strongest lead actor to appear in a Ten Thirteen show, which is all the more remarkable given how young she was when she was cast as Scully. Losing Scully would be a major blow to The X-Files, a tangible and palpable loss to the series’ identity. On the other hand, keeping Scully around might just be fatal. Scully without Mulder is a constant reminder of how incomplete the ninth season is, just as Mulder without Scully would be.

Scully becomes an anchor around which the past tends to congeal. Scully is a great character, but she is a constant reminder of everything that the show can no longer be. She is a tether to a world that is long lost, exerting a drag upon a show that needs to change and evolve. Indeed, it seems quite likely that Dana Scully (and Gillian Anderson) are the threads that still hold Chris Carter to the show. Carter had repeatedly stressed that he didn’t want to make the show without David Duchovny; now he found himself doing just that.

Elwes or the high way...

Elwes or the high way…

Even during publicity around the broadcast of Nothing Important Happened Today I, Carter stressed that his association with the show was tied to loyalty and affection:

“I never imagined doing what I’m doing on season nine. It’s against all odds,” he says. “The only reasons I stay are that I feel a tremendous loyalty to the people I work with. I feel that the show still is a good storytelling vehicle, and I feel a responsibility to make good on a promise that I would stay on the show as long as David and Gillian stayed with it.”

In the years since, Carter has gone out of his way to defend the final two seasons of the show. However, there were also reports that Carter signed on to the ninth season relatively late.

Jeez, Doggett. Were you really THAT panicked about a show with Mulder and Scully?

Jeez, Doggett. Were you really THAT panicked about a show with Mulder and Scully?

With Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II, the show proves reluctant to let go of its own past. This is embodied through the character of Scully, but it also plays out in the show’s reluctance to let go of its own conspiracy narratives. The super soldiers were paper-thin antagonists in the eighth season, but they worked reasonably well in the context of a season that was largely about Mulder and Scully getting read to move on. The super soldiers are simply not interesting enough to support an entirely new mythology.

In a way, this is the legacy of Two Fathers and One Son coming home to roost. The X-Files was always reluctant to close off plot threads and story avenues, favouring questions over answers. When the time finally came to wrap up the mythology half-way through the sixth season, the show was nowhere near decisive enough. While the show killed off the First Elder, the Second Elder and Cassandra Spender, it lacked the decisiveness to actually close off the plot line once and for all. Colonisation was not thwarted, merely inconvenienced.

Well, they are homeless...

Well, they are homeless…

As a result, the show did not have to part with any of the elements it had come to love about that long form story. The mythology was allowed to linger on and fester in an undead state. Diana Fowley hung around until The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati. The Cigarette-Smoking Man remained in charge of a vaguely-defined and ill-formed conspiracy until he was pushed down the stairs in Requiem. Alex Krycek remained a player with an ambiguous agenda until Existence. These elements of the mythology died not with a bang, but with a whimper.

By the ninth season, the only element of the original mythology left standing is the colonists themselves, the alien invaders planning to take back the planet that was originally their own. The problem is that the colonists were never particularly interesting of themselves; what they wanted was always very obvious, and how badly they wanted it was never in question. While their biology provided fuel for continuity-related speculation, the colonists often felt more like a plot device than real players. The drama was in the conspiracy’s middle management, so to speak.

We've reached the point where the show is nostalic about Chinga.

We’ve reached the point where the show is nostalgic about Chinga.

After all, The X-Files was always focused on the banality of evil – of the wages of sin and the price of compromise. Characters like the Well-Manicured Man and even the Cigarette-Smoking Man were presented as tragic human monsters, powerful men who had struck an unholy bargain to ensure their own survival. The mythology was always anchored in the humanity of the story, the tale of patriarchs who betrayed their families in a grab for power and security. The X-Files was a show about a generation that felt disillusioned with the world built by their fathers.

The colonists have no such emotional hook. For all that Mulder has sought proof of alien existence, The X-Files has never really engaged with its central alien characters. Mulder and Scully have always been buffered from the aliens by the Syndicate. When the colonists were portrayed as more than just a monolithic entity in Patient X and The Red and the Black, it was always as something alien and unknowable. The war raging between the colonists and the rebels in the fifth and sixth seasons did not humanise the aliens; it only made them more distinctly “other.”

Scully is left, quite literally, holding the baby.

Scully is left, quite literally, holding the baby.

