Friday, 15 April 2016

X-Files Rewatch | Firewalker & Red Museum

Not only are Mulder and Scully back together again in these two episodes, but so is my X-Files rewatch! Yay! 

This is where I'd usually briefly explain the plot of the episode, but 'Firewalker' is literally a rehash of 'Ice'. Just with a different lifeform, a warmer (MUCH warmer) location and less shouting. But here, the threat isn't nearly as threatening as that of the parasite introduced in 'Ice', or the killer fireflies in 'Darkness Falls'. In both episodes, Mulder and Scully are either at odds or near death with a another. Here, not so much. Which is a relief in one way, seeing as Scully was literally knocking on heaven's door in the previous episode ('One Breath').

But 'Firewalker' lacks the tension that both 'Ice' and 'Darkness Falls' embodied. Like I mentioned before, other than the plant organism blasting out of it's victims necks like the chestbuster scene in 'Alien'; it just isn't as frightening and foreboding as it could be. The premise of the episode is cool, but it lacks tension due to the show already giving it to us twice before.

(via carlithiel)

The episode does redeem itself through two things. Firstly, Mulder and Scully being together again. From 'One Breath', there has been an obvious step up in their relationship, especially from Mulder's standpoint after nearly losing Scully. The two are both notorious for not sharing their feelings for each other to each other, but you can definitely see Mulder's apprehension and Scully's acceptance of Mulder's fear for her safety throughout 'Firewalker'. They don't even have to talk to each other to know this, either. Just by a subtle look they can tell what the other is thinking, which is much more prevalent here than it has been in episodes before this.

(via carlithiel)

The second aspect being the running comparison of Mulder and Trepkos. I didn't notice this the first time I watched this episode through - which bearing in mind was three years ago - but there is an obvious observation to Mulder that Trepkos is ultimatley him, if he ever let the truth that he was searching for consume him. Both are willing to do everything they possibly can to find what they are searching for, and both are willing to sacrifice the things most important to them for it. Mulder seeing Trepkos go to such lengths, however, seems to make him rethink if he can keep doing this if it's going to endanger those closest to him, i.e. Scully.

For the most part, the only things I enjoy about this episode are the location that Mulder and Scully find themselves in, the special effects with the neckbuster scenes and the fact that Mulder and Scully are working together again. Other than that, 'Firewalker' ends up being a less enthusiastic amalgamation of 'Ice' and 'Darkness Falls'.


This is the last episode of the 'Ice' type episode trilogy. That trilogy being season one's 'Ice' and 'Darkness Falls', then this episode. Snow even recycles the music from 'Ice' here.

Mulder and Scully at a (what seems to be abandoned) research center yet again, exactly like 'Ice' as I've already mentioned. Only this it's not a dog that attacks Mulder, but a human being. And Mulder and Scully are stuck in the middle of nowhere, too. Just not surrounded

The torches are back.

The episode name is named after the robot in the episode, the Firewalker. Daniel Trepkos' job - a volcanologist - was something I wanted to be when I was in secondary school actually.

Mulder's ass in jeans. I concur with Kumail on The X-Files Files podcast. Also loving the denim on denim combo.

Pierce checking the seismographs. Trepkos kills him, saying "No one can leave". Somewhat like the "We're not who were are" line in 'Ice'.

Mulder and Scully are like magnets to quarantines of biological agents of unknown origins.

I really like this quote: "The firewalker brought up an elephant. The truth is an elephant described by three blind men. The first man touches the trail and says it's a rope. Second man feels the rough leg, says it's a tree, third man feels the trunk and says it's a snake. I say it holds some truths best left buried."

The episode is set at Mount Avalon, within the Cascade Mountain range. A mountain range that extends from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California. 

PIERCE: Whatever there is between me and Trepkos, I pray that he isn't. We've got 20 million tax dollars in this project. If word of it were to get out, it could destroy years of work. I'm afraid to go through proper channels. 
MULDER: Yeah. We're not exactly proper channels. 

Looks like somebody wanted to put this operation permanently on commission 

MULDER: I'm gonna go find Trepkos. 
SCULLY: What if he's already dead? 
MULDER: Then he'll have a tough time answering my questions. 

Whatever I'm smelling, is it toxic? 

