Thursday, 4 August 2016

X-Files Rewatch | Excelsis Dei & Aubrey

Once again, Mulder and Scully end up in two situations which involve controversial subjects, but which is worse?

'Excelsis Dei' follows Mulder and Scully's investigation into a reported rape by a nurse at a nursing home in Worchester, Massachusetts. The case is given to the duo due to the nurse claiming that the assailant appears to be a disembodied spirit. 

As is common with a majority of Season Two thus far, 'Excelsis Dei' isn't a stand out episode. It is an episode that presents Scully as the believer and Mulder as the skeptic, but the writing completely disregards Mulder's character in the process. 

'Excelsis Dei' isn't a memorable nor strong episode, but it does highlight the point of how the elderly population of America were treated at the time. Particularly those with diseases such Alzheimer's and Dementia. The orderly Gung Bituen (Sab Shimono) juxtaposes how the elderly are treated with respect in China to how they are treated in the US, highlighting the problem at its core. The episode also showcases the terrible working conditions of the staff, mainly due down to the lack of staff and low wages at the nursing home. 

(via carlithiel)

The flip between Mulder and Scully's beliefs has been seen before during the series thus far, but in 'Excelsis Dei' it really doesn't work in favor as it has done before. Even though it allows Scully to take the lead on the case, it portrays Mulder in an almost alien likeness. His tone towards the victim is terrible, his views on rape even more so. He doesn't seem to take it seriously, which is so unlike Mulder. However, this all makes sense once you take the credits of the episode into account; 'Excelsis Dei' being a one-off script written by Paul Brown. One could say that the mis-characterization is due to Brown not being a regular writer, therefore not being as familiar with Mulder as the regulars are. Although, he did write 'Ascension', which is an amazing episode with a true representation of Mulder. It's here that Brown's portrayal of Mulder seems to fall flat. 

Disregarding Mulder's attitude, Brown does highlight an important issue that is still relevant today. The disembodied spirit masks as the unidentified assailant that accompanies a majority of rape cases, with women and men that report rape not being treated well or even believed by the authorities; especially when the victim cannot identify or remember the attacker. 

Other than the insightful and needed commentary of the treatment of the elderly and rape culture, Brown's failure at portraying Mulder's character proceeds 'Excelsis Dei' to fail. When Mulder is out of character, so is his relationship with Scully. It creates an overhanging sense of doubt over the episode, one that I just can't seem to shake off. 

As much as I love paranormal shows and films, abandoned mental hospitals creep me out so much. To be honest, abandoned buildings in general scare the hell out of me. It's an irrational fear.

The episode was filmed at Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada. It was a mental health facility that was founded in April 1913, and eventually closed in June 2012. Many of the hospital scenes in the first seasons of the show were filmed here - a lot of the interior shots of the psychiatric hospital were used in the pilot in a disused building owned by the hospital - with 'Excelsis Dei' using the most of the hospital in production. 

Whilst filming at the hospital, several members of production claimed they heard mysterious voices and believed that the building was haunted. 

It's noted that the episode was a pain to film and produce, mainly due to the script arriving to cast and crew two days in advance to filming. 

Special effects supervisor Dave Gauthier built a tank and flooded the set hallway with 3,300 gallons of water to film the scene in which the bathroom door bursts open with water, including Mulder and Michelle bursting out with it. 

The episode name 'Excelsis Dei' is derived from 'Gloria in excelsis Deo', Latin for "Glory to God in the highest". It is a hymn known also as the Greater Doxology and the Angelic Hymn.

Carlos Castaneda was an American author with a Ph.D. in anthropology. Originally from Peru, Castaneda moved to the United States in the early 1950s and wrote a series of books describing his training in Shamanism, particularly a group that he called the Toltecs.

MULDER: Whatever tape you found in that VCR isn't mine
SCULLY: Good, because I put it back in that drawer that isn't yours

SCULLY: What do you think, Mulder?
MULDER: (grinning at SCULLY) About the guy's plumbing?
SCULLY: About his story.

DOCTOR GREGO: Hal was part of a group of Alzheimer's patients I've been treating for 11 months. 
SCULLY: But Alzheimer's isn't treatable. 
DOCTOR GREGO: It's an experimental drug called Depranil - an enzyme inhibitor that increases the amount of acetylcholine in the brain. 
SCULLY: I've read about it, but I've also read that the clinical benefits are marginal at best. 

