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The X-Files – Teso Dos Bichos (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.

It happens.

Every once in a while, there is a misfire. This is especially true when producing a genre television series churning out over twenty episodes a year. Inevitably, some of those episodes will fail; a few will fail spectacularly. Such is the way of things. It is hard to think of a twenty-odd episode season of anything that managed to maintain consistent levels of brilliance for a full season. All you can really hope is that the eventual and inevitable misfire is mostly technical.

No bones about it...

No bones about it…

Teso Dos Bichos is a terrible episode of The X-Files. It is a terrible episode of television in general. However, it is terrible in ways that are mostly banal. This isn’t a failure of overreaching ambition, like Fearful Symmetry. It isn’t a missed opportunity, like 3. It isn’t even a racist and sexist nightmare, like Excelsis Dei. Instead, Teso Dos Bichos is just bad television. It is an episode that probably didn’t work on paper, containing elements that were unlikely to work on film either.

Given how strong the third season has been, there’s a desire to brush past Teso Dos Bichos, and pretend it simply did not happen.

Cat people!

Cat people!

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The X-Files – The Erlenmeyer Flask (Review)

When you think about it, The X-Files conspiracy mythology is just a fancy way of dressing up generational “daddy issues.” Both Mulder and Scully have problems with their fathers, and it plays into the show’s wider themes. The X-Files is, appropriately enough, a show that helps define what is known as “Generation X”, the generation born following the post war baby boom, as the afterglow from America’s ascent to global superpower began to wear off. Existing in the wake of the Cold War, in a unipolar world, The X-Files was a vehicle for introspection.

One of the recurring themes of the show, and one that has come up quite a bit in the first season, is the weight of history bearing down on the current generation. Living in the shadow of Watergate, dealing with the revelation of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, coping the Vietnam and other skeletons, it’s little wonder that Generation X seemed completely disillusioned with their elders. Jamie Notter argued that “unlike their parents who challenged leaders with an intent to replace them, Generation Xers tend to ignore leaders.”

Christine Henseler would go further, suggesting that there’s something close to righteous anger in the attitude that Generation X holds to its parents, holding “a world view” that “is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS.” The Erlenmeyer Flask seems the perfect place to end this season then, pushing all this uncertainty to the fore and killing the series’ much-loved father figure.

Bodies of proof...

Bodies of proof…

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The X-Files – Conduit (Review)

The X-Files is somewhat fascinating as a historical artifact, a prism through which the viewer might explore the United States in that gap of time between the end of the Cold War and the start of the War on Terror. The show serves as something of a travelogue through the American subconscious, a vehicle for the nation’s fear and anxieties. It might be quaint now to look back on the show’s depiction of mobile phones and the internet, but The X-Files offers a snapshot of an America just on the cusp of that technological revolution, when there were still dark shadows and corners of the continent to be probed and explored.

One of the more interesting aspects of The X-Files is the way that it deals with faith in the nineties. Scully’s attempts to reconcile her religious beliefs with a rational approach to the universe are surprisingly insightful and nuanced, but Mulder’s belief system also offers a vehicle to explore the form that faith might take. “I want to believe,” Mulder confesses at the end of Conduit, with the iconic poster turning the sentiment into a motto. It doesn’t matter that Mulder chooses to invest his faith in aliens or conspiracies, The X-Files is still an exploration of what faith meant in the nineties.

Why is Mulder so driven?

Why is Mulder so driven?

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