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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 4, Episode 24 (“Gethsemane”)

So The X-Cast has reached the end of its fourth season coverage, and I’m delight to be joining Tony Black to discuss the fourth season finale Gethsemane.

Gethsemane is an interesting season finale, and a defining episode of The X-Files. It opens with what appears to be the suicide of Fox Mulder, and then builds to that as a season-bridging cliffhanger. Of course, the audience knows from the outset that the cliffhanger will be Mulder’s death, and the audience also understands that Duchovny is going to spend the summer shooting The X-Files: Fight the Future. So there’s an incredible tension there, right at the moment when the series had become one of the most popular television shows of the decade.

More than that, though, there’s something very lyrical and poetic about Gethsemane, which eschews the sort of action and adventure beats that defined a lot of The Erlenmeyer Flask or Anasazi or Talitha Cumi. There is a sense that writer Chris Carter (working without partner Frank Spotnitz) is meditating upon some of the internal contradictions of the show, and trying to work through some of the tensions that simmered through a complicated and scattershot fourth season as a whole.

The truth is in here. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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The X-Files – Redux II (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Redux II would be a lot better if the audience believed anything that the episode was saying.

In fact, Redux II would be a lot better if it seemed like the show itself believed anything that the episode was saying.

"Hm. That resolution is unsatisfying. Deeply unsatisfying."

“Hm. That resolution is unsatisfying. Deeply unsatisfying.”

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The X-Files – Redux I (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Redux I hits on the same problem that haunted The Blessing Way. It is very hard to structure a three-parter that bridges two seasons of television. The biggest problem is the second episode, which has the unfortunate position of having to serve as a season premiere while carrying the baggage from the last season finalé and remaining unable to resolve anything. So the episode inevitably becomes an exercise in spinning wheels as the show saves all of its potential resolutions for the third episode.

A particular cynical commentator might suggest that Redux I plays as Chris Carter’s twisted take on Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin is famous for his sequences of characters walking through corridors while trading witty banter – a very nice way of keeping physical movement in the midst of largely dialogue-driven plots. This would become a defining feature of The West Wing, the show that Sorkin would launch in September 1999. Redux I seems to prefigure the style, albeit with a twist. There is lots of walking through corridors as characters talk to themselves in monologue.

"Wow, and I though my filing system was bad..."

“Wow, and I thought my filing system was bad…”

Redux I plays as a collection of voice-over monologues transposed over sequences of Mulder wandering through corridors in the Pentagon. One immediately wonders how the Department of Defence could have staged such a complex and convincing hoax against the American people when they cannot find one lost FBI agent inside the Pentagon. The drab setting makes for a shockingly dull episode; the majesty of the Yukon Mountains is lost, replaced by long sequences of grey walls and red doors.

Redux I has more than a few interesting ideas, but its structure is a mess. Sitting between Gethsemane and Redux II, the episode has no clear sense of purpose or momentum; no drive or ambition or excitement.

Don't worry, it could still make sense...

Don’t worry, it could still make sense…

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The X-Files – Gethsemane (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.

Agent Mulder died late last night from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

– Agent Dana Scully, 22nd October 1997

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The X-Files – Demons (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.

The fourth season of The X-Files is an oddity.

That is particularly true when it comes to the show’s mythology. Not only has any sense of narrative progression stalled after the “to be continued…” hook of Talitha Cumi, the fourth season seems to branch the mythology out in multiple directions that never really get anywhere. Tunguska and Terma introduce a Russian conspiracy that quickly becomes a footnote. Tempus Fugit and Max focuses on private military contractors who are never mentioned again. Memento Mori gives Scully cancer halfway through the season, and the rest of the year tries to catch up.

A cigarette-smoking spectre...

A cigarette-smoking spectre…

Demons is an episode that sits rather awkwardly as the penultimate episode of the season. An episode about Mulder undergoing aggressive therapy to recover lost memories seems a little out of place with everything else going on around him. After Memento Mori, you would imagine he would be worried about Scully. After Zero Sum, you imagine he would be wary about putting himself in a vulnerable position. Demons feels very much like it would make a good first season episode, a product of the time when Samantha Mulder was our lead’s primary driving motivation.

Instead, Demons sits awkwardly before the big season finalé with its own clear agenda. Scully’s closing monologue is clearly designed to lead into Gethsemane as almost a four-part season-bridging epic. However, the execution feels a little too haphazard, a little too casual, a little too disorganised. Demons feels less like the lead-in to an earth-shattering story and more like a script designed to plug a gap late in the season.

"Hey, look on the bright side, this time next year, you'll be in a psychiatric institution."

“Hey, look on the bright side, this time next year, you’ll be in a psychiatric institution.”

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