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Thursday, February 8, 2018

The X-Files recap: 'Kitten' - Episode 6





It's a Skinner episode! We've seen the distrust between Scully, Mulder, and Skinner grow this season, and "Kitten" is a solid hour in terms of bringing them back to the same cause: discovering the truth. It also offers some nice insight into the background of Walter Skinner, including how he became both a reliable keeper of government secrets and someone looking to expose them.

It all started in Vietnam. That's where "Kitten" opens, introducing us to a young Skinner and a fellow soldier named John, played well by Haley Joel Osment. John, Skinner, and another man have been assigned to protect a crate labeled "MK Naomi" with their lives. As they're taking gunfire in a Vietnamese hut, the crate is punctured, allowing a green-yellow gas to emerge. John takes the brunt of the chemical impact, and instantly sees a figure in a terrifying skull mask. He starts stabbing. People are massacred.



Post-credits, we jump to years later and get an appearance by a familiar face, FBI Director Alvin Kersh (James Pickens Jr.), whom we haven't seen since the original series finale. He tells Mulder and Scully that Skinner is missing, also noting that their buddy has basically stalled his career by protecting the X-Files. Kersh is still kind of an asshole, but he does tell them to bring Skinner back while he still has a shred of his career left.

Mulder and Scully head to Skinner's apartment and find no personal items, mementoes, or family photos. They do discover the clue needed for this week's adventure - don't you love how conveniently that always happens? - in an envelope addressed to Skinner that reveals he was a Marine. What's in the envelope? An ear! Ewww. They also find a piece of paper that says, "The Monsters Are Here," and they track the package to a little town called Mud Lick, Kentucky.

Their first stop is the Mud Lick police station, where they encounter a homeless vet out front rambling about "kitten." They learn that there's been some weird happenings around town, including hunting traps and missing teeth. People are even saying they've seen a monster in the woods. Cut to a hunter falling in a trap and Skinner appearing at its edge. Is he setting the traps?

After Scully and Mulder do a little detective work involving a conveniently placed motion-sensing deer cam, they figure out that "Kitten" refers to a person. It's the Vietnam vet's nickname - and Skinner's nickname is Eagle! Awesome.
Cut to Eagle walking around a house in the woods. He sees a picture of John on the wall with the faces of his family cut out. We get a really disturbing flashback to what the gas did to John. He brags about cutting off his enemy's ears, and wearing them around his neck like trophies. Then we see Skinner save John's life when an enemy approaches with grenades strapped to his body. Skinner's investigation is interrupted by John's son, Davey, who looks exactly like his dad (and is also played by Osment because The X-Files loves actors in dual roles).



Davey isn't happy. He rails at how Skinner betrayed his father, testifying against him after the war and never revealing that the gas changed a scared, peaceful kid into a killing machine. Skinner wanted to make amends, but the government "vanished" John. Davey insists his father wasn't crazy, just forever altered by the gas, and that the experiments continued at a local veterans' facility after the war. Skinner was forced to stay quiet and keep a dangerous man off the street, but at what cost?

Meanwhile, Scully and Mulder have a conversation about whether or not they can trust Skinner. Truthfully, it sounds a lot like Chris Carter jumping in for a quick rewrite: "A man ruled by his moral compass" is very Carter, as is Mulder using the word "unequivocally." The point is that Scully and Mulder can't decide how much to trust someone they're now trying to save.

Davey leads Skinner to his dad's body, strung up from a tree, and Skinner falls in Davey's trap, where he gets speared by a wood spike. As Mulder and Scully drive up, Davey pulls a tarp over the trap. He plays nice and the agents come inside while Skinner tries to get cell service in his death trap. Meanwhile, Davey offers a bit more detail about his father, including references to mind control and MK Ultra, a real government program recently detailed in Errol Morris's excellent Wormwood. It turns out MK Naomi was the successor to MK Ultra. As Davey is rambling, Mulder sees a picture of Skinner in the photo book and tells Scully it's time to go. While she goes to get cell service, Mulder will rescue Skinner.
Back in the house, Mulder finds the skull mask in the closet, but doesn't notice Davey is actually wearing it. He hears Skinner in the trap and bends over to get him out, just in time to get pushed in himself. Don't bend over when you don't know where your attacker is, Mulder! Davey pours gasoline on Mulder and Skinner. He's just about to light them up when Scully comes to the rescue, shooting him once. Davey disappears while they're getting Mulder out, but he's ultimately the victim of one of his own traps as a brutal wall of wooden spikes plummets into him.

