Saturday, 12 September 2015

X-Files Rewatch | Tooms & Born Again

Eugene Victor Tooms makes his triumphant return in the sequel to the episode 'Squeeze', and a little girl is possessed by the spirit of a dead cop.

'Tooms' resumes the story of genetic mutant Eugene Victor Tooms, the subject of the third episode of the first season, 'Squeeze'. After Tooms is deemed fit to be released from prison, Mulder embarks on a surveillance mission to make sure that Tooms does not fill his quota and inhabits himself in hibernation for another thirty years. The episode acts as a two partner not only in the sense that it's revisiting an earlier case in the season, but also through the mythology arc as Scully is questioned by Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) as to how her and Mulder's X-Files investigations are never carried out 'by the book'. 

It's heart-warming in a weird and twisted way to see Tooms back on the screen again. 'Squeeze' ended with the assumption that Tooms would be able to break out of his cell due to his mutation, and that's where 'Tooms' sets off. 'Squeeze' gave us a shot of Tooms longingly staring at a small opening in the cell door, and in the beginning of this episode he begins his escape by dislocating his shoulder and extending his arm to get to the lock. But as it turns out, there's a chance for Tooms to be released anyway. Which leads to a release hearing both Mulder and Scully have to attend, due to Scully's involvement in the case from Tooms trying to kill her. 

At this hearing, the panel claims that Tooms attack on Scully was due to being falsely accused of murder. This is where Mulder comes in with a slideshow in hand, explaining how Tooms was rightly accused of murder and does not shy away from his theory as to why. He doesn't give a damn as to what anyone thinks of his crazy accusations and evidence, if it's the truth. We feel Mulder's annoyance, which is the point of the show in general. We see as much as Mulder sees in terms of what truthfully happened, so we're right here with him trying to explain why Tooms committed these crimes. We're sitting there getting as frustrated as Mulder is that no one believes him and we've seen so much. Mulder's passionate and unbelievable explanation is why he's got such a reputation at the bureau. He's too passionate about the truth, and it makes him look deranged. 

(via carlithiel)

Since Tooms is released, Mulder decides to keep an eye on him to make sure that he doesn't murder anyone else. This involves not going 'by the book' in terms of bureau policies, and several stakeouts ensue. Mulder demonstrates why going 'by the book' benefits an investigation, as he falls asleep during one of the stakeouts. He needs someone else - i.e. Scully - to relieve him so that he can keep an eye on where Tooms is. Thankfully Scully is there on the second stakeout so that they can keep a watchful - not sleepy - eye on Tooms. Scully has the opportunity to stop Mulder keeping tabs on Tooms so religiously, but as she said in 'Squeeze', she's always on the side of the victim. So, she agrees to help Mulder in keeping surveillance and investigating into finding undeniable evidence to prove that Tooms has been a murderer all along. They both know the truth, they just need to prove it. 

I admire how this episode serves both as a throwback to one of The X-Files best villains, and the constant overhanging reminder that the people above Mulder and Scully are always trying to shut down the X-Files. Despite how well they're doing. This is the first-time Assistant Director Skinner is introduced. Scully is called into a meeting in which Skinner reviews hers and Mulder's work in the X-Files. Remember, she was originally there to debunk Mulder's theories leading to the eventual shut down of the files, not to help Mulder solve them. Scully saw past this moment she first met Mulder, and has since concluded that the X-Files should be reviewed with an open mind. Much like Mulder tells her to view the cases with, which she is starting to. Skinner is having none of this, even though their case solution rate is 75%, which is well above the bureau average standard - which apparently is their only saving grace. Skinner is constantly belittling Mulder without him being there in the beginning. That his ways of solving cases makes it appear that the X-Files are pointless. But when Mulder isn't there to defend himself, Scully does it for him without thinking. She's become attached to Mulder through the growth of their friendship, and doesn't like to see his work be invalidated like that. She knows how much it means to him and how much he cares about solving these cases. 

Skinner eventually comes face to face with Mulder, making another jab at his reputation and consequently the loss of his credibility as a once highly sought after agent. Mulder's superiors always go back to when Mulder was a good agent. They never appreciate the work he's doing on the X-Files. He and Scully are making the world a better place by ridding it of monsters and killers, when it's the higher government that are more damming than that supernatural beings that he and Scully are trying to catch. 

