Sunday, 30 October 2016

The X-Files Halloween Countdown | Season Seven (10 Seasons, 10 Episodes)

Ah, season seven. The last good season of them all. Farewell classic X-Files, make way for whatever season eight and nine were. And it's Halloween tomorrow! Spooktastic!

Image via Fox

I don’t like saying this is a favourite episode of mine. If we forget what happens at the end of this episode, then I’ll say it’s one of my favourites. I, as many people in the 90s were, am extremely annoyed with the outcome of the show after season seven. If it had just ended with the prospect of Scully being pregnant without Mulder having to be abducted, giving it the ability to move on into a movie franchise and/or a few special seasons (like season 10), then I would have been happy.

But no. Carter fucks all that up and does what he’s done here. But whatever. ‘Requiem’ is a solid episode if you forget what happens afterwards. ‘Requiem’ brings a lot of nostalgia back from the pilot episode through elements that appeared in that episode, which is really nice actually. If it were to have ended this way, it would have given the show a sense of coming full circle; ending where it began.


Image via Fox

Other than ‘Humbug’, I can’t think of any other X-Files episodes that purely focused on the idea of magic and illusion. ‘The Amazing Maleeni’ goes at this full throttle, allowing Mulder and Scully to investigate the death of a small-time magician who goes by the name of The Amazing Maleeni. Once a performance one of his magic tricks results in his death, our duo arrives to discover three suspects: an ex-con, a rival and Maleeni’s twin brother; all of which seem to have a plan to rob a major bank.

To make the episode even more believable, noted magician Ricky Jay played the portrayed The Amazing Maleeni; only doing so under the guise that he would do the tricks that he was used to performing. As Gilligan later noted, “There was no choice other than Ricky Jay as far as we were concerned. He was not looking forward to the idea of playing a magician because I think that he felt magicians were never portrayed very realistically in movies or television shows.”

Another aspect regarding Duchovny and Anderson’s performances makes the episode even more entertaining. Because the episode was written in a very tongue-in-cheek style, Anderson and Duchovny performed their lines in that way, which caused them to keep reminding themselves that the story revolved around a murder. They both needed to ground Mulder and Scully to prevent their performances getting too humorous. 

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This season of the show contains some of the best stand-alone episodes of the series, with ‘Je Souhaite’ being no different. In this instance, Mulder and Scully are led to a genie who seems exasperated with her job of granting wishes.

Written and directed by Vince Gilligan – the first episode that Gilligan directed – ‘Je Souhaite’ not only turns out being another one of the shows comedically layered episodes, but also produces a different take on interpretations of what a genie thinks of the whole concept of having to grant three wishes. Gilligan loved Paula Sorge’s performance of the Genie Jenn, even though she wasn’t his first choice. “In fact, she was even better than how I had written the character,” Gilligan recalls. “In Paula’s audition, she came off like a world-weary wise-ass who was not only tough and smart, but had a heart of gold. She made it a really fun character.”

‘Je Souhaite’ itself is extremely bittersweet. With Duchovny’s departure after this season, it lost the heart and soul that was contained within the glue that holds the show together – Mulder and Scully. It’s here that we get to see the last remnants of that, because the show was never able to capture the true essence of The X-Files again. 

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Due to Duchovny and Anderson filming Return to Me and The House of Mirth respectively, ‘Hungry’ is set from the point of view of the monster, rather than the usual standpoint of Mulder and Scully. Seeing the episode in this light allows us to see how Mulder and Scully are viewed through the eyes of a monster, making them the antagonists. Gilligan, who wrote the episode, had the intention “that at the end, when Mulder and Scully show up and kill the monster, [the] audience [would] hope that they would not show up.”

Gilligan successfully aligns the audience with a sense of sympathy towards the ‘monster’ Rob Roberts (Chad Donella), allowing forgiveness towards Rob whenever he murders someone because he ‘has’ to.

‘Hungry’ isn’t an episode that I always remember, but whenever I come to watching it, it always surprises me in terms of the way in which the narrative is written. And Donella’s performance as Rob is stellar. 

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The narrative of ‘Millennium’ itself is pretty forgettable to me. I know it’s a crossover of Carter’s other series Millennium to bring closure as it was recently cancelled and that it involves zombies; but I think we all know why this episode is beloved by everyone.

Mulder and Scully kiss. FINALLY. FOR REALSIES.

The production team knew it too. The scene in which the deed is done was set up using specialized camera angles and everything was slowed down to make the kiss last longer. Like, this was a big deal. It even made newspaper headlines.

That’s literally all I have to say about this episode. It’s all I can remember anyway (and the only part of this episode I replay constantly). 

Image via Fox

Another episode directed and written by Duchovny, ‘Hollywood A.D.’ is an extremely self-referential episode, due to entrepreneurial Hollywood producer Wayne Federman approaching collage friend Walter Skinner to produce a film based on The X-Files. However, the further Mulder and Scully follow Federman in his research phase, they find a level of realism in what Federman wants to portray in the film in terms of the mysterious ‘Lazarus Bowl’; an artefact that has the words Jesus Christ spoke when he raised Lazarus from the dead engraved upon it.

For the inner fictional film of The X-Files, and subsequently Mulder and Scully, Duchovny cast good friend Garry Shandling to portray Mulder and his then-wife Téa Leoni to portray Scully. Duchovny also cast several of the shows technical crew for several parts of the filming stage of The Lazarus Bowl, even casting his brother Daniel as assistant director on the set.

