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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 4, Episode 15 (“Kaddish”)

Always a delight to stop by The X-Cast again. This time discussing a (relatively) underrated fourth season installment, Kaddish with the fantastic Russell Hugo.

Kaddish exists at a very weird point in the fourth season of The X-Files. It arrives following a blockbuster run of episodes, including Leonard Betts, Never Again and Memento Mori. Those are big episodes in the context of the show’s larger run the kind of stories that people have very strong opinions about. Kaddish follows those episodes, and so tends to be overlooked. In fact, it explicitly avoids dealing with any of the fallout from those episodes, at least directly. However, on its own terms, it’s a very lyrical and abstract story, a tale that is perhaps more timely now than when it was broadcast, a gothic fairy tale that hints at the big themes of the stories around it: about life, love, mortality, and loss. It’s beautiful in its own intimate way.

As ever, you can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 4, Episode 13 (“Never Again”)

I had the pleasure of popping by The X-Cast again, this time to discuss Never Again with the wonderful Deana Ferrer.

Long-time readers of the blog will know (or at least suspect) that Never Again stands out as one of my favourite episodes of The X-Files. Most days, it’s a toss up between that and One Breath. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I think the most obvious is that – as I’ve gotten older – I’ve found myself identifying more with Scully than with Mulder. Scully’s anxieties and uncertainties here, her self-doubt and her insecurity, all resonate with me more and more as I get older. More than any other X-Files episode, I understand the feelings that drive Never Again.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. It is also a fantastically constructed episode of television, an interesting illustration of how continuity is an external construct in long-form narratives, and something that pushes very strongly at certain ideas of what The X-Files is and what The X-Files is about. So it was a pleasure to join Deana to discuss the episode, to break it down and to try to make sense of it all. I know it’s a controversial episode, so I simply hope that we make a relatively coherent argument for it.

As ever, you can listen to the episode here, or click the link below.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Season 4, Episode 4 (“Unruhe”)

I’m back on The X-Cast this week, covering Unruhe with the incomparable Carl Sweeney.

Unruhe is an interesting episode. It is an episode of The X-Files focusing on a serial killer at the point in time when Chris Carter had just launched Millennium to deal specifically with that menace. In fact, it served as something of a trial run for writer Vince Gilligan, who would write another (more popular) episode focusing on a serial killer later in the fourth season with Paper Hearts.

Unruhe is often overlooked in discussions of the fourth season, and it is easy to understand why given the quality of the episodes around it. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating piece of work that speaks to a lot of the core interests of the series and also reflecting a lot of the work of writer Vince Gilligan. As such, it was a thrill to be asked to discuss the episode.

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 4, Episode 1 (“Herrenvolk”)

I’m back on The X-Cast this week, covering Herrenvolk with the one and only Tony Black, kicking off the podcast’s fourth season coverage.

Herrenvolk is an interesting episode, arriving at a pivotal time in the history of The X-Files. Chris Carter’s attention was divided over the fourth season, split between the first season of Millennium and the pre-production on what would become The X-Files: Fight the Future. As a result, the fourth season is a particularly disjointed and unfocused point in the show’s run, but one that contains no shortage of treasures.

It was, always, a delight to talk over the episode with Tony. I’m always honoured to be asked back. We also talk a little bit about the fourth season of the series as a whole, about its reputation and legacy and about where it would rank personally. 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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Non-Review Review: Velvet Buzzsaw

Velvet Buzzsaw is a broad and blackly comic exploitation horror story.

Of course, Velvet Buzzsaw has all the trappings of a biting social satire about the shallowness of the art world, the kind of cartoonish takedown that has been a pop culture staple for decades, built on the acknowledgement that the world of commercial art is vapid and that the people who inhabit that world are delusional and self-centred. There’s certainly an elements of that to Velvet Buzzsaw, which populates its cast with the kinds of characters who might be ordered in a box set for that kind of film; the pretentious and insecure critic, the conniving climber, the manipulative dealer, the precious artist.

The art of horror.

However, Velvet Buzzsaw has nothing particularly new or interesting to say about these characters and this world. In fact, the opening half-hour or so that the film spends with these characters in this world is perhaps the weakest part of the film, often feeling like the television edit of a more pointed and acerbic film. There is a sense that writer and director Dan Gilroy understands this. At one point, early in the film, Rhodora Haze surveys a Miami art show with a potential client. “I get the joke,” she admits. “None of this new.” She may as well be talking about the stretch of the film in which she finds herself.

However, as with Nightcrawler, there is a sense that the social commentary is not the central appeal of Velvet Buzzsaw. Instead, again as with Nightcrawler, the appeal of Velvet Buzzsaw is the manner in which Gilroy appends what is a fairly straightforward criticism of hypercapitalism to the framework of a horror movie, to create a compelling and exciting aesthetic. Velvet Buzzsaw doesn’t work as an angry takedown of a world that has been well-explored across film and television, but it does work as a delightfully schlocky B-movie about (literally) killer art installations.

Painting the town red. And blue. And yellow.

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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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