Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sami on X-Files 10.1 and 10.2

The XFiles airs Monday nights at 8pm through February.

The XFiles is back, you guys. The weirdness, the spookiness, the office, the pencils in the ceiling, the Mulder and Scully working together for the good of the world. And for the most part, it's right.

Episode one was a mythology episode like any, but maybe a little more sensical than some of them. Scully, who's been working at the dimmest-lit hospital in the world for the last seven years and seems to always be splattered in blood there, calls Mulder to tell him someone has been looking for him. That someone is Tad O'Malley, a right-wing nutbar making a fortune off of fear on TV...who happens to have stumbled across exactly what Mulder has been looking for all this time. 

Tad is creepy. Like, I'm not sure if he's supposed to be, but he's basically romancing Mulder AND Scully, and it's creepy. He takes Mulder to a hanger and shows him a triangular ship retroengineered from alien technology, and it's like handing all the cookies in the shop to a five year old. He's sold. Tad's idea is that the conspiracy is real, but the alien part was all subterfuge.

He introduces Scully to a girl who's been abducted a bunch and claims to have alien DNA and to have been impregnated and de-pregnated several times--Scully's story on steroids, basically. She also says she can read minds, and it seems as if she can, and that's a great way to get some backstory in about how Mulder got depressed and Scully wanted to move on with their lives, and it destroyed their relationship. Which is heartbreaking.

Tad also tries actually seducing Scully, which she's apparently vaguely surprised and intrigued by, but the second Mulder needs her, she doesn't care, and that's what I like to see.

Anyway, Tad wants to talk about Sveta (the girl) and Mulder and Scully's work on his show, and Mulder wants to see where this rabbit hole goes, but Scully thinks he's lying. A DNA test of Sveta's blood shows no alien DNA. It falls apart then when she's out and Mulder's in and Tad's confused, and Sveta goes to the news and says Tad paid her to lie, and it's a mess.

But Scully apparently lied about the results AND sequenced her own DNA several times and there actually is weirdness going on there. But Sveta and the hanger with the ship get attacked and destroyed, including all the scientists they met, and so that's the new arc for the mythology--who's telling the truth and who's manipulating the story again, and, of course, as always, what's the actual truth?

It wasn't as non-stop complicated as some of the old mythology episodes, and was pretty straight forward for that. But there was the reveal that Cancer Man managed to survive again, and is apparently still dealing with Mulder poking his nose in--and probably still worrying about whether he should have just killed him or not, I'd assume. Oh, and they've reopened the XFiles, so M&S are Special Agents again!

And the space between the mythology is taken up by Mulder and Scully trying to figure out where they stand with each other, how they want to handle this opportunity, what they feel about it, and how they can be partners again. It was a lot of them bashing heads about whether it's alien or not, whether it matters if it's alien or not, and Scully trying to rein in Mulder's tendency for crazy that led him to the depression that drove them apart. But there was also Scully being a doctor, and Mulder tracing down leads, and the two of them always being there for each other even with all the baggage between them now. Scully says that the Xfiles was the most challenging and intense job she ever had and Mulder was the most challenging and intense relationship, and the way she said it, it sounded like her life now, even as a surgeon and doctor, is less fun and interesting. Scully has been dimmed by time, and it's sad--so, of course, she has to come back to the XFiles. Mulder, for his part, never really left, even though he left the FBI. And, apparently, Skinner was looking out for him all this time anyway.*

So it was basically a happy homecoming for them, eventually, despite all Scully's eyerolling, and it was definitely a happy homecoming for all us fans. It's been 14 years and endless lifetimes, but the XFiles fandom is like:
and is suddenly everywhere. Livetweeting was a joy--a perfect blending of how I used to watch this show with my family and talk about it all week between classes with my friends, and my modern TV habits of watching and talking at the same time. It was almost all positive--from the second Mulder starts Mulder-loguing at the opening and we all switched to all caps and tried not to burst into tears from the sheer joy of having XFiles on our screens again, to the end when we all knew we'd only have to wait one day for the second one. And it was amazing watching everyone get more and more annoyed as the first ep was delayed by the football game.

