Sunday, January 24, 2016

The X-Files: My Struggle (S10/E1)

by JASmius

Rating: * (out of four)

Written & directed by: Chris Carter

This is not a great episode.  Why?  Several reasons.

First, it is a reintroduction/table-setting prelude to this six-episode mini-season.  You get that much in the three-minute Mulder narration that precedes even the show open, the necessity of which I found myself questioning.  I mean, yes, it has been fourteen years since the series was on the small screen, but they did do X-Files II: I Want To Believe in 2008, so it's not like the "the truth hasn't still been out there".  X-Files geeks - of which I am certainly one - haven't forgotten the show's premise and mythology and who its central characters are.

Second, the Sveta and Tad O'Malley characters - she, compellingly interesting for her tragic abduction experiences (and, yes, hot, which really, um, comes to a high rolling boil in the scene where Scully finds her at Mulder's "country estate"); he, not so much, as we shall see - are nothing but props, their only purpose to lure Mulder and Scully back together to resurrect the X-Files unit, after which O'Malley "disappears" and Sveta gets blowed up real good, which I found to be more than a little gratuitous.  But then, this is The X-Files, so she could always turn up again before the end of this mini-arc.  In fact, we can almost count on it.

Third, the tweaks on the show's mythology are even less believable than the original version.  Back in the day it was a Syndicate of shadowy elites, knowing that aliens (the "grays") were returning on December 22nd, 2012 to invade and colonize the planet, using humans as living incubators for their young (as extensively detailed in the first X-Files movie), and collaborating with them in order to buy time to devise a means of stopping this alien apocalypse.  This explained the ongoing UFO sightings, alien abductions, human-alien hybrids and other extraterrestrial biological experimentation.  It was "the truth that was out there," which the Syndicate ruthlessly concealed, and which Mulder devoted his life to finding and exposing.  And the biggest irony was that when he finally found it, as laid out in the original series finale, he not only didn't expose it, but clammed up about it himself.  It was that explosive.

The final scene of that episode was Mulder and Scully in the same seedy Roswell, New Mexico, motel they'd been in in the pilot a decade before, with Mulder almost making a profession of religious faith as being the only true source of hope.  Something that I found pleasantly surprising; you could almost say that in the end, it was Scully who actually led Mulder to "the truth".

And in this reboot Chris Carter rips and tears that all to shreds with the NEW "truth" that Mulder is POSITIVE he's discovered (just as Tad O'Malley fed it to him): That there never was any alien invasion coming, but rather - give me a moment to collect my thoughts here and take a big enough breath for this long-ass run-on sentence: The advent of nuclear weapons [anti-nuke box: checked] alerted benevolent aliens (because it would be "xenophobic" to believe otherwise) in distant solar systems [homage to Star Trek's United Federation of Planets, minus us and a Prime Directive] of a new emerging intelligence that was in danger of destroying itself, so they sent ships to monitor and guide and shepherd us through this "phase" to civilizational "maturity," except one of those ships crashed - not at Roswell ("Roswell was a smokescreen," naturally) but at Aztec, New Mexico, a year later - giving us "primitive" humans both alien technology and "biological material" (after an entire platoon of soldiers completley unnecessarily emptied what seemed like several thousand rounds into a single "gray," leaving a corpse far too intact for what should have been a puddle of blood, guts, and viscera but this was only TV-14 and not rated X, so what are ya gonna do?) that the newly established Syndicate reverse-engineered, somehow, to provide themselves with zero-point energy [Mulder: "So they've had this for seventy years while the oil companies made trillions from fossil fuels".  He also speculated that the Syndicate will use their zero-point-energy starships to flee after "climate change" "destroys the planet".  "Clean" energy/global warming box: checked], warp drive, cloaking technology, phasing technology, etc. which they've used in turn to abduct random citizens for extraterrestrial biological hybridization experimentation for....actually, I can't think of any practical reason for that, unless the autopsy of the alien discovered a particular skill, like telepathy or telekinesis, and I'm not sure how you perform an autopsy on a puddle of blood, guts, and viscera.

