Saturday, December 31, 2016

Case 02, File 18: Fearful Symmetry

AKA: I Refuse To Make A Hamarabe Joke

The X-Files is rarely, if ever, maudlin. It gets sad sometimes, but the list of TV shows that don't is almost entirely restricted to sitcoms (and even those get sad sometimes). Being overly sad or mopey is sort of against the tone of the entire series, since it needs to stay light and exciting. But, there are subjects that are inherently so sad that it's hard for the series to overcome them to stay light, and one of the big ones is animals dying.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Case 02, File 17: End Game

AKA: We've Got Like 7 Seasons Left, Calm Down Title Namer

There would come a moment in every single Samantha fake out where the series had to bow its head and fess up to the fact that it had been full of shit. How it handles that moment would often go on to define any given fake out in the minds of the audience, since it tends to be how they remember the event. Well that, and how they hint that Samantha might still be out there.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Case 02, File 16: Colony

AKA: Attack Of The Clones

Samantha's abduction is pretty much one of the most important parts of Mulder's character, to the point it could be considered central to the audience's understanding of him. Which is why it's so odd that when the series teased him with Samantha's return (as it would do several times over the course of its 10 season run) it never seemed to know what to do with it. The teases never seem to have much long term affect on Mulder, and the series certainly doesn't devote a ton of time to each individual tease, which makes them all feel like a bit of a letdown.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Case 02, File 15: Fresh Bones

AKA: Go Do That Voodoo That You Do So Well

The X-Files is a Canadian production, which is varying degrees of obvious throughout the series, at least if you know what you're looking at (personally I've always been fond of the Vancouver SkyTrain showing up briefly in Ghost in the Machine). This isn't a bad thing, nor a good thing, it's merely a thing; A lot of stuff is shot in Canada. But I think in this case, and in some specific other ones, it's useful, because it gives them a certain distance from American politics to criticize some of our...less savory actions.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Case 02, File 14: Die Hand Die Verletz

AKA: The Devils of New Hampshire

So, some of you may not be aware of this, but back in the 80s, there was this thing called the Satanic Panic, where a bunch of people actually started believing there was a massive Satanic conspiracy in the USA. There were a lot of moving parts involved, but the actual accusations got really weird and really bizarre (look up the McMartin Preschool Trial for further reading, some of that shit was weird). While the whole thing was patently absurd, it inspired a lot of people's imaginations. And if any show could spin the lunacy of that particular moment in history into a good episode, it would be The X-Files.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Case 02, File 13: Irresistible

AKA: The Kinkshaming of Donnie Pfaster

I don't think it's unfair to say that The X-Files is a pretty dark show, and I'm not talking about lighting. Okay, not JUST talking about lighting. The series has always trended towards being grim, since it's typically, you know, about monsters killing people horribly, being a little dark about it is to be expected. Hence why, when I say an episode is extraordinarily dark, even by X-Files standards, you know it's not screwing around.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Case 02, File 12: Aubrey

AKA: There's No One Named Aubrey In This Episode

While The X-Files usually tends to have more fantastical subject matter (I mean our last episode was about old people using mushrooms to become spirits to attack people), a lot of the more notable episodes tended to bring things down, downplaying or even removing the supernatural elements. These episodes tend to stand out a little more, since they go against the grain of the average X-Files episode. And while I could just as easily be talking about the next episode, I have another intro in mind for that episode, so it falls to this one.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Case 02, File 11: Excelsis Dei

AKA: Respect The Elderly, Even When They're The Worst!

Trigger Warning: The inciting incident of this episode is a sexual assault, and while I will try to be respectful of the subject, it's basically impossible to review, or even talk about, this episode without it coming up. If you don't want to read about that, I recommend checking out here and tuning back in for our next episode.

The X-Files doesn't really do sexual assault. I mean, it could in theory, but it doesn't, and that's not really a bad thing. The show never takes itself THAT seriously, with even the darkest episodes featuring a fair amount of levity or humor, and that's not really something you can do with rape. As such it tended to stick to more humorous, wholesome things, like murder (you know what I mean) and leave sexual assault for Gaspar Noe. There are exceptions though, and this is both one of the more notable, and one of the more clumsy.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Case 02, File 10: Red Museum

AKA: I'll Name It When I Figure Out What The Plot Is About

The X-Files' plots are usually pretty straightforward. That is not a complaint, nowhere near it. Not everything can be Twin Peaks and even if they can be, it's good to have something easy to watch. House and Psych are both predictable that I can set my watch to them, and that's part of what I like about them. The downside of that is that the series isn't always prepared for plots that aren't straightforward. Sometimes they manage to handle the turns well. Other times...well...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Case 02, File 09: Firewalker

AKA: Volcano Walk With Me

It's finally time to get the band back together. Up until now, Mulder and Scully have been going about their business separately, with Mulder off having adventures and Scully hanging around doing nothing a 7-8 months pregnant woman couldn't do, and then of course Scully went off to get abducted, so we've been without our central relationship for over 1/4th of the season. And I'm so glad to have it back, that I wasted the entire opening paragraph on talking about it.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Case 02, File 08: One Breath

AKA: This Episode Is Hard To Joke About, Okay?