Thankfully, Scully proves Mulder's worth to Skinner through her loyalty to him. She also makes sure that Mulder knows it, too: 

MULDER: "They're out to put an end to the X-Files, Scully. I don't know why, but any excuse will do. Now I don't really care about my record, but you'd be in trouble just sitting in this car. And I'd hate to see you carry an official reprimand in your file because of me."
SCULLY: "...Fox."
MULDER: (Laughs) "I even made my parents call me Mulder, so...Mulder."
SCULLY: "Mulder, I wouldn't put myself on the line for anybody but you." 

Not only does this conversation show Mulder's humility and selflessness when it comes to how he values himself against Scully, but also how Scully has come such a long way from being there to discredit Mulder's credibility. She looked past his reputation straight off the bat when they first met, and became drawn to the person that he actually is. Mulder knows this and is thankful for it, caring enough that he'd rather take the full force of the blame of any wrongdoings they end up having in their investigations due to Scully being assigned to him in the first place. This is such a milestone in their relationship, they're literally the only people each other have now. This is where Scully begins to become Mulder's human credential. She's the only person that wants to know Mulder for who he truly is and be around him, and that she needs him in her life. 

For an episode that has Mulder and Scully's superiors' damming their investigative methods, they solve the case in 'Tooms'. They have tangible evidence proving that Tooms was indeed the killer, and they have justice in the form of a gruesome death underneath an escalator. 'Tooms' also introduces the notion that Skinner seems like another cog in the government machine to be thrown against Mulder and Scully, and that he's in on it with the Cigarette Smoking Man. Mulder and Scully sense this, with Mulder having a hunch that something is going to happen to the two of them: 

MULDER: "A change for us, it's coming."
SCULLY: "How do you know?"
MULDER: "A hunch." 

GOD the Cigarette Smoking Man annoys the hell out of me. I don't know why. Maybe it's because it's the first episode he speaks in. 

EWWW WITH THE LICKING FINGERS THING WITH TOOMS. The dude that plays him (Doug Hutchinson) is so creepy anyway in real life. Perfect role for him in the scheme of things. 

I know the detective had a hunch as to where the body in the cement was, but it's a pretty significant hunch that the body is right where he said it would be. 

I don't know if that skull imaging software is realistic in the slightest. Start of their tangible evidence, though. 

Do Mulder and Scully have an assortment of torches? They always seem to have five different sizes on them at all times. 

This is the first time where a serial killer (in MOTW terms) returns for a second episode. 

The film that Mulder is watching in his apartment whilst asleep on the couch is the original 1958 version of The Fly, directed by Kurt Neumann. The film is an adaptation from the short story of the same name by George Langelaan. It tells the story of a scientist who mutates into a human fly after one flies into his transportation machine as he's testing it, and switches their DNA. Very fitting in terms of Tooms being a mutated human. 

Scully actually believing Mulder for once. There isn't a time where she tries to rationalize his beliefs. Maybe it's because Tooms actually tried to kill her when we previously saw him. 

"You think they would have taken me more seriously if I wore the grey suit?" 

"Excuse me! Could you help me find my dog? He's a Norwegian elk-hound. His name is Heimlich. I use him to hunt moose!" 

SCULLY: "It's getting a bit ripe in here, don't you think?" 
MULDER: (Whacks out an air fresher, waves it about and sniffs) "Pine scented." 

(To Scully) "You can get the next mutant." 

"Look, Scully. If you're resisting because you don't believe, I'll respect that. But if it's because of some bureaucratic pressure, they've not only reeled you in, they've already skinned you." 

MULDER: "Do you have that sandwich I asked you to bring?" 
(Scully reaches into a bag to retrieve it, hands it to Mulder)
SCULLY: "Liverwurst."
(Mulder feigns laughter) 

I really hope that Scully made him that sandwich to make that joke. 

MULDER: "Oh, at 11:30, station 2790, Pete Rose Late Night Sports Talk Radio Show." 
SCULLY: "Wouldn't miss it for the world." 

MULDER: "If there's an iced tea in that could be love." 
SCULLY: "Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer."

Mulder and Scully are brought to New York in the case of a cop being thrown out of a window. The kicker? The only person in that room at the time of the officer's death was a young girl, Michelle Bishop. It becomes largely believed that the cop committed suicide, but Mulder suggests some telepathic powers might be at work through Michelle. Through Mulder and Scully's investigation into why the girl was at the scene in the first place, they come to find that she is a psychologically damaged young girl who has a strange connection to Charles Morris, a police officer who died before she was born. Mulder believes that somehow Charlie became reincarnated through Michelle, and is using her to kill his co-workers who killed him. 