The original premise of having Mulder and Scully portrayed by different actors within the show came from an ongoing joke on set. “We used to always have a joke on set that when they do the movie it’s going to be Richard Gere and Jodie Foster [playing Mulder and Scully],” Duchovny said. “So I originally wrote the teaser for Richard Gere and Jodie Foster and I started to think about it and you know, it’s so much funnier with Garry and Téa.”

‘Hollywood A.D.’ itself is an extremely layered episode, which is what makes it so successful. It’s extremely ambitious on Duchovny’s part, and is something that is extremely true to his personality when it comes to writing; especially now he’s begun writing novels. You can see the ideas that he produced in ‘The Unnatural’ and ‘Hollywood A.D.’ come to fruition more in written form, but that shouldn’t stop him from writing and directing more films – and even television episodes. 

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‘Chimera’ is really special to me. I can remember it as though I watched it yesterday; that ending was just something else for me. Out of all The X-Files episodes, this was the one time a conclusion to a narrative completely floored me. I don’t know why it was this episode, but it’s making me want to watch it again just thinking about it.

In a David Lynchian style, ‘Chimera’ situates itself in a – what seems to be – perfect suburb, with that juicy seedy underbelly that we’ve all come to know and love from Lynch. Written by David Amann and directed by Cliff Bole, it had a premise to examine the evil that lies beneath suburban life.

As both Duchovny and Anderson had their own episodes to write, direct and shoot (‘Hollywood A.D.’ and ‘all things’), the writers planned ‘Chimera’ to be written so that Duchovny and Anderson only had to be together in limited scenes, to give them both times to get their episodes in shape. Duchovny has more of a role to play in ‘Chimera’ than Scully; Anderson was only needed for one day of filming due to her sub-plot of being left on a stake-out by Mulder whilst he investigates the goings on in suburbia. 

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God, this episode is panned so much. I think a lot of reviewers took this episode too seriously. Maybe it’s just me, I’m all for this episode. Like ‘Kill Switch’, William Gibson and Tom Maddox are extremely innovative in terms of what they achieved in this episode, especially again for when it was released.

It may have been 2000 and the CGI is…well, questionable (we’d already had The Matrix by this point), the set pieces, outfits and ideas that the episode presents fit the timeframe of both the gaming and film industry, especially with the release of Cronenberg’s Existenz a year prior.

And I wholeheartedly agree with Anderson’s take on the episode. Anderson said, “despite its reliance on big guns and raging testosterone” that she enjoyed the opportunity “to show Scully wearing heavy metal and firing over sized weapons.” 

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As much as I love these episodes, ‘Sein und Zeit’ and ‘Closure’ should have been the finale of The X-Files. They could have somehow wrapped it up in the same location as ‘Requiem’ to give nod backs to the pilot for that ‘full-circle’ feeling that I was talking about. But, alas, Carter decided to conclude the Samantha story-arc mid-season. “The expectation was that if this were going to be the final season, that the finale would be about Mulder’s sister,” Carter explains. “We wanted to deal with that sooner rather than later. We wanted to wrap up Mulder’s emotion story with his sister and do it in such a way that would emphasize with David’s dramatic abilities.”

In a similar stylistic approach to ‘Paper Hearts’ the two episodes answer the never-ending question of Samantha’s disappearance with a sense of ambiguity. It’s not outright an alien abduction, but they did share involvement in her disappearance. Frank Spotnitz noted this, and later explained that “it’s similar […] in the sense that what you always thought happened to Samantha may not have actually happened. ‘Paper Hearts’ never ultimately answers the question. We’ve had people come up to us and say, ‘Okay, so we know she’s really dead, so what happened?’ So we decided to answer that question.”

Both ‘Sein und Zeit’ and ‘Closure’ are so beautifully filmed and acted, they never fail to make me cry. Duchovny connects with Mulder so much throughout the series, but it’s here that he gives the true payoff of a mixture of relief and utter despair to find out what really happened to his sister. Relief that she is no longer being hurt, but despair to finally find out what was actually done to her and what she had to go through without her big brother there to keep her from harm. 

Image via Fox

Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

This. Episode. Gilligan, you utter genius. For all the shows that The X-Files could crossover with, this choice seems so left-field but so, so perfect. Not only for the gold that is Mulder fully embracing being on Cops and Scully utterly despising it (lending to hilarious scenes of Scully hiding from the camera), but the legacy that it has produced in the realm of television studies.

In an aim to show as little of the monster as possible, Gilligan and the writing staff used methods adapted from the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project which had successfully done the same and still remained terrifying. The director of the episode, Michael Watkins, had a good rapport with the Los Angeles Police Department, so he was able to use real Sheriff’s deputies as extras, as believability was the needed aspect of this episode if they were to pull of making an X-Files episode look like an episode of Cops.

And so they did. Several critics and academics have linked X-Cops to Postmodernism through merging the show with another popular reality television series. It has also been praised at how embraces real-time aspects which heighten its realism as an episode of Cops through its self-reflexive and humorous tone.

The sad thing with this episode is that Mulder finally has the platform to show that he isn’t crazy. He has the ability to show the public that monsters are among us, which is what he tries to do throughout the episode. He ultimately fails not only through not finding what he’s looking for, but does so in front of Scully and a live audience. 

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