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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…

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Millennium – Darwin’s Eye (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.

There is a reckless abandon to the the late third season of Millennium that is oddly endearing.

The first half of the year seemed almost cautious and conservative, as if trying to smooth the rough edges off the show in the hopes of turning it into a more generic piece of television. That approach failed spectacularly, and hobbled the rest of the season. Towards the end of the third season, Millennium allowed itself to become a bit bolder and more abstract, proudly flying its freak flag high. The show found an energy and verve, throwing crazy concepts into scripts with reckless abandon and little regard for how they fit together.

Shady theories...

Shady theories…

It doesn’t entirely work. If anything, it underscores just how skilfully the second season had integrated these crazy ideas with a clear creative direction and a solid thematic foundation. The second season know roughly where it wanted to go, and so embarked on an epic journey towards that point. While the third season has its own thematic underpinnings, these feel more like recurring visual motifs and ideas than a clear purpose. As a result, the weirdness can seem detached and purposeless, abstract and surreal.

However, even when the late third season episodes don’t quite work, they remain interesting. There is a breathless energy to these stories that was sadly missing in the first stretch of the year. Darwin’s Eye is a prime example. It is not an episode that could be described as a success by any measure, but it is still ambitious and dynamic in a way that mitigates its failings. Somewhat.

That's one way to get a head in love...

That’s one way to get a head in love…

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The X-Files – Unruhe (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.

Unruhe was the first episode of The X-Files to air on Sunday nights.

The show had vacated its traditional Friday evening slot to make room for Millennium. It had been moved to Sunday evenings. Although the production team were initially quite cautious about the move, it would ultimately pay dividends for the show. The show had already become a mainstream hit, but the Sunday night slot would help to push it into the stratosphere. Airing alongside Fox’s other long-running success story, The Simpsons, the show would secure its highest ratings ever less than six months after moving into its new slot.

Photo copy?

Photo copy?

Of course, this also draws attention to another interesting facet of Unruhe. This was the first episode of The X-Files to air after Millennium hit the air. Unruhe aired two days after the pilot. The impact of Millennium has already been keenly felt on the fourth season of The X-Files in a number of ways; deadline and production issues hindered Herrenvolk, while James Wong and Glen Morgan had been drafted back to The X-Files to help shore up the fourth season. However, Unruhe seems to directly (and perhaps pointedly) acknowledge Chris Carter’s younger series.

Unruhe is an episode that would probably have been quite at home on Millennium. It is an episode that could easily have been re-worked or re-tooled for Carter’s new show – with only a few minor changes. With its serial offender, fascination with forensic psychology, and its grim reflection on mankind’s capacity for evil, it feels like an story that could comfortably have been told using Frank Black. While it serves to welcome Millennium to the genre neighbourhood, it also seems to suggest that Millennium might be a little redundant.

A walk among the tombstones...

A walk among the tombstones…

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