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The X-Files Newbie Recap: Season 7

Have aliens forcibly made this ship canon? What a way to go.

Honorable mentions

“Millennium”: I’d love to go more in-depth on this one but I’m a bit pressed for space, unfortunately. This was a great episode. The mythology was really dark and unsettling and the presence of Lance Henriksen instantly makes everything 200% better. On this evidence, I’ll definitely look up the Millennium TV series. However, the real reason this deserves a mention is because of the kiss. Obvs. A lovely, gentle, perfectly-judged New Year’s kiss between our infuriatingly loved-up heroes, and I love that Mulder just kept staring at Scully until she gave up and reciprocated. Don’t fight it, Dana. C’mon.

<3

<3

“X-Cops”: This was hilarious and I laughed a lot. Our heroes finding themselves caught up with a crew filming “Cops”? It’s kind of inspired, especially when we see how they react: Scully gingerly stepping away from the camera, Mulder awkwardly embracing the spotlight, and Skinner (offscreen) apparently bellowing at them to cooperate because the Bureau has “nothing to hide.” Tee hee. The nature of the monster here was really interesting as well, essentially fear-as-contagion. Instead of taking tangible physical form it somehow preys on people’s imaginations and insecurities and manifests whatever it is that scares them most, but only once a month on the full moon. In another universe, this’d make a great crossover with Supernatural.

Mulder Family Values

I wanted to focus in on “Sein und Zeit” and “Closure,” two Mulder-centric episodes which offered so much and delivered so little. These appear to have been conceived because someone felt the Samantha narrative had not yet been contorted beyond all recognition. I’m pretty sure we were all fine with accepting the aliens had her (possibly indefinitely), but instead, we get a two-parter which involves spirits, child murder, and the apparent suicide of Mulder’s mother in a completely reprehensible abandonment of that poor character and her plight.

“Sein und Zeit” begins with a little girl going missing from her home. In the course of investigating, Mulder learns about “walk-in” spirits which apparently take souls to a better place. His mother is found dead, apparently by suicide. After listening to a final message from her, he decides Samantha might have been taken by the same child killer they’re dealing with here. The FBI eventually find the killer and a number of shallow graves, but neither Samantha nor the missing girl’s bodies are among them.

In “Closure,” a psychic offers to help. He and Mulder intercept a message from Mulder’s mother which leads them to an old military base. There, a spirit leads Mulder to a young girl’s diary. Based on the date and circumstances, he infers it belonged to Samantha. They learn that a Jane Doe who would have been Samantha’s age was picked up outside the base and brought to the hospital. She later disappeared from her (locked) room, the same night a certain cigarette-smoking man showed up to get her. Mulder sees the same spirit as earlier and is led to a clearing in the woods. There, he sees the spirits of several dead children, including Samantha and the missing girl. This, he decides, is enough closure for him.

Mulder and little Samantha

This, if you’ll pardon my language, is bullshit. These two episodes were an exercise in complete pointlessness because we already know where Samantha is: with aliens, as indicated by Cassandra Spender, one of the few people in this show who spoke the blasted truth. After two episodes of digging and questioning and wonderment, the Jane Doe who may have been Samantha still went missing inexplicably from her bed. Or, in other words, aliens. So what the eff are we supposed to learn from this?

Frustrating as they are on the surface, these episodes are also a completely missed opportunity to explore the role of memory in Mulder’s life and decision-making. As faith is to Scully, so Mulder’s memories of his childhood experiences have been the impetus for him to keep going. He’s spoken openly about the need to have a purpose in his life, a sense that it will mean something after he’s gone. He’s enchanted by legacy and myth because it is the legacy and myths of his childhood which have driven all his professional choices. Psychologically, it makes sense that he’d seek an alternative explanation for Samantha’s disappearance. It’s very hard to let go of someone when you have no tangible evidence of where they went. But we’ve been over this before; in “Paper Hearts,” he inexplicably decided a murderer he’d sent to prison had also killed Samantha, and it proved to be nonsense there too.

I think it would have made more sense to focus on Mulder’s inability to reconcile memory with present reality. There are some incisive nods to this; at one point, he looks up at the stars and observes to Scully that they’re looking at light which is already billions of years old. Something created (and destroyed) long in the past still leaves a tangible footprint in the present. Notes like this are beautifully evocative of his character, and his tendency to dwell on the poetry and symbolism of things rather than the cold reality. It really annoys me that the significance of the past in Mulder’s life was explored so hauntingly and compellingly in “The Field Where I Died,” yet they’ve never once revisited the events or implications of that episode. This would have been a prime opportunity and instead they waste it on a half-baked, hurried resolution where none was needed. Frailty, thy name is X-Files. Just as Scully seems to learn in “all things” that you have to let go of what might have been, so Mulder here could have learned that memories of what once was cannot inform your future. Memories are just that: remembrances, of times and places long since gone. What is around you now should influence your decisions, not a desire to preserve feelings and experiences which have already departed.

