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The X-Files – The Blessing Way (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.

The Blessing Way is the first mythology episode of The X-Files that doesn’t really work.

And it doesn’t really work for a lot of the same reasons that some of the later mythology episodes don’t really work. Its pacing is terrible. It wallows in new age mysticism, allocating characters thoughtful monologues that awkwardly state themes and render subtext as supratext. It plays into the deification of Mulder, trying to bend Mulder’s story to fit into an archetypal “chosen one” narrative. More than that, it is very clearly a holding pattern, an effort to eat up time without moving forward.

Wiping it all out...

Wiping it all out…

However, despite the fact that The Blessing Way really doesn’t work, it is still a fascinating episode. It’s a wonderful demonstration of how The X-Files has developed a fleshed-out world inhabited by compelling characters. The best moments in The Blessing Way are character-focused, with Skinner caught between his duty to the government and his loyalty to his agents, the Cigarette-Smoking Man revealed to be middle-management at best, and the implication that even vast sinister government conspiracies are hostage to chaos.

The Blessing Way is an oddity, a rather strange piece of television that is almost endearing in its stubborn refusal to deliver what the audience wants and expects. That doesn’t make it good, but it does make it interesting.

The truth is up there...

The truth is up there…

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The X-Files – Sleepless (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

Vietnam casts a long shadow over The X-Files, just as it casts a long shadow over the rest of American popular culture. It was a conflict that left a scar on the American psyche, prompted no small amount of soul-searching and naval-gazing, forcing the country to contemplate its role on the global stage. The issues of war guilt and veterans rights haunted America well into the nineties, with films like Forrest Gump and Heaven and Earth still trying to make sense of it all.

Along with Watergate, Vietnam came to embody the disillusionment and disengagement of the seventies. While public discomfort with American involvement the Korean War never climbed above 50%, public disapproval of American involvement in Vietnam would reach almost 75% in March 1990. Vietnam remains a boogeyman, with memories of Vietnam arguably informing Clinton’s reluctance to commit American ground troops to foreign theatres during the nineties and serving as a frequent point of comparison to twenty-first century entanglements in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Howard Gordon’s first solo teleplay for The X-Files, Sleepless is an episode that explores Vietnam as a perpetual waking nightmare.

Preaching to the choir...

Preaching to the choir…

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