Friday, 28 October 2016

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

Ah, season five. The pinnacle of everything that was good and pure about The X-Files. And only three more days till Halloween! 

Image via Fox

Continuing on from the season four finale, 'Gethsemane', and subsequently revealing that the body in Mulder's apartment was not Mulder, but a government employee by the name of Scott Ostelhoff. What is displayed in 'Gethsemane' is in fact Scully lying so that Mulder isn't incriminated, and can begin to investigate who the informant inside the X-Files is, and also find a cure for Scully's cancer. 

Both 'Redux' and 'Redux II' deal with Scully's cancer, meaning both episodes are full of feels. So many feels. Especially 'Redux II', in which Mulder visits Scully whilst she is asleep and proceeds to cry by her bedside - ultimately giving us a glimpse at what will become of him if he loses Scully. 

'Redux' and 'Redux II' are two of the most prominent mythology episodes of the series. Not only setting up Mulder's slowly dimming belief in extra-terrestrial life, but furthering the bond between Mulder and Scully and the ultimate set up for the 1998 film that came between the fifth and sixth season. 

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An often-overlooked episode, 'Schizogeny' follows Mulder and Scully investigating a community that believe teenager Bobby Rich has killed his stepfather Phil for not finishing his chores. Bobby's mother, Patti, eventually finds her husband's body partially buried, and seemingly drowned in mud with Bobby being both the only witness and seemingly the only suspect. 

Similar to 'D.P.O.', 'Schizogeny' focuses another teenager with anger issues benefiting from nature. Instead of lighting, this time it's...the trees? I think? After all, it was nicknamed 'The Killer Tree Episode' by cast and crew. It's not entirely clear what is happening in this episode and who's to blame, but when is it ever easy to explain with this show? 

Image via Fox

Ah, my favourite writer is back at it again. Picking up six months later from ‘Pusher’, Vince Gilligan’s ‘Kitsunegari’ opens with the pusher himself Robert Modell escaping from a prison hospital after awakening from the coma that Mulder induced.

If you know your Japanese, the title gives away the main motive behind this episode. ‘Kitsunegari’, meaning ‘Fox hunt’, signals a second round for Mulder and Modell – or so we think. It turns out that Modell has a fraternal twin named Linda Bowman, who has the same powers as Modell. Modell begins the hunt for Fox Mulder, and Linda – nearly – ends it.

Much like the ending of ‘Pusher’, Mulder very nearly kills Scully (again) when taunted by Linda Bowman who takes on the persona of Scully. Even though ‘Kitsunegari’ isn’t half as good as its predecessor, both dabble with the same immense emotion that plagues Mulder – that he is unable to beat Robert and Linda’s games. He does in fact beat them, as they both end up comatose and dead, but to Mulder, putting Scully in harm’s way like he has both times due to him not being able to realise when he’s in an illusion is ultimately his failure; which is definitely my favourite thing about these two episodes. 

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Much like 'Small Potatoes', this classic episode does add a somewhat distasteful layer of humor to the act of rape, which is something I can't not think about whenever I watch this episode. As much as 'The Post-Modern Prometheus' is one of my favorites, it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth because of this. 

Thankfully, I'm always more distracted by the sheer beauty of the episode through the visuals. Giving a stylistic nod to the 1931 film Frankenstein, 'The Post-Modern Prometheus' is shot entirely in black and white, in a much more grandiose, cinematic style. It's story also draws heavily on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein novel, through the monster that is known as 'The Great Mutato'. 

Nominated for seven Emmy Awards – and winning one – the standout monster-of-the-week episode was shot entirely differently to that of a regular X-Files episode. Using a wide-angle lens, Carter was able to give the show an increasingly surreal appeal due to Duchovny and Anderson having to act to the camera as opposed to each other.

And who can forget the weirdly fitting Cher songs strewn throughout the episode, due to the Mutato’s affinity with the singer. I can’t hear ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’, ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves’ or ‘Walking in Memphis’ without my mind going straight to this episode.

And who could forget the closing dance scene; if that isn’t conformation that Mulder and Scully are a couple then I don’t know what is. Well, I do, it’s them kissing in season seven but shhhhhhhhh

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Even though ‘Chinga’ is more of a disappointment than anything, it’s still definitely one of my favourites. Mainly for its use of having Scully as the driving force of the episode; something that is rarely done throughout the series (apart from season’s eight and nine). Sure, there are a handful of episodes littered through the seasons, but none of them are half as detailed as those that Mulder is leading force behind.

The reason I say that this episode is a disappointment is because it was written by Stephen King. Now that, by any standards, is a success. But it isn’t when the show’s creator decides to rewrite portions of King’s script, ultimately ruining the tone that King originally aimed for with the episode.

‘Chinga’ is such a classic Stephen King trope written by the man himself. It’s utterly terrifying and nightmare-inducing, something you want from an X-Files episode written by the king of horror himself. 

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‘Folie a Deux’, French for ‘madness of two’ is a psychiatric syndrome in which delusional belief are enabled to be transmitted from one individual to another. Of course, Mulder is the one susceptible to this. After encountering the delusional Gary Lambert in an ongoing hostage situation instigated by him, Mulder witnesses Lambert’s unwavering belief that his boss, Greg Pincus, may be a monster. Lambert is eventually killed once the hostage situation is compromised, but Mulder somehow inherits Lambert’s ability (or delusion) that Pincus is a monster.