The episode wraps up with a nice scene of Skinner saying that he wouldn't be here at all - much less upwardly mobile - if not for Mulder and Scully. He couldn't protect John, a kid who was drafted and turned into a monster. That failure planted seeds of mistrust that made him a natural third musketeer for Mulder and Scully. He's also searching for the truth and wants to bring down a government that betrayed so many people. He owes that kid who really died in Vietnam.

After the nice beat of "Skinner, we're with you," things end a little goofily. Skinner is losing a tooth like the other Mud Lick residents, and the episode leans into a chemtrail conspiracy theory, as planes gas crops against Davey's voice-over about a government that only wants to control its people. You can't win 'em all, I guess.

Other Notes
o The song that Davey plays is thematically perfect: "Fear is a Man's Best Friend" by John Cale.

o In case you missed it, the credits tag this week says, "A War is Never Over."

o The Vietnam plot not only recalls government programs like MK Ultra and MK Naomi, but the controversy surrounding Agent Orange and its impact on our soldiers.

o In an episode that was seriously light on humor, I did enjoy Mulder's reference to his "juices."

o The Skinner background is very well done in the way it provides depth to both sides of this complex character. On the one hand, he kept the government's secrets, refusing to testify about the gas that changed his buddy. On the other, keeping that secret made him more likely to support the X-Files. It's nice to have these three closer together than they've been all season. It's not the same show without Skinner.



Credits: ew.com

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The X-Files creator Chris Carter Says Series Could Continue 'With Gillian or Without'





In what appears to be a reversal of comments he made at the beginning of January, The X-Files creator Chris Carter now says that his sci-fi series may live on even if female lead Gillian Anderson follows through with announced plans to leave the show.

“I think that certainly The X-Files has more life in it, there are more stories to tell, with Gillian or without,” Carter recently told DigitalSpy.com, adding that nothing was certain yet and that he’d be “sorry to see her go.”




A month ago, Carter affirmed to Collider that “For me, The X-Files is Mulder and Scully” and “I think if it were without Scully, I wouldn’t do it. That’s not my X-Files.”

Also in January, Anderson made it clear that she was thankful for the “extraordinary opportunity” to play Dana Katherine Scully for nine original seasons, two movies and two revival seasons. However, she told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, “I don’t want to be tied down to doing one thing for months and months… I like to be challenged as an actor. That’s why I got into this business. And it’s time for me to hang up Scully’s hat. This is it for me — I’m really serious.”




Thursday, January 25, 2018

The X-Files Episode 4 recap: 'The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat'





The legendary Darin Morgan returns for one of the best episodes of The X-Files ever made. Much as Morgan did last season with “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” he flips viewer’s expectations, but this time he does so through the filter of the Trump administration and the battle over fake news. How can somebody believe that “the truth is out there” when no one agrees upon the truth? It’s funny, smart, irreverent, and, in keeping with a theme of this season, it playfully comments on the X-Files fanbase, who probably remember an episode or two differently than they actually played out.

“The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” is about gaps in collective memory, a phenomenon known as the “Mandela effect.” (Not the “Mengele effect,” despite what one of the characters says in the episode, for the record.) The Mandela effect refers to what are essentially shared mistakes in memory. Memory is a pliable, funny thing: People can be convinced they saw movies they didn’t see, such as the Kazaam issue Mulder references in the episode, or that more people attended an inauguration than actually did. It often happens with movie quotes, too: What if I told you Darth Vader never said “Luke, I am your father” or the Queen in Snow White never said, “Mirror, mirror on the wall”? This episode applies this fascinating concept to the history of The X-Files.




We’re introduced to the Mandela effect through the story of Reggie Something, played by Brian Huskey. We meet him in full Deep Throat mode, chewing sunflower seeds in a parking garage, having a clandestine meeting with Mulder. He knows he’s going to seem crazy, so he gives Mulder a very personal example of the Mandela effect, revealing to him that his favorite episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Lost Martian,” doesn’t really exist. Of course, we know it doesn’t, but Mulder is convinced that he saw it when he was a kid. He rummages through his belongings to find it, leading to the great line when Scully suggests it might be a different series: “Confuse The Twilight Zone with The Outer Limits?! Do you even KNOW ME?!?!”