Maybe there is a way to tell a story about these colonists, to develop them into more than just an all-powerful alien antagonist. However, the previous eight seasons of the show have suggested that the aliens exist beyond human concerns or emotions; they cannot be bargained or bartered with, they simply are. While this makes them an effective abstract threat lurking in the shadows behind the Cigarette-Smoking Man, it does limit the storytelling possibilities open to the production team.

At their core, the colonists are just another iteration of the classic science-fiction alien invader. Audiences are familiar with the archetype from dozens upon dozens of pulpy science-fiction films. Fight the Future had Mulder urinating on a poster for Independence Day, but the colonists are not so different from those antagonists. The super soldiers arc from the eighth and ninth seasons is very much a riff on the classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, right down to Mulder frantically bouncing between cars at the climax of Existence.

Cary on, regardless...

Cary on, regardless…

To be fair to Kim Manners, Nothing Important Happened Today I grasps that the focus on the colonists and the super soldiers makes the mythology a lot pulpier than it had been. There is something a lot trashier and goofier about “needlessly naked Lucy Lawless!” and “ridiculously elaborate pick-up and assassination!” than there was about “rich white guys in a private gentlemen’s club!” or “men in suits conversing as they walk across a baseball field!” For all the problems with Nothing Important Happened Today I, Manners’ direction is not one of them.

There is an endearingly pulpy and cheesy feel to Nothing Important Happened Today I, as Manners keeps things moving as quickly as possible. manners also creates a very effective visual contrast between the eighth and ninth seasons. The eighth season was (literally and figuratively) very dark, making it feel like the show’s lighting budget had been significantly cut. In contrast Nothing Important Happened Today I opens with a surprising amount of colour. The teaser and the climax of the first episode are absolutely saturated with yellows, greens, reds and blues.

Skinner's seeing red...

Skinner’s seeing red…

It is a very nice nod to the decidedly comic book aesthetic of the whole “super soldiers” idea, and it also provides a clear visual break from what came before. Even the sixth and seventh seasons were not as confident and stylised when it came to colour, often just turning up the lighting rather than playing with the colour composition of the scenes. Sadly, director Tony Wharmby doesn’t adopt a similar approach to Nothing Important Happened Today II, which is a shame given his atmospheric work on Via Negativa.

As suited as this pulpy directorial style might be to the new mythology, it simply is not enough. The ninth season simply offers reheats of a mythology that was largely cooked three seasons earlier. All the interesting material has been stripped out, leaving just the familiar (and rather generic) framework. The beauty of The X-Files at its peak was a willingness to mix pulpy storytelling with insightful and literate drama. The super soldiers and colonists are still pulpy, but the mythology has lost the framework for personal or intimate stories.

Gripping.

Gripping.

Nothing Important Happened Today I does suggest that there is still a human element to the mythology. A big deal is made of how the conspiracy has infiltrated the FBI. Everybody on the show acts as if this is a truly horrific and shocking idea. In fact, it seems like the idea of the conspiracy infiltrating the FBI is what caused Krycek to go over the edge in Existence. In Nothing Important Happened Today II, Brad Follmer warns Reyes, “You’re taking on the entire FBI here, Monica.” It sounds like the show wants this to be a big deal.

The problem is that this seems rather quaint after eight seasons of conspiracies and cover-ups. The Cigarette-Smoking Man was introduced sitting in on a talk between Section Chief Scott Blevins and Special Agent Dana Scully in The Pilot. Around the time of Tooms, the Cigarette-Smoking Man took up residence in the office of Assistant Director Walter Skinner. In Redux II, Section Chief Scott Blevins was exposed as an agent of the conspiracy. In The Beginning, the Cigarette-Smoking Man assigned his son to the X-files.

"Okay, but I'm only part-time this year, right?"

“Okay, but I’m only part-time this year, right?”

As such, the idea of a conspiracy at the FBI seems rather small-scale. Mulder and Scully chased a cancer that infected all the major organs of government. If Doggett and Reyes cannot handle a conspiracy within the J. Edgar Hoover Building, how can viewers be expected to take them seriously? To be fair, this feels like an attempt to refocus the show and to tighten its dynamics in a way that makes sense. The conspiracy was too sprawling, so a tighter focus is not a bad idea. However, the problem is that all of this seems rather rote. “The X-Files by the numbers.”

