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.

This episode kicks off in a flurry of event when an Iraqi fighter pilot sees something odd and shoots it down, the wreckage landing next to an American military base in Turkey, which looks a hell of a lot like it's in Canada, but never mind. Weeks later, a truck driver in Tennessee sees a UFO and shoots at something in the dark.

Naturally this is a federal matter, so Mulder and Scully wander in to investigate. This leads to a tangled web of conspiracy nonsense. They interrogate the truck driver, but the sheriff whisks him off and demands they leave. Mulder suggests they go and consult his buddies, the Lone Gunmen, who offer little, but they'll be important later. Scully also discovers a surveillance device in her pen. That's not important, but it was kinda cool.

So Deep Throat turns Mulder onto the transcript of the aforementioned Iraqi fighter pilot, while Scully does some real work and finds out that the truck has been hauling more than it stated it was. DUN DUN DUN...okay, that's not that important on paper, but it's cool in the moment. Deep Throat shows up with a picture that purports to be of a UFO, but it turns out he faked so that Mulder wouldn't go looking to deep into the truck. Also dun dun dun.

First appearance together. From such small beginnings I suppose.

So Scully and Mulder slip their surveillance to go and find the truck someplace in Washington (they gloss over how they find it a little, but meh), but the truck driver disappears, along with his cargo, which tells Mulder that the truck was a decoy (that's what, like the 4th at this point). So they track UFO sightings (really) to this tiny town in Washington where they find a power plant.

Mulder and Scully bust in, with the help of the Lone Gunmen, but they get found out. Mulder once again has no fucks to give, so he goes a-running into the deeper levels of the power plant. Deep Throat stops him, gives him a speech about aliens (and how he had to kill one once) and then leaves,
lacking only the Mic Drop. Roll credits.

So this is a pretty plot heavy episode, and there's a lot to discuss, but the big addition this time around is the Lone Gunmen. They won't show up again until season 2, which indicates to me that no one on the show expected them to take off the way they did. But take off they did, quickly becoming one of the most iconic elements of the show, and eventually getting their own spinoff (say tuned? Maybe? We'll see how it goes).

"Why did we meet here?" "I just like sharks man, don't make it weird."

They're also, unfortunately, a sign of the show's age. The culture at large had a pretty rosy view of counterculture conspiracy theorists for reasons I've never been able to completely understand (I feel like the film JFK had a lot to do with it, but I don't have anything to back that up, just instinct). But that view has worn off pretty hard. The Lone Gunmen are fun on the show, but nowadays, I'm pretty sure they'd be 9/11 Truthers.

Still, they work on screen, crazy enough to make Mulder seem like he's holding a reasonably opinion rather than on the far end of the spectrum while still being funny and enjoyable to watch. And their presence also marks this episode as a slightly different type of episode. While the vast majority of the episodes up to this point were horror/sci-fi themed, this one reads more like a conspiracy thriller.

That both does and doesn't work. The conspiracy thriller stuff is novel enough to be entertaining, with scenes like Mulder and Scully slipping their surveillance or Mulder's apartment trashing/bug search, but the plotting breaks down here and there. I get that most conspiracy thrillers will have red herrings and false leads, but a 42 minute episode doesn't really have time to flesh those things out, so they only last one or two scenes and feel odd. The picture red herring is the best example of this, as it gets introduced, debunked and dropped in like 2 scenes.

Okay this shot is pretty cool, not gonna lie.

But awkward plotting is often the result of trying to adapt a plot structure usually used in feature length movies to a TV show, and this episode's script and cast are more than up to the task of holding this episode together. Despite the introduction of the Lone Gunmen in this episode, it's actually Deep Throat who gets the most characterization and depth from this episode (I think this is his last appearance before his death in the season finale). His appearances are all great, and his speech at the end of the episode really holds the thing together. Jerry Hardin is giving one of his best performances in the part in this episode, and it really makes me wish he'd lasted more than a season.

So it's not a perfect episode, but it's a pretty damned good one, especially given that I'm not overly fond of the Mythology episodes. And yeah, huge chunks of it are probably gonna be retconned come season 4 or 5, but that's par for the course of early X-Files Mythology episodes. But honestly, who cares, we've finally got the Lone Gunmen on the scene.

Case Notes:
  • The special effects in the fighter pilot sequence at the beginning of the episode are HILARIOUSLY bad. They work really hard to keep them off screen as much as possible, but it just looks terrible.
  • Holy shit, that Iraqi pilot shot down a goddamn UFO. That's actually super impressive.
  • At no other point in my life have I ever heard of Goody's Headache Powder, except in this episode, but the internet informs me it's a real thing. Since it's primarily sold in the South (again, according to the internet) I'm going to chalk it up to me living on the North East Coast (and Alaska) and move on.
  • Scully's first line in this episode is chalking the alien up to a mountain lion. I love her so much.
  • Actually, Scully and Mulder's conversation at the start of this episode is pretty great. Their back and forth is one of the reasons I love this show.
  • Hey, Gulf War syndrome name drop. Oh the 90s.
  • Mulder and Scully are taking the bus back to the airport. I can't explain why I find this funny, but I just do.
  • Scully's argument about how the government sucks and therefore couldn't make an elaborate conspiracy is reallllllly topical as I write this, given that the GOP is refusing to even have hearings over Obama's SCOTUS nominee.
  • Byers makes a reference to people in government trying to sleep with their pages. I'd chalk it up to a coincidence that the Lewinsky scandal was 4 years off, but he ALSO makes a 9/11 predicting comment in an episode of The Lone Gunmen, so I'm suspicious.
  • Scully's pen being bugged is really lazy and not very reliable. I lose pens every 20 minutes, what if she dropped it?
  • Scully tells Mulder that he's the only she trusts. D'aw.
  • Mulder says the picture he got from Deep Throat is the best evidence he's ever seen (and Deep Throat says the photo was put together by their best guys), but Scully is poking holes in it 10 seconds later. More proof that Scully is the best.
  • Mulder naming Roswell in the same breath as the Tuskegee experiments makes me really uncomfortable.
  • In any other show, the montage of Mulder searching his apartment for surveillance devices would be a "Going crazy" montage.
  • The "Evading surveillance" montage really puts me in mind of All the President's Men.
  • I am really amused by the fact that a UFO watch group is where Mulder and Scully got their final piece of the puzzle.
  • Mattawa is a town that is less than a square mile across, how could you hide something there?
  • "Just hack me some identification numbers," might be the most 90s line humanly possible.
  • Mulder commits like 30 crimes getting into the power plant.
Current Celebrity Watch:

Nothing. All three of these categories are quiet this week.

Future Celebrity Watch:


Audio Observations:

Nothing. See, told you.

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