Now it’s Scully’s time to meet with Reggie and learn what her Mandela Effect is. It’s a Jell-o knock-off called Goop-o ABC, which Reggie hands her before yelling “Just prove that I’m real!” Of course, his fingerprints on the box don’t match anyone’s in the system.

Now Mulder and Scully decide to talk to Reggie together, and we learn his trigger that allowed him to see the falsity of his memory, his “Lost Martian” or his Goop-o ABC. When he was moving his mother, he came across a book by Dr. Wuzzle. The only problem? He remembered his favorite childhood author being named Dr. Wussle. Eager to investigate, he found his way to a nostalgia shop and saw a cartoon drawn by, of course, Dr. Wuzzle. He explains to Mulder and Scully that the Mandela effect is being controlled by someone, quoting George Orwell when he says, “He who controls the past controls the future.” (There’s even a brilliant edit in which Reggie talks about companies controlling their image and it’s meant to appear like a modern brand name got cut out.) There’s a wonderful comedic energy to the scene, as the three characters argue over whether Reggie’s problems are due to government conspiracy (Reggie), faulty memory (Scully), or alternate universes (Mulder). Reggie points out that “they” want you to think all conspiracies are silly. And Darin Morgan has an answer for just who “they” is.

Meet Dr. Thaddeus Q. They, the man who figured out who to manipulate collective memory. While working on Operation Soy Bomb, he made astronauts forget home and was fired for making them think they were chimpanzees. He works for “unknown, mysterious clients,” he was in a movie called Ka-Blaam, and he was last seen at the 2017 inauguration. Reggie latches onto the fact that Dr. They worked in Grenada, where Reggie claims he saw alien land almost four decades ago. Reggie remembers seeing the alien being taken away by mysterious men in black. Then he drops the biggest bomb yet: He started The X-Files. In an amazing montage, we see Reggie cut into old episodes of the show from its original run. It’s a meta reference, telling us, the fans, that we remember these classic episodes differently than they actually played out. It’s an episode about manipulating history that manipulates the history of itself. Brilliant.

While Mulder tries to figure out an answer without coming back to alternate universes, he gets a call from Dr. They. In another clandestine meeting, the good doctor of “phony fake news” castigates Mulder for not finding him sooner, telling him that his time has passed. We’re in an era in which powerful leaders don’t need to keep secrets anymore because no one believes or cares when they’re revealed. As he says, “We’re living in a post-cover-up, post-conspiracy age.” The “poco” age, as he calls it, doesn’t need conspiracies if people can’t tell the difference between real and fake — if people only believe what they want to believe. This is an episode that’s about the spread of disinformation, and how it’s going to be a defining characteristic of our time when historians write it.

When we get our final parking-garage meeting with Reggie, Scully drops the bomb: She found out about his past. He was just a government employee, a guy who rose the ranks from USPS to IRS to SEC to DOJ to CIA to DOD to NSA, and he was committed to a mental institution a year ago. Is Reggie just a disillusioned employee imagining he still fights for truth and justice? He willingly puts on a straitjacket, but Mulder asks about their last case before he goes.




It turns out that Reggie, Mulder, and Scully did find the truth. The alien from Grenada came back, as he promised he would, and gave them a book called All the Answers, but only after telling them never to come to outer space again. Lest anyone think there wasn’t already Trump commentary in this episode, the alien in this flashback quotes him deliberately, saying that the Earth isn’t sending outer space “your best people” and that the rest of the universe is going to build a wall to keep humanity out. Mulder throws a tantrum in response. He doesn’t want all the answers. He wants to keep searching.

Back in the present day, Skinner asks where they’re taking Reggie before Scully and Mulder settle in for some TV and snacks. It turns out “The Lost Martian” was on a show called The Dusky Realm and Goop-o ABC looks gross. And that’s when Scully hits us with a melancholy line: “I want to remember how it all was.” We all do, Sculls.

Other Notes
• We’ll get to the other Easter eggs and references in a minute, but here’s a huge one that you might have missed. Two weeks ago, in “This,” as Scully and Mulder were flipping through the electronic X-Files, an ID badge for someone else went by. Guess who? Reggie! Does this mean his story about working with Mulder and Scully is true? Why else would his badge be in the X-Files?