MULDER: I've been going over Trepkos' work, fragments mostly, but I found several references to a subterranean organism.
SCULLY: What are you talking about?
MULDER: An unknown organism distinct within the volcano. I haven't found anything yet that describes it in specific terms-
SCULLY: Mulder, nothing can live in a volcanic interior. Not only because of the intense heat, but the gases would be toxic to an organism.
MULDER: What does this say?
SCULLY: It describes the metabolism from hydrogen sulphide into silicon dioxide.
MULDER: Doesn't that suggest a silicon based lifeform?
SCULLY: But the fundamental building block for every organism known to man is carbon. From the smallest bacterium to the largest redwood tree.
MULDER: Yes, but silicon is the closest element to carbon. It reacts almost identically with other elements the way it combines to form complex molecules. A silicon based lifeform in a deep biosphere is one of the holy grails of modern science and maybe Trepkos found it.
SCULLY: Mulder, that is science fiction. It's some elaborate construct from a delusional mind. This doesn't prove anything.

OH HOW I HAVE MISSED THIS. Their intellectual sparring adds so much more depth to episodes.

MULDER: Trepkos said he had physical evidence, it's gotta be around here somewhere.
SCULLY: Mulder, whatever evidence Trepkos had he destroyed.
MULDER: Maybe it wasn't Trepkos who destroyed it. What if it was one of the others?
SCULLY: Why on earth would they do that? Look, Mulder. The fact is all of these people are suffering varying degrees of post-traumatic stress and from a strictly medical point of view, we have to get them all of here sooner rather than later.

Mulder may be exasperated with Scully doing this, but he's soooo missed it. 

MULDER: So, what is it Scully? What are we dealing with? 
SCULLY: Without any better imaging equipment, I can't say for sure. 
MULDER: I'll take any theory you've got. 
SCULLY: It appears to be some kind of fungus. 
MULDER: Anything you recognize? 
SCULLY: I'm not a botanist, but I think it's fair to guess that it's an unknown genus. 
MULDER: (Looking down microscope) What am I looking at here? 
SCULLY: Spores. I scraped them off the tip of the fungus. It appears as if one of the spores grew inside Tenaka until it reached reproductive maturity. Essentially outgrowing its host. But by then it had already cause massive tissue damage, particularly to the respiratory tract. 
MULDER: That would account for the sand in his lungs. 
LUDWIG: You found sand in his lungs? 
MULDER: Silicon dioxide. The waste product of a silicon based organism. 
LUDWIG: Wait a second. There's no such thing as a silicon based organism. 
SCULLY: Maybe now there is (Mulder looks at Scully like "I told you so"). But we won't have conclusive proof until we determine its molecular structure. 
MULDER: C'mon Scully, how else do you explain the sand in his lungs? It's the best trace evidence we could ask for. Trepkos was right. 
O'NEIL: Daniel knew about this? 
MULDER: He discovered the spore in the samples Firewalker brought up. 
O'NEIL: He would have told us. 
MULDER: Not if what he discovered was too disturbing even for him to understand. 
SCULLY: This might explain something else, though. The spore could explain Trepkos' dementia. Fungi often contain alkaloids that can affect the nervous system. 
LUDWIG: Yeah, but what about us? I mean, we weren't exposed. 
SCULLY: We don't know that. If it was an airborne microbe, any of us could have inhaled the spore. 

I have attempted to culture the spore, using temperatures ranging from human basal to those approximating the volcanic interior. I have used nutritive mediums containing human tissue, blood and saliva, even sulfur. However, none of the seven trials have successfully grown the fungus that killed Tenaka. Based on this preliminary data, I've come to the following hypothesis: That unless these spores are ingested or inhaled by the host organism immediately upon their release, they become harmless. Effectively dead. 

MULDER: Scully and I are on the third day of a month long quarantine, undergoing Level 4 DECON procedures. We are so far without symptoms of fungal contamination. All our specimens and field notes were confiscated (as per usual) by the Military Biohazard Core prior to our evacuation. Their presence is delayed for an infinite period from the arrival of the US Geographical Data Retrievement Team. I suspect though, there will be little left for them to retrieve. There are no plans at present to explore further in any of the hundred of volcanically active mountains in the Cascade Range, including Mount Avalon. All access points to that volcano have been sealed off by Army engineers. Of the members of the Firewalker descent team, only Trepkos and O'Neil remain unaccounted for. They are presumed dead, and the search for them has been abandoned. The Firewalker however was recovered. Though it's sensory and locomotive systems were found to be irreparably damaged. The data it collected from the earth's material will never been known, and of the events that occurred at Mount Avalon between the eleventh and thirteenth of November, 1994...mine stands as the only record. 

