Saturday, December 12, 2015

Case 01, File 10: Fallen Angel

AKA: If it Bleeds, We Can Kill - Oh Never Mind

Over the course of 9 seasons, it became increasingly clear to anyone watching that The X-Files really didn't have much in the way of an overarching plan for its Myth Arc. I was never 100 percent clear if they had a plan to begin with and ran out of it, ala Battlestar Galactica or if they just were making it up as they go along from the word go. As a result, the rules, goals and appearances of the aliens tends to be somewhat...shall we say, inconsistent?

The plot kicks off when an alien craft lands smack dab in the middle of Wisconsin, and the army sends in a bunch of guys to retrieve the wreckage, capture the alien and cover it up. Mulder learns about this via Deep Throat and decides that the sensible course of action is to sneak in and take pictures. He gets captured, naturally, and meets a fellow UFO nut named Max.

When Scully comes to collect him, like she's his mom and he got lost at the mall, she tells him that he's in danger of being thrown out of the FBI. But Mulder was born with a dangerously low number of fucks to give, so he hangs around. It turns out there's an alien wandering around invisible, who is killing people via radiation burns, and the military is failing rather badly to contain it, although they are good at threatening widows and doctors to cover it up.

So Mulder keeps investigating, and figures out that his new buddy Max is actually a former abductee. But on the way to have Scully look at him, he goes from former to current. Mulder tries to save him, but fails (because Mulder is not good at saving people) just before his disciplinary hearing. At the hearing the Section Chief recommends Mulder be fired and the X-Files shut down, but Deep Throat vetoes it for mysterious reasons. Because Deep Throat can't do anything for non-mysterious reasons.

This isn't the military shining a light on her. Agent Scully just appears in a beam of light everywhere she goes.

Fallen Angel is an interesting case, in that huge chunks of it would wind up dropped or retconned (I don't recall if they ever came up with an explanation for why this alien doesn't look or act like the rest of the aliens who show up later) but it's also incredibly influential on the rest of the show, so its one you generally have to be aware of. It helps that it's also a pretty damned good episode overall.

The most important element that makes this episode both important and memorable is Max. Part of that is how good Scott Bellis is in the role (I was more than a little sad to find out he never really did anything else) and how elements of him wound up in the Lone Gunmen (especially Langly, who might as well be the same character), but also in what he represents for the plot. Max is the face of the human cost of the conspiracy's machinations.

Not gonna lie, this shot is pretty cool.

Absent Max, the plot of the episode becomes about Mulder and Scully running around Wisconsin trying to catch the Predator. And failing. With Max involved, we suddenly understand what's at stake. Max, while a bit of a weirdo, is such an innocent, and what happens to him feels so unfair, that it really drives home why Mulder and Scully are doing these investigations. Putting that human cost on screen lets the episode hit home harder than previous attempts like The Conduit or Deep Throat.

The other thing that helps is that, well, it's just a pretty solid episode overall. The alien is 2/3rds Predator (the invisible thing) to 1/3rd Evil Dead (the constant use of POV cam) but it's an effective villain, with a fairly consistent and frightening power set. The fact that we never get to see it, and that its goals remain completely unknown just makes it more frightening. It's a damn fine little thriller of an episode, one of those ones that might not make my Top 10 Episodes or anything like that, but is still one that I always enjoy watching whenever my desire to rewatch The X-Files flares up again.

This shot too.

The issues with the episode are primarily ones created by the rest of the show. Even when I first watched through the series, this is where I began to suspect the show might not have some grand plan for the Myth Arc, and might just be making it up as it goes along, and that's really clear now that I know that for a fact.The fact that the later alien-based episodes, even in this season, basically ignore this episode in favor of just making up some new stuff, confirmed that for me, but its a little disappointing that I could read that this early on.

Still, that's a relatively minor complaint in an overall enjoyable episode. The Myth arc is slowly beginning to gain steam, and what's more, so is the show as a whole. We're about to get into a really good run of episodes, and this one is as good a way as any to kick that off.

Case Notes:
  • If you're wondering why it took me over a month to post this review, the CD drive on my laptop was busted, so I was unable to get screenshots. I would have had it fixed faster, but I knew I was getting a free computer from my girlfriend's mom, so I couldn't justify the expense. So, first post from the new computer.
  • The laser fence effect looks hilarious to me, but I can't quite pinpoint why.
  • Holy shit, Mulder gets into the camp by hanging on the underside of a truck. That is some straight up ninja shit.
  • So much of Max wound up in the Lone Gunmen, I'm surprised they didn't bring him back as one of them.
  • Scully looks so fed up when she walks in to bail Mulder out. Me pointing this out doesn't add anything, I just love "Fed up" Scully so much.
  • Mulder looks so embarrassed to have been outed as writing an article for Omni, I love it.
  • The doctor who worked on the cop who had radiation burns is named Dr. Oppenheim. Ha. Ha. 
  • Max leaves his glasses on when he goes to sleep. If you wear glasses, you'll know why this bugs me so much.
  • It seen kinda incongruous to anyone else that an alien that has radiation blasted every human it's come across would just knock Mulder aside? Eh, maybe it knew he was a main character.
  • Mulder is fucking killing in the hearing where he's supposed to get thrown out of the FBI. "How can I disprove lies that are stamped with an official seal?" "No government agency has jurisdiction over the truth." Kick ass Mulder.
  • I love Deep Throat's bullshit explanation for why he saved Mulder. McGrath is 100 percent not buying it.
Current Celebrity Watch:

 This column has been redacted by the Conspiracy.

Future Celebrity Watch:

The guy who plays the Corporal Taylor, Brent Stait, was a major character on a show called Andromeda. Despite being based on some of Gene Roddenberry's unused Star Trek material and starring Kevin Sorbo, this is literally the first I've ever heard of it.

Audio Observations:

The noise they use to indicate the alien seems very familiar to me. I can't quite place it, but it sounds something they'd use on TNG, or maybe they use it again on The X-Files. To quote Rorschach, must investigate further.

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