• I love how Reggie calls them Foxy and Sculls.

• Just for the record, Scully says “leprechaun taint” in this episode and I’m willing to bet those two words had never before been put together on television.

• The Mulder flashback with an 8-year-old body and David Duchovny’s head was brilliant.

• Soy Bomb Conspiracy is a real thing.

• The Grenada UFO Stamp is also real.

• Reggie is shown a political cartoon from WWII drawn by Dr. Wuzzle. If you’re wondering, Dr. Seuss drew political cartoons in that era, although I doubt anyone remembers his name as Dr. Seuzz. Maybe they will now.

• Dr. They is played by TV legend Stuart Margolin, who won two Emmys for The Rockford Files.

• Two great quotes: “I’m Fox freaking Mulder, you punks!” and “We’re not alone in the universe, but nobody likes us.”

• There are several classic episodes in the montage of Reggie being in The X-Files, including “Squeeze,” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” “Home” (with a shot of last week’s guest star Karin Konoval), and “Small Potatoes.”




Copyrights: vulture.com

THE X-FILES - Mid-Season Trailer








Next Episode: 'Ghouli' Promo - 'This Is Where It All Started'









Wednesday, January 17, 2018

'The X-Files' - Episode 3 'Plus One' - Recap





Chris Carter returns to pen this week’s episode, “Plus One,” an hour that works mostly as a standalone thriller but is far more effective for anyone who has a history with Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. In a sense, this is the most old-fashioned X-Files episode since the reboot as it featured the two leads in their most common roles — Mulder the believer vs. Scully the skeptic — and it plays off their still-palpable romantic chemistry. It also brings back a character actor from the heyday of the show, a performer who starred in two of the most beloved episodes ever: “Home” and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.” And then Carter went a step further by giving her multiple roles.

The actress in question is Karin Konoval, who appears here as both Judy and Chucky Poundstone, telepathically connected twins who play a deadly game of Hangman. First, we meet one of our poor victims of the week: Arkie Seavers, a young man just having a good time at a concert when he sees his doppelg√§nger. He flees the concert, only to have his “other” grab the wheel and drive him into a tree. Bring on the X-Files!


Fox Mulder gets the Seavers case and discovers that a number of people have tried to kill themselves after claiming they saw someone who looked exactly like them. Is it the rare (and true) phenomenon known as a “suicide cluster,” or is it something more supernaturally sinister? Of course, Scully thinks Arkie is lying, but Mulder is more inclined to believe. And anyone who’s ever seen an X-Files knows that Arkie is doomed.

Before the young man dies, Mulder and Scully meet a patient with split personality disorder named Judy Poundstone. Her room is filled with games of hangman, which she claims she plays with her brother, Chucky, who lives across town. Mulder charms Judy a bit, and that charm may very well be the reason he survives the episode.

Mulder and Scully check into the St. Rachel Motel in a suite, but Mulder takes the couch. He comes to her in the middle of the night to reveal Arkie’s death, and the investigation sends him off to find the irascible Chucky. Unfortunately, he scenes between Mulder and Chucky are the ones that don’t quite work. They’re a bit too laden with Carter’s clunky dialogue and Konoval isn’t quite as believable in the second part of the dual role. There’s a goofiness that doesn’t quite click, even though both actors are clearly having a good time.

Better are the scenes between Judy and Scully, including the first one in which we meet “Demon Judy,” one of her evil alter egos who literally “flings dookie” at Scully. In what first seems like a throwaway line from the nurses, we learn that both of the Poundstone parents hung themselves — later we’ll see hangman drawings of “Mom” and “Dad,” implying that their kids did them in √† la Arkie Seavers. Scully tries to get more information out of Judy, but is tormented by this new nemesis, and she takes that torment with her when Judy suggests that she’s over the hill and “all dried up.” As Judy says, “Nothing hurts like the truth.”

Back at the motel, Scully drops a pretty cool meta-reference to the role that you probably know Konoval best for, even if you didn’t realize it. Scully mentions that having “dookie” thrown at you makes you want to “gather the other apes and make war against your enemy.” Konoval played Maurice the Orangutan in all three of the recent Planet of the Apes films, including last year’s excellent War for the Planet of the Apes. This scene also includes a bit of thematic development when Scully and Mulder discuss the truth behind ghosts: Are they scientifically explainable phenomenon or visitors from the other side? We know on which side these characters fall, but it’s wonderful to see them slip back into a pattern of supernatural debate. Scully also expresses vulnerability by asking Mulder if she’s old. Of course not, he says. She’s still got some “scoot in her boot.” And Mulder tells her to “knock three times” if she needs him.