Again, it feels like the show is backing away from ideas suggested and proposed during the eighth season. With Monica Reyes’ background in satanic ritual abuse and Doggett’s own personal connection to evil, it seemed like the show might be willing to drift away from stories about aliens and colonisation. After all, Doggett and Reyes lack the sort of personal stakes in colonisation that charged Mulder and Scully’s investigations. However, instead of branching out, Nothing Important Happened Today I manufactures generic connections.

Well, at least Mulder isn't travelling light...

Well, at least Mulder isn’t travelling light…

Doggett finds himself tied to the mythology through the revelation that his old army buddies were converted into “super soldiers.” Doggett knew both Knowle Rohrer and Shannon McMahon, and so that would seem to give him a personal stake in the investigation; it is a very shallow and two-dimensional stake, but a stake nonetheless. Similarly, Reyes’ incredibly forced romantic history with Follmer serves as leverage to draw her into this whole “conspiracy within the FBI” plot.

Of course, the show immediately tries to tether this resurrection of the classic mythology to Scully. After all, Scully is very much the marker of the show’s history and continuity; she has the strongest connection to the mythology of any of the characters left on the show. If the show is absolutely dead set on keeping the mythology around, this is not the worst idea in theory. Scully needs something to do in this new dynamic, so having her connected to the show’s running mythology arc helps to keep her tied in. The problem is how the show ties Scully the new mythology.

Pushing pencils...

Pushing pencils…

The show ties Scully to the mythology through William. This is a problem in a number of different ways. The most obvious is that it diminishes Scully as a character by reducing her role to “concerned mother.” While Scully is still a professional working at the FBI with a long history working with the X-files, the show has decided that what ties her to the heart of mythology is the fact that she is the mother to William. As a result, the ninth season spends a lot of time having Scully freak out about her baby.

To be fair, anybody would freak about their child in circumstances like this. It seems like people are always trying to kidnap or murder or exploit William, and so Scully spends far too much time responding to that. During the show’s early seasons, Scully was a striking subversion of stereotypical gender roles. One of the problems of the ninth season is the way that it reduces Scully to something of an outdated stereotype. Episodes like Provenance and Providence make Scully less essential to the mythology than either Mulder or William. It is a waste of Gillian Anderson.

You snooze, you lose.

You snooze, you lose.

Even ignoring what this decision to focus on William means for Scully as a character and Anderson as an actor, the revelations that William might (a.) have super powers and (b.) be the first super soldier born to a human mother serious undercut the ending of the eighth season. The eighth season suggested that William was a more low-key “miracle.” It was suggested that he was not the “Chosen One”, but instead the product of the love between two people. It was cheesy, but it was a heart-warming place to leave Mulder and Scully.

The suggestions in Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II rob a lot of the power from the closing scenes of the eighth season. The suggestion that perhaps miracles happen outside of alien invasions and government conspiracies was an oddly upbeat conclusion to Mulder and Scully’s journey; it resonated with some of the show’s key spiritual themes in a way that felt a little hokey but also well-earned. It also lead to a kiss that some fans had spent eight years anticipating.

An EPA official concerned about water. Death by irony. Also, drowning.

An EPA official concerned about water. Death by irony. Also, drowning.

All of that is washed away in a very casual manner, without any real reason or insight. It would be one thing for Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II to ride roughshod over the hard work done by the eighth season if it seemed like the production team knew where it was going. The biggest problem with Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II is a sense of purposelessness to it all.

The episode introduces two potentially major new characters in the form of Brad Follmer and Shannon McMahon. The problem is that the characters never feel like more than cyphers. Although played by Cary Elwes – an actor with a black belt in smarm – Follmer just seems like the latest iteration of the archetypal slimy and untrustworthy FBI agent. Follmer might be a new character, but he seems like an unholy blend of Jeffrey Spender and Diana Fowley, with nothing to distinguish him.

"I have my audition tape here."

“I have my audition tape here.”

In press around the announcement of Elwes’ casting, Carter described Follmer as “a guy who is a little more buttoned-up, a little more polished; he represents a different kind of FBI.” As Carter elaborates in The Truth About Season Nine:

He is so much different than Doggett, he’s so much different than Mulder. He is a person that is physically attractive, terrific actor, and has a kind of quality that we saw we could use, which was – I don’t want to say devious – but there is something going on behind Cary’s eyes.

