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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 3, Episode 24 (“Talitha Cumi”)

I’m back on The X-Cast this week, covering Talitha Cumi with the one and only Tony Black, a nice companion piece to last week’s episode covering Wetwired.

Talitha Cumi is a controversial and divisive episode, particularly among fans of the series. It is relatively unique as far as season-finales go, in that it is perhaps the only season finale in The X-Files that could not also serve as a series finale as well. It is very poetic and very lyrical story, but also one that largely eschews a lot of the structures and rhythms that audiences expect from narratives. I have always had a soft spot for it, and I think I get a chance to articulate why on the podcast. As little sense as the actual plot of Talitha Cumi makes on a beat-by-beat basis, it works very well as a thematic piece meditating on big ideas.

It was, always, a pleasure and an honour to discuss the episode with Tony. I’m always flattered to be asked back. There were a few recording hitches with the episode that meant we had to record it, and some of that giddiness shines through a little bit. I hope it’s enjoyable to listen to, as it was one of my favourite podcasting experiences. We also talk a little bit about the third season of the series as a whole, about whether it is the best season and even how we measure such things. It’s quite an extended episode, but I hope you enjoy it.

The truth is in here. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 3, Episode 23 (“Wetwired”)

I’m back on The X-Cast this week, covering Wetwired with the one and only Tony Black. We took you into this season, and we can take you out of it too.

Wetwired is a curious beast. It’s an episode that a lot of people compare to Blood, but I’ve always seen it as being a lot closer to the first half of Anasazi. Which perhaps makes sense, if you consider it part of the third season finale in spirit. Wetwired is also an episode about which my opinion has shifted a great deal in recent years. I thought it was pretty fine when I reviewed it a few years ago, but – like a lot of The X-Files – it seems increasingly prescient in the modern context.

The truth is in here. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Todd VanDerWerff and Zack Handlen on “Monsters of the Week”

This was fun.

I occasionally guest on The X-Cast with Tony Black, discussing The X-Files. I’ve been very proud to be part of the show’s discussion of individual episodes and also to participate in its ambitious beginning-to-end podwatch. However, this episode is particularly exciting for me, because it’s an interview that I managed to organise with critics Todd VanDerWerff and Zack Handlen on their new book Monsters of the Week.

Todd and Zack wrote about The X-Files at The A.V. Club over the past decade, and their reviews are some of the most engaging and insightful examinations of the series ever written. They were hugely influential on my own work, and are still a joy to read. Indeed, I had access to an early review copy of Monsters of the Week for the interview, and it is a joy to read.

The interview itself is broad. We cover everything from Todd and Zack’s early history with the show, through to debating its place in the television canon and even discussing a little bit about the current state of television criticism as a whole. Along the way, we discuss the show’s legacy, the challenges in approaching it in the current era, and how the Trump administration as made a surprisingly convincing case for the show’s status as an enduring television classic.

I’m very happy with the interview, and very thankful for Todd and Zack’s generosity with their time. You can check it out here, click the link below, or just play it from this post.

 

All’s Welles That Ends Welles: “The Other Side of the Wind” and a Sense of Seventies Timelessness…

There is a tendency to think of the current moment as the most important moment; call it “modernity bias.”

There is a certain egocentricism inherent in this premise, in the idea that this moment when we exist will always be the most important moment. On a purely philosophical level, there may some truth in the idea. After all, this is the one moment when we actually get to make a decision and exercise agency, this is the one moment where a course of action can be changed. Of course, people have made decisions in the past and can plan for the future, but this is the moment that exists right now. It’s understandable to think of the current moment in such terms.

Sometimes this can make it hard to engage with popular culture outside of those terms. Of course, a lot of popular culture is defined by the moment in which it was released. It would be hard to separate All the President’s Men (or even conspiracy thrillers like The Conversation or The Parallax View) from the cultural paranoia of the seventies, just as it would be hard to divorce films like Fight Club (or The Matrix) from the pre-millennial anxieties that informed them. This is not to suggest that these movies lack relevance outside their moments, but instead to acknowledge they are rooted in their times.

In most cases, works are released relatively close to the time at which they were produced, meaning that audiences and critics respond to these films in the context in which they were made. Audiences reacting to films like All The President’s Men or Fight Club were very much in step with the culture that informed it, and so there was a strong communion between what the film was saying and what the audience was hearing. Indeed, any critical reevaluation of these works exists in conversation with the original evaluation, and so the cultural conversation about these works of art tends to move forward from a fixed point.

However, this creates a challenge in assessing works that exist outside of that template. “Lost” works that have been recovered. “Incomplete” works that have been finished. Even older works that have been revisited. It is, for example very hard to separate Doug Liman’s reworked 2018 director’s cut of his 2010 film Fair Game from the context of its later release, specifically President Donald Trump’s pardoning of a key official involved in the events depicted in the film. It becomes an even bigger challenge when dealing with a work that is seeing the light of day for the first time years removed from its original context.

Is The Other Side of the Wind a lost seventies film, or is it a film for the closing of the second decade of the twenty-first century? Is it both? Is it neither? Is it something else entirely?

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 3, Episode 17 (“Pusher”)

I’m back on The X-Cast this week, to cover a very special episode. Pusher is host Tony Black’s favourite episode, and we recorded this close to his birthday. So no pressure, then.

Pusher has long been a favourite of mine as well, a crackerjack suspense-filled episode from the powerhouse team of writer Vince Gilligan and director Rob Bowman. It’s an episode that works very well both within the confines of The X-Files itself and beyond. Even more than Soft Light, it is an episode that informs a lot of Gilligan’s core themes and ideas going forward. There is a surprising amount of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul to be found in the episode, for example.

The truth is in here. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 3, Episode 16 (“Apocrypha”)

I’m back on The X-Cast this week, to cover the second-part of the late third-season mythology two-parter Apocrypha.

Picking up where Piper Maru left off, this conclusion finds Mulder and Scully continuing their separate investigations. Mulder is chasing down the missing tape from Anasazi, The Blessing Way and Paper Clip while Scully is dealing with the fallout from the assassination attempt on Assistant Director Walter Skinner that brings her face-to-face with the man who killed her sister. Justice, legacy and guilt are all major preoccupations, tying into the broader themes of the season as a whole.

Once again, a pleasure to substitute in for Tony Black as host of The X-Cast for an episode, and absolutely thrilled to be joined by the great Christopher Irish from The X-Files Lexicon.

The truth is in here. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 3, Episode 15 (“Piper Maru”)

Having recovered from the madness that was The X-Cast Live, The X-Cast is back to its regular schedule.

I’m subbing in for Tony this week to discuss the third season mythology episode Piper Maru, the first part of a late-season two-parter largely dealing with the fallout from the AnasaziThe Blessing Way and Paper Clip trilogy while also introducing the black oil into the mythology. I’m lucky enough to be joined by Christopher Irish from The X-Files Lexicon.

The truth is in here. You can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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