After a couple of scenes with Chucky and Judy, it’s time to kill the wonderfully-named Dean Cavalier, the attorney for the now-deceased Arkie Seavers. First, Dean sees his double and goes to tell our heroes. That leads to another conversation about evil and the devil as concepts instead of realities. There’s a thread in this episode about how much we believe in things that we know aren’t really true — like ghosts, the devil, or the magic pills that the nurses at Judy’s clinic take just in case they work. Scully herself still sleeps with her back to the door in case the devil comes in the night. We all have superstitions, even the most skeptical among us.

Dean winds up cutting off his own head, which is quite a feat, and any fan of The X-Files knows that the threat will eventually get to Mulder and Scully in the final act, but not before an excellent scene between Anderson and Duchovny in their hotel bed. Scully reveals that the case is getting under her skin, and she asks Mulder what will happen to them when they’re older. These two actors have such wonderful chemistry and an easy rapport, this scene feels like it easily could have come from the original series. It’s one of the best of the new season so far. There’s even a bit of that Chris Carter mouthpiece dialogue — about the President bringing down the FBI in a world that’s going to hell — buried in their emotionally-driven exchange. When people speak of the best TV duos in history, Mulder and Scully often make the list, and this scene once again shows us why.





And then, the action. Mulder sees his double in the bathroom and freaks out in an appropriate manner. (Although I’m not sure telling Scully to “put a dimmer on that afterglow” is quite appropriate.) As Mulder races to confront Chucky and Scully goes to stop Judy, we discover that the twins are fighting each other. They can’t decide which agent to hang, which makes for a weird twist if you really think about it. What if Mulder and Scully were just a little less sexy? Or perhaps this is Carter’s way of revealing how much he thinks of his leads and characters: Don’t worry Scully, you still got it, at least enough to interest a homicidal, telepathic twin.

In their disagreement, the twins basically “hang” each other, making for something of a lackluster ending to an episode that wrote itself into a corner. However, the epilogue is strong as Scully plays cool like she doesn’t need Mulder and then changes her mind, only to find him in the doorway already. He’s always the believer.

Other Notes
• “Plus One” is tightly-packed in terms of narrative and locations, which is a credit to director Kevin Hooks for moving it along so smoothly. He’s a veteran of quality TV with credits that include everything from St. Elsewhere to LOST.

• Karin Konoval played Madame Zelma in “Clyde Bruckman” and Mrs. Peacock in “Home.” She also appeared in two episodes of Millennium (“Weeds” and “Through a Glass Darkly”). It’s great to see her back in the fold for the revival.

• A note about last week’s recap. A reader pointed out that the Lone Gunmen died in “Jump the Shark” and not “The Truth,” to which the answer is only … of course they did! I was so focused on figuring out the tombstone Easter eggs that I must have confused their last appearance (they appear as ghosts in “The Truth”) with their demise. Sincere apologies to Langly.

• In season 11, The X-Files seems to be recognizing its own shelf life and mortality more than ever. All three episodes so far have played with the show’s own past, either through direct reference or even meta-casting, and it’s starting to feel like Carter knows this is really the final lap. (Anderson swears she won’t return for another season, and Carter said he won’t do it without her.) Let’s see if that keeps up and if he truly brings the saga of Mulder and Scully to a satisfying conclusion.




Thursday, January 11, 2018

These Quotes from Last Episode are one of the many reasons we still love X-Files





Mulder: “I’m going to open an ­X-file on this bran muffin. I’ve gotta get to the bottom of why it’s so freaking good.”
Scully: “I don’t care if it came out of an alien’s butt. I’m going to eat the whole thing.”

Skinner: “The bureau is not in good standing to the White House these days.”
Mulder: ‘The FBI finally found out what it’s like to be looked upon as a little spooky.”

Mulder: "Who needs Google when you have Scully?"

Scully: "We can't go to our home. They'll be waiting for us at our office." That's right — Scully says "our home." !!!

Scully: "Why do you operate so well with your hands cuffed behind your back?" 
Mulder: "As if you didn't know," 

And Finally, 'This':