This is the first case for Scully after the events of her abduction. It's clear that Mulder isn't himself without her. He actually looks alive again now she's back in the basement with him. Proves that they need each other, even this early on in the series. 

MULDER: Scully, I don't think it's a good idea for you to go. 
SCULLY: Mulder, I appreciate your concern. But I'm ready. I want to work. 
MULDER: Well maybe you should take some time off. 
SCULLY: I've already lost too much time.

Mulder grabbing Scully's hand to help her out of the helicopter 

MULDER: What do you make of Mr. Trepkos' neighborhood? 
SCULLY: What do you mean? 
MULDER: Don't you think their behaviour is a little bizarre? Almost paranoid? 
SCULLY: Well, considering what they've been through not especially. 
MULDER: They're practically climbing the walls in there. 
SCULLY: Well they've been living in the middle of nowhere for almost a year. One of their team members is dead, probably at the hands of another. You have to expect some heightened level of emotional distress. 
MULDER: No, it's more than that. There's something they're not telling us. 
SCULLY: Based on what? 
MULDER: Based on when Ludwig tried to play T-Ball with my head. He knew I wasn't Trepkos. 
SCULLY: Now Mulder, you're sounding paranoid. 
MULDER: Pierce knows those people. Let's find out what he thinks. 

SCULLY: Will you at least let me go with you? 
SCULLY: Look, I know what you're thinking but you have to get past that. We both do. I'm back and I'm not going anywhere. 
MULDER: You have to finish the autopsy on Tenaka. Hopefully that'll give us a better idea of what we're dealing with, whatever it is. I'm counting on you to keep us all from ending up on that slab.

Okay, one, unnecessary shoulder touching. But this is such a tender moment between the two, that both of them are more than likely suffering with PTSD from Scully's abduction, and they're both there for each other and helping each other get through it. Mulder making sure that Scully is okay all the time, and Scully making sure Mulder knows that he isn't going to lose her again. It's like their both tethered together on a rope and are grabbing each other tightly to prevent it from breaking again and separating them. 

When Trepkos won't let Mulder leave, Mulder begins to panic. He now knows that Jesse was exposed to the spore, which means Scully is now in danger of being exposed too. He could lose Scully again, which ultimatley leads him to express that he would take a bullet for Scully: 

TREPKOS: I can't let you leave 
MULDER: Then you're going to have to shoot me 

MULDER: (Touching Scully's face) You alright? 
SCULLY: I'm okay

Mulder comes rushing into the building yelling Scully's name, Scully begins to calm him down by yelling back "I'm okay, I'm okay". She knows what he's thinking, that he's lost her again.

Mulder and Scully travel to the state of Wisconsin to investigate several mysterious abductions occurring in the town of Delta Glen. Several teenagers of the town have been abducted and returned with 'he is one' or 'she is one' written on their backs in black marker, and are left in such a hysterical and confused state that some had to be sedated and hospitalized. 

The local sheriff and the town as a whole suspect that the teens are being abducted and possessed by members of the Church of the Red Museum; a religious, cult like group of vegetarians who practice their beliefs in a town known for it's cattle produce. 

What seems to be your typical MOTW episode, turns into a mythology episode mid-way through much to ours and Mulder and Scully's surprise. The duo come to discover that the kids and the wider community have been subject to an experiment with connections to the syndicate, and the infamous 'Purity Control'. 

(via carlithiel)

As a whole, 'Red Museum' isn't a powerful episode. Granted, it has everything there - abductions, a cult like religious group, a Norman Bates type character in a small town in the middle of nowhere - which is enticing on the outset, it gets cut short by the intervening mythology that is brought forward half way through. 

