Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

The X-Files – Release (Review)

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

Release is a breath of fresh air.

There are problems with the episode, serious problems. The plotting is incredibly loose, with Release relying upon a series of incredible contrivances even once you get past the supernaturally-gifted crime-solver who only joined the FBI so he could solve a murder that happens to connect back to Luke Doggett. At best, Release is clumsy and inelegant. At worst, it makes absolutely no sense. More than that, there is the question of whether or not the episode is actually necessary. Does The X-Files actually need to resolve the murder of Luke Doggett?

Picture perfect...

Picture perfect…

These are fairly sizable and fundamental problems. There is no getting around them. However, Release offsets those problems by being a spectacularly-produced piece of television. Everything works, from Robert Patrick’s performance to Mark Snow’s piano-heavy score to Kim Manner’s stylised direction. Release is a reminder of just how sleek and well-oiled The X-Files could be. That is quite a relief after the triple whammy of Scary Monsters, Jump the Shark and William. Release is a good episode on its own terms; in context, it is a masterpiece.

It also helps that Release feels like the first attempt to give the show actual material closure since Improbable. That closure is thematic rather than literal, with the mystery of Luke Doggett’s death serving as a vehicle through which the show might finally resolve some of its own lingering threads. In the case of Release, the show is tidying away the strands that have been woven into the fabric of The X-Files from the beginning; strands that paid homage to Silence of the Lambs and gave birth to Millennium. Release bids farewell to the forensic side of The X-Files.

The old man and the sea...

The old man and the sea…

Continue reading

Advertisements

The X-Files – Hellbound (Review)

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

Your hand travelled
the Aztec trail
down my breast.
The sun popped out like the egg
of a platypus
and aspens pattered
their leafy Ur-language.
All this has happened before.

The jellied landscape
was furrowed with happiness.
You worshipped me
like the goddess of warm rain.

But in each corner of our eyes
stood one of Maxwell’s demons
loosening the molecules
of rise and fall
back and forth.

And in and out, round and about,
in and out,
through the cracked lens of the eye
unendingly,
surface behind glass
entropy mounted
in the random and senseless universe.

All this has happened before.
All this will happen again.

– Miroslav Holub, Lovers in August

Uncomfortable in his skin...

Uncomfortable in his skin…

Continue reading

The X-Files – Invocation (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

There is something rather strange about how the first six episodes of the eighth season approach Doggett as a character.

Despite the fact that he is one of the two leads on The X-Files, the series takes its time in getting around to him. Robert Patrick is effectively stepping into the shows of David Duchovny, but the early stretches of the eighth season seem quite unsure what to make of Special Agent John Doggett. Robert Patrick might appear in the opening credits, but there is a sense that the writing staff are not yet entirely comfortable with the character. Perhaps worried about alienating fans still grieving for Mulder, the show keeps a respectful distance from Doggett.

Good grief.

Good grief.

Within and Without introduced Doggett as the agent in charge of the hunt for Mulder. While Scully and Skinner were looking at Mulder as a potential victim, they frequently found themselves competing with Doggett’s decisions to paint Mulder as a potential suspect. Doggett was introduced in a surprisingly abrasive manner, literally (and clumsily) attempting to undermine the relationship between Mulder and Scully – perhaps a literal expression of fannish anxiety about the show’s new lead.

This is not to suggest that the show has been hostile (or even disinterested) towards Doggett. Both Patience and Roadrunners emphasise that Scully needs to learn to trust Doggett and that he really does have her best interests at heart. However, the show tends to look at Doggett as an object of curiousity. In the first six episodes of the season, the show tends to view Doggett from an outside perspective. He might play an active role in the narrative, but he is not really a viewpoint character.

Knife to see you...

Knife to see you…

The show generally approaches Doggett through the character of Scully. (In Redrum, it is Martin Wells.) Leaning heavily on Scully makes sense; the audience trusts Scully, so if she can trust Doggett then maybe they can as well. More than that, it offers a nice twist on the dynamic during the first season of the show. In The Pilot, Scully was introduced as a viewpoint character into the bizarre world of Fox Mulder. Seven years later, the audience is so accustomed to that bizarre world that she is the viewpoint character into the grounded world of John Doggett.

This decision to treat Scully as the viewpoint character gives Invocation a surreal tone. In many ways, Invocation is the show’s first real Doggett-centric story; it is the first time that the character gets to drive the central narrative instead of running in parallel, it is the first time that the show hints at a personal back story for Doggett beyond “generic law enforcement and armed forces experience.” However, it is all filtered through the lens of Dana Scully. It emphasises the fact that Doggett is a mystery, which seems strange given how straight-laced he seems.

"Luke, I was your father."

“Luke, I was your father.”

Continue reading

The X-Files – Chimera (Review)

This September, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

There is a sense of fatigue about the seventh season of The X-Files.

It makes a certain amount of sense. After all, seven years is a long time in television. It is a particularly long time when the staff are churning out more than twenty episodes in a year. One hundred episodes is typically considered the threshold for syndication success, but The X-Files crossed that with Unusual Suspects back in the fifth season. By this point, The X-Files is comfortably past one hundred and fifty episodes of television. That is a lot of television. Assuming one were to watch it straight through, that’s nearly five straight days of television.

