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The X-Files – The Goldberg Variation (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.

Jeffrey Bell does whimsical very well.

The Rain King and The Goldberg Variation are perhaps Bell’s two strongest contributions to The X-Files, and they stand as some of the show’s most light-hearted episodes. In a way, Bell was the perfect new writer for a show moving from moody Vancouver down to sunny Los Angeles, with his best contributions to the show managing to preserve the weirdness that fans had come to know and love while turning up the brightness at the same time. They were episodes that felt much more applicable to the show’s new home in California.

Eye see...

Eye see…

The Rain King and The Goldberg Variation are bright episodes, and not just in a literal sense. There is an optimism that runs through both scripts, suggesting that maybe the world is not an inherently hostile place and maybe not every X-file is plotting to eat your liver or carve out your cancer. Strange things happen in the world on every day, and some times those strange things can be wondrous as well as terrifying. While quite far removed from the aesthetic of the first five seasons, The Rain King and The Goldberg Variation are no less true to the spirit of the show.

The Goldberg Variation is light entertainment. It is so light that there are points where it almost seems ready to float away. That may not be such a bad thing.

Sometimes you have to play the hand you're dealt...

Sometimes you have to play the hand you’re dealt…

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The X-Files – Field Trip (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.

Field Trip works well as the penultimate episode of the sixth season.

It returns to a lot of big ideas threaded through the sixth season, particularly as they relate to endings and mortality. It also pushes the bond between Mulder and Scully to the fore; it feels like something of a spiritual successor to both Bad Blood and Folie á Deux in its portrayal of the dynamic between Mulder and Scully, charting a rough arc in how Mulder and Scully come to see themselves and each other. Even beyond all that, it contains another surrogate romantic relationship for Mulder and Scully, this time in Wallace and Angela Schiff.

A lot to digest...

A lot to digest…

More to the point, Field Trip seems to hit on the core anxieties at the heart of the sixth season. It is a meditation on the show’s success and the status quo that has to be so careful maintained to keep the show from tipping over. As with TriangleDreamland IDreamland II, How the Ghosts Stole Christmas and Monday, our heroes find themselves trapped in something of a weird alternate reality. The climax of Field Trip hinges on both Mulder and Scully deducing that their world operates according to the logic of a television show.

However, Field Trip is perhaps most intriguing in the way that it proposes two separate endings to The X-Files. The humongous fungus at the heart of Field Trip offers both Mulder and Scully a conclusion to their six-year journey, an opportunity for closure and satisfaction. In doing so, Field Trip suggests that it is the central tension at the heart of The X-Files that keeps the show young. There is no way to end the show without absolutely and definitively declaring that one of the characters is right and the other is wrong.

Down the rabbit hole...

Down the rabbit hole…

As such, the endings seem mutually exclusive. Field Trip suggests that endings designed to satisfy Mulder and Scully and mutually exclusive and irreconcilable – recalling the implication in Bad Blood that both Mulder and Scully filter the same events through different lenses. However, Field Trip is rather more optimistic in its assessment of the dynamic between Mulder and Scully. While it might not be able to provide an ending to the show that satisfies both, Field Trip suggests that the duo have reconciled themselves to each other.

Whereas Bad Blood seemed to state that Mulder and Scully would never share the same perspective, Field Trip suggests that both characters have evolved and matured to the point where they can see the world through the eyes of the other. Bad Blood featured the two characters positing wildly different accounts of the same event, but Field Trip only resolves when Mulder and Scully come to share each other’s perspective. It feels entirely appropriate to close out the sixth season suggesting a new harmony between the two leads.

It's a dirty job...

It’s a dirty job…

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The X-Files – Revelations (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.

Religion, eh?

In the mid-nineties, religion was a very difficult subject to navigate on network television. The so-called “culture wars” were in full swing at the middle of the decade, with religious values serving as a particularly brutal battleground. Religion is a very thorny and contentious subject. As recently as 2012, more than 40% of polled Americans stated they would not vote for an atheist candidate in a presidential election. Pete Stark would admit to being an atheist in 2007, becoming the first self-identified atheist in the United States Congress.

Mulder's got a taste for adventure...

Mulder’s got a taste for adventure…

As a result, it is very difficult to have a meaningful and thoughtful conversation about it. “There’s a man that I work with – a friend – and usually I’m able to discuss these things with him… but not this,” Scully confesses at the end of the episode. While undoubtedly a comment on Mulder’s stubborn refusal to engage with Scully on the topic, it also feels like a commentary on the awkwardness of any public discussion about religious beliefs or values, which was prone to become highly charged and contentious.

The conventional wisdom was that you didn’t talk about religion at the dinner table. It wasn’t much easier on television. This puts Revelations in a very awkward position.

A bloody business...

A bloody business…

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