Carter would have benefited  by splitting this episode in two. One episode focusing on the MOTW aspect, the other on the mythology. Because where Carter goes with the idea that this small town has been subject to a controlled experiment of the effects of 'Purity Control' - with the Red Museum as the control subjects - sets itself up for being a pretty fantastic episode in the show's mythology arc. 'Red Museum' suffers from having too much thrown together in a short amount of time, which is something that Carter seems to be typical of throughout the series run, even more so in the revival. 

 (via carlithiel)

I do like the re-occurrence of Scully's battle with her skepticism here, though. It's brought forward in the previous episode ('Firewalker'), with it being emphasized here due to her knowledge of what 'Purity Control' actually is. When finding out what it was, she literally pulls a alien embryo out of a container in the season one finale, but here she still is trying to cling to the notion that the substance being alien was never conclusively proven. Seeing the reemergence of this substanc, her recognizing the Crew Cut man and this all seemingly falling into place in this small town. This ultimately leads Scully to having to acknowledge that all of this is linked somehow, whether she believes in it and its origins or not. 

That shot of the hole in the mirror for a peeping tom - Gerd Thomas in this instance - for looking at the woman getting undressed whilst in the bathroom. Very Psycho-esce, especially cinematography wise.

I love the episodes where they investigate small towns out in the middle of nowhere in America. These always end up being the best X-Files episodes. Mulder and Scully always find some weird shit out there.

That weird dude in the pickup truck. He has something he'd like to show Mulder and Scully, not creepy or suspicious at all. The best part being that he waits the entire car journey until they reach their destination to tell them what he wants to tell them.

Mulder gets so aggressive when he's questioning suspects. Like he's had enough of them not listening to him or Scully I guess. He packs a punch, especially when he lays out photograph of who's been killed. It makes suspects confess...most of the time.

'Red Museum' was originally meant to be a crossover episode with the CBS show Picket Fences. But, the networks scrapped the idea before any filming could begin on the crossover. Creator of Picket Fences David E. Kelly and X-Files creator Chris Carter were talking in a parking lot and thought it might be interesting to see Mulder and Scully visit the town of Rome, Wisconsin, where Picket Fences is set. However, the episode wouldn't have been a typical crossover, instead the two shows would shoot two episodes from different viewpoints, one as an X-Files episode, and the other as an episode of Picket Fences.

CBS was the network that decided against it, since no one had actually told CBS about the plan to combine the two shows. While there are no references to Picket Fences in 'Red Museum', other than the town - Delta Glen - Mulder and Scully investigate being in Wisconsin, Picket Fences still has some references in their episode 'Away in the Manger', including mention of Dr. Larson.

This is the first episode within The X-Files canon that brings attention to the idea of walk-ins, a concept that is brought back in season seven when the truth of Samantha's abduction is finally revealed to Mulder.

The members of the Red Museum also believe that the year 2012 will be the dawning of The New Age. In the season nine finale 'The Truth', Cigarette Smoking Man reveals to Mulder that the alien colonists plan to colonize the earth on December 22nd, 2012.

WOMAN: Today is a blessing from our lord and master, who awaits his flock in this time. In the dawning of the age of Aquarius (please say I'm not the only one that sung this when she said that x), eighteen Earth years from the beginning of the new kingdom. The guides speak thought me today as messengers of the word. That we may be free from death and the passage into spirit. As the acceleration continues, we the enlightened must bring the teachings of the skills for survival to mankind-
MULDER: They're walk-ins
SCULLY: What are walk-ins?
WOMAN: -second souls of the first bodies. Bearers of the word, and keepers of the sacriments of the new enlightenment-
MULDER: Believers in soul transference. Enlightened spirits who have taken possession of other people's bodies
WOMAN: -less admission and toil. Our struggle is transcendent and your guidance, our guides will carry us towards the dawning of a new age. Today we bear witness to three who do not believe. We encourage them to open their hearts and minds to our teachings. That they who slaughter flesh, slaughter their own souls and must be taught the way.

You know for a holy man, you've got quite a knack for pissing people off.

Looks like the doctor may have been delivering more than babies.

Well wherever he was coming from, I'd say that's one hell of a house call. jESUS MULDER.