And finally…

“Hollywood AD”

I tell you one thing about Duchovny, the man can write. He’s got the whole fairytale vibe down perfectly. “Hollywood AD” was just the most gorgeous, enchanting little outtake before the end of the season. It’s as playful and heartwarming as certified masterpiece “The Unnatural” but manages not to stab you in the gut before it ends, which is always appreciated.

The plot is pretty straightforward. An old friend of Skinner’s (or should I say Skin Man’s?) is writing a movie about the FBI and wants to shadow Mulder and Scully. They stumble upon a bombing plot in a cathedral. There’s a Lazarus Bowl, on which are supposedly encoded the words Jesus used to revive Lazarus. They also discover a man who may have transformed into Jesus is selling fake gospels and that there are dancing bones in the crypt. At the end, Federman, the Hollywood writer, makes a movie based on the incident which stars Garry Shandling and Téa Leoni as Mulder and Scully. Richard Gere plays Skinner apparently (this casting is dreadful), and there are also vegetarian zombies, a cigarette-smoking shaman, and an awkward kiss in a coffin. Skinner’s an associate producer and movie Scully declares her love for him.

Oh, and our heroes and Skinner have a three-way phone conversation while they’re all in bathtubs.

Do you have any idea how long I've waited to see this scene in context

Inserting this image again because do you have any idea how long I’ve waited to see this scene in context?

Do you even really need to analyse this? It’s so silly and charming, and that in itself is such a departure from so many episodes of TXF. It’s very meta but in such a loving way, and I really like that this show is so consistently able to make fun of the silliness of its premise while also cherishing the many things that make it great. Central to this is, of course, the lead pairing, and just as in “The Unnatural” Duchovny includes a beautiful scene between our heroes at the end. Mulder talks wistfully about legacy and truth and the oversimplification of history by Hollywood, until Scully scoops up his hand and leads him off into the night. Perhaps the most meta thing in this entire episode of self-aware humour is having Mulder, a character so preoccupied with his legacy, be the inspiration for a character in a film. Of course the simplistic narrative annoys him, because it erases key events and context which contribute to people acting the way they do. And yet, it seems to me that the almost fairytale innocence of this story (and “The Unnatural”) speaks to a certain longing in Mulder: his view of morals, and heroism, and perhaps a deep-rooted desire that stopping the bad guys really was that easy. If he and Scully have learned anything over the past seven years, it’s that the world is lit almost entirely in shades of grey.

One more note: it kind of bothers me that the episodes Duchovny and Anderson wrote show a more nuanced understanding of their characters than the regular writers often do. Both of Duchovny’s episodes are whimsical, escapist fantasies, light-hearted and fresh and eager to wallow in the absurdity of it all. He recognises the contradictions which make Mulder such a ridiculous and yet loveable character but treats him with sincere affection, instead of massacring him the way the actual writers did in nonsense like “Closure.” There are happier ways to depict a man making peace with himself, guys. Take some notes.

 

Guest Stars of the Season

Lance Henriksen (Millennium)
Mark Pellegrino (Hungry)
Constance Zimmer (First Person Shooter)
Billy Drago (Theef)
Shia LaBeouf (The Goldberg Variation)
Scott Wilson (Orison)
Anthony Heald (Closure)
Téa Leoni (Hollywood AD)
Garry Shandling (Hollywood AD)

 

Quotes of the Season

“Nobody likes a math geek, Scully”
“You must have been a Betty back in the day”
“Mulder, you’re putting an astounding amount of faith in coincidence and luck”
“It’s hard to fast-track a career in law enforcement when everyone thinks you’re crazy” // “Tell me about it”
“The tenants like having an FBI agent in the building. It gives them a sense of security.” // “Do they know how many people have died in there?”
“I need to know if it was Roma Downey or Della Reese”
“I’m tired of Mulder’s mule-headedness, his foolish ideas of overthrowing the system” (quoth the same man who shot his own son because he wasn’t enough like Fox Mulder)
“There may be aspects to this that, er, speak to your strengths as an investigator”
“Do you have a significant other?” // “Not in the widely understood definition of that term”
“She: Jodie Foster’s foster child on a Payless budget. He’s like a Jehovah’s Witness meets Harrison Ford’s Witness
“You’re crazy for believing what you believe, and you’re crazy for not believing what he believes”
“Scully, if I’m carrying Marilyn Monroe’s purse, would you assume that I slept with JFK?”
“Maybe true faith is really a form of insanity” (I would agree)
“Even a broken clock is right 730 times a year”
“Hey Scully, Skin Man is calling me from a bubble bath”
“I think Téa Leoni has a little crush on you”
“I love you Scully. No ifs, ands or – ” // “- BEES”

And onward to season 8, and baby Scully! Send me all your thoughts below. There’s a lot to talk about which I couldn’t include here, so let me know what I’ve missed. Thanks for reading and see you next month!

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Grace Duffy is a pop culture devotée and sometime film critic currently catching up on her classic sci-fi. You can read more on her Tumblr or catch her frequent TV liveblogs on Twitter.

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