What's the Syndicate's master plan?  Why, the same as any other eeeeevil cabal of villains: to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!  BWAHAHAHAHAHA!  (That's when Carter threw in a couple of George W. Bush clips, as well as Tad O'Malley - supposedly patterned after Glenn Beck - calling 9/11 a "false flag" operation, which is a liberal, not conservative, charge - Bush Derangement Syndrome box: checked.  And leave us not omit the scene in the X-cave between Mulder and A.D. Skinner bashing the Patriot Act, national security, counterterrorism, drones, etc., etc., etc.  Now I'm almost expecting to see Rand Paul do a cameo.)  Except...if they have all this fantastically advanced alien-derived technology and the ability to grab anybody right out of their homes and do anything they want to us at will, haven't they pretty much already taken over the world?  You remember what Aldrich Killian told Tony Stark in Iron Man III about the advantages of anonymity and working behind the scenes.  What reason would the Syndicate have to work out in the open?  Look what happens to anybody who crosses them.  Well, other than Mulder and Scully, of course.  Because Chris Carter is even more powerful than the Syndicate.

The latter does have a "get out of jail free" card of sorts: the fact that December 22nd, 2012, the end of the Mayan calendar when the world was supposed to come to an end with the alien invasion....came and went.  And the aliens never showed up and the world didn't end, unless you want to count Barack Obama's re-election, and that was forty-six days earlier.  So some "amending" had to be dreamed up to explain that, given the original show's mytharc, and this load of paranoid, jihadi-symp, leftwingnut garbage was the result,  Which is really a shame, because as long as the X-Files mytharc was couched in, well, mythical symbology - aliens, creature-features, and the like - viewers could ignore the political sermons in the same way that they could suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the plot.  Now it's going to be all but impossible to do so.

I was initially cheering when Scully, after Mulder and O'Malley laid out the above updated scenario, dismissed it all in almost the same terms as I just did and then dropped the deflating bombshell that Sveta's genetic test results indicated she does not, after all, have any alien DNA.  Then I remembered the preceding scene where Scully had her own genetic tests redone, as if they had indicated something she didn't like and waited for the other shoe to drop.  And sure enough, we got the swerve-canceling climactic scene where Scully admits to Mulder that not only was she lying about Sveta's results, that she had all kinds of alien DNA in her system, but so does Scully....which I thought she already knew, since she herself was abducted once and experimented on, which was where her and Mulder's mutant (telekinetic, among other things) son William came from.

SCULLY: We have to get the sons of bitches who did this to us.

MULDER: Are you sure you're ready for this?

SCULLY: I don't think I have a choice.

Scully never did buy into Mulder's windmill-tilting until it became personal for her.  This time it's not so much personal, but that the memories of that portion of her life that she's spent the past fourteen years trying to bury have fully reemerged, unignorable.  And, you know, Mulder is back in her life, and he'll never leave her alone about this crap now that he's been revived from his clinical depression-induced dormancy.  Heck, maybe they'll wind up back in the sack with each other.  You never know.

But the question must be asked: How do Mulder and Scully actually "get" the Syndicate?  Exposing them would be pointless - remember their anonymity?  There are all kinds of UFO shows on cable television these days and UFOlogy has a niche following, but it isn't and never will be taken seriously by the general public.  That brings into question why the Syndicate would "disappear" Tad O'Malley, who was seen even initially by Mulder as a crank and a "jackass".  So what if he did a show talking about an "ultraviolent uber-fascist conspiracy" bent on "taking over the world" with "alien technology" - that's the kind of blithering nonsense he dispensed on his program all the time, right?  How would this be any different?  Why attract attention by offing him?  But remember the other side of that anonymity: Sveta was actual hard evidence of their "conspiracy," and they found her and took her out.  Which begs the question of why they didn't also send another UFO after Scully when she was driving (as Sveta was) on a secluded road (as Sveta was) at night (as Sveta was) on her way to Casa Mulder for that final encounter with O'Malley AND Sveta and blow her up real good as well, since she has documented proof of the alien DNA in Sveta's system and, as we all well know from the original series, the Syndicate knows everything and "doesn't make mistakes".

Oh, and one other question: Why did Skinner contact Scully to contact Mulder to rope both of them back into the X-Files?  And why - and how - is Skinner in the exact same place and the exact same job as he was fourteen years ago?  And how would Mulder - who, if you once again remember from the original series finale, was a fugitive and murder suspect, which begs the question of how the Syndicate didn't find his home and blow it and him up real good years ago - possibly be able to return to his old job at the FBI like nothing had happened?

You know what I think?  I think the real villain and mastermind is none other than Walter Skinner himself, who might be even more powerful than Chris Carter.

Certainly not this cartoon character who got blown to merry hell in the original series finale by one of his own black helicopters.

Next: The X-Files are reopened.....again.

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