SCULLY: They found trace amounts of an unspecified alkaloid substance in her blood, possibly an opiate derivative. As well as a dangerously large quantity of something called scopolamine.
MULDER: Is that the stuff they use for motion sickness?
SCULLY: Only in small dosages, anything past 0.2 micro-grams and you've got a very powerful anesthetic with hallucinogenic qualities. It's been in the news lately because Colombian gangs have been using it in kidnappings to subdue their victims.
MULDER: Is it a controlled substance?
SCULLY: Yes. You'd probably have to be a doctor or pharmacist to get a hold of these quantities.

MAN: This pasture land belonged to my Grandad. He bought it in 1890, he died right over there, next to the cattle pen. 82 years old. Just fell off the tractor one morning. My dad worked this piece for the next 40 years, I did 25 myself before I decided to call it quits. Sold it for 80 times what my Granddad paid.
SCULLY: Why'd you sell it?
MAN: Business changed, people change too.
MULDER: In what way?
MAN: Competition. Used to get by with 50 milk cows, now you gotta have 500. Used to turn up to pasture, now you keep em in pens and grain feed them.
SCULLY: You said you wanted to show us something.
MAN: You're looking at it. See those men over there? Well they're injecting the cattled with something called BST. Bovine Somatotropin.
SCULLY: A genetically engineered growth hormone.
MAN: Shoot em up, and the cow will produce ten percent more milk. Feed it to beef cattle, more meat on the hoof. Changed the business, changed a whole lot of things.
SCULLY: How do you mean?
MAN: Well that frinkus in town this afternoon, ten even five years ago never would have happened. People around here have changed, you know. Gotten mean. Spiteful. Dog eat dog. We had seven rapes here last year, by high school boys. This business of these kids being found in the wood, well, I think that you're going to find that it all comes from the same root source.
MULDER: The growth hormone.
MAN: Yes sir.
SCULLY: But those hormones have been proven safe. They've been cleared by the FDA.
MAN: Says who? The government?

SCULLY: The resistual substance couldn't be analysed, because it contains synthetic cortocose steroids with unidentified amino acids. That's Purity Control, Mulder.
MULDER: Do you know what you're saying, Scully?
SCULLY: The man who died in that plane crash was inoculating those kids with antibodies derived from what may have been an extra-terrestrial source (YAY SCULLY YOU BELIEVE)
MULDER: He's been injecting those kids with alien DNA.
SCULLY: No, Mulder, that was never proven conclusively (MAYBE NOT)
MULDER: But it's the same substance we found in the Erlenmeyer flask, isn't it?
MULDER: Well it all makes sense. The money in the briefcase, they've been conducting an experiment here. Somebody's been paying to have those kids injected with alien DNA to see how they'd react. It's been going on for years.
SCULLY: Does that man know anything about it?
MULDER: No. He's just some poor soul who blew their cover. I don't think he knows any more than he's telling us.
SCULLY: Well I think his boss must of, because they just found him shot to death in a cow pasture.
MULDER: What?!
SCULLY: I think I know who shot him, Mulder. That man I recognized on the road today. That's the same man that executed Deep Throat.
MULDER: Well whoever's behind this, he's covering up their tracks. He's going to go after the kids. You get the sheriff, and meet me at Gary Kane's apartment. And Scully, I want this guy alive.

Mulder and Scully eating ribs *'Let's Get It On' starts playing*

Power to you, Mulder. Puttin' on the moves by dabbing rib sauce off of Scully's mouth. Scully doesn't quite know what to make of it; it seems so natural between the two of them though. Damn UST.

SCULLY: So, you tried to tell me about walk-ins. But I'm not sure I grasped the finer points.
MULDER: It's a new age religion based on an old idea. That if you lose hope or despair and wanna leave this mortal coil, you become open and vulnerable-
SCULLY: -to inhabition by a new spirit.
MULDER: A new enlightened spirit. According to literature, Abe Lincoln was a walk-in. And Mikhail Gorbachev and Charles Colson, Nixon's advisor.
SCULLY: But not Nixon?
MULDER: No. Not even they wanna claim Nixon.

I love their banter here, Scully playing along with Mulder.

SCULLY: So, are you still subscribing along to the sheriff's claims of possession?
MULDER: I don't know. In the absence of any other plausible explanation, it's a novel theory.

MULDER: You got a problem?
GIRL: Yeah. But who asked you?
SCULLY: *walking up towards the group and Mulder* Mulder?
RICK: Yeah, well, why don't you run along with the little wife. You're gonna miss the tour bus.


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