I hadn't really considered the production notes of this episode before, but boy am I glad that I did. I've never really liked this episode. It's an extremely generic police procedural with supernatural elements thrown in with a police cover-up for good measure. So, it was to my delight that I found out that not only did several crew members not like the episode, but Duchovny bluntly stated that he 'detested' this episode. I feel you Duchovny, I feel you. 

'Born Again' isn't terrible, it has some redeeming qualities. The case of Michelle being possessed by a dead cop is a frightening and powerful subject, especially in terms of how many tell-tale signs there were that something was wrong, but were associated to psychological disorders like schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder. Through Mulder's visit to Michelle's shrink, he finds that the shrink would give her a doll and she's dismember in  the same way each time. She thought she was being abused, but she believes there is something else behind her anxiety. Mulder eventually figures out that Michelle's been dismembering the doll in the same way Charlie was murdered by his colleagues in a supposed 'gang hit'. Mulder mentions the idea of psychokinesis to the shrink, and she doesn't believe him in the slightest and completely disregards him. No surprise.


(via carlithiel)

Mulder gets extremely obsessed in proving that Michelle is either possessed by a spirit or is experiencing strong past life memories of Charlies, with the added enhanced psychic abilities. He gets Michelle to undergo deep regression hypnosis, something that he's had himself to go to the bottom of his sister's disappearance. Through this, they find clues as to who's next on the hit list, but it has the chance of deepening Michelle's psychosis. This is where Scully has to step in, to stop Mulder in getting too over obsessed in finding answers. Scully doesn't dismiss Mulder's ideas of reincarnation, but she tries to get him to theorize how this is possible within the murders that a child has conducted. Although in the purpose of this episode, Scully does witness the psychokinesis when the fish tank explodes. She nearly does in an earlier episode ('Shadows'), but only Mulder see it at that point in time. 

'Born Again' is an extremely cluttered episode. I found it extremely difficult to keep up with what the story between the cops, as to why they murdered Charlie in the first place. It was all extremely vague, although Charlie's motive to enact revenge was clear. It's also hard to follow what exactly happened to Michelle. Mulder writes in his field journal that Michelle doesn't have any memory of what happened or Charlie's death. Which suggests she was possessed rather than suffering from memories of someone else's life or reincarnation. As once Charlie could enact revenge, he moved on and left Michelle to suddenly snap back to her normal self. 

Maggie Wheeler! It's weird seeing her play someone other than Janice in Friends. She was a long-term girlfriend of Duchovny's and starred with him in the 1989 film New Year's Day. She eventually starred in the sixth season of Californication, too. 

The imaging software the technician is using for Michelle is the epitome of 90s technology. It looks like the first Sims graphics. 

"There was a documented case in the early 70s of a man from Porlock, Ohio, who could influence underdeveloped film. He could create shapes on the negative from his mind." One, how does Mulder retain all these random cases in his head. Two, the look on Scully's face is a picture. Like she doesn't expect more from him than that. 

The fish tank exploding was pretty cool. 

The case Mulder mentions in Porlock, Ohio is similar to a killer in season four in the episode 'Unruhe'. The killer has the same ability and leaves behind a photograph with each of his victims before killing them.

Schizophrenia: A long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder): A rare dissociative disorder in which two or more personalities with distinct memories and behavior patterns apparently exist in one individual.

"So what, you think he's back like Peter Proud to avenge his murder?" Scully is referencing the 1975 movie The Reincarnation of Peter Proud directed by J. Lee Thompson. The film tells the story of a college professor who starts to have flashbacks from a previous incarnation.

The man Michelle 'killed' - Scully conducts an autopsy and finds a raised lesion, suggesting localized electrocution. Exactly what Mulder told her to look out for in terms of psychokinesis:

SCULLY: "Now Mulder, if you're going to tell me that you think Michelle Bishop saw a poltergeist-"
MULDER: "Hey, you're the one who found the lesion on Barbala's body. You said it could have been caused by an intense concentration of electro-thermal energy."
SCULLY: "'Could have been' being the operative phrase. Now, I'm not going to know until the lab results are in, and even then-"

"Short of her growing a mustache, how much more apparent does it have to become for you to accept it?"

"Jumpers tend to open a window before they jump."

MULDER: "Why is it still so hard for you to believe, even when all the evidence suggests extraordinary phenomena?"
SCULLY: "Because sometimes, looking for extreme possibilities makes you blind to the probable explanation right in front of you."

Which is so not the case for this show, but well done for trying, Scully.

Both trying to figure out how all the cops are linked together. You never really get to see the insight of Mulder and Scully working together outside of their office, with case files and everything.

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