In response to the series of unexplained incidents at the Excelsis Dei convalescent home, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has assumed all administrative authority at the facility. They detected trace amounts of ibotenic acid in more than half the residents tested. Though these levels have dissipated rapidly. Dr. John Grego has been replaced as head physician at the facility and his trial of the use of the drug Depranil has been suspended. For his admitted part in manufacturing and distributing an illicit substance, Gung Bittouin was remanded to the Immigration and Naturalization Service and is awaiting repatriation to Malaysia. There are reportedly no efforts being made to study the mushrooms. The federal government has settled Michelle Charters' lawsuit out of court though no clear blame has been placed. Witnesses to the events have been unreliable due to dramatic relapses and a general reversal in their progress with Alzheimer's disease. 

HAL: If I told you you were a very pretty woman and I would like to show you some affection, would you be offended? Huh?
(Scully doesn't know how to anser. She and Mulder look at each other, Hal suddenly looks up at Mulder apologetically)
HAL: Oh, I didn't meant to step on your toes there


SCULLY: What if there's a connection?

MULDER: Between the rape case and the Alzheimer's? When they're not drawing childlike pictures they're brutal sex offenders?
SCULLY: Dr. Grago's therapy produces acetylcholine. Too much cholinergic activity acuase a psychotic state similar to schizophrenia.
MULDER: You think that Michelle Charters was raped by a 74-year-old schizophrenic?
SCULLY: It's possible
MULDER: An *invisible* 74-year-old schizophrenic?
SCULLY: Well, maybe it's not the medication. Maybe it's the place itself.
MULDER: Are you saying that the building's haunted? (Smiles and laughs quietly) If you are, you've been working with me for too long, Scully.

Mulder quitting, Scully grasping for answers. Their relationship roles have changed. Scully's the believer and Mulder's the skeptic. 

MULDER: I think this will turn out to be a huge waste of time just like all the other X-Files on entity rape. Unsubstantiated phenomena. 
SCULLY: But in a substantiated crime.

SCULLY: Mulder, mushrooms aren't medication. They taste good on hamburgers but they don't raise the dead.
MULDER: Shaman's have been using them for centuries to gain access to the spirit world.
SCULLY: I think you've been reading too much Carlos Castaneda. 

A compelling look at the role of genetics, 'Aubrey' follows Mulder and Scully as they investigate the remains of an FBI Agent found by detective BJ Morrow (Deborah Strang). The duo soon finds out that the remains are over fifty years old, and Morrow had no prior knowledge of their whereabouts. Other than that she is currently investigating a murder case similar to an older case that the body is a result of. 

Mulder believes that the two cases are linked by the same killer, with his explanation being that Harry Cokely (Morgan Woodward), a serial killer from the 1940s (responsible for the FBI Agent's remains) has passed on his genetic trait of violence to his grandchild. 

'Aubrey' is good ground for showing the evolution of Mulder and Scully's relationship, and also showcasing the softer sides they portray towards victims of the crimes they are investigating. They both surprise each other by being intuitive to two of the victims - Morrow and Mrs. Thibodeaux (Joy Coghill). 

Scully comforting Morrow in the ladies bathroom allows Scully to infer that Morrow and Lieutenant Brian Tillman (Terry O'Quinn) are having an affair, surprising Mulder as to how she came to the right conclusion with little evidence, or as Scully puts it, 'woman's intuition'. Then Mulder also is able to infer that Mrs. Thibodeaux gave birth to a child and put it up for adoption; all from being calm and collected towards her whilst they talk to her at her home, surprising Scully.


There is also a contrast between Mulder & Scully and Morrow & Tillman. 'Aubrey' shows an evolution between Mulder and Scully, clearly working as a team and caring more and more so for each other. Since Scully's abduction, the two seem more worried about losing the other. This is most evident in the scene in which Mulder is nearly killed at the end of the episode, with Scully cradling Mulder's head once she finds him. 

Whereas Morrow and Tillman are at the point of their relationship where we want Mulder and Scully to be, with it all going to hell. Their affair has constituted in an unplanned pregnancy, with neither of them being entirely ready or accepting of it. 

What ruins this episode for me is the misogyny. After reading around and rewatching the episode, it becomes clearer. Before Morrow is pregnant, she is clearly 'normal', and once she is pregnant is when the specific traits of her great grandfather (Harry Cokely) kick in. I know what the writers are trying to do here - suggesting that the genes to trigger this shift come from the hormones that Morrow experiences through the pregnancy, with Morrow's body suddenly having to change to accommodate another human being. But the pregnancy comes from BJ sleeping with a married man and coworker, with her made out to be the bad person in the situation more than Tillman is. They both have an equal amount of blame in this situation. 

Even so, 'Aubrey' is an extremely interesting insight into the theory of genetics, with a paranormal twist.

I really liked the POV shot when Mulder and Scully pull up to Harry Cokely's house in the car. The camera comes at the house at a really low angle. It makes the house look menacing.

Mulder's gone back to being his lovable, dorky, paranormal believing self compared to the previous episode. He's back believing in clairvoyant experiences and dream like states.

