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The X-Files – Unusual Suspects (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.

On the surface, Unusual Suspects looks like quite a clean little episode.

It is an obvious production save – a story thrown together when it became clear that David Duchnovny and Gillian Anderson’s commitments to The X-Files: Fight the Future meant that they would not be available to film even the shortened order of twenty episodes in the fifth season. Although Unusual Suspects aired as the third episode of the season, it was actually the first produced. With limited availability to David Duchovny, Unusual Suspects was constructed as an episode that could be built around a member (or members) of the supporting cast.

Hero shot!

Hero shot!

Five seasons in, this is not a radical concept. While Mulder and Scully are still very much the heart of the show, the supporting cast has been developed to the point where the show can turn over an episode to somebody who isn’t Mulder or Scully. The fourth season offered a glimpse of the (possible) secret history of the Cigarette-Smoking Man in Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man and allowed Walter Skinner to act out his own morality play in Zero Sum. After these two characters, the Lone Gunmen were likely candidates for their own episode.

As such, Unusual Suspects also works quite well as “ground zero” for the eventual development of The Lone Gunmen during the eighth season of The X-Files. It is the episode that demonstrated that the trio could carry their own story with their eccentric little dynamic, while still being engaging and exciting. Given how The Lone Gunmen turned out, a particularly cynical commentator might suggest that Unusual Suspects very much over-sold the appeal. Nevertheless, Unusual Suspects is a logical and clear step forward in the evolution of the Lone Gunman.

Peering through the curtain...

Peering through the curtain…

And yet, for all that these are the aspects of Unusual Suspects that generate discussion and debate, they are not the heart of the episode. What is most interesting about Unusual Suspects is the way that it allows writer Vince Gilligan to brush up against the show’s central mythology, albeit only fleetingly. Gilligan is fond of arguing that Memento Mori was his only credit on a mythology episode, but that sells Unusual Suspects rather short. Although it does not dabble directly with “black oil” or “alien bounty hunters”, it does allow Gilligan to play with the show’s big central story thread.

Unusual Suspects is not just positioned by Gilligan as the “secret origin” of the Lone Gunmen. The episode is decidedly more ambitious than all that. Without directly acknowledging it, and without explicitly coming out and saying it, Unusual Suspects presents itself as the roots of the show itself. Although nowhere near as boldly and triumphantly subversive as Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space” or Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man, the episode allows Gilligan to offer his own sly (and slightly stinging) commentary on the show’s central mythology.

Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1989.

Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1989.

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Superman: Secret Origin (Review/Retrospective)

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way.

I have to admit that I quite enjoyed Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics. Johns has been one of the most influential writers working at DC over the past couple of years, so it felt right to see him tackling Superman, after years of working on titles like The Flash and Green Lantern. It was an extra special treat because he brought Richard Donner with him for the introductory arc, which restored a sense of continuity between the comic book superhero and his cinematic iteration. You ask anybody to picture Superman, and I promise you that they will imagine Christopher Reeve with his cape flapping in the wind – it feels like the definitive version of the character. And I felt that Johns really tapped into that aspect of the icon. So, I have to admit that I was pretty excited when it was announced that Geoff Johns would be returning to tell the character’s origin story, his Secret Origin, if you will.

That's one super life he's lived...

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Grant Morrison’s Run on Justice League of America: The Deluxe Edition, Vol. 1-2 (Review/Retrospective)

“Never underestimate the sentimentality of a Scotsman, Clark.”

– Batman knows how much Morrison likes comics

‘Tis the season for ever-so-slightly oversized hardback editions, what with DC reissuing the entire run of Starman and this re-release of the relaunch of the original superteam. The fact that they can put creator extraordinaire Grant Morrison’s name on the cover surely isn’t a problem either. Nor is the fact that the book (under his stewardship) was one of the best selling comic books of the nineties. So, what aren’t I getting here? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly adequate book (that isn’t necessarily as smart as it thinks it is), but it’s not gold. It moves at the speed of the Flash and seems intent to throw ideas at the reader at headache-inducing speed. It’s solid, reliable and it manages to recreate the zany madness that defined the group, but it never seems to completely transcend it. And it just keeps trying.

Rocking your world...

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