It is interesting that Mulder remains a benchmark, even for a character who never appears in the same scene as him and who was created to have a unique and novel relationship with the two characters who had inherited the X-files from Mulder. However, that is not the problem.

Cool it.

Cool it.

On paper, it is not a bad idea. Doggett and Reyes need to develop their own supporting cast, and Follmer is a nice twisted reflection of Doggett. Much was made in episodes like Within and The Gift of John Doggett’s career ambitions and potential, so contrasting him with a character who has actually climbed the career ladder is a smart move. The eighth season made much of Doggett’s blue-collar background, so it is only logical that Frank Spotnitz would describe him as “an Ivy League polished well-dressed slick careerist” in The Truth About Season Nine.

The problem is that Follmer seems like an archetype the show has employed countless times before. The use of Follmer in an attempt to stoke romantic tension between Doggett and Reyes recalls the introduction of Fowley in The End. Follmer’s weak-willed attempts to sabotage a rival without any real backbone or integrity harks back to the treatment of Spender during the fifth and sixth seasons. Cary Elwes is very well cast, and plays Follmer’s sliminess to the hilt. The problem is that – like so much of the ninth season – he has been done better before.

Lawless unto himself.

A Lawless unto herself.

Shannon McMahon lacks the punch of the best mythology guest-stars. Indeed, the most notable thing about Shannon McMahon is the fact that she is played by Lucy Lawless; there is little actual character to be found in Nothing Important Happened Today I or Nothing Important Happened Today II. She lacks the interesting character hooks that made one-shot guest stars like Malcolm Gerlach (Nisei and 731) or Scott Garrett (Tempus Fugit and Max) so interesting.

Shannon McMahon is a comic book character, like Knowle Rohrer before her. Even Rohrer got come character development before he was transformed into a two-dimensional unstoppable killing machine. McMahon spends most of the two-parter wandering around naked, in what feels like a very cynical use of Lucy Lawless. Although Billy Miles attempted to escape from a hospital naked in DeadAlive, he took the time to put on clothes during his rampages in Essence and Existence.

There was considerable speculation that Lucy Lawless could become a recurring fixture of the ninth season. “The usually tight-lipped X folks aren’t telling anything about her role, but she could have additional appearances,” reported Janine Dallas Steffan. Asked about the possibility of reappearing, Lawless explained:

“That’s entirely up to Fox and to Chris,” Lawless replies as the conversation comes to an end… for now. “If Chris feels that the character will serve his show, she might be back. I know how producers thing. They just want to do what’s best for their show and for the ratings. My being back remains to be seen.”

It seems like the production team did want Lawless to return in some capacity later in the season, but her pregnancy ultimately prevented that. Indeed, asked about her memories of working on The X-Files, Lawless offered, “I remember being underwater… and pregnant.”

McMahon is another example of a character who seems like a good idea on paper, but whose introduction is handled terribly. McMahon is a character with a direct connection to Doggett, have served with him in the Marines. As such, she provides a personal connection between Doggett and the super soldier programme. Between McMahon and Rohrer, Doggett is very firmly tied into the revived conspiracy; there is a sense that Doggett’s righteous anger about the abuse and exploitation of his fellow soldiers should offer an emotional anchor to this story.

The problem is that Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II is never particularly interested in Doggett and McMahon’s history together. It seems like McMahon might be a super soldier who has overcome her programming and her basic impulses, saving Doggett from Rohrer; that is a huge deal, on paper. However, the episode simply isn’t interest in any of that character stuff, never bothering to explain how or why McMahon went from “conspiracy enforcer” to “Doggett-rescuing do-gooder.”

Instead, McMahon’s connection to Doggett is really just a way to put her in touch with Scully so that she can offer some conspiracy theories about Scully’s baby. As with everything else relating to John Doggett in Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II, Shannon McMahon is secondary to the plot’s interest in Scully and William. The new ideas proposed by Nothing Important Happened Today I and Nothing Important Happened Today II are nothing to shout home about, but they are more interesting than dull retreads.

Nothing Important Happened Today I proves to be quite an apt title. It seems that everything important happened years ago.

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2 Responses

  1. Episodes like this make my hair stand on end. With the reboot coming and Carter at the helm…

    • Yep. But I think there were a lot of complicated factors involved in the mess that season nine became. At least Carter’s had a lot of time to recharge his creative juices.

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