I don't think it's controversial for me to say that The X-Files is a horror show, first and foremost. It has episodes that stray into other things, from drama, to comedy and even occasionally romance, but that's never going to be its focus in the way that horror is. But, often times, when they do step fully outside the self imposed bonds of horror, they can create some of the best episodes of the series. Other times, admittedly, they create some of the worst, but that latter option is certainly not the case here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Case 02, File 07: 3

AKA: Breaking Yawn

Oddly enough, for the most part, The X-Files avoided vampire episodes. There are probably a lot of reasons for that; The X-Files is primarily concerned with Americana, and vampires are rooted in European and Asian mythology, and vampires were very in at the time (due mostly to Ann Rice's work getting a startling amount of popularity), plus Buffy would begin a few years into its run, and I'm sure they didn't want to appear unoriginal. But I also think it had a little something to do with the fact that their first crack at a vampire episode just plain sucked.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Case 02, File 06: Ascension

AKA: The Search for Scully

I suppose the one downside of a multi-part episode, from my point of view, is that I already did most of my introducing in the previous episode, so this opening paragraph doesn't have a lot to be about. Of course I could decide to be metatextual about it (can you be meta in a review?) and spend the entire paragraph discussing the fact that I don't really have a lot to discuss. But that's such a cheap and easy ploy that I'm sure my fanbase, if any, would see right through it, and there would be riots in the streets. Oh wait, is that a paragraph? Great.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Case 02, File 05: Duane Barry

AKA: Duane Barry Is Not Making This Up

Right from the get go The X-Files had linked episodes in the form of its mythology episodes, but for the first season or so, they were mostly one off episodes, perhaps interconnected but not paired up. But, as the series progressed, a new dynamic for how they produced and aired Myth Arc Episodes. Namely, they would make two or more episodes paired together, making a single longer story. And this is beginning of the first multi-episode arc in the show.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Case 02, File 04: Sleepless

AKA: Not in Seattle Though

The X-Files
' has a tendency to dehumanize it's villains, even its more human villains. That's not really a complaint, most of them ARE literal monsters, but it occasionally struck me as a missed opportunity. Some of the best episodes are ones where we got to see inside the mind of the monster. And even when we don't devote the episode to it, the episodes are usually better when we get some insight into the monster, even when they're not particularly sympathetic.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Case 02, File 03: Blood

AKA: No, It's Not a Vampire Episode

The X-Files usually avoided doing episodes that were of their moment in history, which usually worked out for the better. "Ripped From the Headlines" tends to date your story, while except for the the technological limitations, most episodes of The X-Files are timeless. There are a couple of exceptions, most notably The Field Where I Died, which pulled most of its plot from the Waco standoff. But, while Blood doesn't pull much of its plot from then-relevant events, it seems to get dated by its details.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Case 02, File 02: The Host

AKA: The Grossest Place to Die

Over the course of nine (now ten) seasons, The X-Files acquired a reputation for being weird, and that reputation began to really grow in the second season. Sure the first season had some weird monsters (the glowing bugs from Darkness Falls and Eugene Tooms were both pretty weird) but this is the season where we started getting the truly strange episodes. And The Host was strange enough to become iconic.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Case 02, File 01: Little Green Men

AKA: They're Actually Grey, But Whatever

And thus we enter Season 2. Season 2 is an important step in The X-Files' evolution. It's not only the season where the series began to really develop the voice and identity that would carry it forward, but also the season where it began to shift from being a well reasonably well reviewed and watched cult show, to a full blown cultural phenomena. It's also got a solid number of the episodes that most fans consider to be some of the classics. And it all starts right here.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Case 01, File 24: The Erlenmeyer Flask

AKA: I Don't Know Why It's Called That Either

One of the more charming aspects of The X-Files to me is that it always seems to suddenly remember it has an overarching plot right at the end of each season. After 24 episodes of spinning the wheels and Monster of the Week episodes, it suddenly remembers it needs to move the plot forward and forces what amounts to half a season's worth of plot development into 45 minutes. But, if nothing else, it usually makes for an entertaining season finale.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Case 01, File 23: Roland

AKA: Gold Medalist in the Gross Ways to Die Event

I mentioned a couple episodes back that The X-Files has an awkward history of addressing non-white races, and I was all prepped to say the same thing about its attempts to address people who are mentally challenged, but that might be a little unfair, because that issue is far from isolated to The X-Files. The Hollywood system means that people who have mental challenges rarely get to write, direct or act their own stories, so its left to writers trying to write them from the outside, which can lead to an over-reliance on cliches and ugly stereotypes, which can not only perpetuate said stereotypes but can damage the overall story the writer are trying to tell.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Case 01, File 22: Born Again

AKA: Like The Departed But With Ghosts

I mentioned last week that The X-Files' best conceit was reimagining staples of Americana or quintessentially American ideas and events, like Chemtrails or the Waco massacre, into horror movie concepts. This isn't really a new thing (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes both did it) but The X-Files did it more consistently and more successfully than anyone else. I mentioned The Hills Have Eyes above paritally because that movie got so thoroughly trumped by Home. But that's three seasons away, and The X-Files is still working hard to hammer itself into shape, so its attempt at reimagining the quintessentially American corrupt cop story into an X-File didn't go so well.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Case 01, File 21: Tooms

AKA: There's Elastic Man, Plastic Man...