Mulder is eventually locked in a psychiatric hospital after an outburst in front of Skinner and Pincus, in which he unwaveringly declares that he can see the monster when no one else can. It turns out that Scully is the only person who can save her partner, as she is the only person who would ever (and does) believe him.

Written by Gilligan, ‘Folie a Deux’ came from an idea that the writer had of there being ‘a monster around that only you can see – the clinical definition of madness’. The outcome of the episode ultimately turns Lambert and Mulder’s shared madness to Mulder and Scully’s shared madness…which is ultimately the whole deal of the show, isn’t it?  

Image via Fox 

One of the many episodes I always find myself re-watching, ‘Detour’ is your typical ‘I’m lost in a forest and now being chased by a tree monster’ scenarios. In a way, it’s somewhat similar to ‘Darkness Falls’ in season one regarding the setting, but the antagonist in this instance is far more menacing than little green bugs.

After watching the 1972 film Deliverance starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, producer Frank Spotnitz decided to write the episode after ‘the idea of being stranded in a hostile environment’ interested him, and that the idea of ‘something moving the brush that you can’t see’ stood out to him.

Surprisingly, ‘Detour’ is an extremely humorous episode, especially when Mulder and Scully end up being the only two left in the woods. After Mulder is injured by the creature hunting them, Scully has to cradle Mulder in the glow of firelight whilst singing a rendition of Three Dog Night’s ‘Joy to the World’ to help Mulder fall asleep, so that he knows she’s still there. This scene also includes a conversation of death between the two, with Mulder revealing that he only time he ever thought about ‘seriously dying’ was at the Ice Capades as a kid.

Not only is the film inspired by Deliverance, but it also bears resemblance to the 1987 film Predator; two films that I have partially seen thanks to my Dad. I really need to sit my ass down and actually watch the both of them properly. 

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‘The Pine Bluff Variant’ should stand out to me in regards to how much of a unique episode of the show it is, but instead, it’s because of one stupid Mulder quip including a soft drink that never fails to make me burst out laughing. And the episode was ruined for me further by witnessing a blooper of Anderson incessantly giggling during the sequence in which Scully and Skinner discover a theatre full of decomposing bodies due to the release of a biological weapon whilst watching Die Hard with a Vengeance.

A scene in which was highly heralded after the episode’s release due to its sombre mood and the effects of rapid decomposition of human flesh. The incorporation of Die Hard with a Vengeance isn’t a coincidental choice, the episode broadly mirrors the film’s plot of a mission by terrorists involving American banks. ‘The Pine Bluff Variant’ is also inspired by the 1963 novel The Spy Who Came in from The Cold by John le Carre. As the Cold War had finished at the beginning of the 90s, Shiban used domestic terrorism as the new American paranoia as the basis of the episode, much like Die Hard and Heat; a film that Shiban also cites as an inspiration for the episode (and probably the reason why I love it so much.

The title of the episode is a reference to the Pine Bluff Aresnal; a military base with stockpiles of chemical weapons. 

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If it weren’t for ‘Bad Blood’, ‘Kill Switch’ would definitely be my favourite episode of the fifth season. For an episode that aired in the late 90s, it dealt with issues that were pretty high-tech for television at the time; i.e. Mulder and Scully becoming targets of a rogue AI system.

Written by cyberpunk pioneers William Gibson and Tom Maddox (who would both go on to write another favourite episode of mine in season seven, ‘First Person Shooter’), ‘Kill Switch’ ended up being one of the show’s most expensive episodes due to the extensive amount of elaborate explosions and digital effects.

Gibson himself is often credited in creating the Science Fiction subgenre of Cyberpunk and of coining the term ‘cyberspace’ in his short story ‘Burning Chrome’ in 1982. Cyberpunk itself is a combination of lowlife and high-tech; exploring the effects that cybernetics and computer networks had on humans with a bleak, noir-like undertone. This especially came to fruition in the 1990s in the information age and the dawn of the internet, which is inherent in Gibson and Maddox’s two X-Files episodes, more so in ‘Kill Switch’. 

Image via Fox 

Before Taylor Swift hijacked the title, ‘Bad Blood’ only meant one thing; the best episode that The X-Files ever produced.

That’s a broad term, but it is often regarded as not only one of the best episodes of the show, but in television in general. Written by Vince Gilligan, it explores the dynamics of the relationship between Mulder and Scully and their interpretations of one another.

Inspired by an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show (a main inspiration for Mulder and Scully’s relationship since the shows conception), the episode follows Mulder and Scully as they each recollect their extremely different memories of certain events that have unfolded before they report to their supervisor, Skinner.

The plot itself is hilarious and beautifully intelligent in regards to the vampirical themes, but it’s Mulder and Scully’s dynamics and their relationship that steal this episode. The term ‘Bad Blood’ itself describes the tension between the two as they tell each other their version of events, but also at how insecure they are in regards to their feelings to one another; especially in regards to the telling of their stories in which they try to describe themselves in a way that the other would find attractive. 
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