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The X-Files – Mind’s Eye (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.

Likely as a result of the peculiar factors around its production, the fifth season of The X-Files is a rather strange cocktail.

There are only twenty episodes in the season. Seven of those are mythology episodes – Redux I, Redux II, Christmas Carol, Emily, Patient X, The Red and the Black, The End. The rest of the season devotes considerable space to experimentation and adventurous storytelling. Episodes like Unusual Suspects and Travelers take the focus off Mulder and Scully. Shows like The Post-Modern Prometheus and Bad Blood are experimental in their storytelling. Episodes like Chinga and The Pine Bluff Variant focus almost exclusively on one or other of the leading duo.

Locked out...

Locked out…

Even the remainder are not what might be described as typical “monster of the week” stories. Both Detour and Folie a Deux focus on the relationship between Mulder and Scully as much as the monster at the heart of the story. Kill Switch is an episode written by a special guest writing team, one that defines itself by how odd it feels. All Souls is a meditation on Scully’s faith. The fifth season doesn’t really have a lot of room left for the classic episodic no-frills-attached “monster of the week” stories.

Which is part of what makes Mind’s Eye so fascinating. In any other season, Mind’s Eye would stand as a pretty solid example of the form – a pretty solid “this is what The X-Files does” episode of television like Pusher or Leonard Betts before it. However, the fifth season is so strange and weird in structure and form that Mind’s Eye stands out all the more. The best of the season’s straight-down-the-middle standalone stories, Mind’s Eye throws the rest of the season into contrast. It demonstrates just how odd the fifth season actually is.

A bloody disaster...

A bloody disaster…

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The X-Files – Kitsunegari (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.

Kitsunegari hits on a lot of fifth season anxieties for The X-Files.

The episode is rather clearly a sequel to a beloved third season installment, featuring a returning monster of the week for the first time since Tooms brought back Victor Eugene Tooms. In this case, Kitsunegari is built around Robert Patrick Modell, the mind-controlling psychopath from Vince Gilligan’s first script as a staff writer. Given the level of Gilligan’s skill, the affection for the episode, and the charm of actor Robert Wisden, Kitsunegari really should be a “can’t miss” script for the series.

Painting the town...

Painting the town…

However, Kitsunegari proves to be a surprisingly joyless experience. The script hinges on incredibly coincidence and contrivance, everything feels a little too familiar, and even Robert Wisden seems relegated to a small supporting role. (It is telling he earns an “and” credit instead of heading the guest cast.) Kitsunegari has a host of memorable set-pieces and effective visuals, but it feels curiously hollow. It feels like a script going through the motions, rather than trying to say something new or intriguing.

Then again, there is a sense that this is the point. Kitsunegari plays beautifully as a self-aware critique of soulless sequels, of half-hearted follow-ups and cash-ins on popular monsters and villains. Kitsunegari is almost an ingenious parody of these conventions, teasing the viewer with what it might look like if The X-Files began to eat itself. It teases the audience with a trashy sequel to a classic episode, and then delivers exactly that. Kitsunegari does not just demonstrate the law of diminishing returns, it practically revels in it.

Pushing the Pusher...

Pushing the Pusher…

After all, Pusher was an episode about a man with complete control of his own story. Robert Patrick Modell was able to change the world using nothing more than mere words, crafting a new identity and persona for himself, casting himself in role of a criminal mastermind pursued by dogged investigators. It is no wonder that Kitsunegari portrays Modell as exhausted and strung out. Kitsunegari is essentially a story about how Modell has lost control of the narrative, how it has begun to control him. In a way, he gives voice to the same concerns that haunt The Post-Modern Prometheus.

Of course, all this postmodern self-awareness is ingenious, but it still leaves one sizable problem with Kitsunegari. Kitsunegari is so effective at mimicking a soulless sequel that is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. The result is a well-constructed and clever little episode, but one that is not particularly enjoyable or fun.

"I'm blue, dabba-dee-dabba-di."

“I’m blue, dabba-dee-dabba-di.”

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