The X-Files has an awkward history in doing followups to their well received episodes. The temptation is always there of course, since most episodes end vaguely, with the implication that the monster of the week is still out there, if not active. The problem is, there's usually not a lot of meat on those bones. To its credit, the show always managed to avoid the sequel episodes being just a retread of the original, but that means that they tend to wind up...well a little weird. We'll cover the strangest one way, way, WAY down the line when we get to Season 7, but for now, let's talk about this one.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Case 01, File 20: Darkness Falls

AKA: Not That Much Scarier Than Bed Bugs

It is a universal law of the X-Files fandom that everyone has an episode or two that they love fiercely and kind of irrationally. The wide variety of episodes and subjects means that some of them will appeal to some specific tick or preference you have, never mind the many different ways that you can first experience an episode that will make it mean something to you specifically. I am no exception, and there are a handful of episodes that are my irrational favorites. And, as you have probably guessed by now, this is one of them.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Case 01, File 19: Shapes

AKA: The Lone Ranger and Wolfman Fistfight in Heaven

The X-Files has a, shall we say, spotty history of depicting other cultures. It tries its hardest, but more often than not it fumbles. It never tips over the line into outright racism though, and given that it screws up other myths just a frequently (made the Jersey Devil into a cave person, remember?) that its occasional slip ups read as charming, rather than offensive. At least when the episode is good.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Case 01, File 18: Miracle Man

AKA: Fuckin' Faith Healers, How Do They Work?

At some point in the creation of The X-Files, someone decided that Mulder would believe in everything except religion, while Scully would be a skeptic but would be solidly religious. It's the sort of simple addition to a concept that puts me in mind of a writer grabbing an extra congratulatory muffin from the basket, but it's always worked. It's not a secret to The X-Files success or something, but it made what might be otherwise straightforward religious themed episodes a little more interesting. Not enough to, you know, save some of the bad ones, but enough to make some of them a little better.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Case 01, File 17: EBE

AKA: Spielberg Already Used ET, Okay?

I have a lot of options how to start this review. I could talk about its place in the Myth arc, and how it both does, and doesn't fit with elements that will pop up later. I could talk about how it showed a growing maturity on the part of the show, given the episode is very relaxed and acts more like a conspiracy thriller than a horror or sci-fi show. But really, the main thing I want to talk about with this episode is how happy I am that the Lone Gunmen have finally arrived.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Case 01, File 16: Young At Heart

AKA: The Curious Case of Benjamin Salamanderhand

The X-Files' desire to maintain its connection to the larger conspiracy arc occasionally leads them to try and put elements of it into their Monster of the Week episodes. That's neither a good thing nor a bad thing, it's just a thing, though it does occasionally lead to some odd results. The most notable of these odd results isn't going to come up until mid Season 2, but this one has some oddities of its own.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Case 01, File 15: Lazarus

AKA: Well Then the High Sheriff, He Found Lazarus

I mentioned earlier that, over the course of 9 long seasons, The X-Files would wind up revisiting themes or concepts. When I finished rewatching this episode, I was initially a little disappointed that I hadn't saved that intro for this episode, which seems much more apropos for that opening paragraph. But then I realized, if they can reuse ideas, why can't I? So, here we are.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Case 01, File 14: Gender Bender

AKA: Livin' in a Kindred Paradise

Well THAT was a step down from last episode.

Ahem. Script and story are such an odd thing, especially in a TV show. A good one can't carry a movie through bad direction or terrible acting, but a bad one can sink an entire movie or episode. For the most part, unless they're exceptional, most audience members won't even notice the script. To quote Sunset Blvd. "Audiences don't know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along." I bring this up because this is a prime example of an episode that collapses due to a bad script.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Case 01, File 13: Beyond the Sea

AKA: Wormtongue the Wizard

When I say that the early seasons of The X-Files were better than might have been expected, I'm not saying there weren't any bad episodes. Some of my previous reviews should indicate to you pretty definitively that this season had it's share of duds. No, what makes this season so good, and so well remembered among fans, is that this season has several of the series out and out classics in it, which is pretty rare for shows of this style. And no episode from season 1 better encapsulates this one, a perennial member of the "Best of The X-Files" lists.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Case 01, File 12: Fire

AKA: Good Lord, That Title is Generic

In early X-Files episodes, there almost seemed to be a fear that the viewers wouldn't care about secondary characters if they didn't have some connection with the two leads. I suppose this could have been born out of overthinking ways to get Mulder and Scully into the plot of the week, but the great thing about them being in the FBI, is that there are dozens of ways to get them into a case organically, without having some ex-lover from England wander in, hang around the entire episode, and then disappear without a backward glance. Which is a long form way of me saying that I'm not a huge fan of the woman who shows up in this episode.