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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 2, Episode 17 (“End Game”)

Just a quick link to a recent (unscheduled) guest appearance over on The X-Cast, a great X-Files podcast run by the prolific Tony Black.

Following on from last week, I had the pleasure of an extended conversation with Tony about End Game. It was a joy, given the my own fondness for the episode and its place in the large X-Files canon. It was a fun to talk through the episode, from what Mulder really wants to whether the show’s popularity drove the mythology or the mythology’s popularity drove the show to Mister X’s appreciation for the fine arts. Check it out the episode here, or click the link below.

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The X-Files – Herrenvolk (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

After Talitha Cumi, Herrenvolk cannot help but seem like a little bit of a disappointment.

Towards the end of the episode, the Alien Bounty Hunter hunts down Jeremiah Smith. Mulder begs for mercy, but the Bounty Hunter will hear nothing of it. “He shows you pieces, but tells you nothing of the whole,” the Bounty Hunter remarks to Mulder. It feels like that sentiment encapsulates Herrenvolk in a nutshell. Mulder goes on the run with Jeremiah Smith and sees a collection of vague but compelling things that may or may not tie into colonisation.

"Now you're thinking, 'I hope that's shepherd's pie in my knickers!'"

“Now you’re thinking, ‘I hope that’s shepherd’s pie in my knickers!'”

Like a lot of the mythology in the fourth and fifth seasons, it feels like a holding pattern. Talitha Cumi was surprisingly candid in its revelations. The aliens were plotting to colonise Earth in collaboration with the human conspirators. The date had been set, the plot was in motion. That was a pretty big bombshell, confirmed in unequivocal terms. It was arguably the clearest and most transparent that the conspiracy arc would ever be. There was a clear goal, a deadline, and a sense of purpose.

Almost immediately, Herrenvolk works to muddy the water. It stalls, it procrastinates, it delays, it evades. It is a plot structured around a collection of ominous conspiracy buzz words (DNA, smallpox, colonies, clones) without a clear purpose or objective.

A bloody mess...

A bloody mess…

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The X-Files – Talitha Cumi (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Talitha Cumi is a staggeringly confident piece of television, the kind of episode casually produced by a show at (or approaching) the top of its game.

It is interesting just how much this season finalé seems to promise business as usual. It is perhaps the least radical of the show’s season-ending cliffhangers, with the third season closing on an immediate rather than a conceptual threat to our leads and to The X-Files as a show. The Erlenmeyer Flask ended with the death of Deep Throat and the closing of the X-files. Anasazi ended with Mulder being burnt alive in a boxcar filled with alien bodies. Gethsemane ups the ante further.

A stab in the dark...

A stab in the dark…

In contrast, Talitha Cumi ends with the Alien Bounty Hunter walking towards Mulder and Scully in a rather menacing fashion. It is very effective television – and a solidly suspenseful cliffhanger – but it also feels rather low-key when compared to other season-ending episodes. Talitha Cumi feels like a pretty effective hook, rather than a game-changer. There’s an immediacy to the cliffhanger, but nothing that threatens to upend the show as a whole.

Then again, one suspects that is entirely the point. The third season has been largely about consolidation of The X-Files. It makes sense that it wouldn’t throw everything up into the air at the end of the season.

It's been a long year...

It’s been a long year…

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The X-Files – End Game (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

Towards the end of End Game, Mulder stumbles across a nuclear submarine that was attacked in the episode’s teaser. The craft was disabled by a strange craft it picked up in the ocean. Now, following a mysterious alien figure across the world in a quest to find his sister, Mulder approaches the location of the lost American submarine. As he does, he notices the submarine’s coning tower, bursting through the ice.

It’s one of those beautifully iconic television moments. It’s an image that is audacious and stunning and beautiful and breathtaking. It immediately gives End Game (and Colony) a sense of scale. All of a sudden, this isn’t just a bunch of stuff happening under the radar in some small town somewhere. This is the hijacking of a nuclear submarine by a hostile entity. This is Mulder going to the ends of the Earth to get his sister back.

Not so green any longer...

Not so green any longer…

It’s also worth noting that the symbolism is beautiful. Even looking at a picture of Mulder on the ice conjures up all manner of associations. Coupled with the non-linear storytelling employed by Colony and End Game, it calls Frankenstein to mind – Frankenstein serving as a massively influential text on Chris Carter. However, the idea of Mulder finding important existential answers on an Arctic soundstage also evokes Clark Kent’s self-discovery in Richard Donner’s Superman films, playing into the sense that this is an episode framed in cinematic terms.

The rest of the episode could just be dead air, and End Game would still work impressively well. However, End Game remains a fantastic piece of work in its own right, effectively codifying how a two-parter is meant to work.

The truth is out there...

The truth is out there…

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The X-Files – Colony (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

Colony is another second season game changer. As with other episodes in the second season, there’s a sense that the production team are really getting to grips with what works with the show – laying groundwork and defining a template that they can work with into the show’s third season. While the Duane Barry and Ascension two-parter had been an act of desperation to work around Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy, Colony and End Game is a two-parter that the show embraced entirely of its own volition.

These two two-part episodes really set the template for the show going forward. There’s a sense that Chris Carter and his team were really defining what a season of The X-Files should look like, giving them a blueprint that they might build on in the years ahead. From the second season through to the sixth, the show would stick quite rigidly to the idea of two big two-parters in the middle of the season, quite apart from any multi-part stories bridging the seasons.

Lights in the sky...

Lights in the sky…

These two parters were typically broadcast as part of the “sweeps”, and inevitably focused on the show’s alien conspiracy mythology. Even the more stand-alone two-parters like A Christmas Carol and Emily or Dreamland Part I and Dreamland Part II still build off the series’ central mythology. Given those were the points at which the show got the highest exposure, and the point where the show worked hardest to draw in an audience, it’s no surprise that the mythology arc rose to such prominence.

Duane Barry and Ascension undoubtedly set a precedent, but those episodes were prompted by factors outside the control of the creative team. However, Colony and End Game really solidified that precedent into a guiding principle for the show. This two-parter comes to codify and cement a lot of the things that the show’s mythology comes to take for granted. For better and worse.

Quite pointed...

Quite pointed…

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