It's not exactly the same. A lot has happened with politics and conspiracy theories and world events since XFiles went off the air, but the PBS Idea Channel video about it is right: there's a real-world-paranoia reason XFiles existed when it did, and there's a related but distinct real-world-paranoia reason for it to come back now, rather than five years ago or five years from now. It feels like something we need when it's suddenly back, something that we missed and didn't even realize how much. 

Tad's loony conspiracy theories blend in the logical progression of Mulder's with the post-9/11 anti-everything paranoia all over the internet now, making it both more crazy and more real again. Rooting it in the now while maintaining the framework the show has always had.


The second episode was a good old fashioned evil-science episode, and felt more like the team we all know and love. Episode 1, everyone was a little awkward, as they should be, coming back to something they both thought was behind them, but they were back as a team and working right in episode 2.

A scientist goes bonkers and hacks his boss's servers, bleeds at the eyes, and then stabs himself in the ear with a letter opener until he's dead, all because he's hearing a sound no one else can hear. This leads them to his secret boyfriend who tells them he was worried about his kids--even though he's single and doesn't have any.

Scully pulls strings to get them a meeting with the biggest funder of her own hospital, who happens to also be where the leads are all going, and he shows them his pet project: keeping all these kids with really weird deformity-conditions in closed rooms so he can see what makes their genetics do this in isolation, and see if his ideas for treatments work. While they're there, one of the girls almost gets out and freaks when they try to take her back to her room, and things go flying off the food cart the orderlies are pushing. Mulder must be getting rusty; he didn't even comment on obvious mental powers.

But a girl they meet at the hospital, who was pregnant and being kept there, disappears, gets hit by a car, and has her baby taken from her belly, tips Mulder off that he's not trying to cure these kids, he's trying to do hybridization studies. Combined with Mulder experiencing the sound himself and finding out that it's from a kid who was presumed killed at birth trying to talk to people's minds, leads them back to that scientist. That boy is his son, who his mother "let out" to save him from whatever experiments he was doing on her children. The girl at the facility is his older daughter. They know each other on sight, and they know what he did to them. Together, the telekinetic and the telepathic, break out and go on the run after melting their mad-scientist-dad's brain.

I miss Scully's case reports on this one. We don't get a lot of seeing what they conclude from this, since Scully was knocked out and didn't see what happened and Mulder was being tossed across the room and also affected by the sound and missed them escaping, too. Or so he says. 

There's a little indication that Mulder is not quite willing to give up his underground tactics--he stole the first dead guy's phone and used that to find a lot of the people they talk to this ep--but mostly it's good times again. Mulder and Scully sent out by a grumpy Skinner to solve a mystery that is right in their wheelhouse. Scully misses the most unusual stuff because she's knocked out. Mulder catches some of the attacks but isn't the point of them. It was so great to see again.

So far, a third of the way through the revival (already???)** the series is looser about whether or not Scully sees things, and she's long past rigorously denying that anything is extraterrestrial, but they still have the believer and the skeptic roles to play. The show is also the modern desaturated cool-tones rather than the old too-dark-to-see shadowiness, and I miss the cleverness of hiding the low-budget monsters in shadowy corners, but I like how it looks a lot like Fringe now, which supports my theory that Fringe is an offshoot division.

And best of all, it's not bad. I was so afraid that it wouldn't be good, but it's good, and I'm so happy it's back. The fact that they're calling it Season 10 rather than some revival one-shot gives me hope that this will be a regular thing--six or eight or ten episodes in the off-season, between their other TV shows, new ones every year for a while. What a time to be a geek!

What did you guys think of this return to the land of aliens and conspiracies? Tell us in the comments, or come talk to me on Twitter!

*That scene was so shippy. The starving Mulder-Skinner shippers just got a feast with "I was looking out for you like I've always looked out for you"!
**I love a short series--it means all story and no wheel-spinning--but the seasons do go fast, and then there's so much waiting. Almost all of my fav shows right now^ are short-season, and I feel like all I do is wait!
^XFiles, of course, but also Sherlock, Doctor Who, 12 Monkeys, Killjoys, Dark Matter, Stitchers, Mr Robot, and now The Expanse, Colony, and The Magicians. So much waiting.
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