Quoth the raven...

Quoth the raven…

There comes a point where it feels old and outdated, where the sense of novelty and excited has faded to familiarity and dull routine. There comes a point where it feels like there is not much to talk about, because the show has already said a lot of what it has to say about a particular subject. It could be described as a “seven-year-itch”, but there is a reason why shows that last longer than seven seasons tend to rotate actors and producers more frequently than The X-Files has. Occasionally a blood transfusion is necessary to reoxygenate the blood.

Chimera is a perfectly solid episode of television. It is produced to the high standards of The X-Files, directed very well, and written in an efficient manner. However, it feels like it is covering a lot of well-trodden ground for the show with nothing new to say. Chimera feels like it is simply echoing sentiments the show had clearly articulated as recently as the sixth season; a curious blend of Terms of Endearment and Arcadia, but without the novelty or nuance of either. The X-Files has begun to feel as familiar as the rows of suburban houses it so fears.

Food for thought...

Food for thought…

Continue reading

The X-Files – Rush (Review)

This November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

When did The X-Files get so old?

As with a lot of the seventh season, Rush is an episode that seems consciously aware of the series’ advancing age. Whether watching Mulder’s life go by in The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati or battling zombies in Millennium, the seventh season is acutely aware of the fact that any prime-time drama that has been on the air for seven years is rapidly approaching obsolescence. What was once young and fresh becomes old and tired. There is a sense that the series really wouldn’t mind the prospect of retirement, now that it’s well past the syndication mark.

"He wore sneakers... for sneaking."

“He wore sneakers… for sneaking.”

Rush emphasises the advancing years of the show, often awkwardly putting its tongue in its cheeky as it suggests that Mulder and Scully are really lumbering dinosaurs trying to navigate the fast-paced world of high school. David Amann’s script is occasionally a little too wry and self-aware for its own good; this is an episode based around a laboured pun about how “speed” is also a drug, after all. Rush often demotes Mulder and Scully to passive observes, quipping and flirting from the sidelines as the plot unfolds around them.

Rush lacks the charm and dynamism that define the show’s (and the season’s) standout hours, but it is a well-constructed and enjoyable standalone adventure on its own terms. As with Hungry, it feels like a conscious effort to get “back to basics” with the series. If the seventh season is going to fixate on the series’ status as a televisual lame duck counting down its last few episodes, this is not such a bad way to do it.

Scully'll take a run at this...

Scully’ll take a run at this…

Continue reading

The X-Files – Agua Mala (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

Agua Mala means “bad water.” It also makes for a bad episode.

Agua Mala is perhaps the most infamous turkey of the sixth season, beating out Alpha (and – depending on who you ask – Milagro) for that honour. This is the sixth season equivalent of Space or Excelsis Dei or El Mundo Gira or Schizogeny. Conveniently enough, it arrives at around the same point in the season. It is just around the half-way through the year, near the Christmas break. There is a sense of desperation and fatigue to proceedings; it is as if the entire production team just want to get something in front of the cameras to meet the season order.

Choking the life out of him...

Choking the life out of him…

Agua Mala doesn’t really work on any level. The structure is a mess, the plotting is generic. The bulk of the cast are not introduced until half-way through the episode, and climax of the episode takes place off-screen. The monster is ridiculous, and the script decides to compensate by aiming for broad comedy. However, Agua Mala might be the least funny “comedy” episode that the show has produced up to this point in its run. It is an episode that is fundamentally and undeniably flawed.

It feels almost a waste that Agua Mala was broadcast directly after Two Fathers and One Son, representing something of a return to “business as usual” for the show. If this is the new “business as usual”, it is quite unsettling.

Somebody got slimed...

Somebody got slimed…

Continue reading

The X-Files – Terms of Endearment (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

Terms of Endearment is perhaps the most conventional episode of The X-Files to air between Drive and Agua Mala.

The early sixth season was generally quite experimental and playful, and Terms of Endearment stands out in this stretch of the season as an episode that is very much structured like a horror story and which conforms to the expectations of an episode of The X-Files. A local law enforcement official brings a case to the attention of the FBI; Mulder and Scully trade theories; Mulder pursues his hunches, while Scully offers pseudo-scientific rationalisations. There is a crime; there is a paranormal element; there is a secret.

Who said their marriage is lacking some fire?

Who said their marriage is lacking some fire?

Terms of Endearment is an episode that could easily have been written into the fifth or seventh seasons of the show without any real difficulty. Barring the brief appearance of Spender at the start of the episode, and the occasional references to the fact that Mulder is not technically on the X-files anymore, this is business as usual. Indeed, the episode’s themes of reproductive horror might have fit quite comfortably with the recurring infant-related horror stories that populated the fifth season.

Still, Terms of Endearment works. In a way, its somewhat conventional nature serves it well. As with the stand-alone monster of the week stories scattered sparingly through the fifth season, it is easier to appreciate an episode like this when it feels exceptional rather than generic. Featuring an intriguing central metaphor, a great guest performance, and a number of memorable visuals, Terms of Endearment is a clever and powerful little script. It is not a bad début from writer David Amann.

"Who loves you, baby?"

“Who loves you, baby?”

Continue reading