Terry O'Quinn stars as Lt. Brian Tillman. He's known for playing John Locke on the TV series Lost, but he also portrays Darius Michaud in Fight the Future, and the Shadow Man in Trust No 1 on The X-Files. Who knows why he is three separate characters throughout the series. O'Quinn later earned the nickname 'Mr. Ten Thirteen' due to the amount of appearances throughout The X-Files and it's accompanying shows, like Millennium. 

Towards the end of the episode, Harry Cokely is seen watching the Cary Grant film His Girl Friday right before he is attacked. 

Gregor Mendel is known as "the father of modern genetics". Although farmers had known about crossbreeding of animals and plants could favor certain desirable traits, Mendel conducted experiments on pea plants between 1856 and 1863 which established many of the rules of heredity. These are now known as the laws of Mendelian inheritance. 

I've always been intrigued by women named B.J. 


Have you ever, um, have you ever had any clairvoyant experiences? Premonitions, visions, precognitive dreams, things like that? (You may recognize this line from a remix of the X-Files theme by P.M. Dawn on the soundtrack album Songs in the Key of X)

SCULLY: Mulder, I don't think BJ was in the woods that night because of an engine failure. 
MULDER: (mouthful of chicken) What are you talking about? 
SCULLY: Well, the Motel Black would have been the perfect meeting place -- away from town, away from his wife...
MULDER: What do you mean? 
SCULLY: It's obvious BJ and Tillman are having an affair. 
MULDER: How do you know? 
SCULLY: A woman senses these things. 
MULDER: (scoffs) Aw, pshaw. 

SCULLY: The bones BJ found under the house belong to Chaney's partner, Agent Ledbetter. Cokely rented the house in 1942. The detectives at the crime scene found an old straight razor under the house, they're trying to life some prints. And Cokely's been released, but I think we have enough to nail him. 
MULDER: (shaking his head) Something just doesn't track, Scully. The night she was attacked, BJ said she saw a younger man. 
SCULLY: Yeah, but you know the state of mind she was in that night. She, she could have been mistaken. 
MULDER: No, maybe she did see a younger man - young Cokely. Cokely's grandson. 
SCULLY: Are you saying Cokely's grandson attacked BJ? 
MULDER: It would make sense, Scully. Genetic traits often skip a generation. And that would explain the results of the blood found under Verna Johnson's fingernails. PGM subtypes are similar among relatives. Did Danny call back with the adoption records yet? Did you get 'em? 
SCULLY: (dialing a phone number) I don't think Mendel had serial killers in mind when he developed his theory on genetics. 
MULDER: When I was a kid, I would have nightmares. I would wake up in the middle of the night, thinking I was the only person left in the world. Then I would hear this (crunches loudly on a sunflower seed) 
SCULLY: What? 
MULDER: My dad would be eating these. 
SCULLY: (on the phone) Yeah, Danny Valladeo, it's Agent Scully. (to MULDER) What does that have to do with Cokely? 
MULDER: Well, on a basic cellular level, we're the sum total of all our ancestor's biological matter. But what if more than biological traits get passed down from generation to generation? What if I like sunflower seeds because I'm genetically predisposed to liking them? 
SCULLY: But children aren't born liking sunflower seeds. Environments shape them; behavior patterns are taught. 
MULDER: There are countless stories of twins separated at birth who end up in the same occupation, marrying the same kind of people, each naming their child Waldo. 
SCULLY: Waldo? 
MULDER: Jung wrote about it when he talked about the collective unconscious. It's genetic memory, Scully. 

We are continuing with genetic testing on Detective Morrow. Evidence suggests the presence of a mutator gene that has activated previously dormant genes, but the results are so far inconclusive. Detective Morrow has not demonstrated any further physiological changes. Extensive blood work and psychological testing has been conducted in order to determine whether the pregnancy could have been the catalyst for the transformation. We have yet to determine the effects on the fetus. Amniocentesis results show no genetic abnormalities. Chromosome testing has determined the child's sex to be male. BJ is on her second week of suicide watch after an unsuccessful attempt to abort her son. Lieutenant Tillman has petitioned to adopt the child, and the case will soon be presented to the courts. 

I don't know why I like seeing Mulder and Scully eating chicken whilst investigating the missing body skeleton. It represents a sense of normalcy between the two. We rarely ever see that.

SCULLY: What if the recent murders triggered what was previously buried in her mind...some connection she'd unconsciously made that no one else had been able to make.
MULDER: You mean a hunch?
SCULLY: Yeah, something like that.
MULDER: Well, that's a pretty extreme hunch.
SCULLY: I seem to recall you having some pretty extreme hunches.
MULDER: (grinning) I never have. (SCULLY smiles back)


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